Why the Best Leaders Show Their Weaknesses

It’ll help you innovate too.

Photo credit: Motortion—Getty Images

Photo credit: Motortion—Getty Images

In the foreword to the reprint of Intel cofounder Andy Grove’s High Output Management, investor Ben Horowitz recalls Grove telling him, “CEOs always act on leading indicators of good news, but only act on lagging indicators of bad news… In order to build anything great, you have to be an optimist.”

I agree that CEOs need to be optimists, but we need to be realists too, especially for the people helping us build that next great thing. When leaders face doubts, they should acknowledge the challenges ahead while still making it clear that they have strategies for overcoming them. That’s real confidence, not fakery.

Learn your way to confidence

Most startup CEOs consider themselves entrepreneurial, and entrepreneurs have to become great salespeople in order to gain the buy-in of investors, employees, and customers. Convincing strangers to spend their hard-earned money on a company they’ve never heard of requires some serious confidence, and it often doesn’t come naturally. Most CEOs have an advanced degree like an MBA, but formal education still can’t equip someone with authentic confidence.

Learning is what I prescribe for any major lack of confidence. Doing broadcast media interviews, for example, had been a source of insecurity for me, but I knew I’d be representing Udemy more and more as we grew. Understanding the secrets of great public speakers has made a tremendous difference in how I come across when communicating. So I took a bunch of public speaking courses and practiced doing mock media interviews with our internal communications director, as well as a few former journalists; eventually my nerves disappeared. If something makes you feel insecure, immerse yourself in it until you gain the upper hand.

Find people to confide in

When you’re a startup CEO, you get used to guiding the company through many firsts. Sometimes you can draw upon past experience, and sometimes you realize just how much you still have to learn. In the latter case, it’s invaluable to have a trusted panel of mentors and advisors. My professional network offers me a safe space for working through questions and testing ideas, so that by the time I’m in front of my direct reports and the rest of the company, I can project confidence and clarity about what we’re going to do next.

Be transparent

I value authenticity a lot, and I’m not good at pretending everything is rosy when it’s not. At the same time, part of my job as CEO is to instill confidence that I can steer our ship through any storm. What works for me is to directly admit the challenges ahead, but always present them in tandem with real, thought-out plans and solutions. We’re always going to encounter rough patches, but no one on my team is afraid of hard work. Having a clear plan of attack for moving past roadblocks motivates them. Maintaining a false facade is exhausting and self-defeating.

Vulnerability is okay

Shouldn’t a CEO be an all-powerful, infallible superhero who never suffers through a crisis or loses confidence? I don’t think so. A fundraising pitch probably isn’t the right time to show your vulnerability, but there are plenty of other times when being dead certain can actually backfire.

The most obvious area is innovation. Innovative ideas never emerge fully formed and ready for implementation, and they rarely come from the top. In our business, we believe that the wisdom of the crowd is greater than a single individual’s. The messy work of experimenting, measuring, and trying again is the lifeblood of startups. If I set an example of never questioning our decisions, no one else would feel comfortable doing so and we’d stagnate as an organization.

If leaders project nothing but confidence — even when everyone knows things aren’t going well — those leaders will lose credibility and mute voices of dissent. So I don’t sweat it too much when I’m feeling less than completely self-assured. It is a good reminder that we’re all part of a group effort, makes me more approachable, and opens the door for others to contribute.

This article originally appeared on Fortune InsidersThe Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. 

October 14, 2016: Friday news roundup

Time for another look back at what we found online this week that piqued our interest and fed our curiosity.

How learning and development are becoming more agile
The makeup of the modern workforce is changing, from full-time employees to a patchwork of freelancers, contractors, and project-based part-timers. One HR exec says in this article, “The future of learning is three ‘justs’: just enough, just-in-time, and just-for-me.” This aligns perfectly with Udemy’s own POV, and we’re thrilled to see more HR leaders get on board.

HR ranks these must-have skills high on entry-level workers’ resumes
Sticking with our friends in HR, the Society for Human Resource Management conducted a survey of its membership to see what skills are most critical for entry-level employees. Following a larger trend, the responses weren’t about hard skills like coding. Instead, dependability and reliability, integrity, and ability to work on a team were named as the most important attributes.

What happened when I dressed up to work from home for a week
Anyone who’s been on a regular work-from-home schedule knows how easy it is to let things like personal appearance slip when your only human interaction is via chat and email (and maybe answering the door for UPS). This writer experimented with swapping her PJs for “real” clothes and found it made a difference in her sense of professionalism and productivity.

Why Peter Drucker’s writing still feels so relevant
Prolific professor and business expert Drucker passed away at the age of 95 in 2005, but his writings on management continue to carry weight today. His ideas around “knowledge workers,” decentralization, the IT revolution, and much more feel prescient to us now. This article suggests Drucker continues to be relevant because he was “a citizen of the world” who applied his deep understanding of history to his theories.

The two questions one of the world’s best musicians asks about everything
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has won countless awards and performed around the world. He was born in Paris to Chinese parents who moved the family to New York when he was seven, and Ma says that experience was instrumental (sorry) in fostering his lifelong curiosity about the world. Read on to learn what he asks himself whenever he encounters a new idea or situation and how this practice has helped him understand “people’s habits, other cultures, history, and music itself.”

3 Things I Tell My Daughters Every Day


To mark Ada Lovelace Day, CEO Dennis Yang talks about encouraging his daughters to aim high and never give up.

My 11-year-old daughter recently asked me, “Do you make more money than Mommy?” Her class was studying the Revolutionary War and had discussed how married women of the time essentially forfeited their legal earnings to their husbands. The teacher pointed out that women continue to face unequal treatment today in the form of wage inequality, which prompted my daughter’s question. I love that she’s never been one to shy away from asking questions, but in this case I didn’t have a great answer to explain why this gap exists.

As a father, I want my daughters to have and do anything in the world they desire. If they work hard, respect others, and believe in themselves it should be possible. Unfortunately, there are still places and environments where women don’t get their fair share.

Even with tremendous amounts of progress being made, gender inequality continues to trouble our society. There’s the well-documented wage gap between male and female workers in the same jobs. Women remain underrepresented on corporate boards and in tech leadership, even though research shows gender diversity benefits a company’s bottom line. And there’s the sense that Silicon Valley and tech culture, in general, are unwelcoming towards women.

Reminders like these keep me vigilant about rooting out unconscious bias and ensuring everyone at my company has equal opportunities to have an impact. They also remind me to make sure my daughters understand the world around them and why they should never give up in the face of adversity. Here are three things I tell my daughters so they’ll approach their futures with confidence and determination.

Occupy Space and Let Your Presence Fill A Room
Girls continue to feel pressure from outside forces to stay quiet, reserved, and not rock the boat. Imagine all of the great ideas that never saw the light of day because girls believed it wasn’t their place to speak up.

This same self-censorship happens in professional circles. A recent Udemy engagement survey found a disconnect between men’s and women’s responses to questions about communication style and quality in the workplace (e.g., “when I speak up, my opinion is valued.”) Overall, 80 percent of respondents reported that their statements were met favorably. However, when broken out by gender, 85 percent of men responded favorably compared to 73 percent of women—evidence that nearly a quarter of women may be hesitant to voice opinions.

I tell my daughters to fill space, make themselves heard, and resist the temptation to internalize their ideas and opinions. I make sure they know what they say has merit and to openly share their ideas without fear of reprisal. Many beleaguered museum docent can attest to my 11-year-old’s insatiable curiosity and inquisitiveness, and I hope she never loses those qualities.

