Beyond Cisco’s IOS: Should you should consider the path less followed?
My dad is a “Jack of all trades” kind of guy. He’s handy at fixing anything around the house. Needed the bathroom tiled? Not a problem. Need a car serviced? He can do that too. How about getting something welded? Check. He’s great at fishing, diving, gardening and painting… he’s the kind of guy who restores vintage motorcycles as a hobby. He even repaired my favourite sunglasses when I stepped on them and snapped the arm off. Not to mention his dreaded financial advice. Yes, my father can do or fix pretty much everything… just don’t ask him to cook!
“What on earth does this have to do with IT and Networking?” I can hear you asking. For every skill that you could possibly develop in life, there is a level of skill for which people will pay you. Your career as a network admin, infrastructure manager, engineer, CTO, Security expert, chef, lawyer or plumber is simply one area where you’ve carefully crafted a skill or a set of skills that people both value and lack – and are therefore prepared to pay for.
Within your chosen career field, honing and expanding these key skills more and more is always a good idea. The more experience you obtain, the better. The more projects you complete, the better. The more certifications you earn (you guessed it), the better. The more career-specific skills and qualifications you can list on your resume, and also back up in real life, the better!
Many network engineers and administrators spend the majority of their career on Cisco’s learning path – completing their CCNA exam, following up with a classic CCNP in routing and switching, and then possibly even a CCIE. However, along the way, it makes a lot of sense to spice things up a bit by exploring the breadth of different network technologies and solutions out there.
By investing in your knowledge of different operating systems and various solutions within the networking industry, you will significantly widen your skill set and depth of understanding, inevitably improving your employment opportunities and pay grade! Maybe you’ve thought of striking out as an independent consultant or contractor. Perhaps you’re considering a different career focus, if that’s what you’re truly passionate about. Not only that, you will become a better asset in your current career path.
These days, there are multitudes of networking vendors in the market that you can explore, many of which use a CLI that is very similar to Cisco’s IOS. You probably know the companies; there has been a lot of press about Cisco defending its IOS of late. Although the differences between many network vendors’ operating systems and Cisco’s IOS may be subtle, if you’re not careful, these minor differences can really give you trouble.
One networking vendor I highly recommend to assist in the broadening of your networking horizons is Juniper Networks. Junipers’ JunOS operating system is based on FreeBSD and is derived from Unix; in other words, it provides a different approach to IOS. Furthermore, it has a complete set of APIs that facilitates integration and automation. Once you learn JunOS, you will find many areas where the JunOS approach will make your job easier. Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should go straight to learning Junos and forget about Cisco’s IOS entirely. Cisco is the market leader in the networking industry and your job prospects may be a bit tight if you were to completely eliminate them from your resume.
I recommend that you take the time to explore, investigate and nurture not only the huge variety of network operating systems out there, but also to investigate different technology specialities, such as VoIP or Security niches.
Curious? Start exploring a new operating system today and register for our free 1 Day IOS to JunOS course hosted every month in North Sydney: