Thursday, December 26, 2013

Not Another CCDE Study Group

The world needs more network design experts.

That's what I believe. That's what I see.
I will not call myself as a design expert. But I've been traveling intensively the past 6 months, meeting different customers in different countries, to conduct design workshops in multiple projects. I may not be the best but it seems like not many people can do what I do. Or willing to do what I do. Or combination of both.

No certification program can make you a design expert. Not even CCDE. You need all of the following three instead:
1. Network
2. Skills
3. Experience

Network or strong connection to many subject matter experts is crucial because I don't know anyone who is an expert in all the technologies and in different vertical industries. You need to know whom to ask. An expert is not the one who knows all the answers, but the one who knows how to find the answers.

Experience doing various design work can't be replaced with any certification. Experience to lead design workshop can't be tested in the exam. Experience to capture customer requirement, to present the proposed solution, and to defend it, is very difficult to be simulated in any classroom training.

Technical skills that relevant are still required. The skills must be broad and into not only deep understanding of how the technology works, but as well as why, when and where to apply it in different situation and scenarios.

In short: you may start with building the technical skills. Then you get experience by doing real design work. You gain more experience by doing more design work. At the same time you build your network, your connection. You build reputation. And someday, your customers and peers may reward you by calling you a Design Expert.

Last week I launched Project DEW to help with the technical skills part. During DEW workshop expect to see heavy discussion on design options for each technology covered. There will be exercise using CCDE-like design scenarios to gain the required skills: ability to analyze design requirements, develop network designs, implement, validate and optimize network design. And it's a weekend workshop program to help those who can't be off from work just to attend classroom training. The program is created to help network engineers to gain real network design skills. You may not do design work in daily basis, this workshop is for you. You may not have chance to meet another guys who design the network at your current work, well this is your chance. You may not want to take any certification bootcamp that focuses only to pass the exam, DEW is definitely for you.

But even DEW can provide some level of experience with exercise to analyze requirement until proposing design to answer it, you still need more. You need to be surrounded by design experts. You need to start building your connection. You need to hear and learn from others' experiences.

So other than Project DEW, I'm also launching Design Expert Warriors - DEW Community. It's a group filled up with design experts and those who want to be one. You can join if you are a CCDE, or you have taken any of DEW workshop, or you have the real design skill and extensive experience in network design, and willing to share it.

This is not another CCDE study group. This is a global community consists of those with real design expertise who are willing to share their experiences, and those who want to get the connection, who want to acquire design skills, who want to learn from others' experiences. It's a collaborative effort to become successful together.

I can help you with CCDE preparation but I want to do more. I don't want to see more design certified people. I want to see more Design Expert Warriors.

Who's with me?

And please contact if you want to join DEW workshop.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Design Expert Weekend - 5W1H

This post is related to my new initiative called Design Expert Weekend.
The pilot workshop for DEW: IPv4/IPv6 Routing Design, will be held in Olaya, Riyadh, on Friday-Saturday 3-4 January 2014.

Design Expert Weekend in Riyadh on 3-4 January will focus on IPv4/IPv6 Routing Design. Agenda will cover:

- IGP IPv4 and IPv6 Design (OSPF, ISIS, EIGRP)
- BGP Design
- Routing scalability and Inter-AS
- Traffic Engineering
- Routing Fast Convergence and High Availability
- Multicast Routing Design
- CCDE exam tips and tricks
- CCDE sample questions and scenario to practice ability to analyze design requirements, develop network designs, implement network design, validate and optimize network design

The other two DEW will be held in separate session:
DEW:Tunneling Design (MPLS-based L3VPN/L2VPN, tunnel protection/MPLS TE, other tunnelling include IPv6 transition)
DEW:SP Design (Physical, L2, IGP/BGP/MPLS/PIM as transport, MPLS-based services, Internet, IPTV, HA, QoS, security, management)

To help network engineers to gain real design skills. DEW can help with CCDE exam preparation, and beyond.
Our main goal is not to make you certified. But to give the real knowledge. The real skills. Then to be certified or not it's your decision not ours.

Any network engineers/architects who want to learn design skills can join the workshop, even we prefer you to have several years of experience working with network devices.
Himawan Nugroho will be the mentor for this DEW. He holds three CCIE#8171 in R&S, Security, SP track and CCDE#20130018. Himawan has total 14 years experience in network design, with the last 7 years working for Cisco Advanced Services as Solutions Architect. He has worked in many design projects for Cisco important customers in Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Holel meeting room in Olaya, Riyadh, KSA.

Friday-Saturday, 3-4 January 2014 from 8 am to 5 pm.

