Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why We Photograph

Have we ever asked question why we make photos?

Most of us started photography as a hobby. But what is our objective? Are we doing it just to fill up our spare time or because we are thinking to become a professional someday? Or perhaps because we want to be popular and get social with other photographers? To document our personal life? To share our current location with friends and relatives? Or because we just enjoy the experience?

The type of photography we would like to do obviously affects the gears we use. But the objective that we want to achieve at the end I believe will affect our selection of gears and the sharing media as well.

To achieve certain objectives below, personally I would use the following:

- Make money or for future career
Depends on the business I want to get into, for example sport and wildlife require DSLR and telephoto lens, landscape needs big sensor camera probably medium format, studio photography requires all the strobes. I'd use professional photo editing software and digital storage system at home to archive my works. To represent and market my photos I would create online gallery, photoblog and perhaps Facebook page. I may submit some of my work to stock photo website. And I'd try to win photo competition or get into a magazine as part of my profile advertisement.

- Document personal life
Any gear but probably fast lens and AF if I want to capture my kids running around, lightweight photo editing software, can use Flickr for archive and Facebook to share with relatives, print the photos to paper so they can be framed and hanged on the wall.

- Capture surrounding life as it happens
Probably small camera or mobile phone, may go with RF and distance focusing lens for hip shot, use Flickr for digital archive, and may upload to Twitter or Facebook for real time update.

- Enjoy photography as it was
Film camera, manual lens, one hour lab or darkroom at home. Even to share the result I will need to scan the negatives or slides, and archive the result digitally either at home storage or using online service.

- Digital postcard, to update my current location to friends and relatives
Mobile phone, upload to Facebook.

- Social photography: to follow, comment, like, and getting social with others
iPhone, Instagram

- Just to be happy
Use any gear, use any sharing media, ignore all criticisms :)

My regular photography gears and sharing media:
Leica M6, 35/f2 summicron lens, Kodak Ektar, Ilford XP2, one-hour lab, USB drive, macbook air, iPhoto, Flickr, Facebook

My social photography gears and sharing media:
iPhone 4, Camera+, Instagram

Find me @hnugroho on Instagram.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Daughter Art Gallery

Gallery for paintings made by my 12 years old daughter: Few were made when she was 10. A father couldn't be more proud!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ten Years CCIE

Today I become a 10-year CCIE.

I passed CCIE lab in Routing and Switching track exactly 10 years ago. Now I can use the special Ten Years CCIE logo anywhere I like.

Looking back the past 10 years, I would say it's been a roller coaster journey. Even before I passed CCIE, the attempt to take the lab exam already brought me some interesting memories: how I switched from mechanical engineering to computer networking when I was jobless, how I was able to join Schlumberger the company that I thought was my dream company, how I then moved to IBM and felt like working as part of the family, how they sent me to CCIE Lab in Brussels with business class, and finally how I became a CCIE after the second attempt in Tokyo.

Having CCIE landed me a job with a gold partner company in Dubai. Got the second CCIE in Security track self funded. Involved in multiple projects with different roles, from solutions architect to project manager to technical lead to design consultant to field engineer who mounted the devices. The experiences and the certifications made me able to work as a contractor several years later. Until finally I joined Cisco Advanced Services in Singapore 5 years ago. And got my third CCIE in Service Provider track a year later with them.

I've been traveling to 26 countries since I started working as CCIE. I'm blessed with chances to visit many fascinating places: Amsterdam, Bangkok, Bratislava, Budapest, Hanoi, Hongkong, Istanbul, London, Mexico City, Munich, Paris, Prague, San Francisco, Taipei, Venice, Vienna and many more.

Travel. Meet new people. Meet new customers. Become friends with some.

I remember several difficult projects that I used to handle and lead: from Data center project in Malaysia, Migrating Vietnam Internet, CRS proof of concept in Sydney and San Jose, first full fledge IPv6 on IOS XR in Czech, Flat L2 to VPLS migration in Slovakia, Fixed Mobile Convergence in UAE, to impossible project in Saudi.

To celebrate my 10-year CCIE I'm thinking to release the story of the challenging situation from each project above. Just like what I did already with Project Malaysia. Let's see if I have time to do so.

