Alumni Interview with Sharanya Prasad, Technical Marketing Engineer at ‎Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise

1.     You have worked with Cumulus Networks, Cisco and now Aruba (HPE). Could you share some information about your role and responsibilities at these reputed organizations and what expectations do these companies have from their employees?

My role at Cumulus Networks involved writing python code for the ML2 plugin of Neutron, which is the networking part of Openstack. I was a solutions test Engineer at Cisco, which meant I took in customer specs and emulated in our Datacenter. Then, I had to test the network with some additional features which would finally be deployed in the customer’s production network. I am a technical marketing engineer at Aruba and I help analyse our product’s performance vs the products in the industry and enable our sales (system engineers) and developers.

All of these organizations expect you to be a self-starter, be able to learn quickly and contribute, be a good team player and effectively communicate technical ideas.

2.     You have worked as Customer solutions engineer, Solutions test engineer and now Technical marketing engineer. What according to you is different in these jobs compared to just working on the network infrastructure behind closed doors of a data center or a lab?

There is a lot more than just being able to type commands into a CLI. The most important thing is to develop a mindset of doing things not just for the sake of getting the job done, but also to make sure it’s been done in the best possible way. It’s easy to configure a device by typing some commands, but it’s important to have the patience and analytical skills to make sure you are following the best practices, securing the device and so on.

When you take each assignment as a learning experience rather than approach it as a job to be completed, you can add more value to it and in turn enrich your knowledge.

3.     What are your thoughts about automation and software skills demanded in the industry? Could you share some automation technologies that you have worked upon and have helped you in succeeding?

            Automation and orchestration are not just buzz words in the industry but they’re a need of the current industry. There is no more manual testing and retesting for some basic use cases in the network. I highly recommend learning python as its being used extensively in the networking industry. Also, get familiar with APIs, ansible, virtualization, AWS and linux.

4.     What does a TME or Customer solutions engineer work on, on a daily basis?

           As a customer solutions engineer, I would configure and setup devices in the datacenter, perform some feature/failure tests on the network, talk to customer to make sure I align with their specs and try to automate some of the baseline test which may have to be repeated for every code release.
         As a TME, my daily activities include interacting and providing documents to system engineers, giving feedback to engineers to improve our product and studying the industry to provide a comparison with our products.

5.     What industry certifications and technical skills should an aspiring TME/Solutions engineer acquire to prepare for companies like Cisco and Aruba?

          I would definitely say CCNA is a must, VMware certs are helpful too though not necessary. It’s good to understand the basics of virtualization and networking/wireless.

6.     What are the courses at ENTS that you think are most relevant to industry requirements and could help in securing a job at good company?
        Some good topics to learn can be found in courses: 640,641, 649B (This was actually the course that got me my first internship), 669D, 689F, 689G, 749B.

7.     Along with working on traditional routers and switches you have also worked on network virtualization technologies like vxlan and ACI in Nexus 9K switches. How according to you one should prepare or learn more about these relatively new technologies? What sources you refer while studying these new technologies?

         Software defined networking is really huge in the industry. In fact, I currently work on SDWAN.

         There are many whitepapers and other material available on google, just reading these and watching a couple of tutorials will definitely help you distinguish yourself amongst other fresh networking/wireless graduates.

8.     Could you please tell us how do you prepare for interviews? What special care do you take apart from studying about skills mentioned in the job description?

         I make sure I have all my fundamentals right. I rehearse what I would say to the interviewer about my study/work experience beforehand. Also, be confident about yourself even if you don’t know everything and always demonstrate the attitude and willingness to learn.

9.     What general advice would you want to give to students who are seeking a full-time job as a Network Engineer?

         Read up for CCNA, almost all networking fundamentals can be found in the CCNA R&S book. Always have a curiosity about how things work rather than trying to memorize the concepts and think very logically. At the end of the day, all these technologies have been developed as an improvisation to an older technology which was unable to effectively solve a problem. So, try to analyze this.

          Be open to learning new things, no matter how many years you work, you have to learn all the time because technology is advancing so quickly. Keep up to date about the new developments and keep learning every single day.

10.  Apart from technical expertise, which skills do you deem most important for climbing the career ladder?

          As I mentioned in the previous question, be open to continuous learning, observe other people around you and see how they approach new concepts or problems, have great communication and develop the knack to explain technical things. Many a times, you will feel overwhelmed by the number of things you need to learn, take it one step at a time, there is plenty of material available online, so make use of that and get a broader understanding of all these technologies and how they tie together.

To know more about Sharanya's journey, you can watch this insightful interview: