Rich from the UK

Hi Everyone,

I’m Rich from the UK. Grateful to be here on NetworkLessons.com and learn from other great people! :slight_smile:

I’ve been working in IT coming up to 10 years.

My current role is an engineer for a small IT team supporting the UK for a European company. We look after the UK network infrastructure (desktop / servers down to core network - including Cisco devices). The role has changed a lot over the last few years due to centralisation of the infrastructure back to head office who now managed the main network. I respect the decision but a lot has been taken away from my role - rather frustrating as I love being an engineer.

We still manage a couple of network domains and do general network admin stuff for a user base of 50-70 people, but a lot of my role isn’t giving me the opportunity to grow anymore. While the pay is good and I’ve worked with a lot of different network infrastructure, I desire to progress into a Cisco specific role due to my passion with networks and Cisco in general.

I’ve been with the company for 8 years, but worked for my first IT company for 15 months during my Computer Science university degree as a placement year doing Windows/SQL server systems integration onto network and telephony environments. During university I first learnt about Cisco and passed my CCNA 640-801. At the time I also had 2 x 2900 switches and 2 x 2500 routers from Ebay for trying hands-on learning. Very old stuff now! :slight_smile:

After graduating in 2009, I found a job shortly after as a graduate network engineer with a managed services Cisco premier partner doing solutions and support. I worked for them about 6-7 months before they ended my role. I enjoyed the opportunity working with a lot of Cisco products - ASA / PIX, routers, switches and WiFi. However some of the people weren’t as supportive and looked down upon those who had the CCNA but not the experience (even though it was a graduate role where I was suppose to be learning). Unfortunately it made for a rather uncomfortable environment where it was hard to grow, learn and relax.

There were some other people at that company who were cool and an inspiration, but the sudden ending of my job hit my confidence. It made me question if I could ever be good enough to do Cisco or even IT for that matter. My thoughts were that Cisco was a lot harder than I first imagined, that maybe I had been in over my depth and that I wasn’t ready yet good enough to dive into a network engineer role.

Thankfully after 2 months, I found my current role where my performance over the years has been excellent based on appraisals given.

My job works with MS and a few other vendors, but has allowed me to do Cisco support and a bit of migration / installation on occasion with routers, switches, SNMP, VTP, VLANs, AAA, NAT, ACLs, Etherchannel, HSRP, RoaS, designing and implementing the switch network for our data centers, Unity, CUCM and phones as well as training my team on Cisco concepts.

But I desire to do more day-to-day Cisco instead of on occasion. My current boss has been a big inspiration to me and helped me a lot in. As a result, I’ve grown a lot since 2009 and gained a lot of experience, confidence, maturity and troubleshooting / implementation skills. I also feel more ready to go back into a Cisco role but will have to move on to do so.

My life circumstances have changed in a good way which allows for this. I got married last month to my American wife who is joining me in the UK. We then plan after a 1-2 years to move back to the Rocky Mountain west of the USA where I want to continue in networking.

Right now, I have passed ICND1 100-105 (as well ITIL Foundation v3) and am working on getting my ICND2 200-205 currently.

Once I pass my CCNA R&S, the goal is to find a Cisco role where I can use this knowledge and also self study for CCNP R&S. I do have interests in future tracks with Security, SP, Data Center and Design. My general career goal is to migrate from doing network administration into a network engineer with an aim to become a network architect / consultant.

My previous experience at my 2nd job really affected me and I don’t want a repeat - so taking my time to study hard not just to pass the exam but to build my confidence in comprehending the content and how to apply it in the real world. For this purpose, I have a home lab rack with about 9 routers (2801s, 2811s, 3825, 1841, 2522 for Frame relay) and 10 switches (3560s, 3550, 3570s, 2900s) + an ASA 5505 (mixture of IOS 15 ISR1 types from Ebay and some decommissioned devices my company gave me). Doing all this has helped me comprehend the material and implement in labs at home but also in Cisco work in my current job. My boss uses me as the Cisco person on the team.

I use Safari books (my company pays for this) for study content (John Pickard, Kevin Wallace, Lammle, Odom) along with Udemy (Chris Bryant and Neil Anderson) as well as the GNS3 labs. From my experience with Cisco exams - they seem to test the finer points to ensure you really know it. This is why I’m using a lot of sources and labbing so I that don’t fall foul and will be ready to jump in successfully to a new Cisco role.

