PyCharm Educational Edition

Introduction

PyCharm is a Python IDE created by Jetbrains. When I decided to go beyond Notepad++ for my Python scripting, I used the free Community Edition of PyCharm to help me with the structuring of my projects. There is also a Professional Edition which essentially adds web development frameworks such as Django and Flask to the mix, but these are currently beyond my requirements

PyCharm Educational Edition

A recent announcement brought the good news that a new Educational Edition was being released. This is basically the Community Edition, but with built in training that uses the IDE features to build up your knowledge. The screenshot below gives an idea of how this works (click it to make it bigger in  new window). The top left window shows the different lessons and tasks within, which come in the form of real Python scripts. Above the script editing window on the right is a brief and to the point explanation of a different concept with instructions on how to update the presented script further below.

Pycharm Educational Edition

I love a hands on approach to learning new topics and this fits the bill rather well. You read the information, you follow the instructions and then click the tick box for feedback on if you have done it correctly or what you have done wrong so you can have another go or move on to the next topic.

I am also excited about the concept of other people creating learning courses that are available to the entire community using this tool so knowledge can be shared openly and freely, and usable offline too.

You can download this version of PyCharm here.

Summary

PyCharm is a very user friendly IDE for Python programmers. The Educational Edition is a brilliant way of giving people professional tools to learn a subject on which should help them progress to Python Jedi in a much shorter time frame.

Till the next time.

Multipath TCP

Introduction

In a bid to make networks more redundant, we’ve traditionally thrown more paths in to the mix so should one of them go down, traffic can still flow. In a basic layer 2 network, this would utilise Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) to ensure a loop free topology,meaning some links went unused, wasting available bandwidth. Etherchannels using stacked switches, VSS or vPC on pairs of Nexus switches allow all links to be used. Equal Cost Multipath (ECMP) can do a similar thing at layer 3, allowing multiple equal cost paths to be selected for routing.

Multipath TCP is a backwards compatible modification to TCP that allows multiple connections between hosts at layer 4. Because this is at the transport layer, these connections can be sourced from different IP addresses e.g. your wired and wireless NICs simultaneously.

Multipath TCP

A key benefit of this approach is that you can have multiple links being used for the same TCP connection, increasing overall throughput for the same TCP flow. Links can be added or removed without affecting the overall TCP connection, which makes it ideal for mobile use, combining a Wi-Fi and mobile network.

It has uses elsewhere too. As opposed to an Etherchannel, which will only allow a TCP flow across a single link, Multipath TCP will allow a single flow across multiple interfaces, so this will likely become more popular in the data centre.

Summary

Multipath TCP is one of those “why didn’t we always do it that way” technologies but it will also be interesting to see if it sees wider adoption than the use cases outlined above.

See here for the RFC.

Till the next time.

CCIE Routing and Switching v5 Preparation

Introduction

I recently made a full commitment to study towards the CCIE Routing and Switching v5 written exam. The primary reasons for this are to refresh my certifications but far more importantly, to update and build upon my current skill set. It is key to me that I don’t just pass the exam but deep dive in to each and every subject on the blueprint. If I am successful in both these goals, I will then have a decision to make on whether to go for the lab, but that isn’t on the road map at this stage.

CCIE Routing and Switching v5 Preparation

This post isn’t about the exam itself or even the material in the blueprint. Rather it breaks down what came prior to starting the very first ‘official’ study session as I feel that this will have an important impact on my success and general enjoyment of the learning ahead.

Timing

This is critical. Studying for the CCIE requires such a large commitment in terms of time, effort and in many cases money, you need to be ready to take this challenge on. Diving in without giving serious consideration to the things listed below will likely make your journey a difficult one. Some key areas to think about:

