If I had a penny for every time I heard a child say they want to be a CCIE when they grow up, I’d probably be in debt (although now that I have 3 kids, I am).
Having a career as a Network Engineer isn’t as glamorous as one would think.
A monotone “I work in IT” is my go-to career description as to not bore new acquaintances at parties, with which I get the unsurprising response of “ooh, can you help me with my phone!”.
I apologize for starting this piece with such heavy-handed sarcasm, but it is a coping mechanism. I must admit I have a love-hate relationship with my chosen field of expertise. On any given day you can find me either bragging about my job in my Instagram stories or swiping right through job advertisements pretending I’m on Tinder.
Let me explain.
I love it because it pays well enough for me to raise my family while my wife (of her own free will) assumes a traditional housewife role. I hate it because, in my arrogance, I think my “wasted” intelligence could probably make millions in the business or financial sectors.
I love it because of the flexibility, meaning I’m never really late for work and can work from anywhere. I hate it because it means I may have to work 14 hours straight, sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the cold aisle of a Data Center in Tokyo while my only breaks are with my colleague in the designated smoking room to receive a generous dose of second-hand smoke to spice things up.
I love it because the problem solver in me loves to work logically to troubleshoot issues, and I get a rush of endorphins when I pinpoint the problem and fix it. I hate it because the technicalities of my glorious victory on the battlefield are unfathomable to my friends and any attempts at a humble brag are met with blank stares. At least my wife pretends to understand and gives me a non-patronising thumbs up.
I love it because the world of technology is so exciting and is rapidly evolving. I hate it because if I blink I may miss something and become irrelevant.
I love it because I can be creative in network designs and architectures to ensure my client’s business is always up and running yet secure at the same time. I hate it because all they see is the typo I made in my documentation.
I love that my skills have opened the world up for me, allowing me to travel to exotic places just to supervise a third party during a 2-hour network cutover. I hate that my family is left at home missing and needing me. (Yes, I understand some of you are single or want to get away from your screaming kids so it’s all good, but this is my piece, so let me vent.)
I love that after meticulous care and planning I make a highly intrusive and complex network change, that it’s so smooth no one notices anything happened. I hate that if I put in the same effort into something meaningful outside of work I could maybe make a change in the world in some small but significant way.
I love it, I hate it. I hate it, I love it.
When you started reading this, I bet you didn’t think I would get this emotional and philosophical.
I don’t blame you for thinking you’re reading a 15-year-old girl’s handwritten diary from 1996. But when it comes to emotions, that’s just who I am, who we are.
If you break it down, our day to day consists of machines processing 1’s and 0’s. But as humans, we also process the extremes of the emotional 1’s and 0’s – and a whole bunch of stuff in between!
Yo, this has turned out cheesy as heck, but let’s just allow our logical selves to become vulnerable for a while. I understand as highly technical folk emotions aren’t always our strongest suit, but we do all experience emotions to some degree.
We are not a stable recommended software release that runs perfectly for years without a reboot. We are that annoying software release with a couple of bugs that displays unexpected behavior at times (the bugs are our emotions; if you aren’t following my weird analogy).
OK, so here comes the final pep talk.
Love your career or hate it, it’s completely up to you.
I’ve chosen to embrace both by celebrating the victories and rolling with the punches. Some days will be worse than others, but some days are so great they make up for weeks of stress.
Remember how hard you’ve worked to get to where you are, and as my buddy, Kanye West says, “Your attitude determines your altitude”.