The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Phil Gervasi

February 07, 2023 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 28
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Phil Gervasi
Show Notes Transcript

Our guest today is Phil Gervasi, Director of Technical Evangelism at Kentik.

Phil will tell us why and how he decided to pursue a career in technology after six years of teaching history at a high school, and how he arrived at his current position at Kentik.

We will discuss the role of automation in today's tech industry and whether we should be concerned about fewer entry-level jobs as a result.

He'll explain what a technical evangelist is, what his favorite job was, what he thinks about the hustle culture and the issues with tying your identity to your role.

My students would ask me, “Hey, Phil, what is the most lucrative thing that I can do?”
I would always say get a help desk job, don't get a job, you know, just adjusting prefixes on routers, and then nothing else.
Get a job at a help desk, and you will touch everything.
Then you'll figure out what precisely you want to do.

Phil's Links:


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Make it a great day.

Transcripts are 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 you don't. My name is Chris Grundemann and I am not here with my cyber stunning co-host Zoey Rose. Today. She's out sick, but she sends her regards. This is the Phil Gervasi episode. And it's gonna be fantastic.

[00:00:28] Chris: Phil is into computers, networking, writing, podcasting, teaching, and lifting heavy weights over his head.

[00:00:38] Chris: Hey, Phil, would you please introduce yourself a bit further to the Imposter syndrome network? 

[00:00:42] Phil: Hey, Chris. Thank you for inviting me on today. Much appreciated. And, uh, I do want to correct one thing. I, I lift heavy weights multiple ways, not just over my head, . Otherwise I'd be very lopsided. But thank you for the introduction.

[00:00:55] Phil: As a quick, uh, introduction of myself, I've been in, in networking, uh, technology in general, but networking in particular for about 15. And I'm in my early to mid forties now, so I guess we'll get into how that changed about 15 years ago for my first career. Today, I don't work in the trenches as a traditional network engineer anymore, though I miss those days a lot.

[00:01:15] Phil: I'm actually a, uh, technical evangelist, which, uh, you know, for some people maybe more akin to technical marketing and that's what I do, uh, full-time for, uh, a network visibility company. 

[00:01:25] Chris: Awesome. Sounds good. Thanks. I'd like to kick things off actually by diving into that career change you, you talked about there, you spent the first six years of your kind of adult working life or career as a high school English teacher, if I'm not mistaken.

[00:01:41] Chris: So I'm really curious as to maybe a little bit about that experience and, and what, how you've, you know, if, if anything from that has come into your technology career. But then also maybe even the larger question there is how do you go from, you know, high school English teacher to network engineer? Where, where, where does that jump come from and, and how do you make that jump?

[00:01:58] Chris: And that's really, really interesting. 

[00:01:59] Phil: Yeah. Yeah. I think I'm still making that jump 15 years later. It's a, it's a process. So what happened to me was in my early twenties, you know, junior, senior in college, I found myself doing really well in my English lit classes, in my history classes, anything that required, uh, literature, analysis, writing, which history does as well, cuz you're just reading primary and secondary documents and writing about it.

[00:02:23] Phil: That's where I got all the, um, the highest grades, all the A's. So I sort of gravitated toward that direction. Discovered a couple of poets that I loved and became really into that and didn't know what to do with that. When I graduated, all my friends were either like, working at the gap or going to law school or things like that.

[00:02:40] Phil: So I ended up going to, uh, took a, just a short time off one semester and, and, uh, went to graduate school for teaching. and, uh, was able to get a, a teaching job right away, even without a master's degree in New York where I live. New York State. You do need a master's degree to teach specifically in the public schools, but in, in most private schools as well.

[00:02:59] Phil: And I did get a job as a high school English teacher in a, uh, private school in my area. I live in, uh, outside of Albany, New York, by the way, upstate about two hours north of New York City. And, uh, I have to say no, I, I made next to nothing. The money was certainly not the driver, but my goodness, it was such an awesome job.

[00:03:18] Phil: I did that for three years, teaching ninth and 10th grade English, little bit of, uh, 12th grade. I actually got to teach, uh, middle school or junior high American history, which was so fun. Very rewarding. I moved up to a public school for a couple years now during all of that time, you know, I, I had this nagging feeling that I fell into teaching as my career.

[00:03:39] Phil: I didn't know what to do when I graduated college, so I literally just went to graduate school for teaching and uh, and I did get a master's degree in it, and I was always kind of half-hearted about it. At the same time though, it was incredibly rewarding. So those two things that may seem contradictory, both were true and existed within me at the same time.

