The Art of Network Engineering

Ep 06 – 24

August 26, 2020 The Art of Network Engineering Episode 6
Ep 06 – 24
The Art of Network Engineering
More Info
The Art of Network Engineering
Ep 06 – 24
Aug 26, 2020 Episode 6
The Art of Network Engineering

In this episode we meet Taylor. At only 24 years old he has tons of experience working in IT and holds 4 professional level certifications. Hear about Taylor's attitude towards his career, studying, and what contributed most to his successes. 

Find everything AONE right here:

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we meet Taylor. At only 24 years old he has tons of experience working in IT and holds 4 professional level certifications. Hear about Taylor's attitude towards his career, studying, and what contributed most to his successes. 

Find everything AONE right here:

This is the Art of Network Engineering podcast.

this podcast to look for teams, technologies, and talented people. We aim to bring you information to expand your skill sets and toolbox and share the stories of fellow network engineers.

Welcome to the Art of Network Engineering podcast. I am 25% of your hosts. Today I'm actually 33% of your hosts, 33.3 repeating. For those of you who really keep me score at home, my name is Aaron Weiler. You can find me all over the internet at Aaron Engineered, all one word, D at the end. With me I have AJ Murray. How's it going? You can find him everywhere on the internet at NoBlinkyBlinky.

00:57 And last and certainly not least, rounding out this evening's illustrious panel of co-hosts is Andy, the soon-to-be network architect, Lat Pef. Damn right. He's on the fast track. If you guys are listening to the episodes, you know that Andy is soaking everything up like a sponge because he's secretly doing this just for his own benefit so that someday he can better himself and his career.

That's the whole idea for the whole thing anyway, I guess. Today we're doing a little show and tell. We have someone with us that we're going to be interviewing. His name's Taylor. He works with AJ at Red River. I don't know if I can steal his whole thunder, but we're going to get a little backstory from him and kind of see where he's at. And the reason why we brought him on is because

He gives a different perspective than some of the other guests and including ourselves in that he's still quite young. So that can be relatable to some folks out there. Um, but he's done a lot, uh, a lot more than us older folks, dare I say older folks. Um, so we're just going to try to get his background, pick his brain a little bit and see what kind of gems he can give us. Uh, no pressure, Taylor. So Taylor, what?

Where do you work? You work with AJ, where do you recover that? What is your title over there? So I think officially I am a network deployment engineer for Red River, so on the post sales side of things. Okay, so I think when we talked about on the episode with Danny Finan, there was a lot of cool stuff that came up, one of which was something that I brought up too, which is as a network architect, we're the ones that...

basically decide a bunch of stuff like, hey, you're gonna get this equipment, you're gonna get this technology, and then it's you, Taylor, that has to do all the dirty work, is that accurate? Yeah, absolutely, and I would say, you know, sometimes we get a little bit dirtier than others. Okay. Do tell. Hold on, we'll get back to that. We wanna start real quickly, since we know where you're at now. How old are you, by the way?

If you don't mind me asking. 24, I believe. You believe. OK. Yeah, I was born in 96, so that would make me 24 years old. All right. Yeah. OK, 24. What were you doing in 1996, Aaron? I was in high school. I don't know if Andy wants to answer that question.

Andy, yeah. Andy, we actually know what Andy is doing. He is skydiving with a ponytail. If you guys want the backstory of that, feel free to hit us up in the Discord channel because boy oh boy is that a gem. So you were born when most of us were already living our lives. You've already lost track of your age at the ripe age of 24, which is not a good sign. So

Where did you start? Did you go to college? Were you always tinkering around with stuff in high school, like as a kid? Walk us through that. So yeah, so I had an early start as well. So my dad actually, he's also in this field. So he's a systems administrator. And when I was, I believe, about eight, he handed me a laptop for my birthday. And from there, it was the.

Constant let's break this. Let's see if we can get it back together There was a lot of times where he needed to intervene and from there You know the saying is my family that he created a monster at about eight to ten years old And I kind of ran with that through high school I was very fortunate to be able to work in the school's auditorium doing some audio engineering Oh cool, and then yeah, I did I did end up getting my bachelor's degree at Champlain College up in Vermont

computer networking and cyber security was the full bachelors. So did you emerge out of that with any certifications too or is it just the degree? So by the time I was done with college I did have my CSENT but I did that on my own time through my internship that I was doing at the end of college. So you went to college, did you finish in four years so you're out at 22?

Yep. OK, so during that last year or so, you're doing an internship somewhere. How did you pull that off? So my internship actually started the second semester of my sophomore year. Well, hang on. Hang on. Remember a few episodes back when I talked about that guy that came in and knocked the interview out of the park? This is him. This guy. It's this guy. This is the mysterious dude that you spoke of. This guy right here.

This this guy, okay, that's why that's why he's that's why he's here Okay, that makes sense now. I was wondering how you swindled your way into this No, i'm kidding. I'm kidding dude Andy said earlier you're not you're not playing around brother But we're gonna get to that. So you you had an internship at red river Nope, okay at a different company. Okay at a different company. Okay, so go back to the internship. So First of all, was that like a school sponsored thing or how did you pull that off?

Yeah, I would say it's somewhat of a school sponsored thing. Champlain did something a little bit different with their career program. They had what was known as a resume book, where you would give your resume to the college, they would put it into, they would combine them all, sort them out, and employers would be able to ask the college, hey, we're looking for exposition. Here are some requirements. What resumes may fit that bill? Oh, that's pretty slick.