Education is Key to Achievement
In life, I want my daughters to be prepared for hardships that may come their way. I tell them to be confident in their intelligence and ability but not naive about obstacles. They’ve already seen first-hand that not everyone will support them on their journeys, but I remind them anything is possible if they’re willing to work hard, stay true to themselves, and take their education seriously—and I don’t say that just because I work at an education company.

I help my daughters actively explore their interests and work hard to give them the opportunity to learn more about those interests, whether it be an extracurricular activity or help with a difficult math problem. Education is a powerful tool, and it’s fantastic when my girls discover something new that makes them want to learn.

Notice All of the Important Women Around You
I want my daughters to see how women and men are working toward positive change by advocating for girls all over the world. It’s so important for girls to have highly visible female role models, people like Malala, Michelle Obama, and Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code.

Closer to home, my 11-year-old’s school principal Diana Hallock is another great role model. She transformed an underperforming school into a true magnet that’s become so popular, local kids who once shunned it now compete to get in. In the early days, however, Diana would arrive at work at 6am and clean bathrooms, if that needed to get done. As a role model, she showed my kids how important and rewarding it is to follow through on your mission and silence any doubters along the way.

Similarly, I was thrilled when two Udemy employees were named among the Bay Area’s most influential women in business by the San Francisco Business Times: Claire Hough, our SVP of engineering, and Alexandra Sepulveda, our deputy general counsel. Women like Claire and Alexandra are helping pave the way for future generations, mobilizing women to thrive professionally and socially for the long term. They’re role models I tell my girls about too.

My hope for my daughters is that, by the time they enter the workforce, we will have achieved parity between genders. That’s the world our daughters, and sons, deserve.

This article originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.

Hidden gems for October

Hidden GemsIt’s time to take another dive into the Udemy library to unearth some of our lesser-known courses and topics you should be learning about! We present herewith the work of several instructors who want to help you relax, save on travel, look sharp, be a better parent, and make your own timepiece.




screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-3-17-58-pmLearn Watchmaking, the King of All Crafts
In today’s hyper-digitized world there’s something refreshing about wanting to understand the intricate mechanics behind watchmaking. Even if you don’t plan to go ahead and try building your own, you’ll be fascinated to see how master craftspeople work with tiny tools to create accurate timepieces. Instructor Christian Lass, a certified Swiss watchmaker, is eager to share his specialized knowledge.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-3-20-11-pmDress to Kill: A Men’s Primer on Style and Fashion
If wearing a hoodie is your idea of impeccable style, instructor Pablo Rosario is here to clean up your act. In his course, you’ll learn how to dress in a way that gives you confidence, so you can command “attention, respect, and admiration” every time you walk in a room. Rosario doesn’t just look sharp—he delivers his style tips in a down-to-earth tone that’s like getting advice from a trusted friend, not the fashion police.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-3-22-20-pmThe Manual Labor of Zen Meditation
When you’re browsing courses on meditation, you expect tranquil nature scenes, maybe someone seated in the lotus position with their eyes closed. Instructor Gordon Greene, on the other hand, confronts you with a man splitting lumber, hardly a vision of peace and serenity. As Greene, head priest at Spring Green Dojo, explains, it’s hard work to train your body for zen meditation, but his gentle manner is supportive and his message is inspiring.

funny-girl-sticking-out-tongue-720x340Positive Parenting
Notice the URL of this page, and you’ll get a taste of what instructor Debbie Godfrey, a certified parent educator, covers in her course. She uses fun, entertaining videos to help students understand the power struggles that can arise between parents and children and what can be done to minimize tantrums and tears. As she breaks down examples of patience-testing behaviors, Godfrey keeps a huge smile on her face so you’ll stay motivated and even have some laughs while learning effective parenting techniques.

travel-hackHow to Fly for Free: Master the Points Game & Travel Cheap
Booking travel has gotten so confusing, with different fares listed on different websites and airlines hiding fees til it’s checkout time. Instructor Daniel Stanford says he’s “obsessed with bargain hunting, saving, and investing.” In this course, he shares his travel-hacking secrets for redeeming frequent flier miles and getting the most out of credit cards that offer airline points.

