My last Cisco course was Campus ATM Solutions. This was a mistake. In my defense, I was spending most of my time with servers. I thought I knew what I was doing. I had taken a few Cisco classes and all our equipment was working. No point in wasting my time on training for things that already worked. I went on this way for 10 years on the networking side. I knew about VLANs and used them in the data center. R&S isn’t that hard, what’s the big deal? I was keeping up my skills on the server side, but on the networking side I just kept running things the way they were. I didn’t go to Networkers, I didn’t take any classes. I didn’t read any books. I learned little bits as needed for a given project. My network was very flat and switches had all ports on VLAN 1. When we swapped out the SynOptics LattisHubs that were there when I started with Cisco 3500XL switches, nothing really changed except the equipment. I had a bad case of not knowing enough to know that I didn’t know.
Cisco created new classes and I never noticed. I thought there was no real training out there that would allow me to advance. For a short period right after I had taken those Cisco courses in the late 90s, that may have been true. My job changed about 2 years ago and my focus shifted to networks. I started reading. I started spending a lot of time on cisco.com. Safari Books Online’s library of Cisco Press books became my favorite web site. Fortunately, incredible amounts of information are available online now. I began to realize just how far behind I’d fallen. As I mentioned in my Thoughts on Certification post, I registered for Networkers and because of the free cert test I decided to study for the CCNA. I learned far more studying for that than I thought I should have. It really brought the rust to my attention. Now I’m driving my wife crazy spending much of my spare time reading networking books or studying for CCNP tests.
I’m playing catch up right now because I was arrogant. Of course, now I’m going to get up to speed with networks and I’m going to get rusty on the server side. Since I’m not doing much of it every day, some rust is inevitable. I have a strong base, but as time goes on I won’t be up to date on the specifics. However, I’m wiser now and I won’t totally ignore servers as things change.
You can go to classes or you can read books. You can follow technical blogs or you can get involved in any number of online communities. For whatever it is you want to improve your skills or at least keep from getting dull, do something. Do anything. Just don’t be arrogant and do nothing. You’ll suddenly realize that you no longer know anything relevant.