These days I’m dealing on a daily basis with Intent-based networking (we can debate as long as you want about what that means or doesn’t, but that’s not my point), SDN and Cloud.
I know they all sound buzzword-y, but – hey ho – that’s actually what I’m doing (LBaaS, NaaS, Openstack Neutron, BGP+EVPN, etc). All those topics really keep me busy and engage my passion for networking.
Nevertheless, I can’t stop thinking about how those things can be introduced (for real) in the real-world enterprises. One thing is to say “Ansible is cool” and the other is asking your Cisco-long-time-aficionados that may have been in the same job for 20+ years to start automating whatever they’ve been doing in the last 20 years using the CLI.
I found that the main reasons why there is still a lot of resistance to innovation in the networking space can be grouped into 4 categories:
- fear of change and of becoming job-less
- fear of not being able to learn the new stuff
- politics and kingdom-building
- laziness and lack of self-improvement culture
Fear of change
Fear of change these days equals to fear of IT (and especially fear of networking) as I think we are right in the middle of a huge innovation cycle, driven by Cloud technologies which enable the consumption of self-service resources (think about containers and VIMs such as OpenStack) and SDN (by that I mean pervasive automation, overlay technologies such as SDN controllers, BGP+PCEP, Segment Routing and OpenFlow).
This innovation cycle is largely related to networking that is well behind compute, whose evolution started around ten years ago.
I think the fearful just need to brace themselves or find a safer option, as a barista perhaps?
Fear of not being able to learn the new stuff
This one is more tricky to fix, as there are people who actually lack the skills to make it, and there is nothing wrong with that. I think I could never be a lawyer or an architect (a building architect), even if I tried!
For the ones who just lack a bit of self-esteem, I am absolutely convinced that there is a way and that is to help them find their way by taking some small first steps (ask them to write a simple Python script to do an API call, or an Ansible playbook to get the uptime of a bunch of servers in your DC).
If none of the above applies or is successful maybe it’s more a matter of not wanting to get out of people’s comfort zones.
Politics and kingdom-building
Well, there’s nothing much to say here. I can just wish you to work in a company whose top management does not allow their organisations to be affected by the plague.
Otherwise, pick your allies, get well armed, and prepare to fight (or to die trying) !
Laziness and lack of self-improvement culture
This one is the one I prefer. And don’t think it’s something rare or hard to find. Laziness is all around us. IT and networking are hard nuts to crack, time-consuming, something you cannot read in bed before going to sleep.
Keeping the pace of innovation is stressful, tiring, listening podcasts during your commute to work, reading RSS feeds on your way back (assuming you’re not driving) is a tough job.
But if you find it TOO tiring or boring it probably means you’re not cut for this job or this industry. If you’re not passionate about networking you’re not going to survive and get some sort of reward or sense of fulfillment from your job.
Self-improvement culture is a culture of continuous self-transformation that starts with HR when interviewing and selecting new recruits. HR people, that’s a plea for you, so listen up.
Can you please, please, please start trying to understand what kind of innovation culture the candidates bring with them? By that I mean that rather than focusing on the fact that the job applicants might be rude or inappropriate when dealing with internal conflict by asking cheeky questions about how they might interact with their boss when they are in disagreement, you should also trying to find out if they are passionate about the topics at hand, how they keep themselves up-to-date, how often they do that, why do they do that.
When interviewing people in the past I kept asking those questions to them and usual replies I got were: “I go to Cisco trainings paid for by my employer” or “I attend whatever training my manager tells me to attend”.
Well, needless to say, they didn’t make the cut.
Innovation and success is not a meal that someone cooks for you, but one you contribute to cook together with your businesses.
This wasn’t meant to be a rant, but just a provocative stimulus for every one of you (thanks for being so many!!) to think about what innovation and IT transformation means to you.
It is not about technologies, but about mindset. Always. Technological innovation comes as a byproduct of mindset innovation.