E55 - Stephen Paynter at Network Bright

James Dean
Stephen  Paynter

By James Dean & Stephen Paynter

Coming up on our 55th episode of The Route to Networking podcast, Stephen Paynter joined James Dean. Stephen is the Automation Engineer at Network Bright and has been in the Networking industry for 26 years. During this episode, they discuss the importance of embracing change within the industry and highlight how you must evolve as the tech changes in order to stay up to date and not get left behind.

Stephen’s journey has been an incredibly interesting one. It all started with his love for computers from a young age and eventually ended up getting some local work experience in an IT department at the local council, where he got his first taste of the IT world.

Once he left school, university was not the path for him, so he worked in various jobs that he found didn’t give him purpose. At that time, his uncle worked for a company called AAF (American Air Filters), and he managed to speak to the person that was in the IT department there. He was advised that if he wanted a job in IT he needed to go to university. At that point, he felt very disillusioned by it all, as he knew he didn’t want to go down the university route.

He then started dating his now wife and her father got him on a training course for Novell Netware 3.12. They gave him a work placement at MARi, where they provided him with support and training. He met a guy there called Warren Kelly, who took him under his wing. He was there for just over a year and then Warren ended up leaving and got him a job at Compel. There was a day when a supplier pulled a Cisco Catalyst 5000 out of a rack, it was on the floor ready to go to the tip, so he asked to keep it. That is where his Cisco route began.

Within the last 18 months, he has only started to recertify with the new stuff. His last job was based on-site with Lloyds Banking Group and was a night shift engineer in Leeds four nights a week. Towards the end, it started to take a toll on his health, not sleeping properly, unsocial hours and constantly being away from home, which resulted in him having to resign. Now that he is focused on the Automation side, he’s enjoying getting into learning again.

Coming from a man who has been through it all and has had 26 years’ worth of the highs and lows of the industry, Stephen shares his best piece of advice to anyone looking to start their journey into the Networking industry. Don’t be frightened to fail, be open-minded and don’t get pigeonholed down one certain route. When he first started, he thought he wanted to just be an IT guy and never considered going down the Networking route but look where he is now. Get a lab set up at home and put the time in, everyone is capable it is just ensuring you have the correct mindset to do so.

With the world of technology growing at a rapid pace, should Network Engineers be concerned? Will their roles change? Stephen thinks CLI (Command-Line Interface) will be a thing of the past. Network Engineers are also going to be asked to evolve, if they don’t they will miss out on a lot of opportunities and essentially be left behind. AI will also be heavily involved meaning there will be a lot of self-learning networks as opposed to needing to be taught by another person.

When he jumped from his Network Engineer position to more Automation focused, he had to have a huge mindset change, which is something all Network Engineers will have to embrace when they begin Automating. It usually means that you are moving away from the art of network analysis and are moving more into the role of writing code to solve problems. You will still need to be able to think like a network engineer, but with less practise and more automation in general.

Stephen tells us a great story about how he managed to get his hands on a Ferrari… Make sure you do not miss it.