2-day workshop to discuss design aspect of IPv4/IPv6 routing in detail. The class will be small (4-6 max) to ensure lots of interaction. Expect to see heavy discussion on design options for each technology covered. There will be discussion of CCDE exam tips and tricks, sample questions and scenario. Materials used for this workshop will be public material (non-NDA). Anyone who joins the workshop will be part of DEW community that will be formed as follow up after the workshop.

There is fee to attend each DEW that will be used to cover the expenses such as renting the meeting room for 2-day workshop, wireless Internet, lunch, coffee break, my accommodation, effort to build workshop material and so on. And after all the expenses, the remaining will be used to fund my organization back home.

The reservation is first come, first serve.
And your seat will be guaranteed only after you have completed the payment.
Please send email to to get more detail information.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Project DEW

I don't want to claim myself as Global Consultant anymore. It seems like many people have problem with that. Some called me showing off, some said I'm too proud with that title. Others even said I spent so much time marketing myself. Blah blah. Ok, ok, I get it.

But here is the fact: since I joined Cisco in 2006 I've traveled to many countries to do consulting projects. Below you can see some Cisco customers in Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa that I worked with in the past. And most of the time my role in the project is to lead the design work: to capture customer requirements and provide technical solution to address them. In many projects I also lead the implementation and migration. For some projects I'm responsible to lead the whole engagement from project scheduling, managing resources as well as quality assurance for deliverables. So call me anything you want, even Janitor, but it seems like I have some experiences working on design consultancy project, globally.

And actually before I joined Cisco I had already done many design project as well with many customers. I invented my own methodology and workflow for design work. I call the methodology as - I bet you are going to like the name - CISCO way. Yes, I'm not joking. You heard it here first. And I'm sharing it here now.

My CISCO way is actually an abbreviation of the following:

C - Capture customer requirements, current network design, today's challenges and future requirements

I - Identify what customer wants vs. what customer needs, identify the root cause of today's challenges

S - Solve today's challenges, address current and future requirements with the proposed solution design

C - Communicate the proposed design to customer to get feedback and discuss more design options

O - Optimize the design to achieve the best solution for the customer

I have been involved in many design workshop with customers. I have spent countless hours discussing design options for different technologies and customer industries, and writing both high level and low level design documents. I won't call myself as a Design Expert even with total 14 years experience in the field as network consultant and solutions architect. I also happen to have CCDE certification. And from my observation, as well from many emails I received, I understand there is a need for many network engineers to get design skill and get certified in CCDE if possible.

So today I want to launch my personal initiative to the world that I call Project DEW.
DEW stands for Design Expert Weekend.

It's a 2-day onsite workshop during the weekend to discuss various design technologies just as what CCDE covers. There will be discussion about multiple design options. There will be discussion about tips and tricks and my personal experience taking the exam several times (without violating the NDA). There will be discussion about CCDE-like scenarios. The workshop will be inline with skills expected from a CCDE: ability to analyze design requirements, develop network designs, implement network design, validate and optimize network design. The workshop can help you to pass CCDE. And even beyond.

In my previous post, I mentioned you need the following to pass CCDE practical exam: 

1. Technical Skills, in L2 Control plane, L3 Control plane, Tunneling/Virtualization, QoS, Network Management and Security
2. Design Experiences, in multiple technologies as well as from vertical and different industries like SP, Enterprise, Financial, Retail and so on
3. Customer skills, such as ability to capture and analyze requirement, to propose design, to explain and justify the design, and to plan for implementation

DEW will try to cover all three points above as much as possible. Obviously nothing can replace the real design experience with the real customers, to achieve point 2 and 3. But the workshop will cover the technical skills in depth from the design perspective. DEW will not only explain What the technology is, but also Why it is required, How it works, Where to implement the technology, and When to use the technology compare to the alternatives. I will also share my view when looking at technology based on my design experience. And there will be discussion using CCDE-like design scenarios, so hopefully it can provide some level of experience in designing as well as some exercise to analyze requirement until proposing design to answer the requirements.

There are different types of DEW and each takes 2-day during the weekend:

DEW:Routing Design (IGP IPv4/IPv6, BGP, scaling, inter-AS, HA, and include PIM, ASM, SSM Multicast)
DEW:Tunneling Design (MPLS-based L3VPN/L2VPN, tunnel protection/MPLS TE, other tunnelling include IPv6 transition)
DEW:SP Design (Physical, L2, IGP/BGP/MPLS/PIM as transport, MPLS-based services, Internet, IPTV, HA, QoS, security, management)

The pilot for DEW:Routing will be held in Riyadh in two weeks. The class size will be small and limited to ensure lots of interaction. There is fee to attend that will be used to cover the expenses to conduct the workshop such as renting the meeting room, projector, accommodation and so on. And after all the expenses, the remaining will be used to fund my organization back home.

