Monday, August 30, 2010

Why iPad

Sure it doesn't support multitasking. It's considered expensive for what it's capable of, too. But I still love my iPad. Simply because it fits my requirements. And that's what buying gadget is all about, isn't it? If the gadget is suitable for your needs, then get it. Use it to serve whatever purpose you have in mind. Use your gadget for what it's designed for.

I personally believe the dumbest person on earth is the one who keeps buying gadget just to catch up with the trend. I must have it, one may say, without knowing why and for what. The same reason some people used to buy Blackberry or any other expensive smart phones when the most things they do with it are just making calls and SMS (hey I got my blackberry for free! And the moment I find any other phone that can check my office emails natively, I will throw away that ugly looking device).       

Below are the arguments of why and how I use my iPad. I made this list not to avoid being called as dumbest, neither to justify the reason I got my iPad, not to you all, not to my wife. I got mine when I was in London anyway, so there's nothing she could do when she found out ;) But this list may be useful for those who are still thinking to buy one. Steve Jobs should thank me for advertising the iPad for free.  

I carry my iPad anywhere
Just as my Leica M6, I carry my iPad anywhere. For me the size is just perfect, it fits into my camera bag. So I can leave my bulky laptop at home if I want to write, to edit my photos or to attend a webex meting

I can write anytime
Now I have my iPad I feel like to write more. Anytime, anywhere, even when I'm in the bathroom, just like the time I wrote this note. In the beginning it was difficult to use the virtual keyboard but now I'm used to it. So be ready to get more often posts in my blog

I can read, if I want to
I don't really like to read, but sometime I have to for my work or personal needs. The iPad allows me to left home paperless and read anywhere, in any position that makes me feel much more comfortable compare to if I have to read from computer screen

Different experience during meeting
I have used Webex for virtual meeting for many years now. Webex for iPad gives a different and unique experience during the meeting. The ability to see who is talking, view other's desktop, chat and any other Webex tools that become more special because all can be done in any seating position. I just can't explain it, you've got to try to feel the experience 

Edit photos without mouse
I don't really like post processing my photos. Most of the things I do are to crop, to slightly adjust the exposure, and to add frame. Simple photo editing tool like iPhoto on mac is enough for me. iPad apps like PhotoGene brings even more pleasant experience because I can do all those without using mouse but touch screen instead 

Addicted to the game
I was a computer game addict when I was in the university. I was young and reckless, and the games almost cost me my degree at that time. Even iPad can't run serious games like StarCraft, WarCraft or Command and Conquer, there are many games that can make me spend hours. Good enough if I have to wait for my wife doing her shopping

The only multitasking I need is iPod
Life without music would be a mistake. I saw that in one music store in Singapore. Indeed music gives more color to life. It can entertain and inspire at the same time. I love to listen to the music from the iPod apps while writing, reading, or playing some light games. I can live without multitasking, as long as I can hear the song in the background when doing something on my iPad

So many apps, for free!
Don't blame me to mention jailbreak here, the US Government was the one that made it legal! And I have to admit there are so many apps on iPad that can be used to increase work productivity, to manage personal life and needs, or simply to entertain myself everytime I get bored. My sympathy to those who have worked hard to make good apps and keep the price low in iTunes store, but now the apps are available for free thanks to the inventors of jailbreak

Yeah, if you notice I didn't write 'to be connected to the Internet anywhere, anytime'. I don't need iPad for that. In fact the one I have is the wifi model, not 3G, so I must go to any hotspot to get connected. Most of the time I use the iPad to write or to edit my photos when I'm offline. This is true just like the time I wrote this note. Being connected can distract me because I will do many things but finishing my writing.

Here comes the list of apps I've used extensively with iPad. And don't bother to ask, I won't tell which one I got from iTunes store and which one for free :)

Work: Things for iPad, Webex, Keynote (it can run Power Point animations), GoodReader, iMeeting Pad, Mail, Calendar, Dropbox, iSSH, TeamViewer (best remote desktop)

Personal: Notably, PhotoGene, IM+, iPod, iDleFrame, Wordbook Dictionary, Bills, Pages, Penultimate, MyQur'an 

Games: Angry Bird, Flick Football, Flight Control, Fruit Ninja, GT Racing, Mirror's Edge, ParaPanic, Pentago, Plant vs Zombie, Tower Defense

And many other games and education apps to amuse my kids.

Now I'm thinking that I'm the one who should really thanks Steve for the brilliant idea making the iPad. Thank you, Steve.

(Written using Notably on iPad)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why We Are Certified

About 10 years ago I started my journey with professional certification from different IT vendors. Going to the testing center to take the exam was a regular activity that I did from time to time. I remember some folks used to tell me that I was wasting my time and money. They said getting certification is useless and will not help to advance my career.  

Interestingly enough, I found the fact is quite the opposite of what people told me. At least in computer networking area where I have involved for more than ten years, professional certification takes an important role in my life. I even dare to say that I would not be at where I am now without having them. And I'm going to write it down here, of all the reasons why I decided to take professional certification, and how they affected my career from the very beginning until now.

So if you are looking for the answer of the question if it's still worth to get certified, here are my answers based on my own experience.

