common time-management mistake: rack & stack

Dan Golding dgolding at
Wed Feb 22 20:37:57 UTC 2012

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Leo Bicknell [mailto:bicknell at]
> At the risk of offending many folks on NANOG, our industry is more
> a trade than a profession.  In many cases we would do better to treat
> our people (in terms of how they are managed) like skilled trades,
> electricians, plumbers, metal fitters, rather than pretend they are
> white collar professionals.
> Low level employees should be apprenticed by higher level employees.
> Many of our skills are learned on the job; just like other trades
> someone with only book knowledge is darn near useless.  Not only do
> those above need to teach, but they need to supervise, and exercise
> standards and quality control.

I disagree. The best model is - gasp - engineering, a profession which
many in "networking" claim to be a part of, but few actually are. In the
engineering world (not CS, not development - think ME and EE), there is
a strongly defined relationship between junior and senior engineers, and
real mentorship. The problem with "networking" is that TOO MANY skills
are learned on the job (poorly), rather than folks coming in with solid
fundamentals. I blame our higher education system for being ineffectual
in this regard. Most of the "book learning" that you refer to is not
true theory - it's a mix of vendor prescriptions and
overgeneralizations. In "networking", you don't learn real theory until
you're very senior - you learn practice, first. 

The true problem is that most "networking" professionals came out of a
CS background or are self-taught. They might be clueful and they might
be highly adept, but they lack the structure of an engineering
educations and formal mentorship. They also lack real licensing, which
is a separate problem. 

> To your point, if you look at skilled trades the simpler the task the
> more likely it will fall to the "new guy".  Rack and stack is probably
> one of simplest jobs in our industry.  A two man team, one senior, one
> junior, showing up at a colo may see the junior guy doing the physical
> work, while the senior guy works out any issues with the colo provider
> brings up the interconnection to them, etc.

Rack and stack is not a network engineer task, anymore than running a
208/3 phase circuit is an electrical engineer's task. Instead, rack and
stack is a task for a skilled telecom tradesman. I have nothing against
network engineers getting out of the office to do this, but the quality
of their work will never be up to a real telecom guy. Look at the
cabling. You can always tell which has been done by a "network engineer"
and which has been done by a real tradesman. Guess which one is better?


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