Reliving Past Glories

Firstly, for my overseas readers, I can assure you that I am safe and well, and not directly affected by the Christchurch earthquake. Everyone in New Zealand knows people impacted, but luckily all those I know are safe and well. It will be a hard road for the next few years for Cantabrians, but I’m sure they will rebuild, in a distinctive style that will last them the next 150 years.

Now, people have been encouraging me to writea book about some of the things I’ve done over the last few years. Now, when you’ve lived through stuff, you don’t always see it as that big a deal, but I guess it is a bit different to most people’s perception of “normal”.

So, to that end, I’ve been reading through some of my old journals. Most stuff ends up both on the blog and in the journal, but there’s stuff that is only in the journal. Some of that will never be published anywhere else, but some of it is fit for public consumption. So I’ll try and string it together, along with some content from here, to create a more structured book. Should make it a bit easier to follow things, and maybe answer some of the common questions people have.

It has been strange reading old journals though. It brings back a few memories of strange places, and strange lands. Looking at things like the riding distances and times does seem faintly ridiculous, especially when I was covering enormous distances in western China. Given that I now sit behind a desk for 9 hours a day, it seems crazy to think that for a while I was regularly riding a bike for more time than that.

We’ll see how I get on with trying to write up something that requires a bit more planning than the off-the-cuff blog posts I used to bang out in smoky Internet cafes.

Oh and I saw a good sight while out for a ride around Mangere the other day. A car did a U-turn in front of me, coming uncomfortably close. Nothing unusual there for Auckland. But what was funny was seeing the driver lighting up a cigarette…even though the car had a large “No Smoking” sign plastered across the dashboard. Classic.

School is In

When you finish university you think to yourself “Right, that’s it, no more study, no more exams!”

But it doesn’t work that way, especially in my field. It turns out that if you want to, you can keep sitting exams pretty well forever. “Certification” is big business in the IT field. Vendors push certifications, encouraging people to  study details of their products, and pass electronic exams on them.

The theory is that if you want to deploy and manage say Cisco products, then you can hire someone who has achieved CCNP, and assume that they will have a certain amount of knowledge about Cisco routers and switches. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way – you might just have been able to memorise enough stuff to pass the exam, but be crap at actually doing stuff in the real world. There are also many highly experienced engineers I have worked with who have never completed any certifications.

There are many different certifications out there, some of them very popular, some no longer in fashion. Vendors will often have different levels, e.g. basic, intermediate, advanced. There are also vendor-neutral certifications, such as CISSP, which covers computer security without focusing on any one product or company.

Many engineers never bother with any certifications, but I do. Why? For one it makes me learn about things that I don’t necessarily use every day at work, but am interested in. It keeps me fresh, and helps if I want to move my career in a different direction. It does also help if I am looking for a new job, as it helps validate my experience. It’s not quite such a big thing in New Zealand, where everyone knows everyone, but in overseas markets, many jobs will specify minimum qualifications, just so that HR can weed out people.

Over the years, I’ve picked up CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, CCDP, CCSE, RHCE and CISSP. Along the way I’ve had a few others that I’ve let expire – that is of course the problem with having multiple certifications, they need to be renewed. The more you have, the more time you end up renewing them. That’s what I’ve just been up to, renewing my CCNP and CCDP. I had to pass a routing exam to do this. Routing is not a big part of what I do these days, making it a bit challenging. Probably not quite as challenging as when I last renewed it, three years ago in Singapore, after a year on the road, not even doing any technical work. It wasn’t easy, but I passed, and now that’s covered for another 3 years.

I’m now seriously considering studying for CCIE, a very high level networking certification. It will take me at least 6-9 months to complete, with a high chance of failure the first time I try sitting the lab exam. Put this together with the fact that Anna is working hard at university, and our flatmate is going to be studying part time while working full time, and things are going be to a bit dull and studious around here for a while…