In this day and age, saying that enterprise networks are critical would be an understatement. Networks have essentially become a utility similar to electricity, gas, and water. When you turn that proverbial knob, those packets had better flow; and quickly! Except, the knob is stuck in the on position and never gets turned off. If it does get turned off, somebody is in trouble. As businesses grow, so does their digital footprint, which means the network must grow as well. Not alongside the business, but faster than the business. The network has to be ‘one step ahead’, always ready for what the business has next to throw at it next. Oftentimes, as the network grows, the complexity of the network grows as well. With this growth and complexity come challenges. The network must be built onto, changed, and maintained. These challenges include:
Manual, static configurations across many devices.
Configuration drift and compliance issues.
Change management processes that are multi-step, manual, and disaggregated.
The challenges listed above can cause the management of enterprise networks to quickly and easily get out of control. Modern networks require a management strategy that provides value. They need a strategy that can provide the solutions of centralized configuration management, backup, and compliance that can scale with the organization.
Itential is a company that addresses the challenges mentioned above by providing network automation, configuration, and compliance solutions for enterprise networks. Itential believes that modern networks need to “support and enable digital transformation”. Itential was founded in 2014 and since then, through their products they have supported the automation of over one billion processes. The automation platform supports both on-premises network and cloud environments. The platform itself can be delivered either as an on-prem solution or as a cloud native software as a service (SaaS) solution. The main features that will be covered throughout the rest of this article include Configuration Manager, Automation Studio, and Automation Gateway.
A major challenge in medium to large sized modern networks is managing consistent configurations across devices without making the process entirely too complicated. You want to maintain consistency to reduce the risk of ‘one-off’ issues, but you may also have compliance and regulatory requirements that you have to follow. Configurations not only need to remain consistent, but it may also need to be proven that they stay consistent throughout the phases of a device’s life cycle. The configuration phases can be described as such:
Day 0 – On-boarding. This phase entails getting enough configuration to the device so that it can be reachable and managed on the network
Day 1 – Initial configuration. This phase includes deploying a common baseline configuration to get the device itself actually operational in the network infrastructure. This type of configuration can include but is not limited to:
Day 2 to Day N – Production ready. This is the ‘up and running’ phase and includes applying the proper configuration to the network devices so that they are operational for production traffic.
Itential believes that a configuration management solution should include:
Having a full view of the device inventory and the ability to categorize that inventory into groups.
A method to easily define, update and view golden configurations.
The ability to remediate, with automation whenever possible, when config drift happens.
Having documentation of the configuration drift and remediation.
Support for non-CLI accessible devices/cloud (API integration).
Itential’s Configuration Manager provides customers with the ability to set configuration standards and detects non-compliant assets that need remediation. The Golden Configuration Editor is utilized to create standardized configurations. Those golden configurations are then applied against a customizable tree structure of inventoried devices. On the proactive side within Configuration Manager, compliance checks can be run against proposed changes to see if they will cause a device to be out of compliance. Configuration Manager can manage infrastructure via CLI and API integration. While managing configurations, the platform also supports pulling real-time backups of network devices as changes are made in the environment.
To better simplify cloud network deployments, the Itential Configuration Manager platform can treat cloud infrastructure as if it were traditional network infrastructure and translate complex configurations into more simple, JSON objects. Finally, Itential understands there is oftentimes no single source of truth in an organization. Many systems have their own source of truth and we often need information out of multiple sources of truth to make a single change. That is why Itential, through APIs, can aggregate necessary information from separate, disjointed sources of truth so all of that information is available when it comes time to make configuration changes.
Although it can be easily overlooked, even the smallest configuration changes that need to be made to the network can quickly and easily become complicated. Many times, the change itself is quick and simple, but the additional pre and post work can be cumbersome and lengthy.
Itential’s goal is to greatly lessen this burden on practitioners with their Automation Studio platform. This platform provides low code, drag and drop automation workflows that can include third party solutions. Automation Studio provides end-to-end change automation. This means that it is able to automate pre and post change tasks as well, such as:
The change request process.
Performing prerequisite validation.
Pulling pre-change backups.
Temporarily suspending monitoring.
Post change validation.
Reactivation of monitoring.
The updating of documentation.
The closing of change requests.
Automation Studio allows practitioners to create centralized workflows of all change related tasks so they can focus on the change itself rather than making sure they remember all of the additional before and after steps that have to take place as well.
Before adopting an automation suite like Itential’s platform, many individuals and organizations may have already built their scripts and workflows to efficiently complete tasks using tools like Python, Ansible, Terraform, NetMiko, and Nornir. Itential’s Automation Gateway gives you the ability to onboard your different scripts and modules, or connect to existing tools via API, so that they can be orchestrated centrally by the entire team from the Itential platform. This provides customers the ability to continue to use the results of the tools and work they have already invested in, while adding in the value of bringing those different tools together with Itential.
Bringing it all Together
To support digital transformation, IT Infrastructure teams need to be able to keep up with the business in order to provide value. To ‘keep up’ means to have the ability to grow and modify the network quickly and efficiently. With the size, complexity, and sophistication of modern networks, it just isn’t possible to do so manually. Infrastructure teams need a network management solution that can provide end-to-end change and compliance automation. Itential can provide this value to network infrastructure teams with their automation platforms. To learn more, visit itential.com or check out their YouTube channel. Itential also recently presented at Networking Field Day 27, and the full list of videos can be found here.
There’s no denying that network engineers can be a tricky group to shop for, especially if you aren’t a network engineer yourself. This year-round guide can help you shop for the network engineer in your life, regardless of the occasion. Use this list for some inspiration to help make their work lives a little bit better. You may even find yourself on their gift-giving lists in return!
**This article contains affiliate links as part of the Amazon Associates Program which means if you click through and make a purchase we get a small commission. We only recommend products we love!**
10 Gifts for Network Engineers
Wireless Console Cable
Every engineer has been here. In a data center or a data closet or a wiring closet. Countless hours sitting on concrete floors gave them a sore back, sore legs, and sore everything else. Simply because they’re limited to the 6ft/2m length of a standard console cable. If only there was a way for an engineer to extend that so they could feel free to sit nearly wherever they want. That’s where the wireless console cable comes into place. Enabling the engineer on your list to sit more comfortably while they work will certainly go a long way for them.
Air Console makes a series of products that will help your engineer out. Their entry product, the LE, works perfectly fine over Bluetooth for $59. However, if you step above the LE into either the Mini/Standard-Pro/XL, the addition of Wi-Fi and Ethernet-based IP connectivity is a terrific addition. Those step above models start at $85 and range up to $150.
Speaking of those hard floors, engineers can’t always expect to have a comfortable place to sit at a job site. The job can take them from warehouses to factories to retail stores and it’s not realistic to assume there will always be a good chair available. This is where a good, portable, compact and easy to carry chair can be a back saver.
Something like this Yizi Go Portable ($40) chair would be an ideal addition to any engineer’s trunk. Unlike other compact chairs, it has a seat back to reduce strain while retaining its compact and easy-to-carry profile. This is guaranteed to make the work days a bit easier.
Unfortunately not every task a network engineer has in front of them can be performed from a newly gifted chair. Many times they need to get hands on with a lot of little cables, and losing track of those cables can lead to longer and more stressful days. One way to get around this is to label every cable, which can be pretty tedious.
A nicer way to work is with a tool that clamps onto the cables in groups and keeps them in alignment. Over at SeargentClip.com (£12.50 – £37.00, ships from the UK) they make a handy little tool that clips onto cables, in groups of 6 or 12, and keeps all of those cables in alignment. If you aren’t certain how many to buy, I’d suggest starting with a 48 port bundle. The largest number of ports, and cables, you’ll see on a single switch is 48 ports. SeargeantClip is also available at Amazon.com.
A common theme here, which was highlighted under with chairs as well, is the fact that every environment is different. It’s easy to take a chair for granted, good lighting falls into this category as well. Poorly lit environments can wreck what would otherwise be a productive day. It’s not uncommon for a new site to not be fully lit when a network is being installed. It’s not uncommon for an existing site to forget to change the lights in a network closet. Having a good headlamp ahead of time is a great way to avoid any of these scenarios up front.
There are a lot of headlamps you can choose from. I’ll recommend one type specifically, this lamp made by Victroper, for a very specific reason. It has multiple types of headlamps in one. If you need to flood an entire room with light, it can do that. If you need to spotlight something right in front of you, it can do that. There are some other nice features for outside of work, such as red LEDs and strobe, but the ability to recharge it can be very handy.
Cage Nut Tool
If you’ve ever seen a network engineer with band-aids on their fingers and knuckles odds are they were working on installing equipment within the past few days. It’s hard to fully describe the perils of this sort of work but messing with small thin bits of pressure-loaded metal, it’s not uncommon for accidents to occur. Some rack manufactures include a basic version of this tool, but it’s often discarded. Many engineers work for years without knowing a tool like this even exists. You can help in those situations, and more, by gifting an upgraded version.
This screwdriver-ish-looking tool made by STARcase is an upgraded version of what an engineer may find attached to a new rack. Those tools are usually a small piece of curved metal. This upgraded version provides a sturdier install with an easy-to-grip handle which will reduce on inadvertently cut-up knuckles.
Work Bench Safe Drinking Vessel
After all this work, any network engineer is going to require some work-appropriate hydration to stay healthy. One of the trickier things to do, depending on where they’re working, is to make sure their beverage of choice stays where it should be. A spill on a work bench could be devastating and lead to a RGE (Resume Generating Event).
I’m partial to this Coleman Autoseal bottle. Comes in 2 different sizes, 6 different colors, and the feature that keeps it safe is a push button valve to control when liquid flows or not. Knock it over or turn it upside down, the liquid stays inside. It’s also a stainless steel insulated bottle, so no worries about the bottle sweating either.
When it comes to testing equipment an engineer can find themselves in a pinch without some really simple tools. These tools can go high tech or low tech. Each of their time and place. A nice, and affordable, low tech tool is a loopback tester. It’s the equivalent of calling a friend to see if your new headset sounds good, but for a network engineer.
One very common task a network engineer may have to perform is to check if there is “light” coming through a fiber-optic connection. It’s recommended that you do not look into the fiber optic cable directly as the laser light can damage your eyes, but some people do it anyway. A clever workaround is to use your phone camera, but this may not work for 10gig or single-mode fiber. A good way to make sure they can always safely see the light? With another somewhat low tech tool specifically for the task.
This Visual Fault Finder ($30) is technically used to find breaks in fiber runs but can double as a handy locator for perfectly good fiber connections. This can save an engineer a good amount of troubleshooting on something you’re not technically supposed to look at.
This is a big-ticket, high-tech item, but it can truly be a lifesaver for an engineer in the field. The NetAlly LinkSprinter is a pocket tool that packs a lot of information into a small, handheld, unit. When working at a job site it can be pretty unpredictable where cables connect behind the scenes. Even when it appears predictable, you never know when you’ll come across an oddball that connects somewhere totally unexpected!
The LinkSprinter 300 ($400) helps answer a good number of questions. It can tell an engineer where they’re connecting, how their connection is configured, if the connection is good, and a slew of other good information in the palm of their hands. It can shave hours of troubleshooting time by eliminating a game of hide and seek around a facility.
Raspberry Pi Kit
This last item isn’t specifically for a network engineer, really any technology savvy person, but it’s hard to go wrong with a Raspberry Pi kit. It can help them set up a test bed for learning how to learn programming, which is becoming a common trend for network engineers. It can run dedicated applications aside from their regular computers. It can serve as a house wide ad blocker. A good digital sandbox like this can be truly invaluable.
You’ve got two ways to go about this. You can buy the Raspberry Pi on it’s own but I prefer to gift someone an entire kit to save them having to pick up some odds and ends they’d need to really put it all together. A good starter kit ($130) will cost more but it will give them everything they need, and more, to start using it on day one.
Wrapping it all up – literally!
So there you have it! 10 items that can really help an engineer in their work day year-round. With a few items off this list you can help save them from body pain, or hours of wasted troubleshooting time, and maybe give them a nice learning tool in the process!
Prices are subject to change at any time. The prices displayed herein were the prices as of the publication of this article (December 2021)
This week we talk to Gabe Pariacote. Gabe is a Principal Architect with Sirius Computer Solutions (a CDW company). He helps customers design and implements enterprise campus and data center networks. Gabe also has a background in the service provider space and is a 3X CCIE Routing and Switching, Service Provider, and Data Center.
In this episode, we discuss leadership with Mike Bushong, GVP of Cloud Ready Data Center at Juniper Networks. We reveal what leadership is, the characteristics of a good leader, leading with your strengths, connecting with people in a genuine way, the power of questions, cognitive biases, influence, and work/life balance.
When it comes to money, I don’t like to spend it. Furthermore, one of the key tenets to writing is ‘write what you know’ or so says a few people anyways. So here we are. There is a lot of training out there so in the following I hope to provide stuff that’s not only free/almost free but stuff that’s actually good content and worth your time. Even if you are not getting any of the following for ‘free’ because you are not in the Air Force, you can at least get a bit of insight into a few learning platforms and what I find valuable in each.
Access to O’Reilly books can be had by any current military member through the MWR library system. MWR libraries has had available subscriptions to O’Reilly for a long time, way back when they were called Safari Books. These days, not only does O’Reilly provide thousands of digital books, they also offer cloud labs and sandboxes to try out code so you can get a bit of hands along with their book offerings. O’Reilly also has a bunch of video on demand courses and most Packt publishing books.
If you were to purchase this great service on your own it would run you $49/month or $499/year. If I had just $50 to spend on training this is probably where I’d spend it. The amount of content you get here is just unparalleled. Just getting every book by the Manning and No Starch publishing are worth it on it’s own.
DigitalU or DU for short, is a new offering for those in the Air Force. It’s main page tries to get you organized into specific training goals. Once you actually begin a course, skill or goal you are then redirected to one of their many platforms that actually provides the training.
While I currently don’t use Digital University the way it’s intended, as I find it’s UI difficult and non intuitive, it allows access/subscription to some great resources. Namely, DataCamp, Cloud Academy, Udemy and Pluralsight. To get to these websites, you search for a course or skill path within Digital University and then pay attention to who is providing the course, regardless of whether you are interested in that course in general:
Once you click on ‘continue’ or ‘start next’ you will be redirected to the platform I’ve outlined in the rectangular box. Now you can do anything within that particular platform/website, and that’s usually how I navigate and use this resource.
DataCamp has been an absolute joy to use. So far, I’ve completed four courses introducing Python data science concepts. It’s got short explainer videos and then you spend most of your time doing related exercises. Here is the common interface for most of your exercises:
In here you can try stuff out on the iPython Shell before running your script, look at the slides if you need a little help with syntax, get help with a hint if you’re a bit stuck. I just think this is such a great learning tool/environment. I plan to keep using DataCamp to learn some data science skills as I think it’s valuable to get more comfy with Python in general but even more so to wrangle large datasets into something useful no matter where I find myself. If you were to purchase this subscription on your own it would run you $39/month or $300/year. A quick aside, I always prefer the month approach to subscriptions as you never know what sort of projects/interest you maybe in 8 months from now.
This is my other favorite platform whose access is provided by Digital University. So far I’ve completed a Docker and Kubernetes learning path. The video instruction is really clear and concise yet their labs are where this platform really shines. Every lab requires you to access a cloud provider and some initial setup no matter if the topic you are covering is strictly cloud or not. To do this they give you a username and password to Azure or AWS for example and you are on your way. The lab guides are also top notch as I’ve found nothing unclear or incorrect which means they are staying up to date with the ongoing changes of each cloud provider to make sure their labs are accurate and on point.
I just started Microsoft Azure Fundamentals today and hope to test on AZ-900 by mid November. More on Microsoft certifications later in this post. The cost of Cloud Academy if you were to purchase this on your own is, at the time of this writing, $39/month or $399/year.
Pluralsight and Udemy
The last two big offerings through Digital University are Pluralsight and Udemy. I’m not the biggest fan of either platform, so I’m not here to tell you how awesome they are. See how that works. Pluralsight in it’s defense, may have the best mobile app out of the bunch. So if you find yourself with a long commute, and enjoy some of the courses, you may find a home with Pluralsight. The best use I’ve got out of Udemy thus far are the practice tests associated with certifications. There are a few courses that are nothing but some very well written practice exams. Cost for both platforms are comparable to DataCamp and Cloud Academy’s pricing.
Splunk offers free training to veterans. Once verified with your ID.me you’ll have access to many eLearning courses and eLearning courses with labs. Each class with labs is a $300 value. I first got started with Splunk Training with Splunk 7.x Fundamentals Part 1 (eLearning). It seems they broke apart the Fundamentals training into the smaller eLearning modules. Furthermore, instead of having you install a local instance of Splunk to go through the labs, they have you use a cloud instance. Other than that, the training seems to be about the same and of the same quality.
Although I use Elastic for most of my work related tasks, getting acquainted with Splunk, learning how to parse large amounts of data to make useful insights will be great for anyone. While most eLearning training is free from Splunk, you are saving $300 per course with labs and able to get valuable hands on experience.
VetSec is probably the coolest program out there for veterans. I’m not currently active but have been in the past yet continue to have a smile on my face whenever Thomas Marsland (VetSec Board Chairmen) posts come across my LinkedIn feed. As I’m interested in training, I’m continually impressed by what they have put together to offer the military community. Furthermore, their slack channel is where the true magic happens. From mentoring to resume help to job posting to special training opportunities there is an abundance of help there for anyone who needs it. If you need more direction/help/community do not hesitate to sign up with VetSec.
Hopefully this post introduced you to a few new ways to save a few dollars and get some quality training, and at the very least make sure you get connected with VetSec.
Free Microsoft Certs
As mentioned above, I just started going through the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals learning path in Cloud Academy. Well one reason for doing so is because Microsoft is currently offering 100% discounted exam vouchers to those in the Air Force. The discount looks to expire 6/30/2023:
To ‘get’ the discount you simply enter your .mil email before heading to checkout:
So I’m giving Azure a try, you can also do the associated learning path through Microsoft as well but I’m going to stick with Cloud Academy and see what happens. I’ll report back.
Manny Pimentel recently wrote a blog post describing his ‘Nurse to CCNA’ journey. It was a great post and very cool to see the man behind the man who is the president of short IT Twitter. This got me reflecting a bit on my own journey. I’m not up for telling the whole story of how I came to 40 years of age, so I’ll stick to just one…
Somewhere between 2006-2008 I found myself drawn to the Bat Cave, 909 Marion St in downtown Seattle. I just got my Associates degree from South Seattle Community college and I was working at a place not far from the Bat Cave, a corporate lunch spot called Mel’s Market tossing salads. As luck would have it, I spotted an ad on craigslist while looking for some sort of bike messenger position, a pedicab driver. I contacted the ad and let them know of my interest.
My First Business
I felt a bit of apprehension as the guy ‘interviewed’ me and let me drive him around the block as he explained to me what it was about to do this sort of work. He let me do a few days, expecting me to fail or realize this work wasn’t for me, but, as it turns out, this work was just my cup of tea, in my own way.
To be a pedicab driver I would have to obtain a business license and then I’d rent the pedicab from this man. I completed the paperwork, I think at this time you could obtain a business license for about $80. Then I’d show up for work at the Bat Cave where all the pedicabs were stored…
Pedicab rental rates varied depending on what was going on that day. I don’t recall exact rates but the were something like:
Mariners Games $35
Football Games $60
Any old day $15 – $25
So I’d show up, do a quick check on my bike and head out, I’d have to payout the rental fee once I was done for the night. That was it, keep anything I made past my rental, all cash.
We had about the same group of riders while I was there. It consisted of about 2-3 old timers and 6-8 young new comers.
A Typical Shift
A Mariners game is a good example of a typical shift. I’d arrive to the Bat Cave at around 2:30 – 3 pm for a typical 5ish first pitch. Back in these days there was usually between 3 – 6 pedicab drivers in total, on any given night. We’d lineup like taxis before the games start at the ferry dock, waiting for would be baseball fans to get off and take them to the gates at Safeco Field.
The price of this service would fluctuate a bit, most of the time I’d quote $12 or $17. I was taught to always use an odd number so that you can expect at least $15 or $20 by the end of the ride. Even so, I’d very rarely have the change needed at this point, especially early in this shift. On a good day, I’d hopefully get 3-4 trips from the ferry to the baseball game. So I’d already be well into making money time having already covered my rental fee.
Once the game starts till it ends is more of an adventure. You can choose to wait at any of the exit gates, the easiest rides being the one closest to the ferry. People tend to trickle out of the game after the 5th or 6th inning with a big rush at the end of the game. After the game people ask to go to all sorts of places, from a pub, a strip club or the Siren tavern. Even a couple hours after the game it’s not hard to pick up a ride in Pioneer Square to make some extra cash. Also, the later it gets the more people are willing to pay. Not sure if this has anything to do with alcohol consumption but could be an indicative variable.
Two rides I remember more than any other. One such ride was giving two girls a ride to a Tavern and they were groping and kissing my back the way whole way there. I did not enter into that tavern nor ever speak to them again, still a story (for another day or another platform??!)…The other was a single rider whom I’d taken from the stadium area all the way to a place in Belltown. This one stands out because it was the longest one way trip I’d ever done on a pedicab. I told her that and also the chance I’d be getting more rides was slim and she paid me more in one trip than I usually made in most nights. Great conversationist that one as well.
And I digress…
At the end of the night, usually around 11 pm I’d venture, we’d all end up back in the Bat Cave counting our money. Back in those days I wore some pretty form fitting pants and I’d just have bills stuffed in my sweaty pockets. I wasn’t even to dare trying to do too much with those bills in my pockets out in public, so I’d get back and begin separating bills and see what I ended up with.
A good shift to me was anytime I had over $100 profit. These were easy to do for Mariners and Seahawks games and took some REAL work when you’re just going up and down the waterfront or through Pioneer Square.
With any job I always think whether you had fun or enjoyed what you were doing depends on who you are working with and who you are serving. This job was no exception. There were some awesome people pedicabing and some cool stories from customers I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. People like talking and there is no better place to let someone talk as you are trying to catch your breath peddling them up a small incline…
The night usually ended eating some bbq duck and/or drinking a cloudy beer. To end the night I’d bike the 6-8 miles back to my place of residence back then. Good shape I was in (compared to today me).
Unfortunately, a new pedicab driver had a tragic accident and at least one life was lost. This brought up city politics and the person who’d I’d been renting from moved on after this tragedy. This is about the time I also moved on from pedicabbing as well but always hold this time in my life in high regard even though at the time I was too immature to truly appreciate it. I often wonder what would have been of me had I stuck this out or ventured into buying my own cab had things been different?
How Did this Shape Me
I suppose it shaped me in a lot of ways, but sticking strictly to my career it helped me get out of my shell. The reason the guy, at the interview I initially had was so skeptical of me being a pedicab driver was because I was a shy soft-spoken kid. In this line of work you have to put yourself out there, literally. After pedicabbing I went to barista work and a bit of food service on the side. I don’t think I wouldn’t picked these jobs up as fast or been as successful had it not of been for this experience.
Above all, I got to learn about Seattle. I got to meet all of its citizens. From the out-of-towners that came to the games, to the houseless people eating a Food Not Bombs lunch on a Sunday, to the hot dog vendor cart owners outside of the stadiums. I got to meet and hear so many people’s story in a short amount of time.
So in the end the Bat Cave will always hold a prestigious grip on my heart. We are but the experiences that brought us to where we are.
I’ve written maybe 20 posts or so on this here website. Almost all of them have been explainers or reviews. The following will be something different, something personal. It will probably be a bit short, but I’ll work on that, a journal entry so to speak. Incoming.
The timeline has been a bit cluttered with people giving advise, based on their experience, on what they would focus on if they were starting over in tech. For example, one of my favorite follows on twitter John Breth weighs in:
This got me thinking a bit about my own journey and what it means to ‘start over’ in tech.
I’ve started over, money/job/career wise about 5 ‘major’ times since I turned 18; 40 today. I ‘started over’ in tech in July of 2018, enlisting full-time in the Washington State Air National Guard. The first year and change, when you first dive into the job and associated study, it’s easy. Not necessarily the content/job. What I’m talking about is the motivation.
Everything is seemly made for you. The new person in tech. The books, seminars, lectures, YouTube, study groups are 90% for those who are in the beginning stages of their careers. Or, at least that is what it seems to me. Especially after consuming tons of this content over the last 4 years and change.
The rush of taking your first few certs is pretty bad ass. It rivals that of finals week at the collegiate level in my opinion. Sharing your news with those that helped you along the way and those who you’ve studied with is equally as fun. I’m pretty close online with the connections I’ve made at or around this time. It’s a very special time.
But I don’t really want to talk about the beginning. What comes after that first little rush. When you’re just getting your feet wet but think you’ve come to some standard of knowing something. Right before you realize you barely know anything.
The Hard Part
I’ve been in this hard part for the latter part of the last 3 – 3.5 years. Trying to climb your way out of being a novice and getting to something deeper, unsure of what you can call yourself. To motivate myself I spend a lot of time online. Most of the people I look up to online are some sort of engineer, gave talks at conferences, been doing the thing for at least 15 years or some 18 year old CCIE candidate. There are so many freaking awesome people out there to be inspired by.
All that inspiration you get when you are first starting out, when inevitably comparing yourself to those you are inspired by, begins to weigh on you when you are reaching year 3 and into year 4 and you are diving into yet another new technology and having to learn the fundamentals of something new.
I can tell I’ve made progress when I’m talking to those I work with, or someone who themselves are just starting to learn a certain aspect in tech I’ve spent some time on. I surprise myself by how articulate I can explain something. After the conversation I’ll marvel at how much I actually do know.
But then I’ll do something like go to my first tech conference and meet a bunch of super amazing people again. An inner dialogue begins. Am I good enough? Is this the right career? Do i ‘love’ this? What am I doing with this?
How do I relate what I do to my kids? This question right here weirds me out, as the answer is something close to: I respond to emails, solve puzzles and google stuff for people that are too lazy to read. How is this a rewarding life? I’ve always had trouble selling stuff, myself included. I don’t see it as a bad thing but rather see it as me having a true heart and an understanding of what’s actually important (I have trouble lying…).
The Next Thing
This is what I’ve come to accept as what whatever this tech thing is. It’s continually learning. It’s not knowing (but finding out). It’s not something to master, it’s something to be in awe of, to be curious about.
How do you know tech is right for you? If you see something, tech related, and wonder how that works. How can you make it do something else. How can I get it to do what your friend did. I think this attitude, if you are nodding your head north and south, means you are in the right spot.
I doubt 10 years from now will look a lot like today. So that means nothing but learning ahead. Even though I’ll never be Ivan Pepelnjak, the hope is that I’m able to draw on my experience to pick up things faster. Notice that this new thing is actually this old thing bolted on to this other old thing. Speaking of finding little nuggets. When thinking about ‘if I could start over in tech’ I’m reminded of a cool RFC I was linked to a book I was reading. I find it fun to follow a lot of the links when reading 🙂
This Request for Comments (RFC) provides information about the fundamental truths underlying all networking. These truths apply to networking in general, and are not limited to TCP/IP, the Internet, or any other subset of the networking community.
2. The Fundamental Truths
(1) It Has To Work.
(2) No matter how hard you push and no matter what the priority, you can’t increase the speed of light.
(2a) (corollary). No matter how hard you try, you can’t make a baby in much less than 9 months. Trying to speed this up *might* make it slower, but it won’t make it happen any quicker.
(3) With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.
(4) Some things in life can never be fully appreciated nor understood unless experienced firsthand. Some things in networking can never be fully understood by someone who neither builds commercial networking equipment nor runs an operational network.
(5) It is always possible to aglutenate multiple separate problems into a single complex interdependent solution. In most cases this is a bad idea.
(6) It is easier to move a problem around (for example, by moving the problem to a different part of the overall network architecture) than it is to solve it.
(6a) (corollary). It is always possible to add another level of indirection.
(7) It is always something
(7a) (corollary). Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick any two (you can’t have all three).
(8) It is more complicated than you think.
(9) For all resources, whatever it is, you need more.
(9a) (corollary) Every networking problem always takes longer to solve than it seems like it should.
(10) One size never fits all.
(11) Every old idea will be proposed again with a different name and a different presentation, regardless of whether it works.
(11a) (corollary). See rule 6a.
(12) In protocol design, perfection has been reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Request for Comments: 1925 [1 April 1996]
So if I could do it all over I’m not sure I have any better advice to give. Do what you like to do. I’ve heard John Capobianco on more than one occasion ask people what they are interested in, whether it be Pokémon or baseball, and tie those interests or hobbies into a tech project. I think this is great advice, and I’ve tried to share it with others. There are so many ways to tie something tech related to things out there in the world. If you can combine the two you can learn more about both at the same time.
Like I alluded to above, sometimes I don’t feel all that into everything all the time. Sometimes I use this hobby/job/phase of my life to distract myself from other aspects of my life. We all have our lows. I’ve been there. I doubt myself. I wonder what I’m doing.
In the end I’m just a curious dude. I studied philosophy and my favorite word when I was a seven year-old was why. Every profession I’ve taken up I’ve looked into the science, tried to hone my craft with a bit of flare. Perhaps I’m just in this particular game because I enjoy puzzles. This is just another phase in my life. Another chapter. Will the next chapter be tech. Maybe, but I’ll be equally immersed in whatever I’m doing because as I’ve come to find out that’s just the kind of guy I am.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Like this blog post.
If you feel something in your heart is pulling you, I’d say follow it, and give it your entire heart. This might not be it for you or maybe it isn’t for you ‘right now.’ I’m not super into long term goals. For me, I focus on daily routines. What do I like to do? Spend time with my family? Yes, put it in the routine. Read? Yes, put it in the routine. Run? Yes, put it in the routine. I control each day, as much as one can, and put my effort in things I enjoy. Where will this get me in 10-20 years? I don’t know career wise, but I know I will have been an active parent who attempted to do his best on any given day.
As with journeys, i’ll see you around the bend, until next time. If you see me, say hi.
About eight weeks ago I saw John Capobianco and Tim Bert were holding an online meeting about trying to pull down some NCAA football data using an API. I, myself, finally finished up the last certification exam I’ve had on my plate shortly thereafter. Since then, I’ve taken to doing a little bit of DataCamp and CloudAcademy each day.
DataCamp has a python track that teaches you the basics of python while adding in some packages a data scientist may use along the way, specifically, numpy and pandas. I’m square in the middle of DataCamp’s ‘intermediate python’ course.
