6 month overview as an ‘Network Engineer’

Six months after obtaining the CCNA in Routing and Switching I managed to land a position as an ‘Network Engineer’. I’ve now been in this role for 6 months. So what exactly is it that I do? A typical day varies. Of the 6 months I’ve probably been out of the office for 2 of them. So far I’ve configured and installed a variety of new equipment (switches, routers, access points, firewalls, wireless LAN controllers), troubleshooting issues with existing networks, actioning requests, performing site surveys, auditing, cable management, helping with design and sales. If there’s any lull periods that’s normally devoted to updating / cleaning up documentation, checking network monitoring systems or learning about something new that’s on the horizon (like SD-WAN).

A lot of the work that I do comes to me via email and our ticketing system. A client request could be anything from poking holes in Firewalls, setting up SPAN, configuring VLANs, troubleshooting bottlenecks, setting up VPNs and so on.

The biggest challenges for me have been Firewalls, VoIP and Wireless. Of the businesses we support all 3 of them are significant components of their networks. VoIP is the most alien to me and I don’t really have an interest in it at all, so that’s where I struggle the most. It looks like VoIP is set to become the standard method for voice communications now as BT is phasing out PSTN in favour of FVA.

One thing that I would like to point out that I haven’t been involved in working with much is Routing. I haven’t touched anything Routing related yet, other than verifying routes. I haven’t implemented any Routing designs or made changes. My knowledge in this area has definitely atrophied, time to lab it up!

Below is a brief overview of the things I’ve been exposed to, and how it’s coincidentally changed my goals. Begrudgingly I’ve temporarily postponed my freeCodeCamp progress to put all my energy into getting up to speed. I still feel like I’m barely scratching the surface, impostor syndrome is my shadow and treading water has become the norm. That being said, I’m enjoying it. It’s challenging and varied work.

Off the top of my head here are the things that I’ve encountered so far.

Cisco ASAs (in particular working with ASDM)
Cisco FirePOWER
Cisco Umbrella
Cisco Meraki
Cisco AnyConnect (lots of VPN)
Cisco Prime
Cisco ISE
Cisco DNA

Occasionally bumping into the following hardware :

Avaya
Juniper
Mitel (particularly phones)
HP ProCurve
Sonicwall
Ubiquity
WatchGuard
TP-Link
Netgear
Aerohive

Documentation tools :

Microsoft Visio
Lucid Charts
Excel + Word

Network monitoring :

PRTG
Solarwinds
Zabbix
Observium

Wireless :

Meraki
AirMagnet Survey
Ekahau
Cisco Prime
MetaGeek
Draytek

Configuration management :
Ansible
Cisco PRIME

Useful tools :

Air Console (ever consoled into a device from the comfort of your car?)
MetaGeek inSSIDer (a great tool for diagnosing Wireless problems)
Cagenut Insertion and Removal Tool (no longer pinging cage nuts into the ether!)

I’ve been involved in installing and configuring a large variety of hardware, primarily Cisco that includes the following :

Routers / Firewalls
ASA 5500-X series
ISR 800 & 4000 series
RV300 series
DrayTek

Switches
Cisco 9300
Cisco 250 series
Cisco 350x series
Cisco 2900 series
Meraki MS series

Wireless LAN controllers
3504
5520

Wireless Access Points
Cisco 500 series
Aironet 3800 series
Aironet 1800 series
Aironet 3700 series
Meraki MR series
DrayTek VigorAP 900 series

What next

I had planned on working towards the CCNP in Routing and Switching but out of sheer necessity for my current role I’ve decided to pursue the CCNA Wireless, CWNA and CCNA Security. A lot of work I’ve been doing recently has been configuring Wireless devices, dealing with bad Wireless design/implementation and having to perform Wireless site surveys. Along with working with Firewalls, VPNs and site to site IPSec tunnels. The certifications I’ve listed covers all those areas. Unfortunately the CCNA Security isn’t quite enough for managing ASAs though, looks like I’ll need to venture down the CCNP track for more in-depth information.

Configuring Cisco 5500 and 3500 Wireless LAN controllers
Configuring Cisco 5500 and 3500 Wireless LAN controllers

To conclude

I was concerned that my CCNA in Routing and Switching may have been too theoretical but in reality a lot of what I’ve learned has been directly applicable to the role that I’m in. With hindsight it was a great investment and I’m grateful for the position I’m in, I’m also excited to continue learning and developing.

This is the first time I’ve had the chance to pontificate on my accomplishments. Landing this job was huge for me. It stoked my desire to continue learning and moving forward in this field. It’s inspired me to set goals that I’m currently working towards. For those out there working towards a similar goal and are unsure if it’s worth pursuing this without a guarantee of a job, I want to emphasise this point. People move on, whether they get bored or are offered a position else where, some even retire. There’s always going to be positions available. It may take some time, it took me 6-7 months of searching and applying before I was offered a position, don’t give up!