Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.
– Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Well. 2020 happened. And I do not know about you, but I feel utterly exhausted by the events of this year. Emotionally exhausted, physically exhausted, I-became-a-major-shareholder-in-UberEats-and-ate-my-own-weight-in-icecream exhausted.

Before I continue, I want to take a moment to address you, dear reader. I know nothing of your circumstances or the challenges that your year was undoubtedly fraught with, however, if you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Celebrate your wins. If you felt like you didn’t have a win this year, then I want you to know that your presence here, reading this article, is a massive win that I am celebrating. I am sure you did absolutely fantastic during the middle of a friggin’ pandemic. Yes, that includes you spiders of the internet, crawling my site and inflating my bounce rate statistics…!

While this year was nothing bar of an absolute fuster cluck, I actually found myself achieving four of the five personal goals that I set just under one year ago. I feel more emotionally resilient than ever, have finally learnt the meaning of “self-care”, and am incredibly grateful to be in the position where I am finishing this year off strong. Perhaps stronger than ever.

Let’s see how I did.


Goal #1: Achieve the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure Certification

I did not achieve the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure Certification.

I would love to use the cop-out excuse that Cisco shut all CCIE testing centres globally on March 16th, and that while the testing centre in Sydney re-opened in September that Western Australia’s hard border closures prevented me from travelling. However, if I am frank with myself, I would not achieve this in 2020 regardless of the disruptions that COVID-19 caused. I simply have not been making an earnest effort to learn the new design, software-defined access, and network programmability topics. I find this extremely ironic given that I have been a solid advocate software-defined access and embracing network programmability and automation in the workplace.

That’s the thing, though. It is effortless to identify and commentate the necessity of embracing change within the industry. However, it is a completely different thing to consciously develop the skills that the changes bring. In layman’s talk – it’s easy to “talk the talk” but harder to “walk the walk”. I love the concepts of scripting and automation and have even used both extensively in my career. But I find software and programming hard to get excited about. When there is no motivation left, then that is when one must fall back to discipline to achieve an objective. I lacked that discipline this year to ever be successful with a CCIE lab attempt in 2020.

So, what went wrong?

Monolithic endurance study sessions. That’s right. Those sessions that you spend entire days just studying content. They are extremely draining, and if you pull too many of them within a short time period, then your mental stamina quickly drains. If you do not recharge mentally, then frustration, apathy, and resentment start to arise. This isn’t even factoring in things going on in one’s personal and professional lives, which I think most of us found it difficult to manage in 2020. “Study sprints” and boot camps have their place, but I think I went a bit crazy with my pacing this year. Feeling drained made it difficult to run towards change and uncomfortable topics, and ultimately resulted in a hospital trip during August. Ugh.

I have already started carving my study time into smaller bite-sized pieces. 1 hour of study per day guarantees a minimum of 30 hours per month in a standard month. Developing a consistent but lighter weight study program has improved my studying efficiency and is definitely assisting with revision. I believe that adopting this program and remaining disciplined enough to continue utilising it will be critical to achieving the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure certification in 2021.


Goal #2: Start a website to document my CCIE journey and freely share knowledge

I achieved this goal!

I spent the beginning of 2020 figuring out what domain name to acquire (“ether-net” cost me a pretty penny), selecting a hosting provider, configuring this website and acquiring a theme. Over time I had to learn how to set-up Cloudflare, a Microsoft 365 exchange online plan, some security features, and of course – Google Analytics. I have learned a lot about web development basics throughout this process and have gained an appreciation for highly responsive websites.

On the 1st of May 2020, I made my first post and have been posting at least once a month since then. I am slowly chipping away at publishing free knowledge for people within this industry, such as resources that detail how you can configure SD-WAN labs in CML2, and detailed post-certification write-ups that discuss how I conquered an exam. I am also actively working on The Industrial Networking Project (news on that soon, I promise!), an Industrial IOT project that uses Alexa for Business and Cisco’s Meraki MV and Webex APIs to monitor production environmental conditions, and a final third project that will be ready mid-2021 which I feel like will make obtaining a CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure exam easier.

Some interesting statistics about ether-net since May 2020:

  • 16 posts have been published (including this one)
  • 5017 unique people have visited ether-net since May 1st 2020
  • Those unique visitors have viewed 8895 pages
  • The most popular article on ether-net is “CCIE #8: Passing Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (300-415 ENSDWI)”, which has 1807 unique views!
  • 25% of people visiting ether-net come from LinkedIn; the remaining 75% is almost entirely word of mouth referrals
  • Exactly half of all visitors use a Desktop or Mobile device – hmm… I should probably work on optimizing this site for mobile more.


Hello readers – I’m so thankful for your presence!

I think that 2021 is going to be a great year for ether-net. I have already scheduled more content to release between January and March than the entirety of 2020. I am also going to get on the Twitters and start a YouTube channel. Learning how to develop, record, edit, and create fantastic video training is one of my goals for the year.


Goal #3: Continue improving personal communication and leadership skills through AIM WA

I achieved this goal!

The Australian Institute of Management in Western Australia (AIM WA) is an institution that delivers training and coaching services to current, or aspiring, business leaders.  I like to take these classes because they help provide perspective, enable fantastic networking opportunities, provide opportunities to develop my interpersonal communication skills, and provide me with “tools” that I can use when faced with challenging situations within the workplace. Since I started taking classes with AIM in 2017, I have found it easier to communicate with others at work, manage tense situations and conflict, conduct training needs analysis and running training boot camps, produce killer documentation, and understanding the business aspect of IT.

