Ninjas and network admins

From my early youth, Ninjas have been a fascinating subject for me. They are what attracted me to my main hobby of collecting G.I. Joes. Movies like American Ninja, Ninja Magazine, and the 80’s Ninja craze fueled this passion. Several of the stories in the comics centered around Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, who were from the same Ninja clan.

As life progressed, I started studying the Art of Ninjitsu at age 16. Stephen Hayes’s writings on Togakure-ryū Ninjutsu inspired me to seek out training in this ancient art form. The things I learned from this directly translate into my job as a Network Engineer/Architect/Shaman. This tends to be a theme with any martial art. I just gravitated toward Ninjutsu.

Ninjutsu does not teach you pre-rehearsed Kata like many other martial arts. You learn concepts and then apply them to different scenarios. You learn to use what you know in a given situation instead of rehearsing moves. This isn’t to say arts with Katas are inferior, just a different mindset. I can directly apply this to my everyday work of trying not to get caught in too linear thinking.

This is where one would expect to say they learned patience from a martial art. I didn’t necessarily learn patience as much as I learned discipline. Discipline is knowing when to be calm and collected and when to pull out your swords and chop some stuff up. Patience is a part of the overall plan. A good foundation of patience, discipline, and drive are essential lessons to learn.

Network Engineers have different visibility in different types of organizations. In an Enterprise, I.T. is often bolted on. This has been changing some in the past few years, but it is not the focus of the business. The network is much more at the forefront in the Service Provider space. This is where the catch-22 happens for some I.T. Folks. The non-technical folks don’t understand the backend work making things run smoothly. An out-of-sight-out-of-mind kinda thing. When things break, the opposite happens. Management wonders what they have been doing. A good team of technical and non-technical keep the visibility “visible”. What goes on to make the network function is not some black hole full of jargon.


An outstanding network engineer is like a Ninja of Feudal Japan. The Ninja is behind the scenes manipulating things without really being seen. A smooth engineer “dons” his Ninja garb and gets into the real nuts and bolts. At the same time, this engineer can switch outfits, walk with the non-technical folks, and fit in. This is where some folks fail. To succeed, the Network person needs to explain to non-technical folks what is happening. It’s not because they need to understand the inner workings, but they need to understand the effort which goes into planning, implementing, and maintaining a modern computer network,

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