You know, we always talk about like the different paths you could take to get into what it is you want to get into. Um, it more specifically, I guess, networking even more specifically. And you know, the questions always come up and we talk about it every episode, college certs, neither both. Um, I would say that based on what you just told us, another feather in the cap for college is that.

it's in their best interest to find you something or find you a place to work, right? Because they're a business and they strive on being able to, you know, outbusiness other college businesses, which is, hey, we have a 99% placement rate, right? So if you were thinking like, oh, what a waste of time college would be, think again, because there are places like this, and this is a community college, right?

No, this was a private school. Oh, private school, okay. So, private school, you know, point being, you know, you don't have to get into some crazy Ivy League school or a Big Ten school or Pac-10 school if you're me over here. You don't have to go to UCLA. You can go to a college that fits what it is you're trying to achieve rather than the college just accepting you for whatever, right? Because you have a choice to go places, so why not treat it like a job too?

where it's like, hey, at the end of this program, and hopefully now you know this is possible, I can get an internship, and that's gonna get you the experience that everybody's looking for because nobody just wants certs, right? We always hear this too. Oh, they're looking for five years experience, but I just got out of college, but it sounds to me like that's possible anyway, right?

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, Champlain is definitely a unique school. You know, they have their whole upside down curriculum where you're starting your major related classes, the moment you start classes your first year. That's cool. And you know, they take a huge amount of pride in their placement at the end of the year. You know, I forget the exact number but

It's something like 98% of all students have some sort of job within six months after they graduate and they use that on their marketing material. Absolutely. That's a huge thing for them. Yeah. So keep in mind if you're out there looking for colleges or looking for something to get into, you can shop around. I didn't have good grades and I got into college. Say here. Yeah. They're like, okay, you're paying us, right? I'm like, yeah, I really don't see what the problem is here. I'm paying you.

Who cares what my grades are? I still got to pay you. But yeah, that's okay. So that's good to know. So you got the internship while you were still in college. You finished college. I mean, this is only two years ago, so we could probably just give your whole life story here. It'd only take about five minutes. Alright, so now you're what? You're 22. You just graduated. Are you still at the internship? So by that time I was

still at the same company, so the same manufacturing company, but I was promoted to a CIS admin or junior CIS admin. So I was taking on a little bit more responsibility, no longer just looking after the help desk, started looking after the virtual environment, working on some key projects with our partners at play. So you started at the help desk though? Yep, that was my, yeah, absolutely. That was my primary responsibility, the help desk, so that the other members, AJ included, could.

focus on some of the, you know, the more higher level tasks, the bigger projects. Got it. So AJ then worked it with you at the other company. Correct. Yeah. I hired Taylor. I was the IT manager at the time. Okay. See this, this it's all making sense now. So, so AJ jumps ship. He goes to red river. He says, Hey, I got this kid you guys should hire.

Right? It didn't quite happen that way. Kind of that's how it happened. Don't let me speculate. Tell me that. Give me the dirty details. AJ, give me the details. I want to hear from your mouth. The opposite side of the fence. So I left the manufacturing company in the fall of 2018. I worked at a small MSP in the area for about four months. I was oversold on the position that I

Was applying for or not not on the position. I was oversold in the company and so once I got into the company I I will say that culture means a lot to me yeah, and the culture at that company was not as was sold to me and And so I just kind of knew like this this is not the place for me and I kind of realized that pretty quickly I was familiar with Red River because Red River was my partner when

Taylor and I were working together and I had had interactions with Red River on previous occasions, like throughout my career, they're, they're a pretty good partner up in this area. And that's, that's what, you know, without me being an employee there, like I've, I've worked with them in the past at different employers. So, um, so I saw a position open for network deployment engineer, um, in like,

late, it was late 2018, like around Christmas time. And so I applied for the position. I think Taylor also applied for the same position. I did. Yeah. Oh, snap. How does that make you feel? He had other irons in the fire as well. And one of the other companies that he had applied to had job offered him before he had an in-person interview at Red River. So he took that position and worked somewhere else for six months. Okay. So I got hired onto Red River.

Um, Taylor, I think at least had one phone call interview at Red River and, uh, everybody liked what they heard and saw. I continued to talk him up cause I think very highly of him. Well, you knew him. So that's interesting. Yeah. Um, and so when the opportunity came up that to hire another engineer in this area, cause we just had, you know, more projects coming on, uh, he was of course, the first person that came to mind and, uh, they kind of went after him. Hmm. Rightly so.

already in a position where people are coming after you. How does that make you feel? I think it's pretty cool. I mean, I don't know, it's tough because I know I'm still green in this field. I have a lot of years ahead of me. And it's, I understand the value of being humble and not overstepping where you actually belong, knowing your place in the environment. So...

To me, I still haven't fully contained the fact that there are companies that wanted me on their team. More than just a, hey, your resume fits the build, let's try you out. But there was actually people that, okay, we want Taylor. So okay, then for everybody that's listening to this, because we're all about giving beneficial little nuggets.

I referred to them as gems earlier, but I think nuggets is cooler because nuggets are tastier. So, what can I do if I'm in college right now? What can I do to mimic what you did? Like, how do I get people to come after me?

Passion. Okay. Define that then. So let's say I do have passion, but I'm like what Malcolm Gladwell would call mismatched where my outward appearance and demeanor does not mimic that of what I actually feel. I eat, breathe, and sleep information technology, but I just look like a grumpy...

pissed off old dude. How do you, cause what I'm getting at is passion just can't be like, you know, you talk about it and you get all excited when you do it, right? I mean, where's your proof that you're passionate? And I don't even know if I have like- In the rack behind him. Should be next to you, but yeah, go on. I mean, yeah, passion, I mean, excitement for the-

the work that you're doing, the stuff that you're playing with. I mean, it's shown in different ways. I tend to think like I don't do facial expressions too well. Like I tend to be a very stoic person. So, you know, I tend to rely on either non-visual cues, you know, verbal cues, you know, talking about it, constantly talking about it, moving a thousand miles an hour and jumping between all the technology stacks. I think...