Passing CCIE lab exam will not automatically make us entitled to be called as an expert. But it can open doors of opportunity to work in more complex projects, to assume higher responsibilities, to get into challenging situations, to get more exposures. And to work and get surrounded by another senior level engineers and the experts. Until someday we can become like one of them. Perhaps even better.

CCIE was really the beginning for me.

Friday, September 09, 2011

10 Lessons from Project Malaysia

September 2007. One week before my CCIE SP lab exam.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. I was tired. I just came back from finishing up a project in some other country, and I got assignment directly to come here for a 3-day project kickoff meeting and design workshop. I heard the project was about migrating one of our key customer's multiple data centers from non-Cisco equipments to Cisco, but I didn't even bother to read the RFP or other project documents.

I met the Project Manager during dinner at Hard Rock cafe, and I told her I didn't prepare anything for the workshop. She said it's fine. There is another architect had been working with the customer for months during the pre-sales stage, and he would be the one who lead the workshop. My job was just to introduce myself to the customer, make notes during the workshop and take over the project from him later on.

Lesson #1: never meet the customer unprepared

After enjoying the live music at the cafe I came back to the hotel and studied for my CCIE SP lab. I spent more than 1000 lab hours practicing for my first CCIE, about 600 lab hours for my second, but for this attempt I had not even reached 200 hours. I ended not sleeping that night, practicing hard in my CCIE lab, instead of reading the project document. The other guy would take care everything, I told myself.

Lesson #2: do not assume someone will take care of everything

We met the customer at 9 sharp, just as the meeting schedule. I was still able to look good that morning due to the Red Bull that I consumed whole night. I looked around and tried to find a seat in the corner. The customer should not see me that much, I thought. Let the other guy run the show while I can just keep quite in the corner and if possible use the time to practice for my lab exam.

Ten minutes past 9, and the other architect was not there. The room was full with people from both customer and our partner company. I counted more than 20. Perhaps 30. My project manager saw the architect online on our internal IM. She pinged him. Told him to be hurry to come to the customer's office, as she thought the guy was still in his hotel room. He didn't reply. She started to feel that something was wrong. She pinged him again.

Then finally the guy replied. He said he was still in Australia.

Both the project manager and I didn't understand. After a quick chat with him, it seems like there was a misunderstanding. His manager assigned him for another task, that prevented him to come to the workshop, and he thought his manager had already informed us about it. His manager thought the same thing. It doesn't matter now. The most important fact is: he was there in Australia, and we were here in Malaysia. In front of the customer who expected a fully prepared workshop.

Lesson #3: there is no point for finger pointing

I looked at the project manager. She looked at me. I didn't even read the RFP. I didn't really know the scope of the project. The other guy was ready to lead the workshop. He had spent months with the customer to understand not only the project scope but as well as the existing setup.

It was almost half past 9.

The project manager only looked at me, she didn't say anything. She knew she couldn't ask much from me.
And I knew we need to do something.

Lesson #4: stand up and assume responsibility

I stood up and started the meeting. I introduced myself as the person who would lead the workshop. I told the customer the other guy had some personal issue and must cancel his flight in the last minute. From the face of customers I could see some of them were unhappy. They expected to see the other guy. He was the one who had been with them for some time. The other guy knew everything about this project.

Lesson #5: do whatever it takes to save the team

I wrote down the workshop agenda on the whiteboard. I didn't plan for it. Everything was on the fly. I didn't even think. I just followed my instinct. I had been in many design workshops so I just let myself run with the flow. I explained to the customer just like any project design workshop we would discuss the existing setup in day one, the second day was to discuss about the new high level network design, and the last day for migration options discussion.

Lesson #6: follow your instinct, the knowledge is already inside you

I didn't think. I just tried my best to show everyone that I knew what I was doing.

And some people from the customer were not convinced. They expressed their concerns regarding the other guy who should lead the workshop. Some other said we should not discuss the existing setup anymore because the other guy already knew everything. They expected to see the presentation of the new design. They wanted to focus on the new thing. They wanted to see more prepared workshop.

The other guy was not there, only me.

We spent some time to listen to customer's complaints. Then the project manager and I explained that everything that was discussed before during the pre-sales process needed to be discussed again in the kickoff meeting and the workshop as part of the methodology of any project we do with every customer.

