Looking for a Tier 1 ISP Mentor for career advice.

I'd love to have varied experience with a bunch of different companies, but
first I'm trying to guarantee my first network engineering job out of
college.

From: Tyler Haske <tyler.haske@gmail.com>

I'd love to have varied experience with a bunch of different companies, but
first I'm trying to guarantee my first network engineering job out of
college.
-----------------------------------------------

You've already taken the first step. That step being you becoming more motivated
than many of the other soon-to-be-graduates around you. This motivation will carry
you a long way in your career. Who knows, you may be applying to someone here on

                                                 ===--> replying

this list one day...

line-wrapped that for you scott... gift bows are USD2.00 extra.
  

scott

/bill

Scott's point is very true! Motivation will help you go very far,
much farther than certs/knowledge alone. As a soon to be
college-grad, be ready for the initial disappointment, :-), even
though you'll have your CCNP, you have no real experience, so you'll
start at the entry level. That's not a bad thing, but you might see
it as such. The reason it is good, is that while at the entry level
(networking that is, I'm not talking about a helpdesk), you'll get to
touch and interact with a lot of different things with very little
"total" responsibility.

As you impress your peers, this will trickle up towards management,
and eventually work it's way out into better tasks and larger
responsibilities (try to not get caught up in "the title"). I'm
speaking from experience here, I'm a senior network engineer for a $2
B company, yet only 25 years old, currently working on my R/S CCIE
purely for the learning experience. It took me nearly 4 years to move
from an associate to a senior in my company, which is not common in
that short of a time-frame for my employer, but that's where the
motivation piece comes in -- expressing true passion, and learning
things because "they are cool/interest you" will take you far.
Learning on paper is what you're taught in college and it only works
so far, but learning from hand-on, like the lab you've got built, is
where you attain the knowledge/troubleshooting/experience that will
help you succeed.

A comment earlier in the thread mentioned "should I learn active
directory/exchange"? I hear this a lot from our fellow associate's on
the team.... and to be honest, if you are learning something just to
add it to your resume, that will be a waste of your time. But, if you
are learning it because you find it interesting or just want to
explore, then by all means go deep into it. I personally go by the
motto "go full in or don't go at all". So if I'm going to learn
something, I'll get as deep as I can into it, and focus on just it for
a little while, then I'll move to something else, and focus on just
that. If you try to focus on too many separate things, you'll become
this odd ball of knowledge that can't really hold you own -- a tip in
the industry that will get you far: be able to take ownership, and
fully run/own what you're working on. Regardless of level/title/role,
a person who takes initive (within the scope/dynamic of their
position), will go far.

Best of luck to you,
David.

All excellent advice, but let me point out something else. I manage a team of backbone engineers and still do quite a bit of engineering work myself. When I interview, I never get caught up on certs or degrees. Now, do I ignore them? No, of course not. They do mean something and I know I worked hard for my JNCIE, so they add value. However, what I want to see is someone that is energetic and has a drive to learn, but the most important piece of my interviews once I am confident they meet my technical needs is the personality evaluation. I know my team works crappy hours, gets pulled 100 different directions and just really have a tough job sometimes. What I can't have is a toxic person added to the mix, no matter how ridiculously smart or qualified they might be. So there have been times I have turned away more qualified candidates just because I was not comfortable with their attitude or vibe. Hiring and firing is extremely difficult to correct if you make the wrong choice, and I have learned a thing or two over the years in this regard.

That said, there is something else to consider too. In most large companies, the managers don't always have a lot of power when it comes to salaries and in some cases, even promotions. So, without specific experience and a salary history, you may be artificially held down due to HR policies no matter how well you do. I know that has happened a number of times at various places I have worked, and it is frustrating both for the candidate and the manager. There are many places where it is better to actually leave the company and come back to get around the HR constraints regarding salary augments from internal promotions. So, just be aware that even though you are working hard and going above and beyond, you might not always get initially rewarded for it. However, in time it will almost always correct itself, but even so, keeping a positive attitude and having a desire to learn will always benefit you in the end one way or another.

Of course, once you get to the point of being in the industry for a long time like most of us here, you'll look back and say what the heck was I thinking, I should have been an accountant. Heh :slight_smile:

Best of luck,
-Jeff

It's the rare accountant indeed that gets a phone call at 2AM saying
that the books are on fire. :wink:

There are more than a few people out there that will look down on you for
your efforts - ignore them.

"The people who want you to give up are jealous because you're better than
them. The people who are already better than you don't care about you
because you're not as good as them."

Q

and then there are the people who are excited to have one more
  person join the network of engineers. and (IMHO) the sentiments
  quoted by Quinn are signs of short-sighted people. Everyone is
  better at some things and worse at others. Don't ignore anyone,
  don't look down on anyone - you will find there are things to learn
  from everyone and you have something to teach everyone.

  as mentioned earlier - a good team player is hard to find.

/bill

tyler,

some additional "soft" skills that will help you distinguish yourself
from others:

- learn to write well: take some creative writing classes in addition
  to technical writing. being able to efficiently write clear,
  concise, and effective documentation is a skill that is necessary,
  and i daresay, required, especially for senior-level staff.

- learn how to present/speak: join the local toastermasters. grok
  tufte's 'visual display of quantitative information' (or something
  similar -- this goes back to writing effective and concise
  documentation)

- in addition to business and finance, learn negotiation techniques.
  'getting to yes' is a good book; there are many others

- learn time/task/project management: you should be able to accurately
  guage how long things take, task interdepence, and how to structure a
  (simple) project. try a few different methods to find one that works
  for you, and then build and rebuild your home lab using your project
  plan. this is also a good time to practise documentation :wink:

- get involved: join/start local users groups, go to a conference or
  two, subscribe to/read mailing lists on topics which interest you, or
  which are relevant to something you are studying/playing with

- to reiterate what others have said:
  learn to troubleshoot. learn to troubleshoot. learn to troubleshoot.
  - develop an efficient, comprehensive methodology, and stick to it (a
    checklist can be helpful)
  - learn to take notes as you work through your procedure (what you
    did, what was the result: this will aid in writing both root-cause
    reports and operational procedures -- more documentation practise)
  - as you gain experience, re-evaluate and optimise, but be consistent
    in your approach
  - be able to explain and justify your procedure(s); teaching and
    learning from others makes you both better. mentoring will be an
    extremely valuable skill to your hiring manager/team (and will
    better position you for leadership roles)

- learn how to use $favourite_search_engine in order to find answers

you might also consider getting a juniper j-series box (or running
bird on a *nix box, or three). a ccnp will teach you cisco's way, but
most provider networks are heterogenous, and the ability to understand
a non-cisco device (and moreover, a non-cisco-style cli/config), will
benefit you long-term (imho).

above all, have fun with what you are doing. this industry can be a
lot of fun, but it is also stressful, and if you aren't enjoying what
you are learning/doing, it might be time to re-evaluate your
focus/priorities.

hth
/joshua