Programmers with network engineering skills

Brandt, Ralph ralph.brandt at
Tue Feb 28 13:18:43 UTC 2012

Owen, I can only say it is my opinion, based on some years of experience
and working with people who have come from both sides.  I have seen more
people successfully move from programming to networking than the

Ralph Brandt
Communications Engineer
HP Enterprise Services
Telephone +1 717.506.0802
FAX +1 717.506.4358
Email Ralph.Brandt at
5095 Ritter Rd
Mechanicsburg PA 17055

-----Original Message-----
From: Owen DeLong [mailto:owen at] 
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 5:14 PM
To: david raistrick
Cc: Brandt, Ralph; NANOG
Subject: Re: Programmers with network engineering skills

On Feb 27, 2012, at 12:31 PM, david raistrick wrote:

> On Mon, 27 Feb 2012, Owen DeLong wrote:
>> I think you're more likely to find a network engineer with (possibly
>> programming skills.
> While I'll agree about the more likely, if I needed a coder who had a
firm grasp of networking I'd rather teach a good coder networking, than
try to teach the art and magic of good development to a network guy.

Well, I won't call myself a hard-core coder, but, I think I have a
reasonable grasp on the art and magic of good development. What I mostly
lack is speed and efficiency in the language of choice for whatever
project. I can write good code, it just takes me longer than it would
take a hard-core coder.

OTOH, having done both, I would say that I think you are not necessarily
correct about which direction of teaching is harder. Yes, if you start
with a network engineer that knows nothing about writing code or doesn't
understand the principles of good coding, you're probably right.
However, starting with a network engineer that can write decent code
slowly, I think you will get a better result in most cases than if you
try to teach network engineering to a hard-core coder that has only a
minimal understanding of networking.

> I think it really comes down to which you need: a hardcore network
engineer/architect who can hack up code, or a hardcore developer who has
or can obtain enough of a grasp of networking fundementals and specifics
to build you the software you need him to develop.

I'm guessing that someone who needed a hard-core developer that could
grasp fundamentals would have grabbed an existing coder and handed him a
copy of Comer.

The fact that this person posted to NANOG instead implies to me that he
needs someone that has a better grasp than just the fundamentals.

Of course I am speculating about that and I could be wrong.

> The ones who already know both ends extremely well are going to be
-very- hard to find, but finding one who can learn enough of the other
to accomplish what you need shouldn't be hard at all.

Depends on what you need. However, I think it's faster to go from
limited coding skills with a good basis in the fundamentals to usable
development than to go from limited networking skills to a firm grasp on
how networks behave in the real world. To the best of my knowledge,
nothing but experience will teach you the latter. Even with 20+ years
experience networks do still occasionally manage to surprise me.

> ...d (who is not exactly the former though I've played one for TV, and
not at all the later)

I am admittedly lost given the three choices as to which constitutes
former or latter at this point.

1.	Strong coder with limited networking
2.	Strong networker with limited coding
3.	Strong in both

Who is a strong network engineer
Who has been a professional software engineer (though many years ago and
my skills are rusty
	and out of date)

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