Delving into DevOps with instructor Ward Viaene

wardRounding out our Q&A series with tech instructors, today we’re introducing you to Ward Viaene, who teaches “Learn Devops: Continuously Deliver Better Software.” It’s one of three courses available from Ward in the Udemy marketplace. Read on for Ward’s thoughts on getting into DevOps and what professionals in the field need to know.

How long have you been working in DevOps?
I started my career as a very technical system engineer 10 years ago and slowly progressed into a more general IT specialist focussing on DevOps, cloud, and distributed computing. The term DevOps has only been used for a few years, and people practicing it can be from any background. I come from an operations background but have taken many roles in companies to be able understand the needs of different teams and departments.

How did you become a DevOps expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
The idea of DevOps is to foster a culture where dev and ops collaborate to work smarter and more efficiently, reduce the delivery cycle, and deliver better software. I became more and more involved in the full process of delivering software; I was not just doing development (dev) or operations (ops). By understanding the full lifecycle, getting involved with different teams, and finding ways to optimize software delivery, you can become a DevOps expert.

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as DevOps engineers?
A less technical, more business-oriented approach really helps in this field. At minimum, you need to understand what happens in software development and operations (often system and network administration) — the fundamentals of how software is written, is maintained, and runs on servers and in the cloud. To stand out, you have to understand the whole development lifecycle: how software is delivered, who’s involved, and what role everyone plays.

What’s the hardest part of learning DevOps? Any advice for getting past this?
It’s difficult to get different teams to work together. Companies are not set up this way, and traditionally, the development and operations teams barely communicate with each other. The hardest part is not implementing a new tool; it’s working together to optimize your work and then implementing tools to make this happen.

What are the main things someone needs to know about DevOps to get a job in the field? What, if anything, do they need to be learning outside your course?
This is not the kind of job where you can just sit behind your desk and work on something in isolation. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your colleagues around the organization.

To convince a hiring manager you’re right for the job, you need to show how your technology capabilities will translate into value for the company. An example: Is the company using a cloud service, such as Amazon AWS, but is everything set up manually so nothing can be reproduced? A DevOps approach might be to automate the way cloud is used, make the environment more flexible, and, in the long run, reduce costs. Showing how your contributions would deliver these benefits is the best way to establish yourself in the DevOps field.

Where do you see DevOps growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
One of the drivers for adoption of DevOps is definitely cloud technology. The cloud enables companies to be much more flexible, which translates into adoption of DevOps methods to achieve better delivery of software. DevOps professionals will need to know all the offerings of the major cloud providers to be able to implement the correct technologies and not waste time doing something like managing your own database when the cloud provider already offers it as a service.

Distributed computing and big data are growing in adoption, and DevOps professionals will need to learn about that too. Developers will write applications to handle big data, which need to be deployed and maintained the same way as normal applications. Currently that’s a challenge, and there aren’t a lot of people out there with the full skill set.



October 7, 2016: Friday news roundup

As this week winds down, our thoughts are with those affected by Hurricane Matthew. Still lots of other news and ideas to talk about, however. Stay safe and check out these articles about implicit bias, hiring from within, and what our CEO thinks about robots in the workplace.

We’re all a little biased, even if we don’t know it
It’s a good thing that people are starting to recognize unconscious bias in the workplace, in the classroom, in law enforcement, and in virtually every other facet of our lives. But do we really understand what the term means? As researchers and psychologists explain here, having implicit bias is not the same as being racist or sexist, and that oversimplification actually hinders our ability to overcome our biases.

How writing to-do lists helps your brain (whether or not you finish them)
I cannot function without my to-do lists (plural!), but it turns out not everyone naturally embraces this form of self-organization. Frankly, I don’t know how those people keep their lives together… This article steps through the ways to-do lists help you remember things, see the big picture while tracking the details, and manage your deliverables more efficiently.

