Finding a Network Engineering Job

Unanswered Question
Mar 19th, 2008

Disclaimer: Sorry if this is OT, couldn't see another forum to put it in.

Hi,

This thread is aimed mostly at people that have been in the Network Engineering field for sometime.

I have an IT background, mostly in Tech Support and Administration for ISPs. I'm currently working on my CCENT, with an expected complete time of less than 1 month, and the CCNA within 6 weeks of that. I'm going for the CCDA next, but I don't have an estimated commit time for that yet. Ok, enough about me.

My question is this. What type of job role should I be looking for, once I get my certifications?

When I get back stateside, I planned on contacting all the Cisco Gold Partners in the area, submitting my CV (Resume). However, I'm not sure if that's necessarily the best route (excuse the pun) to go. My goal is to build real world network engineering skills at the CCNA level, before I start pursuing my CCNP. Ideally, I'd love to have a job working with or for CCIE(s). For me, getting heavy into Cisco, is somewhat (but not entirely) of a transfer from working with Servers, and I'm not really clear on what types of jobs would be best in line with my goals. A Tech Support job for Cisco would be great huh? Lol =)

I'd appreciate any insight you could share with me, as I'd like to start exploring my options before I finish my certs.

Respectfully,

Jason~

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jim_berlow Fri, 03/21/2008 - 16:18

Having worked for several Cisco Gold Partners, chances are you are going to have a difficult time finding employment there with a CCNA or CCDA (or both). Most jobs available at Cisco partners are customer-facing consultant roles. My resume is often reviewed by the customer for more than just the certifications, but for the number of years of CISCO-specific experience I have. Most of the route/switch people hired at Cisco partners are CCIEs with several years of experience (I couldn't even get an interview with a partner until I had my CCIE). If you really, really want to work for a partner I suggest going the voice track (there are still a lot of jobs in that arena). I would say that a CCVP is probably the minimum to get hired.

With a CCNA / CCDA / CCNP, you want to try to find a job where you can at least get some hands-on experience (these jobs are still hard to come by for those under a CCIE). Most times these are going to be junior system admin positions or helpdesk. Another option for you (especially with your ISP experience) is to work for a service (telco) provider. I wouldn't recommend a large nationwide provider like AT&T, but a smaller regional player. The issue with those larger companies is that sometimes the HR depts have high education requirements (like a Master's in Telecommunications just to get entry level work).

The fact of the matter is that the routers / switches in most companies are only touched by the most senior of personnel. I understand where you are coming from and I undestand how much work you are doing, the issue is just that there is too much qualified competition with only a CCNA / CCDA and sometimes even the CCNP.

Anyhow, keep at it. I would set my sights on at least a professional level cert (CCNP / CCVP/ CCSP) and then start on your CCIE. Unfortunately, this isn't the 1990's anymore where CCNAs routinely made near $100K / year.

Good Luck!

Jim

celticfc2007 Sat, 03/22/2008 - 00:59

Thanks Jim, I really appreciate your detailed reply.

I wasn't really sure how the Gold partner structure works. I was hoping/thinking that they'd have something like a tier 1 tech support to deal with their smaller customer accounts (with smaller and less complicated networks). And, the bigger accounts would be handled by the more advanced techs/engineers.

I've been looking at NOC postions at various places, but like you said they're wanting people with a lot of cisco-specific experience. Level 3 (backbone provider) has some interesting jobs (but way beyond my current and near future skill set).

Its not easy trying to find an entry level networking(specific) job, most things out there are Sys Admin work, with Cisco skills desired etc. I knew that even with certs, its not going to be the easiest thing--finding a job thats really gonna build your skill set.

Hey, Cisco's hiring Associate System Engineers in Korea, I'll move!

=)

Thx.

Jason

scottmac Sat, 03/22/2008 - 07:13

You don't mention how much time you have doing what you've been doing for ISPs, but any positive non-zero number is better than "none" when you are describing your experience.

Then we get to a "Good News" / "Bad News" thing:

Good News -

Most of the people you work for and with don't care what certs you have, they want knowledge, troubleshooting skills, motivation {etc} ...

Bad News -

Human Resources, or people that do HR stuff for companies use certifications as "filters" and you may not make the "People to Interview" stack because you don't have (what they feel is) the minimum knowledge level.

The saddest part is (and I have personally witnessed this) outstanding candidates are skipped while other "paper cert" engineers are presented for interview.

Once they get to the interview, they are easily tagged as paper cert engineers (our screening test and tech interview)and tossed; a waste of time for everyone.