[00:03:58] Phil: I both felt unfulfilled and fulfilled at the same time in my mid twenties when you're still trying to figure out who in the world you are. So I did that for five years at, started to teach at a local community college as well. Teaching business writing and things like that was just really, I felt stuck.

[00:04:16] Phil: You know what I mean? Chris? I felt stuck. Where am I going with this? I see the salary schedule, you know, and I know I'm gonna get a 1.2% raise next year. Just got married. How in the world am I gonna support my family in five years? There's no way it's gonna happen. And also I've taught Julius Caesar now and Hamlet for five years in a row.

[00:04:33] Phil: Like, is this really, oh, I know I can change my unit plans and lesson plans and approach things. I, I get it. And many teachers do that and are, have fulfilling long-term careers. That's great. But for me personally, Kind of a type A on steroids, not literal steroids, but a type A on metaphorical steroids really needed something aggressive to latch onto like a ne like a project that never ended.

[00:04:56] Phil: So what happened? I'm, I'm turning a short story into a long story, Chris. Sorry. But what happened was I was complaining to my father-in-law, And he, he works in IT for New York State. He's the storage unit administrator at the time. Now he has a different job and he said, Phil, you know, you should think about getting into IT.

[00:05:12] Phil: Uh, it's a burgeoning field, you know, it's, uh, get, get a couple certifications. You might like it. So what I did was, I mentioned it to the, uh, the head of school, uh, where I worked and said that, you know, Hey, is there anything I could do in the summertime? I know we're, we're gonna redo the, the computer lab.

[00:05:27] Phil: So that's what I did for half a summer. . I know this sounds kinda lame, right? Between you and me, we were engineers for years. What I did was I just like put computers on desks, set up network printers and things like that, and was like, wow, things are working. And then when things didn't work, I'm like, oh, this is a puzzle I have to figure out.

[00:05:45] Phil: And that was very, very cool. The puzzle of of being an engineer and network engineer working in tech was very, very alluring. And at the same time, you know, having that conversation with my father, I, I thought this is a great idea. So I got a job for. Tech or a, yeah, a tech technology education company as a salesperson selling their programs.

[00:06:05] Phil: Hated that. I'm not a salesperson, but I got to get all the classes for free and all the textbooks for, for free. So I got, you know, the, the CompTIA stuff, A plus net plus, started the CCNA and then got my first help desk job. And that's, that was my foray into, into, into networking. And, you know, that first help desk job, uh, was for a tiny little MSP.

[00:06:27] Phil: I was the fourth employee when they are now like 30 or 40. So I got to touch everything. You know, we were fixing changing passwords, uh, fixing printer. But because I was working on the CCNA and then, and then passed it, uh, I got to do all the networking projects and, and then that grew into my networking career where little by little I advanced and earned more certifications and got to do, uh, more higher profile and complex projects.

[00:06:52] Phil: I went on to work for a larger MSP and then for a VAR, and then another VAR eventually going into solutions architecture, moving a little bit away from the field, and then now into, uh, technical evangelism or technical marketing. So the transition took a, a couple of years, a few years, but I was very motivated.

[00:07:10] Phil: You know, I'm, I'm a father of three at the time I was a father of one, and, uh, my wife is a stay-at-home mom, which means there there was no other income. I did have a side business that was doing very poorly. Nevertheless, that was a major motivation for me to get up obscenely early and study and then go to work and be on time, you know?

[00:07:30] Phil: And, uh, and then study at lunch, and then study in the afternoon to pass those. I, I felt like, all right, I'm 29 years old, 28 years old. I got a lot of catching up to do, so I was very, very motivated. I guess at that time you could say that I had totally bought into that whole HU hustle culture kind of thing, where it's like you work your butt off and.

[00:07:49] Phil: You know, eliminate all the distractions and you just keep your head down and work hard and work hard like a dog, and that's how you succeed. Uh, I don't buy into that anymore, but at the time I did. Which is, I think, to say that I, it's not that I reject that philosophy on the whole, but I think that there are seasons in life when it's more appropriate or less appropriate.

[00:08:08] Phil: And at that time it was appropriate because I was supporting a family and, you know, my, my newborn little girl needed food and clothing. 

[00:08:17] Chris: Yeah, that resonates with me a lot. Well, I wasn't a, uh, an English teacher, uh, anywhere, but I did start my tech career at a time when I was growing a, a very young family.