I've always been a huge proponent of the Home Lab. If I had my way, I would have racks on racks on racks on gear. I only have 25 of you. Some of us only have 20. So you used the money that you were making at these IT jobs to buy more IT stuff. Yeah, absolutely. So you just feed back into yourself. What a great investment.

You know, don't get like your first $60,000 job and go out and just start wasting money. I mean, the thing about this industry, because you mentioned it earlier, is that you're young and you have many years ahead of you. I still feel the same way. I'm sure Andy does too, especially when you look at like how much has changed since I was 24. And how like most of that information, although it was good.

like it just cycles through so quickly like in this industry. It's not like medicine, right? Where, well, there's new medicines that come out, but like the human body is always the same, right? Like those textbooks can be hundreds of years old. Most of that stuff is like irrelevant to us other than some like core fundamentals, right? Like bits and bytes and things like that. Like how does that work? But you know, you're constantly refreshing yourself.

How do you do that or how do you see that you're going to be doing that? So when you are my age or you are AJ's or Andy's age, how are you going to stay not messing around as you are right now? I just keep stealing that from Andy. So I mean a lot has changed in like two years. I mean it's crazy how fast this stuff moves. I think I tend to overstep.

on what technologies I'm supposed to be focusing on. So, you know, like this whole week, I sat in on an architect class for VMware Multi-Cloud. So we're talking cloud foundation, you know, combining your on-prem data centers to AWS Azure GCP. I honestly, I am not going to deploy any of that anytime soon. I honestly probably had no business sitting in the class, but...

That's where technology is right now, especially in the virtualization side. You know, we're talking Kubernetes, we're talking containerization and micro services. So if I can just take a little bit of that information to stay relevant, then when it comes time to actually dig my teeth into it, you know, a couple of years from now, I'll have some information to just fall back on and, you know, then I'm just expanding on it instead of starting from fresh.

Yeah, I think what I just learned too, while you were saying that is something that's pretty interesting, which is Everybody at some point comes to like this fork in the road A lot of times there's a fork in the road very early on where it's like i'm trying to figure out what i'm doing I mean we all went through it was like doesn't sound like you did because you've been doing this since you were eight And laptops didn't exist when I was eight but

Hey, I started on a Pentium 3. Windows XP. Oh, man. So to kind of back up your point, but also to bring it around to somebody that's just starting out. I think the reason why folks get into this analysis paralysis stage when they're first starting out, you know, should I get this cert? Should I go to this college? What degree should I get?

You notice everybody's always asking, well should I get this, should I get the reserve, is it worth getting, is it worth it? Worth is so intrinsic, stop projecting that on other people, right? But point being, people that are just starting out are trying to figure out, hey which way do I go to get the best bang for my buck, right? I'm trying to make more money, I'm trying to be smarter, I'm trying to do all these things. But from what you just said, it's like, that just doesn't stop.

No, it never will stop. That's the beauty of our field. It's gonna change every single day. And you in particular are still figuring it out, right? Like you said, I sat on a multi-cloud VMware seminar and it's completely irrelevant for the most part as to what I'm doing in my day-to-day job, but I just wanted to get a little bit of knowledge. I think...

Maybe the best skill you can learn as like a networking professional maybe is like finding the best things to fill your time with. Cause nobody wants to waste their time, which is why everybody starting out has no idea what they're doing yet. But they really don't have any idea as to like what they wanna do and how to get there. Once you're there, like you are, like the rest of us are, the trick is you have to keep going so you have to continually do that.

but you already got over the initial hump, which was like, all right, which path do I take and how do I do that? But it just doesn't stop happening, folks. The one thing you do get good at is not necessarily the technology, but understanding what it is you need to be learning at what time.

Does that make sense?

I mean, like, there's just so many options, dude. Like even within every vendor, like Cisco, you mentioned VMware, there's a thousand of those out there and you've got a thousand of them, oddly enough. So you do have a bunch of certs though currently, right? Like name off a couple that you've got, actually do me a favor, name off all the certs you've gotten since January of this year. It being 2020 this year.

Okay, so I'm Cisco certified specialist in enterprise. So that's the encore exam for CCNP enterprise. And then I've also, I got two VCPs, VMware certified professional in data center virtualization as well as desktop and mobility. So we're talking VDI on that front. And then I also just passed my.

V-CAP, so that's a VMware certified advanced professional in data center design. So you're not messing around. That would be four certs in seven months. Four professional certs in seven months technically. Okay, so guys, let's- And two of them happen in the same week. Don't be modest, Taylor. Hold on, hold on, I'll get to that in a second. Professional certs. Guys, it would be hard enough to-

Like let's say all the CCNA tracks still existed, just as an example, right? Like wireless, data center, service provider. That would be hard to do with that, even though most of the disciplines are all networking, right? But those are all associate level certs. You got four professional certs in seven months. What's your secret, dude?

So to be honest, the Cisco, the MCOR exam took a while. I've technically been working on that since February of last year when I got my CCNA. So initially started going down the route switch track, took the switch exam twice, wasn't able to pass it. So that's kind of been a constant endeavor for me. And it's gonna continue to be a constant endeavor as I finish up NP Enterprise.

and then eventually go on to NP data center. All of the VMware certs, you know, AJ kind of alluded to it, those were taken in a period of about three weeks. And a lot of that, I think is because, you know, I have my own lab, I'm in VMware almost every single night spinning up, tearing down everything about the lab. So all of that material is just super fresh in my mind.

