Runt Packet No 5 – A Technical Services Manager Speaks

Following the career discussions in some of our earlier podcasts, and his recent Blog Post “So you Want to be a Network Consultant” Kevin Bovis got in touch with me to talk about what sort of skills an engineer needs. We decided to record the discussion and so you have even more Networking in your ears.

The Show

Kevin is the Technical Services Manager for a Cisco Gold partner Cisilion and manages a reasonable sized team of Network Engineers. Kevin is also a Cisco CCIE #1578 and is still currently certified.

  • We talk about the art of troubleshooting
  • salary expectations and the effective cap on how much you can be paid
  • the need for people skills and the the importance of fitting into a team
  • Naturally, some reminiscing about the old days is liberally sprinkled throughout the show
  • life skills and lessons that engineers should think about
  • Because Kevin manages a team of engineers and regularly interviews and hires engineer, those looking at their career progression should enjoy listening to the show.

    Feedback

    Follow the Packet Pushers on Twitter (@packetpushers | Greg @etherealmind and send your queries and comments about the show to [email protected].  We want to hear from you!

    Greg Ferro
    Greg Ferro is a Network Engineer/Architect, mostly focussed on Data Centre, Security Infrastructure, and recently Virtualization. He has over 20 years in IT, in wide range of employers working as a freelance consultant including Finance, Service Providers and Online Companies. He is CCIE#6920 and has a few ideas about the world, but not enough to really count. He is a host on the Packet Pushers Podcast, blogger at EtherealMind.com and on Twitter @etherealmind and Google Plus.
    Greg Ferro
    Greg Ferro
    • http://www.zingo-net.com/ Barry

      I really enjoy these "Runts" episodes as sometimes I don't have enough time to listen to one of the full episodes all the way through. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the regular episodes, but just don't have the time to commit to listening to them as often as I would like. At any rate, I like it when you guys take time to discuss careers in the networking industry. It is good to hear other people's opinions and suggestions, so I can compare them to my own career path to see if I am doing things in a smart and informed manner or if I could do better.

      Keep the podcasts coming! I learn something new every time I listen to Pack Pushers!

      Thanks,

      Barry

    • http://blog.theparadiso.com Paul Paradiso

      Hi Greg,

      If this must be called a 'Runt' Packet, I would have to designate this as the Golden Runt. This should be required listening for anyone remotely interested in a Networking career! I also appreciate when you spend some time speaking to topics on work-life on the PPP's.

      I fully subscribe to Kevin's assertions of getting too complacent too quickly or getting a thirst for higher salaries and a prescribed career path (consulting/mgmt). I am actually happy to be at my ripe-old age of 34 as I embark into my networking career (had a long-time interest in networking, but got a more settled into Win/VMware server administration side for the past 5 years!). My 'cocky' 20's are behind me, so it was great to hear Kevin's reinforcing message about the need for developing a troubleshooting ability and not simply relying on memorized certification exam knowledge. Thanks to the various learning tracts, I have many many lifetimes for branching out in technical areas… I have no intention on crossing over into the management side!

      While it is reassuring to know that my intentions to 'learn, study, test, and repeat' networking topics will not be for nothing, I fear I will be caught in a Catch-22 due to lack of experience when it comes to seeking a job in the networking field. I would be described as possessing strong troubleshooting and creativity skills in my current field but I am concerned certain employers will not count this as relevant. It probably comes down to what each company or hiring manager values in candidates. Let's realize the interview process is not one-sided; it is also a matter of the candidate finding a suitable employer!

      Thanks,

      Paul
      Twitter: @theparadiso
      Blog: http://blog.theparadiso.com

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    • Tim Smith

      You mentioned that CCNP certification doesn't necessarily indicate that you have any troubleshooting skills. As of July 31st this year, Cisco changed their certification to include a troubleshooting exam (TSHOOT) in which you have to approach an established network toplogy, you're presented with 'trouble tickets' and you have to work out what's busted (which device, what aspect (STP, OSPF, BGP, basic device address configuration…)

      I don't know how well the exam is written, I haven't taken the first exam towards the CCNP yet. But I appreciate their attempt to test the practical skills a bit further.

      • Kevin Bovis

        Tim,
        Yes, I have heard about the TSHOOT exam and I applaud Cisco for adding it to the CCNP curriculum as it does show an acknowledgement for making CCNP a Network Engineering qualification rather than merely teaching people the Cisco method of building networks. Obviously the challenge for Cisco will be to make it resistant to companies who help students cheat the exams. I know that Cisco are doing a lot of work to prevent that happening by introducing more innovative ways to present exam questions. However, read Bruce Schneier’s excellent book ‘Secrets and Lies”; it demonstrates that for every innovative solution someone produces an even more innovative hack. Therefore, I’ll be very happy to see the TSHOOT exam pass on the cv, but they are still going to get a ‘grilling’ in the interview.

    • http://www.definethecloud.net Joe Onisick

      Greg,

      In this episode you argue that an engineer can branch out and expand on her/his core disciplines. You explain how you moved from one to the other expanding your skill set: SP, DC, securtiy, etc. I totally agree with you that a good engineer should be able to broaden their expertise and branch out from their core silo.

      My question is you openly bash Cisco for branching into market adjacencies such as servers and computing which are all very complimentary to their core business of R/S (understanding/owning packet creators is good for a packet pusher.) How is what Cisco is doing with product different from what you've done and condone for engineering skill set?

      Joe

      • http://etherealmind.com Greg Ferro

        I don't recall exactly what I said, but I believe it would have been something like this

        "While you can make the case that Servers and even Storage are adjacent markets, it's much harder to agree that Pure Digital, Linksys and their multimedia web hosting and videoconferencing are worthy businesses. "

        That is, playing in retail means a loss of focus on their customers. While Uncle John is busy fiddling with stocking levels and 20 point margins, the core business of enterprise routers and switches at 80 point margins is clearly suffering from lack of investment and management focus.

        Cisco needs to refocus on their core customers as Business. Attempting to compete with HP in retail doesn't appear to be working.

    • http://netblog.burnedbits.com Yandy

      I specially like the talk about the CCIE cert and how's gone away from it's roots. I couldn't agree more, I'm stills striving to achieve mine, just because it's a goal. But, I have interviewed various CCIEs, newer ones (Numbers 25000+) and it's just not what it was. They can answer things straight from a book, or a memorized technology, but present them with a proper real world scenario, and they can't seem to get away from the oh crap… I didn't cover this. Or just can't use what they learned and put two things together..

      Awesome runt show, as someone above me mentioned… "Golden Runt"

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