Then, like a shower whose water never gets warm, I thought to myself, why not try and do some stuff with NBA data while going through the examples and practice during the course. So here we are 🙂
As the title says, this is going to be ‘basic’ as i’m just beginning and truth be told, i’ll prob do some non best practices going forward in this post. This is what learning in public looks like.
Getting Some Data
If I’m going to parse some data using what I’ve been presented thus far in my training, I need some data. In my current lesson we are doing basic data parsing with pandas series objects and pandas dataframe objects. I took to the googleverse and found an interesting github repo. This python package was created to make it easier to interact with stats.nba.com APIs. To install:
pip install nba_api pandas requests
From here it’s all about figuring out a bit from the documentation found on the github I linked above. Jimmy Butler is my current favorite NBA basketball player so the first thing I need to find out is his PLAYER_ID so I can use it to get further info on him.
From the output, we can see that Jimmy Butler’s ‘id’ is 202710. I’ll use this when making my next call:
>>> from nba_api.stats.endpoints import playercareerstats
>>> Jimmy = playercareerstats.PlayerCareerStats(player_id=202710)
So, at this point we are almost there, just a little bit more mangling and we will get to the types of objects I need…I’m going to use the get_data_frames() function included in the nba_api and select the first table in this object with the ‘’ and assign this to the variable ‘jimmy_panda’:
Alright, above it says at the end of the output we have 13 rows x 27 columns. We definitely see the 13 rows but we don’t see anywhere close to 27 columns. Let’s see how we can see what the 27 column headers are, to do this i’m going to dtypes to see the info about each column in the table as shown:
So this table we have is kind of exciting, at least for a first go at this, am I right?! We can now select to print off only certain columns in the output or slice only specific years of Jimmy Butler’s career or both. One way to do this is to use pandas and make sure the object we are dealing with is a DataFrame, allowing us to use all the options assoicated with this object type. Let’s see how we can accomplish this:
>>> pd.DataFrame(data=Jimmy.get_data_frames(), columns=['SEASON_ID', 'PTS', 'AST'])
SEASON_ID PTS AST
0 2011-12 109 14
1 2012-13 705 115
2 2013-14 878 175
3 2014-15 1301 212
4 2015-16 1399 321
5 2016-17 1816 417
6 2017-18 1307 288
7 2018-19 213 43
8 2018-19 1002 220
9 2018-19 1215 263
10 2019-20 1157 350
11 2020-21 1116 369
12 2021-22 1219 312
Above we basically changed the Jimmy object into the Data
Frame object we want to play with. It's the same as doing
what's below because we've already assigned 'jimmy_panda' and
made sure it was a Pandas Data Frame
>>> pd.DataFrame(data=jimmy_panda, columns=['SEASON_ID', 'PTS', 'AST'])
SEASON_ID PTS AST
0 2011-12 109 14
1 2012-13 705 115
2 2013-14 878 175
3 2014-15 1301 212
4 2015-16 1399 321
5 2016-17 1816 417
6 2017-18 1307 288
7 2018-19 213 43
8 2018-19 1002 220
9 2018-19 1215 263
10 2019-20 1157 350
11 2020-21 1116 369
12 2021-22 1219 312
Or, an even simpler way to select columns, since we know ‘jimmy_panda’ is of the data type we need:
Now that we’ve seen we can pull out specific columns, rows and the like, we can now decide to do so based on certain thresholds. For example, it maybe useful to know only the years Jimmy Butler shot over 30% from 3-point range.
The first step we need to do is figure out which column we will be using to do our comparison, specifically, which column represents 3 point percentage. We can scroll up and look at the output of our dtypes command or do it again:
Alright, we can see we will be working with the ‘FG3_PCT’ which is the object type float. Next let’s check out the specific values we will be comparing, specifically, we are going to check which years Jimmy Butler shot the 3-ball better than 30%.
Every ‘True’ is when Jimmy shot better than 30% and every false is when he failed to do so. Next, i’ll show a series of commands. First, i’ll assign the variable FG3_is_good to the comparison and then use that variable as an index. Lastly I’ll use the value_counts() function to see how many ‘True’ or ‘False’ in total, so you can see how many years he was better than 30% and how many years he was not.
One funny thing that jumped out at me is that Jimmy has been unable to shoot better than 30% from three after the age of 30. Interesting. Furthermore, we can easily conclude Jimmy has shot better than 30% from 3 61% of the seasons he’s played thus far.
Playoff Jimmy has been said to be a thing. One aspect of this is that he shoots better from three in the playoffs as well. We can use the same format as we did above to quickly figure out his percentage. Jimmy Butler’s playoff stats happen to be  index of the original ‘Jimmy’ object we pulled down using the nba_api:
Kind of funny that Butler has a perfect True False pattern throughout his playoff career. Also, as with anything in IT there are at least 25 ways to do the same thing, the more you learn. Above I was able to pull the “FG3_PCT” for each row. Here is another way to do the same thing using a for loop:
Well, if you read this far you realized we didn’t do anything mind bending. I suppose writing this out and doing the same type of practice activities I’m doing in my DataCamp course on some data I pulled down myself helped me learn quite a bit more than simply going only through the course.
I’ve always enjoyed doing data parsing in Linux. I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts how much I’ve enjoyed doing log parsing on the Linux shell using cut, grep, awk, uniq and sort to break down logs. This data science stuff seems to tickle a bit of that same excitement. I’m also excited to continue this project. Specifically, making visualizations should be fun, and i’m sure i’ll check back in here once I make it that far. I’ve seen some people plot shot charts as well, which would be a fun little side quest. I imagine a site like statmuse.com does a lot of what’s shown here behind the scenes when you ask a question.
I was scrolling through twitter.com and saw a post about a new podcast, ‘Sharkbytes‘ hosted by Roland Knall. The first episode is an interview with Betty DuBois and Sasha Mullins-Lassiter. In the interview, Sasha goes over her experience getting into cyber security and attending Sharkfest. This got me reminiscing, Sharkfest was my first ever ‘in-person’ tech conference and I don’t think I could have had a better experience.
Why write a retrospective? Well, I want more people on the fence, thinking about going to perhaps read this while they are researching and end up pulling the trigger. I remember before I attended I saw Denise Fishburne’s ‘review’ of Sharkfest on her YouTube channel Networking with Fish. Now I will never be as charismatic as Ms. Fishburne or on a podcast with Roland so I’ll fill this page with words behind my keyboard 🙂
A great way, as it turns out, to lower any pre-conference social anxiety issues is to attend the pre-conference classes. My first class of two classes was titled ‘Introduction to Packets-How to Capture and Analyze with Wireshark’ and I simply couldn’t wait.
Before we even entered the class, we had a catered breakfast just outside of the classroom in a fairly fancy hotel in downtown Kansas City. Upon finishing, making sure to refill on my coffee, I entered the class to be met with one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in tech, my instructor, Betty DuBois. At my desk I had a notebook with sharks on it, Wireshark pens and a place to plug my laptop into. All in all I think we had less than 20 students in this two day ‘get to know’ Wireshark course.
The main point of this course was to try and take everyone, from where ever they are at skillset wise, and set them up for success during the following course and the conference itself. Highlights being a few hands on labs and most importantly all the ways in which to make your pcap sing by creating specific profiles for specific types of traffic within Wireshark.
Each day in these courses we all ate together around big tables, rubbing shoulders with the Wireshark development team as well as fellow students. It being such a small group you can’t help but feel included, no matter how nervous you might be on the inside. As mentioned before, these small groups helped ease the transition as we got a little more crowded in the second pre-conference course I attended ‘Cyber Threat Hunting with Wireshark’ taught by Chris Greer.
This course doubled in size, we had to be getting close to 40 people in the room. Chris had on a microphone and it seemed as though we were gearing up so to speak. The course was great with every lecture leading into a hands on lab. I took away some major advantages of pcapng vs pcap file structure as well as getting some practice using Betty’s profiles to quickly solve some lab challenges. Besides using Wireshark I tried to solve every lab using tshark, the cmd line version of Wireshark, as well.
After this one day course, we had a kickoff dinner. All the food that was catered was very good. I was continually surprised each meal of each day. I’ll discuss finances later, but will mention here that breakfast and lunch were included on pre-conference class days and then lunch and dinner was included on conference days (dinner with an open bar mind you).
The kickoff dinner was the first time you start to see a bigger group. But, in talking to the other attendees this is still a very small conference. I’d guess we had maybe 100 – 150 people at the opening night dinner and talk. Having met people during my two pre-conference classes I felt as though I already made connections and had conference friends. No awkward ‘all these people i don’t know’ feeling ever crept in. Like Sasha mentioned in the SharkBytes podcast, I felt like I belonged.
The conference had three options for every time block with each time block consisting of about 90 minutes. So we had two talks before lunch and then two talks after lunch. As an attendee you get to decide which talk interests you the most, or mosey around the snack table, whatever suits you.
One of the main highlights was that I got to meet Tony Efantis. I’d been following him online since he started posting streams about his CCIE journey. Getting to know him a bit online before the conference as I’ve done with quite a few people over the last 3-4 years, Tony was the second person after A.J. Murray whom I got to connect with in person. Come to find out, our jobs are pretty closely aligned as he works on the hardware that the Air Force uses to do Defensive Cyber Operations.
Besides Tony, if I had to give awards out to my favorite talks they would be Josh Clark’s “Troubleshoot like a doctor” on the first day. The attention to detail on the presentation and its foundational approach both moved me. In summary, this talk gave an illustration on how a doctor goes through training and then quickly makes choices on what to do with a patient and then he seamlessly ties this into how we could do this with IT troubleshooting. Taking into account that doctors have honed their troubleshooting methodology for way longer than IT has been a thing and it’s this experience he believes we can take from and apply to IT troubleshooting.
Another talk that has stayed with me was Mike Kershaw’s talk about software defined radio magic stuff on the last day! My current position in the Air Force deals mainly with different kinds of RADAR data sets and having Mike discuss ADS-B got me all excited. It was only a 90 minute talk but I enjoyed how he went from how to initially capture the traffic from the air to trying to make something meaningful out of it. Wireless technology has always been one of my weakest points but the things Mike is able to do make me want to get better in this field for sure!
The last person I’d give a special speaking award is Hansang Bae. He gave a talk on troubleshooting I believe, I don’t even recall the name of the course. I remember he was using a Remarkable2 for his presentation. Something I’ve been looking at purchasing for a long time and this was my first ever time seeing it in person. Mr. Bae was using it to draw or illustrate his point during his lecture. The way he was able to tell where a specific server was based on the time it took it to respond was the first thing that blew me away. I’ll admit the talk may of been a tad too advanced for me, but seeing him carve a pcap, make quick determinations, I knew I was in the presence of greatness.
Beyond the talks, I was most enthralled in Sake Block’s CTF. I believe this went live the first morning of the conference and ended the morning on the last day. I diligently worked through every challenge. Seemed as though this CTF was made for me difficulty wise. The prompts were difficult but not so difficult I wanted to dispose of my laptop in the nearest trash receptacle. Every break and meal I was following Sake around, probably annoying the shit out of him, looking for ways to accomplish whatever flag I was on and share with him the excitement of previous flags I finally got. I ended up clearing all but one flag by the time the buzzer sounded and placed 4th overall. Staying up to 2 am each night working on flags almost won me a trophy, if it wasn’t for those pesky online attendees, I would’ve been second behind Chris Greer. NEXT TIME!!! 🙂 But in all seriousness, Sake Block was a huge part of this conference for me. At the end of the conference I felt like I jived well with all the people whom trekked over from Europe.
Sharkfest + All Pre-Conference Classes is just shy of $3,000. As mentioned above some food is also included, about 12 meals. In addition to paying for the conference you’ll need to secure air fare and lodging. So a total cost under $4500/person is very reasonable for those living within the US. Looking at the bigger conferences like CiscoLive I think you’ll see this cost is very good for what you end up getting.
I think this is a very good value given the content and atmosphere. From the small size of the conference to it being centered around an open source project, the feeling of inclusion and the lack of a feeling like someone trying to sell me something the entire time can not be overstated. The atmosphere was one of learning, especially the fundamentals as well as inclusion.
It’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. I’ve conferred with Aninda Chatterjee on my lack of motivation to write, where did it go and if it would ever come back again numerous times with months in between. To be completely honest, the drive to do tutorial type stuff just isn’t there. I’m planning to embark on some Kube learning soon, so maybe that could spark something. Time will tell…
So what have I been up to in the last, say, 10 months since my last post? Well, a lot! I’m deep into trying to be a cyber analyst at work, perhaps trying to get fully onboard at a Cyber Operations Squadron (Air Force). In sharpening my skills at work I’ve also continued to study and take exams in my free time as noted by the title of this post.
In the following, I plan to take you on a round robin discussion of the courses and exams I’ve taken since I’ve last checked in, let you know what I think and cap it all off with what comes next. Always looking with an eye toward the future 🙂
GIAC Network Forensic Analyst (GNFA)
The GNFA is the exam associated with the SANS FOR572 course. I chose to do the ‘On-Demand’ version taught by Phillip Hagen. I really like the On-Demand format. From the content broken into smaller, easy to consume videos, to the digital book associated with lecture side-by-side, to the easy navigation, to the mobile App. It doesn’t miss and it shouldn’t given the course is now garnering an $8k+ price tag.
Before taking SANS FOR572 I completed SANS SEC503, which I’d recommend as a precursor if you are a bit new to the field. SEC503 spent a good amount of time going through how to use a certain tool whereas FOR572 assumed such knowledge and really hit the ground running using the same tools and spent most of its instruction in the actual analysis of the output. So it felt really good to feel like I was building upon a foundation started from a previous course and ‘advance’ into ‘doing the job’ type scenarios.
Scenarios, that’s one word to describe FOR572. Scenario! Everything you do deals with a specific, elaborate scenario. You are called in to a company, given network maps, logs from certain devices and start logging all your findings a long the way. Hands on learning from a large data set, allowing you to go far beyond what’s outlined in the lecture or in the lab. This is where SANS shines in my opinion. Not to discount the lecture, as I think that’s top quality as well, but the thought that goes into the scenarios, the lab book and how it’s so nicely put together is something I’ve not seen another vendor come close to (I know, I know, it costs $8k+).
I felt fairly confident going in to take the GNFA on exam day. I began studying networking, built upon what I learned in SEC503, I was ready! This exam turned out to be all multiple choice if I’m remembering correctly, no lab questions. Still, all the questions were paragraphs were you are deciphering log information to come up with conclusions about the data set. My brain was on fire at the end of the 3 hours. I passed the exam with an 80%. Lower than I expected but, like mentioned above, most of the course and this exam was not about knowing and using a specific tool, it was about being able to say things about the output.
Talk about leveling up. I feel as though if I were to relate this to my collegiate learning I’d say I learned as much in 4 months studying FOR572 as I did a whole year in college taking a full load. Furthermore, it’s at this point I think my confidence also begins to show through a bit more in the workplace. I’m beginning to share my opinion more in meetings (and I have a bit of experience to base my opinions on…).
I’m assuming if your reading this, you have an idea of what the Art of Network Engineering community is. If not, they do a podcast but even better, they have a discord. In the discord people talk about coffee, grilling meats and travel (that’s the channels I mostly check). Additionally, there are channels for studying/discussing specific technologies, sharing employment advice and simply lifting each other up.
One day I saw a post from someone offering up a CompTIA exam voucher. I reached out and a few minutes later I was signed up for the CompTIA CySA+ exam. This gentlemen, who I will not mention by name so he doesn’t get swarmed with free voucher requests, supplies CompTIA with exam questions for certain exams as a side hobby. In return, sometimes CompTIA gives him exam vouchers and he was simply passing this one on.
To study for the exam, I looked quickly at what was available on one of my favorite learning sites: O’Reilly. Each module and topic, after a quick skim, looked familiar. It was at this point I moved my exam up and said to myself “I’m already doing the job, let’s just go take the exam.” So, in short, I didn’t study at all.
The exam itself, I called it fair, insofar as I passed. My logic was that I’m doing the job and in my mind I’m ‘doing the job’ at a fairly high level, pat myself on the back. So, passing the exam would simply validate the skills and knowledge needed and since I passed everything seems to have lined up.
I wish I could give a more, if your just starting out is this worth it, type of opinion but I can’t really view this exam from that perspective, since it isn’t mine. I took to learn networking, learn some networking implementation and then some network design and then I got into cyber. The culmination of 4 years of studying on my own made this exam a pretty easy endeavor.
Beyond just passing an exam, this opportunity helped me garner all the required CEUs to renew my required Security+ certification for my current employment with the Air Force. So I wasn’t just out here passing an exam for no reason! 🙂
So I quickly conferred with the person that gave me the previous CompTIA voucher my thanks and that I passed the CySA+. He replies back that he has another voucher…
I believe we are now into February 2022. At work, I’m getting ready to start a cyber exercise called Cobra Gold. In this exercise, I was to be a ‘red team’ member and provide cyber effects to teams defending a network and specific devices within their network as if I were an adversary.
This exercise started off with four days of academics, of which, I even taught a 90 minute course on ‘Linux Host Hardening’ but I had very little experience in offensive tools or techniques. So I had a bit to learn in a week to be a good adversary! This backdrop, and receiving another voucher prompted me to study for specific topics covered in the Pentest+ exam while I study, prepare and execute my tasks associated with my part of the Cobra Gold exercise I’m doing for work.
The main things I implemented and used was Metasploit, nmap and all the impacket tools. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but I had two weeks! One week focused simply on learning and another week implementing my attack. Have to start somewhere!
As mentioned in the exam above, I went back to O’Reilly to fill in the gaps on specific exam topics I wasn’t able to tackle during the work exercise. As far as the Pentest+ exam goes, getting the hands on practice with nmap and Metasploit payed off immensely. Knowing all the nmap options might even be a quarter of the exam, ok, maybe not that much but it’s there for sure!
I would call this exam very entry level as well after taking it. I studied for about two weeks and passed very easily. Again, I do have a lot of other types of experience beyond the two weeks I focused on it, so I’m not saying it’s ‘that’ easy. Now that I think of it, and I’m two CompTIA exams into this post, I haven’t really seen much content on exams from the point of view of a mid to advanced career. I mean people do posts on them that are, but I have to give them more credit on being able to empathize with how it relates to people ‘just starting out’ cause that is not as easy it seems.
GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
Man. This was a tough one. Just looking at that heading I’m taken a back by the amount of work went in to me barely passing this exam. I just passed this exam a couple of weeks ago, which means, I started this course about 4 months ago. The GCFA is associated with the SANS FOR508 course.
For this course I decided to try the ‘Live Online’ format. Quick recap, I don’t like it as much as the On-demand format. One good thing, work allowed me some time away to do the Live-Online format that was not allotted to me when doing the On-demand format. But content wise, not the best for my learning.
First off, the course pace is FAST! I took this course because I’m mostly comfy with networking, including on the cyber side. This course was about learning about host artifacts. Something I knew very little about. By the end of day two my mind had melted and was on the floor. The lecture by day three, while I could hear words coming out of the speakers, they washed over me like a warm shower at the end of a long day. I knew something was happening but my mind was in a completely separate place, unable to make sense of much beyond day 2. I had trouble catching up at night as my dad duties were far too great for the amount of content I needed to grasp before the next day.
The next thing I don’t like in the Live-Online format is how the recordings of your lecture are laid out. They are simply an 8-9 hour video, unedited in your browser, breaks and lunch included. The connection would time out after a couple of hours and I’d have to reload my page and try to skip to were I’d left off. It just wasn’t ideal. I ended up going through the MP3s associated with the course over trying to deal with the recordings of my lecture as they were edited and in smaller more manageable chunks.
The labs, like all previous SANS courses, were off the charts. There were some 60+ specific tools discussed in the course and you had so much data, including full images, forensic images etc. to run them on. So many tools and so many different kinds of artifacts. A crash course unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Like FOR572, the labs for FOR508 use the same org but you have a completely new set of evidence so that you can learn how to analyze hosts. The labs built off each other as well. You are able to take what you learned from one tool as a starting point as we examine evidence from another tool or data set.
After going through the course, going through the course again with the MP3s, going through the course again by reading all the books, going through all the labs a few times I didn’t think I had any chance of passing the associated exam. I NEEDED TO CREATE A VERY GOOD index if I was to get anywhere close to passing.
On a GIAC exam, you are allowed to take any written notes, books, diagrams etc. in with you when you take your exam. Many people make an index, where they have a list of alphabetized key words associated with which book and page number to find it. So if you get a question about shimcache you can quickly find some relevant pages if you are stuck. I went through all the books again, reading each page, summarizing the page, and then adding any key terms to an index. This took about 2 weeks and I had around 900 entries in my index.
And when you go into the exam, there are about 85 questions and you have 5 books that are between 120-180 pages each. So you can’t really look up ‘every’ question. Even so, questions will often be framed with competing tools, viewpoints or ideas so you have to know more than one thing to get to what the answer should be. This exam also included a practical portion, where you get access to a VM and have to use some tools to come up with the correct answer. I much prefer these questions as they seem more straight forward.
I ended up passing the exam with a 76%, 72% was passing. While not impressive by merely looking at the score, just about everything I learned over the last four months was something I didn’t know or have experience with beforehand. Memory analysis was the most fun, most eye opening module to me. Didn’t know how many things you could find out by dumping someone’s RAM. Remarkable.
eLearnSecurity Certified Digital Forensics Professional (eCDFP)
Getting this exam voucher was akin to how I got my CompTIA ones. It’s not what you know it’s who know they say…Here a friend was not going to be able to use his voucher before the deadline due to commitments at work. So here comes me always willing to try my hand at an exam.
I choose to do the eCDFP over other eLearnSecurity exams due to the overlap with FOR508 and I was coming down to the wire of having to take the exam very soon. I signed up for the 7-day free trial to go through the associated course and I was on my way. Exam in seven days.
To say I had trouble with both the course and the exam would be an understatement. Half the labs for the INE course were ‘under maintenance’ and I wasn’t exactly blown away by having to go through some 1500 slides in seven days. The video lectures were short and didn’t really dive into any additional options with any of the tools discussed, very surface level. To INE and eLearnSecurity’s credit their support team was always there, responding quickly to whenever I needed help, mostly with the exam.
So the exam is a 24 hour timed 30 question test. 15 of the questions are typical multiple choice and 15 questions require you to connect to a lab network, perform tasks, analyze output to come up with the answer. I spent about 6 hours and 3 exam attempts simply trying to get properly connected to the lab environment. To note, I needed to install an OpenVPN client about 3-4 versions old to even connect. Then I had to hope that I was able to connect the the VMs in the exam lab environment. If you couldn’t connect, you’d have to reset the lab environment which took another 30 minutes. Very frustrating.
In any case, come the second restart on my third attempt (I was given another voucher due to my technical difficulties) everything was working perfectly. I correctly answered 28 out of 30 questions in about 4 and a half hours.
While this exam does have a lot of overlap with SANS FOR508, it digs a bit deeper into data acquisition from hard drives. How to decipher a MBR in a Hex editor and be able to make out partition tables/sizes and the like. So this wasn’t as simple to study for as the CompTIA exams mentioned above, I really had to dig in on a few modules. Whats more, even though they were trying to get at the same artifacts discussed in SANS FOR508, they were using completely different tools to achieve it. Feel as though I really became more of a pro with FTK imager in this course.
My main gripe with the exam beyond its lack of proper functionality is that it’s still on version 1. People have passed this exam since at least 2018, the same version. The linux machine was using Security Onion and I was using Wireshark version 1.12 which came out in 2014. I shouldn’t be using 2014 version of Wireshark in 2022…
So this exam, while the content is still ok, could use a bit of a refresh if only to fix what’s broken and bring in some new versions of the tools discussed and used. There’s a lot of additional functionality in even the tools discussed that could be of value. I’d like to see eCDFP version 2 come out before I fully endorse this exam and course.
Planning for the Future 🙂
Well were do I go from here??? I want to gain a deeper understanding and working knowledge of kubernetes so I think that might be the next big course I undertake. No associated exam, just in it to learn.
Beyond that, I just applied for a masters program in cyber defense at Dakota State University. Don’t think I can attend awesome SANS courses forever and they have a ‘technical track’ so I hope to be pushed and learn a lot here.
See you around the bend as we continue on this journey, till next time 🙂
This is episode 100 of The Art of Network Engineering! In this episode, we celebrate you our fans, the Network Engineer Community at large, and all the friends we’ve made over the last 100 episodes. Thank you!
In this episode, Tim, Lex, and Andy talk about Mental Health and how they cope with it. Mental Health is a real problem in our industry as IT Professionals, as well as a serious problem around the world. Take the time for yourself and your mind. If you need help, get help and talk to someone.
In this episode, Jason Gooely returns! With Tim at the helm, he is joined by two guest co-hosts. The first time we had Jason on the show it was a YouTube Live Stream and we were not able to release it as a regular episode. We are happy to be able to talk to Jason again and release this!
In this episode, sponsored by Opengear, we talk to Ramtin Rampour. Ramtin is currently a Solution Architect at Opengear, but he started there as a warehouse employee packing and shipping units. His career journey is certainly one you don’t want to miss. Then we talk about the importance of Out-of-Band Management, and the Opengear Difference.
In this episode, we talk to Jeff McLaughlin a Sr. Director of Technical Marketing at Cisco. Jeff, Andy, and Lexie talk about working for large tech companies, network automation, and a whole lot more, in addition to Jeff’s career.
In this episode, we chat with Kori Younger! Kori shares with us how she was inspired by her own mother to seek a job in tech. She also shares her recent experience landing a job at Cisco and pursuing her CCNA, DevNet Associate, and CCNP. Hear all that and more on this episode of AONE!
In this episode, we interview Geoff Anderson, Program Manager for the CCNA Certification Program. Tim, Lexi, and Geoff talk about the program, how questions are selected for the CCNA question pool, the value the certification holds, and so much more!
This week we chat with Adam Hill. Adam is consulting engineer for an ISP. He helps customers connect their networks to the cloud, and ensures quality and highly available connections. Adam is extremely hard working and great at focusing his energy. Check out Adam’s motivational story!
This episode is the first time in our history we recorded together in the same room! A.J., Andy, Dan, and Lexie discuss their time in Ashville, what it’s like meeting each other for the first time, and then they recount the history of the podcast, and we also discuss its future. Unfortunately, Tim’s travel was delayed and he wasn’t able to join us for this recording.
While troubleshooting issues is a fantastic skill to hone and practice, as network admins and engineers, it is not something we want to spend all of our time doing on a daily basis. Rather than constantly working through trouble tickets and “keeping the lights on”, we would like to use as much of our time and energy as possible on more strategic efforts to help the business succeed. One staple of network operations is having some sort of a network monitoring solution. In the most basic form of network monitoring, our requirement is that we need to know when a device or link is down, or if there is some blatantly large problem that we want to make sure we know about. It can be a very rough feeling to have a network device at a site go down over the weekend, and completely miss it because there was no monitoring/alerting, which makes it an instant emergency Monday morning when the first person gets there and has to call in and report the issue. That is a really important function of a network monitoring solution, but should we accept that as being enough? With just satisfying this basic requirement, it still leaves a lot of time and effort on the network admins and engineers to troubleshoot issues that are not as cut-and-dried as a device being in an up or down state. What if a network monitoring solution could be more than just firing on standard alerts which still force staff to spend time manually finding issues and correlating events? What if we could tap into all of the intelligence that is just sitting in our network devices? What if we could leverage our network devices as sensors to feed our monitoring solution with data, and in turn the monitoring solution is able to analyze and correlate all of this information to then not only alert on issues, but give suggested troubleshooting steps so we do not have to do all of that manually? All of these “what ifs” are addressed by PathSolutions in their TotalView product.
What is PathSolutions TotalView?
PathSolutions TotalView is a network monitoring solution, but not just any network monitoring solution. You can think of it as a combined monitoring solution and digital troubleshooting assistant. TotalView can provide not just alerts about problems, but actual recommendations on troubleshooting next steps. Rather than receiving an alert about packets loss, or potentially nothing at all if the issue is around slowness or poor performance, you could receive a message that looks like the following:
That message is very powerful for two reasons. First, a junior or senior engineer has some direction on next steps to resolve an issue before having to log into any device and start information gathering and manually troubleshooting. This is one of those “wins” that was brought up in the introduction. TotalView can assist with initial troubleshooting so you do not have to spend the time and effort manually. Secondly, the message above is powerful because the operations team can receive that alert and implement the recommended fix before an end user even reports the issue. Let’s face it, sometimes people will just deal with an issue and accept the poor performance rather than report it as a problem. Having this proactive visibility and assistance allows an IT operations team to provide real value to the organization they support.
How does TotalView work?
First off, a big claim to fame for TotalView is that it can be stood up and operational in less than twelve minutes. TotalView consists of a lightweight Windows installer, and thus is designed to be implemented quickly and easily on a Windows virtual machine. The solution is self-contained within that single VM installation. There is no need for separate front end or database servers. The PathSolutions stance on this is to provide a valuable network monitoring solution that does not take time and effort away from the IT operations teams to put a lot of care and feeding into the solution itself. Once the server is up and running, it is to be configured with SNMP and SSH credentials, as well as relevant subnets to scan so that it can learn about all of the network devices in your environment. TotalView can gain insights into Windows servers by leveraging WMI queries. A benefit to subnet scanning is that once it is set up, it can catch new devices as they are implemented so that staff does not have to remember to manually add in new devices to the network monitoring solution. Once TotalView has the subnet and credential information, it can continuously crawl the network to retrieve and correlate valuable operational information in your environment.
Troubleshooting Highlights from TotalView
Now, let’s take a look at the troubleshooting guidance from within the solution. First off, from the main screen, we get a nice default breakdown of items like overall network health and charts of device manufacturers and different interface speeds in the environment.
Next, on the Network > Devices screen, we can see the environment inventory and start to see which devices are tagged as having issues, and drill in to see what specifically is at fault. For example, in the demo environment, we can see that interface #4 on the Sauvignon switch has a peak daily transmit utilization of over 93 percent.
Further down on this screen, we see the TotalView Network Prescription that details the next steps to dig into this alert.
To highlight the power of the Network Prescription feature, here is another example. A port on a switch is showing an error due to a high peak daily error rate. Here are snippets of the Network Prescription section that can immediately point you in the right direction before even having to log into a device.
With this level of information and advice, we are empowered to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.