And for the design exam, there was a ton of new concepts for me, because it's taking the technical backing of the VMware environment, but applying a very different lens. So looking at it from the business perspective, looking at risk and how these different solutions solve key business criteria.

Yeah, goals. Yeah. So you're, you're, you're obviously going to be speaking my language there when you start talking design. Cause that's, that's my wheelhouse and Andy's ears perked up too, because that's something he's passionate about as well. Network architect 2020 architect 2020. So you got all these search. So then that makes sense. VMware you're in every day. You have the lab, you do that. So it's all familiar. So like, it's really just learning like certain nuances and stuff like that. Uh,

What about something you're not in day to day that you're learning like Encore for instance? How do you study for that? Like, I know you got lab, book, video, whatever, but do you dedicate a certain amount of time every night? You know, what does that look like? So it's a little bit, you know, I don't really have a schedule and I should have one. A lot of my Cisco prep comes from, recently started using CML.

2.0 a lot more and more so the next revision of viral. And then, you know, Boston, the Boston exams are top notch. You know, they're as close to a Cisco exam as you can get. And I'll keep running through that stuff, going through every single question until I feel confident about the material, not necessarily the question and answer. I hate.

studying based on a test, you know, I want to know the material and if I don't feel comfortable with the material, I don't want to take the test. So I actually that was the I took the design exam a couple weeks ago and there was a ton of multicast on it and I am not proficient enough in multicast to even you know be thinking about taking the design again, the design exam again. And I think you hit on something that's important there.

Because people are always looking to figure out what cert is the most important and the most relevant But it's not the cert that's important the cert just verifies To the rest of the world that you know your stuff The point is you should be learning those technologies because your ultimate goal clearly is to get a job using those disciplines

So why would you spend your time trying to learn answers or exam dumps or something when they're just going to thrust you into something and you're going to be like Andy on day one, they're going to ask you to log into something and you're going to be putting your AD credentials in. That's the best story ever. He's got like two in a row where his first day of school he goes in and the teacher makes him do a full blown history report for no reason. Poor guy.

That's how we all feel for him. Yeah, I can tell. It makes for good, it's good TV. So yeah. I got a question. I got a couple of questions for Taylor I want to throw out there. So is this stuff easy to you? Because for professional certs in seven months, I mean, I don't think I could do the CCNA now in seven months and I've-

passed most of the MP exams, the old one. I mean, you just, you seem to be breezing through this stuff and, you know, is this stuff easy to you or you're just working that hard? Cause I hear that you're passionate and you're following stuff that you're interested in, which helps. But are you working hard at this? Or are you just like, oh yeah, dude, it's just what I do. I just pass exams, no problem. I wouldn't say it's easy. I think I've been very lucky.

that a lot of the projects that I've worked on, not only at Red River, but at my previous VAR, the stuff, the projects are relevant to the entire technology stack. So before Red River, I was working at a local VAR MSP and one of the big projects I was helping out was Horizon. So I got to become familiar with some of the inner workings of Horizon.

the different pieces of it and how they loosely connected together. So that gave me a great foundation to go play with that at home, you know, especially with the expert licensing that I get for having my blog and, you know, setting it up, tearing it down. And then I have, you know, I would say 70, 75% of the material on the, the BCP. Um, when I came over to red river, one of the,

the big projects that needed to close before I was hired was this huge international company that we were spinning up two greenfield data centers. So we were talking three sets, three pairs of Nexus 9Ks with Palo Alto firewalls, six ISRs at each data center, and then all of the inner workings circuits to not only between the two data centers, but to Azure over ExpressRoute. So...

I was able to just kind of run with a lot of that and learn as much as I can in a very short amount of time and really set the information that I knew about networking at the professional level in my brain. Your retention seems insane. It does. I think you just- Picking up and keeping. You just uncovered it though, Andy, I think. Go back to what we were talking about earlier. People are trying to figure out what they need to do to get to point B.

It sounds to me like a company was like, hey dude, Taylor, we need you to do VMware. And you're like, okay. And you just did it. And then you were like, okay, I like this. And then you got the cert, right? Instead of studying, sitting down and reading VMware documentation and going, all right, I'm getting ready for this test. Oh man, none of this makes any sense to me. You already had the experience. And I'm not saying that that's what made it easy or anything like that. But I think that your approach was different than most.

And that's just me speculating. Yeah, I think you're spot on because you look at, I have aspirations to get my CCNP data center. So when AJ and I were on the customer side, the two big projects that we did was a network upgrade which included Nexus 9K. That project kind of cemented my love for the Nexus platform. And now I just want every single Nexus project that comes across the plate. The other project was Cisco HyperFlex. So compute hyper-converged.

a solution where the compute and storage are back on the physical server. And then they have these wonderful pieces of technology called the Fabric Interconnects. That is a centralized management plane for the entire solution. And those two platforms, that's the bread and butter of the CCNA data center or CCNP data center. So then that makes sense.

Clearly you chose, because you pointed out earlier, I would like to get CCMP data center, not just like Route Switch or Enterprise, whatever we're calling it nowadays. And that's because of your experience with Nexus and the data center environment, also with obviously hypervisors, more specifically VMware. That's interesting, that's a good point. And then- So what you're doing at work drives what you're studying and starting up.

