Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast, where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't.
Our guest today is Kevin Myers, Senior Network Architect and co-founder of IPArchitects.
In this episode, Kevin shares with us the how and why of starting his own company, as well as what he implemented from his previous jobs to build the company he'd like to work for.
Kevin tells us how he discovered what he was good at, what's next for him in the future, and his different and elegant ways to say "I Don't Know".
A lot of times people ask me for career advice.
And I would say “treat yourself as a company of one”.
Even if you work for somebody else, think of yourself as a company of one and that you're entering into a business engagement.
It needs to be balanced for the business agreement to work for everybody.
And if it isn't balanced, it's not a good business deal .
Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!
We'd love it if you connected with us at the links below:
You can also find us on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Patreon.
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 anyone who thinks they don't. My name is Chris Grundemann and I'm here with my always amazing co-host, Zoe Rose. Hey, this is the Kevin Meyers episode, so buckle up. Kevin is the senior network architect, packet chaser, and co-founder at IP Architects and a self-proclaimed geek.
[00:00:38] Chris: Hey, Kevin, would you like to introduce yourself further to the Imposter Syndrome network?
[00:00:42] Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. My name is Kevin Myers and like Chris s I'm a senior network architect and co-founder at IP Architects, which is a consulting firm that I founded about 10 years ago after doing a career that was kind of mixed in the service provider and, and enterprise space working in in network engineering.
[00:00:58] Kevin: So I spend a lot of my day solving hard problems in both of those worlds.
[00:01:02] Chris: Great. So as you said, IP Architects is a network consulting group. You've been in business for 10 years now, so I mean, first congrats. I think that's amazing.
[00:01:10] Kevin: Yeah, thanks. It's actually 10 years this year as fact. This is our 10 year anniversary.
[00:01:14] Kevin: So pretty, pretty happy and excited.
[00:01:15] Chris: Heck yeah. That, that's awesome. So I'd like to dig in there first actually. I mean, can you tell us a little bit more about the process of founding your own company and maybe even what went into that decision process in the first place? Like why, why would you do such a thing?
[00:01:28] Kevin: Sure. Absolutely. It was a total accident in the way that it happened. It was kind of funny. I, so I was, um, working for a telecom here in the us. In the southeastern part of the US a rural telecom, which has become a big thing here because there's a lot of money being invested into rural telecoms and in, in Europe and in developing countries as well, which is where I do a lot of my work now.
[00:01:45] Kevin: But back then I was working as a network engineer for a telecom and learning about MPLS and BGP and you know, as you know, Chris, I know you worked in the service provider space. All the things that you do to get layer two and layer three out to subscribers when you're, when you're learning that that business.
[00:01:59] Kevin: It was an all Cisco shop. I was, um, I had previously worked kind of on the enterprise side of it and as a generalist. I started in the mid nineties and, um, worked in small shops and then worked in some like local government that was an enterprise style type of a, of a network and eventually got my, found my way to service provider.
[00:02:15] Kevin: And so I had kind of a varied background. As I was going into this and it was all primarily Cisco. So I did like my first CCNA in 2003, I think, and then I let it expire cuz I got lazy and I kind of spent a lot of time enjoying my twenties rather than focusing on tech. So I had a bit of a, like treading water in my tech career hiatus.
[00:02:32] Kevin: But as I got more serious about it, I, um, I started studying and I started, uh, doing my CCNA again and I wanted to do my ccnp. And so what I thought I was gonna. Is I, I knocked on my ccna, I got CCNP Route Switch, and I was like, You know what? I'm gonna go for my CCIE, I love doing bgp, I love MPLs I just wanna be a route Switch expert.
[00:02:52] Kevin: And then I got introduced to, uh, Microtik, which is on my profile. I do lots of, lots of Microtik work. People see me on Twitter doing lots of stuff with Microtik, and my boss walks in one day. And we had to give you, kind of set the stage for where we were. We were running a Cisco 7600 core. There was about maybe, maybe 30 Cisco, 7600s in our MPLS.
[00:03:11] Kevin: And we had about maybe 10,000 subscribers that would attach to metro ethernet nodes via DSL and fiber to the home and things like that. GPON, that would come into this, this network. And my boss found Microtik on, I don't even know how he found it, and he brought it into the network engineering department one day and said, Hey, I found this router, It's made in Latvia It's like 50 bucks and it does MPLS and bgp.
[00:03:30] Kevin: And of course we were like, No way. You know, it was like throwing a raw steak into a room full of dogs because we were so excited to see what it could do. And. We started playing with it, we found out that it actually worked, and so we were able to get VRFs and VPN four and Vpls and all of these things working on this really cheap router.
[00:03:48] Kevin: And so they sent us off to Microtik training and after that, and we did the Microtik training, we decided to sign up for their list. They had like a list you could put yourself on as a consultant, and I was like, Oh, that's cool. I, I need a new car. My car is old, and you know, maybe I'll make a few extra bucks and get a new car.
