The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Mike Haugh

November 29, 2022 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 18
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Mike Haugh
Show Notes Transcript

Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast, where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't.

Our guest today is Mike Haugh, a 25-year veteran of the network industry and Vice President Of Product Marketing at Gluware.

Today, Mike takes us through a typical day in his life.

He discusses what he has learned in his 25 years of industry experience, why he decided to pursue an engineering degree and his thoughts on the role of college in the working landscape.

Mike discusses the importance of being a good manager based on his own experience and why didn’t end up becoming a rockstar after highschool.


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Make it a great day.

The following transcript is machine generated and may contain errors.

[00:00:00] Chris: Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast. Where everyone belongs, especially those of you who think you don't. My name is Chris Grundman and I'm here with my illustrious co-host, Zoe Rose 

[00:00:21] Zoe: Cheers. 

[00:00:22] Chris: This is the Mike Haugh episode, and I know we're all gonna have a good time. Mike is a 25 year veteran of the networking industry and is currently vice president of product marketing at Glueware.

[00:00:36] Chris: Hi Mike. Hey Chris. Hey, would you like to introduce yourself further to the Imposter Syndrome network? 

[00:00:42] Mike: Yeah, you know, I've listened to a few of your episodes and I really love the content. Um, you know, from a, who am I standpoint, I, you know, the, the three kind of bullet points are network engineer or maybe recovering network engineer at this point, product manager, a product marketer.

[00:00:56] Mike: There's so many kind of areas we dive into and we become specialists for periods of time. But ultimately, you know, those are the three kind of themes that I've kind of, let's say, maintained in the last, uh, in the last few years, especially here at Glueware. But I'm, um, born and raised in the Chicago area, but now, this month actually I'm 20 years living in Southern California.

[00:01:17] Mike: And as you mentioned, I am VP of product marketing at Glueware. So I'm six years here at Glueware. 

[00:01:21] Chris: Nice. That's awesome. That's a long tenure in our industry and we'll get to that. I'm actually recording this from, uh, LA as well. I'm out in Venice right now, which is not normal. That's very close to me.

[00:01:30] Chris: Yeah. Cool. So I wanna start at the very beginning today. And talk maybe a little bit about what was your, your first job ever? What was the first thing you got paid to do? 

[00:01:42] Mike: I, I would say I worked hard and worked in not very glamorous jobs all through, you know, all the way up in, through high school. And I, I think that those are the kind of things that make you appreciate, like working in tech or having an office job.

[00:01:55] Mike: My first job I ever worked and got paid for was busing tables at a country club. But you know, I've done landscaping, I've done construction. I've worked at a body shop, let's say. I think my dad wanted me to work all those kind of, let's say, trade jobs and labor jobs to like push me into an educated career and like a professional career.

[00:02:13] Mike: And so, uh, I, I have to think, I, I never really questioned him on that, but I think his motives, uh, kind of work because I, I certainly did probably every manual labor job you could do in my, my younger years. 

[00:02:23] Chris: Wow. Yeah. And then, so how did you end up in tech, right? So, so from that, I mean, obviously it sounds like you learned the lesson that you didn't wanna be the guy, you know, holding the shovel.

[00:02:32] Chris: But, uh, how does that translate and how do you make that jump into technology? Specifically. 

[00:02:37] Mike: Yeah, so my dad was in tech, he was in sales, so he worked for a company called Hamilton Hallmark, and then became Avnet, but basically was selling chips like passive and active processors and micro controllers and all that stuff.

[00:02:49] Mike: And so he, you know, was in that realm and that industry and, you know, he was off selling and would be talking about it a lot. So I, I had that kind of, you know, let's say just knowledge or a little bit of exposure through my dad and his job. And he was really from a pretty young age, advocating that I become a field engineer, like one of these specialists that work with the sales guys.

[00:03:10] Mike: And he would sometimes take me, take me to some of his friend's house and like when this guy had a Porsche and you know, was doing really well and he's like, Look, you can have a really good and successful life if you pursue, you know, engineering. So he was a pretty strong advocate of it. We also had computers in the house from when I was really young.

[00:03:28] Mike: We had like Apple two E. And then in one of his engineering friends, um, helped us build a computer. So we built an IBM computer and I was hands on in computers from a very young age all the way up, you know, even through high school and stuff like that. And when I went off to college, it was a pretty interesting transition because high school, Mike wanted to be a rockstar.

[00:03:49] Mike: I wanted to be in the music industry. You know, I was a, you know, let's say mediocre musician, but I thought, well, I'll become a recording engineer or something. Right? I think, you know, who knows all the, all the music videos and Right. Influence you and you're like, Oh, I wanna go to the music career. But my dad really was pressing on, you know, get your four year degree.

[00:04:07] Mike: And so I visited some schools and really was looking forward to the college experience and my dad definitely pressed and said, If you get an engineering degree, you can buy any guitar you want. I think I was a line, I remember him saying something like along those lines of, Look, just get your engineering degree.

[00:04:22] Mike: You can do music on the side. And, uh, being from the Chicago area, there weren't really a lot of studios and music was a difficult path, I think if you're, if you're going that route. And so I wouldn't say he killed my dreams because, you know, he was supportive of me, my hobbies and whatnot. But, you know, I went into electrical engineering and then, Also had a computer all through work, through college.

[00:04:43] Mike: And then, um, an interesting transition happened because electrical engineering is an interesting major and I was, I was like doing low level coding, assembly language and learning programming languages. And I, I was really kind of questioning it if I loved it or not, you know, And I was kinda looking around at my peer group of engineers and I thought, I can't necessarily see myself.

