Apathy: The destroyer of careers

Apathy: Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

These are three synonyms for apathy that I have begun to identify with at different times throughout not only my career, but my certification pursuit. It’s something that ebbs and flows within my life, and I’ve talked to others who would agree that depending on the project they are working on, or the boss they are working for, apathy is something that creeps its way into our lives at different times. I’ve found in my life that there have been both positive and negative aspects to losing interest in certain things.

I still remember when I first started pursuing my CCNA about 9 years ago. Back then, I’d never logged into a router or switch, but I had convinced my boss in the NOC to send me to a CCNA bootcamp. There, I was introduced to the Cisco CLI along with learning about different protocols and how to connect devices together. I immediately loved it and went to eBay to buy my first rack with several routers and switches. This new technology made me feel alive, and I loved every minute of learning new things.

Over time, however, it seems like my passion has dried up somewhat. My day to day work doesn’t have me doing what I want and truly love, but rather I feel like I’m dying a little inside every day at work. I love the people and the company I work for, but I don’t feel that challenge that I used to. I will take the blame on some of it, but I really am looking for a new challenge in my career. Maybe it’s this apathy that is telling me that I need to finally step outside of my comfort zone and pursue something that will really make me happy.

I guess only time will tell…

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To CCIE or not to CCIE…that is the question

I apologize for the horrible plagiarizing of the Shakespeare quote, but it has been something that I’ve been struggling with for years. Do I truly want to go after my CCIE certification? Certainly, the recognition, monetary rewards, and personal satisfaction that would go along with obtaining it are something that I’ve seen as motivating factors in obtaining it. I have a great respect for those who have dedicated their lives to getting their number, and I’ve always hoped that I would be among those few to obtain it. But, in the end, do I really have what it takes to get my CCIE?

Let me start off with some backstory about myself. I’ve worked for the same company for the past 15 years, a cable ISP in the Midwest, starting at the level of tech support. I eventually moved up into the NOC and for the past 8 years have been in our network engineering group. I obtained my CCNA back in 2007, which is what helped me break through into this group, and finally got my CCNP in 2012. I then passed my CCIE written back in late 2013, but since then, I’ve constantly put off the serious study needed to take the lab exam.

My day to day job has taken me away from working on routers and switches on a daily basis to working more with our fiber optic equipment and cable CMTS’s, due to a re-organization within our group back in early 2013. While I enjoy these endeavors, I still know my heart is working with the IP side of things. I love reading about new technologies and make sure I keep my skills current by throwing things together either in a lab or at home in VIRL.

For so long, I’ve thought less of myself and my skills because I didn’t have a magical number that I had attached so much meaning to. What I’ve come to realize though is that although the accomplishment would be amazing, it probably wouldn’t be as life changing as part of me always thought it would be. My mind likes to jump around and learn many different things, from Python to SDN to Data Center to optical…the list goes on and on. I think that is probably my main personal problem with focusing on the requirements of the CCIE. I have problems focusing and taking the time needed and have the personality that I’d rather learn something that I find exciting at the moment rather than sit and go through a CCIE blueprint. And I’ve come to a realization that it’s ok for me. I’m still a good engineer at the end of the day. I love my life, and if by some chance I get my CCIE some day, I’ll still have the same life at the end of the day.

Just a disclaimer, by no means do I want to take away anything from those of you who have accomplished what I consider to be a huge undertaking. I have nothing but respect and admiration for anyone who takes the time to achieve any certification, from an associate to an architect level. But one thing I’ve learned is that the person behind the certification is far more important than the letters they may put on their resume.