Behind every great person – to paraphrase the common saying – is another person. So, with enough wisdom to firmly discount the word “great”, I’d like to offer up a sincere New Year’s toast to all those who patiently support us selfish idiots in the networking industry.
Let’s face it, as network engineers, we have chosen a career that can demand an awful lot of us outside the regular nine-to-five day that others get to enjoy. The networking industry moves so fast, it’s a struggle to keep up even with a specialist niche, and as a result we can find ourselves spending endless hours reading manufacturer websites and text books, studying for certification exams, and working at OMG-o’clock in the morning executing maintenance windows and troubleshooting outages. We’re always trying to learn more and better ourselves – and that’s on top of doing our day job which, for many of us, also includes trying to pass on that knowledge to other people!
To succeed, I think most of us are lucky enough to have one or more people who stand behind us and support us through the whole process, and it’s to those people – the partners, the families, the mentors – to whom I raise my glass.
Partner in Crime
In my case the poor soul who has born the brunt of my network endeavors over the years is my wife, Heather. Since I started in the industry, she has supported me in my career development – my need to travel (often at short notice), strange working hours at times (very often over night), support calls at all hours of day and night, the hours spent studying for tests or researching problems. Perhaps as much as anything, she puts up with my conversation which, when I’m buzzing on a technical problem, is a random spew of networking jargon as I try to get things straight in my head. Lord help her when I was studying for my CCIE lab; I was so focused on what I was doing, and was spending so many hours doing practice labs, she must have wondered at times whether I even noticed her. Every time I had to travel somewhere, she kept the house in one piece, and once we had children that burden increased even more. Without having somebody who understands – and tolerates – the needs of my role, I’d be in deep trouble.
I should comment that I am extremely fortunate in that my wife is also a geek. You’d have a hard time getting her to admit it, but she’s way more technically savvy than she lets on. We both studied (and attained) our MCSEs at the same time; she had her Novell CNA back in the day, and also passed her (Cisco) CCNA, even though she hates subnetting and the binary math that goes with it. In reality therefore, when I offer up a bunch of networking babble at the dinner table, she can follow, and her response is often quite helpful. Her troubleshooting methodology was always first class, and while I think I’m good, she often reminds me of things I’ve missed.
Never underestimate, by the way, the benefit of a partner who is geeky. One time I wanted to buy an 8-port FastEthernet switch for our home network; rather than asking whether we needed to spend that money, my wife asked whether we should be buying GigabitEthernet, and would a 16-port switch be better?
So to my wife, a very large glass is raised! If you have a supportive partner, I hope that you have had an opportunity to raise your own glass to them.
I’ve had a couple of people I would consider mentors – in the work environment. They don’t take on the same level of direct personal coverage that a partner does, but their role in keeping us on the straight and narrow cannot be underestimated. I’ve been fortunate to have one person in particular who has helped guide my career for years; they’ve listened to me – without judging – when I needed to vent, and they’ve guided me through tricky situations with a level of insight I only wish I had. Not everybody is lucky enough to have somebody who looks out for you and helps you develop your career. If you have somebody who does that for you, raise a glass and be thankful!
So to all those people who support us poor idiots in the networking industry, thank you! Cheers to you all. Thank you for your help in the past, and here’s to a great future together.