Unleash Your Full Potential
Are troubleshooting and fixing issues part of a network engineer’s life? Of course they are, but we also need to find the time and energy to innovate and provide value to the businesses and customers that we support. We cannot do that very well if we are constantly in break/fix mode, logging into device upon device gathering and correlating data manually to resolve each and every issue. If we can tap into everything that our network already knows and get assistance with correlation and automated troubleshooting, we all win. PathSolutions is here to help you unleash your full potential with TotalView. Learn more at https://www.pathsolutions.com/.
In this episode, we interview Lexie about her amazeballs new job as an Avionics Integration Engineer at Blue Origin and we count the times she says “I can’t really talk about that.” We think she’s seen the aliens, but we can neither confirm nor deny that claim.
As network/systems engineers and admins, the natural approach to something new is to start with training and understanding a new technology, job, project, or task. This is a valid approach, but many times is only half the battle. For practically any role, you not only need to understand the job and technology, but you also need to be able to leverage potentially many different tools to accomplish your mission on a daily basis. Sometimes you may not have all the right tools in the toolbox to assist you in what you need to accomplish, and need to justify the expense to the organization to add those tools. Other times, you may have so many different resources at your disposal that you need to determine what you really need at the ready to pack for the task at hand. Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll explore this toolbox drama, some best practices to troubleshooting, and how NetAlly can help.
Troubleshooting/Testing Best Practices
A core competency of NetAlly’s physical testing equipment and software platforms is to help engineers and admins effectively test wired/wireless implementations and troubleshoot issues, starting at “Layer 1”. This goes hand in hand with using the OSI Model as a way to approach troubleshooting and testing. Following the OSI model gives a starting point when troubleshooting an issue. It can help you efficiently apply a similar methodology framework consistently so that you can achieve similar results each time without falling into traps of glossing over a simple fix and making something more difficult than necessary. Here are the categories of the OSI model:
7 – Application
6 – Presentation
5 – Session
4 – Transport
3 – Network
2 – Data Link
1 – Physical
From a best practice standpoint, it makes sense to start troubleshooting and testing at the bottom of the OSI model, with the physical layer, and working your way upward. This gives you not only a good, repeatable starting point, but also keeps you from missing common physical layer issues, such as cabling and radio frequency problems (coverage and/or interference issues). NetAlly lives in the Physical Layer with their wired and wireless testing products, with an AutoTest and other diagnostics that aid your troubleshooting to Layer 7.
NetAlly’s Tools of the Trade
NetAlly offers a wealth of both hardware and software testing tools to help you implement and troubleshoot wired and wireless networks. From testing newly installed copper cabling, to troubleshooting a reported wireless coverage issue, NetAlly has you covered.
The wired test and analysis tools include:
LinkRunner® 10G – Advanced Ethernet Tester
Testing of 1 Gbps, Multi-Gig, and 10 Gbps copper and fiber Ethernet implementations.
Layer 1-7 AutoTest to easily find network issues within any part of the stack.
Monitor for issues over time up to 24 hours to help catch those intermittent problems.
Validate up to 90W PoE implementations.
LinkRunner® G2 – Smart Network Tester
Enhanced AutoTest diagnostics for copper and fiber Ethernet networks.
Validate up to 90W PoE implementations.
Discover nearest switch information with CDP/LLDP/EDP.
LinkSprinter® Pocket Network Tester
Fast and easy network connectivity tests for copper Ethernet links.
Discover nearest switch information with CDP/LLDP/EDP.
Validate 802.3af and 802.3at PoE implementations.
LinkRunner® AT – Network AutoTester
Fast and easy network connectivity tests for copper and fiber Ethernet links.
Discover nearest switch information with CDP/LLDP/EDP.
Validate 802.3af and 802.3at PoE implementations.
The wireless test and analysis tools include:
AirCheck™ G2 – Wi-Fi Tester
One-button AutoTest to quickly provide a pass/fail score of Wi-Fi quality.
Visualize available Wi-Fi networks.
View valuable information such as utilization, noise level, throughput, potential rogue devices, and interferes.
Test the different Wi-Fi standards.
AirMapper™ Site Survey
Create visual heat maps for Wi-Fi analysis.
See SNR, noise, and interference measurements right on the handheld display of your NetAlly product.
For one tool to rule them all, NetAlly offers a wired and wireless testing option with the:
EtherScope® nXG – Portable Network Expert
Testing options for Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth/BLE deployments.
Ethernet testing available up to 10 Gbps.
On top of all of these solutions, NetAlly also provides the Link-Live™ Collaboration, Reporting, and Analysis Platform to pull in all of the results and data from your network testing gear for further analysis. Link-Live™ provides the following features and benefits:
Free cloud platform enabling collaboration on validation and testing projects.
Generate Wi-Fi heatmaps on the NetAlly physical testing equipment and upload them to Link-Live™.
Easy report generation.
Tool Proliferation and Efficiencies
As you can see, NetAlly provides many different tools for many different scenarios and use cases. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine which tools make it into the tool bag (and yes, NetAlly has their own tool bags as well) for a specific task, incident, or project. I feel like you need to strike a nice balance between “prepared for absolutely anything possible” and “I had to make seven trips back and forth because I never had the right gear for the job”. I will not say that this is an easy feat, especially if you are in a hurry because something important is broken. Again, you want to be reasonably prepared for what may come your way, but you also want to make sure you are comfortable as well. I used to struggle with this. There was one point that I was carrying around switch stack cables and a spare wireless access point in my bag wherever I went. With all the other gear I had in there, I’m not sure I want to know how much that bag weighed at its peak. Did I ever actually need either of those in a pinch? No, I don’t think so. This all being said, don’t fret. Knowing what you need and selecting the right gear for the specific situation will come with time and practice. You’ll start thinking about what-ifs and caveats while you’re getting ready for a task. Just remember to continue to learn from what goes well, and sometimes even more importantly, what doesn’t go well.
It is definitely important to not only have the proper tools of the trade, but also know how to use them. For NetAlly’s suite of tools, they have your back with product videos and webinars right there on their website. Also, refer to this report understanding the tools and trends for smarter network management.
In this episode, we interview SheNetworks, aka Serena. Serena is most known for her work on TikTok as a content creator where she makes 60-second videos mostly focused on Network Engineering. Serena has spent years working as a Cisco TAC Engineer. During her time in TAC, she got some of the best experiences anyone can get. She learned to work in very high-pressure situations. As of this recording, she’s currently between jobs, and to find out where she landed you’ll just have to listen!
In this episode, John returns to give us an update on his new position at Cisco as a Developer Advocate! John has also been working on numerous automation projects for the community, and a whole lot more!
This week we talk to Jordan Villareal. Jordan has a very interesting start to his career, but it’s an exciting journey nonetheless. Jordan also shares some exciting news about a new position he has recently started!
In this episode, we talk to Tim Titus, founder, and CTO of PathSolutions. Tim shares his network troubleshooting woes over the course of his 30-year technical career and then walks us through PathSolution’s automated troubleshooting platform. Tim is one of us; a cabling tech turned network engineer turned director turned entrepreneur.
Tim talks about how his solution can enable junior network engineers to quickly identify and fix problems, without escalation or the need for tribal knowledge. PathSolutions TotalView network monitoring software bridges the gap between NETWORK MONITORING and RESOLUTION telling you WHEN, WHERE, and WHY network errors occur. What if you knew everything your network equipment knows? Your network is trying to tell you something. Are you listening?
This article is sponsored by Auvik and first appeared on their blog
There’s a point in every IT professionals’ career where they inevitably ask themselves,“do I want to get into management?”
Sometimes this point occurs when they find themselves already are in management, either by design, or as I like to say, by accident. IT pros can find themselves thrust into a management position when the old IT manager leaves, or in a de facto leadership spot: the team suddenly grows, and the new techs have to report into someone.
As I say to my kids, “accidents do happen”. But, it’s far better to avoid them if we can. Going into management, like a lot of major life decisions, shouldn’t be accidental if you can avoid it. It should be intentional, actively considered and thoroughly thought through.
There’s a lot of components to IT leadership— people management, vendor management, budgeting, planning, performance and cost reporting, etc. To ensure you’ll be most successful (and happy) in a management position, or at the very least know what you’re getting into, spend some time investigating these areas of responsibility before taking the leap. Better yet, if you have the opportunity in your current role, ask your leader to take on some of these responsibilities in a mentored capacity, where they can help you grow and learn.
But does that mean that as an IT pro you have to get into management to advance? In my opinion, no. I’ve had people leadership roles, and I’ve had senior individual contributor roles, and to be honest, I love them both. But they’re entirely different skill sets, and knowing not only what you’re good at, but what you like to do can help you be successful in your career, and happy in your life.
So if you’re sitting there trying to decide between, “do I want to lead an IT team one day?”, or “do I want to be the most amazing network engineer out there?”, then this is for you!
Speaking from personal and anecdotal experience, the decision on whether to stay technical or go into management is very much a personal one. While I don’t expect you to discover your true calling while reading this post, I’ve put together some considerations that you’ll hopefully find valuable when making your decision.
First, start by reflecting on what components of the jobs you’ve had you’ve enjoyed doing, versus the components of the job you’ve done simply because you had to. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you’ll love every minute of your job, but ideally you should be enjoying it most of the time. If you have a great day 9 out of every 10 days, that’s a win for me! Identify the things in your work that give you satisfaction and see that they are a part of whatever career path you go down.
Next, spend some time thinking about how you want your job to contribute to your overall life. For some people this may be financial resources to support their lifestyle (travel, grown-up toys like boats, ATVs, RV’s, or support for a large family)). For others, there may be value they place on the impact their work makes on their own wellbeing, the wellbeing of others, or the impact it has on society. Some derive their purpose or self-worth through their career accomplishments. Wow, getting deep in here!
How you define success in your life or your career is ultimately up to you. Different paths will provide for different outcomes. What’s important is that you consider them before you jump in.
Some other standard “job interview” considerations include::
Career progression opportunities. Are there advancement opportunities in only one path with your current employer?
Seniority. Do you need to, or want to, be at the top of the “corporate ladder”? Does your organization enable technical leaders to have a seat at the table on big decisions, or only people leaders?
Compensation: Does your employer have comparable high-level technical leadership roles that come with increased pay, or do you need to go into management to get that increase?
Job Availability. While many companies are embracing a work-from-anywhere model, if you prefer (or need) to be in an office, the availability of jobs along your preferred path can be affected by the local job market.
Mobility. If there’s low availability of job options in your ideal career where you are, are you able and willing to relocate?
While these are all important factors, the most important one for me was simply understanding the intersection of “what are things I like to do” and “what am I good at”.
If you want to move into management, what should you focus on?
First, get out of your cubicle. Whether it’s an actual stall in a cubicle farm (aka the corporate open-plan office), or a virtual cubicle in the new distributed work world many of us find ourselves in, you need to become visible and present to the rest of the business. While you may not be in a formal leadership role yet, providing indirect leadership with indirect power can be a very rewarding experience, and it is an in-demand skill for employers.
This means increased and improved communication. Work on your communication processes, as well as your personal communication skills, to help effectively talk with your colleagues, managers, and executives in a way that positions you as a subject-matter expert people can trust (creating comfort with the idea of you in a leadership position).
Next, network. No, I don’t mean work on IT networks. Get out and meet with your colleagues over a coffee or lunch. Talk with IT leaders at other companies. Ask them how they made the transition from a technical role into leadership, and what they learned along the way. You’ll get a tip or two from them, and some may be open to a more formal mentorship! Never undervalue the return on simply asking others for advice.
Finally, speak with your current manager about moving into a leadership role. A good leader will help set you up for success in a leadership role, even if that means preparing you for a new employer. There’s also value in the concept of being radically candid, ask your manager to be direct: do they see you in a leadership position? If not, is there something you can do to steer towards that goal? Nothing is ever a done deal, but don’t operate under the guise that you are already something you’re not. Getting an honest assessment of your skills and potential is just good career advice.
If you want to remain technical, what should you focus on?
There are many, many of us out there that will choose to stay in a technical role for our entire careers—and that is definitely not a bad thing!
Technical leaders are a commodity in short supply, and keep in mind if you’ve decided to stay technical, it shouldn’t mean that your career growth and development is done. IT is constantly evolving, and to stay on top of your game you need to be consistently working on your skills. Remember, you cannot be an expert in everything, so identify your passion, then grow and learn skills around that. For example:
These are some trends today. Keep an eye out for new technologies that will lead the way in 2022 and beyond.
The right answer on whether to stay in a technical role or head into a management role is unique to every person. While I hope that this post gave you a bit to think about, I wish you luck on your journey of understanding what is the right path for you.
Every journey, even one toward network automation, starts with a single step. If you haven’t already, why not give Auvik a try? Get your free 14-day Auvik trial here.You’ll see the difference that automated documentation, config backup, and alerts will make to your network management.
This week we interviewed Heather, aka BOFHgirl in our Discord. Heather has been working in Network Engineering/IT for over 20 years. She graduated from college with her degree, her CCNA, and her CCNP thanks to Cisco’s Networking Academy. She currently works as a Senior Network Engineer for Wayfair. She with us her enthusiasm for Network Engineer and shares her advice for a successful lifelong career in IT, as well as some advice for aspiring women in tech and network engineering.
In this episode, Lex and Tim talk to Christopher Hart, from Cisco. Christopher was formerly a Cisco TAC Engineer focusing on the Cisco Nexus Data Center Platform, specifically Nexus running NX-OS (as opposed to ACI). Recently, Christopher has shifted to a new role in Solution Validation Services, where he gets to help Cisco’s customers validate their networks!
We are going LIVE! Join us on April 9th in Asheville, NC for the FIRST EVER Art of Network Engineering Live Show! Click here for details.
In this week’s episode, we bring back two previous guests – Tim McC and Brittany Mussett. The group discusses the art of Salary Negotiation, what has worked for us when previous job offers have come in, and what we recommend you do the next time you’re negotiating your salary!
In this episode, we talk to Peter Sprygada. Peter is the VP of Product Management at Itential. Peter shares his career and experience and then, we dive into the Itential Automation Platform! Peter then introduces us to the Itential Network Automation platform. Itential can build in intelligent pre and post-checks into the workflows. If pre-checks fail the workflow can be configured to safely stop before the network is negatively impacted. On the other end, Itential can help verify the work completed successfully with post-checks. Listen now to learn more about Itential!
We are going LIVE! Join us on April 9th in Asheville, NC for the FIRST EVER Art of Network Engineering Live Show! Click here for details.
In this episode, A.J. shares some of his experience overhauling IT for a small manufacturing company. Lexie and Andy ask questions and dig deeper into the process of revamping the entire IT infrastructure. We started this episode as a Data Center Design discussion, but we took a slight detour. We think you’ll enjoy it just the same!
In this episode, we interview Nick Russo! Nick is a Technical Leader at Cisco, a 2x CCIE in Routing and Switching and Service Provider Networks, as well as his CCDE. Nick is often called upon to help solve complex networking issues with Cisco’s customers. Nick talks about his career in the military and how he got started in networking.
In this episode, we speak to Du’An Lightfoot! Du’An has recently moved into a new role as Sr. Developer Advocate for Amazon Web Services. Du’An talks about his time in the military and the experience he gained from it. He also shares with us how he started creating content and his brand – LabEveryDay!
In this article, we will show you how to do a basic Linux Server OS install using Ubuntu Server. Linux is an extremely popular operating system in our field. Many system builders will build their platform on Linux. As a result, having the skills and experience with any version of Linux can help you navigate those platforms. Ubuntu Server is Open Source, and available for free, and can be installed on nearly any platform, physical or virtual. This makes it a platform for lab use, as well as production.
Preparing the media will depend on what you’re installing on to. If it’s a physical machine you’ll likely be going to create a bootable USB drive or if you’re going to run a virtual machine you can just mount the ISO file directly. Rufus is a great tool for creating bootable USB drives for any bootable image.
Boot from the Install Media
The first thing you’ll do is select your language. Use the arrow keys to navigate the list and then press enter to select.
Next, select your keyboard layout.
Then, select a Network Interface. In our case we only have a single network interface, named ens33, and it is connected to the network and getting a DHCP address.
A Proxy is sometimes used to connect to the Internet. All traffic is sent to a proxy address so it can be scrubbed to ensure security. If this is a home or lab network you likely do not have a proxy. Leave the line blank and press enter.
Ubuntu Archive Mirror Address is the location on the internet where Ubuntu will download updates from. Leave the default here and press enter.
Next, configure your local storage. By default (recommended) you can just use the entire disk. However, in a production environment, you may want to be more specific about partitioning the storage.
Review the Storage Configuration Summary and then use the arrow keys to navigate to Done and then press enter.
You’ll be warned that the disk will be formated and all data will be lost. Use the arrow keys to highlight and select continue by pressing Enter.
Profile Setup – Here you enter in your name, the server’s hostname, your username, and then your password. This is the first user and will also be an administrative level user with Root privileges.
Press the Space Bar to select Open SSH Server and then use the arrow keys to navigate down to, and select, Done by pressing enter. Open SSH Server will allow you to remotely access the server via SSH.
Ubuntu is now being installed. Monitor the progress here. It will take several minutes to complete.
Once the installation is complete you’ll see the Reboot Now option at the bottom of the screen. Use the arrow keys to highlight it and then press Enter.
You will be prompted to remove the installation media so that upon reboot the installation process doesn’t start all over again.
Post Installations Tasks
After the installation completes there are a few things you may want to do, such as applying updates, setting a statically assigned IP address, or adding additional users.
After rebooting you’ll be at a login prompt. Enter in the username and password that you created earlier to get going.
Download and Apply Available Updates
First, let’s download and apply package updates that may have come out since the build was created. To do that we’ll use a couple of commands. First, is ‘sudo apt update’ for you first-time Linux users let’s break that down. Sudo is short for Super User Do – basically the “run as administrator” of the Linux world. Apt is short for Apt-get or Aptitude, and is a package handler for Debian flavors of Linux. On Red Hat flavors of Linux, such as REHL – Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, and Fedora, you would use Yum as the package Handler.
This refreshes the package database and can tell you how many packages that have updates available. In the above screenshot we see 87 packages can be upgraded. To get a detailed list of available updates we can run “apt list –upgradeable.”
Here we have a list of all of the packages, in green, listed with a / and then the latest version of that package, followed by a set of square brackets with the currently installed version within.
To execute the upgrade we can run sudo apt upgrade. This will list all of the packages that have updates available, and the size on disk these updates will take to install. In this example, we see the updates will take up 399 MB of disk space.
At the prompt press Y and then enter to continue.
The package manager will go through and apply all of the available updates.
Setting a Static IP
A statically assigned IP address makes management of a remote host a little bit easier in that you’ll always know what the IP address is for that host. First let’s view the IP Address information for our host. Use the command ‘ip address’
In this example we can see this device has two network interfaces, the Loopback which is lo here, and the Ethernet Adapter, ens33. To view the IP info for a specific adapter you can use the command IP address show dev [device name]:
Newer versions of Ubuntu use netplan to manage Network Adapters. There’s a folder under /etc/ called netplan that holds YAML configuration files for each network adapter. We can modify these files and set the desired configuration.
First let’s look at the files in the /etc/netplan folder. To do this, run the command ‘ls /etc/netplan’
On this host, we only have the one file 00-installer-config.yaml. Your system may show more files depending on how many adapters are installed. Let’s open that file and change the settings. Use the command sudo nano /etc/netplan/FILE-NAME.
First, let’s start by changing the dhcpv4 key value from true to false. Use your arrow keys to navigate to that line. Then we’ll add the following, addresses, gateway4, and nameservers. Pay particular attention to spacing. YAML files will not process correctly if the spacing and indentation is not correct. Your file should look something like this:
Press control X to exit, and then press Y and Enter to confirm and save the changes you’ve made. Now let’s go refresh Net Plan to pick up the changes. We do this by running the command ‘sudo netplan apply.’ You may be prompted to enter in your password again.
There isn’t much for feedback here so let’s go ensure the changes took affect with IP address show dev [DEVICE NAME]
And now, we can see that it is, in fact, using the IP we configured in the netplan YAML file. We can further verify things are working by using the PING command to ping our local gateway, a DNS server out on the public internet, and we can verify DNS is working using the nslookup command.
Lastly, let’s add some users. Perhaps we want to add users to our lab machines so we have extra accounts we can do testing with. In an Enterprise environment it’s just a generally accepted best practice to give each user their own account. This is part of Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting. We need to know who the user is, give them the bare minimum privileges they need to do their work, and then log and verify their access to that system. If everyone shares the same user account we can’t tell the difference between when one person or another uses it.
To add a user account we’ll use the command adduser. Let’s add the rest of the AONE Co-Hosts to the server. The syntax is ‘sudo adduser username‘ Be prepared to enter in a password for the new user accounts.
The system also prompts you for some additional, but optional information. We can verify the user accounts have been added by listing all of the folders in the /home/directory, by typing ls /home/:
Here we can see I’ve created a new user account for each AONE Podcast Co-Host. Now, let’s add one of them to Super Users, or the sudo group, so they have administrator rights on the system. We do that using the usermod command with the -aG switch.
In this article we showed you how to: 1. Install Ubuntu Server 2. Complete common post-installation tasks: Applying Updates, set a Static IP, and add additional user accounts.
Ubuntu is an extremely popular platform as it is Open Source and easy to learn Linux on. There are many other flavors of Linux out there, so do some research and find one that fits you the most!
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you had any trouble or would like to add to it you can contact us, or connect with us on Twitter!
In this episode, we talk to Andy about his recent job change, from working as a Network Engineer in FinTech to a Product Manager at Juniper. Andy discusses imposter syndrome and how one interview changed his view on it, and possibly broke him of it, forever! We’ve also got some exciting news to share, but you have to listen to find out!
In our Discord Server – It’s All About the Journey – we’ve got a book club where all of our server members share books that have helped them throughout their journey. We’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 books recommended by Network Engineers, for Network Engineers. It’s composed of tech and non-tech books alike. As a bonus, we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of these authors on our podcast! Here’s the list:
Make it Stick: The Science of Succesful Learning – Brown, Roediger, McDaniel This book discusses the science of how we, humans, learn! It discusses several strategies and tools people of any age and profession can use. The book does not read as a scholastic paper, but a really good book. It starts each section by engaging the reader with a powerful story about learning and then highlights a particular strategy or tool learners can use. Bonus – We interviewed one of the co-authors on Ep 32 of The Art of Network Engineering Podcast, you can check out the YouTube video of the interview here: https://youtu.be/yXk_3TEspfA
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson There are so many things in life we can put effort into and so many more we are told we should put our energy and effort into (RIGHT NOW!). This book will help you decide which ones are actually worth putting your effort into and the rest you can just let go over.
Network Warrior – Gary A. Donahue As the subtitle of the book suggests this book contains “Everything You Need to Know That Wasn’t on the CCNA Exam.” While some of the switches referenced in the book are End of Life the knowledge that this book provides is certainly not! Network Engineers from the most Jr. to the most Sr. will all get something from this fantastic book!
Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson In this book author, Heidi Grant Halvorson offers some very insightful bits that will help you set goals, build willpower, and avoid failure. “Succeed unlocks the secrets of achievement, and shows you how to create new possibilities in every area of your life!”
A Mind for Numbers – by Barbara Oakley Revealed that the way most of us are taught in school is not really a good way to learn, and then it reveals much better ways of learning based on science-based research. There is also a related course on Coursera.
The Practice of System and Network Administration – Limoncelli, Hogan, Chalup The book was suggested because it is a non-technical book written specifically for network and Sys Admins to guide them on how to behave in different situations like how to hire and fire people and how to deal with misconducts by co-workers and managers.
The War of Art – by Steven Pressfield “The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline.” One Discord book club member said the book helped them to realize that failure is part of the process and that everyone faces resistance when trying to accomplish something hard.
Outliers– by Malcolm Gladwell In this book, Malcolm Gladwell asks “What makes high achievers different?” His answer is that too much attention gets paid to what the people are like, and not enough attention to their background and upbringing. One Discord member said this book helped them to deal with imposter syndrome because it highlighted the fact that some people have access to resources that others of us may not, and that adds to their success.
Did we miss one? Make a suggestion in the comments below or let us know on Twitter, we are @artofneteng
In this episode, A.J. and Tim are joined by Lexie (@TracketPacer) and they discuss their goals for the upcoming year! Hear how each of them goes about goal planning and the goals they’ve set for themselves for the coming year.
Studying for certifications is hard, and a lot of people are studying for certifications. It would be great to be able to leverage the thinking of other people: their viewpoints, opinions, ways of solving problems you might not have thought about.
You’d like to join a study group for the cert you are working on, but everyone else is just looking for a group too, and there isn’t an active one to join. Lots of people express interest in joining a study group, but no one seems to know how to set one up. Never fear, we’ve put together some suggestions that will help you start a group and keep it working like a well-oiled machine, carrying the occupants to Certification Valhalla.
The first step in starting a study group is trying to find a group of people looking to join a study group. Thank God for the Internet. There’s Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Discord (shameless plug for IAATJ) and other social media platforms out there where people are studying and collaborating already. You pretty much can’t throw a rock without hitting people looking to study for certifications. Now stop throwing rocks at people, you monster.
Study Group Do’s and Don’ts
Starting and running a study group requires a very different set of skills than joining and participating in the same group. Just like Dungeons and Dragons, someone has to be the Dungeon Master so everyone can play. Here’s a list of suggestions on creating a running a successful study group:
Decide on a common platform for collaboration
Whether it be Discord, Slack, Google Hangouts, Facetime or Webex, the first step in forming a group is establishing what technology you use to meet/collaborate.
Decide on common training materials, or agree to focus on the exam blueprint agnostically
This is where a lot of study groups tend to stumble right out of the gate. Let’s be honest, all training materials are not created equal, and people may have acquired their study materials any number of ways. This could be a constraint on your group and the first hurdle to clear.
As a group, it’s better to decide if the group prefers to stick to one provider or approach the topics vendor-agnostically. There are pros and cons to each. One of the biggest pros is that it makes cadence easier and focuses the entire group on the exact same topics and labs. The biggest con of going with this approach is it could be exclusive to people who don’t have and can’t acquire the agreed-upon materials, and thus the group misses out on the added value that some might otherwise bring.
Develop ground rules early in the process
Here is another large stumbling block that most don’t even see. So much is assumed that often causes problems down the line, and when dealing with people of different cultures and expectations, it’s really imperative to declare the ground rules for the group and make it accessible to anyone who wants to join. This isn’t just administration for its own sake, it helps defuse arguments before they arise and streamlines the whole process.
Ground rules cover the basic expectations of the group and how it will interact. Cameras on or off? Mute when not talking? What common language will the group work in? Do we raise our hands (digitally or otherwise) and wait to be recognized or can we be more freeform? What is the expectation if late? Is there a consequence for habitual lateness?
Establish the frequency of meetings
This seems like a no-brainer, but it can get complex. How often will the group meet? Weekly? Twice a month? Monthly? The frequency influences a lot, including expectations of what can be accomplished outside the group meetings, and the the target dates for taking the exam.
Scheduling the meetings
What day of the week should the group aim to meet? What time? Which time zone will the group use as the reference? This could be very simple or extremely complicated depending on where study group members live. Some groups that want to be hyper-focused restrict membership to within 2-3 hours of the reference time zone. Some are more loose but place the burden of making it to meetings on time on the members who live far outside the reference time zone. There’s no right answer here, but in general, the closer the group is to the reference time zone, the easier scheduling the meetings (and making them) will be in the long run.
Agree upon the group’s topic format
It would be foolish to study only when the group meets. However, a pace must be set to keep the group somewhat synchronized. To ensure optimal study time when the group is together, it’s important to establish what should be covered in the group and what should be covered on your own between meetings.
For example, simply reading a chapter of a certification guide together in a meeting is a waste of time. It would be more efficient if everyone reads the chapter ahead of time and brings certain review items to the group. That could be questions on the text for review, it could be creating some sort of virtual lab based on the chapter(s) and reviewing that with the group. Generally, reading should be done outside the group and discussion should be the goal of the group meetings. The whole reason to join a study group is for accountability and exchange of ideas, after all.
Now, let’s look at a few things we should NOT do.
Establish everything prior to creating the study group and saying, “Take it or leave it”
Study groups aren’t dictatorships. The reward for starting and running a group is that you can drive these discussions, but not decide them alone. Start with finding interested study group members, then start discussing things like ground rules, materials, and let the above details come out of that discussion.
Leave the above unvisited for long
Study groups change over time. Someone may get the cert knocked out before others, others may get refocused to something else. Someone new may join, People change and so must things like scheduling, ground rules, etc. Every 3-4 meetings it’s worth revisiting and ensuring all the details are up to date.
Waste your own time and others’ by being habitually late and/or distracted and failing to do the work
Time is a precious resource for us all. Most of us are busy professionals juggling work, family and other obligations. A study group is an investment of time towards a goal and that investment is easier for some, harder for others. It’s important to be respectful of your time and the time others are investing by being focused when the group meets, on time, and most importantly, on schedule.
Things happen and you may not be able to do the pre-meeting work one week, but it can’t become a habit. If the group is meeting to trade/review OSPF labs, as an example, failing to create your own OSPF lab to share means you’ve failed to contribute to the group’s learning. Once or twice, life can get in the way, but if this happens habitually, you’re taking from the group without giving back. Just don’t.
Forget the point of a study group is to get different ideas and views
IT is full of introverts but there’s a few of us extroverts here too. We extroverts have to be very conscious of ourselves because often, people who are introverted are content to listen. For some, English is a second or third language and they are self -conscious about speaking. The point is, don’t dominate discussions. Make an effort to engage everyone.
Fail to participate in group discussions and activity
On the other side of that coin, failing to share your ideas, views and knowledge also makes for an ineffective group. Teaching others is a powerful way to cement knowledge you have and find your gaps. Don’t deprive yourself of that opportunity. Others also benefit from your questions and clarifications. A lot of times, people are wondering the same things but are not brave enough to speak up thinking they may be the only one who isn’t ‘getting it’. Speak up, the study group is a place to get information you can’t get from a book, video or blog post. It’s real human explanation addressed to your specific question.
I hope this has given a solid framework of things to pay attention to when starting and running a study group. It shouldn’t be a stressful endeavor, though at the outset it can feel like herding cats. Don’t be afraid to do what works for the group as a whole. Don’t be afraid to firmly refer to the ground rules when they are broken. The study group has an ultimate goal of ensuring those within the group get certified. That’s the mission statement and so focus on that.