[00:08:29] Chris: And that definitely did the same thing for me, which was provide a lot of motivation that I just, I just have to figure this out and get better at it. Um, luckily I was interested in it, right? But, uh, but definitely putting more time in for studying and, and diving into some of the volunteer stuff around it that kinda helped build my career over the years.

[00:08:45] Chris: I definitely worked to my butt off for, for about 10 years early on. Just, just trying to figure out how to pay for diapers and food and gas, uh, at the same time. And, and a lot of those efforts have definitely paid off since then. And, and also I think, you know, that first job at an MSP you had probably was, was super helpful.

[00:09:01] Chris: As you mentioned, you get exposure to a lot of different things at an MSP a lot of times. Or if you, if you start with a enterprise as your first job. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a lot of times you, you learn how that enterprise does things in one narrow way, whereas at an MSP a lot of times you get a little bit more exposure to a broader range of, of problems and solutions.

[00:09:23] Chris: And it sounds like, you know, going from an MSP to a bigger msp, to a var, I assume that was kind of how your skillset grew. Is, is by seeing different solutions of problems, or, or is that off? 

[00:09:32] Phil: I wouldn't say my skillset grew, I would say that it got deeper in one area because I did end up specializing in networking, which I wouldn't have been able to do in a small MSP.

[00:09:40] Phil: So you're, you're right in that sense. I, I also taught at a community college. Uh, I taught Windows server and Cisco networking after I, you know, had 10 years under my belt as an engineer and a ton of certifications and some and all. So I was able to get a, um, an adjunct teaching position. I also loved that, by the way.

[00:09:58] Phil: I don't regret having gone to grad school, spent that money and spent all that time studying and then being a teacher. Uh, but I also do regret that. So I know that some folks say, forgive me for being a little bit of a contrarian. Okay. But some folks say, I have no regrets. It's where I am today. I have so many regrets, Chris, I, as long as my arm things that I look back, I'm like, why did I say that? Why did I do that? 

[00:10:19] Phil: But at the same time, They are the things that make me today. So, you know, I, I got to go teach networking and Windows server at a community college here locally. To buy and large career changers that were often older than me, that were working in retail, making like $9 an hour that I was able to work with and, and help and, and among, you know, the group of other teachers that, and they transformed their lives.

[00:10:44] Phil: You know, I remember one student, a man, uh, named Eric, who was working in retail at a, at a wine shop, wine and liquor. I don't know, 15 bucks an hour, whatever it was. And you know, he, he gets his first gig and a couple years later he's making 75 grand. And I'm just like, and he, and he sends me a note over LinkedIn like this.

[00:11:00] Phil: It changed my life. So I, I don't regret, uh, having been a teacher, but sometimes I do because I do, I wish I just got a computer science degree started right away and, and dove right into it. But here I am. Right? And, and so I love those components of being able to take complex concepts and technology and then be able to explain them to folks in a way that's, you know, able to be understood by folks at various levels as well.

[00:11:27] Phil: But to answer your question specifically about the MSP, when I was teaching Windows server and, uh, VMware classes and all that stuff at, uh, at the community college. My students would ask me, Hey Phil, what was the, what is the most lucrative thing that I can do? I'm getting into it. What's the most lucrative thing I can do?

[00:11:44] Phil: And I would always say sales. I'm like, just be a really good salesperson, you know, and you're gonna make crazy money. And uh, after we got a little bit of a giggle, I said, get a help desk job first. Get a help desk job first. Don't get a job. You know, just adjusting prefixes on routers and then nothing else cuz those exist.

[00:12:01] Phil: I've done that for. Get a job on a help desk and you will touch everything and then you'll figure out what specifically you wanna do, whether that's getting deep into, uh, you know, the more the developer side or in the infrastructure side. You know, when I, when I was on the help desk, we were, I was just doing PtoVs all day.

[00:12:17] Phil: And then, uh, setting up, uh, site to site VPNs and then changing passwords and then figuring out why a printer wasn't working, and, uh, fixing DNS and then setting up dns. And so that variety of experience was just so valuable not to, you know, pad my resume. Although, yes, that was absolutely part of it. But to help me get a, a broader understanding of how all of this stuff really works together in technology.

[00:12:40] Phil: And I feel like that gives me, or at least at the time, gave me a little bit of an edge over folks that were specialized only without that understanding of No, no, no. Hold on a second. You're, you're forgetting that if we adjust, if we wiggle this wire over here, all these other things are gonna break over here.

[00:12:55] Phil: So I think, uh, I think starting off with a help desk job is great. Obviously. That's just my, my limited experience. But it, for me, it works. 