[00:04:04] Kevin: And in a week, I think we had emails from all over the world that people wanted help and they were like, Hey, I have a, I have a data center over in Europe and I need help with these Microtik routers migrating this thing. And was like, Oh wow, this is like for real. These people don't want like an hour of my time.
[00:04:18] Kevin: They want real stuff. And so that's how the company was born. It started there, built a small company and grew to the point where we're all over the world now. We have offices in Europe, Latin America. We have a data center in Copenhagen, in Denmark, and a data center in. Denver in the US and about 20 people all over the world working, uh, network engineering projects and consulting.
[00:04:37] Kevin: That is
[00:04:38] Chris: really cool. And it sounds like, I mean, it's a little bit of right place, right time. Obviously you were there and prepared and, and ready to kind of take on that challenge and that opportunity, but there is a little bit of a line to the stars maybe as well.
[00:04:48] Kevin: It was, it was, it was something that I really had to, it was a very scary thing to me at first cuz it was one of those things where you just know, like, you look at you like, I, I know this is a thing.
[00:04:57] Kevin: Like I could really, it wasn't like, Hey, I'd love to own my own business one day and that'd be cool. This is staring me in the face and I'm like, this is a chance to take the road less traveled and do something that, you know, is probably not on my career path. And, and I, you know, I talked about it with my wife and we had, I'm trying to remember, I think we had two kids at the time.
[00:05:12] Kevin: We have four now. And it was definitely, uh, you know, something that we had to think about doing. So I, I still worked full time and started it on the side and did that for about three years, I guess. But it was a really struggle for me because I, I really wanted to go down the CCIE path. That was my, uh, career that I was gonna go.
[00:05:29] Kevin: And I had to think, you know, what do I care about more? And I finally reconciled it with myself. I said, You know, I can always go back and get a CCIE if I really care about that. In 10 years and, but I, I can't always go start a company. This opportunity is not always gonna be in front of me. So, so I took that path and I'm, I'm pretty happy.
[00:05:44] Kevin: I still didn't get a CCIE, I don't think I'll have the time to do it now. It's actually cheaper for me to hire a CCIE than it is for me to go do it myself. But, yeah, no, but I, I have no regrets. It was the right choice and I, I love the path that I, that I went down. But yeah, it took a lot of soul searching to figure out, you know, do I really wanna do this.
[00:06:00] Zoe: That's a really good point that you make about kind of the, you had a family, so it wasn't like you were a bachelor going to, Oh, if it doesn't work, it's not the end of the world. You actually had to support people, um, and, you know, put food on the table essentially. So I suppose the question I have is, especially in the time where you had the three years you were still working full time, how did you really balance that?
[00:06:22] Zoe: Did you balance that? Did you not sleep possibly?
[00:06:25] Kevin: With a whole lot of coffee, with a whole lot of coffee, very little sleep and, and a lot of days just dragging myself, you know, into the garage. My office, it was literally a garage company. It was the typical garage startup company. My office was in the garage.
[00:06:39] Kevin: I would, I would come home from work and I mean, you think about the work that we all do when you're, when you're in a very technical role, you know, it's very mentally draining when you're in an ops role and you're getting into, you know, whether you're getting into code, whether you're getting into configs. And so I would do that and, and right in the middle of that I actually left the telco and went to work for a large enterprise because the salaries, the telco experience was great, but the salary was awful.
[00:07:01] Kevin: The company hadn't gotten off the ground. And there was a large enterprise that needed a, a route switch skill, and they, you know, they paid me like over double what I was making. So I was like, Okay, I gotta go do this. So in the middle of all that, right as I had started the company, I went to go work for this large publicly traded enterprise as their lead network engineer.
[00:07:16] Kevin: And, which was a great choice because I learned a a lot about things that. I didn't think that I would care about like applications, right? And like storage and all these other things that as a telecom engineer, my take was, if you can ping it, it's not my problem. Right. You know, once it pings, it's not my problem.
[00:07:30] Kevin: Then I learned that's, maybe that's not quite the case, but, um, but yeah, it was, um, balance is, is. I, I won't lie, it's still a struggle for me today. I'm a lot better about it than I was back then, because when you're managing, you always think, Oh, it's gonna get better, right? I'm gonna do just a few more things and it's get better.
[00:07:45] Kevin: And then you're always, you have growth and, and like right now, I'm, you know, we're in a, we're in a big growth period right now, which is great. It's a good problem to have. But I've had to pitch in and kind of play engineer where I've been mostly more of like, you know, leadership and manager. But I. Put my engineer hat back on and get into a few maintenance windows lately, cuz we've just had a lot of growth.
[00:08:01] Kevin: So I don't have a perfect answer for it. It's a real struggle. The nice, The one thing I will say though that I like about it that's made it tolerable is I can pretty much set my own schedule to a degree. Like there's things that I have to do, but it makes it a lot easier for my wife and I to balance because I can just schedule meetings when I think it works for my day and when she's working full time.
[00:08:18] Kevin: So whenever it works for her, we try to, we have a lot of calendar sharing that goes on to try. Sort it all out. But I would say that's the biggest upside to it is the three years that I was doing both really sucked, but I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and I was able to finally, you know, get to the point where I could balance myself a little bit more.
