Networking – A Graduate Network Engineer Perspective

Networking - A Grad's Perspective

This post covers the journey from university to becoming a Graduate Network Engineer at Opticore. Hopefully, this helps any engineers in their final year of university with a passion for Network Engineering. With Cloud, Intent-Based Networks, Automation, and a whole host of other quirks, it’s a really exciting time to be in networks. In a few years, things might not look quite the same as they do now, but I know with Opticore, it appears I stand in a great place to ride that wave.

Engineer Background

Having done a placement and three years at university studying a BSc in Computer Networks – I am not a complete novice to the world of Network Engineering. However, joining a company like Opticore is a unique challenge. At University, I studied a wide range of topics ranging from Business to Machine Learning – plus, of course, Networks. I also studied for industry certifications, like Cisco ENCOR and DevNet Associate. However, nothing quite prepares you for joining a company purely network focussed. With over 100+ Network Engineers at Opticore, it certainly is exhilarating.

The Job Hunt

I think it’s safe to say, from a graduate perspective with my degree, certs and participation in national competitions – I was looking for a leading company to join. So, when faced with an entire industry worth of companies to join, there were a few key points I consciously considered when looking for roles:

  • Projects – the ability to join as an onsite Engineer, rather than in Operations, was a big factor for me.
  • Work – the ability to perform exciting and rewarding work.
  • Vendors/Technology – I wanted a place that worked with a wide variety of vendors/technology. More specifically, I wanted a place that could provide cloud experience.
  • Culture – having experienced a place with great culture on placement, I knew I wanted to go back to a place where the people were what mattered.
  • Training – looking for a place with a focus on continued training and development, and paid for it, was significant.

So, with this in mind, I began looking for a job in September 2022. I’d heard of Opticore from a previous colleague and had already added a recruiter on LinkedIn.  After a short back-and-forth, I progressed to a 30-minute interview. From there I had a technical interview with Opticore’s Technical Director, followed by a personal interview with the Head of Delivery.

One of the Team

Since then, Opticore has kept in regular contact with me. Inviting me to socials and enquiring about my final year study progress. I was especially pleased when Opticore funded my Cisco ENCOR. This is my first “Professional” level certification and feel very proud I was able to achieve it before I finished university. I’ve even been in regular contact with some of the Engineers I met at the socials. We do labbing sessions, ranging from Cisco MPLS to Palo Alto Firewalls.

One of the reasons I joined a people-first company is because there’s less rigidity and you can unlock real progression if you prove yourself. This is already starting to happen to me. I’ll be moving to a client by the time this post is published, and I am incredibly excited. This client has a network on a scale I’ve never experienced, and I am joining a direct team 4 times the size of my placement company.

Advice for future Graduate Network Engineers

To other graduate network engineers, here’s my advice:

  • Be proactive and look early.
  • Know what you’re looking for – for example, do you want a small or large company?
  • Put yourself in the best position possible – study outside of university for your CCNA, take part in competitions like WorldSKills UK (Network Infrastructure Technician).
  • Learn how to talk to people – as a senior engineer once told me “If you can speak confidently and hold eye contact with people, you’re already doing better than 60% of other people at your level”
  • Challenge yourself – Even if you are great at what you do. That was yesterday. In the world of technology, you can’t afford to be complacent.

Hopefully, you’ll now have an insight into the experience of a student joining Opticore, and the networking industry in general. I look forward to meeting other graduates who get the chance to join us here at Opticore.

Sam T. – Network Engineer


Read this post on how to navigate the CCNP exams.