What it Takes to Be a Successful Network Engineer

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Network engineering is an excellent field filled with complex and fulfilling work, and many job opportunities. As companies end up with networks that continue to become more complex and connect more devices together, network engineers are in high-demand. Being successful in this role requires several characteristics and skill sets that serve employees well in this fast-paced and mission-critical environment.

Deep Understanding of Networking Technologies
Some people might think that this characteristic is assumed when it comes to network engineering. However, there’s a distinct difference between knowing enough about networking to manage and monitor the system, and having a truly in-depth understanding of the subject matter. The best network engineers eat, breathe, and drink this type of technology. They keep up on top of the latest trends during their free time and are thrilled to learn about new developments in the field.

Detail Oriented
Networking has a lot of moving parts and various types of software and hardware to work with. Paying close attention to all of the details ensures that the system is being monitored correctly and nothing gets lost in the shuffle. When data breaches are prevalent in the business world, stopping an intrusion could mean identifying a small red flag that popped up the day before. Without being alert to these details, the network ends up being vulnerable.

Problem Solving
One of the most used skills in network engineering is problem-solving. Everything from troubleshooting issues for users to look for ways to improve the performance of the network requires it. When a worker in this field can quickly and efficiently solve issues through an analytical mindset, they free up a lot of time for strategic decision-making.

Team Coordination
Many organizations have teams collaborating together across departments. The network engineer role may be a small part of the team or put in a management position based on the resources required for the project. Working with multiple teams requires strong people management skills and understanding how to move towards a common goal.

Ongoing Education
Many continued education opportunities exist for network engineering. Many organizations offer certifications in specific networking technologies, whether the person is learning about a particular server operating system or branching out into subject areas that are related to networking. A drive for ongoing education means that the network engineer will always have their skills updated to adapt to the latest technology changes in the marketplace. Additionally, when these workers love to learn, they also seek out self-instruction opportunities. For example, they could read this guide to learn more about how VPN protocols work.

Documentation
Strong writing skills may not be the first characteristic that comes to mind when someone thinks about a network engineer. However, it’s essential when it comes to writing technical documentation. Well-structured and clear documentation allows the network engineer to share information about the network with other people in the organization. If that person ends up leaving the company, the networking protocols, procedures and configuration remain in place because all of the data is available and understandable.

Jargon-free Communication
Network engineers have frequent conversations with stakeholders and end users, who may not have a strong IT background. The common jargon used for talking with other members of the IT teams would leave this group confused and not understanding what you’re saying. When the network engineer can explain technology in simple terms, it makes it easier to get the resources and budget that they need to effectively support the company’s networking needs.

Proactive Approaches
Some network engineers rely on reactive approaches to fix problems when they occur. If data breaches aren’t prevented before they impact the organization, then it ends up being an expensive endeavor. A reactive approach is sometimes compared to running around and putting out fires the entire day. A proactive approach is more strategic. Network engineers put systems, policies and procedures in place that prevent the intrusion in the first place. They pick up on small issues and tackle them as soon as they show up, rather than waiting for something to break. It’s easier to improve network performance because many of the low-level problems are eliminated through the network design or other technology that was implemented.

Independent
Network engineers often have to work on tasks without a lot of oversight. Depending on the company’s budget, they may be the only person in their role in the entire organization. Working independently requires the employee to be driven and a self-starter. They must be able to keep themselves on task and stick to the schedule that’s laid out for that particular project. In the event of a disaster, the network engineer may need to step into a leadership role to guide the recovery process.

Fast Learner
Technology changes all the time, and the interactions between new hardware and software may not be expected. A fast learner can quickly pick up the most important details about a piece of technology so that they can effectively troubleshoot it or optimize it.

On-Call
Disasters can strike a network at any time, and unexpected downtime is one of the worst things that can happen to a modern business. The mission-critical systems have to come up as soon as possible, which means that network engineers may need to take on-call shifts. One of the keys to being on-call is to be ready to act at a moment’s notice, even if it’s the middle of the night.

Reliability
Few businesses can operate without their network being up and available. If critical software or hardware are not available, then the entire business may find itself at a standstill. Customers get upset that they can’t access the website or reach anyone in the company, employees are frustrated because they’re falling behind on their projects, and management is running around trying to get everything back up and running. As a network engineer, reliability is the key. Being available makes a big difference in resolving these types of problems, and always showing up on time and on schedule goes a long way towards cementing someone as a great network engineer.

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