[00:05:03] Mike: Programming, like doing low level coding of, and I, I did enjoy some of the projects and everything, and I, I did, I'd say I did pretty well in school. I, I learned fairly quickly, but I think we all start to have a, a sense of what we gravitate towards, right? What do we learn easier? What do we learn faster?

[00:05:19] Mike: And, um, I got a little bit lucky that I was. Waiting tables, uh, in college and the restaurant closed. And so I say that lucky because it was a like misfortune that turned an opportunity. I came back my senior year and I worked for the alumni association and I basically was doing like LAN administration.

[00:05:38] Mike: I was getting into more, you know, networking. It was my first kind of real exposure to, besides dial up. At this time, again, this is like mid nineties. Besides dialing up into, um, you know, American online or something like that, I started doing LAN administration and the office, I was working under the building, we connected it to a brand new fiber ring.

[00:05:57] Mike: So I got into a little bit of campus networking and, and WAN and saw my first Cisco router and, you know, Had a full year of kind of doing networking work. And I even put up the alumni association's first webpages. I was coding HTML by hand back then. And so I started really appreciating engineering, but from a system perspective, uh, not so much a chip level, low level perspective.

[00:06:21] Mike: And so I think that that really kind of launched my interest in pursuing networking. Although I really, honestly, I didn't know there was even such a thing as a network engineer, like a WAN engineer. I was really leaning towards like the, the LAN administration. I thought, Novel, or something like that would be in my future.

[00:06:38] Mike: So that was kind of how it started. 

[00:06:41] Zoe: That's an interesting point you make about, um, the college career and then a failed job actually kind of. Directed your journey a bit. One question we get a lot from, oh, we chat a lot with other people about, is that the benefit versus the challenge of getting a college degree or a university degree and how it affects your career or your ability to get a job as well with your electrical engineering degree.

[00:07:06] Zoe: Do you think that was a huge improvement? I mean, it kind of sounds like a little bit, even if it didn't help you get a job, it helped you direct your path and identify what you like. 

[00:07:15] Mike: Yeah. So I, I think I, I would answer it a different way and just say like, I don't think in today's day and age, you need a four year degree.

[00:07:23] Mike: I think there are certifications, training, you can go off and build things. You can go learn on YouTube. I mean, the world is so incredibly open now with access that we didn't, we didn't have that sort of thing. We didn't have that access. My main point and I, when I talk to younger kids or my nephews and nieces and whatnot.

[00:07:40] Mike: The four year college experience, in my case it was five years, but it was really important to me, let's say, growing up because in that age, right, you know, I came outta high school like wanting to be a rockstar. There's not really like a realistic, uh, path in life, although, you know, some make it happen. And now we're touring under same music 30 years later.

[00:08:00] Mike: No that period of time to, you know, I, I, I joined a fraternity. I grew up, you know, I, I became responsible. I had to live on my own, cook on my own. I think the four year experience in like a college town or whatever is a tremendous experience. So I am a big advocate of that. I think it, hopefully that is still something that, you know, people can afford and there's value in it.

[00:08:22] Mike: Where I think it lacks the most is that you come out of a a degree program, in my case, engineering and all you have to fall back on is like a class or a project. You don't have a lot of real world experience at all. And so, you know, like to my nephews and things like that, I'm telling 'em like, you know, try to get internships, try to get some real world experience or try to get connected to the real world.

[00:08:44] Mike: Because that's a big, the big disconnect that I think the university life. You know, if you're not doing something real, and in my case I got to do real networking for the alumni association. And then when I went into the job market, or start actually went to my first career fair, I did another, let's say, dream or um, it's called fantasy, but a dream that I was gonna move to California, which ultimately I did.

[00:09:07] Mike: But I had a project my sophomore year of high school where like home act where they say, "what are you gonna do in your future?" I said, I'm gonna work for ibm. I'm, I'm gonna live in California. And I made both those things happen, although they didn't happen at the same time. But anyway, you know, I, I went to a job fair and IBM was hiring and I thought, you know, man, this is exciting.

[00:09:27] Mike: And so I talked to them, the recruiter, and while I was still, my last year of school, I went back to, you know, I was down in southern Illinois. I went back up to Chicago. And interviewed at IBM and talked to three hiring managers and got the word that all three wanted to make me an offer. Like it was my choice who I wanted to work for.

[00:09:44] Mike: And that was a really exciting kind of transition. Cause like we were saying, how did you get started or where did you go? I think electrical engineering, or it was actually EET got me in the door, like having that deep technical knowledge of down to chip level, you know, low level programming. I mean, I could stare at, you know, assembler logs or you know, low level stuff.

[00:10:03] Mike: But having the real experience. I went into a network operations, I was a network engineer right outta school, and I worked in a network operations team and having the real world experience and having a high degree of interest that. The self-learning, even back then through books and other things, really helped get me in the door.

[00:10:21] Mike: So I think a degree is really a, a mechanism to get you in the door somewhere, but you gotta back it up with some level of tangible experience. If it's a project you did, an internship, a volunteer, whatever, you can get real world experience. 

[00:10:35] Zoe: Oh yeah. When it comes to hiring, from my perspective, and I'm hiring somebody, I look at degrees are great and I, I would never say don't get a degree if you have the opportunity, but I always put it as optional.

[00:10:47] Zoe: Generally, I see it as like a passing hrs interview, . That's the value of it. But when it comes to like, if they have hands on experience, even if you said, you know, doing projects, doing internships, doing like home projects as well. If somebody's done like, Built a network in their home and can talk through, you know, we did this or I did this and I did it this way because of that.

