Has anyone ever been excited to go to a job they hate? Perhaps on the day they were quitting. No matter what your profession, passion determines how deep into your job or career you will go. If you lack the willingness to learn and the willingness to love what you do for a living, there is no passion. If you find yourself with that lack of passion, what you are currently doing might not be for you. No matter what that job is right now, do it to the best of your abilities. Even if what you are doing is not what you envisioned for yourself. What you are doing might not even have been on your personal roadmap. The goal is to someday look around and find yourself in love with what you do. It does not matter if you accomplish that goal at 20 or 60 years old. I want to write to motivate those working in IT that have not yet found their passion or to those who are interested in the realm of networks. I am a Network Engineer and I love what I do.
I’ve always loved programming and I still do. As a Network Engineer, times are changing and worlds are merging. My past experiences will be useful in changing times. All of your past experiences have value. Sitting in a chair opening tickets for students who had technical issues at the university was not a waste of time for me. As my first job, it taught me customer service and introduced me to dozens of systems and processes I had not heard of before. It was a good start to figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I was taking programming classes, learning C#, Java and diving into SQL. In the beginning, I wanted to be a database administrator. I found it fascinating, but over time as I continued to complete my classes and move on to the next level, that fascination waned. If you love database administration, GREAT! There is nothing wrong with that, but I found that it was not for me. In life it is perfectly fine to start in one direction, make a U-turn and go down another path. This might even happen multiple times. It is life after all. During this time I was able to work full-time at the university and continue to move through the department. This opened the doors to assist the network team with upgrades and small tasks. That team was remote so they usually needed someone onsite to help swap out modules on a 6513, upgrading switch code or some other manual task. It was interesting. This network stuff allowed people to reach the internet. It let me check my MySpace which was probably one of the more important things at the time. It also brought me back to the times I attended the Cisco Academy in high school. Everything needed connectivity of some kind to communicate. I liked that. It felt pretty important and I continued to dive deeper into it. Thankfully, the colleague on the network team saw that and continued to pour more info and opportunities into me.
As a PSA: If you are a leader, have “juniors” or people shadowing you, make sure to pour into them as much as you can. Be a teacher. This is how people will learn and say “Yes, this is for me.” or “You know, I think I like that better than this.” Whenever I have the opportunity to teach someone something I know, I take it. I love what I do, so it makes sense to share it and not bottle it up. Do not be discouraging to those who do not know as much as you do. Someday you were in their shoes too.
Because of that colleague I learned from, it gave me an opportunity to join the team full-time a couple of years later. Helping out with a couple of tasks is not the same as sitting in the chair orchestrating those tasks. I recall vividly times I killed the trunk between a router and a switch or restarted processes on a wireless controller, kicking everyone out. Those were fun times. However, it was more exciting to learn about routing, wireless and how switching worked in a campus environment. I attached myself to networking and continued down that path. I found that there was something new to learn every day. Each ticket opened was an opportunity to play detective; except the one ticket asking for Netflix access in the office. That gave everyone a good laugh. It’s been about 9 years and I continue to learn every day. Ask to be challenged. Ask for opportunities. A good leader will pass them down and help mold you. Those are the things that produce passion. Let’s say you do not have a good leader who challenges you or pushes you, but you still strive to move forward anyways, that is a good sign of passion. Looking forward to producing something new is a sign of passion. The same applies for the ability to adapt in changing times or when the position evolves. There was a time all I did was routing and switching. Now there is voice and security involved. Worlds are colliding! This is O.K, because it is another opportunity to keep learning and to keep forging skills.
Once you find YOUR field, do everything you can to learn. Do everything you can to keep climbing and reach the next level. Don’t be discouraged if you are not there yet. These things can take years. Passion is seldom grown overnight. Whether it might be Network Engineering or it might not, do the best you can at what you do and you will eventually find your place.