Two years ago I published my Ten Years a CCIE series. Actually, I had written the series a couple years before I published it, but as I say in my introduction to the series, I felt it was a bit self-indulgent an uninteresting, so I scrapped it for a while. The original pieces were dictated, and I’ve been meaning to go back and clean up some of the grammatical errors or grating phrases, but haven’t had the time. Not a lot of people have read it, nor did I expect many to read it, since I generally don’t advertise the blog in social media, or anywhere really. But the feedback from the few who have read it has been positive, and I’m gratified for that.
Things have changed a lot since I got into networking in 1995, and since I passed my CCIE in 2004. But it’s also amazing how much has stayed the same. TCP/IP, and in fact IPv4, is still the heart of the network. Knowledge of OSPF and BGP is still key. For the most part, new controllers and programmable interfaces represent a different way of managing fundamentally the same thing.
The obvious reasons for this are that networks work and are hard to change. The old protocols have been sufficient for passing data from point A to point B for a long time. They’re not perfect but they are more than adequate. They are hard to change because networks are heterogeneous. There are so many types of different systems connecting to them, that if we wanted to fundamentally alter the building blocks of networks, we’d have to upgrade a lot of systems. This is why IPv6 adoption is so slow.
Occasionally I poke around at TechExams.net to see what newer network engineers are thinking, and where they are struggling. I’m probably the only director-level employee of Cisco who reads or comments on that message board. I started reading it back when I was still at Juniper and studying for my JNCIE, but I’ve continued to read it because I like the insights I get from folks prepping for their certifications. People are occasionally concerned that the new world of controllers and automation will make their jobs obsolete.
I built the first part of my career on CLI. Now I’m building it on controllers and programmability. In this industry, we have to adapt, but we don’t have to die. Cars have changed drastically, with on-board computer systems and so forth, but we still need mechanics. We still need good network engineers.
To be honest, I was getting tired of my career by the time I left Juniper and came to Cisco. I was bored. I thought of going back to school and getting a Ph.D. in classical languages, my other passion. Getting married helped put an end to that idea (Ph.D.’s in ancient Greek make a lot less than network engineers) but when I came back to Cisco, I felt revitalized. I started learning new things. Networking was becoming fun again.
I wrote the “Ten Years a CCIE” series both for people who had passed the exam and wanted to have some fun remembering the experience, as well as for people struggling to pass it. Some things change, as I said, but a lot remains the same. I still think, closing in on 15 years since I took the exam, that it’s still worth it. I still think it’s a fantastic way to launch a career. The exam curriculum will adapt, as it always does, with new technologies, but it’s an amazing learning experience if you do it honestly, and you will be needed when you make it through.