I attended two courses with AIM WA this year: Influencing and Persuasion Skills, and Leadership Development: Leading Self. The first course highlighted the differences between “influencing” and “persuading” others within the workplace. It also discussed the different techniques that one can use with either skill. The second course was far more introspective and helped me understand the “type” of leader that I am, how others may perceive my leadership style, how to “listen” to what people actually say by paying close attention to the emotion and body language associated with communication, and how to manage myself within the workplace effectively. After I attend these classes, I like to have a debrief session with my supervisor to discuss how to apply workplace knowledge. I like to take their advice on board and revisit previous situations to see how I could handle them better with this newfound knowledge.

I know that continuing the development of these soft skills will become even more important as the scale that I operate with increases throughout 2021. There are several large and complex projects on my horizon where collaborating with others will be necessary for success. The greatest challenge I now possess is learning to “let go” of work and delegate it to others where required. I think that this will be difficult for me given the standard that I operate at. However, it will be an important journey for me that will promote an inclusive workplace where others are afforded the opportunities to develop and hone their skills.


How do you manage your charge energy? An experience I shared at AIM WA by relating my energy levels to that of a battery, and what I do to preserve energy and maintain focus when I am starting to “run-flat”.


Goal #4: Stop overloading my downtime so that I can spend more time with friends & family

I achieved this goal!

When the threat of COVID-19 was realised in Australia during February and March, I made some difficult decisions. I dropped everything to focus on maintaining my mental health, supporting my friends and family, and ensuring that I was well-rested for work. This meant scaling back on my university studies and extracurriculars. While Western Australia has not been hit by COVID-19 as hard as other places in Australia, and even the world,  I feel like the act of dropping all non-essential initiatives helped me learn a lot about self-care this year.

We live in a very “self-improvement” driven society. I always see posts on LinkedIn and in forums about how everyone is chasing “the next thing”. While I am a strong advocate for continual improvement, one thing that I learnt this year is that it’s not the end of the world if you hit the pause button to focus on your wellbeing during difficult times. Yes, I didn’t achieve everything that I wanted to achieve this year, but it’s going to be irrelevant when I look back on this in one, three, and five years time. Prioritising self-care was even more important following an unexpected trip to the emergency room back in August. I found that it helped with my mental health, I was starting to do things that I enjoyed which I had stopped doing due to my intense pacing since 2016, and I ultimately feel calmer and happier. I’ve seen my family and grandparents more, and while I’m still finding it difficult to find times to see my friends in person (isn’t adult life fun?) I definitely can take more of an interest in what they are doing.

I think that 2020 finally taught me the importance of seeking a balance with my professional objectives.


It is perfectly OK to drop an objective to maintain your sanity. I don’t look at this transcript as full of “withdrawals”, but rather I celebrate the distinction I got in Chemistry this year, a subject I never historically did well at. The impact of dropping these subjects? Nothing. My GPA is unimpacted, and I am at no financial disadvantage.


Goal #5: Start a hobby or develop a skill unrelated to technology

I achieved this goal!

In November this year, I wrote about how I intended to Reignite My Love for Music. I purchased both a piano and an alto saxophone to explore my interests in music that I had shelved for almost a decade. Since writing this post, I have found a fantastic alto saxophone teacher who is helping me understand how I can learn how to use the instrument to explore my creative composition side. I purchased a basic music theory course from the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) and am enjoying the process of exploring the relationship between music and mathematics. With any luck, I will sit my first music grading assessment in March 2021! I also learnt my first piece on the piano in years.

One thing that I did not write about is the hobby of finding and photographing street art. That is, exploring the nooks and crannies of Perth city and suburbia to find fantastic artistic pieces affixed to infrastructure. While we could discuss street art’s ethics, I personally find that it adds character to the locations it is present at. I’ve been posting my findings over at Instagram on my public account cabletier, along with other photos of what I am up to from time-to-time.

Since embracing my creative side more, I have found that my ability to think creatively and problem solve has increased. I also find that it helps to break and pursue something completely unrelated to technology when I get stuck or frustrated. Connecting with music has also helped me manage my depression and anxiety, occasionally flares up from time to time. It’s quite wonderful to find a medium to express one’s feelings when words fail to do the job. The only downside of all of this is that I owe my father, a classically trained artist, a hefty wager. It turns out that even the most STEM-iest of STEM people can benefit from peering through the world in a different lens.

I am looking forward to developing my creative skills in 2021 by further seeking opportunities to be uncomfortable.


Posters I found in an alleyway just before the COVID-19 lockdowns commenced in Perth.


End of Year Wrap-Up Commentary

I learned many lessons this year, but I feel like only one of them is really important.

It’s OK to feel uncomfortable, lost, and unsure of how to progress. It really doesn’t matter which path you take to get to your destination. All that matters once you have finished tumbling down the rabbit hole is to get your bearings. The path to your destination may constantly be changing amidst the chaos that you’ve found yourself in, so it’s perfectly OK to stop and focus on understanding your capabilities in this quaint new world. Your journey might be more difficult than others. While it may take longer to achieve that was already in reach of completion, please be kind to yourself and keep walking! You’ll eventually reach your destination if you keep walking long enough.

I look forward to the “curiouser and curiouser” nature of 2021 and the opportunities that it brings with it. I’m certain that I will achieve the goals that I set, but I’ll be happy enough having just walked towards them even if I don’t.