In this episode, women network engineers discuss the current realities for women in the network engineering space: the challenges, the support they’ve received, and how we can continue to make the industry a place that’s open to everyone. (Step one: ladies’ cut vendor t-shirts.)
In this article, we are going to discuss several parts of Section 6 – Automation and Programmability of Cisco CCNA Syllabus. Programmability and Automation are two huge and very hot topics in the world of Networking. Having Programmability and Automation skills is practically a requirement – so many organizations are adopting it. This article hopes to cover sub-sections 6.1, 6.2, and all of 6.3.
First, we should address the age-old question – Will Network Automation replace Network Engineers? No, this is a very common misconception. Automation is ultimately about consistency. Doing the same task over and over again manually can introduce human error. Sometimes these errors, while not catastrophic in nature, can be problematic and cause downtime.
An infamous example is adding a VLAN to switches throughout your network. In order for the VLAN to work properly, it needs to be created on each switch and then allowed on the trunk links that interconnect the switches. When adding the VLAN to the trunks a very common mistake is to forget the “add” keyword which will remove all VLANs that are tagged on the trunk and then allow the new vlan only. This simple fatal mistake has sent many a network engineers running with their laptop and console cable in hand.
A quick word about the above – This is a very common mistake. You will make this mistake in production and it will cause problems. But, find comfort in the fact knowing that many other network engineers that came before you have made that same mistake.
When using network automation you can get the syntax for the commands you need to send correct once, and then let automation do the rest for you. But, be aware. Automation is the tool that you use to deploy that thing over and over again. If you make a mistake it will do that mistake over and over again. So, always test your code before deploying it.
Automation and Network Management
Automation has changed the way we manage networks. In a traditional network, everything is done manually. From the deployment of new switches, updates to standard or baseline configurations, and deploying new network services are all done by the network operator.
In SDN (Software Defined Networking) Controller-based networks, a lot of the mundane repetitive tasks are handled by the controllers. Some examples of controllers in Cisco-based soltuions are: DNA Center in SD-Access, vManage in SD-WAN, and the APIC in ACI. The controllers handle all of the configuration deployment, as well as software upgrades, services deployment, applying security policy, and can even handle deploying new networking devices with Plug-and-Play or ZTP (Zero Touch Provisioning). This allows the network operator to focus on higher-level tasks like designing the network for scale and to best support the business, support operations, and more, like making progress on projects and other tasks.
The 3 Planes
In any networking device there are three planes of operation: The Management Plane, the Control Plane, and the Data Plane.
The Managment Plane is how the Network Operator accesses the devices and manages it. Whether it’s through SSH, HTTPS, or a Secure API and manually or via automation tools the Management Plane is where this takes places. This how the Operator tells the network device to function.
The Control Plane is where the device makes forwarding decisions. If we’re talking about a router then this is where Routing Protcols live, the routing table, and so forth.
The Data Plane is where traffic ingresses and egresses the device. This is literally the data being sent across the network, from an end user device out to a web server on the internet.
In a traditional network these three planes live on each and every device in the network. If you need to deploy a new security policy or update an existing one then you need to access the management plane on EVERY device in the network, or at least where the policy update is applicable, and update or apply the new rules. This is where Controller-Based networks make a huge impact.
In a Controller-based network the Management Plane is the Controller. This is where the Network Operator manages the network, regardless of how many network devices there on. The Control plane pushes the configuration, as described by the network operator, down to the devices. The networking devices themselves are the forwarding plane and just move traffic based on the instructions provided by the Controller. Let’s take a closer look at this in practice in Cisco’s SD-WAN.
In Cisco’s SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) you have several pieces that fit within the 3 planes.
Within the Management Plane you have vManage, vBond, and vAnalytics. vManage is administrative interface for the rest of the network. vBond is the Orchestrator. When a device comes online either for the first time or after a reboot the device reports to vBond first and vBond will provide the device with the information on how to reach vManage and the rest. vAnalytics takes in all of the telemetry data and turns that data into useful information to be consumed by the network operator so they can make informed decisions about their network.
Within the Control Plane are vSmart Controllers. These controllers take the instructions from vManage and push the configuration down to the devices. They can also control the routing table for each device.
The Data Plane is composed of the routers themselves. In the above example it’s the vEdges, which is simply a Cisco SD-WAN capable router.
Overlay, Underlays, and Fabrics
Overlays, Underlays and Fabrics are very common terms that you’ll hear when discussing Controller Based networks. If you’ve ever looked at GRE or IPsec Tunnels across a network, like the Internet, then you already familiar with Overlays and Underlays.
In the example of a GRE or IPsec tunnel operating over the Internet, the Internet is the Underlay network. It provides the networking connectivity from one endpoint to the other. The Overlay is the tunnel being formed over top of the internet. The underlay is just forward traffic, it really has no knowledge of the overlay.
In, for example, a Cisco Secure SD-Access network the underlay is composed of network devices that move traffic. They don’t really even need to be Cisco devices, or understand what SD-Access is. However, the edge devices need do, because they use the overlay protocols to initiate communications.
Going back to our previous example of IPsec tunnels across the internet – the internet routers are not speaking or using IPsec to form the tunnel, they are just routing packets using protocols like BGP. The end-point devices like laptop and firewall pictures above are using IPsec in the overlay. In an SD-Access network the underlay is using a routing protocol like OSPF, and the overlay uses protocols like VxLAN or LISP – more on those later. But, only edge switches and routers need to understand LISP and VXLAN in order for the Overlay to work.
Finally, the Fabric. This term is used often and simply refers to the network where the overlay and the underlay are operating. Once you exit that you have left the fabric and are back in a traditional network, or perhaps a different fabric. Again, back to the IPsec tunnel examples, once the packet has arrived to the destination firewall it is exiting the fabric and entering the Enterprise network. That network maybe a Cisco SD-Access Fabric, so it’s exiting one Fabric and entering another one. The Fabric is just a term for controller based networks, and not just a traditional network.
First off, what is an API – an API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s a way for someone to interact with a piece of software and APIs can even be configured to interact with each other. The API enables automation and programmability, as well as Orchestration. API’s typically use standard HTTP calls, which are verbs like GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, and PATCH. This of the HTTP GET like the Cisco CLI version of show. The show command lets you view configuration. The HTTP GET will let you view information as well.
The network operator can use tools and the verbs to get information and then send configuration changes. Automation and scripting can be used to make these changes as well. Additionally, when one system sees certain changes or things happening in the network they can be configured to send API calls to other APIs on other controllers. This is very common in the Data Center. You’ll have an API on the ACI controller, called the APIC that interacts with the virtualization controller, in VMware known as vCenter.
These are two different interactions. When a Network Operator is interacting with an API, or two APIs are interacting with each other, this is a Northbound API interaction. When the API is interacting with network, or other, devices that it controls, this is the Southboud API interaction.
In this article we discussed sub-sections 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 including 6.3a and b of the Cisco CCNA 200-301 Syllabus. This article should be considered a starting point for the topic and may not be comprehensive enough to fully prepare the learner for the Cisco 200-301 CCNA exam.
In this episode, we interview author Eric Chou. Eric has written one of the most important books in Network Automation – Master Python Networking. Eric shares his career journey which includes working for two of the largest cloud service providers! Eric also shares with us all of the other content he is working to create for the community.
Competition is everywhere. Sometimes it is unavoidable. For instance, when you are looking for a job. You want to focus on you, skill up, and set yourself apart from the rest that are competing for that same job. It is definitely stressful, but can also be necessary when it comes to career advancement. Not always, but sometimes. However, job hunting is not the scenario that I want to cover in this post. In this one, I want to go over the scenario in which you are already in the role that you want. You are not only bright, established, driven, and hard-working, but you are also a part of a team. Let’s say in that team, there are some new, up-and-coming, less experienced members. Or maybe, there is someone within another department in the company that is looking for a change, and wants to explore your specialty. How would you handle something like that?
The Reflex? This obviously isn’t ‘one size fits all’, but I think a natural reaction could be to want to protect yourself. That first reflex might be to immediately enter the competition mode that was brought up earlier. Your mind could quickly take you to a far-end, worst case scenario spectrum quickly, if you let it. You could find your brain starting to race with questions such as:
Well, who is this new and ambitious person?
Why do they want to get into, and familiar with my responsibilities?
Do they think they are better than me?
Are they trying to take my job?
What if I train them and my boss likes them better than me?
Honestly, I think it’s fine if this is the first place your mind goes when this situation comes up. This competitive instinct pops up in me fairly often. I think it’s important however, to realize this happening, and shift the energy elsewhere.
Flip the Script As stated earlier, the strong competitive spirit, and looking out mainly for yourself has its time and place (job searching for example), but successfully functioning in a team environment is definitely not it. Let’s turn the tables on the situation. If you were the one that was new and trying to better yourself, would you rather have a role model/mentor to look up to and get assistance from, or a standoffish, information hoarding co-worker who looks down on you and pays you minimal attention? I’m hoping we all agree that we would want the former, rather than the latter. The ol’ golden rule seems to fit nicely here. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Be the Ally Being an ally, a mentor, or even just someone who is helpful when needed can make a big impact on someone’s career and life in general. For me, the first step is to be observant. This could happen directly and obviously, with someone new joining the team. Or, you may just happen to see someone outside your direct team that is showing an interest in what you do and potentially wants to be a part of it some day. If you have the time and energy to spend, I encourage you to key in on that observation and reach out to that person. Some newcomers may reach out to you, but others might be a little more reserved. If you start the conversation, that can be the spark to making a real impact on someone’s career. Again, there is no ‘one size fits all’ here, your involvement can be varied based on your judgement. It can range from just making it known that you see that this person has an interest in career growth and you are willing to help out and answer questions; all the way to setting up recurring meetings with this person to provide assistance and advice. I assure you that any degree of assistance you give to someone in this scenario will be appreciated.
The Win-Win Now, this could be seen as selfish on my part, but I see no shame in gaining a benefit from helping or mentoring someone else. Now, if you get into a trend of only providing assistance when you know it will benefit you is another story. No, the win-wins I am talking about here are the indirect benefits you can gain from being that helping hand, and mentoring someone:
Teaching something is a great way to help you solidify your knowledge in a concept, and practice gathering your thoughts to present them to someone else.
Taking time for others can build upon the image that people see of you. You will be seen as a kind, thoughtful, and helpful person. People will want to share ideas and work with you.
To add on to the previous point, your management will see what you are doing. You will be seen as a team player, and maybe even a leader.
Again, try not to get the goal skewed. The goal is to show that you care and are willing to give back, with time and effort to someone who needs it. That might be because someone else did the same for you, or because you wish you had someone like that when you were coming up and now you want to be the difference maker for someone else, that you never had. Either way, the end result is the same. Someone that wanted or needed some help to further their career got it. I just wanted to highlight some indirect benefits that you could see by helping others.
Bert’s Brief I seem to often say this phrase on the podcast: “just be cool”. What I really mean by that is to be kind, considerate, and helpful. You never really know what someone else might be going through, and you can easily help be a reason that things get better, or at least pointed in the right direction. There are many different ways to help, but I think the most important thing to do is to just start. Don’t wait for someone to ask a question. Be proactive and start the conversation. Share that knowledge and experience, don’t hoard it. Be the ally, not the ego.
For years now, the ability to be productive has been changing. In many cases, you do not need to be tethered to a desk working off of a computer that is wired into the network to get things done. We have evolved from that practice, to leveraging laptops, tablets, and even smaller mobile devices such as phones to get work done and stay connected, not to mention the growing plethora of Wi-Fi connected IoT devices. Supporting a mobile workforce is key, and how do we do that? This is accomplished by building, maintaining, and enhancing robust wireless networks. Wireless networks and RF environments can be more difficult to plan, maintain, and troubleshoot in respect to their wired counterparts. As an engineer, you need to understand many factors such as:
What kinds of devices and applications will the wireless network support (ex: voice, video, location services)?
What is the layout of the space that needs to be supported with wireless coverage?
Are there walled offices with cubicles?
Is it a large open space with a high ceiling?
Are there long, narrow hallways?
Understanding the physical environment helps determine what AP and antenna type will make the most sense.
How many access points will be needed to provide both RF coverage and capacity support? With having to support the Internet of Things, having just enough access points to provide sufficient wireless coverage is not good enough anymore. We also have to be able to support large amounts of clients simultaneously, and that can mean that we need more APs due to capacity rather than RF coverage.
So, how do we plan out our wireless design? Then, once deployed, how do we validate the design to make sure it is functioning as expected? These common scenarios are exactly where NetAlly can help. For wireless network planning, the AirMagnet SurveyPRO is the application to use. For post-validation and troubleshooting, the AirMapper™ Site Survey application runs on both the AirCheck™ G2 and EtherScope® nXG to collect performance metrics and upload them to the Link-Live Cloud Service. This cloud service is included with the purchase of a device in the network tester portfolio. Within Link-Live you can create and view visual heat maps to see how the design measures up. If it is determined that the design needs to be modified; once the changes are implemented, you can run through the Air Mapper process again to check the results of your modifications. The goal of AirMapper™ Site Survey is to take the stress out of wireless site surveys by allowing you to gain meaningful data quickly and easily. The primary features of AirMapper™ Site Survey include:
The ability to view SNR, noise, and interference measurements directly on the AirCheck™ G2 or EtherScope® nXG devices.
Comfort of completing full enterprise site surveys without balancing (potentially clumsily) a laptop and multiple external antennas.
Find rogue devices with automatic triangulation of wireless access points on a floor plan with the use of the Link-Live Cloud Service.
Even complete Bluetooth/BLE surveys with the EtherScope® nXG to gauge Bluetooth coverage areas.
Automatically find typical Wi-Fi issues with the new InSites™ feature in the Link-Live Cloud Service.
A versatile feature of the AirMapper™ integration with Link-Live is the ability to view different types of heat maps. Typically, when I think of a wireless heat map, it is just strictly the AP coverage, or essentially a visual representation of each access point’s signal strength. Well, that is just one of the many pre-configured heat map visualizations that exist within Link-Live. The pre-configured heat maps that you can choose from include:
Noise (dBm), SNR (dB)
Adjacent Channel Interference
Min Basic Rate (Mbps)
Max Tx, Max Rx Rates (Mbps)
Max, Min MCS
In addition to the existing features, NetAlly recently released the InSites™ Intelligence feature into the AirMapper™ platform by directly integrating it into the Link-Live Cloud Service. The InSites™ Intelligence feature allows customers to create custom pass/fail thresholds so that when survey data gets imported into Link-Live, users can quickly and easily see where potential issues reside in the Wi-Fi environment. In addition, InSites™ will also automatically filter and show the problem areas right there on the floor plan. A major goal of this feature is to provide actionable data to IT generalist teams so they can make intelligent wireless decisions without needing to be Wi-Fi experts. This can be a simple, yet powerful way to get through root cause analysis.
The different customizable threshold categories include:
First AP Coverage
Secondary AP Coverage
Adjacent Channel Interference
Max TX Rates (Mbps)
InSites™ Intelligence takes the data supplied to the Link-Live Cloud Service from the AirCheck™ G2 and EtherScope® nXG analyzers and provides an easy to digest view into the ‘goods and bads’ of the wireless infrastructure. For each metric category, you can simply see if the environment test is a pass or fail, what the threshold limit is set at to determine a failure, and the value of the worst reading in the environment.
Let’s face it, gaining actionable insights into RF environments can be difficult without the right tools and applications to help. It can force you to spend time inefficiently guessing and checking to try to get to the root of the problem and implement proper resolution. In some cases, you just need a visual representation of the physical RF environment with metrics that can allow you to see problems and data to help point you in the correct direction to resolve those issues. The combination of the NetAlly network testers, AirMagnet SurveyPRO, AirMapper™ Site Survey software, and the Link-Live Cloud Service can help you do just that. For more information, check out this introduction video to NetAlly and their products.
***This article was written by Patrick Kinane. We thank Patrick for this contribution!***
I recently used my Cisco Time2Give to help families in my local community via Toys For Tots. While I was there volunteering for 7 days, I was fortunate enough to do a little of everything from receiving toys at the warehouse to sorting the toys and filling orders, even delivering toys to a family. I will elaborate on my experience, but here is a short list of cool things that happened throughout my Time2Give.
Working with Toys For Tots, in general, was pretty cool (details and pictures later)
Seeing fellow Marines I’ve not seen since 2012
Working alongside my new team (which we are all remote) and working with Cisco Partners from ePlus
Getting to know people who were delivering toys (I always asked where the toys were coming from)
My Toys For Tots journey
Delivering toys to the house of a recipient family
Shout out to fellow Cisco employees
Let’s go on down to the unit and dive into things. Note: I am a Marine; I like books/blogs/reading material that has plenty of pictures… That’s right, reading material = pictures. Other note: I promise there will be a lesson here for people working in (or aspiring to work in) tech.
General Coolness Working with Toys For Tots (T4T), in general, was pretty cool. Just seeing the piles of toys coming and going. Getting to be a part of it. I do not have the metrics from this year as the current T4T campaign is just now coming to an end. I was able to get the metrics from 2020 though, and I expect this year’s numbers would be comparable.
27,000+ children received toys from the local T4T campaign (servicing North Carolina)
Roughly 80,000 toys distributed
Among the highlights of the campaign, for me, was when a U-Haul van filled with $28,000 worth of toys arrived:
It took a very long time to offload that truck. You cannot see all the bicycles under that massive pile of toys, but there were so many really nice bikes. I asked the driver where the toys were from, he said a family donates each year, and last year they did $22,000 worth of toys (I will revisit this later).
One of the Cisco Volunteers (Michael Dayton) started a toy drive in their neighborhood. Michael was collecting toys at his house, and then in the morning, he would bring the toys to the warehouse. Then the toys would be offloaded and sorted accordingly. Afterward, Michael worked the day helping with whatever tasks were waiting. One more thing about Michael, he is a former Marine (SFMF). The next photo shows just one of the toy hauls Michael and his neighbors collected.
Reconnecting With People Something to note about the unit where we did T4T is that I was once a Platoon Sergeant at the same unit; with two other Sergeants (Hudson and Presslein). The uniformed picture captured the last night we were together (back in 2012). That night Hudson and I got pulled over in a taxi by 9 sheriff deputies, but that’s a topic for another time (maybe something to cover in a podcast episode of The Art of Network Engineering). The following picture is Hudson and I at our old unit, assembling bicycles for T4T.
I was also able to work with two other Marines from the old unit. One of them is Lewis, who is the CEO of SPOTR. He does a ton of great work for the community (locally and nationally) and does work with USVC. Hernandez is the Marine I was referring to in this tweet. This is one of the important lessons for people looking for a job in tech. She is about to graduate with a degree in cyber security, and she met cybersecurity professionals. They discussed which certificates to go for and why; furthermore, she received some excellent guidance with career development and job market trends. People also started reaching out to their networks to ask about vacant cybersecurity positions.
Team Building and Partner Relationship Building Several people from my new team were able to join us, and working with my new team, in-person and sitting down together for lunch was huge! I believe it was an intense way for us to finish out our first year working together. It was also great that new relationships between my current team and people from my previous team were able to take root. Even more beneficial is that we worked alongside Cisco Partners from ePlus, which facilitated some Cisco Pre-sales Eng interacting with Cisco Partner Pre-sales Engineers (Brian Meade specifically – those in collab may know his name).
What’s The Story Behind The Toys? I would get to know people who were delivering toys, and while talking with them, I would always ask about the background of the toys. Some originated from office toy drives such as a dentist or doctor office, others neighborhood toy drives, often a fire station (bring a toy and get to ride the fire truck), some veteran groups, and boxes outside local stores (Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Grocery Store, etc.).
What about the family who donated $28,000 worth of toys? The gentleman driving the U-Haul of toys is a local firefighter. He let us know the family lost their son in a tragic car accident in 2003. The family donates all those toys in honor of their son, and it is incredible how something so sad has also become something so amazing.
My Toys For Tots Journey I joined the Marine Corps out of high school. This took me from New York to some yellow footprints, and I eventually landed in Huntsville, Alabama (for a few months to learn a job). While I was there, it was the holiday season, so we Marines helped with T4T. The best part of that experience was interfacing directly with the families. While giving a bicycle to a family, it reminded me of when I was a kid, and someone delivered toys to our place (good ole 1994). I remember getting a bike from him and wondering why, but not thinking much of it because I was psyched about the new ride. At T4T in Huntsville, I realized the deal with the toys and bike from that day back in 1994.
While on Active Duty that was my last time working with Toys For Tots; however, I joined the Marine Corps Reserve after my time on Active. This is important because Toys For Tots is a Marine Reserve initiative. So I was back to interacting with T4T during the holiday season while I was a reservist; however, I left the unit in December 2012 because I began working at Cisco in January 2013 and I wanted to put all my focus into Cisco.
While working in Cisco TAC (pre-covid) I used to work with several other veterans to help facilitate the T4T drive throughout the Cisco RTP campus. I eventually stepped away from Toys For Tots (having more kids, studying for CCIE, etc.); however, this year was my first time back since pre-covid and it was awesome!
Something I want to reiterate is, my experience and the experience of my fellow Cisco employees was made easy by Cisco providing us with Time2Give.
The Best Part There’s a family about 20 minutes away from where I live today. The children lost their dad earlier this year, and a wife lost her husband. A mom and dad lost their youngest son, and two brothers lost their younger sibling. Assisting families during trying times is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I wish everyone who donates their time, money, food, toys, etc., could see the impact of their efforts because it is beautiful.
In this week’s episode A.J. and Andy interview David Alicea! While David was exposed to the Cisco Networking Academy at a young age in High School he actually didn’t land in Networking until later on. Since then he has been a career Network Engineer and recently landed himself a position at the mothership, Cisco. Hear how did it all in the week’s episode!
A.J.: [00:00:00] This is the art of network engineering podcast
and share the stories of fellow
A.J.: Welcome to the art of network engineering. I am A.J. Murray at @NoBlinkyBlinky. How are we doing tonight? No, that’s Blinky Blinky, Blinky,
uh, Andy and Andy laptop. All things Andy can be found at permit IP. Andy, andy.com. Danny, how are ya, man?
Andy: Um, I’m better than I’ve been in a really long time. And, uh, I tell anybody why yet?[00:01:00]
A.J.: What does it say, Randy? You’re killing.
Andy: You’re killing.
A.J.: I know. Isn’t it. Time to let the cat out of the bag? I don’t
Andy: know. I feel like the whole team should be together. I feel like maybe it’s too early. There’s some timing stuff that, you know, it’s going to be great. And I’m really excited. Let’s build some suspense.
I have a cool announcement. Yeah. There’s, there’s a cool announcement coming. I think there’ll be a lot of happiness for me and, uh, just know that I’m making a big change and I’m very happy about it. So overdue, but it
Andy: it shows. I’m sorry. You guys have had to put up with, uh, a whole Andy for two years, but you know, I, I, I apologize.
That’s what, you know, you’ll find out who your friends are, right. People that put up with. It’s your toughest times and coming out of some of that. And, uh, yeah, you guys are still here, so thank you friends. I’m good. Hey Jay, [00:02:00] tell me, are you doing,
A.J.: doing very well? I have completed week three of the new job.
I’m settled in pretty acclimated to have a bunch of projects assigned. So in fact, I’m taking my first work trip tomorrow. Get to go to Maine, work on site with a customer. So I hear Maine’s beautiful.
Andy: You got to like get the hang or you’re just in and out.
A.J.: Um, I’ll hang for like a night. Yeah. Yeah, just onsite for one day to do a quick switch install.
So sweet man.
Andy: That’s great. That’d be good to get your first one under your belt, the new place, right? Yep. Yep. That’s great.
A.J.: Maybe switch a little switch chassis, switch a little switch. Actually. It’s pretty funny. So this customer is somehow got their hands on. No shit. One of the last 5, 29, 60 Xs. That’s Cisco
and now they’re gone.
Andy: Wow. Are they like.
A.J.: But over there end of life. End of sale. No more. And you’re you, you want [00:03:00] to
do the install on this one,
Andy: so well, can you get support on end of life? I always there’s end of life. End of support. And like there’s a
A.J.: well, there’s, there’s end of sale, which means that’s the last time that you can sell it or buy one. Uh, and then there’ll be end of support, which means you won’t be able to renew your support on there.
And then there’ll be like absolute end of life. Like not going to touch it anymore.
Andy: So you’re going to install switches that Cisco no longer will support.
A.J.: I’m going to install switches at Cisco no longer will sell. Oh gotcha. They will continue to be supported for the next, I don’t know how many years I’d have to look up,
Andy: but awesome.
Yeah. I always get close. Get confused in the different end of. Terminologies. Good stuff, dude. Don’t break spanning tree, right?
A.J.: No, I won’t. I promise I’ve done it.
Andy: That’s all. I’m just saying don’t pick Spanish rates.
A.J.: I know I’ve done it too.[00:04:00]
And now it’s time for some wins. Winning in our discord channel this week is Dalton B. They moved into their first network position coming from the service desk in their organization. And they’re currently working on their CCA. N a congratulations, Dalton, U M U T C 24, late at an it support position.
Congratulations, Carlos RM passed the Jan CIA Juno’s ticker bit it’s past the J and CDA. Congratulations to grits. Number Mang past the dev net associate who was staying Pilgrim past two exams this week, the NRC and the CISP congratulations. RFG labs passed to CCNA and smiling. Chris, our very own smiling.
Chris was promoted to networking and InfoSec manager. Congratulations, Chris run and. Took on a new network engineer position and starts [00:05:00] Monday. Congratulations, run and myrrh pup 5 69 past the Encore. Big win there. Congratulations. MoPOP welcome. And thank you to new patrons, Ryan, Eddie, Canada, Adam Smith, a new identity, and yet sick.
Thank you so much for your support of what we do here are the art of network engineering podcast. And thank you to all of our fans for listening and downloading and liking our content. Following us on all of our social platforms, uh, that really helps an awful lot. Uh, if you’re interested in joining the Patrion program, you can go to patrion.com forward slash art of net enj.
And I want to personally wish all of our listeners, a very happy and safe holiday season. Thank you so much for listening to the art network engineering podcast. Now back to the show. I am very excited to introduce our guests tonight. If you have spent any time on Twitter or in our discord, [00:06:00] you are completely familiar and should know the name.
David Alicia, David, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to have it here.
David: Hello, everybody happy to be here?
A.J.: Oh yeah. So, uh, if, if you’re not following David, if you haven’t talked to him, uh, then you will be happy to know that, uh, David has recently changed jobs and, uh, and so David, where do you work these days?
David: am currently working at a small organization. I am currently at Cisco. Ah,
A.J.: that’s awesome. That’s awesome. So I’m sure like many, a network engineer in our field landing at a, at a large OEM, such as Cisco is. The dream, right?
David: It’s it’s been a journey I’ve been trying to get the Cisco for a while now. Yeah, door’s just never, uh, never opened in the past.
And then things worked out and [00:07:00] you know, it was the right time. That’s one thing. I believe that if something’s not working out, it’s just not the right time it’s going to happen. It’ll happen in the future.
A.J.: I think we were talking about this earlier. Somebody commented something in the failure plaques channel, right?
I think you would comment on, on there too, but like, uh, when you get to know that beans new opportunity. So sometimes it’s, it’s just about timing, right? Like if, if the world’s telling you now it’s not the right time, like the something better is coming your way, don’t get defeated. Uh, when you, when you get to know, and just like you said, you had gotten to know a few times from Cisco before, but this time they said, yes, and here
David: you are, that’s natural.
I mean, it’s natural to, you know, if you get rejected, it’s natural. Like, well, you know, what’s wrong with me, but it’s just not the right time. You go back, you get better, you continue improving. And then from there, doors continue
A.J.: to open. Awesome. And so what, what do you do for Cisco?
David: So I’m a systems architect in enterprise, uh, near Chicago.
[00:08:00] Um, I have three customers that I work with. I am three weeks since I am learning as much as I can about them. And as well as furiously bookmarking, all the links that people are sending, there is a lot to learn, uh, you know, coming from an organization where we had, you know, 3000, 3,500 employees to an organization like Cisco, it’s, it’s a different animal.
So it’s, there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of people to, to figure out who does what, uh, so I do appreciate the people that have reached out to me from Twitter though. There’s a, there’s people at Cisco that, that I follow them and they follow me and they’ve reached out on WebEx and like, Hey, it mean it.
So I, I appreciate that. It’s it’s, everybody’s been very cool.
Andy: you said system architect, right? Sorry. Yep. So, so that’s like the essay role, right? You also hear it like se so. Okay. Can you explain to people because I I’ve recently learned about that role and I’m still not sure. I understand. What an [00:09:00] essay does.
David: So I am a partner to the customer, right? If the customer has any technical concerns, if the customer wants more information about different product lines, uh, if the, if the customer needs some advice, uh, if the customer needs some assistance, uh, assistance, roadmapping, anything that has to do with Cisco and technology, I’m there to assist them.
I’m there to be, uh, you know, the hands and feet is needed. Right. Um, of course there’s other partners that they work with, but from the Cisco side, uh, I am the one that’s given me advice along with the account manager now.
Andy: So it sounds a little bit like sales, but it’s not a sales rep.
David: It is still under the sales umbrella.
So that’s definitely coming from operations, going into sales. This is my first sales role. It’s a, it’s a different, uh, you know, it’s a different world, so there’s a lot to learn. Uh, and I’m, I’m diving head first into it. Pre-sales right.
Andy: I consider that pretty,
David: pretty much. I mean, even, [00:10:00] even after the fact, I still support the customer through the entire process.
Andy: Right. So I’m in an organization and you’re assigned to my account and I’m like, Hey, we got upgrade some switches and we’re not exactly sure what we want to do. Maybe we go to spine leaf. Now we’ve got to talk to David and you can direct us through, Hey, here’s, what’s going on? Let’s talk about your needs.
Right. Here’s our
David: product lines. Yeah. How does it fit into your ecosystem? Is there anything better that we can do? Uh, you know, the goal really is that everything’s working together, right? We don’t want something to be siloed, want everything to work together for your benefit. Awesome.
A.J.: So what I’ve been under the impression of in, based on being a customer myself and now working on the partner side is that, that kind of relationship between your, uh, your sales, uh, account manager and then the essay it’s kind of like, almost like CFO’s CIO kind of like advisory role to the business.
Is that kind [00:11:00] of, uh, an accurate ish?