[00:08:34] Chris: Yeah, that resonates. And I think it's interesting because I've found a similar thing as I've kind of gone out on my own as a consultant recently. I started kind of making, well, setting boundaries, more firm boundaries, right? And kind of saying no to some things, telling people, No, I'm not gonna take calls on that day.
[00:08:50] Chris: I have, you know, this other piece of work to. Which I think because I was outta my own, on my own, on my own boss, I finally felt confident to kind of set those boundaries. But what I've realized, and I dunno if this resonates with you at all, is when I look back, I could have been doing that all along. Just because you're employed by someone doesn't mean you have to answer the phone at, at 1:00 AM if you're not on call, right?
[00:09:11] Chris: Or, you know, you know, take meetings on the weekend, whatever that line might be, right? Whatever that line is, miss your kid's soccer game or football match or whatever it is. You don't have to do that. You, you can say no, you can work around it. And especially if you're proactive about it, I think people really respect.
[00:09:26] Kevin: Yeah, you're right. And I would say that I, I'm fortunately I learned that lesson far too late. Like you said, that you can, you know, you can push back and you can, you can be, uh, you can be a good employee and be productive and be part of the team and still set those boundaries and say, I, you know, I can't do this cuz I did.
[00:09:40] Kevin: I remember in the early days I, you know, there were some things I missed with my kids that, you know, I can't get back. Cuz I was, you know, on a, you know, there was a circuit down and the world's ending and I'm on, you know, stuck on this call. 10 hours or whatever. And in fact, it was something that when I realized that the employers, you know, some of the employers that I worked for definitely took advantage of that.
[00:09:57] Kevin: Because when you're, when you, when you're in tech and you're, you're one of those people that you always wanna make sure that you get the job done and you take that personal responsibility and whatever job you're doing, that's almost the easiest kind of personality to exploit for an employer, to be honest.
[00:10:11] Kevin: And it's, and so that's something that we try really hard in the consulting group that I. That's part of our culture. We, we have some, uh, 20 fundamentals that we try to abide by. That's a, that's a big driving force in what we do. And one of them is, own your own work life balance. And when you need to recharge, let us know and communicate, you know, and we'll set time up for your recharge.
[00:10:30] Kevin: And, and that's something that I, I push our engineers, cuz we do a lot of, Pretty heavy maintenance windows and a lot of heavy things. And I always push them like, Hey, if you're getting tired, if you're getting worn out, if you got things, you know, let me know. Give me a heads up so that we can figure out a way to, to rotate that.
[00:10:43] Kevin: And so, I don't wanna say it's perfect, but we really do try to communicate because I don't wanna, I've been through that road and I don't want, you know, the younger people that are coming up in my company to do the same thing is be a meat grinder where it's just, Hey, sorry it's 70 hours a week and it sucks.
[00:10:57] Kevin: Hate it for you.
[00:10:58] Chris: Yeah, that makes sense. And, and that, that's great that you're doing that and kind of, you know, paying it forward in a way Right. By building a company that you would've wanted to work at or that you could have worked at and been happy before.
[00:11:07] Kevin: Yeah, that, it's been a big thing for me cuz I, I know having suffered through it, especially in telecom's, not very forgiving.
[00:11:12] Kevin: Cuz when 911 is down, nobody, nobody cares. Right? They, they want it back up. So it's, yeah. It's harder in telecom because there really are, In enterprise, it's, you know, we get very, very hyper focused on it. And there are some enterprises that have really critical things, but a lot of enterprises, at the end of the day, you're just not selling widgets.
[00:11:27] Kevin: Right. Whatever it is that you're selling is not getting sold. You know, when you have, you know, critical telecom down and you have, uh, I remember there was a, one of the bosses that I had had kind of a mantra that we all abide by, which was, and it was hard, but they had, they had somebody die back in the old days because they had a heart attack.
[00:11:45] Kevin: And the, this is back before we had cell phones. And the phones were down and they couldn't call 911, the person just died at their house. And so that was something that you kind of carry with you into telecom is that it's not just we can't sell a widget. There could be lives at stake if we don't have, you know, first responders, police, fire, hospitals, 911 up in active, that there's always that potential.
[00:12:05] Kevin: And so that creates a lot of stress in telecom that isn't necessarily there. And I won't say every enterprise, there's a lot of enterprises that have critical infrastructure as well. But in your average enterprise, where you're, where you're commercial focused of selling a widget. You know, there's, I think the intent is that it's critical, but it's not always the case.
[00:12:21] Kevin: So I, But they push you in that in there, and I've been in that as well, where they're like this, Hey, this is the end of the world, right, for the company if you don't get this done and it's hard, it's hard to push back as an employee, but you definitely should. When you need to, you should.
[00:12:32] Zoe: Well, I think that really describes my career really well, is I work in security.
[00:12:37] Zoe: And everybody says, you know, it's the end of the world. If it's not solved and it's perfect solution, then you know, it's a hundred percent secure for, you know, which is literally impossible. But I think addressing that and figuring out, okay, what's the actual threat map? You know, what's, what are the likely threats?
