Hi George - I don't have huge experience in IT, but so far what has worked for me is connecting with people in the industry. It enables you to learn what's going on in the industry and make good connections. I would suggest to browse Meetup.com and see if you can find any groups in your area related to Networking. Another thing is obviously to get a job as a network engineer, if you don't have one already .
First i like to say welcome to you.
Second you must get the Solarwinds cert because one way or another you will run in to Solar Winds platform\
I will recomend you to get your SEC+ and CASP this will speaks volumes on your resume.
Last if you want to be the best at what you do i will recomend you to google GIAC certificatios. During the last year i was able to certified with the army this certs
GISF, GSEC, GISP, GCEF if the company you worked for needs someone to really take the company to new heights this is the way to go but as a minimum get SEC+ and CASP.
Just bumped accidentally at your post... From my experience - if you want to be best at what you do - just go out there and help as many people/clients as you can + believe in yourself and your abilities to deliver fantastic results