1. Easier path for career switch
I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, so the certification program from Cisco Systems and other vendors really helped me out when I decided to switch career to computer networking field. The certifications made it easier for me to show my interest in the area, to build a profile as network engineer and to help shorten the learning curve
2. Requirement from the employer
There was a time where system integrator companies are encouraged to have certified staff in order to enhance the relationship with the vendors of the product or solution. That means the companies must either train the staff to pass the certification exam, or hire someone who has already certified. I didn't have much experience in networking after the career switch, so I guess I got hired by my first big employer only because I had CCNA
3. To get better paid
So there I was, working in shift as network engineer for the company NOC. It did not take long for me to realize at that time some of my colleagues were in better position in the company, had more exposures and better chance to grow, and had better salary because they had higher certification than me. They had CCIE, in particular. So I was motivated to pass the CCIE lab with a very simple reason: to move to a better position and get a better paid eventually

4. To move to another company
It's true these days we don't get hired because of our certification anymore. Now we can get a job more because of our real expertise, past experience and our contacts (Triple W rules: who we know, what we know, what we have done). But professional certification is a benchmark of our knowledge, and from time to time has been used by the recruiters as one criteria to filter the candidates. Imagine you receive thousands of CVs and must bring the number of the candidates down to less than 50 for the interview process. One can just put some search keywords such as 'CCIE', '10 years experience', 'CRS' and so on to narrow down the potential candidates. We can only get a job if we can pass the interview and the subsequent processes. But at least the certification can provide some advantage and better chance to pass the early screening process

5. Love the challenges
Having passed the CCIE R&S lab in 2001 really opened many doors of opportunity for me. It gave me chance to work in a big company like IBM and it even made me received many offers to work abroad. So finally after I moved to middle east in 2002, what should I do next? I decided to challenge myself and put target certifications that I  should achieve over period of time. It helped me to stay away from boredom and laziness. And to be honest, when the first time I started working in middle east the work situation was not really 'convenient'. But I made my decision to work in the region so I had to live with it. Putting new certifications as target and chasing them was my way to forget all the bad stuff that happened at work 

6. Enjoy the experience
This may sound silly, but I just love the whole process and experience during my time chasing one new certification. As I mentioned above, the journey to take certification can make me forget about many inconvenient things that happen at work. It makes me focus to one thing. Sometime I even reached a level where all my activities are centered around my target certification. In the past I changed my sleeping time while chasing CCIE. I spent  lots of time on eBay to purchase my home lab equipments. I modified my daily schedule so I still can work, be with family, and practice CCIE lab. The whole process of buying lab equpiment, managing schedule, practicing in the lab for countless hours, having discussion with study group over the Inetrnet, and the feeling when I finally pass the exam I believe is a complete experience that even more important than the certification itself

7. To prove thyself
Despite the thrill, the feeling after passing the exam, and experience during the time chasing the certification, there was a time when I took a new certification just to prove that I'm worth it. It was year 2005 when finally I had a chance to get interviewed by Cisco in the region, and I got rejected because I was not 'qualified'. To join Cisco had been my dream, so I really took the comment personally and decided to abandon my plan to pursue master degree and take CCIE Security lab instead. I didn't really like the track but I passed the exam anyway on January 2006 and became one of the few Dual CCIE holders in middle east. Strangely enough, 10 months later Cisco finally hired me but to cover the Asia Pacific region
8. Speed up in acquiring new skills
I joined Cisco with extensive experience dealing with Enterprise customers and network infrastructure. In Advanced Services most of the customers are top notch Service Providers, so in order to catch up quickly I decided to pursue CCIE SP lab. In every certification there is a clear study path to follow, there is a list of books to read, topics to be covered and practiced in the lab, and there is the exam to test and verify our understanding. This means we don't have to reinvent the study plan to learn new skills

9. Instant reward
My current employer provides instant reward to employee who can pass tough certification like CCIE or CCDE. In the place where I am now, this might be the only reason why people still take certification. And I don't think it's a bad reason. The companies still give reward probably to encourage their employees, to ensure the employees' skills are updated, or just because they need to justify giving instant bonuses to the employee

10. Be one of the few
Certifications give me a target to acquire. They help to improve my technical profile. The skills I learn from new certification make me stay competitive in the market. And be one of the first to pass new certifications make me feel good about myself. To be one of the few that hold several tough certifications obviously is very important for someone in my field. And I think every one of us should always try to be the best in anything we do, to be part of the group that can be entered only by hard work, and be proud of it

I don't know the reason why other people are still taking professional certification these days. But if you are planning to do it, my advice is for you to find the right reason for it. I know my reasons, and I really believe in them, and that's probably what make me who I am today.

June 2000 - passed CCNA, my first certification ever
August 2001 - first attempt of CCIE R&S lab in Brussels
Sept 2001 - passed CCIE R&S lab in Tokyo
May 2002 - joined one Cisco Gold Partner company in Dubai 
2002 - 2005 - passed bunch of certifications from Cisco and other vendors
Jan 2006 - passed CCIE Security lab on 2nd attempt
Nov 2006 - joined Cisco Advanced Services Asia Pacific team
August 2007 - passed CCIE SP lab on 1st attempt in Brussels
Sept 2008 - moved to Cisco WWSP NGN practices team to cover Emerging markets
2008 - 2010 - passed several Cisco AS internal certifications on Carrier Ethernet, CRS/IOS XR and Video

(The post was made painfully using the virtual keyboard on iPad)