[00:12:53] Zoe: What are the actual things you're preparing for and protecting against? And yes, everybody likes to say their thing is business critical. And later you find out, Ah, actually two days downtime is not a big deal, but after the incident. But I think that's the main point. You're failing before you begin. If you put everything as being business critical, you know, if you put everything above everything else, you are negatively impacting the business as well, because people that are overworked are not gonna be able to achieve things.
[00:13:24] Zoe: So I think actually prioritizing the people and then figuring out a proportionately what actually is the risk or what's the. I guess priorities, it takes making a conscious decision, and I think that a lot of people aren't at that maturity. And when I say people, I mean a lot of businesses are not at that maturity to be able to say, Actually, we've made this conscious choice about this, but I like that that's kind of what you applied from the beginning.
[00:13:48] Zoe: That's really good, especially for the people that work for you.
[00:13:51] Kevin: I, I remember being in large enterprise and I would get, like, I'd say, Hey, we have these 20 priority ones that need to be done. I was like, Oh, okay. I can do four. Like which of the P ones are really the P ones? ? And it's always, and I think that's maybe something you don't see is I see it more clearly as a business owner.
[00:14:04] Kevin: Now, I didn't always see it when I was employee that that's a staffing problem. If you have 30 people in an IT department or whatever it is, you know, hundreds or whatever it may. And you always, you have those key people that are always doing all the work, and then you have some people that do some of the work and then people that do no work.
[00:14:20] Kevin: Seems to be the way it always plays out in an IT organization. Then you have a staffing and a management problem. You don't have a technology and an engineering problem, and it took me a long time to realize. That, you know, there should only be, there should be peaks and valleys of things like maintenance windows and after hours, and that's gonna happen.
[00:14:36] Kevin: But if you're working 60, 70 hours a week, week in, week out, month in, month out, that's a, that's a company problem to solve. That's not a, that's not your problem to solve.
[00:14:44] Zoe: No, a hundred percent. A hundred percent. And that's, uh, that's why I say you're failing from the beginning, is because you should be approaching that and saying, How do I do this logically, you know, how.
[00:14:54] Zoe: Design this in a way that works for everybody and everybody has, you know, the proper support but also, you know, I prioritize things appropriately. Cause if everything is P one, nothing is P one.
[00:15:07] Kevin: Exactly. I wish I'd figured that out sooner. It was something that really greats at me because I wish I realized.
[00:15:11] Kevin: You always, I think things are changing and the employer employee relationship as we go into the 2020s with everything that's happened in the world, but it's definitly. Another world that I came up in in the mid nineties, it was, you know, you're grateful to have a job, right? Be grateful you have a job.
[00:15:24] Kevin: That's, that was the culture we, that it was kind of born in and now that balance is changing. And a lot of times I'll tell people that, Ask me for career advice, and I would say Treat yourself as a company of one. Even if you work for somebody else, think of yourself as a company of one and that you're, you're entering into a business engagement.
[00:15:40] Kevin: Everybody, it needs to be balanced for the business agreement to work for everybody. And if there isn't balance, it's not a good business deal.
[00:15:46] Zoe: Oh, that's lovely. I like that. So let's go to what you actually do. What is your day look like?
[00:15:52] Kevin: Sure. Absolutely. That's a really hard question to answer because the I, So on paper, I work for a lot of service providers and we build a lot of ISPs.
[00:16:00] Kevin: We do some data center and we do some enterprise. But the really interesting thing is, Because we work in the commodity and white box space, which is, So Microtik is a, a vendor that we, uh, we work with a lot. So technically we're independent. We don't sell any hardware. We don't like, we're just a consulting firm and sell our time.
[00:16:16] Kevin: And that's a conscious choice because it allows us to be an advocate for whoever we're working for. We can kind of sit in the room as a neutral party and say, I care about the network design, let's talk about network design, let's talk about business goals. I don't care about selling you a 2 million dollar box.
[00:16:28] Kevin: You know, I just wanna find out if we can use what you have. That's great. So a lot of times from an architectural perspective, that's how we'll enter into engagements with companies is being their, their advocate, trying to figure out what it is that they need, and so having that flexibility and not being tied to, I need to go sell this $2 million box so I can get my boat or my vacation or whatever it is that I want, has freed us up to work on some really interesting things.
[00:16:49] Kevin: And working in the commodity space has been one of those. So Microtik is one that we use a lot. We'll, we'll do some ubiquity, although they're kind of, you know, they seem to have ADHD a little bit. They can't figure out what they wanna be when they grow up and where they want to go. So they're always branching off into different things and abandoning projects.
[00:17:04] Kevin: But we do work with some of that. And then in the pure white box space where you get into switches like Edge Core and UfiSpace and uh, Delta and some of those, and operating systems like Pica8, IP infusion, Arcus we spend a lot of time with those because telecoms specifically in some data centers, Like the white box approach, they like the white box ecosystem and they like just kind of the open networking concept of we're going to take these things and put them together with open source software and we're gonna build a thing, whether it's a service provider or an application or whatever it is.