  • Certification level. There are no prerequisites to pass your CCIE. To sit the lab, you need to have passed the written exam and that is it. My advice would be to not take that path however. I would recommend that you do both the CCNA and CCNP level certifications for the particular CCIE path you are hoping to achieve. This will serve several functions. Firstly, the studying required to pass each level will build your foundational knowledge up, making the CCIE content less of a shock to the system. Secondly, sitting those exams will get you used to the way Cisco ask questions and the exam process in general. Thirdly, whether deserved or not, many people will be weary of CCIEs that took the direct route, bypassing NA and NP exams
  • Career. There are two key factors here for me. One is experience and is naturally related to my previous bullet point. A CCIE with only two years networking experience will raise a red flag with some people. Not to say that every engineer with 10+ years under their belt is the best thing since sliced bread, but, in addition to lower level certs, a minimum of five years or so experience says to me that you’re more likely to have seen a good range of tech and worked on more networks. Regardless, this isn’t about job interviews, so on a person by person basis, more experience should mean you are better prepared to do the CCIE than when you were less experienced.The second factor is based on whether your current role will allow you to commit to your CCIE studies. If you’ve stepped in to a completely non-technical management role, or it involves a lot of travelling, or you are doing a six month contract pulling 60+ hour weeks, it might not be the best time to start this journey. That’s just me, you might relish the extra challenge, but I think success will be much more likely if you have the time in your week to put the extra studying time in, without burning out. Working in a relevant technical hands on role will help supplement your training. A role that you also enjoy will be far more likely to motivate you to study than a role that does not inspire you in any way
  • Personal life. This is the one I hear takes a lot of people by surprise. You might be lucky in that you can do all the studying you want at work or you might have so much spare time that fitting in 10-20 hours of study a week only impacts your TV watching schedule but most people will have to make some serious compromises. You will certainly need to consider cutting right back on your social life, even giving up going out at all for a period of time. There will also be a toll on those close to you so make sure you have the full support of your family and friends. Especially with family, make sure you explain to them just what lies ahead so that they can adjust too.
    From a health point of view, you probably don’t want to start a CCIE track if you are recovering from a serious illness, or if you have a medical operation due in what would be your study period. You most likely don’t need that kind of extra stress in your life.
  • The same goes for your finances. Make sure you are at a reasonable level of financial stability before you begin the commitment. This will be a relative decision for each of you, but I personally wouldn’t want to have working overtime to pay off debts in the back of my mind, or thinking about where I was going to get all the money to pay for the exams and training materials. Which brings me to my next point

Materials

You need to ensure that you have all the relevant training materials to hand, maybe not at the outset but certainly as you get to the section of your training that requires them! What those materials are will depend on a number of factors including your preferred learning style, budget and current knowledge.  Some people love text books, workbooks, videos, labs, online resources, classroom training or any combination of these.

Whilst it is important to have the right materials, I would be cautious of having too many. You need to review the blueprint for both the written and the lab and work out what materials will give you the best chance of understanding the topics on each and passing the relevant part as comfortably as possible. Reading five multicast books may give you an unprecedented understanding of the subject or it may waste valuable time when you largely read the same topics written in different styles, where one really good book on the topic might suffice.

Read what other people are saying about their materials and if you can, actually speak to people who have gone through this before you.

Plan

Some people like to set a date in their head from the outset e.g. “I will pass the written in three months and sit the lab 12 months later”. For me, I am happy to be a little more relaxed. Remember from my opening comments that I am initially only studying for the written at this time and the primary reason is to renew my knowledge, so I have no specific deadlines. Having said that, I still have a rough plan outlined for getting through each of the six modules, have all the official materials which I will be supplementing with online resources as I tackle them and have set expectations with my family. I am aiming to do between 10 and 15 hours a week.

Summary

I’ve spent a long time thinking about the CCIE. When I first passed my CCNA, it was at the forefront of my mind and remained so for quite some time afterwards. Having moved about in my career since then and gained a wealth of experience in different technologies, I think I’ve done the right thing waiting until now. All the things listed above have come together at the right time. I will review whether I will take a shot at the lab at a later date.

I would love to hear from readers who are either thinking about doing their CCIE, are currently on the path or have already achieved their digits. Leave your comments below, hit me up on Twitter, or send me an email.

Till the next time.

Trouble Ticket #4: Unable to download NAT policy for ACE

Introduction

This was a fun one. Coming in to work on a Friday morning for what you hope is an uneventful segue in to the weekend and your colleague looks up from his fast scrolling terminal screen and says “we may have a problem”.