Right? Absolutely. And you know, there was a time where, you know, I was also, I had my fingers in the phone system on the customer side and I really wanted CCNA collab, you know, at that time, while that exam was still there. But now that, you know, it's almost two years since I've been on the customer side. And I haven't really done a whole lot of phone system projects. Like I have zero desire to do it. Like I think I've found the path that I want to go down and I want to

you know, get to know. Can I jump back to your internship for one second? How did you jump from help desk to virtualization? So.

Nobody wanted to do it. Were you that really bright kid that they're like, wow, we should give them this? Or was it your passion, you like vert and you were into it already? How do you make that jump? Because I think getting from help desk to the next thing it comes up a lot. Yeah, so I knew about virtualization. All through college, we used that at Champlain. More the workstation perspective, so on the end user's computer.

But, you know, once I started seeing the corporate environment and how, you know, they had the luxury, you know, they had both VMware and hybrid V in the environment and there was some, you know, unforeseen circumstances that happened, you know, things we couldn't control. And I got, you know, more access than I probably should have at a time or, you know, AJ just trusted the hell out of me. Um, and I, I was, I started doing like.

You know, the vCenter deployments, you know, upgrading vCenter. Um, you know, and this was on an international level. This wasn't just in, you know, the state of Vermont. This was in the UK. We had offices in India and China. Like we touched everything. This was at the internship. Yep. So, so let me, let me just jump in there real quick. So there's a, there's a lot of things that contributed to Taylor's success. Uh, number one was himself.

Like I said, when he came in and interviewed and we were talking to him, he might think that he doesn't show his heart on his sleeve, but he does. He got very outwardly excited. You could see him physically getting excited and be like, wow. You could see the wheels spinning. If he got in this opportunity, he would get hands on with his stuff. That was obviously very exciting for him and that's why we picked him because we wanted to give somebody an opportunity who wanted the opportunity, not just somebody that was like, eh.

you know, whatever, this would be cool. Um, yeah, it was very visible and it was, it was really cool. Not just, it could be cool. Uh, and so that's why we gave him the opportunity. Um, as Taylor alluded to, there were, you know, there was a situation that was kind of out of our control. Uh, and at the other time, or at the same time, um, the company was going through some changes where the.

role of IT lead was shifting from the UK over to the US. And so I was kind of being elevated from local IT manager to global IT director. So now I wasn't just responsible for the US portion of the IT, it now became I'm responsible for all of the IT in UK, India, China as well. And so of course, like with other businesses,

they didn't want to make the investment in additional heads for IT. And so now all of this additional responsibility still fell on a very small team. So we didn't have guys that just did exchange or just did active directory. Everybody did everything. You could probably subdivide the IT team into like two different teams. Like one was infrastructure and the other side was apps. So we handled layers like one through six and then we had another team that did layer seven.

Yeah, it sounds like a roll with the punches scenario. You know, the business will do what the business does, right? Oh, hey, we're merging with this company. Oh, hey, we're laying off half of you. Also, guys, congratulations for doing that all on your own. You just proved that we don't need to hire more people. I love that one. But we know it's like when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. You know, they're like, hey, guess what? You're doing VMware. And you're like, yeah.

I don't care, give me the VMware and you take the VMware and then you get certified three times in the same week. So it's, it's an, like life is obviously going to give you unpredicted stuff, especially like job description wise. Don't, please don't take those for gospel, right? They can only write down so much, which is why they write down a ton of ridiculous stuff, but just be prepared to do anything and embrace it. If you don't like it, don't keep doing it. But if you do like it, like you run across Nexus, for instance, and Taylor's situation and you happen to love the platform.

you do exactly what he does, which is, hey, when's the next Nexus project coming up? Put me on that. I mean, it's really not that difficult to do, right? Like, I'm, you know, we're poking fun in a way of, like, making it sound easy, but, Taylor, I mean, you're living proof, right, that it really is just that easy, right? Yeah, I mean, having open dialogue with, you know, whoever is assigning projects, whoever is, you know, giving you work to do, your manager is critical. I mean, I talked to my manager.

every single day at a bare minimum, sometimes like three, four times a day, even if it's just about stupid stuff. It's having that relationship with the hand that feeds you. Yeah. Well, because right, because ultimately that hand can stop feeding you too, right? We talked about on one of the episodes, we talked about soft skills. Actually, I just made a pun in our Discord channel. By the way, if you're not in the Discord channel, find a link in the description, head up our website.

head on over, you'll find all of us in there. But it's soft skills pay the bills, right? If you guys saw me say that, I didn't see anybody clap, so I'm assuming no one's seen it yet. I thought about clapping. Yeah, I bet you did. Real long and hard too, huh? Nah, I'm not giving them that, it's cute, but this head's big enough, I'm good. It's true though, right? So soft skills pay the bills because.

You just said it like you're having open dialogue with the hand that feeds you and that person ultimately is in charge of your fate. AJ at one point was in charge of your fate. He was the one writing your check so that you could eat, right? That's crazy. And so you're asking him and then what happens? AJ leaves the company and then he gets a new position and guess who he goes to? The same dude that he's used to. I mean-

The story can write itself if you just start the first chapter off right. Do you know what I mean? It'll just keep evolving. It might take a couple of twists and turns, but it's like a choose your own adventure book. You can choose what to do. Dengual was happening and what's about to come up, but you're always, and I said this earlier, you're always at some point forced with a fork in the road. There's no wrong answer.

Try to feed your passion if you can do that. Roll with the punches. Feed your passion or find one. Keep going until you find one. I'm hung up on eight-year-old Taylor. Okay. Yeah, please. Because if you found your passion at eight, I mean, I'm having a hard time liking you as it is, it took me, I mean, just because you're kicking so much, but I mean-

Did you ever ask your dad, like, I mean, who gives an eight-year-old a laptop? Like, what was in his head? Was he, I mean, he was in tech, right? So was he just kind of like, hey, here's a laptop, do what you want. Or do you think he was trying to, you know, give you a taste, push in a direction? I mean, I'm amazed that at that age you got pumped about tech and started into it. It's just because for me, it was in my thirties when I finally figured out.

Oh, wow, this is great. I love it. Let me try to make a living. I mean, eight years old, dude, that's insane. It's awesome. I don't know what his intentions were with that. I don't think I've ever had that conversation with them. Like, why did you give me a laptop? And, you know, this was, he was back at Intel at that time. So, you know, he was actually hand building the machines at that time with spare parts.

There was times he'd come home with a couple of them, you know, we'd have the family one and then I would have one and I, I probably went through eight of those breaking various components, you know, getting so many viruses. Cause what's anti-malware? Cause limewire.

Yeah, don't lie. You said it was like 2002, right? Napster. Anybody remember Napster? Heck yeah, dude. You know what? Don't talk to me unless you've been in an ICQ news group, actually, or an IRC chat room and you have to ping the bot to get you to send the entire discography of a band you want one song from. Then come talk to me. But anyway, yeah, I like Andy's question because what prompts a dad to give a kid...

a laptop at eight, I guess maybe it's more common and maybe that's like a generational miss for us, right? Because we can't relate to that. For us, we were trying to get like the original Nintendo. I remember that being a big thing for me. I was like, I need this Nintendo. My dad's like, I don't know what that is and you're not getting it. You know what I mean? Cause it's like a new thing, almost like cell phones in like the year 2000, right? It was like, you don't need that. Who's gonna be calling you all the time, right? People just don't understand. So for your, even in 2002, for your dad to be that forward thinking,

did you a huge favor and a huge service, but you didn't need to take that path, right? Like he could have given you that laptop and you could have been like, I mean, it's okay or whatever. And I'll be honest, I probably would have done the same thing when I was eight because I didn't care about anything. Like I was just eight. I don't even know what the hell I was doing. Honestly, I was just being eight. I certainly wasn't tinkering with computers. They just weren't readily available. So yeah, I guess a different generation, different time, whatever.

Still, had they been around, I don't think if, but really anything my dad would have given me, I probably would have just instantly been turned off by. Not because like I distrust him, but like, I don't know, some people just don't have that relationship. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, and you know, he is generally pretty forward thinking. And you know, now that I think back on the story, like the laptop wasn't actually the first thing. We used to have it.

that old Pentium 3 that had like Windows 98 or Windows XP on it. You know, the thing it was that, you know, typical, uh, was it gray yellowish computer tower? Yeah. With a huge CRT monitor. And I, I remember having that, you know, it was kind of in, in a closet in storage and I would always try to just take it and set it up in my room. So then the laptop came. Um, and then we started, we actually started playing, you know, at a very young age, I started playing World of Warcraft with my dad.

dad who was huge into that game. He had multiple accounts. So I would always run a second account with him. Um, and it was all, I always had to be tethered to, you know, an ethernet cable because the wireless never reached to my room. So at that point it was, all right. How do I get this internet to work in my room? The wireless doesn't reach cause it's like 802.11a or B like first gen wireless. It was B. So like, what, what can we get?

to extend the wireless and make it work so I can play games in my room. Huh, that's interesting. I have a very, very similar story because that's how I learned how, that I actually liked this stuff, connecting things together. And it was because I wanted to play video games on a computer. That's wild, right? It's always video games. It's always the innovation, the video games. I like, I'm looking back now and I'm thinking, I'm glad.

that PlayStation and Xbox didn't exist back then with wireless, because you don't have to do anything now. You just connect to the SSID and tell them your password. And if you got it from an ISP and that's the one you use, like most people, you just write it down because it's written on the back of the modem. But for other folks, cable internet just came out for me. It was like 1998, I think, and...

My dad got one. I don't know why he got a cable motor. It was the weirdest things, but we had like good internet and that's crazy because I would say that that propelled me faster in like learning about technology stuff than anything in my life up until that point. Because then you're like, wait, I have cable internet. Like, what does that mean? And then you try to figure out what that means. And then you're like, I don't know. Then 23 years later, you're working at a cable company.

That's a joke. I do still work here, but um, but yeah, it's stuff like that. That kind of like sparks your curiosity, but it doesn't always light the fire. It's like, Oh, that's kind of cool. Like lots of kids grow up playing baseball and they're like, man, I'm really good at it, but you know, then that just fizzles out and that that's over with. So for you to start kind of like how Andy was saying for you to start at eight and to have that kind of head start is huge, which doesn't make the 24 thing really seem that crazy now actually makes you sound kind of slow.

Because if I would have gotten started 16 years ago, you know, God boy the places I would be Okay But dude, that's a that's a heck of a feel-good story So let me just put put yourself back cuz Andy brought you back to the internship there for a minute. Let's go back to I'm getting out of high school or maybe I'm doing a career pivot or whatever. What guidance would you give?

to someone who someday wants to get four certs in a week.

Uh, that's tough. I, I don't know. I look at, um, I look at my, my second kind of real IT job and how short lived that was, you know, even though the company was a great, great local company. Um, I think, you know, following what you know, and following what you love is very important at that role, you know, I wasn't doing a ton of Cisco networking.