David: Yeah. I mean, right now I’m, I’m trying to meet as many people as I can on the customer side. I mean, I’m sending notes and like, Hey, you know, I’m here. I want you to know, Hey, I exist. You know, I wasn’t here before reach out to me. I want to have a relationship with you. So I just want to be there for you.
That’s really what I’m working on now. But yeah, it’s, it’s really that
A.J.: very cool. Very cool. Well, you haven’t always been at Cisco and you haven’t always been into it or network engineering. So what, what kind of, you know, originally, oh, so long ago, or maybe not. So also long ago, uh, got your interest, got you into it.
David: So pretty much it was back at high school. Uh, you know, one of the, one of the classes that was offered back in high school and, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m 35 years old right now might not look at, but it’s cause I shaved my head, but yeah, back then in high school, uh, there was Cisco networking academy, [00:12:00] so that’s interesting.
A.J.: your high school, you had it, you had a Cisco networking academy. I don’t think we’ve heard that too much. I think we’ve heard like network academies at like colleges and stuff, but I think we’ve heard it too much at high school, so that’s
David: really cool. So quickly we put it in high school.
Andy: Quick point when I was in high school, I don’t think we had internet at the high school.
David: Just a couple computers. We had
Andy: a computer lab, but I’m pretty sure there’s no internet. I’m just, I’m just level-setting as you know,
David: you’re not as you have a whiteboard, was
A.J.: it still
Andy: chalkboards? It was the stone tablets.
A.J.: The overhead projectors would like to really
Andy: I’m sorry. Ignore my dumb jokes, David.
So you’re in high school and you heard about Cisco networking academy. You’re like, huh, this is maybe a thing
David: that was one of the choices. And I believe it was tied to as well as getting college credit. [00:13:00] So from there on, on, I think every Tuesday and Thursday, I was able to go to university to take, uh, to take a class at the university and I would get college credit beforehand.
So, you know, my mom pushed me to those programs. It’s like, do as much as you can. Um, you know, my parents education was really, you know, almost non-existent. I mean, my, my mom for years worked in housekeeping and my dad, I remember when I was young going around, picking up scraps of metal and sell them at different places.
I mean, that was really the history. So they wanted me to do, uh, even better. Right. So any program that opened up, go do it, go do it. It’s going to be good. No, don’t do this. Don’t pick up scraps like me. That’s what my dad would say. You know, you can do so much more. So I was like, Hey, you know what? I’ll, I’ll take that advice.
I’m a big believer in education. So Cisco academy and in high school was really a door that opened up, uh, for technology, right. It wasn’t exactly, you know, networks [00:14:00] interested me at the time, but it wasn’t what I dived into when I actually went to college.
A.J.: Okay. So you didn’t leave high school with your CCNA?
David: Nah, no, no, no. I know there’s some people out there, there are, that’s great for them, but I did not. And my plan actually was to do programming. So when I went to college, I was looking at web design. I was looking at programming and that that’s really what my bachelor’s was. Computer information systems.
Was it database administration? Um, I, my goal was to do DBA as well as do some web design on the side, things like that. And it just never materialized.
Andy: You went through the Cisco network academy and you did not get your CCNA.
David: No, what they did in high school actually is instead of, instead of the CCNA, they had us take the A-plus, which was interesting.
So they, I remember that because I failed it. Didn’t pass. Plus
Andy: that’s the hardware. And [00:15:00] that would be a good place to start right in your journey. So
David: we would sit, we would sit in the classes and you know, our professor. I remember, I remember we would always call him coach, coach Colbertson somewhere on LinkedIn.
I’m sure I’m listening. Right. He’ll probably listen to this. I’m sure. But, uh, yeah, we always call him coach. He was a great teacher and that’s one of the things that really, uh, continue to spark that interest in a bunch of the students is because he had such a good personality that he could bring us into the lesson.
And it’s like, look, you know, look at, this is how the internet works. You know, this is, wow, this is great. This is how I can get the most.
Andy: Did that grab your attention at the time? Like, oh my God, this is magical. Like,
David: I mean, this is how communication works, you know? So that was interesting, but it wasn’t interesting enough that when I went to college, I was like, oh, I want to do this for the rest of my life. I still had that interest in design and creating websites and doing programming and learning that, that side of the house.
Andy: So quick, quick question. [00:16:00] Before we struck a chord, when, when you talked about your parents and how. You know, I don’t want to say they struggled. Right. But like you said, they didn’t have much of an education and they, they worked hard jobs that, that rings true, you know, for me to a certain extent. So do you feel, did that have any impact or did that mold kind of what you wanted for your life?
Like, you know, I have, so I have like memories, right. Of like certain portions of my life where like I wasn’t wearing the nice clothes. The other kids were like, you know, when you have these experiences, sometimes, you know, as a child that like stick with you and I, for me, I remember thinking, you know, like someday I want something different.
Right? Like I don’t want my kids to feel like I feel right now, you know, and I know that that’s kind of like heavy and crazy, but you just hit me. How was it growing up right. With like parents that weren’t educated and really had to work hard. Like, did that have an impact on you and what you wanted?
David: It did.
I mean, you hit the nail on the head. I [00:17:00] mean, really it was, I mean, to me it was, what’s going to be my legacy. Right. You know, my parents, you know, they dived and did everything that they needed to do. Uh, you know, they, they poured into me as much as they could. Right. So I want to do the same thing for my kids.
Right. So what’s going to put me in a place where I can pour as much into my kids as I can, you know, you have to get better. So that’s definitely something that I was looking for, even when I was young. I mean, even when I was young, I think I had, you know, the soul of an old man. I mean, that’s just how it works.
Um, I even, I even got married early, so my wife was 19 and you know, I was 22. The reason we got married early, we’re just all, you know, we, we look young, we’re old people mentally.
Andy: I love that, man. And how, how did you. Did you, so computer science, I’m jealous of people like you, right? Cause I failed at a computer side.
So did you always know that something you wanted it was that a natural progression for [00:18:00] you? Did somebody recommend it to you?
David: I think we went through, I remember sitting down and then looking at all the programs and that was the program that really spoke the most interest. It’s like, oh wow. I can learn programming, create something for myself at the time.
I remember, I think, I think X-Box had X and a, which was like the Microsoft developer for X-Box and stuff like that. So then that interested me a bit. So I was buying X and a books. I think I still have one or two behind me.
Andy: Um, that was interesting language under the
David: hood of, for X-Box for X-Box yet to create games.
It was X and a pretty much loud thing, but it used C-sharp. So that’s an, they utilized these sharp bikes and I guess was just the architecture of the program. But, um, Yeah, that was interesting to me, creating something from scratch, creating a game, creating a site, creating something that I could call my own that sparked the interest.
So I went in that direction and, uh, and somehow I ended up in database administration and I [00:19:00] in sequel and Oracle and all this, I don’t know how, but that’s the track that I went into. Uh, but it still involved me learning, C-sharp learning Java, uh, which I now have completely forgotten so long and I haven’t used it, you know, use it.
Uh, but, uh, at, at one point, uh, I was able to get a job one, the beginning, when I first started college, I got a job at the help desk, which was extremely beneficial. I mean, if you’re starting out and you’re starting for a place, you know, to look and learn a help desk, a service desk is definitely a place that
Andy: I’d recommend you get that in college to help us spot.
Now, was that an internship through the program
David: student worker? It was a student worker spot. So, uh, I worked for the help desk. I picked up the phone professors and students yelling at me, complaining tickets, all this stuff, I’d go around, running around imaging computers, you know, uh, formatting stuff. I mean, there was just a ton of stuff that we had to do.
Um, I [00:20:00] remember we had a DBA at the campus and for some reason, Uh, she had me running Oracle scripts, like to create student accounts or something. I remember that. So that was pretty cool. There was a bunch of stuff in the beginning, the campus wasn’t centralized to all the other universities. So we had their own exchange, throwing everything.
So I remember creating email accounts when I was a student worker. I mean, there was a ton of stuff I did. So, um, it was a little bit of everything and that kind of, that helped me piece together, you know, all these different areas and it, and how they work
A.J.: together. Hmm. Very cool.
Andy: Getting that experience, man.
It was huge. That’s amazing. My experience. I couldn’t get arrested when I graduated because I didn’t do any internships. And I was, I was working full time, you know, waiting tables, pay my rent and stuff. And my buddies who did internships, they all had, you know, multiple offers when they got out and you know, I’m in a row and they’re like, where have you worked?
What have you done? And so anytime I hear, you know, where somebody is in [00:21:00] college, right? Like, Hey, what should I do? Like get experienced if you can, like, you know, there’s, there’s internships, there’s student work. You’re getting hands on. You know, not that that turned into a job for you at graduation. Maybe it did.
You have experience, which is what everybody wants, right. When you get out, what do you know, what
David: have you done? And I think the biggest part is, you know, getting to know people, you know, cause in the university, I got to know the other teams to help us managers, you know, th th th there was a network team on site.
Uh, so I got to know them. Uh, I got to have a relationship with them, build that relationship up, uh, even as a student worker. So, I mean, one of the things that I always tell people is, you know, work hard, you get noticed, right? We were talking about that, you know, before the show is like, work hard, you get noticed, you know, 99% of the time, if you work hard, if you put in the work, somebody’s going to look at you and be like, wow, this person busts.
They, you know, they deserve to move up or they deserve something right. 99% of the time. There’s always that 1% that it doesn’t work out, but I didn’t have present of the time. [00:22:00] Somebody will notice you. So that’s really what happened. And, you know, there was a desktop, a full-time desktop support, uh, with the university that opened up, you know, to drive around between the satellite locations.
And they, they asked me if I was interested in it, you know, it wasn’t the greatest pay in the world, but it was like, you know what, I’ll take it. You know? Cause there was some benefits behind it, you know, they would help pay for, for some of the schooling as well. So it was like, yes, this is great. So there was some good benefits behind it was that.
That was full time and you are still in school. I was still in school, so I was still going for my bachelor’s. So did
Andy: you have to scale back on the amount of classes or did you do full-time school
David: by the, by the time I got the full-time desktop support, I was pretty much almost done. Okay. Um, so I did that for about a year.
By that time I had graduated, um, After desktop support with the university. Uh, another spot with the university opened up, which was a lab manager position, which was being a manager, a supervisor to the [00:23:00] student workers. So I started managing the student workers, you know, picking the schedules, helping them out with escalations, things like that.
Uh, and I was like, Hey, you know, we were working with this guy now he’s the boss. So it was pretty cool. I got along with everybody like everybody, you know? Um, so I think, I think it was, it was pretty good. And, and, and it helped me, it turned me into a little bit of a teacher because at that point, you know, I was showing the student workers, well, this is how you do things.
This is what’s the best way to, you know, image this procedure, you know, careful with that professor. You know, I think it helped out a lot. And doors continued to open after that, within the unit.
A.J.: Wow. Very cool. So as a student worker, was that like a paid position or was it just the work experience that you got?
David: There was a paycheck. Yeah, I wouldn’t say it was a lie. You know, the government was paying something. I know it through the school, but there was a paycheck and, you know, I was able to take my girlfriend at the time. I, you know, on a [00:24:00] date to cellies or something somewhere, you know, I’d worked out
David: I got, I got the bills paid, but you know, my, my parents, I was still living with my parents and they were helping me out as much. They go, you know, that’s one thing that I’ll say that, you know, Throughout my time in high school and the university, you know, they, they did everything they could to make sure I was successful.
So that’s one thing that I, I do say, and I want to thank my parents for everything they did, because obviously, you know, if they hadn’t pushed me as much as they did, if they hadn’t helped me out, uh, you know, by talking to me and even monetarily, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Right,
A.J.: right. That’s awesome.
That is awesome. You’re you’re a supervisor at the university. How long did you work for the university?
David: Uh, I was honestly, I was there for I at the campus at the campus and it was the campus in Chicago. I was there. I mean from 2005, through [00:25:00] 2009 in various positions, eventually I was managing the help desk.
I was managing some of the other lab managers who managed the student workers. And these were full-time, you know, adults that I was managing at that point. Um, So, I mean, I continued to do my fan. I continued to work and learn and teach pretty much as much as I could. Um, and eventually, um, you know, I was in a, in a position where I was able to help at the campus.
I was able to help the, the network team. So there was a network team that took care of all of the campuses around the U S uh, they would, they would install the switches. They would do all the work, they would change the lands, they would do everything. So they placed a little bit of trust in me. And they said, Hey, you know, you’re at the campus and we know you, you go install this right.
You help us out. Uh, so that is really what opened the door. Into network engineering. Right? So that sparked the interest. I was like, this is pretty cool stuff, right? This is, you know, the roots of communication. This is where it’s at in the closet, so that, you know, they [00:26:00] continue to put some trust in me and to, to give me things to do upgrade this or help somebody out with, you know, taking, uh, taking a blade out of the 6,500 and swapping it out.
Uh, so those opportunities continue to pile on, uh, you know, they probably didn’t want to do the cable work. So I ended up doing all the cases. I’m sure there was a little bit of that, right. I enjoyed it. I mean, it was just like, this is great. Um, so there came a time where corporate needed somebody to help out with physical security.
They had a huge physical security project to switch everybody over to Honeywell, I believe. Um, so they, you know, I was voluntold. I was like, they’re like, Hey, you’re perfect for this. This is a great project that you can assist with. We’re going to take you out of your help desk manager role. And you’re going to come to corporate to help us out with this.
So I, I did that for six months and eventually it was like, um, you know, my, my, my boss at the time was like, well, you know, we’re filling up your position cause you’re probably going to stay at corporate. And I’m like, well, I don’t want to do [00:27:00] physical security, you know, for the rest of my life, I want to do something else.
So at that point I felt sort of homeless. Like where am I going to go? Right. So, uh, that’s when I started just looking outside for something else and the network team heard that I was looking in. Well, one of the engineers that I had a good relationship with, they’re like, Hey, we have a spot open. Are you interested?
I’m like, yeah, I’ll, I’ll go. You know, that’s definitely something I was interested with. And, and, you know, I knew them. And honestly, the interview was like, Hey, you know, do you want to be a network engineer? Yes, you’re hired. That’s really what it was because
they, they already, you know, the network engineer that, that, um, that was working with the campus that was helping me out. He was the one teaching me everything. So he knew technically, you know, where I was, he knew everything. He was the one that taught me everything. Yeah, this was at the university. Now it was [00:28:00] at the corporate side.
Andy: Yeah. They knew you, they knew your work. You had you’re like 17 managing people.
David: I was young. I was 1920 managing people. I mean, it was interesting, but at the same time, I was trying to soak up as much as I could and learn. I kind of resentment
Andy: that you didn’t have a technical interview for your network engineer only because the pain that I had to endure for mine, they mopped the floor with me and made me cry and then gave me a job.
You’re just like, yeah, my second interview,
David: my second interview with my, within the second place was definitely a little bit more technical, but yeah, it was like, Hey, do you want to be a network engineer? Yes. That’s what that, that’s all it was. Oh, university
Andy: is that? Yes. I’m sorry. You believe it was because.
David: Uh, cause I, I, you know, I spent that time building that relationship. Right. They knew me and they were the ones that taught me. So they knew who I was. They knew [00:29:00] I was responsible. I was a hard worker. That’s why I always say work hard, get noticed, right. Work hard. And you know, sooner or later it’s going to happen, have some patients.
Um, so I, I spent, uh, you know, as a network engineer there for corporate, I spent five years.
A.J.: Five years. Okay. So that, so I’m trying to keep track here. So this was like 20 13, 20 14.
David: I started as a network engineer in 2011. So 20 11, 20 16.
A.J.: I did a couple of years of the security thing. Maybe
David: I did. It was about six months or so beginning of 2011 when I did physical security project.
Uh, and then at the end of 2011 is when, when I was in a position opened up for network
A.J.: engineering. Okay. Got it. Got it. So you were doing the network engineer thing for corporate. Did you work primarily with Cisco? Did you [00:30:00] decide to go after your CCNA?
David: So it was, it was a mixed environment, was a mix of Cisco and Juniper and the data center.
So it’s a mix of both. So I had to learn both
it was definitely the
at the time I was used to Cisco already from the campus, you know, putting in V lands and different things on switches with Cisco. That was like, when I get to the data center and there’s Juniper, I’m like, what is this stuff? Right. But it was sort of familiar because Juniper had that programming feel to it.
So it was interesting, but I wasn’t, I wasn’t even thinking about certifications at that time that, that wasn’t something that anybody had taught me that wasn’t something that anybody had spoken to me about. There was a person in the team that was working on their CCIE and they were going through their second attempt.
And, uh, pretty much he spent some time talking to me and about the [00:31:00] importance of certifications and, and how you can learn a lot of from certifications. And that, that sparked the interest. And I was like, oh, maybe I should take a look at a certification that I can know. I can jump into her learn. Uh, so I that’s when I went for the CCNA.
Uh, but yeah, that was, it took somebody to, to sit down with me and explained to me like certifications can help you with certification, even though you might not use it for a particular job. You’ll learn a lot out of the process.
Andy: And it was this, the CCI you guy is that who you were talking to us as the
David: CC again,
Andy: it’s one of those things that you’re just sitting down and getting to know him.
What’s up, I’m studying for this thing. What is that? And then you kind of started to describe the value of certifications. Yeah. Yeah.
David: That was a breath of fresh air. Cause I mean, honestly, you know, a lot of, a lot of places that, you know, in the past that I’ve seen, you know, there’s people that are there, they’re working there, they bust their butt, but they’re comfortable.
Right. So they don’t want to get better. They’re they’re good at where they’re at. They want to stay there. They’re happy. [00:32:00] Right. And then there’s people that want to go that extra step up. Right. They want to do something harder. They want to learn something new. Right. So this person was really had that mentality and he kept pushing me and he sparked that interest.
So that really is why I started pursuing certifications and continue to dive deeper into that work engineering.
Andy: How did that see Sandy study and go, was it easy for you at this point? Because you had experience and you’re a bright guy in computer science or was struggling.
David: It helped. It helped. Uh, I think, you know, I still struggled through some of the topics I struggled through today.
Like spanning tree spanning tree. Sometimes it’s like, ah, this is terrible, but it’s something that I need to get better at. Uh, but it, it helped that, you know, I, I went straight to eBay. I started pursuing purchasing equipment in the beginning. Uh, in the beginning, I, you know, I bought, I bought, I think I bought an adolescent console.
I bought a bunch of stuff and I had a, you know, [00:33:00] it wasn’t a rack. It was just like a little table. And I just tossed the equipment on top. I was consoling into stuff. I mean, that’s how I learned. Uh, and this was like in the infancy of GNS three. So as soon as I discovered GNS three, though, that’s when I, the equipment started picking up a couple of spider webs.
So that’s when I started diving more into, you know, GNS three, but in the beginning it was all, especially for my CCNA studies, it was
Andy: all hardware let’s. Please pause for a moment. So you work on physical hardware, your lab, your studies, and then you pivoted to. Ambulation virtually virtualization and what the right term is, but do you feel, you know what I’m gonna ask AIJ cause I like, what was the value in your physical lab, as you know, did you learn things in your physical lab that you couldn’t have learned in GNS?
And so new person coming to you, I’m studying for my CCNA. Should I build a physical [00:34:00] lab or should I just go the virtual route? Because you have experience in both. What do you think
David: I’m a believer of doing both? I mean, I still have, you know, a lab here, physical gear, you know, you have to touch stuff, you know, that that helps, you know, plugging in a cable.
There’s a certain satisfaction. You get of plugging in a cable that you cannot get out of, you know, CNS three out of Eve on CML. There’s something different about it. You know, if I could buy a whole rack of equipment and a chassis and stuff like that and put it here and not have to pay for that electricity, that would be great.
But because I’m not going that route, you know, that’s when I have to rely on the virtual a bit more to do some of the bigger
Andy: stuff still true. But I remember in the CCNA and it’s definitely been true in my experience. And prod, I forget it’s like 65 or 70% of network issues are at the physical layer. So for me, all that stuff I learned with like bed ports, bed cables, bed, pin outs, bed cards, you know, you [00:35:00] name it.
It was supposed to be a roll over from the MSN. And it was a crossover. Like there’s so many physical problems that you run into. I had T1 DSU, CSU cards for additional ports, and they had a special pin out, like just so many things, you know, you drag a couple of pretend, routers up dragging a couple of 10 cables in GNS, or even you’re done if you’re brand new and you’ve never touched gear, you know, for me, if 75% of the, you know, 70% of the issues are physical, I think it’s valuable to get, you know, some, like you say, get some experience.
You know, the physical, if you’ve got a spanning tree loop up and everything’s down, it’s nice to see, oh, that’s what all the Amber lights mean. And my switches, you know what I mean? That’s true. GNS will teach you that. So anyway, I’m off my soap box, but you said physical.
David: Yeah. But it’s true. I mean, there’s stuff.
I mean, I remember a big portion of tickets I’ve ran into, especially in manufacturing. A lot of times those issues were resolved by just swapping out again. Right. I mean, the, you know, the we’ve always had to take it. It was like, well, this phone is showing some sort of [00:36:00] network error on the phone, this access point no longer connects.
And I was like, did you try swapping out the cable? No. As soon as the cable swapped out, it works like perfect that cable’s probably been sitting there for, you know, 10 years, you know, some rats are chewing on it or something, uh, you know, swap it out and it ends up fixing the problem. So a lot, a lot of what happens out there, you know, for somebody coming in fresh is physical, you know?
So that is important. That’s key learned the physical safety in your
A.J.: Yeah. I mean, I think if you’re just starting out, like in a physical lab, when you have like a certain foundation, you can get a virtual lab. Like, I, I don’t, I’m thinking a lot of people realize this, but you can actually make the two talk to each other, like that is possible.
Uh, and there are certain economies of scale that you can get out of a virtual lab that, you know, you just can’t really do affordably on a physical level, right? Like if you want to do larger typologies and really do some fun stuff, especially if you’re going for the [00:37:00] NP level, it’s a lot easier to do with a virtual environment than it is for the physical environment.
You know, like I’ve got four riders and four switches, but there’s only so much I can do with four routers and four switches, but there’s a lot I can do with 20 virtual routers that, you know, I definitely can’t do in a, in a physical, I
Andy: learned so much, you know, you’re building that virtual environment on a server usually.
So like for me, I had to learn this exci I had to learn VMware. I had to learn about virtualization and. You know, do I want to hyper threat or not? And how do you allocate the resources and power management and even just that building your emulated environment, you know, and yes, exci as an example, just so much to learn there.
I mean, you could spin it up in the cloud and be done with it and that school too, you know, but I learned a lot by having a physical server, even, even though the, the networking was emulated
David: and then the important part is, do, do something right. Grab some gear, do something virtual, but that’s a huge way to learn.
I mean, if you want to [00:38:00] get better, if you want to learn, you have to practice, right. I mean, if you didn’t jump on that bike, you, and you wouldn’t know how to ride that bike, right. You can’t just look at a bike and be like, I know how to ride that bike. And you’ve never been on a bike before. Like you have to, you have to hold things, you have to touch things yet.
And that’s the way you get back. Yeah,
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And then they go build it just like this ether scope. NXG that ally is here to help that ally simplicity, visibility, collaboration, visit net ally.com today. Now back to [00:39:00] the show. All right. So I think you, you said manufacturing there. So at some point then you, you left the college, uh, the corporate side of the university and you landed in manufacturing.
It sounds like. Was that the next step?
David: Yep. Yep. So towards, towards the end of 2016, Yeah, I, I wanted a bit more, right. So, um, you know, the opportunities weren’t happening locally. So I decided to look out and, um, pretty much I found a place in manufacturing, um, that, you know, I was doing everything right. We, we had another engineer, um, myself and my manager and the three of us would handle the worldwide networks.
Uh, it was about 40 sites, uh, you know, between sales offices and full plants and warehouses. Uh, so that gave me a huge opportunity to learn even more. I learned a lot from the team and pretty much, you know, we did a little bit of everything back at the university. It was very siloed. All I would do is rout switch and a couple of [00:40:00] firewalls.
That was it. And, you know, they had, there was a voice to learn. There was a security team, there was a team for that, a team for this. So that’s all I did was route switch and a little bit of firewall. So that was my mentality. So when I got the manufacturing, it wasn’t just route switch, a little bit of firewalls, route switch, CoLab security, uh, everything.
Right. So we did everything and it was nice because that was, I mean, that was definitely drinking from the fire hose because. I had to learn all these things that I had no idea about. Right. I had to learn about ice. I had to learn about stuff. Watch, uh, you know, uh, I had to learn everything CoLab. I mean, at the campus, all I would do is, you know, deploy a phone and that’s all, that was my experience within call manager, but I had to learn and I was taught, you know, what a PRI is, you know, how does this connect to the router?
What does it do? How do you configure it? Call manager? So all of these different things I had to learn know because I had to support these sites. I had to troubleshoot these rights. Uh, you know, there wasn’t anybody else besides the three of us. So, uh, [00:41:00] that was, that was huge. And I learned a lot and I learned a lot because I saw from the ground up, especially when we have to open up a new site, how things come together right now, all these networks come together, building the phones and building the voice environment for a site, putting in the security route, switch a little bit of everything wireless.
So I, I learned a lot. It was a, you know, from 2016 and onward, it was just. The information and information and information. And during that time, you know, I pursued my, my CCNP CCNP as well, back then, route switching to shoot. Um, so, you know, th that was something that continued to push me forward. I, I, you know, when I look at a certification, you know, certifications are great, but that to me is a big vehicle and learning, right.
I have the book, I have all the material. This is knowledge that I’m gaining, you know, so it’s great that I pass their certification tests, but let’s say I don’t, I still learned a lot of information that I can use in my environment of the knowledge. Yep. [00:42:00]
A.J.: I think
Andy: it’s the best part of certification. It’s just a learning plan.
Oh yeah. Right. Here’s all the stuff that you need to learn for this thing I wanted to ask you. So where did you look for your job? Where do you look? I mean, are you a LinkedIn guy? Like you’re at the university is that you want to look around, you find the manufactured. W where does
David: look? I mean, so up to that point, I mean, once I went to college and I was a student worker, I mean, and doors continued to open from there.
I wasn’t actively looking. Right. Except when I was, you know, at that weird period where I needed a job when I was in physical security. Um, so I was just looking at, uh, you know, different opportunities online. And I think that opened up, but. It was still within the university. Right. Even the network engineering portion there, it was still within the university.
So going to manufacturing, that was really the second, I would say the S the second company that I’ve worked for at that time. So I, I went for, to a recruiter and I was like, Hey, help me out. You know, this is my [00:43:00] skillset. Uh, what can you do for me? You know, what, what can we, what can we do, right? Where can I go?
So the recruiter helped me out and that’s, uh, that’s when, you know, there was a couple of different places, you know, and I was like, well, I don’t want to go to downtown, you know, all the time. And it was, it was the middle of winter. And I’m like, ah, this is too cold. I’m not going out there right now. But so, you know, I interviewed in manufacturing and it was a good opportunity, you know?
So that, that opened up through a recruiter. Where
Andy: did you find.
David: Now I’m trying to think, but it was LinkedIn though. It started off in LinkedIn. So LinkedIn recruiter and then from there. Awesome.
A.J.: Very cool. Very cool. So if you could kind of like summarize the value of, you know, having a recruiter, right?
Like if you didn’t have the recruiter, you’d have to go try to find a job on your own. Uh, and, and the recruiter inherently has a number of job listings available to you that they can come through and kind of see if you match up so that they’re doing a lot of the [00:44:00] legwork on your behalf and helping you weed out like good opportunities versus maybe not so good or bad opportunities.
David: I say, you know, it’s an extra set of. Right. I mean, you’re looking, you’re doing your thing, but you have somebody who’s fighting for you. Right. Um, you know, somebody who who’s, you know, you can give a list of requirements, Hey, this is what I’m looking for. Uh, if you can find something like that, that’s my goal.
So, you know, you have somebody in your corner who’s fighting for you as well.
Andy: The brochure, the other nice thing too, in my experience was that the recruiter who placed me in FinTech, you know, he had a working relationship with the company already. They had placed a couple other people over the years. And so, you know, they don’t know me from anybody.
Right. But because the recruiter has a relationship with that company and they’ve placed them and they develop trust. Then when the recruiter brings me in, it went, you know, Hey, we talked to this guy, we pre-interviewed him. You know, we think he’s a good fit. So it’s, I don’t know that might be stating the obvious, but I feel like if I had just cold applied, [00:45:00] you know, to a company, as opposed to a recruiter, They trusted already.
Cause they found good talent for them and brings me in for an interview. I feel like you just put you on another plateau, you know?
David: Yeah. There could have been a history there, you know, and that helps you out, you know, and it can help you out in your pursuit, uh, that why not, you know?
A.J.: Yeah. We’ve put any of the reputation of the recruiter has with that company that they’re working with.
Right. Like if they’ve brought them talent before, like there’s no reason to not believe that they wouldn’t do it again. Yeah. I think
Andy: it really helped me, you know, and in my particular situation, because of the relationship they had probably not the same everywhere. Right. But I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. I mean, I’ve never worked in an industry.
Where I’m being reached out to on a constant basis. Uh, you know, both my phone, my email, LinkedIn, before I got into network engineering, I was always the one looking for a job. And now it’s just, it’s so weird to me still. It’s just inbound. You want to work over here and do this thing? Like, I feel like [00:46:00] the hot girl at the party, you know, it’s kinda nice.
It wasn’t like that before I T so it’s a good, he loves me.
A.J.: That’s great. That’s
Andy: great. So we’re in manufacturing
A.J.: ha. Yeah, we’re in manufacturing. You sounds like you got your CCMP route switch and I think last year, you, or maybe it was earlier this year, it all blends together now with this whole COVID thing, right? Yeah. I really do remember that you got your CCNP security, so your NP.
Let’s dive into that journey. How was the CCNP security? I’ve heard? The score is just a monster.
David: It is definitely a, you know, there’s, there’s some marketing behind it, you know, it’s all the Cisco products and the Cisco security portfolio. Well, there’s the technical below that as well. Right? So, uh, it, it reminded me a little bit of the Palo Alto with a PC and S.[00:47:00]
Um, but a lot bigger. It was way bigger. The Palo Alto server was definitely, you know, some marketing, a tiny bit of technical, and that was it. It’s a good cert, but the CCNP security, the score is definitely deep, goes over the portfolio. Uh, there’s a lot of technical behind it. You know, it goes, it doesn’t dive into everything fully either.
