I will start this article with a famous quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. As you may suppose, the purpose of this article is not to explain any kind of technology, nor to dive deep into anything technical, but to make you think what it is that makes a network engineer a true expert. I am still not the one, if you might wonder, and being just at the beginning of my networking career gives me an even bigger reason to question myself – what is it that it will make me a professional in this field, what are the values I should strive for? Is it the number of technologies I will master? Is it the number of certificates I will achieve? Don’t you also think it is something more? Something less ‘tangible’ and countable?
Learning happens all the time
A common misconception many young people have nowadays is that, as soon as they make the transition from the university to the workplace, the process of education ends, and there is no need for self-improvement. This is actually what inspired me to write about the importance of lifelong learning. As I am myself an IT graduate and still eager to learn and grow as a professional, in this article I will focus on the importance of lifelong learning from the perspective of a network engineer. This, however, does not mean I am trying to encourage and motivate only people interested in networking, because these thoughts apply to everybody who dream of themselves being true IT professionals one day.
The concept of lifelong education is used in all spheres of business, whether it is about the economics, law, engineering, education, research – you name it. For those new to this term, lifelong education may be defined as any learning activity (formal or informal) during the lifetime, taken in order to obtain new knowledge, skills and competences, needed for employment and personal fulfilment. The concept is very much present in the field of Information Technology as well, particularly when it comes to obtaining industry certificates as a confirmation that you possess certain knowledge and skills.
From Network Associate to Network Expert
The title of a network expert does not come overnight. From my perspective, no matter how many hours you put in staying at the office, no matter how many years you have spent working in this field, such measurable facts do not make you a network expert. Think of your own company, or the one you strive to work for, and try to come up with the values you bring or would bring to this company.
Of course, your technical skills will always be valuable and crucial when confronting technical challenges, but do not underestimate your people skills, the way you cooperate, show independence and initiative, but also the way you work on your self-improvement; and here comes the learning. If you want to stay competitive in the job market, lifelong education is an inevitable part of your development as an individual, as well as a professional. Education is a never-ending process, and as a network engineer you need to be in touch with new technologies, but also work on your personality, the way you interact with people, the way you solve problems, and so on. Having years of experience alone is not the ultimate confirmation you are a good network expert. Learning from experience and our reflection on what we attained and still need to improve is what really matters.
We turn coffee into Networks, and Certificates
The fact that the field of Information Technology continually evolves, it forces you to continue to develop your skills, adapt to rapid changes and new concepts. At the same time, it implies numerous opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills, either through trainings, by taking exams or attending the online courses.
When it comes to networking certifications, among the popular and valuable ones are CCIE, CCNP, and CCNA. These certifications prove that you are technically competent in certain technologies, and they also help you to build your professional brand. Indeed, getting certified will help you to grow as a professional, but also enable you to be committed to staying current, and therefore competitive in job market. However, getting those certificates just for the sake of having them does not make much sense. Recall my thought from the beginning of this article about many people’s perception on education and no need for self-improvement. The same applies in the world of certifications. Once you get this valuable recognition that you possess certain knowledge and competence, the process does not end. If you do not apply what you acquired and stop expanding your knowledge, sooner or later you will forget everything. Would you still call yourself an expert in that situation? My point is that learning is all about applying what you acquire, striving to gain more, and always asking yourself – how can I improve my skills, what new skill should I start working on, and what makes me a true professional?
Put it into practice
So, after this exhaustive list of thoughts about the meaning and importance of lifelong education, you might wonder – how to put them into practice? Well, what I would suggest is following:
- Work as a network engineer: get continuous new experience;
- Try to make a list of things you want to learn and still need to improve;
- Never stop learning: enroll in training, read books and articles, listen to live video lessons offered by experts;
- Talk to people from whom you might learn and hear some advice;
- Work on your people skills: communicate, get involved into discussions;
- Do not be shallow-minded: pay attention to details.
I hope that this article increased your awareness of the importance of self-improvement, not only as a professional, but also as a person. You are the only one responsible for your own professional growth, so stay involved, learn by doing, and educate yourself. Putting the time in for extra learning will definitely pay off.
If you want to find out what else should you take into consideration to become a network engineer, feel free to read the following article. Also, to read about the tips on how to prepare for CCNA/CCNP certificates go to the following link.
Till next time!