E54 - Stuart Clark at Cisco

George Barnes
Stuart Clark

By George Barnes & Stuart Clark

During episode 54, our Co-Founder George Barnes was joined by Stuart Clark, the Senior Technical Leader Developer Advocate at Cisco. Stuart has had a long and interesting career in the Tech space, starting as an Information Technology Coach, working his way up doing Support Engineering, Network Infrastructure Engineering to now working at Cisco, one of the biggest names in the space.

Stuart started working over the weekends in a warehouse when he was 14. He developed a strong work ethic from a young age through his father who inspired him to start earning and getting a feel for the working world. He then went into an apprenticeship in hairdressing when he was 16 and ended up being in that industry for 15 years. When he got to 34, he decided he wanted a career change. His father-in-law was in IT so he tinkered around with computers slightly but figured he would start studying for the CCNA, while he was still hairdressing, in his spare time. After passing on his 3rd attempt, he decided to start getting his CV out there and eventually got into Network Operations and from there he progressed both through his career and his certifications.

Making a career switch can be daunting but with perseverance and determination, you’ll go far. Stuart networked with a lot of people, getting people to introduce him to other people and getting his name out there into the space. He went on to the Cisco site and got a list of all the people within his region who were Cisco partners. They publish their addresses and emails there, so he just emailed enquiries saying this is who I am, and this is what I have. From his experience, he said you do end up writing a lot of letters and a lot of emails and with that comes a lot of rejection, but you must keep pushing yourself. “If you knock on enough doors, one will eventually open”.

With the rate of growth that the business has had, it required continuous learning. One thing about the career he is in is that you’ve got to have an aim and you have to feel like it’s worth doing. It requires a lot of learning and every day is a school day.

As the Developer Advocate at Cisco, he wears many hats and works with a lot of different people. He speaks at everything from meetups to large events about different aspects of network automation and different tools. Another thing he loves to talk about is when things go completely wrong because automation isn’t all sunshine and roses. Things do break and he likes to tell realistic stories about when they do go wrong and how to come back from it.

A lot of people are often ignorant of the fact that there are many things in the industry that need to be spoken about more. Stuart thinks there’s a huge emphasis put on technology and having to be smart, but that’s only one aspect of it, passion will always overcome anything. He hears a lot of people say they aren’t smart enough to work at Cisco and he disagrees. You can achieve anything if you’ve got the heart for it.

With the emergence of new technologies on the rise every day, what excites Stuart the most is Cloud Native. He didn’t think he would ever say he was enjoying stuff like containers and Cloud Native. It combines 2 things, the Automation side and the Networking side and he’s doing a lot of work around Cloud Native SD-WAN which will involve a lot more learning content and deploying more contained into the cloud.

What is next for Stuart?

There is a lot more content to build. Cisco is built on if a customer wants it then they do it for them. So, they are constantly thinking of ways to be building out new things to meet customers’ needs. He has been working on the DevNet CCIE and will be taking it as well, and no, the questions he worked on will not come up in his exam (annoyingly)!

Things break, that is a fact of life. Every day is another chance for something to go wrong. How do you deal with it? Stuart shares stories about the biggest mistakes he made as an Engineer, and how he learned from them. Make sure you tune in now to hear the full story.