There is a concept known as ‘The Four Stages of Competence’. This is a model for learning and relates to the phases one goes through as they learn a new topic.

Four stages of Competence

Stage one of this concept starts off with you believing you have an understanding of the topic, to realising that you don’t know the content as much as you thought, to begin understanding the idea, and finally being comfortable with the knowledge that you didn’t understand to begin with!

I started my career at a small service provider working level 1 help desk. One of the questions asked during my interview for this entry level job was ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your I.T skills?’  I went into that interview thinking I knew it all. I was a 10/10 in the I.T knowledge department. I helped dozens of people at a younger age with emails, installing antivirus and configuring / if they needed a static IP address assigned. I had installed web servers on Linux at around 15 years of age. What more could there possibly be to know? This was my stage one.

Stage two came quickly. I learned about underlying protocols and terminology in ADSL such as PPPoA/PPPoE, SNR, BIN data, CRC/FEC errors and more. I think one great quality in a person is for them to be able to realise that they don’t know something, and to ask for help. Shortly after reaching stage 2, I learned  how the different services actually worked, still not at a deep level, but more in depth than I was initially familiar with. I began to understand the services and would excel with the troubleshooting aspect without any issues. I had hit my stage three.

I moved into a specialised team and dealt with service faults that the level 1 help desk either couldn’t resolve themselves, or did not have the tools to do so. Stage four came shortly after as I became comfortable with the troubleshooting techniques and work load . I remained at stage four for many months before looking for new areas to improve on. I decided networking was an interesting field and began working towards my Cisco CCNA. Studying for the CCNA put me well into stage one again in the networking area, but I quickly worked through the content and a few months later, obtained my CCNA certification. Not long after obtaining the certification, I moved to a sister company where I began to troubleshoot and configure IP networks, virtual private servers, VPN’s, ASA firewalls, DNS and much, much more. I had reached stage one again.

It’s incredible and interesting to be in a role where there are so many different intricacies that cause you to think you’re at a stage four, when in reality you’re only just approaching stage one.

About The Author


Timothy started his networking career in 2014, working for one of the largest telecommunication operators in Australia. When he's not working, he's obsessing over German Shepherd Dogs.