EvolvingDoors Technologies LLC
 
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EvolvingDoors is excited to partner with Network Resource Group, which trains and sources exceptional network engineering and network security professionals. NRG was established in 2015 when its founder, Nawras Said, decided to proactively pursue a personal mission of improving the lives of individuals in his community by establishing a school dedicated to educating a new generation of network engineers.


“It all came about as a result of a shortage of well-rounded network engineers” says Said. “I was in a position to hire 2 or 3 network engineers to join my team". At the time, Nawras was a Manager of Network Engineering in a large corporate environment. "Many of the candidates that were sent to me by our preferred resource vendors were very good. But I found that most were very good at one facet of network engineering, for example, switching, but hadn't had much exposure to routing technologies. I also notices that many of the candidates were very good at one vendor’s technology, for example Cisco, but it was challenging to find candidates that also knew Riverbed (WAN Optimization) and BlueCoat”.


Nawras's story is not unique. Throughout the years, Nawras made it a point to promote cross-training and lateral skill development among members of his teams. For example, he encouraged his switching gurus to become proficient in load balancing, or his wireless guru to pick up on writing iRules on the F5 load balancers. The goal was to create a well-rounded team that could work interchangeably. When incident tickets came in, they were no longer routed based on root cause, but instead, anyone could handle the ticket. Prior to the cross-training, there was an unfair overabundance of ticket quantity based on a person's comfort zone. For example, if there was a prevalence of wireless-related issues, then the single wireless engineer received all of the tickets. Cross training, to use network terminology, became load balanced after cross-training, and anyone on the team could handle the wireless issue.


When it came time to hire additional resources for a large LAN refresh, Nawras quickly realized that in the marketplace, not all network engineers had the same exposure as members of his team. The root cause of this is actually very common in today’s corporate technological landscape.


Vendor Specificity


Many companies make large investments in one vendor’s network equipment (for example Nortel switches) and then several years later, a company might choose to buy the latest and greatest new equipment (switches from Cisco, for example). This often leaves the company with two or more types of switches in the environment, requiring network engineers that are proficient in both types. This does not even take into account if the company has various “models” of the particular vendor’s switch (for example, supporting both Cisco 3750X 48P models as well as some Cisco 3750X 24P models along with Cisco 3850X).


Responsibility Silos:


The other challenge Said described was finding well-rounded engineers based on experience across multiple types of network functions. The world of network engineering is quite complex and the knowledge is esoteric. Job functions and responsibilities include disciplines like routing, switching, wireless, and many more.


The network appliances (equipment, a.k.a. “gear”) that enables the functions includes:

  • Firewalls,

  • Routers,

  • Switches,

  • Load Balancers,

  • Proxies,

  • WAN Optimizers,

  • And more


The following diagram illustrates three hypothetical network engineers that are members of a non-cross-trained team:


  1. Engineer #1 is very good at switching technologies, and has worked primarily with Cisco products

  2. Engineer #2 is very good at wireless, and is the go-to person on all activities related to Cisco wireless access points (WAP)

  3. Engineer #3 is excellent with load balancing and has worked on F5’s Big IP load balancers

When hiring managers such as Nawras create a requisition for a network engineer, often, recruiting specialists will field resumes and vet out those that do not have the appropriate skills. Many times, resumes contain certain key words (Cisco, Nortel, switching, BGP, OSPF, etc.) resulting in a pretty good hit count, and submission of the candidate.

However, often, at the time of the first phone interview, it becomes apparent that a candidate became very proficient (e.g. Network Engineer #3 in the illustration above), but did not have exposure across the board.

"I decided to open a school. I bought several pieces of used network equipment, built a mini-data center in some leased space, and now the rack has several firewalls, switches, routers, and a load balancer", says Nawras. He is in the process of adding proxies and a WAN Optimizer.
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