Right. So, uh, it leaves the door open. Like, you know, the, the score talks about email security. Uh, so I decided to go as, as my, uh, smaller exam as my concentration, I went to the email security side. Uh, it was something that I was doing at work as well. Right. We had, uh, ESA, we went to CES. I had some experience with that.
But there was stuff that I found on the exam for, for the SISA S E S S a, it was like, what are we talking about? What is this? I mean, it’s deeper. And I had some experience on the product and I’m like, [00:48:00] I don’t remember clicking on this or reading about this. So it keeps you on your toes. It was definitely a, an interesting exam was a good exam.
Um, I think I had an easier time with the score than the Seesaw. I, I fought. I would, I thought I’d have a harder time with the score exam. You know when, as I was taking it, I don’t know if maybe because it was, it wasn’t that deep into the portfolio. And technically, uh, I passed that one and it was a better score than I had at the CSO.
The CSO was like one more wrong answer. I would not have passed. And that was, that was it. I was on the edge. Uh, so there was a couple of questions. I’m like, man, I have no idea. And I’m working, I’m looking at this thing every other day, you know? Um, but I passed, you know, it was, it was good, it was a good exam.
Um, but that, you know, a lot of what I’ve been doing in manufacturing and a lot of what the whole team was doing in manufacturing that, you know, the last couple of years has been security [00:49:00] related. You know, we had a security team, they did a lot of policy and a lot of procedures. We were the hands and feet for the security team.
So we did everything. We did ice. We did StealthWatch flash. We did dual implementing and architecting and designing everything that was really us. So. That, you know, I I’ve been doing security forbid and that’s why I was interested in the score and then the CCNP security.
A.J.: Very cool. Very cool. So I think it’s important to kind of talk about that, that marketing thing, the marketing aspect of these exams, and it’s, it’s a hundred percent true.
It’s there on the Encore and you know, like you said, that Sarah and the score and I, I think it’s, it’s important to know that like, as, as if somebody that’s up and coming. When you, when you have to study all of these things, you’re getting more exposure to the Cisco portfolio and that’s that only benefits Cisco.
Right. But I think that there’s, there’s people that kind of take a couple of different approaches when they’re putting together their enterprise environment. Either they, they go all in on one vendor or they do best. Right. Like, I want the best firewall and I [00:50:00] don’t care if it’s Cisco or Palo Alto or whatever.
I just want the best firewall. And then I want the best switches and then I want the best routers and it doesn’t have to be all the same vendor. I just want the best of the best. And then there’s people that go all in on a single vendor story. And there’s, I think there’s benefits to doing both, right?
Like if you, if you go all in on Cisco, then you get the full Cisco story. Right. And, and that’s where you tend to get like, and, and, and not just Cisco, right? Like if you go all in on Juniper, all in on, whatever, if you go all in on a single vendor, you’re going to get the bigger picture. You’re more analytics typically, right?
Like that’s usually the benefit that you’re going to see because they all connect to each other. They all talk to each other. There’s probably some additional benefits of security when you do best of breed, like you got the best of the best, but they don’t all talk to each other in some form or fashion, unless you’re using like, you know, some agnostic form of, of automation or something like.
Like the rolling your own kind of solution that, that you would get from the vendor. So taking these exams [00:51:00] gets you that exposure, and then later on in your career, you’re like, well, I need some email security. I remember reading about the Cisco email security appliance. I had no idea Cisco had an email security appliance personally, but, but that’s, that’s, that’s where he like, well, I got to start somewhere.
I remember reading about this thing. So let me go check that out. So that’s, that’s why that’s there and it’s, it’s, it’s beneficial
David: in my opinion. Oh yeah. I think everybody does it. I mean, it’s just, it’s just part of the, part of.
A.J.: Right. Exactly.
Andy: Hey Jay, you just sparked something. So each ecosystem has their own, I guess, analytics engine or platform or whatever, and they don’t talk to each other.
Right. Cisco has there’s junior pros. There is a risk that has there’s there’s no, like you said, you have to either go with third party, you know, open source or like build your own. I mean, that’s, that’s not ideal, right? Like, is it just because they’re in competition with each other? Like, there can’t be an, I mean, this might sound silly, but there can’t be like this open standard platform that [00:52:00] pulls all the competing vendors because we don’t care like you and I sitting at the chair, you know, the company went with Cisco over some stuff, Juniper, some stuff for Risto for some stuff, but why do I have to suffer as the operator that I can’t have a, uh, you know, uh, analytics that pulls it all into one dashboard?
Like that seems like a, I dunno, it’s an inherent flaw to maybe the competitive model. Maybe that doesn’t make sense. You kind of sparked it as you were talking.
A.J.: Right. I think it’s just, you know, they, they want you to buy into it, right? Like if, if DNA center could control other vendors, devices, where would be the kind of drive to continue to just buy Cisco if they could, you know, cause there’s other switches might be a little bit cheaper than a K
David: I think companies are getting better at third party integrations,
A.J.: especially with a nice,
David: yeah, I think it helps, but they’re not going to be fully open.
Right. I mean, sure. There’s some compatibility and there’s some, you know, a couple of things they do, but for the [00:53:00] most part, there’s that competitive nature
Andy: behind it is. Yeah. And I mean, I get the competition, but I’m also like, I’m thinking like, wow, if one of these big name vendors came out with a solution that really did, uh, you know, vendor B says, you know what?
I know vendor raised the. But I’m going to build a platform and pull all their stuff into, and maybe that’ll push us over the top. You know, if you could go with vendor B and they’re happy to let you see all of your vendor, a appliances and analytics and data, I don’t know, from a high level, if I was sitting up on a throne somewhere, but you know what?
These, these guys are. You know, they’re there cause you’re not going to buy less of one V I don’t know. I don’t know how all that money stuff works, but it’s probably another topic for another show, but
David: I solution to rule them all,
A.J.: if a vendor, if somebody actually made a single pane of glass or something that actually talked to
Andy: everything, there’s an example, right?
Like [00:54:00] I’m thinking Cisco Juniper they’re number one, number two. Right? Like if Cisco came out and said, you know what, we’re going to pull all junipers into because for multi-vendor shops or vice versa, I’m surprised they haven’t because like, God, you know, automation, single pane of glass, like they could, I think, right?
Like it’s a lot more
A.J.: effort on the vendor’s part. Right? Like you have people at Cisco that know Cisco. Now they’re going to have to go and really learn Juniper, or they’re going to have to partner and work on it together.
Andy: Yeah, I just, I probably oversimplify, but like routers or routers a switch, a switch.
Yeah. The CLI is going to be a little different, but like SPF doesn’t change from, you know, vendor to vendor. Like there, there are, there are standard routing protocols that can talk to each other. I don’t know why something like you can’t have that for analytic. But maybe it’s pie in the sky stuff. I mean, we can’t just create a protocol that talks to everything and pull it in.
But I guess that screws up the competition so
A.J.: can do it.
Andy: I could barely [00:55:00] write Python, man. I’m not the guy. I got to find a guy I’ll, I’ll pull it up or something. He’ll do it for us.
A.J.: I got a guy online. Just grab Eric,
Andy: sorry for the tangent. And just, you got me thinking.
A.J.: No, it’s a good conversation. Good conversation.
So, um, how long were you in manufacturing before you decided to go to Cisco and what, what in the end cost you. You know, if she want to get into it. W w why did you decide to start looking around? Did the opportunity come knocking at your door? Did you go looking for opportunity?
David: I say a mix of both. Uh, you know, let’s say that, uh, during my time in manufacturing, an opportunity came knocking and it didn’t work out.
Right. Um, what’s this going to beginning? Um, and that’s one of the things that I’ve said on the discord, you know, when we’ve talked about, you know, the things happen at the right time, you know, it’s not meant to be right now. Um, [00:56:00] it’s going to, something will happen in the future. There there’ll be a better opportunity for you in the future.
You know, don’t let that completely, uh, get you down, right. Rejection sucks, but there’s always something better. There’s, there’s something coming down the road for you. So don’t squander that opportunity that you have now to learn and soak up as much as you can, where you are. Um, so, I mean, I learned a lot of manufacturing.
It was a great experience. But, you know, opportunity came knocking and it was, it was, uh, it was something I couldn’t say no to it finally happened and the doors open and I I’m appreciated out of everybody. You know, I appreciate everybody I’ve worked with. Um, I never have anything bad to say. That’s one thing I always tell people is, you know, Uh, don’t burn bridges either.
That’s more advice that I have. The tech world is small and you know, I’m talking to, I’m talking to people at Cisco now, and they know people that I’ve, you know, the, that I’ve worked with in the past or, you know, somebody actually, [00:57:00] somebody on my team now on my team now I worked with back at, at, at the.
They were in networking as well. Oh, wow. That’s crazy. You know, they paint me and they’re like, Hey, you’re joining my team. And I’m like, oh, wow. Okay. So never burn bridges. I mean, we’re going to run into each other at some point, treat everybody with respect, you know, help everybody out. You know, we’re all in this together.
A.J.: You know, that’s a great point. Like if, if, when you had left the university, if you had burned that bridge, and then you’re applying to this job at Cisco and that guy could have been like, oh man, don’t worry. When he left here, like 10 years ago, he really he’s screwed in summer. You just said like it was
David: flipping three months.
It was flipping people off.
A.J.: It’s very true. Like if you, if you had taken a different route out of there, uh, no pun intended, like it could have ended up differently for you trying to get into to Cisco this time around. So I agree with you a hundred percent, like, as, as big as the world is like, for some [00:58:00] reason it just feels that much smaller.
And that has nothing to do with a small town. Like you’re in Chicago. Like you could have left there and be like, I ain’t ever going to see him
David: here. You are like, exactly. So, I mean it’s, and that’s just the way I was raised too. It was like, you know, treat people with respect, you know, in the course of your career, you’re going to run into a bunch of different types of people, right?
I mean, you’re going to run into people that are very supportive. You know, for you, you know, they’re there, they’re there to help you. They’re there to push you along and help you out. But you know, you’re gonna run into other people that, that are just negative all the time. And that’s just the way the person is.
They might be negative with you. They might be negative across the board. Uh, you know, to me, you know, I’ve ran into both types of people throughout my career, and I don’t say anything bad about anybody. It’s like, Hey, you know, thank you for teaching me. Thank you for, you know, showing me what, what you could, uh, you know, I’m, I’m here in the end of the day, I’m here to learn.
I’m here to get better, right? Uh, I’m not here to spend my time and waste my brain cells on people who are negative or there’s better things that I [00:59:00] could be doing with my time. You know? Um, so things, you know, things that are negative people that are negative. I just ignore it. It’s like there, that’s always going to come towards you.
Ignore it. You know, stick to the people who are there that are supporting them. Haters
A.J.: gonna hate,
Andy: but there’s so much good secret sauce in here. You said so many things that I wrote down a couple, like work hard. You know, my, my wife has a great saying, like he can’t teach hustle. Right? It’s it’s intrinsic.
If you have a lazy player out on the court or in the field, you can’t coach it out of him, you can’t motivate them. Like, so, you know, it’s such a simple thing to me because I’ve always been a hard worker. My wife’s a hard worker. You’re, you know, you guys are like how just putting the effort, you know, wake up grind.
It’s easy. I would venture to say that, you know, I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I try to make up. And blood, sweat, and tears, right? Like I’m going to get in there and work hard and I’ll work harder than the other guy. That’s smarter than me. If I have to, like, [01:00:00] you can control what you can write to be, to be successful.
And then you, and that will get you noticed, like you said, work hard, get noticed. Like, I love that. Like, cause you know, the, the guy that’s passionate or the girl that’s like working really hard, they do stand out because you have schlubs that just want to hide or not do anything or, you know, learn the new thing.
And then attitude too, like reputation, attitude. I mean you’re as work are, get noticed, develop a reputation, have a good attitude. Like these are, some of them are soft skills. Some of them are hard skills, but it’s, it’s kind of like the secret to success almost like, and they’re all, you don’t need a one 90 IQ, right?
You don’t need a triple CCIE. Like these are things I think anybody can do work hard, get noticed, develop a reputation, have a good attitude. Like wow. I dunno, you’re blowing
David: me away here. I mean, that’s, that’s the way, I mean, it brings me back all the way to, when I was managing student workers, I was a student worker and then I was managing the student workers and I would always tell them the same thing.
And, you know, student worker positions, you know, there’s some people that came in and was like, I’m just here for my seven bucks [01:01:00] an hour. And to get out of here right now, they don’t care about me on the help, fast. They don’t care about, they don’t even care about it. Right. They’re just there, you know, I’m done.
I gotta go to class. You know? So, I mean, I still took the opportunity and talk to people it’s like, do as much as you can learn, work hard. I mean, even if you don’t, even if this is not going to be your career, right, you’re not going to be at the help desk forever. You want to go do something else. You’re seeking a degree in accounting and this is all we have right now.
Uh, You know, just try to learn something, do your best, you know? Uh, that’s it, I mean, it really comes down to that. Um, and, and doors open up, right? I mean, just be patient, you know, cause some people, you know, oh man, I, I spent two hours working hard and nothing happened. Yeah. It’s not a two hour thing. It’s a whole journey.
Right. It’s days and weeks and years, um, be patient and things will have.
Andy: You’ve you’ve mentioned patients a couple of times, so, and I think that’s so key, you know, we, we won’t want, we want when we want it. And then, you know, [01:02:00] like this might not been the first time you interviewed at Cisco. I don’t know, but I know that when you get that opportunity, like, for me, when that happens for me, I’m like, oh my God, this is my one shot.
If I don’t get this, I’m going to blow it. And then it doesn’t work out for some reason. And then it’s like, wow, that was it. I’m just destined for mediocrity. Cause I couldn’t get that thing I wanted. But like you said, you just gotta be patient put in the work like anything. Right. Like we were shopping for our house years ago and like, we really wanted this one and it didn’t work out and we were so upset, but then the next one was twice as good as the last one.
And we’re like, oh, like you can’t see around that next corner. You know, you just gotta have faith and kind of be patient. And if you put in the work, it will work out right. Maybe not on, on, on our timeline and patients is hard. Right? Exactly. I think it takes discipline, like, okay. Like accepting a failure, accepting it didn’t work out.
Like that’s, that’s a mental game. Right? Some discipline it’s. Oh yeah.
A.J.: And it’s even harder. These days in the instant gratification world we live in, right? Like click a button, get an instant happiness. [01:03:00] Look, I got to wait a month for this next house to come on the market.
Andy: Yeah. I mean, I can go in a half a dozen different social media platforms and get a dopamine hit immediately.
And now I gotta wait, you know, six months. Cause this one interview didn’t work out. Like no way, dude. Like that’s forever, you know, but like perspective patients. I could put it in the workout perspective. There you. Got some good stuff here. We have so many people coming to us, I think, starting out, like what, what can I do?
What should I do? You know, it’s always like, well, CCNA is a good start, but a home lab, but these are just things that anybody can do. I think that’s what everybody’s looking for. Like, how do I do this? You know? Cause you don’t know where to start and how hard it’s going to be and it’s expensive, blah, blah, blah.
But there’s just certain traits. I think that are transferable in any industry. It’s not just networking or it, you know, everything you’re talking about. Yeah, a good person create value, have a good reputation. It’s simple, but I guess it’s not like common knowledge. Isn’t that common they say, right? Like [01:04:00]
David: it’s true.
I mean, a lot of times we concentrate on the technical ability. Right. You know, I’ve, I’ve ran into people in my past. It’s like, wow, this person knows everything. I mean, you can ask them any question, they know everything, but they have a terrible attitude. You know, they, they, they treat you like trash and it’s like, I don’t want to work with this person.
You know, it’s horrible. Right. You want to be somebody that can get along, can teach somebody, you know, people look up to and you have a personality, you know, that that’s the type of person you want to be. Um, so yeah, you can go around and pursue every cert that’s out there. Right. But if you’re still, you know, treat people like trash.
People are not going to like you, people are not going to want to work with you that doesn’t open up opportunities for you. You also, I mean, treat people well, it comes down to that. I mean, it’s just being human. That’s really, what we’re talking about today is, is do some of these basic things that, you know, basic human skills, you know, be human, treat [01:05:00] people, good.
Treat people with respect to work hard. I mean, things will happen, right.
A.J.: Be a good human
David: compassion have confession, you know, there’s people out there that are struggling. There’s people out there that are learning, uh, you know, they might not learn at the same pace you were learning. You don’t have some compassion and have some empathy.
You know, all these words that I’m just saying are just they’re they have nothing to do with Cisco. They have nothing to do with Juniper. What F five with forever. This is things that apply across the
Andy: board. Yep. Kind of soft skills. He right. Like exactly, but kind of, you know, and anybody could learn. You know, anybody can learn them like you can.
I think the episode is going to be David Elisia, a good human
David: He’s a good human, you know, it’s true. I mean, that’s really that’s if I can teach somebody, one thing is just, you know, work hard will [01:06:00] be essentially be a good human, you know, things will open up, you know, have patience, the inverse of being a good human words,
Andy: David Alisia don’t be an asshole.
A.J.: go with that. Good human. I like that.
Andy: That’s much better.
A.J.: All right. Well, our guest today is David Alicia solutions architect with Cisco in the Chicago area. And David, where can people go to find more about.
David: Oh, wow. Uh, you know, I’m on the interwebs. Uh, I am on, I am on the Twitters, uh, Davie 87, B a Y V E 87 on Twitter.
I also have a blog, which I know I need to get back to. I need to start blogging again. I need to start writing, uh, it says zeros and one w O N so play on words, zeros and one.blog. I
A.J.: love it. It’s a [01:07:00] great title. I like that. Excellent. And we can also find you in our discord. It’s all about the journey.
That’s the same as your Twitter handle. I believe. Yeah. That is correct. So if you want to join our discord and chat with Davey, you can do so you can go to art of net end forwards or outer dynamics.com forward slash I a T J I got to think about that all the time. It’s for, it’s all about the journey, because it is all about the journey.
Join, learn with people, share your knowledge, uh, you know, and just a lot of that good human stuff David was talking about, right? Like if you find somebody that’s struggling with a topic that you have had success with, spend the time, teach them, share your knowledge. Don’t don’t look down on them. Like, oh, you, you don’t know every single OSP F timer.
How dare you be a engineer. Exactly. Exactly. Awesome. David, thank you so much for joining us tonight. This has been an absolute pleasure. Any, uh, any last words of wisdom before we close out? [01:08:00] Uh,
David: yeah, no, I think, I think we’ve said every single type of motivational way that we can
A.J.: all good stuff though. Good stuff. Excellent. All right. Well, thanks again for. Uh, thank you to all of our patrons. Once again, we appreciate all your support and we appreciate everybody’s support. If you want to join your breakthrough on program, you can do firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash art of net enj. Uh, and we appreciate the support from our patrons as well as everybody, you know, or the download, follow us on Twitter or whatever you do.
We love it. We thank you so much. All of that mojo really, really helps. We’ll see you next week. On another episode of the art of network engineering podcast. Hey everyone, this is a J. If you like what you heard today, then make sure you subscribe to our podcast and your favorite podcatcher smash that bell icon to get notified of all of our future episodes.
Also follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We are at art of net enj. That’s part of an
David: E T [01:09:00] E N G.
A.J.: You can also find us on the web. At art of network engineering.com, where we post all of our show notes, you can read blog articles from the Cocos and guests, and also a lot more news and info from the networking world.
In this episode, we chat with Chris Randall. Chris was worked as a professional chef for over 13 years and has recently transitioned into a career as a Cloud Consultant. Chris’ work ethic, drive, and ability to communicate help him stand out and have gotten him noticed, on more than one occasion. We can all learn a lot from Chris’ recipe for success!
A.J. Murray: [00:00:00] This is the art of network engineering podcast
in this podcast
and share the stories of felon networks.
Tim Bertino: Good morning folks to Bertino with you here live and the AONE traffic chopper we’re hover and high above the 4 0 4, where the traffic police definitely have their work cut out for them today. We’re seeing an abundance of one way traffic on all northbound egress points and our southbound and grass points have been totally saturated.
This all seems to be linked to a local construction crew, accidentally severing a major traffic back. With a backhoe. Unfortunately, that’s leading to a massive degradation of services all day. Today. The only vehicles we are seeing get in or out safely are [00:01:00] ones that have been given an F priority by their local authorities.
We’ll check back in later today, as the situation continues to develop, this has been timber Tino coming to you live above the 4 0 4 back to UAJ
A.J. Murray: N a O N E studios. Very appropriate well-timed intro from Tim given the Comcast outage today. That was fantastic. I can’t wait until Dan edits that and posts.
Andy Lapteff: When we hear the chopper sound. I almost, I almost started to do like a, but I didn’t want to
mess with Dan’s and post side. I just left it alone.
A.J. Murray: Oh, that’s going to be good. Nice, nice work, Tim. Nice work, Tim. He is at Tim Bertino. I am a AIJ Murray at no Blinky Blinky. How are you doing, sir?
Tim Bertino: Hey, damn good. I got to give credit.
That was another, uh, Jordan masterpiece. Thank you, Jordan. Uh, I am a little bit down about 10 minutes ago or so my son ran in here wearing his, uh, sheriff Woody [00:02:00] pajamas and Dan wasn’t here to get my
will at the time. That again, next time.
A.J. Murray: Yeah. Yeah, that was cute. That was cute. Andy at Andy left, half permit IP, Andy, andy.com. How are you, sir? Man.
Andy Lapteff: I’m great.
A.J. Murray: I know. You’re great. And I can’t wait for you to share why you’re
Andy Lapteff: great. Great. And I can’t tell anybody why. Sure
A.J. Murray: you can. This one’s not going to drop for like a month and a half.
Andy Lapteff: Yeah,
A.J. Murray: I’m good. Yup. Yup. Where’d it come from, Andy? Is there anything you can talk about,
Andy Lapteff: uh, specifically, what have you got told me on the spot, bro, basketball court today, maybe you could talk about, okay. Yeah, we did. We got a, we got a basketball court in the driveway, so, so my, my wife got a full ride on a basketball scholarship in college. So [00:03:00] she’s no, she’s no joke. And the kids are four and seven.
So no time, like the present to start training for scholarships and. Daddy daddy
wants to retire before he’s pooping
his pants. So we gotta get these kids to move in here in the, in the right direction. So we cut that later, but yeah, no, everything’s good, man. That my son loved it. We were out there tonight under the
light of headlights.
I mean, it was dark out in the driveway. He just didn’t want to stop playing. So yeah,
well, it was nice. Nice, nice. Everything’s good. What are we getting together soon? I think based on your, your new news that you can’t talk about, but I’m having a baby now. That’s not it moving on. How you doing? Hey Jay, what’s going on?
A.J. Murray: No, I’m doing, I’m doing real well. Um, E whether appear, it’s starting to turn cold, so I’m going into hibernation mode. Um, but yeah, no, uh, [00:04:00] other than that, doing good. What do you do for your fire pit? Uh, I cut down trees on my property. Oh,
Andy Lapteff: seriously? Okay. Yeah.
A.J. Murray: I’m not that I have a ton of property, but I had to shut down a trays and I don’t have a shit ton of trees anymore.
I’m trying to figure out how to fit a half quarter wood at my house and for my fire pit and it’s become a whole thing. So I don’t have trees to cut down
Chris Randall: anyway.
A.J. Murray: Nope, no. And I just stack it nicely to back your property next to your shed or something. Yeah. Good idea. All right. Temps are falling like a homesick rock, a deal that they were up in the sixties.
They popped back up there today, but they’re, they’re heading down. There’s snow in the mountains in Vermont. And, uh, pretty soon there’ll be snow all around my house and I will be questioning why once again, I live in the Northeast. So, um, I’m a few hours south of you quite a few hours. And it’s been in the mid thirties each night in Fahrenheit.
Been. Yeah, it’s happening. Yep. I’ve had to turn my heater on. [00:05:00] I’m not, I’m not happy about that. So when can I hold out till, uh, didn’t, didn’t make it very long this year.
And that sound means it’s time for the wind’s winning in our discord channel this week is Tim Mixi. He passed his AWS certified cloud practitioner. Congratulations, Tim track it. Pacer recently accepted a position as an avionics integration engineer at blue origin. Congratulations, Lexi. IPV four past his comp Tia sec, plus exam.
Congratulations, David Missy has passed the AWS solutions architect, associate exam. Congratulations, David and Jay finished his bachelor’s degree in it. Networking. Congratulations, Jay. That’s awesome. Very proud of that. Welcome to new Patriots this week. Jason Belk and teeth in Sachar. I hope I pronounce that.
Right. Thank you so much for your support of what we do here on the podcast and being a member of our Patrion [00:06:00] program. And also thank you to all of our listeners for your support, for what we do. We really appreciate it and couldn’t do it without it. Thank you so much. Now, back to the show, I am very excited for our guests to see evening.
Um, if you live on Twitter, like I do, you’ve probably seen him pop up there before. Um, I am honored to be able to share his story and, uh, Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris Randall: Thanks. How’s everything going,
A.J. Murray: going well, um,
Chris Randall: let’s see here.
A.J. Murray: Yeah. Yeah, I know. We’ve, we’ve talked in the past about, uh, having you on here. So Chris, you’re excited
Chris Randall: to beyond.
A.J. Murray: I was going to say, tell your face,
Chris Randall: this camera so bad. I might as well. No, it’s fine. We just call that resting Chris’ face
[00:07:00] RFCs and RCS.
A.J. Murray: I don’t, I don’t even know where do we begin with Chris? I
Chris Randall: mean, how do we even start this?
A.J. Murray: What does Chris do now?
Chris Randall: So I just recently took on, um, a new opportunity at CDW in the ACE program. And so I’ll be focusing solely on Azure infrastructure for the next 12 months and then kind of grow from there in cloud.
So that’s my current,
A.J. Murray: what is ACE for people like me that
Chris Randall: don’t know what ACEs, so ACEs.
Um, ACEs like associate consulting engineer, and it is basically a fast track program where they build out, um, an itinerary education, different technical things that you have to do. So certain certifications based on your track. And then they have, um, the soft skills [00:08:00] side consulting, um, like shadowing and things that you do have traditionally consulting engineers over the course of time to get you prepared to be a full speed, like consulting engineer.
A.J. Murray: Very cool. So it’s a, a, a bootcamp of sorts.
Chris Randall: Yeah. Some say it’s like five to 10 years stuffed into. 12 to 18 months. Oh, that doesn’t sound stressful at all.
A.J. Murray: A bit intense.
Chris Randall: It’s a, it’ll be interesting. Um, they just changed the format too, so they knocked it down from 18 months to 12 months. So we’ll see. Wow.
I’m one of the first Guinea pigs for that socio fast.
A.J. Murray: Very cool. Very cool. Well, congratulations on that while you, you haven’t always worked in tech though.
Chris Randall: Yeah. Uh, definitely came from a different background. Um, started in food service for the last 13 years. Uh, wow. So, um, got started in high school. We had like, um, a [00:09:00] career center where you could go kind of pick, you know, I wanted to do welding.
I couldn’t get into the program cause they only took two kids. Culinary S uh, culinary class was open. So I took the opportunity. It was a free afternoon open, you know, we got to do three hours a day. They’re just cooking and playing with food. So I did that my junior and senior year of high school, and like really excelled at it.
Um, got some really good like stodgy opportunities, which in the culinary world is basically, uh, you work for free. And usually you’re doing kind of the grunt work, the hard work, just to prove that you deserve a position. Um, so an internship. Yeah. A highly unpaid work. Yeah. Um, so did that bounced around kind of my local area for a while ended up.
Where was that area, Chris? Where are you from? So I grew up in, uh, mid Michigan. So Midland or Mount pleasant, um, kind of small rural areas. We had, um, the one time we had a casino, it was like the biggest one in [00:10:00] the state. Um, so I ended up there for about two years, took over a steak house. Um, that was fun for a while.
And at the same time, I got the opportunity to go out to, um, Manhattan and work at what was then the number one restaurant in the world from the Michelin standard, um, 11 Madison Park. So let’s wait a minute, wait
A.J. Murray: a minute, wait a minute. How do you go from free, you know, free shit bird guy to like number one, Michelin new a LA.
Chris Randall: Uh, lots and lots of late nights and sharpening of knives. Um, you worked hard to being young and energetic and willing to put the time and energy into it gets you pretty far anywhere. Um, I sent an email. They was kind of, I wouldn’t say easy, but they’re always looking for people to come in and do free work and always try to keep a roster full of people.
So I had the chance to go for a week. [00:11:00] Um, chefs
A.J. Murray: work for free when they’re coming up. Like I worked in restaurants, so nobody worked
Chris Randall: for free well, and more legitimate restaurants, you know, like when you’re working higher end and you’re highly competitive to get in there. Um, some people go in for a day, some people spend a weekend.
Um, it’s not supposed to be that way, but it’s 10 tends to go that way. And you just
A.J. Murray: do that to get exposure, to get it on your resume. Like, Hey, I worked at such-and-such.
Chris Randall: Yeah. I mean, you want to see what’s going on in those environments. I mean, if anybody got the chance to go step into Google or Facebook or Microsoft for a week, you know, and there was really no, no hard ties there.
You could just kind of look around and absorb everything. Why not?
A.J. Murray: So how does one live in Manhattan without an income?
Chris Randall: So, luckily I was only there for a week, so it was just like a working vacation, if you will. Gotcha. It was actually quite the experience. We spent like eight hours touring, like all [00:12:00] the big spots before my first day.
And I had like, Broken open blisters on my feet before I went and worked 16 hours. So that was fun, man.
A.J. Murray: I said this school program or something like, how, how did you, how did you end up getting that, that
Chris Randall: opportunity? Um, so they kind of, like I said, they kind of keep postings open for positions. Um, they have massive staffs. Um, I think there was like 40 people in the back of the house. And I mean, Andy’s working kitchens.
You don’t usually have 40 cooks running around in the Babylon. That’s insane. Yeah. Well, when you’re doing like six figures for dinner sales to some notes, but like,
so for people who haven’t worked in restaurants,
A.J. Murray: you’re talking like a hundred thousand dollars, plus some meals serving in a night is that. Yeah, which is a lot of money
Chris Randall: for one dinner service. I think it was like $130,000 in like a five-hour span. So that’s what the restaurant
A.J. Murray: and meals five hours.
Chris Randall: Wow. $100 at the time, just to sit at the table for a person that didn’t do drinks or anything special.
A.J. Murray: And how so we’re probably going to talk about culture later in your current gig and what kind of people you’re working with right. In a place that was $300 to walk in the door, like are the staff is douchey as the clients coming in.
