Over 25 years ago, I started my first technical job working for a company in the Insurance industry. This was an awesome time to enter the tech world as the Internet wasn’t a household thing yet. The closest thing you had at the time was online services, such as AOL and CompuServe. About 3 years into my career, I got a great opportunity to start working with the newly minted emerging technology officer on Intranet/Internet based technologies. The company was coming from an age of mainframe, dumb terminals, and IBM PC’s running OS/2. With lots of Coax and Token Ring networking all over the place, we were about to embark on a new form of networking, using the TCP/IP protocol. I was given the opportunity to design a TCP/IP network that overlaid an existing token ring network and a (then) SNA only Satellite network that extended to over 100 county offices across the state. As the network was being established, I was also working on Intranet services including: Web Servers for serving intranet pages and applications, email (pop and smtp), and proxy services to provide the company with Internet access.
Fast forward a couple of years, all offices across the state were communicating with each other using email for the first time, using Intranet based applications for business purposes, which I helped create and now was ready for the next wave of upgrades. At the time all this was initially implemented, people would come to work and use a web browser and email client for the first time, because most had not got it at home yet. The next chapter came in the form of networking, which called for replacing the statewide satellite network with a Frame relay network. This is where I got introduced to Cisco technologies for the first time and was able to work directly with a Cisco Systems Engineer to design a statewide network and see it all the way through the implementation phase. In all of these projects, past and present, I was in charge of creating the procedures along with the instructions that were handed to technicians to perform the work in each of the 100+ offices across the state. After the big Cisco implementation, I decided to start looking at job opportunities in the bigger metropolitan area, which I was just currently outside of.
After a brief period, I started applying for jobs that seemed interesting to me. It wasn’t long before I got a call from a large Entertainment and Hospitality company that had been a staple in Nashville for many years. At that time, they still had alot of the older technology in place (Token Ring, etc) and was looking to upgrade to newer technologies, some of which I had just implemented. In addition to that, it wouldn’t be long before announcing a new (very large) hotel in a different state that would need a state of the art technology implementation. I was offered the job and accepted, and so I began commuting just shy of an hour each way.
The new job was great and less than 6 months the senior (lead) network engineer took another job, where I think we went into consulting. As soon as the guy announced his departure, I immediately recognized this was an opportunity for me to slide into this lead role. While all of us in the group had the same title, we definitely had different responsibilities and I knew I wanted to be in charge of projects, design work, etc. So, I quickly made sure I was stepping up to any responsibility the lead engineer had and also worked with him in his last weeks to make sure I was up to speed on anything. Fast forward several years, I had successfully led multiple large scale networking projects in both existing and new hotels. These were big suckers, 1500 rooms and 500,000 square feet of meeting space — in all the new ones, and they were packed full of technology that were used by guests and also sold as part of the technology packages to incoming conventions. These opportunities were all over the place, anything from creating and administering RFP’s, to design work, to managing vendor resources to install equipment.
I was later given the opportunity to stretch my legs and manage a big security project (first of it’s kind at the company), in which I didn’t actually work in the group that it was being implemented in. I was a network engineer that had been given this project to seek out and select, then implement a patching solution that the server team would later use. The project was successful and I enjoyed all the experiences that came along with it. Right around the time that project was finishing up - I got a random call from a company just down the road from where I currently worked. They were a technology company in the healthcare space, that had products in the majority of hospitals across the United States.
I ended up taking the job and the HR person who made that initial call to me bragged about how I was her first hire using skills from a class she had just taken on finding candidates that were otherwise not looking for new jobs. She essentially had learned to use Google, in which she found a resume I had posted on a personal blog site. This was before the creation of LinkedIn, however several other job boards existed like monster.com, none of which I had posted on. Leaving the previous company was on good terms, I actually got in good with the CEO after doing a great job on the previously mentioned security project, and later did some work on the side for a startup company they were involved in (which was eventually sold to a much bigger company).
After working in an operational role for a short period of time, I moved into a design engineer position that only worked on projects. This started out as a team of two people and we got to work on some amazing projects, namely building out a brand new Tier 4 datacenter with a carrier grade network. It was long before the days of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and in the Cisco world, the Catalyst switch was still king. The backbone of the internal network ran MPLS and carried multiple isolated networks across it, which broke out into very secure edge environments. So, needless to say, label switching, BGP across the entire network, and the best of the best security components in each environment made this a very challenging and rewarding build. Fast forward a couple years later, the group had grown bigger and then was reduced in headcount, in a cost cutting exercise.
I moved into a new position where I supported an air-gapped network that connected to DoD systems via the NIPRNET. At the time I moved into the position, everything was aging out and I got to design and build a newer, more resilient, air-gapped network across 2 sites that connected the systems to the Department of Defense.
Leaving that job was unexpected and at the time, sent me reeling, as I wasn’t prepared for it. I took the first offer I had, which was for a very small, but upcoming technology startup, still in the Healthcare space. I was in charge of all of the infrastructure and was able to modernize much of what was in place, over the 3 months I worked there.
Once I got settled back in to working, I started looking for what I felt like was a better fit for me. It wasn’t long until I got an interview with another company that was very similar to the last big company I worked for. I accepted a position there and 10 years later, I still work there, as a manager of a server team. The team is responsible for 1000’s of servers, made up of both Windows and Linux. I enjoy the daily challenges here and over the past few years feel like I have re-found my groove (more on that in another article).