[00:17:32] Kevin: And the reason I say that's hard to define what I do in day to day is when you have really inexpensive network equipment that you can build at scale, which is kind of how we got our start. We took some of the inexpensive network equipment and prove that could be put into critical environments and that you could use it at scale.
[00:17:48] Kevin: And my favorite story is one that is out on Twitter is that a couple years ago, Microtik was spotted on SpaceX's launchpads that they use them for their camera systems to monitor their launch. And so whenever anybody. Comes to me and says, How can I use this $50 thing in my mission critical infrastructure?
[00:18:02] Kevin: And I was like, Guys, you're selling like widgets, right? You know, these guys are, they're using it in a rocket launch. If it can be used in a rocket launch, we can use it in anything. And it's all about the design, right? It's all about understanding what you put in. And so people come to us with these really interesting problems.
[00:18:15] Kevin: So as an example, one of the first problems we had to solve, We had a university in Alaska that watched whales and they watched like whale migration and mating patterns, and that was their research. And they had a series of wireless towers and cameras that used some of the Microtik equipment to monitor them.
[00:18:33] Kevin: And it was offline. And so this was like year one of business. I'm still working two jobs at this point. You asked about this balance, this didn't help. They said, We need an engineer in Alaska so that we can put them on a helicopter and fly them out to this site to go figure out what's wrong.
[00:18:45] Kevin: Can you do that? And I'm like, and I got the phone with my wife. I was like, you know, I gotta believe the colleges have, we gotta put somebody on a helicopter and send them to Alaska. So we had one employee at the time, and, and we did, we got, we managed to negotiate the deal and they, they, they paid the retainer of what we needed to send somebody.
[00:19:00] Kevin: And so we get him on a flight and get him a SAT phone and get him into Anchorage Airport so that he could then pick up a helicopter and get flown in the middle of nowhere to go, uh, climb a radio tower. And we, we finally fixed that. But the joke was that we saved the whales with IP networking because we literally got the cameras back online.
[00:19:16] Kevin: They could watch the whales, make sure the whales were, were doing what they do, but we get. A lot of interesting problems like that because of the nature of networking has traditionally been very expensive. It's been very, very hard to get network equipment in inexpensively because there's always a perception that if it's a cheap piece of a network equipment, it can't be mission critical.
[00:19:33] Kevin: It can't be effective. And so we'll get, a lot of companies will come to us to try to solve these problems, saying, Hey, I have money, but I don't wanna spend the kind of money that I would spend on Cisco. Right? I have a million dollars and I need like a million widgets, right? So I, if I go to Cisco, that's gonna be a hundred million dollar problem.
[00:19:50] Kevin: And, um, so that's where my day gets very, very odd is we get things all over the world in all kinds of different environments. And that wasn't the last time we had to send somebody to Alaska. We had to send somebody to an island in the baring sea to go work on, uh, the internet up there. And we've, uh, sent people to countries all, all over the world to go do things like that.
[00:20:07] Kevin: And so I find myself doing mostly service provider and data center, but we have all these odd things mixed in that work like utility. Manufacturing, like I'm working with an ice cream manufacturer right now. They make, they make ice cream and we're helping them, uh, redesign their network and their manufacturing infrastructure to make sure we have proper security separation, which I'm sure you'll love being in the world of security.
[00:20:28] Kevin: That we have isolation so that you can't hack into machine networks. You know, and you go into, was it Shodan? Go into Shodan and go find all the machines and. Spill the ice cream or whatever. So that is, they couldn't afford the, the budget was not there to do a traditional like, uh, IT/OT separation like we would in a, um, uh, in a Cisco network.
[00:20:47] Kevin: But we, so we use microtech and we're building vers and we're building like, uh, DMZs and using firewalls to build this on like a shoestring budget. So that's, It's a really long answer when you ask what I do, but it's so varied and it touches so many interesting corners of the world that that's what I love about it, is that I, I literally never know what is going to come in the door the next day that we're gonna go work on, or where we're gonna have to go put somebody on a helicopter or whatever.
[00:21:10] Chris: Yeah. That's wild. If I can sum it up, I mean, you're solving interesting network challenges around the world, and obviously in hearing you talk about this, you're obviously still very, very technical and still kind of in the weeds with a lot of the, the networking, uh, technologies and, and kind of configurations and designs.
[00:21:25] Chris: And I would say maybe at least it seems obvious to me as well, you've got some level of business acumen to have this company that's grown and succeeded over 10 years. I wonder with, with that as the backdrop, do you ever feel like you're not smart enough?
[00:21:38] Kevin: You know, there are times when I'll, I'll get in there. In fact, I'll tell you one of, one of the times that I, I felt that I was, I was really not smart enough.
[00:21:46] Kevin: I was at networking field day and I happened to be talking. I asked some questions about BGP and one of the presentations to a vendor. I love bgp. I do a lot of cool things with bgp. There are a lot of people that are way better than me in BGP when you get down to like a protocol expert. But, you know, we work on a lot of complicated design.