[00:13:03] Chris: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And again, I do think that that broad exposure early on is super important, um, in any field really, but definitely in technology. And that's obviously one of the driving forces behind this podcast is to expose some of these. Roles and jobs and career paths you can have inside technology that not everyone knows about. Because I think there are lots of areas and people usually find out about tech. 

[00:13:24] Chris: You know, if, if your cybersecurity engineer cousin tells you about tech, you're gonna get one perspective of what working in tech looks like versus a software developer's gonna tell you a totally different story and give you a totally different picture. Um, or a network engineer obviously is different as well. So I I, I agree with that, that just even understanding what is even possible to focus on is, is important. 

[00:13:43] Chris: I wonder, this is something, and maybe it's a little off topic from careers, but maybe not something I've been thinking about a, about a lot lately with regards to network automation and AIOps and, and some of the new tooling and stuff.

[00:13:55] Chris: It, it feels like things like network architecture, network design, even, you know, putting together configurations. A lot of this work is for the time being un-automateable. I mean, you can automate pieces of it, but like there's, there's some deep thinking that needs to go into actually designing and constructing and building a network or, or any, IT system.

[00:14:13] Chris: And so because of that, where a lot of AI seems to be getting applied is more towards that help desk level, right? So in security we have SIEM and SOAR in, in network operations, there's more observability tools, there's more automated remediation tools. Is is there any concern from your perspective that we lose that kind of help desk entry point into tech?

[00:14:33] Chris: If we over automate our, our systems and, and, and networks and IT infrastructure in general, or, or am I being paranoid? 

[00:14:41] Phil: You're totally being paranoid, totally being para. No, I'm kidding. I, I don't, no, I don't think it's a bad thing in the sense that, uh, we are over automating or anything like that, and it's because the nature of technology today, You know, the end of 2022, going into 2023 necessitates that, uh, we've reached a level of complexity with overlays and underlays and parts of our network that we own, and now relying for mission critical services networks that we don't own and have very little visibility into, very little control over.

[00:15:08] Phil: And so, you know, and then you start adding, uh, microservices architectures and if you're using some kind of a Kubernetes infrastructure in order to, to deliver your applications. There's such a variety. And, and that's not to say that, and, and, and of course we also have all the legacy technology that has not gone away.

[00:15:23] Phil: So we're still running all our closet switches and unmanaged and managed switches and, and desktop computers and iot devices everywhere. They're all still there too. So the complexity that we see today necessitates that we augment the engineer, and this is the technology that we're using to get there.

[00:15:37] Phil: It's not replacing the engineer. So I, I, I do reject that argument that we're replacing engineer. It's an augmentation, it's adding to that capability so we can find the resolution more quickly, more efficiently, so we can identify correlation, you know, which I know is a big deal with, uh, security and, uh, adding network observability.

[00:15:55] Phil: But when I say correlation, I mean strong correlation, causal relationships, that sort of thing. I love talking about that, by the way. That's a really cool conversation. How does, how does all that work in reality machine learning and artificial intelligence? Is it just hype? That sort of thing. But in any case, that's, that's where we are today.

[00:16:10] Phil: It requires that we have these kind of tools and that's, I feel like where we are right now. I do not see the automated remediation, the self-healing network. We, you know, Cisco used to use that term. That's still kind of, uh, miles away in my opinion. We're, we're getting there and we can do some of it, but the, the trust relationship between our system and the engineer is not quite there.

[00:16:32] Phil: Where I can just hit the button to auto remediate, you know, everything or my goodness, to have the system choose to auto, auto remediate. You know, that's, I think that's still a little bit scary probably, especially for security folks. Will we get there? Maybe. I don't know. But, uh, right now where I see AI ops, uh, machine learning, that entire realm of technology is augmenting an engineer to find resolutions to problems faster, more efficiently, and to identify things that we may not have have seen that we could do.

[00:17:02] Phil: So, you know, Chris, if you and I had a company with, uh, you know, thousands and thousands of employees and we had billions of dollars and we were able to hire a team of data scientists, sit, sit there and pour over logs we wouldn't need AIOps and, and machine learning, we would have that in human form. But to do it quickly and and efficiently with limited resources and limited people.

[00:17:20] Phil: You have computers, do it. And uh, and so, so we can use that technology then to do predictive analysis and to discover seasonality and to, uh, and that's where the whole thing about like, you know, discover problems before they become a problem. You know what I mean? Discover an issue before it becomes a problem, which I always kind of scoff at, is like marchitecture.