I’ve joined Networklessons.com due to the encouragement and support seen from experts in the forums but also the excellent material and labs that have been provided by Rene to help with real world scenarios. I hope to be able to grow, succeed and also support others here too.

Hoping my goals are heading in the right direction and that I can become a skilled CCNP engineer along with staying multi-skilled across other technologies.

I appreciate all your support!

Many thanks,

Rich

Welcome Rich! Sounds like you have had an awesome career and you have no plans of stopping I love it. I hope to have that sort of experience under my belt one day. Good luck on your networking journey. Make sure to post on the forums whenever you have a question or if you can answer someone else’s question!

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Hello Rich!

Thanks for sharing that with us! We look forward to hearing more about your advancement in the field. We’re here to help you along the way. With Rene’s in depth lessons and the forum providing support, I hope that we can be part of your advancement.

Looking forward to hearing from you along the way!

Laz

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Thanks Scott! I appreciate the kindness and support! Excited to be here and to learn from this forum! Hopefully I can also help where possible too. I hope everything goes well with your journey too! :slight_smile:

Rich

Thanks for the kind welcome Laz! Wonderful to join and be here! Appreciate the support and opportunities to learn but also help others here too!

Already loving the material plus the forum comments under each topic from yourself and other experts have provided invaluable notes and learning to fill in gaps in my knowledge - so thank you and very much appreciated! :slight_smile:

Rich

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Hello Rich,

Welcome on board and sorry for the late reply. I’ve been a bit busy figuring out how to migrate the website to Kubernetes / Docker / Containers.

Thanks for sharing your story! Also, congratulations on your marriage! I got married last year September so I know what it’s like :smile:

I come from a Microsoft/Linux background and at first, Cisco/Networking can be intimidating. Having this experience is useful. For example, I did quite some wireless networking and being familiar with Windows really helps then. I have also known network engineers who only knew R&S and nothing else.

There is a LOT of stuff to learn. When you are struggling, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • I love the idea of “compound interest”. Microsoft and stuff like Windows, Exchange, etc. are all products. They change over time and knowledge becomes obsolete quickly. I know Windows 95/98 inside out but we can’t use that anymore :slight_smile: With networking, there are many protocols that have been around for a long time…Ethernet, IP, even IPv6, etc. These are all based on “standards” that are defined in RFCs. It might take a long time to learn everything but it can serve you a lifetime.

  • CCNA R&S is hard…there are a lot of NEW topics and that takes time to learn. Once you pass CCNA, CCNP is easier since you’ll learn more about topics from CCNA (and some new ones). Learning how to ride a bike is harder than learning how to drive a motorcycle (not sure if that’ is entirely true since I never tried but you get the idea :smile:)

Having a lab like yours really helps. Some quick labs can really help to go from “I’m not so sure about this topic” to feeling confident. When you face any issues at work and you are not sure…lab it up at home. Some might argue they don’t want to do work related stuff at home but if you see this as a hobby, it’s the quickest way to become a good network engineer :+1:

If you need any help, let us know ok? Good luck studying!

Rene

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Hi Rene,

Wonderful to meet you - thank you for taking the time to reply! I appreciate all your advice and help! :slight_smile:

Hope the website transition is going well! Congrats also on your marriage too! :slight_smile:

I’m grateful you have come from a similar background. I hear that in addition to knowing Cisco well, having a strong Linux / Unix knowledge along with virtualization and Citrix is good to have. On one hand, the industry requires us to be multi-skilled generalists but on the other hand, I realize I also need to specialize…perhaps a balance of the two?

Alongside the above and the R&S / design and Security - I do admit having a great interest in delving into the SP area of Cisco too. When I started looking at MPLS and BGP, it was a fascinating world of concepts and sheer scale of networks and how the Internet works etc.

Computer networks are a hobby for me - from building a computer, to implementing a home network and have multiple boots for learning about servers. This motivates me to self study and not rely on a company to do it for me.

Often when I have studied, one topic opens up so many questions for me. I ended up digging into new concepts which can sidetrack me away at times but has been very helpful in really learning a concept well.

I agree with the compound interest example you gave in regards to networking - so many older books still contain the fundamentals of how a network works and are still relevant today. :slight_smile:

Having a good home lab with many devices has really skyrocketed my confidence in knowing not only how to apply a topic in the real world, but create a network, troubleshoot it and fix the issues as a result. :slight_smile:

Additionally it also helped me fix some network problems at work. In this example, I used my home lab to replicate the setup of one of the networks at my company and identify a missing VLAN on our switches that was stopping the HSRP / VLAN subinterface setup from working on our company’s ISP on their routers (one at our primary site and another at backup site with an E-LAN link on our internal network between sites) from working correctly in their ACTIVE / STANDBY roles.