Uh, you know, we, we sold a bunch of Dell equipment. Um, it was perfect for our customer base, but it just, I wasn't into it. Um, you know, and it was a great feeling to, you know, when I started Red River to get to immediately get back onto Cisco stuff, you know, I I'm a hundred percent Cisco focus. I probably always will be, unless the company goes under. Interesting. So your guidance to.

someone who is aspiring to be in your current situation is first find what you love and then continue down that path

Yeah, you make it sound so easy, but what if I can't find what I love? Keep looking Keep looking. Yeah, you'll know when you find it. You'll find it. It's like, you know, it's like love Oh boy, okay, andy tell us more I mean it is okay in what way?

You're asking how you find a passion. You keep looking, you know, look under every stone, put yourself in different situations. I mean, or you can give up and just be a schlub and have a crappy job and hate your life. Surround yourself with good people too. Oh yeah, and smarter people than yourself. Exactly, smarter people, you know, SMEs of the world, subject matter experts, people who will motivate you to make yourself better. I mean, my girlfriend is probably one of the...

the biggest proponents of my success, not only because she benefits from it, but she enjoys seeing me happy going to work. There's been very few days where I think work is a job. Most of the time it's just, all right, what piece of technology do I get to play with today? What kind of config do I just need to create and see if it works? And if it doesn't work, how do we make this work?

Interesting the family support system. That's a often overlooked piece of thing. Cause so Andy says it's like finding love, like finding your passion is like finding love or like a significant other. But what's funny is if you find a good enough significant other, then they can also help fuel your passion for your day to day. Boy, boy.

Guys, if we didn't just find the meaning of life, I don't know what happened. I just got this really weird warm feeling like come over me. I don't know. It could be the coffee beer. It's all speculative at this point, but if I had to guess, it'd be more of the love thing than anything. Um, it's just an interesting thing, right? Like people always look at other, other folks.

Paths to what they would consider success, but the important thing to remember is that your success is going to be much different Than anybody else's so when you're asking someone's advice on like how should I go about getting to where you are? I think you as a as a person that's like a thought leader and like, you know a role model it should be in your Best interest to tell them you don't want

to be exactly where I am. You wanna be this version of who you are and it's gonna look completely different, but you'll know kinda like what you guys said, you'll know when you found the passion, you know when you found the one. And I think you'll know when you've found success or at least somewhat, you know what it smells like, people will start coming to you. So having this direct approach, like,

Everybody's looking for this golden path like yellow brick road to get from point A to point B, but AJ will be the first one to tell you that it's all about the journey You know hey get lost in the weeds man Get lost in the weeds the whole point here is that like if you listen to Taylor's story that if you're if you're confused about Where you want to go you could you could be like him and find it right away but that's

He still, no matter what, when he got in those positions and he got those jobs and stuff within those jobs, he was still trying to figure that out. Did some stuff and was like, "'Nah, I'm good, I don't like that.' Maybe took a wrong turn there. And then got right back on track and was like, "'Ooh, I like this, I like Nexus. "'Ooh, I like VMware, you guys do a lot of that.'" Always just kind of be looking forward and analyze your options.

But not too hard because if you don't know your passion yet, like it's not going to be glaring you dead in the eye, like come this way. Right. Like some Lord of the Rings scene, right? Like you, you just got to guess at some point. And I remember, uh, one of our episodes, Danny was on there and he said, you just got it. It's like leap of faith. I don't know. He had some stupid movie quote, cause that's what he does. But you know, he said, Hey, he said, he's like, Hey, just

You just gotta do a leap of faith. Like just do it, right? The hardest thing is just getting started, man. So there's no wrong answers. Taylor's proven that to us. He's proven that if you just work hard and find your passion early on, it's still up to you to make something out of it. It's not just finding your passion. It's actually doing something with it. Well yeah, you just said work hard.

And I didn't want that to be lost because it sounds like Taylor's a really hard working guy. He, he busts his butt and he hustles. My wife's got a great saying that I love is you can't teach hustle. I mean, it's, it seems intrinsic in people's personality. If, if somebody's just grinding every day and trying to be better and working their butts off, that's going to pay dividends. If you're passionate and lazy, I don't think you're going to get, you know, to the same place. So, I mean, you work pretty hard, right? Taylor, you're, you're, you're hustling. You're going after it. You're

I like to think I do. Yeah, I mean, it appears that you are. He does. People like Taylor are very rare because he can go to work all day long in VMware. And when he gets home, he'll have dinner, he'll hang out with his girlfriend for a little bit, and then he dives right back into VMware. And so I don't want anybody to think that Taylor sat down in the year 2020 and had zero prior knowledge of VMware and scored three professional level certs.

He's been studying for these exams for the last five years, at least that I'm aware of, because I've known him for like four or five years now. Ever since I met him, he's had a home lab. He's always done VMware in his free time. Sure, he got to do it at work, but he has spent countless hours just tinkering, playing, learning how to do new things. If we started talking about something at work, the first words out of his mouth were, I'm gonna go home and lab that up.

You know, what's that 10,000 hours project? He's never touched Cisco Ice before. He downloaded the VMs and deployed them in his home lab. And he set up all of his home gear to authenticate with TACACS on Cisco WISE because that's what Taylor does. And that's how he's successful. You know, he just digs right in. He took that money that he earned through the internships and previous jobs and he invested back into himself, you know.

He treats himself as a business, as a brand. His lab in the four years that I've known him has gone through several different iterations. And it's because he needed more compute because he wanted to play with more things. He needed a larger rack so he could support additional servers and more storage and faster networks or more Cisco gear so he could learn some Nexus. Yeah, he's got Nexus switches in that rack, man. I know that for a fact. You got Nexus in there, dude. Come on. Yeah, I got two Nexus switches.