[00:11:08] Zoe: And it's so valuable. Kind of the self-propelled learning. 

[00:11:14] Mike: Absolutely show you can go into a situation and learn and adapt and implement, you know, have successes and failures. Everyone is proud of successes, but you know, if you have had some failures of, sometimes those are your biggest like learning opportunities and so yeah, I think that that experience kind of helped get me in the door.

[00:11:33] Mike: But you know, you're, The title of the podcast is, was really intriguing to me. Imposter syndrome, you know, and when I started my career at ibm, It was pretty overwhelming from the get go because at the time, not a lot of people maybe really understand it, but IBM Global Service has operated one of the largest global networks in the world.

[00:11:53] Mike: We had a multi-protocol backbone, an IP backbone, the largest dial network in the world, and my particular group supported networks for companies like Sears and Discover Card and Allstate. Here's a major Fortune 500 s that are, you know, using the network for business. And in the case of. You know, Allstate, all, all the claims and processing and, and discover card, all the transaction services went over the network.

[00:12:18] Mike: It was like kinda getting thrown into the deep end and IBM is another place where you're, you're exposed to every single technology. I mean we had token ring cuz IBM invented it. We had SNA, FTTY, X25, frame relay, atm. You know, people think networking now and it's all ethernet and ip. But back then ethernet and IP was kind of like the minority of the protocols, right?

[00:12:39] Mike: It was, it was up and coming and it was the future. We were doing a lot of other things and it was kind of a wild place. And so this is another, let's say, recommendation I give to anyone I can me, you know, either mentor or advise as their, in their young career is that the benefit of joining a large corporation like IBM is, The training resources were incredible.

[00:13:00] Mike: I mean now, nowadays you have YouTube and you have other things you can go learn pretty easily. But there was a little, uh, benefit that I learned about and then I just kind of abused, which was you could order any book. And it was paid for, It was like, it was pre Amazon, but basically, you know, it was like a bookstore and IBM had their own portal and everything and you order whatever book you want.

[00:13:21] Mike: So I had BGP books and MPLS books, and actually MPLS was around out yet, but I had all these protocol books. I, I had just stacks and stacks of books growing and. That was how you learn back then. There really, you know, again, we didn't have what we have now, so staring into books and, and reading. And then the other big benefit of a, a company like that, they paid for any additional, let's say, class or coursework, material you wanted, they paid for, so, We had a nearby DeVry, you know, a tech school.

[00:13:51] Mike: I took their networking course my very first year at ibm. I went through their, you know, networking 101 and networking 201, whatever, like the whole coursework at DeVry cuz I wanted that more fundamental education cuz my engineering did not train me on networking. I wanted instructor led at the same time as I was a practitioner.

[00:14:11] Mike: And it was really cool because I was, I was using the, the instructor as like helping me solve my problems at work. And so I, I took those classes and, you know, I even was thinking about pursuing like mba cuz again, you're always thinking, how do I, in my thinking anyway, I was like, how do you keep evolving?

[00:14:29] Mike: How do you keep progressing and is it an mba? Is it a master's? Cause I, I think it's part of that whole, I don't call it imposter syndrome, but the, the feeling like, I don't know enough. I'm not ready, you know, And so, so at that time I ended up talking to quite a few colleagues. That was another great benefit of a large company is I had incredible colleagues that had many years of experience.

[00:14:54] Mike: And most of them steered me towards the certification route. So coming outta those DeVry classes and doing a daily a day job of troubleshooting and supporting networks, I went through the Cisco certs of ccna, ccnp and eventually my CCIE, which we can talk more about. But the cert path did help. I would say it was a combination of things, practical knowledge.

[00:15:16] Mike: A bit of formal training and then the cert path to kind of, let's say, cover your bases and make sure like you're on par with what your peers know. And I was young, I was still in my mid twenties and most of my peers were, you know, quite a bit older than me that were doing it for a long time. But they had the disadvantage of not, they didn't know the new protocols.

[00:15:34] Mike: So I was kind of coming at this thing. IP and Cisco routers and BGP and MPLS, was all kind of net new. So they didn't really have a significant advantage, I would say. 

[00:15:44] Chris: Yes. That's interesting. I wanna roll back a little bit. I mean, you mentioned, you know, when you do some mentoring or helping folks along, you know, early in their career, you talk about the benefits of.

[00:15:53] Chris: Working at a big company, and it sounds like a lot of those benefits are just in working around other smart people. So I, I wonder, you know, how much has mentoring or sponsorship helped your career? I mean, have you had folks who, who kind of showed you the path along the way? Or, or, or taught you tips and tricks or even kind of, you know, open doors for you to, to go through, or, or, or not?

[00:16:13] Mike: Yeah, absolutely. I think my, my time at IBM really set me on a path, um, for success. Two things happened. One is I had excellent management. My first, let's say, kind of two primary managers were super supportive. People who encouraged training, who encouraged anything extra. I wanted to do extra projects, anything pursuing areas of my interests.

[00:16:38] Mike: So having incredibly supportive management. You know, when you have good managers, then later in your career, if you have managers that are aren. Let's say about development and stuff like that. It's you, you can kind of compare. And the second thing was, as I was in operations, I was finding issues in productions.

[00:16:55] Mike: I was finding, you know, vendor bugs or I was finding misconfigurations. So I was interfacing with the test engineering group a lot cuz they're the ones who test and certify code and then provide guidelines and recommendations and they, they. Let's say put all the boundaries on the design folks. And, um, one of the test engineers happened, His name is Bill Tar.

