How Do I Get Started Learning Network Programmability?
Network programmability is one of the most sought after fields since the past few years. There is still little information available about this profession and even less about the certification route to becoming a network programmer. To become a network engineer, it is important to take the correct certification route and invest your time in the right place.
The secret to becoming a qualified network engineer or programmer is to learn about as many topics as possible. In other words, focus on becoming a generalist rather than a specialist, at least when you are starting.
A network programmer needs to dabble in many areas of IT, so being a generalist has a good payoff. No wonder that at every level of Cisco training, topics like security, routing, and switching are present throughout. Even if you may not see the connection between diverse topics at the outset, you will learn to see the links as you progress. By following this approach, you will become a better problem solver, which is one of the key requirements of a network professional.
Another reason for adopting a generalist approach is that it conditions you to acquire the latest knowledge and add it to your existing knowledge base. Being a specialist entails the risk of discounting the value of new information if it does not seem closely related to your area of specialization.
The Importance Of Certification
Certification is a tricky question when it comes to a career in networking.
For starters, yes, certification is useful. Something like Cisco SDN certification is a good place to start. Having said that, do not make it the focus of all your efforts. A good certification will get you a job or an increment, but your goal should be to become a lifelong learner.
This is not to say that certification does not have its benefits. It gives you a structured approach to the relevant topics, well-organized reading material, and tutoring classes. All of this helps to save time by minimizing the need to learn everything from experience. You also learn about the latest trends and career paths.
But remember, there are topics out there for which certifications have not yet been developed, or if developed, have not been updated as regularly as they should be. The challenge is that because network automation has not been around for very long, the technology, tools, and techniques are still emerging and constantly changing.
What do you do in such a situation? In such a case, you should take the most relevant certification and fill in any knowledge gaps with independent learning. You have to be vigilant and grab at relevant knowledge wherever it seems to be coming from. A trial and error approach is required, and you may even find that a certain tool or technology is not really relevant after spending months learning it.
Identifying Relevant Topics
Whichever certification route or independent learning you choose on your road to becoming a network engineer, the following topics are a must-have.
Fundamentals Of Programming
As a network engineer, you should have a strong base in programming. You should know how to code for loops and variables. Python is a simple and effective programming language to learn. You should also invest time in taking the Cisco SDN certification and learning the different APIs and data formats. GitHub is a good place to start learning programming basics.
Knowledge Of Platforms
With cloud computing rapidly becoming an integral part of organizations’ IT systems, a good network engineer should be well-versed in different types of platforms and the latest networking standards, especially cloud-based platforms. The serverless environment is the world of the future as organizations forgo the physical network. Your job will be to create an efficient infrastructure in this serverless environment. The CCIE routing and switching certification is a relevant course in this area.
At this stage, you can invest more time in learning about individual programming and platform technologies, like Linux and Docker. You will be in a better position to understand how these work compared to when you were a beginner. It is also wise to focus on implementation strategies for these technologies in different IT environments.
You should also learn about emerging technologies like DevOps and NFV to stay at the cutting edge of developments in your field.
Now that you know what to learn in order to become a network engineer, where exactly can you get this knowledge from?
- Online video courses
There are a number of training websites that offer online videos and tutorials covering all the topics mentioned above. Many of these are paid, but you will find a lot of free videos as well.
- Cisco’s Network Programmability Course
Cisco offers a full-fledged certification in network programmability, which gives you a comprehensive learning path towards becoming a network engineer. CCIE routing and switching certification is also a good option for starting in this field.
- Live Cisco interactions
Occasionally, Cisco publishes live learning sessions on a variety of topics, including network programmability. If you miss any of these sessions, you can always view them on-demand.
- Cisco webinars
Cisco organized frequent webinars on a variety of topics which you can attend to learn about the latest industry trends.
- Training by DevNet
You can also attend the programmability training sessions organized by DevNet throughout the year in different parts of the world. Check the Cisco training calendar to find the most convenient location for you.
- DevNet’s training library
Devnet has its sown learning labs and library of programmability content. You can access these at no cost any time of the day or night. All of the content has been designed to facilitate self-learning without the need of a tutor.
- Independent websites
You can regularly visit websites like Docker Tutorials, GitHub Tutorials, and Python to update your skills in core network programmability areas.