Professional Career Lessons from Networking Analogies

Strange ideas often float through my head, like the IT Should Be Like Nachos thought I had a while back. In a similar vein, I was working on a module around networking technologies for the data center and realized that many of the definitions fit rather well with peers and colleague networking (being social!). In this post, I’ll tickle the idea a bit further and explore two of the thoughts that were rambling around in my head around creating a peer network, using your default gateways, and adding nodes to your network.

Find Your Default Gateway

When a server needs to send traffic outside of its network, it creates a packet that is fired off to the default gateway. The thinking is that the default gateway will know how to get the data to the correct network. This is required even if the server is trying to send traffic to another server that is physically adjacent but on a different logical network. Or, perhaps more relevant these days, even if two virtual machines are running on the same hypervisor but using different networks.

The gateway person is the key
The gateway person is the key

Finding a default gateway for your professional career is key. This is the person who may not know the answer, but can either locate the person who does know or can help you expand your network to include a new resource. And unlike most server network configurations, which are limited to a single default gateway, I often find multiple default gateways for many different verticals in technology – such as networking, storage, automation, programming, development, or even home lab equipment – and try to pick their brain for information, people, or resources.

Hey Bob, I’m having some real trouble with this vSwitch configuration – do you know someone who could help me with it?

This process also works well in reverse, even though many folks I chat with often feel like they have little to contribute. By gathering information and using your default gateways to collect additional information, you end up becoming a gateway to others without thinking about it. Just remember that this process relies on participation from both sides. If you have value to add to the community, share your thoughts and experiences; the entire network (both yours and theirs) gains in relevance and knowledge.

I heard that you had some help with your vSwitch configuration – is that true? Maybe you could help out my friend Sarah who is having a similar issue?

Expand your MAC Address Table

Leveraging your default gateway has an interesting side effect. Many experts that you gain access to will also join your network and become a local node that you can chat with directly. In the server networking world, this would be much like someone adding an IP address to their server that is within your network range, avoiding the need to traverse a default gateway. Once this occurs, they are now on your MAC address table and are known to you within your network. Having a wide variety of folks that are on your “local” network can really supercharge your learning curve!

The warm cocoon of networking
The warm cocoon of networking

But why is this? Having a network of individuals who are interested in learning and sharing their thoughts helps push your own thoughts and experience to the next level. One of my old bosses had a saying: surround yourself with good people, and success will follow. To me, this means both having excellent resources to chat with and also being motivated to further improve and challenge the status quo.

Did you see that new Python script that Bob wrote? Wow, I need to figure out how he did that and use it in my storage scripts at work!

For those with a sharp eye, yes – I do have a bacon expert in my network. Guess who it is? 🙂