[00:17:13] Mike: I know his name him in that, he became a tremendous mentor to me. He kind of took me under his wing and ultimately helped me after a couple years in operations move into that test engineering group. So I was in IBM at the time, the youngest test engineer, and he and I worked hand in hand testing, routers, switches, firewalls, load balance, pretty much any piece of equipment that went in the network.

[00:17:37] Mike: And any operating system and feature.. And he also was on his path to get a CCIE and ultimately did, and then I followed in his footstep and did as well. So helping me on that path, the technical journey, the mentorship, and then I would say also even mentoring me all the way to, I would say, the top of my field at the time.

[00:17:57] Mike: I got my CCIE in 1999, January of 99. I think it was 26. The, the proctor told me I was the youngest that I went to Halifax Nova. We could talk about that, but I went to Halifax, Nova Scotia to take it. Actually had, I went in December and didn't make it. I, I did well, but I didn't make it to day two at the time.

[00:18:15] Mike: Route and switch was a two day test, and then I went back and I, my manager said, You know, how do you do, how do you feel about it? I said, I know I can get it. They just, there was things that thrown at me on that one. I took too much time to work. So he said, Sign up for the next available slot. Again, that's that supportive manager that was, you know, encouraging me and making it available.

[00:18:35] Mike: And so, you know, I went right back in, in January of 99 and passed. Um, so that, I'd say those two individuals, a guy named Mike Selman, who was my manager and, and Bill Tarn, my technical mentor, really set me on a path of success in my career. 

[00:18:48] Zoe: It sounds like your career has been like one after another.

[00:18:52] Zoe: Really, really, really great opportunities, great support, great guidance, but I imagine there's probably been a time where you felt, what next? What, where do I go from here? Or maybe it was like a big mistake happened and. You didn't know what to do. 

[00:19:05] Mike: Yeah. Yeah. There's been a few, I would say some things are outta your control.

[00:19:10] Mike: Right? So the craziest thing about this is that, you know, I joined IBM, kind of fulfilled that dream. I said I was gonna do it in high school and, and, and got that, you know, so I'm, I don't know, something like five, six or five years into my career. And IBM sells my division to AT&T. So these are the things that are outta your control.

[00:19:30] Mike: So the, under the whole network infrastructure and 5,000 employees of IBM Global services pretty much overnight became AT&T employees and a tremendous cultural shift happened. IBM is, um, I'd say an organization of professionals and, and AT&T at the time was more like an organization. I don't know the right term, like I wanna say not contractors, but like, it was a different mentality and there was power struggles, There was a lot of decisions made.

[00:20:01] Mike: My, the manager who was my, you know, kind of let's say guy I was, became very loyal to, he got shifted to another group. So there was a lot of churn and turmoil and ultimately, I was, as all those things were happening and power struggles and management shifts, I was kind of pressured to move to New Jersey to continue to be a test engineer.

[00:20:22] Mike: But they wouldn't let me transition to a design engineer and kind of like, so I got kind of caught in a, okay, I don't wanna do what you're asking me to do, You're not letting me do what I'm wanting to do. And I had a lot of options, you know, as certified and, and stuff like that. And so I started thinking I should consider my options.

[00:20:40] Mike: This is, uh, and again, I, I probably should have considered a lot of options, but you know, an option kind of came to me in that I was in a test, you know, I had a job in a test lab and it was full of equipment and full of test equipment as well. And I'll just say that, you know, with the relationship I had with the folks who sold Cisco equipment and sold Juniper equipment and other things in the test equipment, I noticed you can't help but notice these guys show up in Mercedes and, and, and Lexuses and you know, like, okay, these sales, these field sales guys, Are doing pretty good, you know, and one of the test companies, Netcom Systems, who was just became Spirant.

[00:21:17] Mike: They, it was a kind of a holding company who had acquired a company called Ad Tech, made the ax 4,000, an ATM and frame test, and, and ultimately a protocol tester. And the Netcom who made the smart bits. And the folks who represented those products said, Any chance you're, if you're ever looking, we would love to have a person like you at our company.

[00:21:37] Mike: Right. I mean, it, it was really kind of, I think you feel very flattered when, when people kind of reach out to you and just say, If you're ever looking, or I know there's some churn going on if you're ever looking to jump. And so that was kind of a fun ride because. They said, You know what? Don't talk to us about it.

[00:21:52] Mike: We'll fly you out. The, the corporate, uh, offices here in Los Angeles and Calabasas, it's just inland from, from Malibu. And so they flew me out to LA for the weekend. You know, let me stay the whole weekend. And then I interviewed on Monday. And it just was a really exciting company, a really cool culture.

[00:22:09] Mike: Everyone I talked to had this whole kind of work hard, play hard mentality, and I, I kind of identified with that. And so I, I made the move pretty quick. I jumped in and I, I joined as a, a, um, sales engineer, still based outta Chicago in covering like about six states in the Midwest. And so I was super excited for this, right?

[00:22:26] Mike: And I was like, okay. And I, I got a big pay jump, right? But it's also, and this is something I talk to people about is, you know, your pay structure, you know, what part is fixed and what part is variable And like there's, and back then it wasn't super common to get like tons of options and you know, pursue that.

[00:22:42] Mike: But you know, back then it was more like, what was nice about a sales structure is you. Bonused based on sales in a more frequent, It wasn't one annual bonus and it was all or nothing. So needless to say, probably long story, long, it was an exciting kind of move, but all a sudden, you know, I make this move.

[00:23:02] Mike: And now my new job is I cover six states and it's a lot of driving. And I'm dropping into these companies, enterprises and service providers, basically anyone who was wanting any of this portfolio of equipment and I had to present to them. I had to understand all the things they were talking about. I had to process it really quickly.

