2021: Thinking Forward

Who doesn’t love to make plans and have goals? It’s January of 2021. Let’s not discuss what happened last year. Many of us accomplished different things and many of us did not. No matter what happened last year, I’d like to look forward to making plans for this year. However, making plans is not enough. Executing is what needs to happen. Sometimes our execution is derailed by many outside factors throughout the year. This will happen. I believe it is best not to thrust all of our worries on the things we cannot control. Let’s focus our energy on the what is within our reach. As a network engineer, there are a few goals I want to briefly write about. I am hoping writing it will help keep me accountable.

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Route/Switch has been my primary domain since I started working in networking. There was always a sprinkle of information security in what I did, but it seems the last few years have pushed me to do more within security. Lately my time has been spent a bit more on firewalls, Cisco Stealthwatch, ISE, Duo and other security products. No matter what you are doing in IT, we need to approach our projects and tasks with a security mentality. If the recent SolarWinds hack has not opened your eyes, something might come along that will. That something might negatively affect you and your company. Sure, you might have a dedicated information security team, but that should not stop you from learning. Cert-wise, my focus at the start of this year will be the CCNP SCOR. The SCOR exam covers a wide range of security topics such as explaining threats all the way to configuration of security solutions. Upcoming work tasks are also pushing me towards spending time on Cisco’s Firepower. This should also help accomplish Cisco’s concentration exam 300-710 SNCF. It feels like things are falling into place for it. I believe this is my next step forward in IT. I don’t think I am going to move away from being a network engineer, but I believe the events going on in the world are pushing us to enhance our current positions. We should never stop learning new skills. If we start to feel comfortable, time for a disruption.

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Speaking of new skills, last year I started venturing into the world of automation. Who doesn’t love to spend hours accomplishing a task manually that could be automated with a script? I’d like to make life easier, not only for myself, but for those that come behind me. Using automation to accomplish tasks can give me more time for other goals and projects. Originally, my goal was to program, create software, or work on databases. I spent a few years on obtaining my bachelor’s degree. During that time I learned C#, Java, and SQL. However, that was some years ago. As you might have heard, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I do feel like that foundation is still there, somewhere. I started purchasing Python books as well as network automation books. My goal this year is to learn Python and use it somewhere in production. I also want to continue to spend some time in Ansible as a start to automating tasks. I’d like to give thanks to A.J. Murray for the Ansible tutorial. Check out his Twitter and blog. It did get some automation excitement going. Reading about Python is bringing back those memories of slamming my hand down on the table frustrated with programming, but in the end I know it will be worth it.

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So what is going on? Am I going to be a security engineer? Changing careers to be a programmer somewhere? Nope. I love what I do and I will continue to do it for as long as I can or until my flight is diverted. However, I need to continue to enhance what I do, obtain skills and make life easier. Focusing on security is something we should all be doing. Those security challenges are not going away. I also hope that by sprinkling in programming, I can make my journey as a network engineer a little smoother. Everything will take time, but I’ll try to control what is within my reach. No matter what you are doing in IT, look to make it better. Let’s all have a great year.

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