I was recently asked the question “If I want to get into Networking, what should I learn?”
A great question because Telecommunications or Data Networking is really not a degree program at most universities, at least not at the undergraduate level. There are some masters programs, but they are few and far between. In fact, if you go to most computer science or electrical engineering programs (I looked at Georgia Tech as a random example), there are not even any networking classes as a required part of the degree in either case. Now that is not to say that a student may select an elective in the subject.
Networking learning has primarily been either ‘on the job’ or post degree professional training based. From certification programs (such as CCNA, A+, etc.) to in house training, to self taught learning there are a myriad of learning places, including YouTube.
Which brings us back to the question: what should I learn? Let’s see if I can boil this down to a little roadmap.
As a starting point, you need a solid base of networking understanding – the layered model, TCP/IPv4 and IPv6, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi at a minimum (see our courses here as an example). I would absolutely learn WIRESHARK (we have classes and many articles on Wireshark – look here) as well as a number of other tools like NMAP (look here for NMAP).
Next I would make sure you understand how routing and switching work, in other words the packet forwarding processes would also be a second step. I would make sure you are comfortable with virtualization, and all of this should be done in a hands on learning environment. Yes, you have to configure routers and switches in this learning process and we use GNS3 (look here for our GNS3 stuff) for this and recommend you do as well. I would then add network automation by learning a tool like ANSIBLE as well as learn PYTHON (look here). I would do all of this on Linux. If you aren’t familiar with Linux, start learning it, and you can see all our Linux material here.
There you have it – a networking learner roadmap!
Of course it does not stop there. You can then dive into different wireless technologies,including Wi-Fi, and more specific networking such as MPLS, VXLAN, QoS, and on and on.
The one final thing I would say is this: Do not think this is all something you can learn in a day or a week. While it seems simple connecting your laptop to a wireless network, then accessing the Internet, the truth is there is a tremendous amount of complexity behind the scenes.
The network experience that we enjoy today has evolved with countless staff hours of software development and hardware development.
Like flying a plane – it looks easy, but in reality it isn’t, and you certainly can’t judge its simplicity by riding in one.