[00:23:21] Mike: I had to position our equipment. It was a difficult transition when, and I was paired with a sales guy who was like a very old school sales guy. He got up and gave a quick pitch and then turned it over to the SE. And I was like, you know, a few months into it I thought, I'm actually doing all the selling. You know, I didn't want to not, not to downplay the role of sales, but when you're in a technical sales sell, you really gotta show the merits of the product and.

[00:23:47] Mike: I would say I, I struggled a bit and just cuz the, I went from deep in my own world of, you know, IBM's networking and protocols and all the things I knew to a really broad, one day I'm talking to people who are making cable modems. The next thing I'm talking to Motorola, who's making cellular systems and it just was really crazy.

[00:24:05] Mike: But it was, it was excellent experience to get extremely broad exposure to what a lot of companies were doing versus. You know, one company was doing. 

[00:24:15] Chris: Yeah. That resonates with me. I definitely had the same kind of, for me anyway, gut wrenching experience moving into that kind of systems engineer, sales engineer role when all of a sudden, you know, it's kind of a dog and pony show and you are the dog and the pony.

[00:24:28] Chris: Yeah. And, and, and have to be kind of, you know, smart on the spot, which is very different than, you know, kind of when maybe working through something when you're troubleshooting, even if it's, you know, even if, even if there's an outage and you're in operations and you're troubleshooting something and there's a, there's a stress level involved.

[00:24:40] Chris: But there's a very different thing in like walking into, especially, I mean, I did it in, in Manhattan, which I'm sure is, is similar to LA where, you know, these are some big offices we were walking into, right? These were, these were names I knew of folks who were, were very powerful and movers and shakers and, and I'm the one who's supposed to tell them how it works, right?

[00:24:55] Mike: So, So to bring this back a little bit, full circle to a certain point is that I got that first bonus check and I went out and bought a Taylor, beautiful Taylor acoustic guitar. And I told my dad like he was, Right. Yeah. But this is the ebb and flow of sales though, or sale, is that we had a couple really good years, but then we kind of went into the tech downturn and you know, at a midsize company.

[00:25:17] Mike: And I, I think large companies, this happens too. But they started, you know, cutting. You know, we are hiring, hiring, hiring, and all of a sudden you cut, cut, cut. And the sales guy I was working with, you know, got cut my territory. I was kind of a specialist in routing and all the, all the kind of complex stuff.

[00:25:32] Mike: So they kept expanding my territory. I was covering like 15 states all the way out to Colorado, and so I was traveling a lot more. I would say I was working harder and making less, if, you know, I kind of think about it that way and thinking, oh man, like I don't know how I long, I want to do this route.

[00:25:48] Mike: Right. You know, you kind of start to think like, I'm literally getting on a plane and then, you know, nine 11 happened right around, you know, during that time and made traveling a lot less. It was really difficult to travel, like, you know, and I was carrying equipment oftentimes and. Oh man, I'm not enjoying this.

[00:26:02] Mike: I, I kind of got to a point where, and you know, the Midwest is not a very exciting territory to cover, you know, have to say as I'm from there, but, you know, going to Ohio or the Twin Cities or, you know, whatever, it's just not the most exciting territory. So I was at a bit of a crossroads and. My old manager, the person I mentioned to you who, uh, I was, you know, really, really enjoyed working for, he said, Hey, sounds like you wanna become a design engineer for AT&T.

[00:26:29] Mike: And I said, Hey, let's make it happen. So I rejoined him. I had a nice couple year run back at AT&T, but a different business unit. We were doing all the network design and it was in the era of moving a bunch of large enterprises off frame and ATM to MPLS VPNs. And so I got really good experience, again back under a great manager.

[00:26:52] Mike: And during that time I had some personal opportunities and I moved to Los Angeles on my own. So 2002 I made the move out west and yeah, I met two years in and at and t kind of, let's say, went through the big company thing again. They're talking about mergers with Bell South, the management shuffle. I get a management change.

[00:27:10] Mike: I don't even know what's happening. Like, and I was working remote. I wasn't going into an office. I was doing remote work, working before it was cool, but um, I just felt like really detached and like not enjoying it anymore. Barely talked to my manager. And to be honest, I was missing a bit of that going into the office thing because, um, those early years, those years at IBM and even the years as a field engineer, I was always going into an office.

[00:27:33] Mike: I was always seeing people, you're always learning. You know, I was kind of isolated doing network design and thinking, Oh, this isn't really that much fun. You just sit at home and do like design work all the time. So I wasn't loving it. And my old company, the test company, Spirant, recruited me back to be a product manager.

[00:27:51] Mike: And this was a big shift because I thought, in my head I was kind of thinking, Well, you probably need an MBA to be a product manager. Like, I don't, I know how to market a product, you know, I've worked on products, I know how to test them and troubleshoot 'em and do all this stuff, but I don't know anything about product management.

[00:28:06] Mike: And like, don't worry, you know, all the protocols and stuff you'll, you'll learn on the fly. And, um, had a good team around me and that, that la well, Calabasas office I visited years ago. I now was working there. I really did enjoy that office environment again, and to just to compare and contrast, this was kind of waterfall development cuz a lot of our stuff was hardware.

[00:28:26] Mike: So you did a lot of planning and a lot of development and then eventually got a product out. So I learned that product management, and again, just to draw it, to try to draw into a little bit of my experience today and that when you work on hardware products, It's a longer span of defined requirements, and then like a year later you, you get to see it in action.