[00:22:01] Kevin: So I'd say I'm fair at BGP at an advanced level. So I ask these question. And we go to this social event afterwards, and so the guy that was the presenter came up to me and he said, I loved your questions. Let's talk bgp. I was like, Ah, that's cool. I talk BGP all the time. Let's talk bgp. So then he starts asking me these really hard questions.
[00:22:17] Kevin: I'm like, Wow, I'm not even sure I know what you're talking about. Well come to find out, it was one of the guys that invented bgp. It was one of the core team at Cisco. There was like, you know, maybe like 10 or 15 of 'em that designed BGP back in the early nineties and I was like, Okay, I don't feel so stupid now cuz this guy like literally wrote part of bgp.
[00:22:32] Kevin: So, But yeah, there are times where I think that's one of the most important things as a technologist that you have to understand and learn is that you're never gonna know everything. You're never gonna be an expert at everything, even in the things that you, I call myself a route switch expert. That's what I usually get billed out as as a senior architect is a route switch expert, but I'm not even...
[00:22:49] Kevin: I mean, there are people that are, like I said, there are people that are better than me in BGP and OSPF and IS-IS and mpls. But I learned enough to be a good architect and to understand the confluence of business. So I reconcile myself with that to say, You know what? I know that in my space for the problems that I'm trying to solve, I know what I need to know to be able to deliver value to the customers that I have.
[00:23:08] Kevin: And if somebody else, Is a better protocol expert in one of these areas. You know, that's, I, I, I kind of resign myself to the fact that that's cool because you can only learn so much. You can only pack so much in, If you're gonna be a really, really deep technical expert, you're probably going to be, it's gonna be harder for you to be on the architecture side and go sit with business stakeholders and understand what it is they wanna do, because you're deep in the weeds of the technology.
[00:23:30] Kevin: And I think that, It took me a really long time. If you were to take 20 year old me that started in it, that knew everything. I know everything about everything, right? And you know, as we all tend to do when we get into tech and then you learn, Oh wow, I really, there's a lot I don't know. And the further you get into that, you're like, Wow, I really don't know a lot.
[00:23:46] Kevin: And so I got myself to the point where I really, I did understand that there are times when I'm not gonna feel like I know what I'm talking about, but I think it's important for technologists. To be able to articulate that in a way where you're not just, I try not to say like, I, I don't know. Not that that's, that's bad, but I'll try to say it in a more elegant way.
[00:24:03] Kevin: Cause I'll just say, Look, you know, it's not my area. I've, I know smart people in that area and I think that's important, especially when you're sitting with business stakeholders because as technology people, it's fine to say, I don't know. It's totally cool when you're a group of tech nerds to say, I don't know.
[00:24:16] Kevin: That doesn't always go over well with the business, so you kinda have to know when to say the words, I don't know, and when to talking to somebody that maybe at a C level and say, My specialty is routing and switching, that's a security question. I know really smart people and I know what questions I need to ask.
[00:24:30] Kevin: Let me get you somebody that can answer that question with, with confidence that is their area. And so I think you have to understand your audience and who you're talking to so that you do have those moments where you're like, Wow, this person is way smarter than me in this area. That you can navigate that and not come across like you don't know what you're doing at all, if that makes sense.
[00:24:48] Chris: Yeah, definitely. That's really important I think, and I, and I like that distinction of being able to say, " I can find out." Which is the same as saying, I don't know. I mean, you're, you're, you know, without, without necessarily, you know, especially in a business situation, exposing yourself in a weird.
[00:25:01] Kevin: Yeah. And I think it's important to know when to say, I don't know.
[00:25:03] Kevin: Cause if it's just us and the engineers, I'll be like, What do you know about, you know, what do you, what do you know about this kind of storage? I'm like, I don't know. That's, I don't know. That's not me. So when it's just the engineers and the tech people talking, that's, you know, that's cool. But then as you cross those different boundaries, you know, that might not go over so well with somebody that's at a C level.
[00:25:18] Kevin: They expect you to at least know who to ask.
[00:25:20] Zoe: I think it also depends on your relationship. Like I know that being a tech, usually the assumption is you're super technical and you maybe don't have the most personable skills. But I think actually to be good at what I do, the personal relationships are really, really critical.
[00:25:35] Zoe: They're very key. But if I have a personal relationship, like with my boss for example, and I say, I dunno, he knows my level of intelligence and knows, even if I don't know it, I can figure it out or I know where to go. Whereas people I don't work with as often, I wouldn't say to them, Well, I dunno, you know, because they don't know that I have the, you know, personal motivation to figure it out as well, or I don't know where to go from there.
[00:25:59] Zoe: So I like, I like the setting, the perception is really important. Saying, I, I, I take the same approach of, it's not my expertise or it's not my area, but I can connect you with this person for example.
[00:26:11] Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. And that's something I encourage with my team is, and that's why we, we do with a lot of labing we do a lot of network modeling.
