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When I first enlisted in the Telecommunications course in University, nobody prepared me for the kind of job I was signing up for. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but back in the beginning of my career, I was crying for help. I was cursing the moment I decided to pursue a career in this domain and felt completely hopeless.
Ah, those days.
Although I had multiple chances to give up engineering and do something else, it has never been in my blood to quit. So, I took the challenge: shift life, network problems, and of course, following the weathercast. Daily.
A lot of my friends had no idea what a network engineer does. And after many visual explanations, they still don’t understand. So, this post is for them and anyone else who's curious as to what a network engineer's job is consisted of.
Network Engineers Never Sleep
Networks and data centres need constant monitoring, as the main source of problems that may disrupt their stability is very unpredictable. The environments that use NOC’s need very high and stable availability, usually meaning uptime – much higher than normal.
Keeping in mind that the source of problems for networks is often the weather, power outage, human element and incompatible network changes - it’s only expected for an NOC to operate 24/7.
You may think that a network problem can’t be that big of a deal. Well, let me just roughly visualize the horror a network failure can bring to companies:
- An entire fleet of aeroplanes can be grounded urgently because of a data centre problem. Delta Airlines is an example
- A one-day service outage at Salesforce cost the company $20 million;
- A series of delays and slowdowns from the Bank of America’s website affected 29 million online customers;
Conclusion: If the network doesn’t sleep, neither do we;
Having said this, working in shifts means going to work in the middle of the night and coming home at dawn. Sometimes it’s like everyone else’s working day: a 9-5 job. But sometimes, you’re left with just a few hours at night to see your family, grab a bite and crash in bed.
But that’s just the shift life.
The Fun Part
The duties and responsibilities of an NOC engineer are derived from the main goal of the position: making sure the network we’re monitoring is stable and is providing high availability at all times. So:
When PC techs escalate a Network, VPN or a Wireless issue, we’re the guys that fix those issues fast and clear;
- Monitoring the Bandwidth, IPFlow as well as the Syslogs and Firewall;
- Creating and proposing projects for improving network performance;
- Troubleshooting problems with the Dynamic VPN and IPSEC tunnels;
Does this job increase the stress level?
I can’t say that stress levels are too high as an NOC engineer; maybe because it’s never the network! Most of the issues that come to you have already been picked up by the SysAdmins and the PC Techs, so you’re often left with little to do.
However, even if the tasks that come to you seem small and you give it little credit in complexity, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay proper attention to it. Remember, the human element is one of the factors that cause problems in this domain.
At the end of the day, we can conclude that being a network engineer requires a lot of dedication to the job, but at the same time, it is interesting and in a high demand profession. So why not give it a try?