“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!
Christine Pappas, also known as @networkgeekgirl, is a network engineer in Maryland, USA. Christine has spent much of her life in Maryland, leaving for just four years to pursue higher education at Ferrum College in southwest Virginia. Prometric, LLC is the company Christine works for currently and has for twenty one years now. Prometric is a leading provider of technology-enabled testing and assessment solutions worldwide. Christine started at Prometric as an administrative assistant to the IT department with minimal tech knowledge. As she saw the operations of the department, she asked to learn more, and they were more than happy to oblige. First, Christine worked additional hours on the weekends, providing Level 1 support in the data center by monitoring processes and engaging the on-call staff to respond to issues that arose. She then expanded her responsibilities by becoming the technical writer for the processes that she had been monitoring by creating clear instructions for all necessary tasks. Continuing her technical growth, Christine spent time as an FTP administrator, and also joined the security team for a period of time, running reports, and checking for security issues on the network. Then, came the biggest career step. Someone was moving out of the network department, which had been an area of interest for Christine. Christine’s manager and director offered her a transition to that team to learn network engineering. This was about thirteen years ago, and Christine jumped at the opportunity, and has been learning ever since. Initially, she handled the “grunt work” and learned about Juniper and Netopia routers. After a few years of learning and growth, she got the opportunity to work daily on the Cisco routers and switches. Christine now works on both the campus and data center Cisco environments, providing design and implementation expertise for the global enterprise. She has also become the SME for the wireless and VPN disciplines. A love for playing in the CLI is what drew Christine to an IT profession. Understanding that the infrastructure that she designs and implements is a lifeline to the business is very rewarding for her. Christine’s goals and next steps are what I would deem well thought out and methodical. The short term goals are to become a senior network engineer, and to obtain a CCNP certification. Christine is taking it one step at a time so that her goals are achievable. She enjoys leveraging the knowledge that she has gained throughout her career and using it to teach up and coming junior engineers.
Alright Christine, We’ve Got Some Questions
What do you want to be when you “grow up”? Senior Network Engineer, with CCNP, CCDP and eventually (possibly) CCIE.
What advice do you have for aspiring IT professionals? Study every day, even if it is for only 10 min, make sure you learn one new thing. The best way to learn is to do and do often, so labbing or working on real equipment is key to solidifying that in your brain. Figure out how you retain knowledge best and use that method. Listen in on troubleshooting calls to learn real world issues and how they are resolved. As you grow, help others with your new knowledge, don’t keep it all inside your own mind.
What is something you enjoy to do outside of work? Spending time with my family is my number one priority. My husband and I love to travel (pre-COVID). Reading and singing (many moons ago I did get a degree in Music) are my passions.
How do you manage your work/life balance? Managing that balance has been more difficult this past year in COVID times. I have learned to work from home full time, while helping my 3 girls do virtual school, and try to keep us all sane from being locked down in the house. I have had to learn to be patient with myself and determine how much work I could get done in a day realistically. Two of my girls have medical issues, so at times I am forced to balance work with doctor appts (my bosses and coworkers are amazing with this). I take time out in the evenings and weekends to watch true crimes or DIY shows with my husband, sit, and talk with him and the kids, plan future travel, and just be around each other. I talk or FaceTime with family and friends. When I need my own space, I will read or scroll social media. Time is a premium around here – I have 3 very different children who all rely on me in various ways. I am also now a passenger as my oldest learns to drive, so that tends to take your mind off everything else!
What motivates you on a daily basis? My kids – seeing them grow and learn and wanting to give them a positive role model. They love me as mom, but also see me studying for exams, and ‘hacking the world’ as they call it when I am connected in CLI. They see a woman in a predominately and historically man’s role, and I hope that they see their own possibilities are endless if they work hard for what they want.
Strength, determination, and compassion are three (among many) traits that Christine Pappas wields on a daily basis. She has seen every challenge in front of her as an opportunity to practice and grow her skill sets. While she been with the same company for the last 20+ years, she has taken different roles to broaden knowledge in different areas. I really think there is a lot to be said for that. Even more so, Christine has been able to advance her career while still making her family and friends priorities, and finding balance, which is very impressive. Christine also finds time to be an active member in the It’s All About the Journey community, providing perspective, guidance, and encouragement. I can’t wait to hear her named called on the AONE podcast when she passes the Cisco ENCOR exam later this year!