[00:28:46] Mike: It's not a, um, quick reward or, you know, you, you're, you gotta kind of things you wrote requirements for finally making into the product, uh, quite a bit longer, but, It was a fun ride. We developed a brand new product, new hardware product and all new software product. We, we integrated and collapsed several product lines into one.

[00:29:04] Mike: It was called Spirant Test Center. And so I was part of the team that built and deployed and, and launched that. And I would say the most exciting thing was as a product manager for a products sold globally. I traveled the world. I. Everywhere I filled, uh, it was back in the day you had your passport stamped all, all the countries you enter an exit, don't really do that anymore.

[00:29:24] Mike: But I filled my passport. I needed to go get extra pages in those first four years, and I was kind of living the dream. I would say for, from my view of like where I was, sometimes you don't know where you wanna be, but like you have this thought or like, I wanna see the world, or I've never been to Europe, or you know, you have these things that run through your head.

[00:29:42] Mike: And, um, I got to go everywhere, you know, everywhere they had networks and bought, you know, I wasn't going to Thailand or anything, anywhere beautiful and cool. I was going to Europe and ended up ultimately going to China and India and all kinds of places. But traveling the world as a product manager was great.

[00:29:57] Mike: I enjoyed that too. So that was, that was really cool chapter in my life. 

[00:30:01] Zoe: Yeah, that's one thing I love about, uh, things that I do is I, I get to travel a lot. My current role, I get to travel, but also public speaking. I get to travel. I think anybody that has that opportunity for me, it's a really great, really great opportunity cuz you get to learn different cultures, different personalities, different perspectives.

[00:30:19] Zoe: I think it's a wonderful opportunity. I guess fast forward a bet, um, your current role. There's a question we ask a lot of people, but, um, I, I'm always fascinated by it. How would you. Your current role in like a day to day? What do you do essentially? 

[00:30:34] Mike: Yeah. My day to day is like as often as possible, I'm meeting with customers or prospects and I'm presenting them our newest, Oftentimes the sales or or SEs aren't ramped up on the latest and greatest, and so I'm kind of airdropped in, you know, via Zoom most of the time these days.

[00:30:49] Mike: But I'm presenting the latest and greatest on our product. I'm also gathering requirements. So I'm, because I, although my title is product, um, marketing officially, I'm, I'm becoming, let's say 60% product management and a little bit less on the product marketing side. But, um, so meeting with customers is a big part of my role.

[00:31:08] Mike: Um, I do define product requirements and then work with engineering to build those. Kind of jokingly say, I live in Jira these days. For those of you who work in agile businesses, like everything is in Jira, everything's a Jira ticket, everything's a, you know, so I live in Jira, you know, we have agile ceremonies and all that to go through in the release.

[00:31:29] Mike: And then where I'd say the more fun part of the job becomes around the product launch, like we're gearing up for right now. Where I build the, the collateral, if it's solution briefs, demonstration videos, I do webinars, app notes, uh, blogs, you know, those sorts of things. So I would say those are a couple key things.

[00:31:52] Mike: And then some big rock things that happen throughout the year are events. So we do like Cisco Live. We do packet pushers, um, either in person or online. We do ONUG. In fact, the ONUG event is next week in New York City, so that's cool. One piece I, I kind. We didn't get to, but the where, when I went into the product management role, originally I, when I traveled the world, I was also began presenting worldwide.

[00:32:17] Mike: Like, like, so I was, I was presenting at IETF, uh, you know, in a benchmarking working group. I was, um, at the Metro Ethernet Forum forum, the MEF. I became a chair, uh, co-chair within on, um, onf, who developed the open flow protocol. So I started getting, you know, let's say connected to the community of, let's say the, the people who are the leaders and the ones defining the protocols and things that we use every day.

[00:32:42] Mike: And it, it's kind of wild because through going to those conferences and things, I met many, all those books that I had sitting on my shelf from, or rfc. You know, I met Radia Perlman i, I met Vint Cerf. I met Yakov Rekhter who wrote the BGP spec. Kireeti Kompella, all these people who were kind of like mythical protocol gods right?

[00:33:05] Mike: Or whatever you'd want to think about. I, I met all these people and talked to 'em and asked them questions and interacted and so that was really cool. And in my job today with Glueware, We're not as big of a company where we can really, let's say influence standards, but we do participate in the in ONUG and ONUG.

[00:33:25] Mike: I kind of an unofficial co-chair of the orchestration automation working group, so that's really fun because where Glueware is an automation orchestration company and we make pure software. I was kind of saying the difference between hardware and software. We, we produce a pure software product. You know, it's, it's really fun to work within those communities like ONUG and understand what a lot of enterprise are facing and then align our product with the industry challenges and that's what the ONUG organization does.

[00:33:53] Chris: Awesome. So it sounds like, I mean, part, part of what you love there is, is getting out there and being able to do these presentations, kind of educate people, tell the story. I wonder though, I mean obviously, you know, being in a product role, which you have been for a while. But it, it's definitely a couple arms lengths removed from the keyboard in, in some ways.

[00:34:10] Chris: Right. I mean, you're not configuring networks, you're not doing the operational side of things. Is there any part of you that, I mean, I guess one maybe misses that or, or two. And, and I'll say this through my own personal experience, I definitely have found that as I've gone into, excuse me, higher level roles, more management roles, more architecture roles, more entrepreneurial roles, that I, I sometimes wonder if I'm still as smart as I was in some ways, I guess.

[00:34:34] Chris: And I, I wonder if that happens to you too, if you know, you know, not being able to be the one who's actually building the thing. If there's any, I, I guess, you know, imposter syndrome there. 

