How our young colleagues are being educated....

Matt Karney mattkarney at
Tue Dec 23 15:58:14 UTC 2014

I've gone through the CNA (Cisco Networking Academy) program at a US college and got a 4 year Bachelors of Science from there. The program took me through CCNP level courses and prepared me well for taking the CCNP level certs. They also touched on a broad swath of technology from monitoring systems (namely MRTG and PRTG), to wireless, to audio/video basics, etc. And it follows the CCNP (and CCNA for those level courses). So when those change, like they did a few years ago from the 4 test to 3 test versions the curriculum was modified accordingly. Now yes there is some emphasis on a lot of "older" technologies, but they don't know where your career will go. So while I probably won't run into frame relay much, I could. And how routing protocols work in that environment are not the same as Ethernet based topologies. 

The largest issue I found with my program I went through was that it simply was very arbitrary and isolated from what the real world is. And part of that is that they taught based off the Cisco courses. But it would have been nice to have some classes that were more real world interactions of how things work. For example, BGP communities or AS prepending were not touched in the courses. Or how video/voice is done in the real world (nobody really does a CLI phone system in Cisco VoIP phones which is what we were using). And we never touched Nexus stuff, which was still new at the time to be fair. We also learned on PIX firewalls and only had a few ASA's. 

But overall it gave a fairly good foundation to build on, which was the point for me. I believe that networking is more akin to a trade than standard 4 year program in a business degree. Every situation, career, environment does things differently. Whereas accounting is going to be pretty much the same anywhere, just with some different applications used potentially. 

-----Original Message-----
From: NANOG [mailto:nanog-bounces at] On Behalf Of Kinkaid, Kyle
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2014 10:38 AM
To: Javier J
Cc: nanog at
Subject: Re: How our young colleagues are being educated....

In addition to my "9 to 5" job of network engineer, I teach evening courses at a US community college (for you non-USers, it's a place for the first 2-years of post-secondary education, typically before proceeding to a full 4-year university).  The community college I work at participates in the Cisco Academy program which trains students to get specific Cisco certifications like CCNA, CCNP, CCNA Security.

I feel like the Cisco Academy program does a pretty good job at training the students and and addresses many of the issues you found with education in US.  Without knowing for sure, your description sounds like that of a "traditional" 4-year university curriculum.  The Cisco Academy program focuses on being up-to-date (revisions happen every 4 years or so) and emphasizes working with (preferably physical) routers and switches from day one.  I've found 4-year universities, if they have networking courses at all, cover too much theoretical material, emphasize legacy technologies, and are updated only when they must.

Further, when in front of students, I always try and relate the material to either what they have experienced in their professional lives (if they are already working) or to what I see in my job regular.  I try and keep the students focused on what's practical and only discuss theory and abstract ideas when necessary.  I might not be able to do that if I was a professor at a 4-year university, having worked hard on a Ph.D. then on getting tenure.  I think it's important to seek to be educated at schools and seek to hire from schools where the instructors have copious practical experience and, preferably, experience which is concurrent with their teaching experience.  That will hopefully get you a corps of workers who are better prepared for a job from day one.

Just my 2 cents.

P.S. This is not to denigrate the value of a Ph.D. or academia.  My mentor in my network engineering career has a Ph.D. in Mathematics and having that high-level education was a boon to his being able to understand difficult networking concepts.

On Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 1:13 AM, Javier J <javier at>

> Dear NANOG Members,
> It has come to my attention, that higher learning institutions in 
> North America are doing our young future colleagues a disservice.
> I recently ran into a student of Southern New Hampshire University 
> enrolled in the Networking/Telecom Management course and was shocked 
> by what I learned.
> Not only are they skimming over new technologies such as BGP, MPLS and 
> the fundamentals of TCP/IP that run the internet and the networks of 
> the world, they were focusing on ATM , Frame Relay and other 
> technologies that are on their way out the door and will probably be 
> extinct by the time this student graduates. They are teaching classful 
> routing and skimming over CIDR. Is this indicative of the state of our education system as a whole?
> How is it this student doesn't know about OSPF and has never heard of RIP?
> If your network hardware is so old you need a crossover cable, it's 
> time to upgrade. In this case, it’s time to upgrade our education system.
> I didn't write this email on the sole experience of my conversation 
> with one student, I wrote this email because I have noticed a pattern 
> emerging over the years with other university students at other 
> schools across the country. It’s just the countless times I have 
> crossed paths with a young IT professional and was literally in shock 
> listening to the things they were being taught. Teaching old 
> technologies instead of teaching what is currently being used benefits 
> no one. Teaching classful and skipping CIDR is another thing that really gets my blood boiling.
> Are colleges teaching what an RFC is? Are colleges teaching what IPv6 is?
> What about unicast and multicast? I confirmed with one student half 
> way through their studies that they were not properly taught how DNS 
> works, and had no clue what the term “root servers” meant.
> Am I crazy? Am I ranting? Doesn't this need to be addressed? …..and if 
> not by us, then by whom? How can we fix this?

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