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Raising your value -- was CNX certification posted 03/08/1999
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Real-world experience is, of course, the most qualifying thing.
Well-accepted certifications also help -- the issue, of course, is the
level of acceptance, as we have seen with the CNX.

But there are other things that will help your marketability, as long as
you recognize you are marketing yourself as a member of a profession, not
simply trying to get things on a resume that will make money fast.

Get involved in local professional societies, such as the Association for
Computing Machinery (ACM) and Institute for Electrical and Electronic
Engineers (IEEE). You'll develop contacts, get technical information, and
have opportunities for making yourself visible by giving presentations
(when you are ready) and doing volunteer work.

If you have a local Cisco user group -- not as widespread as I'd like to
see -- get involved.

Depending on your writing abilities, try submitting some simple things to
trade publications such as Cisco World.  Even a letter to the editor is a
good start.

For the more technical among you, subscribe to IETF (or NANOG) mailing
lists of interest.  Recognize that the people contributing are protocol
developers or global routing engineers; this isn't the place to post basic
questions.  It can be welcome, however, if you read the draft documents and
post (or send to the authors) intelligent comments about where you found
them hard to understand -- if you attach suggested rewording.  Again, you
will establish contacts, and, after you read the list for a while, you will
get a sense of which individuals are open to input and questions.

Be aware that many of these lists are what we might call "full-contact
design reviews" if they were karate, not network engineering.  There are
some brilliant people who will only tolerate people they perceive as their
peers, and even then may start a technical response "you idiot."

Other people who have made fundamental contributions to the Internet are
genuinely nice people, who regard the field as a profession, with a moral
obligation to help newbies as much as practical.  I can look back to some
of my early days in the industry and think of personal inspirations from
people like Barry Wessler, Grace Hopper, Vint Cerf, Carl Hammer, etc.  Some
of the top R&D people at Cisco, such as Fred Baker, Yakov Rekhter, etc.,
are charming people.

Find yourself mentors in your local area.  Last week, a newly qualified
instructor for the Cisco VPN seminar thanked me, and his immediate mentor,
for the help we had given him.  His immediate coach laughed, and explained
how much he had been helped by his mentor, one of the corporate technical
managers, in turn.  At that point, I giggled a bit and mentioned I had
given the first Cisco course to that individual.

Almost always, when I teach a course (especially more advanced ones), I get
a new insight on the subject.  In this industry, sharing information always
returns value, although it may not be instantaneous. That's one of my
motivations for contributing here.
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