Unable to download NAT policy for ACE

The change he had implemented was simple enough. Add a couple of new sub-interfaces to the Cisco ASA firewall, add the required security ACLs and configure the NAT and no-NAT (NAT0) rules. The firewall code was still pre 8.3 on 8.0(4), so used the older NAT syntax.

The problem arose when the no-NAT config was applied, specifically adding ACE entries to the ACL that the no-NAT applied to the new interfaces referenced. The firewall threw up the following message:

[sourcecode language=”plain”]
Unable to download NAT policy for ACE
[/sourcecode]

In the context of the above sequence of events, this message isn’t actually that obscure. Pre version 8.3, the Cisco ASA uses policy based NAT. For the no-NAT, it uses an ACL to decide which traffic should not be NAT’d as it comes in to an interface. As the new ACEs were being put in to the firewall, the above message is effectively telling us that the firewall was unable to apply this to the no-NAT policy. So the ACE shows up in the config, but it isn’t having any effect.

In addition to this, we had also lost management access to certain networks through the firewall as part of this change.

The fix

The config was rolled back as a matter of course but the issue remained. Running packet tracer on the firewall showed that the issue was down to the no-NAT, although comparing the config with a backup showed no differences.

Based on our gut feelings and the message we saw, the NAT0 statement was removed and re-added and the issue vanished. Searching Cisco.com brought up this bug (CSCsl46310). Cisco recommend reloading the firewall as a workaround prior to reapplying the NAT0 statement, but that wasn’t required in our case.

Known fixed releases are supposedly 8.2(0.79), 8.0(3.2) and 8.1(0.130), although on the download site, 8.2.5 is a recommended version so I think that will be my first stop.

Summary

It is actually a pleasant surprise when a bug at least produces behaviour and a system message that can be used to troubleshoot without too much effort.

Till the next time.

10 tenets of working in IT – Tenet 10, Review

Introduction

The 10 tenets of working in IT series originally started with a post on PacketPushers back in 2012. I got a good response to that and when I was writing it, I had envisioned breaking out each tenet to its own post.

This final post in the series covers off how to review. Not just reviewing the other tenets from time to time but review your tasks, your career and your life.

Review

Reviewing is all about taking a look at where you are in your big plan. This will only be effective if you have set yourself goals. Whilst these targets can move and change based on circumstances, both within and outside your control, adapting to these changes is going to be more effective if you go through a regular review process.

Don’t micromanage yourself though, which will usually end up being counter-productive. I find that setting goals, breaking them down in to tasks and putting time scales against them makes it an easier job for me to keep on top of them and setting a regular review session, the frequency of which is usually determined by a combination of the end date and priority.

It’s also important to review your career progress. Have you been so heavily focussed on your current role for such a long period of time that you’ve missed opportunities to progress, either upwards or outwards? It is important to take a look down from a higher altitude to see what is on the horizon and potentially beyond.

The same goes for keeping a track on life in general. How many workaholics, highly successful career people, have sub-optimal personal lives because they apply all their energy to their careers and come home with nothing left in the tank? Sure, there are times when you know giving it 110% at work is going to pay off down the line e.g. pulling a project out of the disaster bin, and a compromise at home can be agreed with all parties, but if these periods extend for too long unchecked, things can go awry over time.

Treat your career and your personal life like a prized network; monitor, be proactive, tweak, capacity plan and get feedback from its users. The last thing you need is an outage.

Summary

It’s all very well having a solid plan of action with the skills and behaviours to see that plan through but if you don’t take a step back every now and again and review what you do, what needs throwing out and what can be improved, you may find yourself not achieving your full potential. Keep challenging yourself, measuring progress and moving forward.

I hope this series has been useful to you, at least in parts if not in its entirety. Feel free to get in touch or drop a comment in on the blog.

Till the next time

10 tenets of working in IT – Tenet 9, Know Your Place

Introduction

We all serve a purpose in life. Some people spend their entire life never questioning what theirs is, whilst others waste a lot of effort comparing the situation they find themselves in to others, in particular those they perceive as better off by one measure or another. This post looks at a few tips to try and help you find your purpose.