[00:34:41] Mike: Yeah. You know, I say the unique thing about my role, and I would say Chris, I also is similar where. There's been opportunity where I had upward, you know, let's say upward movement in an organization and it would've meant more people management and less technology.

[00:34:57] Mike: And I, I did have roles where I've managed people and although I, I love the personal interaction, I actually really do enjoy the mentoring and, and had good experiences managing. I am more excited about the next new technology and working on those things. And because our product is so technical in my role, I am demonstrating the product and it, it, We're still, let's say, configuring network, lower layer networking equipment.

[00:35:22] Mike: I mean, today, in the past few days, I've been testing APIs and looking at JSON structures and stuff like that. So I would say I've kind of fought that, um, that, that disconnection from tech. But I, I would say the piece where I was, let's say, starting to get nervous was there, there have been some technology shifts.

[00:35:41] Mike: One was a shift to software and I would say I was on top of that one. And, you know, as things went virtual, I'm like, Oh, okay, I understand virtual. But as things went to public cloud and our, our product can be OnPrem or in the cloud, I started having to talk a lot about AWS and, and public clouds. And I really was feeling like, Oh man, I don't, I'm kind of.

[00:36:00] Mike: I don't know it well, I haven't been hands on. I haven't done a lot of it myself. And so I did take it upon myself to go and, and take coursework study and actually went and did the, this is part of, let's say, benefit of Covid and staying home during the pandemic or having more time at home, is that I set, set a goal for myself when I went and got the AWS certification.

[00:36:19] Mike: So I think there's areas where. You're fearful to be disconnected from the technology and then you just have to ramp up kind of quickly and like containerization is another big trend that, you know, I had to kind of wrap my head around and really understand containerization and Kubernetes and those sorts of systems.

[00:36:37] Mike: And so I really enjoy, I look forward to kind of jumping into a new technology immersing myself. And coming out on the other side with having a good understanding that I'm actually pretty good at being able to take what I learn and turn around and teach or present. And so that was something it, it took kind of years to develop because I'd say I still get, depending on the audience and how well I'm prepared, I still get a little nervous or still feel a little uncomfortable.

[00:37:01] Mike: However, when I get rolling and I just get back into it. Then I can kind of overcome that. But I've been making an effort to stay connected to the technology. I would say. 

[00:37:12] Zoe: Yeah, for me that's the same. I have to make that effort cuz otherwise it's so hands off. At this point. I have a question about, uh, so I see you have quite a few, I'm assuming there's are guitars.

[00:37:23] Zoe: I can see the top bits behind you. So I imagine the career is going. One question that I had from a, from a personal perspective is salary negotiation is very stressful for me. I don't like doing it. I find it absolutely rubbish. Possibly because I'm rubbish at it. Uh, but what, how do you approach that in your career?

[00:37:43] Zoe: Do you ever, has it ever been like you just accept whatever's offered, which is what I used to do all the time, and it's probably a bad idea I have changed. Or is it something you actively like focused on how to do that in an appropriate way and, um, is it ever a struggle? 

[00:37:58] Mike: Yeah, that's a, that's a really good one because, you know, when you think about your career, Like, you know, when I got that first offer from ibm, there was no negotiation.

[00:38:06] Mike: I'm like, I'll take it. You know? But then when I was making a transition, and, you know, um, when I, when I made the first move to Spirant, there was a little bit of negotiation. I mean, I would think I was pretty happy with things, but I looked at things like vacation time or other, you try, try to look at, is there any wiggle room on options or whatever.

[00:38:23] Mike: So you look, you look to see if there's anything that you can do. What I'm not good at, I will say, is that once you're in a role and. I'm a heads down worker. I just, I'm gonna go and work as hard as I can and, and do what I can for the company. And most cases I've been rewarded for that. Where they see your effort and they give you that whatever maximum increment where they, they do what they can to try to keep you happy.

[00:38:49] Mike: And so I don't ask for it. Uh, is what I would say is I don't, I'm not good at going and asking for it, but I was at a role where, you know, the company wasn't, let's say, was the company was doing okay, but we weren't getting the annual bonuses and we weren't getting salary increases. And I was kind of stuck in that plateau for, and I was working really hard and I'm thinking this is, I don't feel like I'm being treated fairly.

[00:39:12] Mike: You know, I got that feeling. And so ultimately it led to when there was, again, some management shifts. I, I made a, I made a move, and so I tend to make, let's say, restructure a salary or an increase in salary. When I make a job move, I will say at Glueware, you know, I, I actually took a lower salary with a higher variable pay, and three years in, I, I got hired in as a director.

[00:39:34] Mike: I had come from a smaller company. Where I was a vice president, I had my first VP role. I, I'm not super hung up on titles. I will say, when I got my first director role, I was proud of hitting that cuz at early in my career, I thought that's, that's the level I wanna hit. So I, I, I got to a director level and then when I went from a bigger company to a smaller company, I got a VP title.

[00:39:55] Mike: And then when I joined Glueware, I got bumped back down to a, to a director level. And I, I wasn't upset about it cuz I don't get too hung up on. Titles, but about three years in, again, I was doing everything, working hard, you know, speaking at conferences, I kind of became the voice of Glueware externally, right?

[00:40:12] Mike: Anyone who knew Glueware knew me through Packet pushers, through ONUG, through this, through that, and the co-founders. I remember how informal it was, or kind of unique It was. It was just after I presented at a conference, they took me to dinner and they said, We're promoting you to vp. And it was like, just verbal, like, okay.

