How the role of the Network Engineer is changing
IT has dramatically evolved over the past decade, so it's hardly a surprise that the roles of Network Engineers and Network Security Engineers have changed in that time. Networks are more complex than ever today, and many organisations are now looking to new technologies such as network automation capabilities to fast-track problem solving. And while the big picture for network architects, overseeing the planning, design and maintenance of networks, may seem largely unaltered, the details have changed fundamentally.
For one thing, network engineers are increasingly being expected to use code in support of software-defined networking (SDN). In a blog post, Anand Oswal, Senior VP of Engineering for Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Business, describes this process as being a shift towards a new role, with engineers ultimately set to become network programmers.
“Today, intent-based networking lets us tell the network what we want it to do and leave the individual device configuration to the larger system itself...” Anand writes. “But new networks run by APIs require programming skills to manage.” Indeed, there's significant potential today for individuals who are willing to invest in upskilling, both in general terms and towards their organisation's stack, and the specific tools, services and applications that it incorporates. “The speed and agility [individuals and organisations] gain thanks to having a programmable network, plus telemetry and analytics, opens up vast new opportunities,” Anand notes.
Network design will remain an important niche and hardware will naturally remain key but learning to code is likely to be invaluable for ambitious engineers, enabling them to make use of open source software, APIs and software-defined networking concepts to drive customisation and increased interoperability.
Base skills in the field today include software knowledge, cross-domain know-how (for example, across Ansible and Linux as well as Python and Perl), logic and the ability to respond quickly following tests and when monitoring data. Experience with Git, Grafana, Jenkins and Jinja is increasingly sought after, as well, as is cloud networking knowledge.
What's more, basic networking expertise will always have value; and core protocols like TCP/IP, Ethernet and Border Gateway Protocol aren't going away any time soon.
Going beyond that, communications skills are also important – as is the ability to liaise between business leaders and project managers and to connect leadership to the operations side of the company.
Automation, meanwhile, is a huge aid when facing the challenge of increasingly complex networks, making it easier to map and document the network and to integrate network and security teams. Given this, experience in automation technologies will be a valuable new string to add to a network engineer's bow.
Despite fears, automation is unlikely to replace engineers, though; instead, it will augment and enhance their capabilities, allowing them to achieve more with less. Network security has now also become a key concern when it comes to overall cybersecurity considerations across the organisation, so experience in this area will further complement the wider skillset.
Certifications also remain a crucial way for engineers to provide credentials, both with general certifications (such as the Cisco CCNA certification and CompTIA certifications) and with those provided by specific vendors, which may directly assist individuals in their career-path within their organisation (and which some view with higher status).
That said, certifications are evolving, so it's important for engineers to stay abreast of the changing technologies and products in the field. Employers, meanwhile, would do well to assist their staff with training and development – providing a key incentive and proving that their employees are trusted and valued by the organisation.
Today's networking landscape – of cloud computing, virtual infrastructures and SDN – is an increasingly complex one and one that presents a host of varied and unpredictable challenges; nevertheless, network engineers who are open to expanding their skillset, and to solving novel problems, will be set to embrace the new world of agile network operations as it develops.
Simply provide us your contact details and we will be in touch
Empiric is a dynamic technology and transformation recruitment agency specialising in data, digital, cloud, security and transformation. We supply technology and change recruitment services to businesses looking for both contract and permanent professionals.
Empiric are committed to changing the gender and diversity imbalance within the technology sector. In addition to Next Tech Girls we proactively target skilled professionals from minority groups which in turn can help you meet your own diversity commitments. Our active investment within the tech community allows us to engage with specific talent pools and deliver a short list of relevant and diverse candidates.
For more information contact
To view our latest job opportunities click here.