All posts tagged education

New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken, and I haven’t been keeping up with my resolution to do more blog posts.  Now that I am back at Cisco, I am focusing on programmability and automation, and I do have a lot to say.  However, in honor of my return to Cisco, I thought I would post a new Tac Tales entry.  There is a moral to this story.

One day my boss came to me and said my team would be supporting the MWAM module in the Cat 6K.  I had done a lot of Cat 6K work at that point, but I had never even heard of an MWAM, and failed to see why cases on it would be sent to the routing protocols team.  My boss didn’t seem too concerned with my objections, and said, “Just go watch the VoD.”  VoD = Video on Demand.  So, I did.  I watched the VoD, and it started out by telling me how many processors were on the card and of what kind;  what types of buses were used to transmit data;  what kind of memory it had;  and how it interfaced with the Catalyst and its backplane.  Never did the video ever tell me what the card actually did.  I had no idea why one would buy an MWAM or what one would do with it.  I hoped a case wouldn’t come in on the card, and when it did I immediately escalated to engineering because I had no idea what to do.  Fortunately I only ever had one case on the MWAM.  (And the fun thing about coming back to Cisco after 10 years is that I can go look up all these cases I remember and read my notes.  Very cool!)

What is the moral, you ask?  Well, as a Technical Marketing Engineer, a big part of my role is communicating technical concepts clearly to others.  How often have you bought a book or looked at a web page to learn some new protocol, only to find that the description of it begins with packet header formats or state machines?  Fine, but tell me what it actually does before you tell me how it works.  Imagine if you went out into the jungle and encountered someone who has never seen a car.  You wouldn’t start explaining it to him by saying “it uses an internal combustion engine which has a four-stroke cycle of intake, compression, power, exhaust.”  You’d say, “it has wheels and takes me places very fast.”  Now in defense of the MWAM VoD guy, he may have designed his video for people who already knew what the card was.  But often I have found that people make this assumption, and when I backtrack and start at the beginning when explaining something, often people say, “you know, I’ve always been afraid to ask about that, but thanks for explaining it.”

Meanwhile, my second try at Cisco is much more fun than the last.  And thankfully, no MWAMs.  TAC was an great experience and period of growth, but it’s a not a fun job.