You know they virtualize that, right? You know, AJ came to me this morning with a Nexus question, having some physical layer issues. Can't do that virtually. Can't validate transceivers on a on CML. You can't run BFD on a v9k. Don't try it. I spent a week doing it. It's a waste of time. You can enable the feature, put the config in, it'll never neighbor up. Boo, virtual 9k. We probably don't have time to get into it now.

Taylor, maybe you could write a blog post on it. But I want to know how you study because you seem like a beast with knocking those out. And what I'm doing isn't really working for me, but it's all I have. It's been a recurrent theme of how to study and be more efficient. I don't think Taylor studies. He just lives it. Like, it's just that passion. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, Taylor. Maybe you do sit down sometimes with the intent to study. But I would say that most of your learning has just come through sheer interest.

how does that work? What happens if I do this? I wanna configure it this way instead of that way. I think that's probably where he's learned most of what he's learned. Well, you guys oversee that analogy of like the picture of the iceberg, right? And it's like people only see the tip, but a majority of the iceberg is actually underwater where you can't see it, right? Which is obviously what makes them so dangerous. This is a perfect example of that because

On the surface you see, oh hey, 24 year old Doogie Howser, you might not get that reference because you're only 24. I don't. Okay. That's awesome. That's amazing. He was a little nerd, Taylor. Yeah, he was a child prodigy. He was like a 15 year old MD or something. Yeah. It was a whole TV show, it was awful. It was awful. So you get this education, right, and you take and do what you can through work, and you take on things that...

people aren't volunteering for it, all you're doing is just asking. You somehow found your passion in there and then you drove it home. And people only see, oh a 24 year old guy gets four professional certs in three weeks time. You know, the first thought in everybody's head is like, oh lucky, oh I bet he has plenty of time to himself or obviously he doesn't have kids. What people do is they make excuses in those scenarios.

to validate why they don't have it. It should be doing the opposite to you. I'm not talking about you, Taylor. I'm talking about the people that have heard your story. It should be lighting a fire under your ass. Like this kid can do it by 24 and all he does is like care. You know, but you don't see all this stuff under the iceberg where it's like the dude goes home and he lives it. He asks for projects, you know, on the surface for certain three weeks. You know, 2020 has been very good to Taylor Harris.

And underneath though is just a mess of crap. You know, they always say, you never wanna see them make sausage, right? Cause you'll never want it again. But I think the same is true. Like Andy wants to know how you study and stuff. It doesn't even sound like you do. So that's a whole nother wrench in the spokes. And maybe you can do, I think you should do a blog post about that, which I think is good. You do study obviously, but you know what I mean? Not traditional studies. Yeah, it's a different way of study. Different way of study. Whatever works for you.

Yeah, when I was in school, I mean, we had these lab projects, um, you know, one of them specifically, I remember is, uh, distributed file system, you know, create design, you know, a solution that would, you know, provide HA file services to an organization. So really softball toss to let's use DFS and, um, you know, active directory. And we were working on a project at work related to MDT and imaging. So I'm like,

can we use DFS as the MDT deployment share and then stretch that across the WAN to make a highly available deployment share with images that are shared between servers? So, you know, you take, I guess what I'm getting at is like, I tend to not take something at face value and do all of the objectives. I almost always make my own objectives that are add-ons to what's needed in the-

in the project. And so I did this project in college. It was like my junior year. And two years later, it's now incorporated into the curriculum to do something along that line of, you know, design, basically. Yeah, design, as well as let's, let's use this, you know, solution that's meant for task A, but let's modify it and make it work for task B and C. Right. It's a tool, right? We talked about this with other guests. It's like,

You have all these tools and as designers and architects, which are not, um, that's what they do is they, they use all these tools, like, like the ones you learn in school and inserts. And then you take those tools and you implement those tools on what you're trying to accomplish. The more tools you have, the better off you are. Cause you can get more specific. Um, so that's, I think that's huge. Um, I, I speak for all of us. I know AJ has to put up with you on a daily basis in, um,

in a work capacity for eight hours. I think that's the other way around. I think Taylor puts up with me. I'm sure he does, yeah. I actually agree with that. So if however you do wanna see what Taylor's up to, you gotta join our Discord channel. It's all about the journey. Again, we'll have links to that on our website, thea And you'll see we have a cool channel that's hashtag winning, which is exactly what you might think it is. It's...

Basically everybody's sharing all the wins they have. So of course, Taylor's been very active in there because he's winning every five seconds. Poor guy. But it's a cool space, you know, where you can get some more encouragement to keep going, which I think is really one of the core foundations of having that Discord channel. But we're all in there. All four of us are. So yeah, find us, art of netw We'll have links to, in the show description.

to all of Taylor's stuff as well. Taylor, you have a blog, right? I do. What is that blog, sir? So it's blog Blog So your hits are gonna go through the roof. And the Twitter handle is? Twitter handle? At UC admin. At UC admin, yeah, he loves unified communications.

This guy. Well, no, no, no, no, no, no. Unified computing like Cisco UCS. Let's get it right. Okay, well, you know, UC means a lot. Hashtag, let's spin that real time. You're talking about collab certs, man. I don't know. Maybe I gave you a little too much credit. But no, this has been super insightful. I think it's always good to hear other people's perspective, especially someone as young as yourself that's been so accomplished and done so many cool things. We totally appreciate your time because we know that you'd be rather.

studying for a professional level exam at this point in your day or taking one and passing one whatever. Just a normal day of the week for you. Find us on the internet, join the discord, have some fun with us, chat with us, ask us questions. Taylor's on there as well. He'd love to give you more feedback I'm sure, even some specific guidance to yourself. He loves hearing about that kind of stuff. Until the next episode, see ya!

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