Know your place

Consider the bullet points below lifted directly from my original 10 Tenets of IT post on Packetpushers:

  1. Do not get depressed with not knowing everything
  2. Know what you don’t know; decide from that what you need to learn
  3. Don’t get bogged down comparing your abilities to others. You’ll either spend your life kicking yourself because you can’t emulate your heroes, or you’ll justify treading water because you are at least better than the guy sat next to you
  4. Be the best you can be
  5. Aspire to improve
  6. Drop things that you no longer need
  7. Fine tune that which you do

There are two key themes that compliment each other here. The first can be summarised as “Don’t beat yourself up” and the other is “Control your own destiny”. You shouldn’t waste time worrying about what you don’t know or what other people are up to. Decide what it is you want to be, plan how to get there and make it happen. A particularly well matched tenet here is tenet 8, focus.

Summary

In the introduction to this post, I wrote that we all serve a purpose in life. One of the key things that separates the get-bys from the successful people is the former allow themselves to be told what their purpose is and the latter define it for themselves.

Till the next time.

10 tenets of working in IT – Tenet 8, Focus

Introduction

In keeping with the topic of this post, I’ll try and keep it brief and to the point. What is it that separates the winners from the losers? The people who seem to be continuously increasing their knowledge from those who struggle to keep up? Those that seem to climb the career ladder with ease from those retiring from the helpdesk after an ‘illustrious’ 30 year career. This post looks at a key differentiator.

Focus

The ability to focus is a skill that takes both time and commitment to learn. Think of it like a leaky bucket, you can fill it up quickly but every now and again, you will have to top it up to stop it emptying.

If I were to list some of the key points relevant to being focussed on any task I set my mind to, it would include the following as a starter for ten:

  1. Understand exactly where you are right now. If you aren’t truthful with yourself, you won’t be able to plan your journey to success accordingly
  2. Understand clearly what success looks like. You should hit your goals with the sound of angels/ticker-tape parade/(insert appropriate analogy here). If you don’t nail this down, you run the risk of hitting your target without even realising it or worse still never achieving it
  3. In between where you are now and where you want to be is a journey. It could be a metaphorical walk in the park or it could be a inter-continental saga. Depending on how big a task you have set yourself, you need to plan accordingly. What will you need to get to the end, what milestones can you use to keep yourself on track, how will you measure your success?

In the interest of brevity, that is basically it. Make sure steps 1 and 2 give you a true understanding of where you are and need to be. This is the cornerstone to good planning. Step 3 is a recursive step to keep yourself right as you head towards your final destination.

Other things to bear in mind:

  1. Whether this is a mental goal e.g. learning a new skill, or a physical goal e.g. running a 10K, don’t neglect the other side. In particular, when going undercover studying for a new certification, don’t neglect your body. Eat, drink and exercise responsibly
  2. Use the other tenets in this series to keep a good balance. They should work together as a system, rather than being individual concepts
  3. Take a good look around once in a while. Have you become too focussed and let other things slip?
  4. Make sure you enjoy the journey too. This will naturally increase your chances of success
  5. Avoid the dreaded distractions that are focus killers. They differ from person to person but usually TV, social media, gaming and food are near the top of the list
  6. The art of focussing itself is circular. You have to tune it every now and again else run the risk of drifting off track

Summary

I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes take my foot of the gas, or get drawn away by distractions. Having said that, when I want something or I need to get something done, I know how to focus and apply myself for sustained periods of time and when to take a break to maximise results.

Till the next time.

The 512K route issue

Introduction

I was first made aware of an issue when the hosting provider where I host this blog at were tweeting apologies on 12/08/14 for an interrupted service and I later received an excellently worded apology and explanation from them. A couple of colleagues also got in touch later that evening with reports from further afield.

