Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Year in Review

Every beginning of the year I usually review what I have done the past one year, make notes, and build the plan for the upcoming year. I made many mistakes in the past, did things I’m not proud of, however I use them as opportunity to learn and try to be better next time.

Early 2016 I found that my startup company was competing directly against Cisco (that was still my employer at that time). That was quite surprising. I founded that company in 2012 initially as my pet project, the lab for my MBA, where I can practice whatever I learned from the business school. My pitch for the startup was simple: we do what Cisco (or Cisco Services) will not do. We built online learning platform to learn Cisco certification using group mentoring system. We run physical network audit. We did system integration projects to interoperate Cisco products with any other vendors.

However, since late 2014 the engineering team in my company have evolved. They grew skills in network programming. The team put more focus on Software Defined Networking (SDN). They built lab to validate Network Function Virtualization (NFV). And then the team started to develop our own SDN Controller and Network Automation platform.

Then customers started to come. Customers wanted SDN solution, NFV infrastructure and network automation, but the ones that are vendor-agnostic. They came to my company. They asked the team to bid in the project. That’s when finally Cisco started to notice because they were bidding too.

Early April I decided to resign from Cisco to run my own company as full time CEO.

Mid 2016 I received an offer from Google to join them in Z├╝rich, Switzerland. From April I have built company vision for my startup and laid multi-year strategy, and I knew they can be executed under the current leadership team even without me. I also have personal reason to move my family to Europe. So I agreed to leave Dubai and started working at Google from July.

Even before I joined Google, I already made a plan of what I will learn in the company. Google is the right place to learn so many interesting things, but for 2016 I just wanted to focus on three things:

1. Learn how to build great product

“Behind every great product, there is a great product manager” - Marty Cagan

Google has created 7 great products with more than a billion users using each. And as Ben Horowitz wrote: a good Product Manager is the CEO of the product. A Product Manager combines business, technology, and design in order to discover a product that is valuable, feasible, and usable.

Product Management is above all else a business function, focused on maximising business value from a product. A Product Manager understands the technology stack from the product, and most importantly understanding the level of effort involved is crucial to making the right decisions. And Product Manager is the voice of the user inside the business and must be passionate about the user experience.

2. Continue to learn about SDN, but the scalable ones

Deep down inside I’m still a network engineer. I’ve been focusing on SDN & NFV since 2014 when I was in Cisco. Google has been using software-based solution in its network infrastructure even before the world called it SDN. However, I’m currently interested with highly scaled SDN solution using cloud based platform.

And I’m very interested with transformation path for any Enterprise company to evolve towards a fully automated network operation. I even built the five levels of Autonomous Network, mimicking the levels in Autonomous Vehicle, and currently working on the fifth level: intent-based, policy-driven, zero touch networking.

3. Learn Data Analysis to Machine Learning

Google is the best place to learn Data Science. Period. With Google Brain and DeepMind as part of the Alphabet group, this is the only company I know that puts Machine Learning first in every aspect of its products. Currently I'm focusing to learn about data analysis, data vizualisation and predictive analysis using machine learning.

The three things above are still my valid learning plan for 2017.
How about you? What is your learning plan this year?

Build great product.
Cloud based SDN solution.
With data analytics and machine learning.
“Building the network of the future”. Got it?

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