I have had so many NOCling friends whine to me,"Why can't I move up? What am I doing wrong? I interviewed for the junior network engineer position but got passed over and they hired from the outside! Whine whine whine." I ask them,"What have you done for the networking team?" The response is usually a blank stare.
As I have said before,"You have to give to get." You want to become a network engineer? You have to prove you can be one. What can you do to help the network engineer team? I can think of numerous ways you can help the network team by doing their grunt work. You need to become so integral that they bring you on the team, maybe without even interviewing.
Learn how to make cables well and give them as presents to the network team
I have already written a blog post on how to make cables. Now you need to actually make them. You want to do a big favor for the network team? Make them extra crossover cables, T1 loopback plugs, and rollover cables. I have all three of these in my network bag in case I need them on short notice. Sometimes my crossover cables get used in the network for a "temporary" fix and I have to make another one. If I had a NOCling who would just make one and give it to me, I would notice them and let my manager know.
Ask for tedious grunt work nobody on the team wants to do or has time for
Does the network team need a cross-connect made between a switch and a server? Ask to be one of the people who deploys that cross-connect. You will be saving people-hours on the network team and in the process learn how to create and test cross-connects. You will hopefully also learn how to neatly put cables in their place.
Does the network team need spreadsheets updated and changed? Maybe the spreadsheet is horrific and you can improve it so that it is easier to input data and correlate information.
Does your company have routers and switches in the closet waiting to be (re)deployed? Do they need someone to actually take the time to upgrade them to the right IOS and have the initial configuration files put in? Volunteer to do the grunt work.
Do you have ports on a switch that have continual VLAN changes? Ask to be the person who configures just the VLAN changes on that one switch. Show them that you can actually touch a production device and can do it well.
How about updating DNS entries? Ask for read-only privileges to the DNS server, then make change files for the network engineer to then cut and paste into the application.
How about showing you can administrate a network application? If you have proven yourself otherwise, you should ask to have higher level access to something like Cisco ACS or a RADIUS application. You can then add and remove people and devices, which can be a very tedious task.
Ask to come in during maintenance window hours to shadow / help the network team
I rarely like doing maintenance windows at 3am at the data center by myself. If nothing else, I would trade my networking knowledge for a cup of espresso to keep myself awake. It is always nice to have someone else to look over what I have done, or have someone who can help me troubleshoot cabling when a cross-connect is not working.