Who are you?
I am currently a Senior Director of Technical Marketing in Cisco’s Enterprise BU. My team handles DNA Center and SD-Access, Identity Services Engine, SD-WAN (Viptela) and APIs for Cisco enterprise controllers. I also have a team that does competitive research. I came to Cisco (this time around) as a Principal TME working on programmability for campus and data center switching. Previously, I was the Network Architect for corporate IT at Juniper Networks for about six years. Prior to that I worked at MTM Technologies, a Cisco Gold Partner, at Cisco Systems in High Touch Technical Support (Routing Protocols Team), and as the lead network engineer for the San Francisco Chronicle. I am an active CCIE (#14023) in Routing and Switching and also Security. I previously held JNCIE Service Provider #2332, but let it expire. I have an M.S. in Telecommunications Management.
The SF Chronicle? Aren’t there, like, 5 employees there?
There may be now, but when I worked there we had 1000 employees in 25+ offices, including printing plants, circulation offices, and advertising offices. It was a challenging environment to support.
What is High Touch Technical Support?
HTTS is a group within Cisco that supports its largest customers. Customer Support Engineers (CSEs) at HTTS take cases like ordinary TAC engineers, but are expected to know more about their customers and their particular needs. At the time I worked there (2005-2007), CSEs in HTTS were required to work cases until resolution, unlike TAC engineers who pass cases to other regions when their shift ends.
How did you like being a CSE at HTTS?
Wow, I hated it. There were some great guys there, but the nature of the work was extremely stressful and relentless.
What is the difference between a network engineer and a network architect?
I have no idea. Once I stopped worrying about it my life got a lot easier. Everybody is an architect these days. I told my personal trainer he should call himself a “fitness architect.”
What was it like being the network architect for Juniper IT?
When I came to Juniper IT, the network team was staffed mostly by people who had been there 5 to 10 years. I came in with zero Juniper experience and was expected to take on a leadership role, having just been an engineer. The beginning was rough. However, with a change in leadership and some personal development, I came to enjoy the job. It was very interesting to be in charge of architecting networks while working at the company that made the products. I left on great terms with Juniper.
What is a principal technical marketing engineer?
Cisco has several levels of engineers, with Fellows being the most prominent (and the fewest), followed by distinguished and then principal engineers. A principal engineer is a director-level individual contributor. TMEs produce technical marketing collateral primarily for sales engineers and are focused on specific products or technologies. They also do internal facing work on specifying requirements for new products and advising on product strategy.
How do you like this job versus being a customer support engineer?
I absolutely love it. I can’t say that the work is more interesting (TAC is quite interesting) but the nature of the work is more enjoyable. I have my own lab with a lot of switches and UCS to play with. I get to present at trade shows. I’m working with brilliant engineers. It’s a blast.
How did you end up a TME director?
I was doing just fine as an individual contributor, and must have made somebody mad because they gave me a team to manage. Then I realized I was doing more management than TME work, so I asked for my title to be changed. It was fun to get the congratulations for being promoted even though I wasn’t really, since a Principal TME is a director-level position.
What do you think of management?
It’s a whole new set of challenges, but I enjoy it. I look at myself as a mentor and coach to my employees, and I love mentoring people. There’s also a bit of heartburn, but we don’t grow without a little pain.
Can you help me get a job at Cisco?
I get LinkedIn invites from people all over the world asking me this. Any advice I might offer is either on this blog or in my video interview with David Bombal. If you’re somebody I’ve never met and you just got out of school, I’m afraid you’ll have to build your career like we all do.
Why is this blog called Subnet Zero?
I hate naming things. If I ever have a son he will be named Jeff. If I have a daughter I’ll probably name her Jeff. I tried a bunch of names I didn’t like, and then I started going through commands on a Cisco router to find something catchy. I saw “ip subnet-zero” and I liked the sound of it.
Is there any relation to Inet Zero?
Not at all. I hadn’t even heard about them when I founded this blog. I’d like to change the name, but see the answer to the previous question.
There is a guy posting on TechExams.net with a CCIE number in the 30,000’s who calls himself SubnetZero. What is your relation to him?
None, other than a lack of originality.
How do you feel about Cisco vs. Juniper?
I think that both are great companies with great products, although both have a few misses. That’s the nature of our industry. Juniper obviously has a more limited product portfolio than Cisco, so they aren’t as good for enterprise networking, but they make great routers and some decent switches. However, now that I work for Cisco I recommend sticking with the big guy…
Why did you write so much about the CCIE exam? Are you one of those engineers who is just obsessed with certification, but who really doesn’t have a clue as to what he is doing?
Yes, you got that right.
How did you end up studying Telecommunications Management and why Golden Gate University?
GGU was one of the only schools in San Francisco that offered night classes (so I could work during the day, of course) and a program specifically in telecom management. I had dreams of working at a phone company. I know, I have funny dreams. Most people want as little to do with the phone company as possible. There were some great adjuncts there who had industry experience. (To be honest, there were a couple of bad adjuncts too.) I find that a lot better than a bunch of Ph.D.’s who just sit around doing government-funded “studies” about the industry but don’t actually know anything real.
Why don’t I see any Telecommunications Management programs on the GGU web site now?
Alas, sadly, they killed the program off. There is now an ITM program which covers all of IT management. They also used to have a CIS program which had classes in software engineering and programming, but they ditched the technical stuff for the most part to focus on business. You can see the archived outline of the program here.
I noticed your profile says you study ancient Greek… Why on Earth would anyone do that?
Lots of reasons, actually. Some of the most profound thoughts ever committed to paper were written in Greek. Homer’s epics, Plato’s philosophy, and the New Testament (Christian Bible) were all written in Greek. As with any language, translations can be good but ultimately dull the meaning of the original texts. Plus, working in a difficult language keeps one mentally sharp. And I’d rather do something productive than play video games or watch TV in my spare time.
How exactly is studying a language which has been dead for two-thousand years “productive”?
Uh, yeah, ya got me there.
You write well, but I notice you often use run-on sentences. What’s up with that?
If you had studied Ancient Greek, you would know that they didn’t have any concept of a run-on sentence, and in fact, often strung multiple clauses together to make sentences that were rather long, often running an entire page, and usually requiring diligent and careful reading in order, if at all possible, to make sense of what they were saying and the sense in which they meant it, and so hence, while I try to be cognizant that the vast majority of my readers, unfortunately, have never studied Classics, I do occasionally slip into Socratic mode and write longer sentences, but thankfully not as long as Plato’s, which often seem to never end, if you’ll forgive the split infinitive, which I actually don’t think is an faux pas in English anyways.
Wait, you mean you are a computer guy who doesn’t play video games?
Never. The last video game I had any kind of success with was Ultima III. I pretty much find any video game invented after the 1980s to be totally uninteresting.
Do your opinions represent your employer?
This is a personal blog and I am not representing Cisco in an official capacity. The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author only.