The facts in no particular order

  1. Essentially, routers and switches either make the decision to forward packets in hardware using a special type of very fast memory called TCAM or more software based, using cheaper and somewhat slower RAM. The advantage of TCAM is its speed and its ability to provide an output with a single CPU cycle but it is costly and also a finite resource. RAM on the other hand is slower, but you can usually throw more of it at a problem. Depending on which model of router/switch you have depends on which forwarding method is used
  2. The number of IPv4 routes on the Internet has been growing steadily and increasingly since its creation. Back in early May 2014, this global routing table hit 500K routes
  3. The devices that use TCAM are not only restricted by the finite size available to it, but this TCAM is used for other things besides IPv4 routing information, e.g. access lists (ACLs), QoS policy information, IPv6 routes, MPLS information, multicast routes. So in effect, TCAM is partitioned according to the use the device is being put to. Cisco’s 6500 and 7600 switch and router platforms (respectively) have a default setting for each of these. On many of the devices, the limit for IPv4 routes is set to 512K
  4. Verizon have a big block of IP addresses that they advertise as an aggregated prefix
  5. On Tuesday, for some reason, Verizon started advertising a large amount of subnets within their block as /24 networks instead, to the tune of several thousand, causing the global routing table to exceed the 512K limit on those devices configured as such
  6. This had the impact that those affected devices did not have enough TCAM to hold the full Internet routing table and so the prefixes that didn’t make it in to the table would not be reachable. As prefixes come up and down on the Internet all the time, these routes would have been random in nature throughout the issue i.e. it would not have just been the Verizon routes affected

Are you affected?

If you have Cisco 6500 or 7600 devices running full BGP tables, you need to run the following command:

If the IPv4 line of output is 512k or lower, you are in a pickle and will need to change the settings by entering the command below:

Where the 1000 is the number of 1K entries i.e. the setting as shown in the first output would be 512. Typing a ‘?’ instead of the number will return the maximum available on your platform, so you could in theory be requiring a hardware refresh to add to your woes.

If you have an ASR9K, follow the instructions here to get to your happy place:

http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/support/docs/routers/asr-9000-series-aggregation-services-routers/116999-problem-line-card-00.html

Most other router platforms use RAM and so the more you have, the more routes it can handle. The performance varies widely from platform to platform. You should check the vendor’s documentation for specifics e.g. the Cisco ASR1002-X will do 500,000 IPv4 routes with 4GB of RAM and 1,000,000 with 8GB RAM

Who is to blame?

There is an ongoing debate at the moment about whether Cisco are liable or the service providers. I would argue that it is predominantly the latter but Cisco could have done a better job of advising their customers. Cisco did post an announcement about this on their website a number of months ago, but I didn’t spot it so I’m assuming many other customers didn’t also.

Summary

Having said that, if you buy a bit of kit to do something, you need to take some responsibility for failing to include capacity planning in to your operational strategy.

Till the next time. (#768K!)

Wireshark 2 preview

Introduction

I recently updated my Wireshark installation to version 1.12.0 and during my normal happy-clicky install process, noticed one of the options to install was something called ‘Wireshark 2 Preview’. Intrigued, I carried on clicking, making sure there were no further boxes wanting to install the Ask Toolbar. (Die Java, just die!)

Wireshark 2 preview

As those of you who use Wireshark regularly will probably know, the developers announced a big change that was on its way back with the release of 1.11.0 in October 2013, that change being they were switching the user interface library from GTK+ to Qt. I believe this decision was arrived at to provide a more standardised feel for the app across multiple platforms. Also, support for GTK+ was waning.

First thoughts

When you install version 1.12.0, you will also get the option to add start menu and desktop icons for the version 2 preview. Upon opening the preview, the word that immediately sprung to mind was ‘clean’. It’s much less cluttered than the current version. In fact, it takes  a little getting used to, but that’s change for you.

I encourage you to go and try it out for yourself but a couple of things that I have noticed from playing with it that I like are:

  • The interface selection screen shows a mini utilisation graph so you can see at a glance which interfaces have traffic going over them. Useful if you have many NICs on your machine e.g. VMware installed
  • The IO graphs seem to be better scaled without any tinkering, plus have guidelines that make reading graphs easier. As these are exportable also, it makes reporting look prettier

Summary

Overall, I like the new version. As expected, there are a couple of bugs I’ve found that I’ll be feeding back to Gerald and his gang, but this definitely feels like a step in the right direction.

Till the next time.