Chris Randall: So that place was really unique, right? Um, it’s highly competitive. There’s a bunch of kids my age and they’re not just like New York kids. They’re not just kids that graduate like culinary school. Like the chef at the time was from, I might butcher this. I want to say Denmark, but I think that’s wrong. But so he had a bunch of like, um, Northern European kids there and there’s probably 15 or 20 and they’re all fighting for their thesis.
Um, they’re all, they’re like, this is, this is their, their lives. Um, so they’re pretty heads down working hard. Um, they were pretty willing to help out. They had a good culture [00:14:00] there. Um, probably one of the better ones I’ve been involved in. Um, but very robotic at the same time. So
A.J. Murray: you’d her. Those, you, you, you got good at this really early.
Chris Randall: Did you develop a passion for it or were you, you were good at it? It just made sense. So you just kept going on down the road. So a little bit of bowls. Um, you know, I grew up helping on my uncle’s farm. Like when I was 12, I spend my summers doing that. Um, so we had a lot of, I work ethic, like, you know, kind of ingrained already, and then you get into kitchens and it’s a lot of like hard work and manual labor.
So I was used to that aspect of it. Um, you know, I got to put food on the table and help out. So I, you know, I had to do it to survive. And then at the same time I found like I was good at it and I enjoyed doing it. Um, and for a while I had a passion, um, a couple incidents kind of burn that out, unfortunately, but at the same time, You know, Sandy may where I am now.
So I can’t complain about [00:15:00] that. And,
A.J. Murray: and you know, you’re right. Like, yeah. So burnout, it is a thing, right? It’s, it’s a tough, stressful environment. And it just dawned on me as you’re talking, man kitchens are tough, stressful environments. You want to see the worst of people, try to feed them expensive food.
Chris Randall: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and it’s, you know, it’s weird too. It’s like, it’s not the expensive restaurants and the country clubs. I mean, you get some, you get some tough people there. It’s your mom and pop, you know, something for under $10. People like the casino when people are getting stuff for free or using the rewards points, like it’s the cheap skates that are the worst than the cheap restaurants.
You know, somebody who’s spending $10 and $10 means a lot. So those are some of the rough ones.
A.J. Murray: So when did you get like the Ooh LA LA gig? You went from like the free Manhattan come up, you know, stuff to, when did you land and
Chris Randall: become a big, uh, so I was kind of doing it right at the casino. Um, they [00:16:00] let me go for the week to go out to Manhattan.
They were really like excited. Um, but at the same time, there was a bunch of stuff going on, be out like outside our, um, control there. So they lost a lot of like sales and revenue. So at the same time, I’m literally on my way back from New York and a guy who runs like the nicest restaurant in town gets me up and he’s like, Hey, I want you to come over to run the rest.
Do your thing, free reign. Um, so I went over there and I had a pretty good strike going, but I just didn’t get along there. Um, there were just some value, differences and things. So that was really my first like big, big shot on my own. Um, had good feedback. I just, I didn’t sit into the culture. No, no, no.
We’re talking like 21, 22 at this time. Okay, cool. I mean,
A.J. Murray: that’s, that’s how it could be owned in the kitchen. Go run my kitchen. That’s impressive. Like my God, man.
Chris Randall: Yeah. Um, it, it’s interesting, especially like, you know, so you’re typically up until the day that I left [00:17:00] to switch into like tech. Um, I was still the youngest one in the kitchen managing everybody.
So, um, it was definitely a big learning curve, um, to manage people who are two or three times your age and you hear like, oh, could be your mom. It could be your grandma.
Um, but it taught me a lot of really good lessons that I met a lot of really great people along the way. Um, we actually had like the biggest. Probably the biggest jump and chance have ever taken in my life, my girlfriend and I, like I said, the last restaurant that I spoke of, um, it wasn’t working out and, um, I was looking for something different.
Maybe take a break. I was burnt out, um, just bad situation after tough situation. Um, so I was going to school. I had the ability to take like three months off. Um, I wasn’t working and I had somebody hit me up down in Georgia. And they were like, Hey, we got this really high end. Like our [00:18:00] dining club wants you to come down.
See my right-hand man, you know, do that. Um, and so the wife and I came down here and she’s in food service since it’s signed suit at the time too. So like, um, it kind of worked out and, um, we took the jump down here. It’s going on four years now. Um, I ended up at a private dining club. It was extremely bougie.
Um, there was no golf course or nothing like that. Like you just came in and it was like $500 a member per month before you even ate. It’s crazy. So we got to do a bunch of fun stuff there, um, but it just. It wasn’t paying the bills. And so I was fortunate the last gig I had. Um, I ended up as a food service director for a fortune 500 company here in town.
Um, managing all their restaurants, um, through different properties that they have through town, um, doing other catering, some other big week dinners, things like that. So that was really what I kind of got my big [00:19:00] shop, um, doing the full manager of a multimillion dollar account for a fortune 500 client. Um, I think I was 25 at the time.
A.J. Murray: that’s incredible. So you’ve talked a few times about like, um, you know, somebody hits you up, like, Hey, like you, you obviously have a reputation. Like how did you, you socialize that reputation, right? Like, I’m, I’m curious, like how does somebody live in up in Michigan, get a phone call from someone down in Georgia and be like, Hey, I want you to come run this thing.
Like, how did that happen? Is there like a LinkedIn for chefs?
Chris Randall: Well, so thankfully, like who was down here was an old, personal contact. Um, that course that I went to in high school, like the after hours program, um, it was somebody that I met from another local high school. And so we kind of stayed in contact, um, throughout the years when he moved away.
And then [00:20:00] I came down here. Um, but otherwise, like all my other opportunities have come through kind of similar to what’s happened now. Um, Instagram was a big one for me. And Facebook, you know, for food because everybody’s looking on there, you know, that’s when the popularity, the rise in popularity of like, um, Facebook pages for restaurants and, um, Yelp and all those other things.
And so I kind of threw myself out there. I’d take pictures, you know, we’re posting stuff, we’re getting the restaurants to post stuff, doing videos, doing, um, dinners out in the garden, wine dinners, specialty stuff, just trying to catch everybody’s attention and kind of be enough hashtag or
A.J. Murray: so say you’re building these like beautiful plates of food and you’re snapping some photos.
I’m just throwing them out there for
Chris Randall: everybody to see. Yeah. And I’ll tell you, the photos don’t look as good on an iPhone six as they do. Yeah, 13. So I think I’ve still got some folk around back there, so we’ll blame it on the phone. Nice. [00:21:00]
A.J. Murray: That’s great. That’s great. What, what an incredible story. I mean, I, I, I didn’t know the depth of all of this.
Like I knew he came from the food service industry. I didn’t realize like at what level you were playing at. So what, what precipitated the move? Like, it seems like you’re, you’re kind of like at the top of your game, like, I can only imagine what it may have been, but I, I, you know, I want to know from you.
Chris Randall: Yeah. I mean, um, I have. Some really good opportunities. Some that I squandered that I wish I would’ve stayed at at least longer. Um, had some other opportunities. I wish I hadn’t taken, um, got a little overzealous and excited. Um, but I had really the opportunity. I mean, if we wanted to move, I could have went wherever and, you know, humbly probably fell in wherever I wanted to.
Um, but as you know, like restaurants are nights and weekends and holidays. And so, um, I miss like, Hey, Thanksgiving’s in a row, uh, [00:22:00] with. And so like, my birthday happens to fall on the 24th of November. So like, um, this year and Sunday before Thanksgiving, there’s been times where my birthday spent on Thanksgiving.
Um, and that’s one of the biggest days of the years. So as I started to settle down with my girlfriend, fiance now, wife, um, you know, priorities changed. And then, um, I was in a really good position where I was, um, as food service director, I could have stayed there for probably as long as I wanted to, but long-term, it wasn’t a 20, 30, 40 year option.
At some point I was probably going to have to go back to nights and weekends. And so I really didn’t want to give up the lifestyle, you know, the family time and all those things. So, um, fortunately. Um, you know, COVID hit and the opportunity kind of arose where I said, like, you know, I’m watching all my friends lose their jobs.
I’m watching restaurants close all these things. And for me, I was still stable in my [00:23:00] position. Um, we didn’t have a lot going on on campuses. So, um, at that point I had to take a step back and say like, I’ve got to figure out something more along. Um, I’ve got to figure out something that’s going to be equitable.
Um, and something that’ll keep me entertained because that’s one thing about food service. And especially being a chef is like, you’re constantly stimulated and going. And if you want to be good at it, you’re constantly learning and trying new things. And that’s something that I’ve always, I’ve always enjoyed about it.
And so, um, texts always have, I’ve always liked to play around with things. So, um, I had the time at work. I started dabbling around and looking around, um, and that’s kind when I made that decision, like, I need to jump into this whole time because if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.
A.J. Murray: So you said COVID was a pivot point, I guess, but it didn’t sound like you lost your job or lost any money.
So how did it play into you saying, eh, maybe if we’re not in restaurants.
Chris Randall: So my position was contracted, um, and actually in the midst of [00:24:00] COVID we resigned like a five-year deal. Um, but those aren’t like concrete and given nobody. Clue. I mean, we had like 4,000 people on property. Now you’re sitting at like 70 people on property with no intention to return.
So you see the writing on the
A.J. Murray: walls, I guess. How, like how long can I be in this
Chris Randall: environment? Maybe? Yeah. I mean, thankfully the, the company that I contracted for was an awesome company. Um, and it kinda had come full circle on me again. Um, I could tell that story off camera as much as I can name names of that company, but, um, yeah, it was just one of those things where I saw it.
Like, you know, before I lose my job, let me have something, you know, in backup. Cause obviously like we are solo down here in Georgia. We’re a thousand miles away from family. We don’t have. You know, safety net other than ourselves. So, you know, we had to, I had to make a move and it felt like the right one.
A.J. Murray: How does one start looking to figure out how to get a [00:25:00] job in tech? Right? Like what do you do there? I’m a chef. I want to work in tech. Like I was a cable guy, at least I was playing with things and like plugging things in and had a meter. I could read like signals. Like, how did you, how did you start?
Right? Where do you start?
Chris Randall: You’re starting points zero. Yeah. I mean, I had kind of dabbled in the idea before, so cooking was always a means to an end. And I had actually went to college to be an accountant. Like I want to be a CPA of all things. And so, um, I’m like six classes from getting my bachelor’s in accounting.
And I had a local contact who was ran his own accounting firm. And he was like, you know, come in, sit down and we’ll talk. Um, I sit there and he’s like, you’re a little too old. Coming to count was 23 at this time. So it was like, okay, I guess, I guess the specialist degree wasn’t worth it.
A.J. Murray: You’re too old to be an accountant at 23.
Is that what he said?
Chris Randall: Yeah. And he told me, by the time [00:26:00] I sat for my CPA and got everything, it’d be like 26 or 27 and I’d be too old entering the game too late. I was like, oh,
A.J. Murray: wow. So,
Chris Randall: um, I had taken a couple of computer classes and in college, so, and dabbled around with the idea. Um, I had been introduced to Python, a couple other things and.
Of all things. It’s probably about a year before this happened, I’d come across like network check videos. Um, this was like in its early days. And so I hadn’t remembered that when I came back around and I was like looking through my YouTube history and I know this guy is in here somewhere. Um, so I found it and I just started going through that and it was like, I need to know if I’m going to figure out where I go.
I need to figure out what I want my specialty or be. So I should’ve started playing around with different things and like being a CIS admin had like, didn’t sound fun at all. Um, Programming was not going to be my saying, well, kind of like programming. Um, and I like playing with that like dev ops [00:27:00] side. Um, but that seemed like a really steep curve.
Um, and one day I was sitting there and the internet went out and I was like, I need to figure this out. I have no idea how it works. And so it just kind of started to snowball on it. And that’s when I decided to like, look into networking. Did you really even have anybody to bounce ideas off of, or ask questions of, it sounds like you were doing a lot of this on your own for the most part.
I had a colleague who is pretty good with computers, he’s built, you know, a couple playgrounds, a bunch of stuff over the last 20 years. And so I could hang like basic questions off of him, um, which was really helpful to come and get the ball rolling. And then after that, it was just jumping in head first, spending hours upon hours with like a headache, trying to figure out what was going on and what was, what and how things were interconnecting.
And, um, so it was kind of a solo show.
A.J. Murray: You weren’t connected to any kind of community at right. You didn’t know that it was out there
Chris Randall: at that point. [00:28:00] No. And how far into the learning on your own, the, the dabbling, the trying different things. Did you decide that you were going to try to apply for something and, and how did that work?
I didn’t apply for anything. Um, just cause I knew that there was going to be like a massive pay cut going from, you know, being in a director position to jumping over. So it was like, I know that I, at least for now I have time to build up the skillset. So I think the first time I applied was actually.
It’s a job offer was made to me. It’s, you know, um, when Frank’s reached out. But other than that, like the first time I applied, I got the job, thankfully.
A.J. Murray: So was this a long game for you? Because anytime I hear somebody say I took a pay cut to pivot, it always gets my attention. Right? Like who’s looking to make less money.
You’re an established guy. You had a propensity to be a great chef. You’re running stuff. Like that’s a big risk [00:29:00] or a big move. I mean, I get the insight that you had with COVID-19 maybe, you know, I look into tech, which is this thing, but how do you, like, it’s just you and your wife, you’re on your own.
You’re a thousand miles away from family and you’re going to take a pay cut. That’s a, that’s a big brisk,
Chris Randall: right? Yeah. I mean, thankfully we were like in fortunate position where, you know, I was making enough money where. You know, a good buffer. Um, but it’s, I mean, it’s as tight as it can be kind of thing.
Um, you know, we had to do some things like get rid of some toys, sell it. Sure. Um, you know, cut back on all the fun activities, but I look at it, you know, 2, 3, 5 years down the road, if I can break even to where I was and, you know, essentially double what I was making then, um, in the long run it’ll be worth it, but
A.J. Murray: like had her support,
Chris Randall: right.
She was on board and that’s what I wanted to bring up. Were you dating engaged or married at this point? So the entire time we’ve been married [00:30:00] since I’ve started district, are those conversations like
A.J. Murray: when and my job and make less money. Isn’t this cool. Never checked out. We didn’t do.
Chris Randall: That’s kind of what I wanted to know. Did, could she see, could she kind of see the writing on the wall with you that, Hey, I, you were thinking you might want to pivot or, or did you kind of keep that to yourself? No. Yeah, we have, um, we have an extremely open relationship and communication. And so over the years she kind of knew, and I’ve been open about that.
Like, you know, long-term this, isn’t like, it’s fun now, but isn’t when I’m 40. Or if we have kids, there’s something that I want to be. Um, and so what I started to tell her about it, I mean, you know, all my other kooky crazy ideas, she was just like, okay. And what’s funny about that is like, I circled back with her after of course everything started happening.
[00:31:00] Um, I was full of my hair out, cause it was a whole bunch of stuff. I didn’t know when I took on the fridge like position doing contract work. And she’s like, I don’t know. And like the next thing, you know, like I got the network admin position and she’s like, no, I wasn’t, I wasn’t sold that. You were going to do this for the first couple of months.
And then when I started seeing you for six, eight hours a day, like after work in the office, like studying what I saw you like sitting on the couch with headphones and watching videos, like falling asleep, watching videos and doing stuff. She’s like, I knew you were committed. And I knew if you were going to do it, it was going to happen.
A.J. Murray: wow. There’s a lesson in that, right? Like. You can make that decision and commit to something and just everybody in this industry, right? Like you just, you put your head down and you just grind away and you have to do it in your spare time and nights, weekends, like whatever, like just. Yeah. It’s a lot of work right.
Chris Randall: in [00:32:00] sometimes. Yeah, no, I mean, that’s one thing, like, you know, posting on Twitter and discord and all that, like all the fun stuff and the winds and things like that. It’s always exciting. But like, I think one thing to be like proud of the chair is like, you know, the fails and the grind as well, because like I would sit at work and all my downtime and read and like go home and like give up, you know, family time or time with the dogs playing video games, like going on trips, you know, committing my time to that.
And so there was a sacrifice, I mean, fortunately things have fallen in my lap if you will. Um, you know, I’ve been very fortunate in that aspect, but you know, the hard work siren, if you’re willing to put it in, I think, you know, you’ll be repaid for it.
A.J. Murray: Choose passion, right? Like who the hell is going to do that?
So, if they’re not interested in into it, you know, like you just can’t, you can’t, long-term fake something like that now, subnetting, like just, you know, one thing after another, I mean, you really gotta be interested.
Chris Randall: Right. And even at that, I mean, like, [00:33:00] I’m like super excited about like Terraform and infrastructure’s code right now.
And like every day I’m pulling it up and doing that. I’m like, I got to step away from this today before I burnt myself out. Because like too much of a good thing, you know, Hey,
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And then they go build it just like this ether scope. NXG that ally is here to help that ally simplicity, visibility, collaboration, visit net ally.com today. Now back to the show. So I, I kind of want to take a step back, like, let’s talk about what it [00:34:00] was like to try to break into that first tech job. Like you you’d been studying for a while.
You’re building up the skills, you know? So, so let’s, let’s see, like what, what was the job? What was the process? What was that like? Like obviously somebody saw like, you know, that they had an opportunity to present to you and they took a chance on you.
Chris Randall: Um, It was interesting because I was sitting on Twitter, like at work, the one there, and all of a sudden they get like a, a DM from some random guy.
And he’s like, Hey, I think I have an opportunity for you. You know, here’s my WhatsApp number, get a hold of me. That’s like, okay. You know, this could be fake, but if it’s five or 10 minutes of my time, what’s five or 10 minutes. So I get a hold of this guy and like, um, as I’m on the phone with him, I’m looking him up and like, everything he’s saying is true.
He’s like a forward Cisco guy. He, you know, we’re kind of high up for like 18 years there moved back to Euro, started his own network automation company. They, you know, they’re kind of [00:35:00] been up and running for like four years now. They’re like, okay, this sounds legit. But everything he’s saying is like way over my head.
And he’s like, don’t worry. Like, you know, we just need some help and we’ll help you along the way. I just want to give you a shot because you looked like energetic. And, um, you know, I liked that you’re trying, and that you’re willing to put yourself out there, so, oh, wait a minute. Their secret
A.J. Murray: sauce here.
Yeah, you’re tired. You’re not qualified. You don’t have the skills, but he sees something in you. And he’s like, I’m going to teach you that this is, I hear this a lot. Right. People say, oh, I’m not, I’m not good enough. I’m I qualified. Like you, you reach. There there’s something to me. I mean, I look at my own story.
There’s something about reaching beyond your comfort level and saying yes to things. You’re not sure you can do, because on the other end of that conversation, that person sees something in, you believes in you, you know, like, I feel like an imposter a lot of times, and one time I had a director be like, oh yeah, sure.
Everybody has it wrong. And you’re so clever. You have everybody [00:36:00] fooled, right? Like this guy saw something in you and pulled you, pulled you into this. So what’s the secret sauce. What did he see? So your commitment, he saw your passion, he saw your working hard. Like how did you pull that off? Because
Chris Randall: that’s no joke, right?
Yeah. I mean, you know, you gotta be honest out there and tell people what you’re doing. I mean, even if it’s not big, exciting stuff, like, you know, I came from cooking. Practicing some diving here. I am like trying to throw a physical lab together, even though I have no idea, like what ramen is. And last guy doesn’t know what the password was like, you know, just, I think networking is one of the biggest things that people like undervalue.
And I don’t mean in the physical sense. I mean, like, you know how we we’ve all connected. Um, he found you on Twitter, ISA.
A.J. Murray: Yeah. And on Twitter you had been posting your study journey, your lab building, you’re sharing it right.
Chris Randall: Saying I’m doing okay. All my interactions. Um, I think I posted some videos, like wiring up my physical lab and trying to go through some things, ask some questions, [00:37:00] kind of posts or whatever chapter I was on, things like that.
Um, and he had followed me for like a month and I didn’t even realize that he was, you know, he’s like Abbot to watching your journey. I think it’s really cool. Um, I think, you know, I want to take a chance just because you look like somebody who will take, take advantage of it. Did you have any
A.J. Murray: certifications?
No. Okay. So everyone out listening, I’m just trying to figure out how to break into it or networking. No certifications, no computer science degree, no experience. But you started, you made the decision, you made a commitment, you started grinding away. You shared your journey with the community and somebody saw your passion and your drive and your interest and gave you a job, right?
Is that what you’re telling
Chris Randall: us? I mean, I was getting paid to do technical documentation for network automation tools. Company, halfway around the world, you know, and I had [00:38:00] never logged into an ID for more than 10 minutes and I had no idea what it was or how to pull down a repo. Um, I pretty much sat there for a week.
Couldn’t get on the VPN, um, all those instructions for real. So,
A.J. Murray: um, so if you weren’t connected to the tech community and you weren’t sharing and writing your story and making videos that job, it doesn’t sound like it would have happened. Right? You, you needed, you needed to tell the world what you were doing for the sky to be able to
Chris Randall: find you, right?
Yeah. I mean, without the network piece, without the community things, I mean, I wouldn’t be here. Um, it’s, you know, it helped with that because somebody was watching and it was at the right place at the right time. Um, especially the way Twitter algorithms work and things like that. I was fortunate in that aspect.
Um, you know, and then at the same time, I like to end up in this community as well was just through random, like Spotify searches, I’m looking for podcasts and things like that. [00:39:00] And it was, I think you guys are only a couple months into, so it was by happen chance or happenstance that I came across that, um, and like, if you’re out there and don’t be afraid to like throw whatever you’re working on out there half the time I was just throwing like, Hey, this is the chapter I’m working on.
Then somebody would pipe it in and like, Hey, if you need help or, Hey, this is a really good method or something like that. I mean, I got a lot of really valuable tidbits that way. Just like sharing what I was doing for the day.
A.J. Murray: Still trying to process everything here. This is such an incredible, incredible journey and incredibly short too. So like w when did you like. Door to door. When did you leave the cooking industry? And when did you start in the tech industry? Like how we talk in months, years, decades, not decades. I
Chris Randall: know. But are you talking like started like the study journey or just like,
A.J. Murray: well, I like [00:40:00] w from the time you left the, the, your position working in the cooking or food industry to, to landing your first tech job let’s can we start with a decision was made when you made a decision?
That you wanted to work in tech and you were going to start taking action from that decision until you landed that job. How long did that take?
Chris Randall: It was February of this year. Um, end of February that I landed at CCNA. It was on a Friday. Um, you did have your CCNA. I wanted to ask you about search. So I got the first contract before my CCNA and then about a month and I landed my CCNA.
Um, and then I took about, let’s see, I took about two months, um, kind. I was just like, I gotta do it. If, you know, I don’t want to start losing information. I want to make the jump financially. We were able to make some decisions that allowed it. And so by may, into [00:41:00] early June, I made the decision to start applying, um, locally or for remote positions.
So I think I applied to about a half dozen or so before I got a call back, it was less than a year. Yeah. So about three months I
A.J. Murray: felt, yeah. February to may. So you made a decision in February, you got a gig in may. It’s, you’re one of those guys. It’s hard to like Chris,
Chris Randall: I’ve been extremely blessed and fortunate for the opportunities that have followed my way.
A.J. Murray: So that first consulting company, is that something you’re still doing on the side? Are you still working with them? Um,
Chris Randall: so I was with them for about six months and as I transitioned over. Um, because I did transition over to the DOD and things like that.
Um, it was just best interest to not have ties to foreign companies. So that was
A.J. Murray: the [00:42:00] automation guy, right. From your book, you started with technical documentation. Is that what you said? So,
Chris Randall: yeah, so like all of their, um, on their website, all their documentation, all their white papers, everything like that.
I was tasked with restructuring rebuilding, um, and putting a less technical spin on it. And at the same time I was supposed to study it so that I could start helping with like troubleshooting projects. Gotcha.
A.J. Murray: Gotcha. So from there, where did you go next?
Chris Randall: So after that, I ended up, um, it was July of this year.
I ended up with the DOD, um, and a local, a local office here on base as a network admin. And so kind of. It was an interesting set up just the way everything’s going. But there was like three local networks, um, nothing too complicated. And, uh, it was very slow, very, very slow.
A.J. Murray: How do you get a job at the DOD?
Aren’t they like [00:43:00] military people are like, did you have to get clearances? How does that
Chris Randall: happen? Yeah. So, um, got a clearance, which ironically or coincidentally, uh, My clear, showed up on my last day with them. But, uh,
A.J. Murray: well you have to be sponsored to get a clearance to
Chris Randall: sponsor. Yeah. Yeah. So the contracting company, um, is that it’s a company that I contracted through sponsored.
And then, um, we worked with the DOD and then, um, to government, to the government in the military, um, on the project that they had going on. So it was kind of a cool little setup, got to see some different things. So I really slow walk into stuff. Um, but then again, there’s a lot of red tape there with DOD.
And like you said, having to get, um, clearance and things like that. So it took a while to get rolling. And then, um, I was only a couple of weeks and I was like two or three weeks in and the former network engineer who was. Like the CIS. So at the time was like talking to me, he’s like, how do you like [00:44:00] it?
And you know, it’s good. Um, it’s smaller than I expected that, you know, that’s fine. Um, you know, do everything that I can kind of goes, um, yeah, I know you’re going to outgrow it at some point. It’s kind of small, it’s kind of slow. I’m not a lot changes around here. So, um, all the big projects are kind of in place unless you have to like switch out, um, a switch or something like that.
Something dramatic happens. Um, but he goes, so I don’t foresee you being here more than like a year, a half or two years. Cause you probably outgrow it. And so that was kind of like a, I don’t want to say red flag, but it kind of. Um, light went off and I was like, well, if I’m going to put a year and a half or two years over here, you know, where do I want to be in a year and a half for two years?
Or where else could I be? Um, and so I just kind of had that thought. And then about a week later, um, I saw somebody posting about a associate consulting engineer position that kind of caught my attention, [00:45:00]
A.J. Murray: uh, a friend and a community that you,
Chris Randall: you even had that thought is kind of something not kind of, but it’s definitely something special about kind of your mentality and how you’ve gone through your
A.J. Murray: career is you got this job in, in, you’re already
Chris Randall: thinking about your next step and your long game and that kind of thing.
And that’s. That’s not something you see in everybody. So I think that, that says a lot about you and your character that you were already kind of seeing, Hey, this place is kind of slow moving. I’m trying to build a life out of being in the tech industry or doing tech related jobs. Maybe I need to already start looking at the next thing.
So that, that was really cool to hear you analyze that kind of right. Issue got into one door. Yeah. It was one of those like, um, you know, you did an opportunity and then the better opportunity always comes up right after. Um, and it was a hard decision. Um, I, you know, uh, you know, shout out to Weezy [00:46:00] net seq, wheezy for the opportunity I had kind of just inquired about what was going on, um, after he posted it and just what it was.
And so I had sat back for about two weeks and thought it over, talked to the wife and I was like, yeah, This would be a really fast move. I just got an opportunity. I mean, I’m locked in here. I can take it slow, take my time, you know, keep going, what I’m doing, and then try to jump up, you know, and run the rat race.
Or there’s this really like sounds too good to be true opportunity over here. Um, you know, should I go investigate that more? And you know, the wife is all important for it. So I started thinking wheezy a little bit more, a little bit more, and um, one thing led to another and it was just the right. It was the right path because other things were going on.
Um, you know, where I was already at that were just kind of like, yeah, this long-term, it’s not going to be the opportunity I want for myself.
A.J. Murray: Where did you see that post? Where do Weezy
Chris Randall: posts that [00:47:00] job? So, um, Weezie posted it up. I think it was in jobs. And I just so happened to come across it. Cause that’s one of those ones that I had needed at the time, the discord area yeah.
In the discord. And so, um,
A.J. Murray: so the community, another community platform. So I wanted to point at like Twitter got you that first gig and now, you know, different community platform. Plugged in, into the community seems to be paying
Chris Randall: off, right? Yeah. Um, networking and networking network, the network. Um, I had like only high conversations with Louisa you back and forth.
I mean, everybody knows he’s a huge cheerleader, um, super supportive guy. And so. Been back and forth with him on Twitter a little while, a little bit. Um, but never really chatted with them. And so I got to know him a little bit, going back and forth, um, in the discord in a one channel, just talking about like, Hey, what’s this opportunity?
What’s it look like? And that’s when, like he dropped it on me that he was [00:48:00] actually in the program. Um, and so he had like firsthand experience to tell me what was going on. And so that’s when, um, kind of started that process. So at that point twice out of the three opportunities I’d gotten, you know, networking and community.
A.J. Murray: It’s nice to hear.
Chris Randall: Yeah, that’s incredible. So what do you have in front of you? You’ve got this,
A.J. Murray: uh, you said it was a 12 to 18 month ACE
Chris Randall: program that they’re trying to get you to get through it in 12. What does it look like after that? Are you working directly with customers or what are you going to be doing?
Yeah, so fall into a full-time consulting engineer position. Uh, post-sales doing deployments, um, things like that for, uh, customers, whether they’re returning things like that for Azure deployments, um, I’m on like the hybrid infrastructure side, so, uh, that’ll be exciting. And then [00:49:00] I’m hoping to develop more of like the infrastructure is code platform that they have.
Uh, hold on.
A.J. Murray: So it’ll be, you’ll be post-sales will you go install stuff, but you know, to cloud man, it’s just, it’s just, I mean, it’s right here to install. I mean, are you, I don’t know. Maybe I don’t understand, like, you know, it’s somebody else’s infrastructure, right? So what do you install posts if somebody’s going to want to connect to Azure and you’re going to help them connect to Azure?
Chris Randall: Yeah, it’s a lot of, um, Cut off hybrid blends of like taking their, you know, their Ady and moving up into the cloud. Um, maybe there’s some Greenfield deployments, things like that. My understanding is that there’s a lot of, uh, what you call it. They’re bringing over a lot of stuff into the cloud that they already had on prem.
Especially with everybody going to less of a physical [00:50:00] footprint these days with staff, you know, you don’t need the big buildings and things like that. So they’re just getting rid of physical infrastructure. Right. So
A.J. Murray: moving
Chris Randall: people up into the cloud. So yeah, I hear the cloud’s a big thing. It’s as big as you want it to be.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean,
A.J. Murray: that’s, that’s the place to be right
Chris Randall: now. Right? It’s it’s a very good direction. My opinion. Yeah. I think it’s, um, for me like the big, um, Attraction is that automation’s a big one for me. Um, that’s just how my brain works. I’m always like that concept. I do like some of the coding aspect and things.