Probably your best shot would be something like a reseller/VAR (Cisco partner or not), school district, charitable institution ... someplace to build hands-on experience and give you time to build your certs.

If you can find a good headhunter, they can usually sell you to the company based on their internal testing and a promise of performance ("will obtain CCNA within six months ...").

A common / growing trend for larger companies to hire everyone in as a contractor and "convert" them to employees after / within some period of time (six months to two years).

Frequently, there are several contract agencies that they work with; once they decide to hire you, they give you a list of agencies to sign with to make the deal.

If you find yourself in this position, research the agencies; they are NOT all the same in terms of pay, benefits, and other obligations. Some agencies may pay you more as you get higher level of certification, some don't. In that case, you continue to receive the < CCNA pay, even though you've obtained a CCNP, for the contract duration.

To get in at larger organizations, you may have to start with some associated work and move from there. I know that many of the networking-related call centers at AT&T require CCNA (or better) or similar level from other vendors. Once you've worked for some period of time, you are eligible to request transfer to other areas.

Where you start and what you'll be doing once you get there is going to depend a lot on the region of the country and how quickly you'll need the job.

In what part of the country are you looking? What other (non-networking, non-computer) experience do you have?

Industrial networking is "a little" different than connecting up a couple hundred IP Phones or a few clerical workers. Give some thought to what specific commercial sectors you'd probably do best in and concentrate your efforts there. You'll always do better and learn more in an area that you are interested in.

Pardon the rambling; this is a more complicated topic that it appears to be on the surface.

Good Luck

Scott

celticfc2007 Sat, 03/22/2008 - 13:46

You don't mention how much time you have doing what you've been doing for ISPs, but any positive non-zero number is better than "none" when you are describing your experience.

>>4 years+ (Standard ISP stuff: Hosting, dns, ip assignment, email, tickets, tech support dialup to T-1, etc)

Good News -

... they want knowledge, troubleshooting skills, motivation {etc} ...

>>I like the good news, I got it covered!

Bad News -

Probably your best shot would be something like a reseller/VAR (Cisco partner or not), school district, charitable institution ... someplace to build hands-on experience and give you time to build your certs.

>>I've got a plan, as far as when I will complete the CCENT and CCNA. (End of May at the latest)

If you can find a good headhunter, they can usually sell you to the company based on their internal testing and a promise of performance ("will obtain CCNA within six months ...").

”…. Some agencies …”

>>Agencies are something I'll have to thoroughly research. I haven't investigated the mechanics of how they operate. I'm hopping to cut out the middleman, but if they can offer me a better opportunity, than I can create for myself, I'm all for it.

In what part of the country are you looking? What other (non-networking, non-computer) experience do you have?

>>Some Supervisor, Management and Accounting experience.

>>Ideally I'd like to find something in Western Washington-but I'd pretty much work anywhere in the world, except Iraq=) The UK is not my first choice, but they have a lot of opportunities there. I'm currently in Germany, planning to go back stateside in the summer.

Good Luck

---------

Thanks Scott, you gave me a lot to think about. I found this earlier today:

“This technical role will be responsible for providing support to our client base and internal team members; great communication skills are required. Solid working knowledge of networking technologies including TCP/IP, Switches, Routers, & Firewalls. Working toward Cisco CCNP, CCSP, CCVP or CCIE.

This role acts as a first level escalation point for level 1 Engineers in addition to managing a personal workload. This engineer will need to engage other resources including clients, vendors, escalation points, and management in order to resolve problems in a timely manor. The hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

The selected candidate will have lots of room to grow in their career with opportunities in-house as well as in the field. Certifications are encouraged and sponsored by x as well as the right atmosphere for study time in organized study groups. Mentoring is a two-way street here and knowledge sharing is highly encouraged. Our culture is upbeat, energetic, and educationally motivating. x holds Gold Partnerships with both Cisco and Microsoft.”

Now if they or other companies have similar opportunities come summer, my future is looking bright! =)

svermill Sat, 03/22/2008 - 20:00

Hi Jason,

Network engineering *generally* requires some number of years in a support role first. The philosophy here being that design requires that you be able to see around corners in terms of how choices you make will impact XYZ indirectly. Having said that, I actually managed to pull this off. But I was a WAN engineer for many years prior to slowly making the transition to networks/IP. Plus, that was still back in the days of a CCDA or DP being really, really in demand and I pursued both.

