On preventing burn out and spreading yourself too thin

Networking is full of what I like to call “rabbit holes”. You start looking into a technology or a solution and before you know it, you’ve lost hours of time pouring over white papers, best-practice design guides, sample configurations, blog posts and labs. There’s a lot of pieces that make up the networks that we work with daily, from QOS to routing, switching, WAN, hardware architectures, protocols…the list goes on and on. Depending on your role in your organization, you could be working with a few technologies and platforms very intimately or you could be spread across multiple parts of the overall infrastructure.

Working for a VAR for multiple vendors, I find it difficult sometimes to find a middle ground between knowing enough about the equipment and environments we support to solve the problems our customers have, what’s to come from the vendors and getting the expert knowledge I crave. In the last year alone, I’ve touched probably everything under the sun from our lovely vendors, including data center gear, wireless, security and SP (only missing voice). While I certainly know a lot more than I did a year ago, I also find that I’m unable to really dive into any one part in particular.

Like I said, its highly dependent on your role in your organization. I’m sure there’s a lot of folks out there that would love to get away from the hundreds of ASA’s they support or the 6500’s that are still chugging along in their campus core (*shudder*) and wiring closets to get their hands on something new. A compromise between both extremes is, in my opinion, a sweet spot.

I’m constantly challenged, engaged on new projects and new solutions, realizing customer goals and solving complex technical issues. I just warn to my fellow networking colleagues that it’s very easy to spread yourself too thin. I find myself having to stop myself from sticking my nose into every new thing that comes into my office, just so that I can focus on what’s on my plate.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the challenge and wouldn’t want to work in any other part of our IT industry. I just want to avoid being that “jack of all trades, master at none“. With all the new technologies coming out (especially in the data center), you got to keep your head above water from drowning in all the stuff that puts everything together.

Maybe it’s time for a change of pace or at least a change in attitude. I’m currently back reviewing my R&S to possibly put myself on the coveted path of the CCIE lab (I actually had a dream/nightmare about getting thrown into the lab exam…it was exciting but terrifying at the same time). I just hope that I don’t spread out too thin that I burn out. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point or another.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please leave a comment or send a tweet my way. In the meantime, keeping plumbing!

PS: I love Ivan’s post about knowledge and complexity. Given the nature of this post, I find it rings true to home/work a lot. Great advice from Mr. Pepelnjak as always.

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