6 Tips to becoming a Cisco Network Engineer
- 14th April 2016
- Posted by: Juan van Niekerk
- Category: Networking
The path to becoming a certified Cisco Network Engineer will involve a lot of hard work and dedication, but once you have achieved this goal, it will be well worth it. Cisco carries with it a reputation of being prestigious and sought after by network professionals and those that employ them alike. Following the correct path and undertaking the applicable training will make it a very achievable goal.
1. Gain a cisco certification or networking degree
This may seem as simple as enrolling in a course, finishing the training and passing the exam, but for some employers just learning Cisco isn’t enough. Certain employers prefer a candidate to have a degree, rather than a certification. Many aspiring Cisco Network Engineers opt to gain a certification first and then study towards a bachelor’s degree, which is a prerequisite in many companies.
This will also depend on the company that you would like to work for. If they require a degree, then that is the way to go. If you are undecided on an organisation to work for, a certification will be your best bet as this will allow you to build experience.
2. Get live labs to build experience while studying
There is nothing that is more impressive on a CV than having experience. This cuts down on the amount of training that will need to be provided to get you into a fully working role and, thus, saves not only time, but money. Even home-based experience is a plus. Getting to know the basics as far as setting up and managing a small network can prove to be very helpful, not only when you do start formal training, but if you decide to study a networking course.
Many training providers offer practical experience such as ITonlinelearning’s Live Labs, which offer you the chance to practice on real routers and switches without the worry of buying expensive equipment to use at home.
3. Consider an internship
This is one of the best (and preferred) ways to gain experience in networking. Cisco, for example, offers internships to undergraduate and graduate students to help them on their way to becoming Cisco Network Engineers.
Many organisations also offer students the chance to gain experience through an internship while studying. Not only will this give you much needed practice, but provides you with a chance to start working as soon as you have completed your studies.
4. Accept entry level networking positions
It may seem that starting in a position where no experience is necessary and working your way up towards becoming a Cisco Network Engineer would take a very long time, but consider the fact that the experience that you will build up will have a huge impact on your studies later. This can enable you to undertake training that will help you move through the ranks much faster and will, ultimately, give you a greater work ethic as well as a very thorough understanding of the work that needs to be done.
5. Your Cisco Certification path starts with CCENT
The highest level of Cisco certification is CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). The first step to take towards CCIE will be CCENT (Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician) which consists of one exam after the training has been completed.
Following CCENT, CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) is usually the next step to take. This can be achieved by either taking one, all-encompassing exam, or to pass CCENT first and then take a second exam to become CCNA certified. If you do consider yourself to have enough experience, you will be able to bypass CCENT by writing the one CCNA exam alone.
The next step will be CCNP (Cisco Certified Networking Professional). You will be required to have passed the CCNA exam first before undertaking the training. CCNP has multiple areas of specialisation that can be studied, meaning that you have the option of earning more than one CCNP.
CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) is, as the name suggests, where you will become an expert Cisco Network Engineer. This is the most revered Cisco networking course and it will consists of two separate parts.
The first will be a written exam that you will need to pass to advance onto the next stage of the exam. The second will be a practical test in an actual lab, where your skills will be tested. Only upon passing both will you have earned your CCIE certification.
6. Sharpen your Soft skills
With the appropriate training, such as a Cisco networking course, and the addition of practical experience, you are well on your way to becoming a competent and efficient Cisco network engineer. It is, however, also important to focus on some of the soft skills that will improve your ability to perform your role. Although soft skill are not generally covered in the Cisco networking course that you will undertake as a Cisco student, they are essential to building a solid career as a Cisco network engineer.
One of these important soft skills is communication. There will be many instances in your career as a Cisco network engineer when you will need to communicate with people who do not have the same level of technical knowledge as you do. This means that you will have to have the ability to communicate in a language that the other party can understand.
You will need to provide easy-to-understand explanations that will enable others to support you in your work as a Cisco network engineer. This could be in the context of securing funding for improvement or enhancements; or simply to discuss your work with senior management. As your Cisco network engineer career progresses, you may also find yourself in a position where you will need to train or development more junior engineers; and this will also be greatly benefitted by excellent communication skills.
Be a Problem-Solver
As a Cisco network engineer, you will need to be an effective problem-solver. Troubleshooting capabilities are vital to the role and there will also be times where you will be faced with complex situations, issues and problems that must be resolved. A Cisco network engineer will need to be able to think outside of the box and use their initiative to determine the cause of the problem and provide viable solutions to resolve the issue.
Experience and practice will certainly allow you to develop your problem-solving skills, but those with a natural affinity for this tend to make great Cisco network engineers. An analytical mind is beneficial for this part of the work, but it is also possible to train yourself to look at problems from different viewpoints and gain a clearer perspective on the matter that requires resolution. A Cisco network engineer needs to be rational and practical in order to solve problems and perform effectively.