Interesting you mentioned about CCNP - I’ve heard a deep foundation of CCNA topics makes the NP easier because you generally go deeper on the concepts already learned. How much harder is the NP compared to the NA if you have a strong foundation?

I agree the CCNA has gotten harder - but that’s not a bad thing as long as employers hopefully respect that and don’t think it’s a watered down exam that every man and his dog have e.g. so many basic graudate roles seem to want you to have the NA. I read somewhere that the old CCNA is now 80% of the current ICND1 and the newer v3 exam has brought down a lot of NP topics.

Watching Chris Bryant’s Udemy BGP videos - he admitted going into CCNP level on his CCNA course with this concept. All that he taught made sense to me and it didn’t feel like it was going over my head. :slight_smile:

As mentioned, I’ve also delved deeper into certain topics on the CCNA (as you do when wanting to really understand how to use it) and have been able to understand material just fine that I later discovered was CCNP level. Hopefully once I finish the NA, the NP level should be a comfortable level to transition onto.

However, I’m mindful of going into a company with a CCNP if I’ve only had a chance to do so much Cisco to back it up though…even if I know the concepts and having them think I’m a ‘paper CCNP’. Either way, I know it’s time to prepare for my next role as my skills are not being developed much anymore at my current workplace and I don’t want to stagnate.

A this stage, once i get the NA - then I think it would be wise to find a new role (Cisco if possible) where hopefully I can do well in the interview based on really knowing the networking concepts (from a mixture of study and job experience these past few years).

Rich

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Hi Rich,

I think it’s good to have some other skills next to networking. Linux/Windows is always useful, understanding how VMWare ESX works as well. As a network engineer, you’ll be spending most of your time with networking but it is useful to know how certain things connect. If you connect a VMWare ESX server to your network, you have to deal with the vSwitch and VLANs/Etherchannels etc.

The more you learn, the more questions you’ll have =) I always thought that CCIE would be where you are on top of everything R&S related but surprise…you just get more questions haha.

I think CCNP is easier than CCNA. To most people, topics like spanning-tree, OSPF, EIGRP, BGP, etc. are 100% new. That makes it very difficult. In CCNP, there are some new topics but you will learn more about all these protocols. It’s much easier to learn more about something you already know instead of learning something that is entirely new. A lot of CCNP topics will look familiar to you or they will be easier to understand. There is some overlap between CCNA/CCNP.

Even if you have your CCNP, you should be able to get an entry job just to get some real life experience. If you get stuck with anything, figure it out at home and lab it up :slight_smile:

This is one of the major advantages of IT…we can learn pretty much anything everywhere. Lawyers/Doctors need formal education, practice, etc. We can lock ourselves up like a hermit and figure stuff out of on our own. Your routers/switches will tell you if you are doing OK or not :slight_smile:

Rene

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Hi Rene,

Thanks for your advice and also greatly appreciate your time in responding to me!

Interesting you mention the VMWare setup - I had the opportunity to set up an Etherchannel / HSRP / VLAN setup for a Hyper-V environment that I used for training my team. I’m also hoping to train them more on Cisco concepts that relate to an extra network we have setup in our office so that they can support it better. Watching an old TV show, my learning ethos goes by the saying - ‘see one, do one, teach one’. :slight_smile:

Definitely agree that more questions have been coming up as I’ve studied. Going through the topics and the comments on the site here have been great learning tools. There are a lot of nuggets in the comments too especially from yourself, Lazaros and the other experts that relate to real world application, but labbing it up has been one of the best experiences for sure! :slight_smile:

I will go straight into the NP after NA so that I don’t forget what has been learnt. I agree 100% with you that we have a great advantage in self learning - as long as the motivation and good habits are there. :slight_smile:

You mentioned getting an entry job if having the CCNP. Are you talking bottom of the ladder entry job in regards to my situation? Or is this an example of someone who gets the certification of say CCNA / CCNP and is starting out in IT, but wanting to get some experience to back it up so they aren’t looked down upon?

If it applies in my situation, I’m not sure how feasible it will be for me to go to entry level due to needing to legally earn a certain amount to support my family (visa purposes). I’ve got a good number of years in network administration already which includes working with Cisco networks from time to time along with some experience at a Cisco managed provider in my previous role.

