You’ll never learn it all. The more you learn, the more that holds true. However, that shouldn’t keep you from trying to learn it all. In light of that, you have to realize that some of the best resources don’t show up in a Google search. While I use Google several times a day, it is only a single tool in my trusty old geek toolbox. With that in mind, here’s some general resources along with a few route/switch ones. Possibly even a non-R/S resource or two.
1. Twitter – I was fairly skeptical about Twitter before I started using it. At first I just lurked. Now, I tend to be a bit more sociable with others on Twitter. I cannot emphasize how valuable this tool has been. Oh, and use something like Tweetdeck as opposed to the regular Twitter.com website. Need some good accounts to follow? You can start by mining my list of users that I follow. Well over 90% of them are people/companies that are focused on the networking industry.
2. RSS Feeds – Remember the days when you had to visit all 20 of your favorite websites every day? I do. Those days are gone thanks to the wonderful world of RSS feeds. I follow at least 75-100 blogs/sites and am able to get updates on them within minutes by simply pulling the latest posts/links from their RSS feeds. There are a ton of different readers out there. I have used Great News for the past 4 years or so.
Here’s a few blogs to get you started. Half of the fun of this process is finding which blogs/sites you like and everyone is different.
These are the links to the blogs themselves. The link to the RSS feeds for each site should be relatively easy to locate on the sites themselves.
There are many, many more, but the ones I listed above are some of the more frequently updated ones.
3. Podcasts – I have a 45 hour commute to and from work, so I have over an hour a day that I can listen to something other than music if I want to. Having said that, there is a definite lack of good quality networking podcasts. However, there are a few that I listen to quite regularly. They are: Packet Pushers, Wireless LAN Weekly, and Cisco TAC Security Podcast. Another way to find networking podcasts is to go on iTunes and just search for Cisco or Juniper under the audio podcast directory. You will find plenty of abandoned ones(mainly from Cisco), but there are still some pretty decent podcasts out there even if they haven’t released a new episode in the last year or two.
4. Videos – I am a visual learner, so I really appreciate good quality video. You can always go to YouTube and search for something specific. Many times you can find something good, but you typically have to sort through a whole bunch of unrelated/boring stuff to find the 1 or 2 videos that are beneficial. Here are the sites I like to go to for some pretty decent content:
5. Talk to people – Yes. I know. People suck. We all get into the IT field because we would rather converse with a machine than a human. We do this for 2 reasons. First, computers just make sense. Second, we want to have a leg up on everyone else when Skynet goes active and the machines take over. However, people CAN help you. Quite a few of them will actually go out of their way to help you. Not everyone in IT is a jerk. Odd perhaps, but not all jerks. The best thing I ever did was get involved with the local Cisco user’s group. We meet one night a month and have a technical presentation, followed by some free book giveaways. Dinner is always provided by a vendor or some other company. Free food, free books, free technical info, etc. What’s not to love? You also get to network with your peers and talk about your networks and the problems/solutions that go along with them. If you don’t know of one in your local area, check here. Your career will thank you.
6. Books – There is no way around it. You have to read. If you want to become a CCNA/CCNP/CCIE/CWNE/JNCIE/CISSP/etc you will have to do some reading. Sometimes the books are a thousand pages. Sometimes they are only 900. If you want to rise above mediocrity and really dig in to the technologies, you have to read. For the rest of your career. I prefer physical books. Some people like e-books. Pick the format that works best for you. The benefit to the electronic format is that you can pack an entire library on your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or laptop and always have it available. I am a big fan of the Cisco Press books, but I caution you to use a variety of sources/publishers like O’Reilly, Wiley, etc. Cisco Press does not always mean 100% accurate. Plus, there are some really cool books outside of the Cisco Press world. For example, I read a book on T-1′s from O’Reilly. A complete book on T-1′s! It was awesome. I initially had plans of seeing streams of 1′s and 0′s and being able to break down the ESF format by sight alone and reassemble it by hand. After reading the book, I was closer to that goal, but due to constant ridicule from co-workers, I had to let that dream go. If you want, you can pick up that dream and run with it. You will have my utmost respect and admiration, which translates to me following you on Twitter.
I know I have missed other things I should have included. Perhaps when I remember them I will add them to this list. Perhaps the most important thing when trying to find resources to aid you in your education/certification is to think outside of the box. Or, think outside of the search engine. There are many, many resources that are not going to show up in search results. Do you use a particular company’s services or products? Go look at their website. They might have a fair amount of media and whitepapers available. Case in point. I happen to use some Riverbed appliances at work. Riverbed has some pretty decent videos describing their technology on their website. I had to poke around the site for awhile, but finally found the videos in their marketing/news portion of their website. I have found the same to be true for other vendors. XO has a pretty decent knowledge section with whitepapers and presentations surrounding their service offerings and service provider technology in general. The list goes on and on.
Whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Whether you are going for a certification or just wanting to learn in general, don’t ever quit. The more you know, the easier your job gets. The more you teach others, the easier your job gets. I always tell people that I have 2 jobs. The first one is for the company I work for. The second job is making myself stronger from a technical standpoint. Job 1 is dependent on job 2. I am not saying don’t have a life outside of work. What I am saying is that you have to put in some extra time outside of work if you ever want to do great things in the world of networking. If you don’t you will end up like this guy. Don’t be that guy!