If you aspire to be a network engineer, you’re going to want to read this blog post Q&A interview with Marco Aricayos. Marco is a network engineer in the Philippines, and in his spare time, he helps me out as a teaching assistant, producing content for my courses and website.
Because I have a lot of students in my courses interested in going into the computer networking field and ultimately becoming a network engineer, I interviewed Marco so he could provide you some insights into how he became a network engineer. I hope you find this interview insightful and valuable.
What was your first IT internship, and how did you land it?
For my first internship, I submitted my resume to several companies; most of them were software a Quality Assurance (QA), or development-related. At the time, I was more interested in creating software. I thought that was the trajectory my career was going to take. Little did I know that the most challenging subject I faced in college would be the one I would end up doing; I failed a subnetting quiz and almost dropped the networking subject!
During my internship, I worked as a Quality Assurance Intern for Allied Telesis. I primarily chose this opportunity due to its location because it was close to home. My responsibilities were testing various firmware and software for their network product stack: switches, routers, and network management software.
So before I could actually test these products in my QA role, I needed to study networks to know the expected outcome. The more I learned about networks, the more I became aware of how this technology allowed us to be connected more than ever, and I decided to get certified and try to make a career out of it.
How long did it take before you landed your first full-fledged network engineering job?
One month after my 8-month long internship. To put it into context, my school initially had a 6-month internship program. Still, since there was a gap between finishing my internship and the graduation rites, I had to wait for other candidates who started their internship late. So I opted to extend my training with the company to gain more experience. But something happened during my extension as we were supposed to be absorbed into a team, but then the team got dissolved due to redundancy reduction at the company.
So, I ended up landing a job as a contractor for our country’s top telecommunications provider. I was hired as a WiFi Engineer, responsible for that telco’s Public WiFi rollout all over the country. This opportunity allowed me to work with clients and partners to make it all possible. During my two years stay there, I participated in site coordination, network designs, working with partners to install the materials, and coordinating with the network operations center (NOC) to activate sites. We were a turnkey solution for the client, so I was able to wear many hats that time and gain a lot of experience!
What’s your current network engineering job?
Currently, I am part of a NOC operation team. We ensure that the organization’s computer network and systems infrastructure run within the service level agreement (SLA). We always aim for 24x7x365 availability, but problems and incidents arise, and we’re there to help drive these incidents to resolution.
What do you consider core IT competencies an aspiring network engineer should know?
Being a Lifelong learner, having sound leadership skills, and problem-solving skills would be the ideal traits. There’s a lot of situations where you’re exposed to new technologies or features that you need to know how to operate, or things may suddenly stop working. In this field, you’re asked to navigate these challenges using creative problem-solving by exhausting logical methods to solve and drive issues with practical solutions. Having a“student” mindset prepares you for these crises as you’re continuously building your knowledge and skills that will help develop your problem-solving skills. And since most of the time you’ll be working with a team, equipping yourself with some leadership or communication skills will be handy.
What’s the #1 most important IT certification an aspiring network engineer should obtain, and why?
The Cisco CCNA opened a lot of doors for me. However, I would remind you that you shouldn’t focus on the syntax of a product but instead know the technology itself. There are many different products with slightly different implementations, so don’t tie yourself to just one brand. The CCNA certification helped me to validate to employers that I’m aware of these technologies but to be honest, I handled more non-Cisco devices during my practice.
What are your thoughts on business skills, communication skills, and project management for IT professionals?
In my second job, I was hired to be the only guy in the country to run things locally. The parent company was situated in Malaysia, as was my manager. I was asked to run the IT projects from the ground up, obtaining client requirements, and working with contractors, etc. At the time, I would say my organization and communication skills were very lacking, but since I was able to recognize that, I started working on it. The combination of these skills is what I would say is the most important thing. You need to be able to work with your clients and co-workers. Keeping things aligned goes a long way with your professional relationships. It reflects that you can be counted on and flexible by both your peers and client.
What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give someone new to IT that says they want to become a network engineer?
Focus on learning and embrace the journey. Most of the time, especially if you’re working on your certifications or new technologies, you might get cold feet and be uncertain, but it’s just a part of the learning process, being a network engineer and life. The only way up is through it. The way to do really big things is to start with deceptively small things like studying materials, lab exercises, and examinations. Then, develop your learning habits and continue building on them.
Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Always remember Murphy’s law, which states that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” What matters is that we can respond to anything thrown at us. Sometimes no matter how much preparation you did, you might end up short. Just keep moving forward and do the next best thing.