“Faces of the Journey” is a series that highlights individuals in the network engineering community. The journey is the path we take through our careers, and it can be very different for each of us. While the destination is important, it’s all about the journey!
Carl F. Zellers IV (NO_DTP) was featured on Episode 18 of the Art of Network Engineering podcast. If you follow Carl on Twitter, or interact with him in the It’s All About the Journey Discord community, you would probably think that he has been a network engineer since before he learned to walk. However, IT/network engineering was not Carl’s first career path. After high school, he pursued general education and vocational studies at a local community college. Carl started to feel like a career student, and ended up finishing with an associate’s degree in construction management. He also completed several certificate programs in the same general field of study. While in school, Carl was working for FedEx Express, experiencing corporate structure and many other real-world realities. He felt comfortable with the long term promise he had with the company, but ultimately felt the need for a bachelor’s degree to round it all out. While Carl didn’t feel the bachelor’s degree was necessarily required, it was part of his personal plan. Then, in 2011, a good friend was finishing up a computer science degree and got Carl interested in IT. So naturally, he headed back to school to investigate the opportunities. Three years later, with his AS degree in hand, he found himself leaving a significant opportunity on the table at FedEx to take an entry level managed security services role. This was a very scary move for multiple reasons, but he knew it was the right move, and has never looked back. Then, in 2017, Carl finished up his BS degree. Through his first six years in IT, he has rarely (if ever) said “no” to an opportunity or shied away from something that he knew he could learn from. Carl is now a Senior Solutions Engineer and really enjoys his work and pace of life and study. He gets to be involved in new and emerging technologies as well as work on a wide portfolio of products and platforms. He is a self-proclaimed “lifelong learner” and embraces that as a self-fulfilling (and never-ending) goal.
Alright Carl, We’ve Got Some Questions
What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
Age 9 – A pirate.
Age 16 – Totally unsure.
Age 18 – Still not sure, but I was aware of how I would approach my future, and that was simply “hard work”. That was the plan no matter the application.
Age 23 – Career FedEx employee.
Age 26 – In “IT”. I was beginning my journey into IT and didn’t know the job landscape > titles, roles, responsibilities, specializations, etc.
What advice do you have for aspiring IT professionals? Don’t neglect the soft skills. You’re a human being and as such be fluid, flexible, and know how to effectively deliver information to a diverse set of people. You can add so much value to your junior team members, colleagues, seniors, managers and beyond simply by building your ‘best self’. Timely/effective communications, willingness to accept/admit faults, and common courtesies are all a massive part of who you aim to become personally and professionally.
How did you figure out that information technology was the best career path for you? I spent a good deal of time, effort and energy applying my strengths to various disciplines. I’ve always been very good with ‘how things work’. I decided that once I thought IT would be a good fit for me, I enrolled in some courses at my local community college and happened to fall into a networking centric program. In taking these classes, I realized very early on that I really liked networking and was the perfect “work smarter, not harder” type scenario.
What is your strongest “on the job” skill? Critical thinking. Although not specific to IT, it’s my opinion that critical thinking is of the utmost importance, especially in IT. It might translate to the most efficient way to go about a process, or a calculated approach to troubleshooting. The ability to think critically in a myriad of situations is generally what I would attribute most of my successes to both personally and professionally. A great tool/methodology that ultimately, I use as a loose framework for how I approach a situation or absorb advise, just to name a few examples.
What motivates you on a daily basis? I got into IT “late” (at 29 years old). The reason for that is prior to getting into IT, I still wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do career wise. Because I was essentially starting my career over at a “later” age, I always felt I needed to keep a pretty aggressive pace in my development. Looking back, I’m glad I did, however that feeling of wanting to continue to learn and experience new challenges has never left me. I value and embrace all that I have learned so far and humbly accept the vast expanse of what is yet to come. I really love learning and contributing which keeps me on a steady trajectory of growth, and in doing inevitably exposes new opportunities!
Carl has quickly become an absolute legend in the network engineering community. His drive for continuous learning and development is truly inspiring. Very often, when scrolling through the Twitter feed, I see Carl answering quiz questions from people around networking topics. As stated in the bio above, he doesn’t shy away from challenges and has a skill for either knowing or being able to figure out how things work, which are incredible qualities for a network engineer to possess. Not only is Carl dedicated to his career and constant education, he is also dedicated to the community. He is often providing insight and assistance in the It’s All About the Journey Discord channels. I remember shortly after I joined the community on Discord, one of the members had questions around a scenario they were facing. Carl got involved by asking questions and providing suggestions and advice immediately. In fact, the conversation went back and forth, on and off, for the better part of a day and Carl stayed engaged with it. I thought that was so cool to see and is a prototypical example of “community”, and the value that Carl provides. His episode on the AONE podcast is one of my favorites to date. Before listening to that episode, in my head, Carl was this network engineering machine that just never turned “it” off and was always in a book or a lab environment outside of work. That’s really not him, though. Yes he is dedicated, yes he works hard, but is also a proponent of the fact that we are all human and need to find the best habits that work for us. We don’t have to be “go, go, go” all of the time to be successful. I really needed to hear that episode. Anyway, if you haven’t already, get to know Carl F. Zellers IV. You will not regret it.