So that’s where like infrastructure scout comes into play. Um, and just the mobility, I think, you know, going forward, you know, the work from home thing going on, things like that, the lack of physical hardware that people have access to think the cloud only gets stronger, um, over the next decade or two, which is really important for me.
So I wanted to be as ahead of the curve as I could be on [00:51:00] whatever I could do. So,
A.J. Murray: um, we’ve talked about it before, but I’m amazed at how quickly. The whole model has changed to like that just distributed, you know, instead of everything, you know, instead of going there, pinning through your hub for everything the way it was not that long ago now there’s just stuff everywhere.
It’s, it’s, it’s all distributed all over the place. It happened pretty quickly. I guess the COVID thing kind of accelerated it maybe right. With everybody at home. And, uh, I dunno, it’s, it’s been amazing to watch. Like when I started not too long ago, it was all on prem and I managed our data centers. And I blinked my eyes and multicloud and everything’s moving there and, you know, agile speed of deployment.
Go, go, go. Like it’s I, I see the benefits, right?
Chris Randall: It’s it’s real. Yeah. It’s a, COVID definitely had a massive impact on that. I mean, if you didn’t have everybody working from home and, um, needing the inter-operative operability of everything like that, I don’t think it [00:52:00] would’ve happened for. That’s five years or so you went up sold so many people and then, you know, with the supply chain things going on too, people can’t get physical hardware.
It’s like, well, why not go to the cloud? And at the same time, if you do it right, you know, you can be efficient in your cost. And, you know, maybe save a little bit of money. What’s
A.J. Murray: magical to me is the ability to spin up capacity instantly. Like as one example, when COVID hit, I work for a large company and just everybody went home and they did not have the capacity with our VPN infrastructure in our data centers to accommodate that.
So you were constantly getting kicked out. It would take an hour and a half to get logged in in the morning. And it all got spun up in a cloud provider. It was overnight. And we went from, nobody could connect for weeks to consistently to like, oh, there it is. You know? I mean, that’s, you know, how long from a guy who’s been building.
Infrastructure in on-prem data set. It [00:53:00] takes forever to get that crap rack stack, working circuits, like, you know, whatever you need to add capacity and to be able to do it instantly in the cloud. And that’s just the speed at which things are moving. This is just really insane. And the cloud enables that.
Chris Randall: really cool. Yeah. That’s crazy. You going from like, you know, building simple networks and doing all this stuff in the CC and I, and my like network admin stuff, and then turn around and like hop in Azure and even like through Terraform and things like that, just spin up. Here’s a, of the net. And within that, I can just drop some nets and it’s all in just a matter of like 30 seconds, it can be spun up.
I mean, all that works, but. In the background. So it’s crazy to see you kind of like, I don’t wanna say old school, but you know, it was a very traditional and, um, you know, physical way to do it and then go hop into the extremely virtualized side of it and see how quick it is. And so I don’t want you to give away company secrets or anything like that, but [00:54:00] can you, can you kind of
A.J. Murray: unpack this, uh, this ACE program
Chris Randall: it’s really intriguing to me that they, they bring people in that, in this case you didn’t have any cloud experience, but they’re willing to put you through this 12 to 18 month program, kind of at a high level.
What does that program look like? Do they got you going through Azure certification programs? Are you just shadowing other team members all day? What does it look. Yeah. So, um, I’ve only been there a couple of weeks too, so take everything with a grain of salt, but, um, um, and if anybody from CDW have only been there two weeks, so take it with a grain of salt.
But so yeah, I mean, it’s a pretty well kept secret. It’s one of those things where, I mean, CDW is massive. I think, you know, well over the 10,000 employee mark, and they’re constantly trying to, you know, keep the pipeline stacked with like talented [00:55:00] individuals and passionate individuals. And that was a big thing that was thrown at me.
I think I had five or six interviews during the process, um, with people from the program and above the program and, you know, it was all management and things like that. Some technical interviews, some consulting, interviews, things like that. And what they’re really looking for is somebody who’s passionate and driven.
Um, they said, you know, we can teach you the technology, but we need somebody who’s going to show up and want to do it. And also somebody who can speak to people, um, because you know, as Adrian with now being a consultant, things like that, you have to talk to a variety of people and, you know, be able to translate everything that’s going on.
Um, effectively of all sides of it. So secret
A.J. Murray: sauce, Chris, secret sauce, passion drive and communication. That’s I hear this a lot and I’ve experienced it myself. We can teach you the tech, what we see your passion. We can see that you’re [00:56:00] driven and you’re able to communicate, oh my God. There are the three
Chris Randall: things right there.
I’ve got the cheat code, right? Like I was a manager for the out of those 13 years in food service. So, you know, I know what to look for people that I know what I was looking for. So, um, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. And be that person that gets noticed because yeah, call it cheating or maybe even brown nose, but you know, kind of, you have to know how to play the game a little bit too as well.
A.J. Murray: we have to be good with people. And that’s what I was thinking. As you were telling your story earlier in the restaurant business, I mean, it’s a people business, right? Like. You’re working with people. You’re feeding people. It’s, you’re constantly interfacing with people and communication and nonverbal communication picking up on cues.
Like, yeah, you, you build all those skills, right. And, and that gig, and now it’s transferable, but I’ve been, I I’ve been given jobs by the way that I was underqualified for. And they told me the same exact thing. We can teach you the tech, we see you’re passionate, you know, home lab, community [00:57:00] engagement, whatever, you know, we can see that you’re driven.
You have certification, just study a lot, you know, when you can communicate. And that’s what we need. And I’ve heard that from a lot. I’ve been on a lot of interviews. Just, you just got me all excited. Those three things, I think have been my secret sauce so far. And it seems to be working for
Chris Randall: you too. Yeah.
I mean, people want to work with people who they like, you know, and they can get along with us and we’ve all worked with the wrong person. And so, you know, especially when you’re going to invest so much into somebody from a technical aspect like that, or be somebody who, you know, is going to show up, want to do it, you can turn your head and not have to worry about what they’re doing in the background.
And like in this program, I mean, I’m sitting at home, you know, and being, being that work from home makes it even more challenging because for me, I don’t have that face to face contact. Like you said, you know, where I can kind of start to network in person, which is a little bit easier. Um, now trying to do every single for meetings, virtual meetings and things like that.
So, um, a curve ball for me, but, [00:58:00] you know, having the accountability and things to do my studies, do my, you know, keep up on my tasks, things like that happen and network where I can and do what I have to do. Um, you know, that’s going to be, you know, where you start showing up. Showing that you’re really passionate about what you’re doing.
Cause you’re just keeping up on everything without anybody telling you to.
A.J. Murray: And I didn’t mean to Pivotus away from Tim’s question. Just a fantastic question. I just got excited. So you’re doing the certification stuff. You’re learning Azure, you’re shadowing people. That is, that, is that the
Chris Randall: crux of the program?
A.J. Murray: How are they getting skilled
Chris Randall: up specifically? Yeah, it’s um, I mean, imagine just like college courses or anything like that. They, you know, they build upon each other and there’s like a soft skill side to it as well as the technical side. And they blend in together. Um, There’s certain tracks that we have to go down that are predefined for us and being like a Microsoft partner.
Um, we have pretty good access to all those Azure stuff. We’ve got like O’Reilly learning and LinkedIn and CBT [00:59:00] and things like that. So, um, we kind of have keys to the kingdom when it comes to education and resources, which is really nice. Um, uh, thankful for that because every time I’ve needed something it’s been there
A.J. Murray: and you’re afforded the time during the day to learn stuff, right?
Like, is your job right now? Just to learn, to get certified.
Chris Randall: Yeah. So really for the next 12 months, my whole job is to be learned, to be the best Azure engineer that I can be. Um, we’ve got, uh, like I said, we blend in like those shadowing and consulting, so you get that side of it. Um, and that takes up part of your time, but as well, Right now 60, 70, 80% of my time is just burnt up with studying and I’m going through all the technical content trying to get through it.
A.J. Murray: fantastic. You’re going to be a beast at the end of a year. It’s
Chris Randall: just
A.J. Murray: you know, and that is your beast, right? Sorry.
Chris Randall: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it will be interesting. So I just have like my [01:00:00] first meeting and went over goals. I still have to get my security plus, which I’ve been studying for, for like four months. So, um, but I’ll have it done at the end of the month. I’ll have, I’m going to sit for my easy 1 0 4, which is like the intermediate, like admin exam.
Um, I’ll set it for that before the end of the year and hopefully pass that. And then by the end of February, I’ll probably have the Linux like certified administrator. And then by may I plan on having the Azure expert certs, so it’s going to be fast paced.
A.J. Murray: Wow. How does one lab for cloud studies? I kind of know the answer because I was on the AWS track for a minute, but just for people listening, you know, you build, you said earlier you built a physical lab.
So if you’re studying cloud, how do you lab cloud?
Chris Randall: Yes, it was a really cool thing about that is, uh, um, Azure, like Microsoft offers. Uh, 12 months, um, free trial with like $150, $200 credit for your first month. And then AWS has the same thing for [01:01:00] like 12 months. You can hop on, they have a free tier, so you can go play with things.
And so, um, if you go hop on, like Microsoft has a really good setup or on Microsoft learn, um, it takes you through all the topics that they built themselves that attached to the different certs. And then, you know, you can go take that because some of them have integrated labs to go hop on your free account and just start playing around with it.
And as long as you don’t mess anything up, which if you’re trying to learn, you can learn your billing instructions and things like that. Um, you don’t spend any of your personal money and you can have a, basically a virtual.
A.J. Murray: Set billing alerts, right? That’s
Chris Randall: the key there? Yeah. I got scared. I got one this morning from AWS and I haven’t played with that in like four months.
Um, it was only like $7. I’ve seen people with like five digit bills come through because it didn’t shut something off.
A.J. Murray: And I’ve heard that. Oops. I forgot to turn something off. All flips
Chris Randall: a $5 alert on that one. [01:02:00] We’ve got like a, an allowance at work, which is nice. Um, and then on top of that, it’s pretty restricted so that we don’t go spending too much company money.
A.J. Murray: Oh man. Uh, th this is just absolutely incredible. I, I hate to say it, but we’re coming to the end of our hour here, Chris. And yeah, I know. Right. Um, anything that you want to like cap this off with, you know, advice that you have for people, either looking to break in or, or jump from one career to another, such as you have done, what what’s, what’s the best words of wisdom that you wouldn’t want to give them?
Chris Randall: I think the one thing is that you’ve got to be able to try, um, and it’s worth it. If you put the effort into it, um, the opportunities are out there. Um, you’re going to have to go outside of your comfort zone to find them, but they’re there. If you’re willing to go and if you’re willing to go find them, they’re there for you.
And so it might not seem like it at first telling me that I went six, eight months and. [01:03:00] Didn’t seem, I didn’t know if it was going to happen. And then all of a sudden it just, it clicked and, you know, so, um, you know, be networking, always be laughing, all those fun things, but just put yourself out there.
A.J. Murray: I love it from, uh, from like culinary master chef to a.
Cloud network engineer, what an incredible journey. Uh, Chris, thank you so much for joining us this week. Uh, thank you so much to all of our Patriots. Uh, if you’re interested in joining the Patriot and hanging out with us every week here you can do email@example.com forward slash R of net enj. And, uh, Chris, if people want to follow you, learn more about you, where can they do that?
How can they do that?
Chris Randall: Um, so it’s IPV folk on all the handles, um, IPV, pho,
A.J. Murray: um, and so good by the way, I just want to give you props it’s it’s a great, awesome.
Chris Randall: I actually have people with. It’s actually, [01:04:00] it’s a Vietnamese soup, a noodle soup, and I got to give it to HIV botched at one day on the winds. And so that was enough for me to switch it from what used to be.
A.J. Murray: It was good as well. Was it
Chris Randall: before it was bites to bits. So, you know, but even I would forget it that’d be like as a BITSA bites or bites to bids and then everybody else watched it and I was like, okay, if nobody else can remember that.
A.J. Murray: So your blog is so bites to this. We got to work on some branding there, but I do want to just give your blog a shout out because I, sorry, I know we’re wrapping up, but I wanted to hit this, that I have been playing with GitHub off and on.
Right. Do it a little bit at work. And I, I get, I know how to do what I have to do, but I didn’t really understand what’s happening. But under the hood in certain things. And when I saw, I forget where I saw it, but I’m using GitHub to take notes, blog posts on bits to bites, [01:05:00] kind of put it all together for me.
And like, I mean, I didn’t even know you could do that. First of all, I didn’t know. You could take notes, you know, you know, in and get hubs. So it’s just a great, I really like your blog. I really liked the content you’ve been putting out the get hub for me, for a guy who struggles with coding and concepts, like get hub and CSED blah, blah, blah.
Like, I really like how you distill this stuff down and you have a good way of describing it. And you helped me with get hub. And I’m a guy who has been using GitHub for a year at work. So, um, you know, good blog. I liked your content.
Chris Randall: Um,
A.J. Murray: Sorry, JJ. So where, where, where can we find you? It’s going to stay BITSA bites, bites to bits
Chris Randall: for the blog I’m working on.
There’s some more in the hopper for the, for all of that. That’s not like it probably won’t happen this year, but yeah, for now it’s there. I think it’s linked on my Twitter and on my LinkedIn. Um, yeah, but there’s more to come with that for sure.
A.J. Murray: All right. And we will drop all of those links and the show notes, [01:06:00] the Twitter, the blog, and the Lincoln.
And, uh, you can make sure you connect and follow Chris wherever he’s at. Chris. Thank you so much for joining us this week, man. Thank you, gentlemen, graduations. Uh, congratulations to you. You’ve definitely earned it. Uh, and we’re, we’re going to keep watching you. Can’t wait to see what you do.
Chris Randall: Thanks.
A.J. Murray: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. And, uh, that’s a wrap. Thank you. And, uh, we’ll see you next week. On another episode of the art of network engineering.
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E T E N G. You can also find us on the web. At art of network engineering.com, where we post all of our show notes, you can read blog articles from the Cohosts and guests, and also a lot more news and info from [01:07:00] the networking world.
This is not meant to be a “hooray for me” success story. The purpose of this post is to be a message of hope. I’m not someone who goes out and gets 10+ certifications a year. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, I respect and admire the determination and focus of people that are able to accomplish that, but that is not me. I move slow. Perhaps too slow, but that is the pace I typically adopt when preparing for a certification exam. Recently, I passed the Cisco 350-401 ENCOR exam. Yes, it was on the first attempt, but there is much more to the story. Remember the slow pace I mentioned? I began studying for the ENCOR exam in January of 2020. It took me until November of 2021 to feel ready enough to take the test. It really wasn’t too much of an on again/off again thing either. Other than a few breaks here and there, I studied a fair amount of those almost two years. Now, if you are thinking about or already working toward this certification, this isn’t meant to scare you. There are people out there that have accomplished this in much less time. There is a critical mistake that I feel like I made in that first year that caused me to practically reset my study progress at the beginning of 2021. I’ll get into that in the next section to try to prevent others from falling into the same trap. Back to the message of hope. I don’t consider myself someone who can just jump into anything and absorb/retain concepts right away. What I do have is passion, drive, and determination. I feel like those three things, along with discipline (CC: @TeneyiaW) will get you there when it comes to this certification. The exam blueprint is definitely wide, but I believe in you. I mean this in the most sincere way possible, if I can do this, you can do this.
Alright, now let’s get into the study plan that helped me reach this goal. Therein lies the first step, in my opinion. Make a plan and stick to it. That does not mean that you cannot modify it, but making a plan gives you a guide. I used five main resources to prepare for the ENCOR exam:
CCNP and CCIE Enterprise Core ENCOR 350-401 Official Cert Guide (OCG)
What I have above is not meant to be “one size fits all”, it is just what worked for me, and I should caveat that my employer got me access to CBT Nuggets and the Cisco On Demand learning and I am incredibly grateful. Now that we have the resources squared away, what’s the plan? I started with the the OCG. I would cover a chapter (or grouping of chapters if it made sense), then cover the same topics with the relevant CBT Nuggets and Cisco On Demand learning content. With all three resources I would create Anki flashcards along the way and set time aside to try to review cards as close to every day as possible. Finally, I would leverage CML and EVE-NG to lab up any concepts that made sense to do so. I do feel that getting experience either through on-the-job or labs is very important to really tie concepts together so that they actually make sense in practice. You are probably beginning to see what took me so long to reach my goal. Again, I want to highlight that this is not the only, or even the best way. This was the plan/strategy that I chose, and it eventually got me there. Now, what was that critical mistake that followed me throughout 2020? It was the lack of flashcards and review. Basically, all through 2020 I was just going to content in the three platforms I have mentioned and doing some labs. I was not taking notes/flashcards or reviewing anything. Looking back, what I was doing made zero sense. Because I wasn’t reviewing anything, I was essentially losing things that I learned shortly after going through the content. Thanks to the advice from the AONE podcast, I adopted the Anki application both on a computer and my phone and I absolutely love it. Typically, I would create cards on the PC app while going through content, sync the cards, then review on my phone so I could also walk on the treadmill. The flashcards were really a critical piece of reaching this goal for me. Finally, being tapped into the community as a resource was very helpful as well. There are many bright and encouraging people there that are willing to help. Whether it is providing advice, teaching a concept, or giving encouragement, they are there and they are inspiring.
I’ll admit, this whole process was tough for me, but it was an excellent learning experience. Not just because of what I learned through the content, but I also essentially learned how to learn (and retain). Preparing for the ENCOR exam provided me the repeatable modular plan to prepare for the next challenge. For me, that next challenge will be the 300-420 Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks (ENSLD) exam. My advice to you is that if you are invested in studying for ENCOR, don’t quit, don’t give up. There were multiple times that I felt overwhelmed and just wanted to stop. Seeing that notification that I passed the exam made it all worth it. Reach out for help if and when you need, and try not to neglect your support system. I will definitely be taking some time off to rest and give time back to the ones I love.
In this episode, we talk to John Capobianco! John recently won the DevNet Creator Award for all of his work in the community! John works as a Network Engineer for the Canadian House of Commons. John started working in a factory but went to school to study software development. From there John got into infrastructure through a co-op with the school. Shortly after that, he was assigned to work in the networking field! Enjoy hearing more about John’s career and how he got into automation.
It’s been a few months since I last checked in blog wise. It’s been a long stretch for me personally, maybe it’s been the first time I’ve been feeling Covid fatigue, work burnout or maybe interviewing for a job just introduces a lot of anxiety into my bloodstream. In any case, blogging here was the first to go as far as where I’ve spent my time. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything and I’m writing today to catch up a bit!
One of my work projects recently had me figuring out how to use hashcat with a list in an attempt to crack Linux hashes of our users. The best little cheat sheet that has helped me along the way came courtesy of Black Hills. Embarrassingly, it took me a week and a half to get a command together that would actually start cracking hashes. The worst of it was simply figuring out that I needed the hashes by themselves for processing to begin. I was initially trying to process usernames:hash thinking hashcat would simply find the hashes in my document but instead just threw an error. There are a lot of tutorials out there on using hashcat for the first time, so I won’t do that here. Instead, I’ll highlight a little ‘automation’ I did once I had my hashcat output file. Here is a representation of what my original file looked like when I pulled down every users hash:
My list was a lot longer, and had actual hashes but for demonstration purposes this should suffice. I simply need to use the cut command from here to get the hashes by themselves and then run that file through hashcat…
If you redirect that to a file, call it hashcat.txt, you’d be ready to run hashcat. And using Black Hills cheatsheet, you can specify with the -m what hashes you are running, which in my case I was doing SHA512 unix hashes. By the time I got this going, it was exciting to check my output file and see it filling up. We were really cracking some hashes. This was exciting. The next part of the journey was marrying up the password of the cracked hash with the user name. This is because the output of the cracked.txt (output file from hashcat) is hash:password like so:
$ cat cracked.txt
# this is a cool file and all, but what username does this
# belong to???
To begin, I was manually using grep and going back to my original file that had the usernames:hash, but who wants to do everything manual forever? Also, my list was pretty long so figuring out how to do this more efficiently was worth the investment. So I came up with a quick little bash script that allowed me to grep each hash from my cracked.txt from my original list (hashes.txt):
$ cat script
cat cracked.txt | cut -d : -f 1 | while read -r line; do
grep $line hashes.txt >> grep.txt
# running the script
$ bash script
# checking out the file created from script
$ cat grep.txt
At this point I was half way there. I had each username that I cracked a password of, now I just needed to get the password. To finish the job, I used the cut command one more time to isolate just the passwords and then used the paste command to put everything together:
I eventually added this all up in one bash script and I was set to get a file with usernames and passwords. There are probably 18 more ways to do this and I may have done the least effective way of them all but I just wanted to share the little journey I went on cracking my first hashes. Most exciting of all I got to play with a new command, I’d never used the paste command and it works perfectly here.
GIAC Network Forensic Analyst
I was lucky enough to take SANS FOR572, advanced network forensics course which maps to the GNFA exam. This was my second SANS course and GIAC exam. The first being SEC503 and the GCIA. I’ve got to say, the order in which I took these courses was great for me. SEC503 and FOR572 use a lot of the same tools: Zeek, nfdump, tcpdump, tshark. Both courses even go over some of the same protocols, like DNS and HTTP(S). But, in my opinion SEC503 stands to be a great intro to these topics if you are not fully immersed already, and FOR572 takes these topics and applies them to ‘real world’ type data and scenarios over and over again. I’d recommend taking a course from Phil Hagen, the gentlemen behind my instruction, any day of the week.
Exam wise, I found the GNFA to be a solid 5x to 10x harder than the GCIA although the GCIA was pretty cool in that you had to interact with data on a VM for a few questions and the GNFA, at least today, is all multiple choice. But the questions for the GNFA were very applied compared to the GCIA. Instead of just knowing the proper switch for a command, you were looking at some output and had to interpret something 2-3 levels deeper than what’s simply displayed. This was very challenging and rewarding. The closest to ‘real world experience’ I’ve ever felt while prepping for an exam.
As I look at SANS catalogue and contemplate what comes next, it’s hard to choose. Thinking of shooting for FOR508, and even if there is overlap with courses I’ve already taken I think getting insight and another instructors perspective is always useful.
Now it’s time to delve into somethings that didn’t come out as an immediate success. I got to interview, 4 in total, for a position in which I was really excited about. A possibly life changing opportunity. The job was remote, working on SIEM of sorts for a networking vendor as a technical writer.
I hadn’t interviewed for positions since the 2016-18 time frame. But I enjoyed these interviews and come to find out I really like doing interviews in a video chat over in person. Felt way more comfortable. Looking back, I was always a way more nervous wreck checking in with the receptionist and being in the fancy corporate building than I was during this iteration of interviews. In the comfort of my own home, wearing more comfortable clothes and sipping a coffee from my home espresso set up was something I’d sign up to do again if I have the choice.
After interviews I waited about 3 weeks before I heard that I wasn’t going to be extended an offer. Which hurt, as my mind couldn’t help but daydream about possibilities during the wait. In truth, the interview process and having a shot for something like this consumed me, I was useless as far as studying for the exam above, another exam, the Cisco SCOR exam, I failed during this time. Trying to do any sort of studying or focus on anything was very difficult for me. I ended up pushing my GNFA exam out as far as possible, and got closure that I wasn’t selected before I sat for that exam, which I think helped. It was exciting to go through the process and be considered but the process of waiting to see if I was going to be selected was excruciating for me.
I didn’t get picked up for the position but I did get practice telling my story and I think I made a good pitch for myself irregardless of the outcome, in any case, I’m improving in that area. I’ve never been that great at pumping my own tires but I’m getting more and more confident as my cyber belonging goes. As long as I keep my head to the ground I’m confident an opportunity I’m excited about will present itself when the time is right.
In this, our 70th episode, we interview Chris Denney – a very prominent member of our Discord community! Chris has built an amazing career, and the foundation is his willingness to take on anything! Chris is also a huge team player – both on and off the field. He is huge into soccer but when he isn’t on the field he is committed to working on whatever he can while doing a site visit. Printers might not be part of his job anymore as a network engineer but if he’s onsite and someone needs help with one, he’s all over it! There are many more sweet bits of experience that Chris shares that every listener should take with them throughout their own journeys!
In this episode, we interview Girard! Girard was inspired at a young age to fix some broken computers in his basement. His first tech job was in Geek Squad. There he got some essential skills troubleshooting tech and working with customers. Girard’s journey from there is really quite amazing, and he has the energy to match!
This episode was recorded just before Halloween and we had a lot of fun with it. Make sure you check out the video version on our YouTube channel!
This week we chat with Eyvonne Sharp! Eyvonne shares how she got her start working at a small ISP in her hometown and how she has progressed throughout her career to land as an Architect working for a large Cloud provider.
This week we are joined by NetBeez CEO Stefano Gridelli! Stefano takes us through his career as a Network Engineer and explains how he identified the need for NetBeez and started creating it. He then goes on to discuss how he made the leap from working on NetBeez part-time to making it a full-time job. We then discuss with him the features of NetBeez, how it works, and a whole lot more!
In this episode, we talk about Cisco Live – aka Nerd Summer Camp! Tim and A.J. share their experiences attending our industry’s largest conference. We highlight reasons to attend, and even how to pitch the idea to your manager. It’s never to early to start that process. Cisco has recently announced its intent to hold Cisco Live 2022 in person in Las Vegas! So, let’s get excited and talk about all things Cisco Live.
In this episode, we’re talking about the technical, non-networking, skills you need to be successful in your career these days! We’re not talking about soft skills this time either. There’s so much we touch as Network Engineers. We talk about the skills you should have and the technologies you should understand as a Network Engineer. It’s not always about the certifications too, there’s plenty of knowledge you can gain without chasing paper.
In my quest to pursue my next certification I sat down and thought about what cert I should dedicate time studying for. There were many things I was interested in which is my first reason to pursue a cert. I was knee deep in Security products at work and even now that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Most of the products were Cisco, so it made sense to give the CCNP Security a shot. I looked online at Cisco’s site as a start and dived in. Months later, I passed the SCOR exam! I then chose to give the SESA exam a shot and passed (barely)! The CCNP Security however has been completed so I want to take some time to write about my experience related to exam material, relevancy, and difficulty.
Before diving into the exam material, I believe it is important to mention what it takes to earn the CCNP Security certification. To earn the CCNP Security, you will pass two exams. A core exam must be passed as well as one concentration exam. You can find the list of exams at Cisco’s site. There are several concentration exams. Passing a concentration exam also nets you an individual Specialist cert. As an example, if you are interested in learning more about Cisco’s Identity Services Engine, the 300-715 SISE might be the concentration exam for you. Passing that exam also grants you a Specialist cert. However, to obtain the full CCNP Security, you would need to pursue the core exam.
When I study for a certification exam I like to rely on multiple resources. I want to read something. I want to watch something. I want to lab something. I believe doing each of those things can lead to success. Gain knowledge from multiple sources. I attacked the Core exam first (350-701 SCOR).
The first thing I looked at was the Exam objectives and the outline. This is exactly what Cisco is expecting you to know for the exam. Copying this over to Microsoft’s OneNote, I could make individual notes under each of the topics in the outline as I study them.
I ordered the CCNP and CCIE Security Core Official Cert Guide. The book was my main study source. I wouldn’t call the book an easy read at first. The first chapter is a journey, but it covers important fundamentals and dives into various attacks. My weaknesses are Cryptography and VPNs, which each have their own chapters. I found those chapters to be an uphill climb, but that might possibly be because I am weaker in those areas.
I spoke to my manager about training. This led to be able to take the online, self-paced SCOR course on Cisco Digital Learning. This probably made the biggest impact since it included a few labs to follow through online.
Finally, I was able to go through Pluralsight’s Cisco Core Security (by Craig Stansbury). I would usually watch this on my phone whenever I was out of the house or while laying in bed right before sleep.
As you can see, I had a plethora of material for the SCOR exam. However, it was the opposite for the concentration exam Securing Email with Cisco Email Security Appliance (300-720 SESA). The SCOR material covered Email Security, but it was not a deep dive. The SCOR exam glances over the importance of Email Security, how it works, and some of the components, but not everything. Studying for the SESA involved me recycling the above resources I had access to specifically only for Email Security information. Thankfully, my experience at work with Cisco’s ESA and CES made up for the lack of material.
For the SCOR exam, I did use the Official Cert Guide’s Pearson Test Prep engine that comes with the book. I also used Boson’s test engine for the SCOR practice tests. Between those two, I preferred the Boson test engine. The Pearson Test prep questions inserted a ton of fill in the blank questions. Those usually throw me for a loop. That probably led me to fail most of my practice test attempts. With that in mind, I went into the SCOR exam thinking it would be a very difficult exam. I believe reviewing all the topics the day before was a big help in passing the exam. I found the practice exams a bit more difficult than the actual test. However, I cannot say the same for the SESA Concentration exam. I’d like to say I spend a decent amount of time in the Email Security world, so I went into that test thinking that it would be an easy test. It was not. This was the test I barely passed. If I needed 10 points to pass, 10 points was exactly what I passed with. I believe the lack of material for the SESA exam led me to have a difficult time during the test since I simply relied on most of the material from the SCOR exam and my own personal experiences.
Is the CCNP Security exam relevant to what is happening in the world today? Yes! Especially Chapter 1 of the SCOR Official Cert Guide. Chapter 1 was one of the longest chapters as it covered a wide range of agencies, documents, attacks, and defenses. This is mostly general information that applies to the security world, not just Cisco security. As I mentioned earlier, this chapter is a journey, but one that was extremely educational. With everything we do in our professional lives, we should always have a security mindset. As I have experience with most of the security products covered in the guide, the SCOR and the SESA were personally relevant. The CCNP Security would be a certification to pursue if you are going to work with or have experience with the products. It’s mostly Cisco-centric and not a general security cert. My advice is to also pick a concentration exam that you might have experience with, or at least have some materials to use for your studies.
I found pursuing the CCNP Security to be a pleasant, but mildly challenging journey. It was not the most difficult certification I’ve pursued, but it made sure to keep my stress levels elevated during the exams. There is plenty of material and test engines out there for the core SCOR exam. If you are working with Cisco’s security products, give this one a try.
In this episode, we break down our thoughts on the recent Tech Field Day event, Networking Field 26! Both A.J. and Tim were in attendance for the event and learned a lot from each of the presentations. They break down what they saw and Andy and Dan ask some questions and give their thoughts on the event as well.