My main goal is not to make you certified. But to give the real knowledge. The real skills. Then to be certified or not it's your decision not mine.

If you are interested to join the first DEW:Routing in Riyadh, KSA, on 3-4 January 2014, please send email to to get more detail information.
See you at the first DEW!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Superman, Immortal, Janitor

"What's the difference between Solutions Architect and Technical Leader?"

Someone asked me that question last week. We all know the answer: none. It's just a damn title. Title doesn't matter. It never does. Batman once said: it's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you.

In my current organization, that focuses on consulting services, there is a distinction between Solutions Architect and Technical Leader role in career path for technical person. (Himawan, but you said there is no such thing as career path? Well, let's save the debate for some other time).

As seen in below figure, Network Consulting Engineers (NCE) make progress from level I to level IV, and this is the point where he/she can make decision: either to stick as NCE then becomes Technical Leader someday, or to move to become Solutions Architect. He/she can actually move to any other position across the organization like pre-sales consultant or project manager or business development manager or even accountant! But let's keep the discussion between the path of Technical Leader and Solutions Architect.

So what's the difference between the two then?

Both must have excellent soft skills: communicate effectively, above average presentation skills, team player and so on. Both must have superb technical skills. Both must face customer in various projects from time to time so it is expected to have customer oriented mindset.

Perhaps the difference is in the focus: a Technical Leader should be a Subject Matter Expert in one or more technologies. A Solutions Architect, as the name implies, should be focusing on end-to-end solutions architecture. Technical Leader should put more focus on deep down technical stuff, while Solutions Architect even must still required to be a techie but the focus is on providing the complete solutions. Technical Leader produces white paper. Solutions Architect considers business architecture.

In reality it's really hard to find the distinction when both roles are in the field. I have worked with so many Technical Leaders and Solutions Architects and even Network Consulting Engineers, and they all pretty much do similar things. They all have the soft skills, technical skills, and customer oriented mindset. Throw away more responsibilities to these individuals: lead the project execution, manage team resources, build project schedule. Ask the individual to perform pre-sales: define the scope of work and calculate mandays. Let him or her integrate the whole solutions with another vendor. And the result is the Superman in networking.

But even Superman gets weak by kryptonite. Or fall to his colleague reporter. Is there anyone stronger that Superman?

Meet the Distinguished Engineers. They are way above both. They are the gatekeeper of computer networking industry. They work in leading edge technology from time to time. They are usually part of the expert community who write Internet standard. They were the first in my organization who talked about IPv6 or SDN. They involve first-hand then spread the knowledge to others. When people start talking about it they have already moved on to the next topic like Internet of Everything. They shape the future of the technology. They are the kungfu masters. They are the Immortals.

How about myself? Even my official title is Solutions Architect, I usually do all what I explained above: lead project, provide technical solution and design, talk business, do pre-sales, manage resource and so on. But I'm not the Superman. Most of the time somebody make a mess and I get called to clean it up. I won't discuss it in more detail here but let's just say I'm needed the most where it's required to connect the broken pieces. To wipe the floor. So I prefer to call myself the Janitor.

Superman, Immortal, Janitor. Which one do you want to be?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

About Promotion

There is no such thing as career path.

I wrote this several years ago. And I believe it's still true. For those who don't understand why I wrote such thing, please spend few minutes to read that blog post before leaving nasty comment. (This means: you still can leave nasty comment after reading that post :))

Allow me to share my secret: patience is not my virtue.

Every time I want to change to new position, or to new job title, I move to new company. Some of my previous employers offered me promotion the moment I gave them my resignation letter. Some of them simply didn't care and just let me go. For those who offered me promotion, I never accepted the offer. I thought they should have offered that while I was still with them, not at my last moment in the company when I usually had decided to leave.

There was a time I even worked as independent contractor. Had to deal with the customer directly, defined the scope by myself, set the performance index, and delivered end-to-end solution to customer. No job title. No career. Hmm, good old days. Even it was only for several months before I got back into corporate job.

Eventually I managed to get promotion in one company. And the truth is, when I was given the new job title I didn't feel like it was a promotion. Because I've been doing the scope of work and assuming the responsibility of that new title for years, long before the company really made it happen.

So here is the complete statement: there is no such thing as career path for technical people, who still believe the only way to go up is by working hard in their current position. Most techies believe if they work hard and be good on what they do, somebody will eventually notice and give the reward.

I don't believe such thing exists anymore.

You may disagree as the experience is different for each individual. But based on my own experience, I can suggest you the following to get the promotion or target position you always dream of:

1. Define the target position you want to be
2. Assume responsibility and work with the scope of that target position, regardless of your current position or job title
3. Get the right attention from the right people

What is my next target position, you may ask?
I want to be able to put the title in my business card just as Mark's.

How about you?