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Why should a Network Expert attend a Hackathon? (More than Ever)

Eight years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Why Should a Juniper Networks Expert Attend a Hackathon?” highlighting the need for network specialists to acquire programming skills. Today, I am pleased to confirm that this need is more relevant than ever. It has evolved from being a desirable attribute to becoming a mandatory requirement to remain competitive as an organization and employable as a professional.

The Constant Evolution of Telecommunications Engineers

In the past, network specialists focused solely on the static configuration of routers, switches, and firewalls. However, we have witnessed a paradigm shift in the industry that demands a new indispensable skill: programming. In my 2015 article, I mentioned, “I doubt that in the near future, we can continue calling network specialists those professionals who do not understand terms such as Object, API, Web Service, SOAP, Python, Java, SQL, Big Data, Node.JS, among others.” While this transition has yet to permeate every aspect thoroughly, we have observed this evolution in key areas of our leading CSP, where it is no longer a futuristic vision but a tangible reality.

Unlocking Potential through Hackathons

Two months ago, we were sponsors of an exciting internal hackathon of a Tier 1 CSP. This event proved to be a powerful tool for accelerating the reskilling and upskilling process of our network specialists, capturing the attention of our executive teams. Participants immersed themselves in the fascinating programming world during the event, tackling real industry challenges. However, our focus went beyond mere programming; we aimed to build an ingenious proof of concept (POCs) that addressed constraints and capitalized on telecommunications opportunities. The results were astounding: participants acquired new skills and demonstrated an agile and creative approach to solving complex technical problems.

Looking Towards the Future

It is true that some of the technologies I mentioned in 2015 did not fully take off or were quickly replaced by others. Additionally, certain terms and concepts have evolved. We no longer hear as much about programmable networks, as the market is aligning with the idea of autonomous networks, heavily promoted by the ™ Forum. In the future, network engineers will likely need to include skills in technologies such as GraphQL or Machine Learning as mandatory technical knowledge.

However, irrespective of the projections we make, there is an undeniable and universal trend:

  • The acceleration of innovation cycles.
  • The exponential increase in the technical complexity of networks.
  • The need to deliver value to our customers with maximum speed and efficiency.

The good news is that today, an engineer equipped with the right skills and tools can generate the same value that would have required 20 engineers a decade ago.

Imagine the impact we can have on the telecommunications industry if we ensure that all engineers within each CSP acquire the correct skills and tools. I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly exciting to work towards turning that future of telecommunications into a present reality as soon as possible.

By @Matías Lambert