The series of Network Automation Engineer (NAE) Persona blog posts have churned some comments in the community around learning. Part of the feedback appears to be the hero syndrome fighting back and also the odd misunderstanding, which might be a result of fear. Change often results in fear, so this is natural.
Some people love networking because it makes them feel special. Some people have got used to that special feeling and hang on to the fact that they’re important. These network engineers feel like a “Packet Lord”.
Automation is designed to remove from humans deterministic and testable tasks. One result is fewer self-titled “Prime minister of Packets” and fewer bottlenecks. Taking IaC (Infrastructure as Code), it becomes so much simpler to define tasks, implement them and test for success or failure. Dealing with sources of truth is part of the natural flow of the process instead of an afterthought on a Friday afternoon.
The hero very much becomes the norm at this point.
At a high level, the articles discuss the evolving NAE persona and not what you should or shouldn’t learn. The articles do not discourage learning, they recognise and promote learning. After all, you wouldn’t be reading up on the journey if you have not learnt what you needed so far to be on the journey. Some readers may have read between the lines incorrectly and come to the conclusion that these are subtractive articles with regards to skill, which is not the case. The persona builds on to your existing skill set.
The role requires more knowledge than being a network engineer in both technical and soft skills. Starting with “what” then going “now what do I do with it” might open up exciting opportunities in your organisation, but they are misguided as the “learning” and “using” are pointing the wrong way.
The journey comes from understanding what challenges your organisation is faced with, then mapping those to simple things. Using a flow chart, it is possible to use clear simple language and describe the problem. Once you’ve done that, break the flow chart down in to a set of research projects. The research may point you towards products, open source platforms, tools and even service consultancy companies that can assist with the journey.
The answer is never Python, Ansible or StackStorm. The answer is a considered approach which may contain the aforementioned items, backed by research. Canvass support from your organisation for the plan then start the learning for the journey. This is the persona way.
As a result, your learnings will be targeted, highly effective and far more success than learning something for fun and hoping it’s targeted well. Your success levels will be also be much higher and your career will have more positive moments than a mountain of technical debt because of misapplied skills or misunderstood opportunities.
We Are Human!
Part of our humanity is the need to learn things and feel involved. Engineers love technical challenges and IT people need to learn some tech. Simple stuff. I don’t know about you, but my brain goes foggy if I do not learn or create in reasonable time frames. I’m naturally inquisitive and need to know how things work!
For fun I learn stuff every day. Some of it is totally useless for my career and some of it might get used. I do not have the belief any of it will be used as that affects my attitude towards solving the challenges of my employer, but I do accept that when an opportunity comes along, I may be able to use it.
The point here is fine and not simply a case to learn or not to learn.
A mentor and friend shared this with me during a loosely coupled discussion:
“If most computer people lack understanding and knowledge, then what they will select will also be lacking.” – Alan Kay
This one statement sums up perfectly some of the thoughts here. Learning is absolute. Targeted learning drives the Persona and helps you select the right technology at the right time.
For more Alan Kay goodness, check these out: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/alan_kay