The topic of network engineer re-skilling has been front and center for the past few years. Some network professionals have embraced the concept and are leading the network industry in a whole new direction. Others, though, are more resistant and show about as much enthusiasm for this new world as my wife does when I ask her to watch a Star Trek marathon with me.\nNetwork professionals need to become software-fluent\nPart of the resistance to re-skilling is that change is scary and often hard. Many network engineers have been working a certain way for years, possibly decades, and now they are asking, "Do I need to throw those skills away and learn new ones?" To those people, I say an emphatic YES! It\u2019s absolutely critical to learn new skills today, or you could find yourself quickly looking for a job.\nIf you\u2019re looking for a proof point, consider what happened when the world moved from traditional voice to VoIP. How many telecom managers who did not upgrade their skills kept their jobs? The answer is virtually none, and that\u2019s what happens here.\n\nTo stay current, network engineers need to embrace software. I\u2019m not saying everyone needs to be a software developer \u2014 because they don\u2019t. However, it\u2019s important that people who work with network gear know how to do things such as make API calls, use orchestration tools, and write scripts. Software fluency is as important today as IOS fluency was 10 years ago.\nCisco DevNet Create was all about software, software and software\nThis week Cisco held its second annual \u201cDevNet Create\u201d event, which is one of the most un-Cisco-like Cisco events that the company holds. Instead of hearing about the latest updates to Catalyst, ISR and UCS, attendees heard about what code is now in GitHub, changes to APIs, and how to work with node.js.\nCreate is put on by Cisco\u2019s DevNet Innovations group, which is the company\u2019s developer community run by DevNet Vice President and CTO Susie Wee. In its four years of existence, DevNet has exploded and now has just under half a million members from over 33,000 companies. In that time, the community has completed over 70,000 learning labs. The mission of DevNet is to help developers and administrators do more with the network through software. This obviously includes building applications that use network information, but also administrators can use the APIs to get data critical to managing the network.\nI found Create to be a well-structured event that has something for people with all levels of software fluency. For example, Cisco\u2019s Meraki group offered a free network switch and three-year license to anyone who completed one of these\u00a0three one-hour lab courses.\n\nChallenge 1 \u2014 Designed for beginners with no coding experience. The user was walked through three self-paced online labs where learned the basics of interacting with the Meraki Dashboard API and then went through the process of building a hot spot.\nChallenge 2 \u2014 Intermediate developers were taken through a couple of \u201cmini hacks\u201d where they could manage Meraki layer 3 firewall rules or to use the network as a sensor.\nChallenge 3 \u2014 Advanced developers were tasked with using their skills to create an application or tool and then contribute it to the Meraki GitHub repo.\n\nThe Create audience was an interesting mix of application developers who knew little about the network but wanted to learn how to build advanced apps using network information and network engineers who were looking to learn software skills.\nOne of the more interesting events within the event was DevNet\u2019s \u201cCamp Create,\u201d which was basically a mini hackathon. On the first day of the conference, several teams were assembled and tasked with building what ever they could think up. They had about 24 hours to complete the task and then demonstrated what they created at the end of the event. The teams were a mix of application developers and other individuals, such as systems and UC administrators.\nThe shift to software should be thought of as the network engineers best friend and a tool to do their job better, faster, and more efficiently."\nThe output from these groups included apps such as network monitoring tools and applications for healthcare and banking, showing the diversity of what can be built. I bring this up because it\u2019s important to understand that network software isn\u2019t just for building cool applications such as heat maps and location services. Network engineers can stay technical and use the APIs to help them do their jobs better. Doing things like getting IP addresses or other information can be done by scraping CLI, but that\u2019s arduous and complicated. APIs greatly simplify and speed up the process. The shift to software should be thought of as the network engineers best friend and a tool to do their job better, faster, and more efficiently.\nSkills network professionals should focus on\nI\u2019m sure many of you reading this are somewhat nervous \u2014 this is as big a change in networking as there ever has been. The most common question I get from network pros looking to reskill is what those new skills are. Here are few areas to focus on:\n\nStrong network skills. The network matters more than ever, and these skills are still important.\nVirtual and cloud infrastructure. Infrastructure comes in many flavors today, and it\u2019s important to understand more than physical form factors.\nBasic scripting skills. Learn some subset of Python, Ruby, Postman, Ansible, etc. A good way to get started is to download scripts from GitHub, and repurpose them for your own use.\nAPIs. Almost all network vendors today expose a tremendous amount of information via APIs. Learn what\u2019s there and what you can do.\n\nOne other point to consider, although this isn\u2019t really a skill, is to think \u201ccommunity first.\u201d Software communities such as DevNet are very powerful, and most members are willing to help out fellow members. Be an active contributor; don\u2019t be afraid to ask for help and understand that community activity makes everyone better.\nI can\u2019t emphasize enough how crucial it is for network professionals to upgrade their skill set to include software. The same can be said for application developers, as it\u2019s important that they learn a bit more about how the network operates and what kind of information is available.\nIf you missed DevNet Create and are one of the 20,000 or so people who will be attending Cisco Live in June, that event will have a dedicated DevNet Zone. It is a Create-like event but dedicated more to the network engineer. I urge you to check it out.