Career advice from an old CCIE

I was cleaning out some old email and found this gem. For context, I had just passed the CCIE written and was prepping for the lab when I received this unsolicited advice. It is gold.

Congratulations.

It really is something to be proud of. It’s a small club even today.

Once you pass the lab that’s when the problems start for you on a personal and career level. You will elevate yourself to a place beyond what a company like Syringa can provide, and yet find that this may be one of the only places in Idaho that offers a significant technical challenge.

Then there is the pay issue. You will be grossly underpaid here compared to your peers. Especially after your time spent in a real world environment where you have used the tools and technologies in a real live fire manner

If you move to a vendor then you see their view of the world only, and get pigeon holed into a single set of technologies they offer. Yet you have access to people and resources that you can never get to in a service provider or enterprise environment. A conundrum to say the least, they are your paycheck.

Boredom will kill you unless you are constantly moving from a technology, passion, and career perspective. It’s the almighties cruel trick that is played on someone that has the desire, and wherewith all to do what you have set out to do.

But you are young. Keep the passion, the curiosity, and tenacity to keep this going. Expand beyond IP (yep I said it) to newer transport technologies at least at the 60 to 70% level. Don’t go to management until you are 45 to 50 at least. Your value begins to decrease the more of a technological Alumni that you become.

You will always be technologically smarter than your employers. While it will be true, temper this. It’s gotten more than one person in a pit of crap. If you ever heard of Dr. Tony Li, the father of CIDR, and co conspirator on BGP4, the 7500, and other things, he took his resume and put in on John Chambers office door with a knife. Then went on to start Juniper, and other companies. Dr. Li is much smarter than Chambers. But Chambers is a Southern Baptist preacher, and the lemmings listen to him as he can speak well even if he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Those in the know listen to the Dr. Li’s of the world. Somehow do both and be the divining rod, and get to the truth for yourself and others.

Management destroys a technologist as they don’t keep up. At the same time strive to understand how business decisions are made, as that affects the technology side and your ability to deploy the technologies that will keep you going. ROI, Net present value, and other financial models are only vehicles to keep the technology curious in new technology projects to keep them going. Use them to your curiosity, and your current employers benefit. It’s a win win for both.

What you will achieve is much more difficult than any undergrad or graduate degree. The problem with it is that it requires constant attention. A Undergrad, graduate, or professional certification in another area, like lawyer, PE or doctor only require that you take additional classes for credit. They don’t require constant test verification on past, present, and potentially new technologies.

Congratulations. Try to keep up

CCIE and Management Alumni

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