My 5 Years in IT

2017–2018: Master’s Degree or Certification?

In the second chapter, I discussed my membership in UDev Community, my experience doing university projects, and my graduation with a bachelor’s degree.

In this chapter, I will cover my beginnings in the master’s degree where I will talk about the courses I’ve enrolled in, my continuity with UDev, and how I’ve decided to focus more on Cisco certification.

After completing my bachelor’s degree, I carried on my student’s life by registering for a master’s degree. But first, I had to specialize in one of the three offered fields, which were Networking & Distributed Systems, Information & Data Systems, and Artificial Intelligence.

As I had already begun on my Networking path with Cisco certification courses, I chose Networking & Distributed Systems for the Master’s Degree. In the first semester, I’ve enrolled in some advanced courses like Data Analysis, Algorithms & Distributed Systems, Operational Research, Modeling & Simulation, Digital Signal Processing, and Advanced Database as it was in common with the students that have specialized in Information & Data Systems. Among these courses, we had three practical sessions, one in Algorithms & Distributed Systems in which we were programming a client-server application with Socket using Java language on a Linux system, one in Modeling & Simulation where we had to write programs that calculate probabilities using C language, and one in Advanced Databases where we were programming with PL/SQL.

During the weekends, I kept pursuing my Cisco certification training by starting the third level with a different instructor than the one we’ve been studying with for the first two levels. The new instructor’s methodology was based more on “learning by doing”, so during each lesson, we were practicing a lot by doing labs using GNS-3 and EVE-NG to have a great hands-on experience on advanced networking concepts like LAN Redundancy, Link Aggregation, multiple zones OSPF protocol, advanced EIGRP, and Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN).

EVE-NG Lab

A new season has started for UDev Community, a new organizational structure has been set-up and I remained in the same position as head of the Community Management department. We welcomed new talented members to the team, and I started to build and manage the Community Management team by teaching them the basics of writing formal emails and how to create content on social media.

New weekly activities have been introduced such as UTeach, where each member shared knowledge about a technology that was learned during the week. UThink, which is a problem-solving session and where members should think outside the box to solve logical thinking or coding challenges. UInterview, where all members get trained for a job interview with real-world questions. And UGames, where we were organizing an internal Escape Game so the members can play cooperatively to solve puzzles and accomplish tasks in order to progress and accomplish a specific goal in a limited amount of time.

Our graphic designer has organized an internal design contest for everyone who wanted to put into practice his/her creativity and imagination over a poster or a social media post using Canva.

As I’ve been experiencing with Canva, I wanted to give the contest a try to see how far I could go. It was divided into three phases, the first was to create a poster for our UGames activity under the theme “Treasure Hunt”, the second was to create an official Facebook cover picture for the club, and the third and last phase was to create a poster for a “Blood Donation” event for a charity club. The participant with the most collected points was declared the winner.

Treasure Hunt Poster
UDev Community Facebook Cover Picture
Blood Donation Event Facebook Post

By the end, I’ve been named the winner after successfully designing the Treasure Hunt poster, UDev’s Facebook cover picture, and collecting maximum points during the whole contest. And I’ve been awarded by the organizer and one of the founders of the club.

Second semester

In the second semester, the courses were more specialized in Networking, but they were not up to my expectations due to the lack of practice sessions in courses like Embedded Systems, in which we were programming with Arduino but we didn’t have the chance to code on a real Arduino microcontroller. Network Management, Parallel Programming, and Wireless Network courses were based on theory only.

Overall, most of the technical courses were based on Power-Point slideshows and PDF documents that had to be learned by heart to prepare for the exam.

The only course where we had good hands-on experience, was Network Security, where we were simulating passive attacks like Man-in-the-middle on a Linux based OS, capturing & analyzing packets using Wireshark, and to secure the network by using policies that allow or block traffic.

We’ve asked for more information about the Master’s Degree, and we were told that it’s a “Master of Research” degree, not a professional, which it’s designed to provide training in how to become a researcher. That’s why I’ve been thinking of what to focus on more, a master’s degree or professional certification?

After days of thinking, I chose to get hands-on experience to prepare for my career, and by that, I’ve decided to focus more on the certification path by starting the fourth and last level of the training with more advanced topics such as Wide Area Network (WAN), Virtual Private Network (VPN), BGP protocol, Quality of Service (QoS), Cloud Computing & Virtualization and Network Security concepts.

We carried on organizing events with UDev, and one day I came with the initiative to motivate the team to participate for the very first time in a national student exhibition, which is an opportunity for students or future students to discover new perspectives and be efficiently guided in the development of their career plans. We organized a Problem-Solving workshop under the name “Hack the Problem” to introduce participants to problem-solving and idea modeling, which are the core of IT.

Problem Solving Workshop “Hack the Problem”

And many other activities like coding challenges, Virtual Reality using Google Cardboard, solving cryptogram puzzles, and Arduino.

Cryptogram Puzzles “Crack the Code”
Arduino Activity

We also organized our annual event “UConf” which aims to introduce new technologies and share experiences with students through 15 minutes mini-talks. This time I haven’t participated as a speaker, but as a Community Manager, and managing the club’s social media pages and mailing. Under the theme “Do I.T Well”, many technical topics were discussed, such as 3D Modeling, Software Testing, Cryptocurrency, and GraphQL.

Software Testing talk by UDev’s President

Overall, the year was full of ups & downs and important decisions to take. But in the end, I was thankful for these kinds of experiences that we have to go through in life, so we cannot regret the decisions we’ve taken, and most importantly to make sure we’re going in the right direction.

In the next chapter, I will cover my preparation for the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam, the exam itself, and my beginnings in the job application process.

Bonus story

One night, I received a call from UDev’s president informing me that the club’s Facebook page and Gmail have been hacked. So far, we still don’t know how did it happen, maybe from a malicious link or a keystroke logging, but it was a critical situation that we had to handle together in a short time. We struggled to recover the accounts, but it was a good “mission” that in the end has been accomplished, and the funny part in this story, is that it was 3 A.M. I was sleeping, and the president who is at the same time my friend, was at a wedding.

Passionate about IT. Love discovering new things and share with the world!