Why companies overlook great internal candidates
Udemy believes talent is fluid, and we often move great people into different roles where their skills are needed and where they want to grow. According to this Harvard Business Review piece, lots of employees would appreciate this flexibility from their employers too. Workers want to be recognized not just for what they’ve done in the past, “but what they are capable of doing.” Plus, it would help employers close the skills gap if they considered candidates right under their noses.

The new tech talent you need to succeed in digital
This headline calls out tech talent, but the article isn’t just about programmers. As new technologies enter the workplace, companies become “much more dependent on the collective skills and strengths of a multidisciplinary agile team rather than on the heroics or talents of any one individual.” So, along with those full-stack architects and DevOps engineers, think about experience designers, scrum masters, and product owners to round out the team.

How humans will learn to coexist with bots
Udemy CEO Dennis Yang shared his own point of view on workplace automation and AI in this piece. As he says, robots are already a big part of our lives today, and their role will continue to grow—eliminating jobs in some cases and transforming others. But these technology advances will also create new jobs, and that’s where the opportunities lie for people who upskill for the 21st century. On a related note, Dennis was also part of a feature, The business of ME, on how technology is enabling greater personalization of products and experiences like learning.

How humans will learn to coexist with bots

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Ociacia

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Ociacia

The robots are coming! The robots are coming! Actually, in some cases, they’re already here. Not everyone needs to learn how to program the robots, but we’ll all need to get comfortable working with algorithms and bots as well as people. Will they be friends or foes? And what can individuals do to position themselves for success in this brave new world?

I just read an incredible statistic in a Harvard Business Review article: “By 2020, the US economy is expected to create 55 million job openings; and 24 million of these will be entirely new positions. 48 percent of the new jobs, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, will emphasize a mix of hard and soft intellectual skills, like active listening, leadership, communication, analytics, and administration competencies.” One could argue the items on that list have always been valuable career currency, but it’s only now — in the face of competition from AI technologies — that they’re getting their full due.

I’ve written before about so-called “soft skills” not being very soft at all. While it may be tempting to react to the rise of automation by suggesting everyone learn data analysis, the workplace is changing too quickly for any single discipline to lock in someone’s career prospects. If half of future jobs don’t exist today, there’s no sure-fire way to prepare for them. Rather than focus on a specific hard skill set or field of study, you’re better off developing a growth mindset and learning how to learn effectively.

Another interesting thing I just read is that, although the crisis of underemployed college graduates shows signs of turning around, it’s the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors who are securing the good jobs while their liberal arts peers languish in low-paying gigs. But STEM still won’t prevent tech workers from falling behind professionally. Studying such subjects is a great career foundation, to be sure, but those fields and their required skills are fluid too. To put it simply, hard skills offer no guarantees.

Here’s what will give workers, regardless of field, a leg up in this nebulous future of shifting job descriptions, expiring job skills, and increasing automation: getting better at being an innovative, resourceful, problem-solving human and learning to be adaptable. The same HBR article referenced above cites research that found six main competencies in demand by employers, and they include persuasion, time management, and positive disposition. You can’t go to happy hour with an algorithm.

There’s another important aspect to re-skilling for the automated workplace, and that’s the role of self-motivation. I’ve written about this before too — that learning can’t end when formal schooling ends. As everything in our world becomes more accessible and affordable, adopting a growth mindset means being open to taking your career in previously unforeseen directions. It doesn’t matter if you were an unenthusiastic student in the classroom or are haunted by bad grades. Today’s working adults can’t count on employers to dish up the learning and development they need, and they can’t choose to opt out and hope to coast to retirement.