Technical rewind

Introduction

I was recently thinking about the future of this blog and had been considering whether to bin it or come back to it with renewed enthusiasm. After all, there are thousands of other blogs out there that cover similar topics, ranging in quality from barely readable to excellent. Whilst I hope that mine falls no further down than the middle of that scale, I asked myself what value do people get from my own posts.

When I logged on to the admin portal for the first time in a while, I  saw two key things that made me realise that I should continue writing, perhaps not as frequently as some other bloggers, but with more posts that are close to my heart and hopefully that will shine through in my writing. The first was that, whilst my viewing figures are not particularly spectacular, they have been constant throughout my recent absence so people are still coming over, both to check out what is on offer and also from search results. The second thing I noticed was that there were almost a dozen updates for WordPress itself, the theme and some plugins and I found myself feeling quite protective and applied the relevant TLC.

Technical rewind

I’ve worked in IT for well over 10 years, achieved my CCNA back in 2009 and my CCNP in about 2012. I got past the half way point towards my CCNP Security and then something dawned on me. Something that made me down my certification tools and take a long look at myself. My appointment to a management role in the last year has only cemented my thinking.

The quest I was on to further my knowledge according to Cisco’s road map in addition to my new, less hands on role had left my foundational routing and switching knowledge less polished than I would have liked. I still function as a good network engineer, but I get a certain satisfaction from having nuts and bolts knowledge at my fingertips and I’ve been aware that this has slipped since the new year.

Regarding the certification path, the blueprints for most of the exams never match the on the job knowledge requirements. So in a busy world, you spend huge amounts of time learning about things that Cisco want you to learn, but your boss isn’t bothered about and quite often, nor should you be. They are just not relevant for the day to day or even tomorrow.

With that in mind and with the time that I am currently able to commit to studying, I am going to aim for the CCIE R&S Written as a way of refreshing my current certs but more importantly, I will deep dive in to all the relevant topics to give that much needed polish. Those studies will hopefully provide me with some good topics on which to blog too.

Summary

As I recently tweeted, I find that knowledge is a foundation to build upon rather than a skip to fill up. Being self aware of when that knowledge needs some maintenance is a key skill for any engineer to prevent it all falling down about them. Do your core skills need brushing up on?

Till the next time.

Back in the game

Remember me? It’s been a while since I last posted. Coincidentally, it was a few days before I stepped in to the Acting Head of Networks role at my current employer whilst the guy in that role was temporarily unavailable.

I’d felt in the months up to that point that I’d started to lose focus on my career. I’d lost the drive to study as much, I was enjoying my day to day role less and less. Then it all changed on the Monday I came in to the office in my temporary role. There were deadlines to hit, projects to complete and bridges to build. With little time to waste on trivial matters, I sat the team down and we discussed what steps lay ahead of us.

I was very pleased, and no less proud, to say that we all came together as a team and hit our targets. At the start of the New Year, my team leader decided to move on to pastures new permanently and so I was offered the role permanently which I accepted.

Whilst the responsibilities of the new role means that I need to do far less support work (save for when the crap hits the fan, when I can’t help myself), it does mean I get to spend more time reviewing the company strategy and looking at solutions that can deliver it. I can now start looking at ways to be more innovative, increase productivity and cut deployment/troubleshooting times as much as possible. I’m still a couple of exams away from my CCNP Security and to be honest, I’m in two minds as to whether I should complete it or focus my attention elsewhere.

So there you have it. Still working at a great company but in a role with the right people that makes me much happier. Focus has returned. There are a few things I want to carry out in the next couple of months or so to tidy things up and then its innovation central.

Till the next time.

Vegaskid.net is moving home

I am currently in the process of moving my domain to a new provider. Obviously, I am hoping that this will all go exactly to plan without any downtime, but please bear with me should the site go down at all.

Till the next time.

Update:

Site has now been migrated with only a couple of minor hiccups. If you find any issues with the way the site displays, please contact me at vegaskid@vegaskid.net and I’ll get straight on it.