Interesting that the CCVP was mentioned. I was talking to a CCIE (R&S) the other day who told me he keeps his resume on Monster purely for entertainment value. He holds a CCVP and actually told me with a straight face that he gets higher offers for his CCVP than his CCIE! Hmph. Too bad I don't particularly enjoy voice projects!

Anyway, I guess I'm rambling. The best job leading up to an engineering role, I would think, would be a troubleshooting/support type of position. Once you've spent some time in that world, you should be ideally positioned to engineer networks that don't break as easily or as often as what you've encountered in the support capacity.

Best wishes,

Scott

celticfc2007 Sun, 03/23/2008 - 00:21

Here's a snip I found on tcpmag.com re CCVP:

"With more than 50,000 Cisco Unified Communications customers worldwide and more than 70 percent of all Fortune 500 companies using Cisco Unified Communications products, the demand for highly skilled IP Telephony professionals continue to grow," commented LeJeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Cisco general manager, in a statement announcing the revamp. "CCVP provides individuals the opportunity to differentiate skills to potential employers and advance their careers in the IP Telephony field."

That amongst other bits and pieces I've read, has really given me some things to consider when I'm ready to start working on professional level certs.

My original thinking was get CCENT > CCNA > CCDA, and then start working on CCNP. Now I'm thinking CCENT > CCNA then CC*P. I know I have to learn to walk before I can run, but this is a choice I'm going to have to make very soon. I'm planning on spending 1 year to complete whichever CC*P I pursue. I don't have a crystal ball, I have no idea what demand will be like for a CCVP in about a year, but if doing that next will open more doors, I can always do the CCNP later (albeit, I'd rather pick up where the CCNA left off, not too mention a CCVP will cost around $2k [ouch]).

Its great to get the insight from those that have responded, thanks!

Jason

celticfc2007 Sun, 03/23/2008 - 00:29

Here's a snip I found on tcpmag.com re CCVP:

"With more than 50,000 Cisco Unified Communications customers worldwide and more than 70 percent of all Fortune 500 companies using Cisco Unified Communications products, the demand for highly skilled IP Telephony professionals continue to grow," commented LeJeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Cisco general manager, in a statement announcing the revamp. "CCVP provides individuals the opportunity to differentiate skills to potential employers and advance their careers in the IP Telephony field."

That amongst other bits and pieces I've read, has really given me some things to consider when I'm ready to start working on professional level certs.

My original thinking was get CCENT > CCNA > CCDA, and then start working on CCNP. Now I'm thinking CCENT > CCNA then CC*P. I know I have to learn to walk before I can run, but this is a choice I'm going to have to make very soon. I'm planning on spending 1 year to complete whichever CC*P I pursue. I don't have a crystal ball, I have no idea what demand will be like for a CCVP in about a year, but if doing that next will open more doors, I can always do the CCNP later (albeit, I'd rather pick up where the CCNA left off, not too mention a CCVP lab will cost around $2k [ouch]).

Its great to get the insight from those that have responded, thanks!

Jason

(edit: ..."lab"...)

cisco24x7 Sun, 03/23/2008 - 17:16

Having been in the networking field for the past ten years,

I can offer the following advice:

- It is definitely help to get CCIE even if you have ZERO

experience. Experience can be acquired over time but

obtaining CCIE while it is not a difficult task, it

requires time and dedication.

- If you can find the time to get CCIE, do it. It will

be the best investment you will ever made.

- Try to learn other technologies besides cisco. You can

never go wrong with Cisco but believe it or not, there

are devices other than Cisco in an enterprise environment

as well such as Juniper Intrusion Detection Prevention,

Checkpoint Firewalls, Juniper Firewall/routers,

Sonnic/Aventail. You need to have a very broad knowlege

with these devices.

- Most importantly, I can not stress this enough; Learn

Linux and Solaris as much as you can. I've seen many

times that CCIEs do not even know how to run tcpdump or

restart a service on a Unix/Linux system. You do not

need to be an System Admin experts but you need to

understand it well.

- Understand other security technologies and software

vendors such as Cisco ACS, SecurID, Juniper steelbelt

radius

- It really helpful to learn how to do scripting with

shell, Perl and Expect. If you also know how database

such as Oracle and MySQL work, you're set.

The skills I just listed you can learn by reading book

and build your own lab to play with. Technologies change

quickly and while experience is an important factor but

if you know these above technologies and speak intelligently,

you will have no problem getting a job.

Last but not least, always have a positive attitude and

do not let others tell you that it can not be done.

my 2c.

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