Five Steps on the Journey to Becoming a Full-Stack Network Engineer

Myles Brown | Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Five Steps on the Journey to Becoming a Full-Stack Network Engineer

The widespread adoption of cloud technologies has fundamentally changed what it means to be a network engineer. DevOps culture breaks down the traditional silos and partitioning between functional groups, and cloud services have introduced new levels of agility and increased the potential for network complexity. Today’s network engineers need to stay ahead of not just the technology curve, but also the implementation methodology and IT culture curve.

In the DevOps environment, network engineers are responsible for both their systems and the ways those solutions support the goals and efforts of their larger, cross-functional teams. Modern development and business units rely on each network engineer’s depth of technical understanding and breadth of knowledge about how networks enable cloud-native development and widespread connectivity. You may be wondering how to become a Network Engineer, and we recommend following the five steps outlined below. 

For established network engineers, this shift represents a significant departure from traditional practices and assumptions about the job. However, making that journey and adopting the next generation of network engineering practices can be extremely lucrative and fulfilling. Full-stack network engineers are in high demand, and by following these five steps, you can start working toward diversifying your skills to future-proof your career in a rapidly changing environment.

1. Understand the Role of a Full-Stack Network Engineer

Much like a full-stack developer, network engineers are now being called upon to build cross-functional skill sets. This new type of engineer embraces complementary skills beyond networking to include security and compliance, data analytics, systems automation, programming, cloud computing and more. A full-stack network engineer can design networks on premises, in the cloud, out to the edge and everywhere in between, and can also meet milestones for these cross-functional areas either by working directly on those facets of the network or by working in DevOps teams with shared goals and responsibilities. All of the major cloud vendors have courses that pertain specifically to networking in their environments, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud as well as a variety of classes that span the entire software development spectrum from brands that include Microsoft, Oracle, VMware, IBM, and more. Full stack network engineers are in demand and having the training you need is essential to be successful in this type of role. 

2. Embrace the Infrastructure-as-Code Transition

Modern networking reduces much of the physical nature of a network engineer’s job. While it’s still important to understand the fundamentals of network topology, turn-key provisioning and a heavy reliance on network automation require practical knowledge of infrastructure-as-code. That means learning programming languages like Python and fully adopting automated configuration management tools like Ansible and Chef.

3. Become a Data Champion

You often read about the ways artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics are changing the face of business decision-making. Yet, with cloud delivery and infrastructure-as-code models, you gain access to a wide array of data points that can help you fine-tune your network. With data, you can predict potential network bottlenecks and proactively provision resources, or you can work closely with your security team to harden networks and circumvent cyberattacks. In a DevOps team environment, network data can provide valuable insight into which APIs are used most often, where your applications slow down and whether you’re meeting your service level agreements. Organizations are increasingly using tools and frameworks to gather, store, and process network usage data. Popular tools include Splunk and the ELK Stack.

4. Break the Silos

Modern development teams work cross-functionally to achieve rapid feature development and delivery. When you’re working in a DevOps environment, it’s important to realize that your goals are shared by the larger team. Whether it’s a development goal for shipping a new feature or a networking objective for meeting a service level agreement, you’re all in it together. Moving to DevOps often requires established engineers to learn new soft skills and rethink how organizational structures work. The payoff can be exceptionally rewarding, as your team delivers more in less time, and with greater success.

5. Commit to Continual Learning

Start from where you are right now by choosing a technology or soft skill that is complementary to your current skills, and then take a training class. As your schedule permits or as your job demands, continue adding skills to your personal portfolio. Before long, you’ll develop a wide variety of full-stack capabilities, and you’ll have established a habit of continual learning that will help keep you ahead of the technology curve no matter what comes next.

ExitCertified offers over 9,500 vendor-certified training courses to help you embrace the skills you need to begin or advance in your IT career. Expert trainers and a variety of delivery modalities enable you to participate in instructor-led training whether you’re physically in the classroom or learning from the comfort of your home or office through our Live Virtual training platform. You’ll benefit from hands-on labs, interaction with instructors and peers as well as up-to-date course materials that you can translate directly to your next work assignment or career move. Ask your management team or human resources department about getting started with corporate training. Through individual or group courses, you can maximize your value to your organization while staying ahead of the rapidly changing network engineering career field.

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