The ten commandments of networking

Introduction

Earlier this year, I posted a quasi-zen tweet (@vegaskid1973) in jest which seemed to tickle the fancy of a few of you based on replies and retweets and so I thought I’d use the rare free ten minutes I find myself with to flesh out the idea, which I light-heartedly present here as the ten commandments of networking:

  1. You shall not trust a Visio diagram, lest you bring the customer site down
  2. You shall not covet a colleague’s serial cable. Get your own and hands off mine!
  3. You will backup and protect your configs like they were your first-born
  4. You shall not bear false witness against a network incident. Unless explaining it to management
  5. You shall have no other gods, but feel free to revere unicorns
  6. You shall not murder a good TCP joke unless you are sure they will get it
  7. You shall write the customer SLA/contract in such general terms so as never to breach it
  8. Remember the 7th layer of the OSI model. On it you shall not do any work, leave that to the devs
  9. You shall not commit config until you are confident your CV/resume is up to date
  10. Whilst you may be vendor agnostic, you must believe in intelligent design

Finally

Please add your own suggestions in the comments below.

Till the next time.

Are you a lion or a gazelle?

Introduction

There is an old fable that has been attributed to various sources, which I’m not concerned about verifying but it goes something like this:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing it must outrun the fastest lion, or it will be killed and eaten.  Every morning a lion wakes up knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve  to death.  It does not matter if you are a lion or a gazelle…when the sun comes up each morning, you’d better be running.

Face value

The message here is clear. To survive, you have to keep moving, else become extinct. This is so applicable to the world of IT. Things change so quickly. Of course dinosaurs in IT do exist but in today’s climate more than ever, they are struggling to avoid being relegated to irrelevancy.

Reading between the lions (sic)

In my opinion, the fable offers far more value if you ask yourself whether you would rather be a lion or a gazelle, figuratively speaking, from the point of view of an IT professional and the information explosion we face on most days.  How best to deal with it?

Would you rather be a gazelle, trying to be ahead of the curve, having to keep up with every new technology, every vendor’s new product release, every new protocol, read every blog post, twitter feed, RFC, book, listen to every podcast, lab every scenario, attend every event, etc., fearful that you may be gobbled up if you stop?

Or would you rather be a lion and filter out the noise, focus on what is relevant, feast on the juiciest knowledge, that which will sustain you, make you stronger and still give you time to spend with your pride, comfortable in the knowledge that you are at the upper end of the food chain?

Summary

The art of survival is not just about making it through the day. It’s about focussing your efforts in the right place at the right time so you can keep enough energy for the other important things in your life. Be sure to refocus on whatever you are currently doing. It’s less about what you can achieve on a day to day basis but rather what you can sustain throughout your career and life.

Till the next time.

10 tenets of working in IT – Tenet 7, Honesty

Introduction

This isn’t a post about stealing your colleague’s lunch from the fridge in the kitchen. You will also be disappointed if you came here for advice on what to do about people who park in disabled parking spaces without a permit. Rather, it discusses being honest with yourself and with people you have real, direct interactions with.

Honesty

There are many related words/phrases I could have chosen to base a blog post on in lieu of honesty. Courtesy, integrity, morality, etc. They are all worthy attributes but I somehow feel that honesty encompasses all of them. Rather than get into a  deep philosophical discussion on truth and the ways of the world, I’d prefer to use some simple bullet points from the original 10 tenets post to keep things simple:

  • Be honest with yourself in the first instance
  • Only then can you be honest with colleagues, customers, friends and family
  • Know when to put your hands up and say “I don’t know”
  • Don’t bury things when you get something wrong, get it out in the open
  • Know when it is time to change job
  • Know when it is time to change career
  • Ask for the same level of honesty from the people you deal with (this needs to be addressed differently depending on who we are talking about!)
  • Ask for feedback about yourself from those people you deal with
  • Make sure you get your yearly appraisal. This is the ideal opportunity for you and your line manager to align your goals with that of the company

Summary

In an era when people are all too keen to splash details of their personal life online, discussing what they’ve had for dinner, who they were out with the night before and what they think of their boss, many people are still unable to be as honest with themselves or with people when face to face and not hiding behind ‘the net’.

It is human nature for people to build walls to hide behind and sadly, the first casualty is often truth. I’ve found that my career has taken the biggest leaps forward when I’ve been honest with both myself and those around me.

Try being more honest with yourself and with the people you deal with. You may find it  very liberating.

Till the next time.