We don’t have much left of 2017.
This year has passed by quickly. I planned to take it easy for a change but instead was super busy writing books as various providers let me down one by one. People eh!
I know many of you have achieved a lot this year. Job promotions, passed some hard exams and made career changes into IT. Some have even started freelancing for big clients which is exciting to hear. Others are looking at ending the year in exactly the same place they started.
No matter where you are now, you can start planning for an exciting and rewarding 2018. I’ve already started. I spent a huge amount of time in my new IT Coaching Program discussing goals. They are crucial to success in your personal and business life and yet so few people set them or know how to even start. Of course, this stuff is not taught in schools.
Now is the time to make your plan for next year. Work out what you want to have, be and do. Divide your goals into financial, career, relationships, health and spiritual (whatever that means to you). I’ll stick to career for this post.
Work out what job you want to be doing, where and for who? It’s impossible to make plans unless you know what you are planning to do. I always knew I wanted to be a network engineer (back in 2000) so that is what I made all my plans and decisions around.
Aim to pass an IT certification every three months. I know it sounds like a lot but you can pick some pretty easy ones. Several certifications are designed to be passed within only a few days or weeks of study such as Microsoft MTA exams or associate level Cloud engineer exams from Google or Amazon.
Here are my suggestions. This isn’t me telling you what to do. Take my advice and adapt it to whatever your personal circumstances and goals are.
Pass one technical certification. These are the hands-on bread-and-butter skills and knowledge every IT person should have including TCP/IP, routing, security, WAN etc. The gold standard is still the Cisco CCNA. Having this certification will get you job interviews as well as enable you to have discussions with all levels of the team from managers to technical support (and vendors of course). Alternatives are Juniper associate.
Pass one project certification. Project management certs mean you can manage projects! I’m stating the obvious I know but having a person who can do this within a company is invaluable. If you understand the project lifecycle, budgets, scope, quality control etc. then that makes you a crucial part of the business. Read this as more responsibility, interesting and varied work and of course higher pay. You can consider ITIL as an alternative.
Learn IPv6. I’m still baffled at the numbers of you who are putting off learning this. It reminds me of my friend who refused to learn to swim. As the years went by he missed out on holidays and fun with his kids because he had an image in his mind that learning it would be hard or unenjoyable.
If you don’t understand IPv6 then you will soon be about as much use as an expert in Windows 95. You only need put a few hours in and play with a few labs. I even have a set of videos literally hand holding you through the entire process. Please put this at the top of your list for 2018. You only need learn it once!
Pass a Cloud certification. I’d put this just under IPv6 for importance. I’ve blogged about this so much in fact. You must understand the impact of Cloud networking and how it can benefit your organization. If that doesn’t motivate you then consider the fact that Cloud engineers are in HUGE demand which has pushed salaries for such skills through the roof. Amazon is still the market leader but Google is pushing hard as well as Microsoft and others of course. Most of the tools you need to get hands-on time are available via free trials.
Pass the Wireshark engineer exam. Nothing separates an average from a great network engineer more than one who can use a network sniffer to diagnose and resolve issues. I’ve seen many engineers cower at the thought of using a network sniffer but as with any other skill, it can be learned in a few hours.
Knowing Wireshark means you have a deep understanding of TCP/IP and network protocols. You can also use it to quickly resolve performance issues, baseline a network or to prove a theory you have on the cause of a particular issue.
Do some career training. Work on your job or consulting skills, even if you don’t plan on going for promotion or freelancing quite yet. I learned this lesson to my cost when Cisco let go of our entire team of 40 engineers and I had to prepare for job interviews and salary negotiations. I also began to do a little bit of consulting on the side but I soon found out that I could make a months salary in two days of consulting so I ended up quitting my job.
So we have a mix of the project with technical skills we will be aiming for in 2018. Just set some goals, start off with easy ones and work your way up.