Lesson #7: if you have to lie, do it full hearted

One person was still not convinced. He was so angry he left the meeting room.

I saw my project manager silently tried to send messages to our management about the situation. And I had to carry on.

We were moving slowly with the discussion. I asked the customer to draw the existing setup on the whiteboard. I asked lots of questions. Sometime the customer mentioned some of the questions had been explained to the other architect. I replied I need to do this to get official confirmation that will be written down in the meeting minute. I really didn't think to come up with such answer. I was just trying to keep the ball rolling and pass the day.

And amazingly we managed to achieve it. Day 1 workshop was over.

Lesson #8: continue to do whatever you think is right

That night I had dinner with the project manager and we discussed the plan for the second day. We had two options, either to give up and say we did the best we could but we can't just go back to Day 2 workshop without any new material, or try to do something. And we both knew whatever we wanted to do we had only that night.

It was easier to give up. To surrender. And to blame the other guy. It was not our mistake we were not prepared. We could go tomorrow to the customer and admit that we don't have any material to be presented. All the materials were with the other guy. The management team from our company would understand. The management would not blame us.

But we decided to go with the second option.

We worked together the whole night. I asked the project manager to summarize the requirements from the RFP and from project scope document. I compiled all the information about the customer's existing setup, put it into nice slides, took the requirements work from the project manager, and added the new high level network design based on Cisco architecture blueprint for data center. This was the project kickoff and the first design workshop anyway, so it should be fine to discuss only the high level of the new design.

I remember I had several cans of Red Bull to keep me awake that night, and to stay alive for the whole day during the second day workshop. I still don't know what my project manager was using to make her survive.

Lesson #9: always refuse to give up without any fight

With our material we managed to run the Day 2 workshop more successfully. I started the morning with reviewing the current setup and asked for more detail info. Then I discussed the requirements and I presented the new high level design. The slides looked good and professional. Everything looked good and the customer felt we were much prepared this time. Our manager arrived in the afternoon just to see everything was already under control.

And in the evening after the workshop he treated us in a very nice Japanese restaurant. All we-can-eat-and-drink style. I had never seen that many Japanese food on the table in my life.

Lesson #10: celebrate every achievement, no matter small

The third day was just to discuss the high level options available for the migration.

Until now I still can't believe we were able to complete the 3 days workshop with such short preparation, if you can even call it that. The workshop was not perfect but I would say still within the acceptable level compared to other design workshop that we did for any customers. And the most important, we didn't get kick out from the meeting room by the angry customer.

It was already Wednesday night and my CCIE SP lab exam was on Monday morning.

I told the project manager, and my manager, that I would be unreachable until the exam to focus on my study. She told me one thing that I probably would remember for the rest of my life: "you were able to handle such situation the past 3 days, no CCIE lab exam can test you more than that".

I was not planning for anything. It was my first lab attempt for SP track, so it should be fine even to fail.
But I was just doing exactly what I did during the workshop: refuse to give up.

From Wednesday I spent every minute I had to practice for my lab exam. I don't think I even slept from Thursday to Sunday. I flew to Brussels on Saturday, just to found out the Internet was not working in my hotel, so I stayed at Cisco office from Saturday until Monday morning. Even when all other CCIE candidates had already came to Cisco Brussels office around 7 morning on Monday, I was still there connecting to my lab console and practicing to the last minute.

I finished the 8-hour lab and I was happy at least I had given everything I got.
I decided to stay at Cisco office waiting for the result.

Around midnight I received the result email saying that, against all odds, I passed the SP lab exam in my first attempt.

That's the day I became a Triple CCIE.

And my project manager was right, the pressure in the lab exam felt much less compared to what we had been through during the workshop.

Bonus Lesson: no certification can beat what real world experience can offer

I hope this long story is useful.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Just Switched to iPhone

Just switched from BlackBerry to iPhone. It's about time, I guess :)

And you know what, I'm not really missing much from BB. Well, except the international BB roaming paid by the company. I used BBM to communicate only with my wife, and she's on Whatsapp now.

So goodbye Messenger.
Welcome ipod, Instagram, Myquran, Angry bird, Camera+ and all other useful apps!

Btw, my wife asked me to sell my car. So I made this app for that ;)