The good news is that you can control your learning experience now by taking courses online. You can learn when and where it’s convenient for you, choose the teacher whose style fits you best, follow lectures and do homework on your favorite device, go at your own pace and rewatch whenever you need a refresher. Online courses can facilitate interactions with instructors and fellow students too. I’ve talked to people all over the world who described themselves as being “bad students” in school but have discovered a love of learning when it’s on their terms and tailored to their immediate, real-world needs.

Most people are unaware of the opportunities available through online learning. At Udemy, for example, you can learn hard skills like programming and design, but you can also strengthen your communication skills, bone up on project management, get comfortable with public speaking, or understand what it takes to be an effective leader.

The media likes to distill the complexities of automation and A.I. down to a simple narrative about robots stealing human jobs. The reality isn’t that dire yet, but complacency is dangerous too. Technology poses challenges but offers opportunities to those prepared to grab them. In our 21st-century workplace, the ability (and eagerness) to learn new things will elevate driven professionals above the rest. Those who’ve kept their hard skills current through continuous learning and who keep working on their soft skills will do the jobs that robots can’t.

Don’t waste your time fearing the robots. Use that as motivation to upskill, learn, and grow.

This post originally appeared on VentureBeat.

Instructor Jason Cannon on what it takes to be a Linux pro


Last week, we shared thoughts from instructor Chris Bryant on earning Cisco certification. Today, we’ve got Jason Cannon, the instructor behind “Learn Linux in 5 Days and Level Up Your Career,” which boasts nearly 29,000 students. Jason’s 10 other courses explore various aspects of Linux programming in his same helpful style. He shared more tips for building a Linux career in our email Q&A.

How did you become a Linux expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
I’ve used Linux on my personal computers since as early as 1995 or 1996 and started working with Linux professionally in 1999. I was immediately drawn to Linux. It was love at first sight for me. The Linux design and philosophy made total sense to me, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it. I started using Linux daily and set out to get a job using Linux. Since then I’ve used Linux in almost every type of situation imaginable: at large well-known corporations, at small privately owned companies, at a startup, at a security firm, at an airline, and at a university supporting researchers. I’ve run Linux on hardware, in virtual machines, in containers, and in the cloud. I’ve done so many things with Linux it’s hard to list them all. Along the way I’ve written a few books and taught a few courses on the subject. Do that for 17+ years, and you’re called an “expert.” :)

My advice to those who are starting out is to use your time wisely. I see so many people wasting precious time searching for free videos and reading random blog posts trying to cobble together their own Linux curriculum. The result is usually hours, days, or even months spent learning unrelated bits and pieces with no clear structure and no real progress to show for their work. I highly recommend taking a course that uses a logical and systematic approach so you learn things in an order that makes sense. This way you can build upon your knowledge.

Another common mistake is spending a lot of time trying to find the “perfect” Linux distribution and worrying about the choice. It’s way more important that you just start learning Linux. Linux is Linux at the core, and the concepts you learn when starting out apply to every Linux distribution. Pick one and get started!

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as Linux professionals?
In order to be successful as a Linux professional you have to be very good with details. Forgetting to use a comma or misplacing a colon in a configuration file can render a Linux system unusable. I don’t say that to scare anyone but just to highlight how import attention to detail is when you’re working with Linux.

Another trait of a good Linux professional is having the ability to troubleshoot problems, which takes logic and critical thinking skills. Many times you’ll be playing the role of technology detective. Troubleshooting also goes hand-in-hand with attention to detail. When a system experiences a problem, you’ll need to comb through logs and look at configuration files, sometimes one character at a time, until you spot the issue.

What’s the hardest part of learning Linux? Any advice for getting past this?
Letting go of preconceived notions and expecting Linux to act like Windows or Mac.

Where do you see this field growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
I don’t see the growth of Linux slowing any time soon. Its adoption has been steadily increasing, and it’s practically the de facto standard OS for new enterprise and web-based applications. My advice to professionals is to pick an aspect or use of Linux that interests them the most and make that their specialty. Just a few examples include cloud computing, containerization, networking, security, monitoring, automation, configuration management, scripting, programmable infrastructure, and DevOps.