[00:26:16] Kevin: And so in my team I'll say, Look, if you don't know, go, You know, I, I always say it's actually part of our fundamentals is give it a shot at whatever you're doing. If there's like, if it's not a critical network problem on the line, Give it a shot to try it yourself and be a little bit self-sufficient. And then if you're really lost, then you know, reach out to somebody at senior you on the team for help.
[00:26:33] Kevin: And so that's another thing as I try to push to learn a little bit so that you're not always conditioned to just always go ask somebody for help. Cause I remember in the early days we didn't really have anything, like we didn't have a lot of escalation or help. Like even the telecom, we didn't even have Cisco TAC on a lot of the stuff that we bought.
[00:26:48] Kevin: They let it expire. So they were like you. You either figure it out or we're here all night, those are your choices. And that that's a, you know, it was a bit of a crucible to go through and learn. And so I try not to be that, you know, that rough with our team, but I generally will push them to say, you know, if nothing is on fire, take some time, try to figure it out, and if you're stumped, then reach out for help and we'll talk about it.
[00:27:08] Zoe: That's nice. One thing I had a question about is, you've got quite a interesting career and interesting pathways that you've gone in, different kind of jobs that you've done. What do you wanna do next? You know, where, where do you see yourself, uh, what do you wanna do when you grow up? ,
[00:27:24] Kevin: I don't ever wanna grow up, which is why I have all a Lego behind me, which you can't really see in the, uh, well see cuz it's not on video.
[00:27:30] Kevin: But, no, I I, So one of the things I discovered in running a business is that it's a lot of fun. Waking up every day and being your own boss is sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's a struggle, but a lot of days you kinda wake up like, Hey, anything's possible today. We could do anything with what we wanna do.
[00:27:46] Kevin: So what, uh, we'll probably be doing, and what I'm in the middle of doing is, Starting another company, maybe even another couple companies. There are some things that we wanna do that are a bit complimentary to the standard consulting that we do, but some other companies that, that we're talking about starting.
[00:28:00] Kevin: And so one of the things that you know, I'm working on is getting myself as much as I hate it, out of more of the technical space and turning that over. In fact, we've been working for the last two years where I'm, uh, kind of getting myself out of day-to-day operations more, and we've got just smart people that know how to do that, that are stepping in to handle more of the day-to-day.
[00:28:18] Kevin: And then my business partner and I are, are looking at maybe starting another company or two. And, and hatching a company is a really fun process and it's a lot more fun when you have capital to do it. And you're not starting with like, you know, $20 in your pocket, um, and having to build it. So, you know, answering questions like, you know, how much of this are we gonna fund ourselves?
[00:28:37] Kevin: Are we going to take. Private equity money, Are we gonna take this to the market? The these things that we're thinking about doing, which are, I'll give you a little hint, it's in the software space, but we've already thought about solving some interesting problems that we've seen in our consulting that nobody else has solved and that there might be an angle for, uh, some software stuff in there.
[00:28:54] Kevin: So to me that's what's cool is it's challenging to start a company. It's fun to start a company. There's a lot of fun problems that come along with, especially starting a tech company cuz you kinda get to get your hands in the tech and in the business side. And as I look back at the 10 year journey, that was a lot of fun.
[00:29:07] Kevin: Like there were a lot of hard moments, but overall it was a lot of fun and allowed me flexibility in my life that I would never have had other. Had I been just working for somebody else. So I, I think that's what's next is starting another company.
[00:29:19] Chris: Awesome. That's awesome. Well, on that note, we're, we're actually just about outta time for today.
[00:29:23] Chris: So Kevin, thank you, Thank you, thank you for sharing your story with the Imposter syndrome Network today, as almost always with all of our guests, we have tons of stuff we still wanna ask you, so we might have to invite you back on another time. And, uh, also an even bigger thank you to you, the folks out there listening, we appreciate.
[00:29:41] Chris: Now Kevin, I, I do wanna ask you one more thing before we go. You know, obviously you're passionate about networking, right? I mean, like really, really passionate. You've been doing that for your, pretty much your whole career. How did you figure out what you were good at? You know, where did that come from?
[00:29:53] Chris: How did you know that that was the thing? How did you learn that? And then, and then the business thing later as well. Right? How did you find out what you were good at?
[00:29:59] Kevin: So it's the dumbest answer in the world. I was studying for a Microsoft certification back in like the mid, mid two thousands. So I was, I was getting to a point where I think I told you I had a bit of a, I had a bit of a stretch where I was just treading water in tech cuz I was, you know, having more fun being in my twenties and going to bars and doing fun things.
[00:30:16] Kevin: And so I. I said, You know what? I really need to, I need to buckle down. I was working in kind of a desktop support role and I realized, I was like, you know, I'd worked it with some more challenging stuff and I'm not really being challenged right now, so I'm working with desktops. I should go go to Microsoft Certification.
[00:30:30] Kevin: I'd always kind of been in and out of networking. I always liked networking, but it hadn't been a critical focus for me. When I was wor... I think it was Windows xp, it was the Windows xp mcp when I was working on that and I was having to set up a, like a switch in my office to go image the, the Windows desktop.