[00:40:31] Mike: That. Okay, cool. Like I, you know, I respond well when the company recognizes your performance and gives you that bump or increment along the way. If I would say to anybody, if you're, if you're kind of stuck into something where you're going, you know, more than a year or two years, you're not getting an increment, then you either need to put some pressure on it or you need to think about make a move.

[00:40:54] Mike: And it's, it's hard to ask. I, I think it's an awkward conversation. I think if you, you need to know your worth. That's a difficult thing to do. But now with things like I, was it open door, glass door or something like the glass? I don't know the websites, but you can kind of get a sense of what you're worth in the industry.

[00:41:09] Chris: Yeah, I think even LinkedIn now is doing some like salary guidance stuff and yeah, it's much easier than it used to be. And I agree with you a hundred percent. I think knowing your worth and, and being willing to ask for it. Cause again, you know, in my experience anyway, if you ask for more, uh, they'll just tell you, Hey, you know, I can't afford that, but here's what I can do.

[00:41:27] Chris: I've never had anybody really be offended by, uh, you know, asking for what I thought I was worth. I definitely, it took me a long time to get there, but then once I started asking, I realized, Oh, this is not actually a big deal. 

[00:41:36] Zoe: I have had one, I have had one situation. I, uh, a recruiter, uh, I was chatting to a recruiter who had reached out to me, I must say.

[00:41:46] Zoe: Uh, and he told me I wasn't worth what I was asking, and I was like, Oh, really? Because I knew I was asking a very low amount for what I, I could have. But, uh, I realized that he had no idea of what my CV was, or I guess you guys call it a resume. And he had no idea what my, uh, qualifications were. He didn't understand the industry he was trying to hire for, so I did have a situation, but context wise, he was just silly.

[00:42:17] Chris: We'll take the one bad one with all the good one. 

[00:42:20] Chris: Unfortunately we are about out of time for today. Thank you for joining us today. Mike. I really appreciate you being here and sharing your story with the Imposter Syndrome Network. Uh, this has been great. To all the imposters out there listening, we know that your time and attention are the most valuable things you have, and we really appreciate you spending them with us.

[00:42:39] Chris: Thank you. Also, uh, if you haven't already, please feel free to join us on LinkedIn. We have a group for conversations about all things related to our careers and lives in technology.. One thing, Mike, before we go, I am curious, through this career, it seems like you have kind of, you know, maneuvered fairly well through it, and so I'm curious, you know, how did you figure out what you're good at?

[00:43:01] Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think it, it ultimately comes down to are you able to learn something quickly or is it just, are you struggling to comprehend. And I'll just give you an example of that. You know, like when it comes to programming languages, I don't really like staring at code and really trying to figure out programming structures and things like that.

[00:43:20] Mike: So I would just say like, while I could, and I could struggle through it and I could get it, the effort was higher than what it was like worth to me. And when I started studying, you know, networking and protocols, and even now I'm studying APIs and things like this, I understand it like quickly. And I, I think I, I think it's just trying to get a sense.

[00:43:40] Mike: How well are you processing it? And if you can get over the, the hump of just, you know, understand, like once I really dove into cloud, I learned it quickly and there's a lot of parallels to all the physical world. So I could take that base knowledge and build off it. So the areas where I didn't think I was gonna be good and I became, you know, better at it than I thought was on the presenting side.

[00:44:02] Mike: And I think just a benefit I had was sitting through so many presentations, knowing what's good, knowing what's bad, and. I mentioned that mantra, like, you know, work hard, play hard, but for the last quite a few years it's tried to been, how do you work smarter and trying to follow, I try to look for things in the, either in the media, like I really like the packet pusher guys.

[00:44:23] Mike: You, you might know the, the interviewer, Tim Ferris. He does great interviews and stuff like that. He's one of my favorite podcasts, or Joe Rogan. And you, you can try to pick some people that you look towards and try to emulate what you like about their style and their technique. And I'd say that's really helped me because, you know, I produce material, but I go out and look at competitive material and if it's better than mine, I like, oh, like I, I need to do better video.

[00:44:48] Mike: I need to do this. I, you know, And so I think it's a little bit of that competitive nature also, Uh, wanting to learn and having a little bit of that competitive fight is what really kind of motivates me. And it steers me towards the things that I, um, wanna learn quickly and, and can learn quickly. 

[00:45:03] Chris: Great. Thanks. Are there any projects you're working on or involved in that, uh, the network should be aware of? 

[00:45:09] Mike: Well, on the company front we have glue air release five coming out, which is really exciting. Um, we're building off our process automation that we've introduced. We also have a new topology, uh, solution that's part of our suite.

[00:45:20] Mike: So those are the things, uh, I'm, again, I'm most excited about. I will say that, you know, on the music front, I force myself to like take a recording class and kind of dive back into that. And um, you know, I put a couple songs out on SoundCloud just, just for fun, you know, just to kinda get through the process.

[00:45:36] Mike: And, but that's not something I'm I'd say it's very much a work in progress, you know, the musical front. I just, it's such a, I don't put the time into it, but yeah, I'm on LinkedIn. I'm, I'm also, I'm not good at asking for pay increases and I'm not good at self promotion. So I don't, I don't put a ton of time and effort into my LinkedIn profile or my, or Twitter or, or those kinds of things.

[00:45:57] Mike: So I'm not super active on, on social from that standpoint. 

[00:46:01] Chris: Fair enough. If you'll share it with us, we'll put that SoundCloud link in the show notes. Uh, no pressure there if you don't want to, but, uh, happy to share that out with folks. I'd definitely like to take a listen and, uh, and that's it. We'll, we'll be back next week.