September 30, 2016: Friday news roundup

Let’s skip the chit-chat and get straight to the good stuff. Here are a few articles we hope will give you food for thought this week.

The one question you should ask about every new job
People change jobs rather frequently these days. Each time we ask ourselves, will Company X be the right place for me? But we feel like we can never know the whole story til we get inside (and then maybe regret our decision). Assessing company culture when you’re on the outside is tricky, but this Wharton professor has some tips for figuring out what kind of organization you’re looking at.

Why you need to be outcome independent
First the bad news: rejection and failure are inevitable parts of life. But here’s the good news: if you become more flexible in your thinking, you can cope with those events, learn from them, and move on with confidence. That’s the crux of becoming outcome independent—recognizing the multitude of possibilities in our world and staying open to paths you may not have considered before.

5 design jobs that won’t exist in the future
More good news/bad news here. While some design roles will fade away, others will rise up and grow, according to the leaders and influencers quoted here. Design as we know it is changing with new technologies just like every other field of work. Jobs of the future will require designers to go beyond what they know today and get comfy creating for virtual and augmented reality as well as artificial intelligence and algorithms. Are you ready to be a post-industrial designer?

There is no right way to learn
A lot of very bright people don’t perform well in school. They may have dyslexia or ADHD or some other so-called “invisible disability.” This article describes experiences of several students who struggled or were dismissed as “stupid” until they found more thoughtful educators who recognized their potential to learn and achieve.

How to get better at dealing with change
This article overlaps a bit with the one about outcome independence and offers more suggestions for learning to go with the flow in a constantly changing world. Again, it’s all about mindset and being kinder to yourself during challenging times. Can you find humor in a tough situation or shift from an emotional response to a problem-solving attitude? Don’t beat yourself up for feeling stress and take the time to remember what’s really important in your life.

Talking Cisco certification with instructor Chris Bryant


Instructor Chris Bryant has published 11 courses on Udemy focused on helping students earn Cisco and CompTIA certifications. More than 4,700 people are enrolled in his “CCNA 2016 200-125 Video Boot Camp” alone! We did an email Q&A with Chris to find out what it takes to succeed as a networking tech and where these skills can take your career.

How did you become a Cisco/networking expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
I began as a junior network admin for a local school system here in Central Virginia roughly 20 years ago. No one in this business starts at the top. I didn’t even get to touch a Cisco router or switch in my first admin job. That was for the senior admins! The real key to success with Cisco technologies–or any technology for that matter–is to master the fundamentals of networking and then just work your way up from there. It’s not an easy path to success, but it is a simple one.

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as network admins?
The great network admins I’ve worked with have the ability to stay calm under pressure, both pressure from people and time pressure. Additionally, the network admins who do the best for themselves in the long term are those who understand they’re getting into a field that requires lifetime study. You can’t just earn a certification or two and then sit back for 20 years. You’ve got to keep up with an ever-changing field.

What’s the hardest part of learning networking? Any advice for getting past this?
To me, the hardest part is learning the theory that most networking courses hit you with at the very beginning. Networking theory isn’t always the most exciting material around, and it can be dry, but it is important. Every student will ask themselves at some point, “Do I really need to know this?” When it comes to network fundamentals like the OSI model, the answer is, yes, it is that important!

What are the main things someone needs to know about networking to get a job in the field?
It’s a good idea to be well-rounded; don’t just learn about Cisco routers and switches. The broader your education, the better off you are. Learning IPv6 above and beyond my course is an excellent idea (although I’ll teach you enough to get started!)

Where do you see network admin growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
Anyone who tells you they know where networking will be in five years is lying. This is an ever-changing field, and it’s your responsibility to keep up with it. It’s great to have a specialty, whether that be security, voice, video, or something else, but whatever you do, you must stay current with this field or you’ll be left behind.