[00:30:44] Kevin: The things started clicking for me that I hadn't paid attention to because I was a lot more focused. I was on the backside of my twenties. I think I was like, a lot of people you get and you're like, Oh, thirties coming up. What am I doing with my life? So I started like, you know, going head down and you know, really focusing on the tech.
[00:30:58] Kevin: And I was like, Oh, this is a really interesting problem to solve. Like when I put this image out to all of these workstations, like I blow everything up in the network and it got me looking into networking and I thought, you know, I would really love to work it with networking at a higher level. And so right after I passed that a job came open at the local telecom, and even though I had not all the right qualifications, I was like, you know what, I'm gonna apply for it.
[00:31:17] Kevin: And I did. And even though I really didn't know a lot, I knew how to, like, I could do like an Access VLAN on a Cisco switch. It's like probably about as much as I knew, you know, at the time. And even though they were like, You know what, you know, you know how to log into a Cisco switch. You know how to use a console cable, you know how to do an access vlan, we'll take it from there.
[00:31:31] Kevin: And that kind of springboarded my career. Cuz suddenly overnight I was going from Access VLANs to. Hey, we, we we're gonna work on MPLS Traffic Engineering today, and I was like, Oh my God. It was, you know, it was a very big jump. So anyway, that is what got me really hyper focused into networking after being a bit more of a generalist for a decade.
[00:31:46] Chris: Awesome. I love that. And, and, and I think that resonates. I hear that a lot and I think one of the big things is one, you know, try things out. But two, I think, you know, don't be afraid to apply for jobs that you don't think you're qualified for. I think that's a lesson that seems to kind of come back up and, and more and more folks we talk to.
[00:32:01] Chris: And then obviously the other side, you know, if you see somebody with passion coming along, you know, provide some sponsorship and maybe kind of help move them into a position where, where they can do that stuff. That's awesome. We, we heard about, you know, you've got a project coming up that's kind of stealth mode.
[00:32:12] Chris: It sounds like that's gonna be, are there any other projects that you got in the works that, uh, the imposter syndrome network should know about?
[00:32:18] Kevin: Yeah, there's, uh, so the, probably the biggest thing that we're working on is if you, so if you pay attention to the, um, a lot of this is in the us some of it's international, but there's so rural broadband and like closing the digital divide is a big thing right now.
[00:32:30] Kevin: There's a lot of money like funding that. So that's something that we've been involved in. There's a lot of projects in building a lot of, the, lot of filling in a lot of the rural gaps and, uh, things like CBRS. And with Terragraph with Facebook, so like basically building the, the blends of like fiber access networks and wireless networks.
[00:32:45] Kevin: We're doing a lot of that these days for a lot of people that got grants from the government. And so in that, and that's some of that's happening in Europe and other continents as well. So the biggest things that I think we have coming up is we're starting to really, uh, we do a lot of IPv6 work.
[00:32:59] Kevin: That's another big thing that we do, is we do a lot of IPv6 migration. So one of the things we're starting to get a lot into is, How that affects, uh, larger scale networks that are not the tier ones. Cause tier ones have their own teams, right? They have hundreds of people, developers, security people, network engineers to just go solve these problems.
[00:33:15] Kevin: But when you're at a mid-level isp, some of you, even the country level ISPs, they don't really have that, you know, that support channel. And there is no like, validated design for that that exists. So one of the things that we've been publishing a lot about is figuring out for entire countries, within developing countries, there's at least three countries.
[00:33:34] Kevin: Across Latin American and Africa that we've been involved in building national backbones and showing how we can go forward into IPv6 with CGNAT and make that transition. And so that's been a big focus for us is pairing CG Nat and IPv6 together to get a, uh, a more real world like approach, a more workable approach to IPv6 migration rather than a bit of a purist approach.
[00:33:55] Kevin: And so that's been my, that's been my big passion project. Getting IPV6 into networks any way possible, not getting it in perfectly so that we can actually deal with IPv6 and move forward in that. That's, we're doing that, We've done that for two countries in Africa right now that I'm working with, working with national.
[00:34:10] Kevin: Telecoms doing just that and doing it on commodity hardware. So that's the other big trick is we're not just doing, I'm just buying a 10 million Cisco box because the local economies can't afford that. So we're doing this with open components, commodity components, and putting hundreds of gigs of traffic, you know, on things that cost a few thousand dollars for a box.
[00:34:28] Kevin: So that's, that's my big passion project right now is proving that that is possible, achievable and scalable, and doing it on, on large scale, like even into millions of.
[00:34:37] Chris: Very cool. If folks wanna reach out and talk to you about that or something else, what's the best way to get ahold of you?
[00:34:43] Kevin: So Twitter, I'm at Stub Area 51 on Twitter.
[00:34:46] Kevin: You can find me at uh, ip architects.com, which is my company site, which is, uh, IP a r c h i t e c h s.com. And you can also find me on LinkedIn. So I think those are my, my three good places.
[00:34:57] Chris: Awesome. We'll have, uh, links to all three of those in the show notes. Thank you so much. This has been great. We'll be back next week.