So you want to become a WiFi expert?

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So you want to become a WiFi expert?

WiFi Expert, Training, Motivation

One thing people have been hearing more about in recent years is how some have decided to change jobs. With the pandemic shuttering traditional brick and mortar jobs, some temporarily and others not, a significant number of people have found themselves wanting or needing a career change.

Those of us already in the IT space know that, for years, there’s been a perk of remote work. Sure, for some of us it was in lieu of driving to the office at 3 AM to reboot something. For others, it meant a day or two a week without a commute, or maybe to make up for being up working on that 3 AM reboot. Some even were primarily fully remote, outside of site visits as needed. So, when lockdowns happened in 2020, many IT workers weathered the storm better than other career paths. Thus, a decent number of folks are eyeing a change in careers, wanting to become an IT professional.

So, what if you are one of those, and you want to become a WiFi expert? Or, maybe you were already in IT, and you’ve decided it’s time to get more specialized….and you too want to become a WiFi expert.

What should you do? Where should you start?

Honestly, you could ask ten people those questions. Odds are, you will get several different answers, and they are probably most helpful, too.

So…here’s what we’d suggest if indeed you want to become a WiFi expert.

For starters, always be learning. In fact, never stop learning. Those in the WiFi world who are seen as experts? They didn’t get there by accident. These individuals are putting in, and have put in, amazing amounts of time. They’ve read the books…and then they’ve written the books, talked about the books, and taught their peers about them. Some actually go read the dry standards documents, that most of us just catch the summaries of.

      If you didn’t pick up on it, that means never stop learning. Don’t target CCIE, CWNE, or any top cert, and then be done. It’s a milestone, not a finish line.

Now that you know it’s a marathon and not a sprint…if you are still with us, let’s dive in.

The first thing you need is that dive. You got motivated or inspired. Whatever lit that fire, you want to become a WiFi expert. That motivation is a big thing. It’s important to stay motivated. Especially if you are isolated, or don’t work with anyone with similar interests, you need to find a way to stay engaged and motivated. But how? Well, if you didn’t already know, the WiFi community can be pretty awesome. Many are active with blogs, podcasts, or on Twitter. There is even a Slack group or two out there, for those discussions that are better off without a character limit.

While at first, the community can seem intimidating for a newb…don’t be afraid. All of us are pretty easy to approach and most are willing and able to help, or at least provide encouragement. We are all normal people, and we were all in your shoes at one point. It is a small community, but we do try to do what we can to grow it. The community will help push you forward, encourage you when you struggle, and offer insight that you might not be able to get otherwise.

I am saving my two best for last.

Playing off of the community, do not be afraid to reach out to individuals and see if someone wants to mentor you. It sounds silly, but it is not. Here’s the thing…yes, you can and will get feedback via a Twitter post. However, it’s not always focused and tailored for you. But if you’ve found someone in WiFi who you connect with, who knows you and gets you? You aren’t posting a tweet…you can call or email or text them, and they know you better than most. I have been lucky to have a few along the way. My first wasn’t even a mentor, so much as a motivator. He introduced me to the CWNP track of certs, knowing I had a want and need for basic WiFi knowledge. As I dove deeper into things, I was lucky to make a few more mentor connections. These are people that got to know me, and whom I can call friends. I get to ask them about WiFi, career moves, and more. I only wish I had secured a mentor earlier in my process.

And lastly…it’s the training. You didn’t think you’d be on a WiFi Training blog and then not hear about training, did you?

Now, this is different from certifications. Yes, certifications can be useful. I have several, and I am glad I do. But the underlying training is far more important. It means more if you take a CWAP Bootcamp and learn about it, as opposed to just taking and passing the exam. I know a number of engineers in the WiFi space who do not have, and do not want, certifications. Yet, these are some of the smartest engineers I know, because they’ve learned it and done it, time and again.

Some topics can be learned mostly from reading a book. Others you are better off with classes, which of course WiFi Training can help you with. I am a big fan of in-person, live, instructor-led courses. You can ask questions, and the instructors can see when you are getting lost on a topic and maybe try a different approach to help it make sense. A book alone can’t tell that you’ve been reading and re-reading the same section a dozen times, and not because you just enjoy it.

The other side of learning is hands-on experience. Some of this comes from your day job if you are lucky. Some can come from labs, virtual or home or otherwise. Hopefully, you have some gear at home to play with and learn on. If you lack enterprise gear, perhaps your mentor can help you track some down. The community is pretty good with sharing old gear, and old doesn’t always mean ancient. Sometimes, someone switched from vendor A to vendor B, and no longer needs the vendor A gear…and will share, loan or sell for a reasonable price. Others raid eBay to assemble an acceptable home network and lab. It might require you to be a little resourceful, but the payoff will be great.

Put these all together, and while it won’t automagically make you a WiFi expert…it should put you well on your way to achieving your goal.

Plus, here’s a bit of a secret. Most of those WiFi experts you see in the community? They don’t necessarily see themselves as being on those pedestals. They are engineers, solutions architects, and designers who are good at their jobs, and always seeking to be better. And they would welcome new faces on a similar path. 

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