What are your thoughts please on my career plan? Can I realistically take the next step from years of network administration into network engineering and then eventually a network architect role without going backwards or downhill at this point so to speak?

Hope I’m explaining this well and not coming across badly - apologies if I am. Just want to make a smart upward progression in my networking career and take care of my family comfortably too. It’s a great world out there and I am excited to really dive more into it! :wink:

Many thanks,

Rich

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Hi Rich,

No problem :slight_smile:

What I meant about the entry job applies mostly for those that are just getting started and don’t have any IT experience at all.

Once they get their CCNA/CCNP certificates they can:

  • Upsell themselves to get a CCNP level job where experience is required.

Or

  • Get a CCNA level entry job, explain that they have the certificates but not much experience yet.

The first option might be a stressy job where you feel you have to walk on your toes all the time while the second option might be a bit more relaxing.

In your case, I believe you shouldn’t have any issues going from network administration to network engineering. I basically did the same thing :slight_smile: You have worked in IT for a long time, you are familiar with networking. If you learn the material and get the certificates, you should be able to move away from network administration and just work on networking related stuff.

Rene

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Hi Rene et al,

So a lot of things have occurred since I’ve posted here.

My wife and I had a baby girl in May and we have relocated to Minnesota, USA permanently as I got my US spouse visa. Shortly before we left, I passed my ICND2 so am now CCNA certified. I also left my London job and was training the guys up on a lot of things as well as building dual Palo Alto firewalls and PAN-OS server, installing Cisco Meraki and migrating from Catalyst switches to Nexus 5k and 2k.

Shortly after arriving in Minnesota, I managed to secure a great senior system network administration job with excellent pay and benefits (along with a short commute) where I’m the 3rd line support escalation for the IT guys on the entire Cisco (VoIP, ASA / Firepower and general switches / routers), Meraki and MS network infrastructure and will be doing network based projects. Just finishing my first week there. :slight_smile:

I also shipped over my desktop computer along with my best pieces of Cisco equipment for my home lab - 6 routers, 5 switches and an ASA to continue studying.

The syllabus and exams have now changed for Cisco and will come into effect Feb 2020. Juggling in study around a baby is tricky but doing my best. :slight_smile: I aim to go onto CCNP but am mindful of the time frame and changes.

Should I try to get my ROUTE and SWITCH exams done before Feb 24th so as to get Cisco Certified Specialist - Enterprise Core? From there I would just need to do a concentration exam from Cisco’s list. However timeframe would probably allow me to do SWITCH at best.

What would you advise is the best approach to take please at this point? I’m working through the current CCNP topics on the site here as those concepts and practices are always relevant even with the new changes.

Many thanks,

Rich

Hello Richard

It sounds like all good things are happening in your life: a new job, a new baby, a new home… I wish you success in everything and that the blessings keep coming!

Yes, Cisco is revamping all of its exams. I guess the best advice I can give you is try to get as many exams under your belt as you reasonably can before the change. The reason is because the study content available, including that on NetworkLessons, is specifically geared towards preparing you for these particular exams. When the new exams come in, there will be a learning curve involved, so you may need to spend a bit more time getting familiar with the new philosophy.

Don’t get me wrong, studying the current material is still useful since a large part of the content is still valid for the new exams. It’s just that it’s easier to study for something that is familiar rather than the less familiar structure of the new exams.

If you’re going for CCNP, in my opinion SWITCH is by far the easiest exam, so if you’re stressed for time due to the baby, it may be worth focusing on that. If you’re up for the challenge and want to get rid of the more difficult ones, then focus on ROUTE or TSHOOT.

No matter what you decide, whether it’s to focus on the exams being phased out or the new exams, we’re here to help you along the way to achieve your certification goals, now, and beyond February 2020.

I hope this has been helpful!

Laz

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Hi Rich,

First of all, congratulations with the baby! My wife and I had our first baby boy in January. It’s a great experience to be a parent, it can be difficult to combine it with studying/work. I always loved to work in time blocks of ~2-4 hours but that’s not always feasible now. Being flexible and being able to jump right in/out of study/work mode is important now :grin:

Like @lagapides mentioned, if you can try to go for ROUTE and SWITCH. It’s not just the material here but it will take awhile before everyone has updated their material for the new exams. The Cisco Press books for the new exams should launch in ~September.

If you can’t make it, don’t worry though. There is still a lot of overlap between the current and new exams. The material you study today is still useful for the new exams.

Rene

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