[00:17:38] Phil: But there is an element of truth there. So when you. Various ML algorithms to, uh, identify seasonality and use clustering to identify how are, how are these seemingly unrelated, unstructured data related to each other, right? That's what supervising unsupervised learning are all about. There's a lot of value there into the insight that we get.

[00:17:58] Phil: So, yeah, automated remediation, I don't really talk about that very much, you know, that's a service overlay that I think we'll get to, but, uh, augmenting an engineer trying to keep the lights on, I think that's where we are with. 

[00:18:09] Chris: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And speaking of that, I think that is part of what you do, or at least part of what the, you know, the company you work for a Kentik does at, at your day job is, is provide some of that visibility and insight augmenting engineers.

[00:18:21] Chris: And I know, you know, earlier on you talked about the fact that one of the things you really enjoy doing is understanding some deep technology and then being able to explain it. To various audiences. I'm guessing that that's at the heart of what technical evangelism looks like, but I don't know. Right. So what is a technical evangelist?

[00:18:38] Chris: What does that job actually entail? What do you do day to day? You know, if, if somebody wanted that job or, or you know, maybe define that job to see if somebody even wants it, and then if they did, maybe some paths to get there. 

[00:18:48] Phil: Yeah. Lately I would say being able to make really clever. Network engineering memes is my top priority.

[00:18:55] Chris: I've noticed. Yeah.

[00:18:56] Phil: Apparently that's the number one method for reaching an audience. I'm learning. No, I'm joking. O obviously having fun with it is part of it. And, and so the, you know, the word evangelism means to bring the good news to the world. And so that's what I do is bring the news about what Kenetic is all about to the world.

[00:19:11] Phil: The world to me are fellow engineers and engineering leadership. You know, folks that are, uh, making decisions about what kind of product for their, you know, visibility needs they're gonna buy. And so that's my audience. That's the world that I speak to on an engineer to engineer basis. That's the whole technical evangelism.

[00:19:28] Phil: Very similar to technical marketing in a lot of ways. In a large company, they might be different In a small company, they're pretty much the same in overlap. But just to give you an example, as a technical evangelist, I don't write white papers. I have written white papers, but I don't do that in my job. We, uh, in a technical marketing, in a classic, uh, TME role, you might do that.

[00:19:47] Phil: I am more trying to stay public facing. So we have a podcast called Telemetry Now, where we talk about telemetry. We talk about network visibility, but we talk about networking and all sorts of things, not a networking or rather not a marketing podcast, uh, by any means. It's just nerds. I found that video, uh, short video is very, very, uh, useful in just, you know, expository videos where I'm just explaining a technology in a minute and a half that's very easily consumed.

[00:20:12] Phil: That's a big part of my job writing blog posts that are short and engaging and not just random thought leader stuff, though that does, uh, come into play from time to time. But specifically about, Hey, how does this specific thing that Kentik just rolled out solve this problem? Being very explicit in that and, and doing it from an engineering background.

[00:20:29] Phil: That's the key. Not doing it from a marketing person's background, so having the engineer to engineer conversation. Not ever blowing smoke in anyone's face. And what, what is the, um, what's the show me state? Is that Arkansas? No, that's Missouri. Right? I think, 

[00:20:43] Chris: I think it's Missouri. 

[00:20:45] Phil: Missouri. So that's, that's how I look at this role.

[00:20:46] Phil: You know, I, I, I remember being there listening to vendors say, Hey, buy this product. And I'm like, it does this, you know, X, Y, and Z and, and my response is, oh yeah, show me. Prove it to me. So that's how I, that's what I feel like my mission is as a previous engineer. Going out to the world and saying, Hey, this is what we do.

[00:21:03] Phil: Let me prove it to you. Like actually prove it. Let me do a quick demo for you and explain what we're really solving. Not talking about features, not talking about, uh, architecture and buzzwords and that sort of thing. So that's what, um, I see technical evangelism as, again, very public facing. So a little bit different than technical marketing.

[00:21:20] Phil: It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun. One thing that I do, uh, not like about my role is that I'm not as deep into the technology day-to-day as I used to be. Even when I was a solutions architect, which was my favorite job I ever had for a few years, I was very, I, I was very much still an engineer and also public facing, doing small talks and meeting with customers and doing design.

[00:21:41] Phil: I don't do that part. So I, I do miss that and I know that there's opportunities, you know, to, to build labs. We have a lab internally in our company, my previous company did as well. So there are, you know, outlets. But in any case that aside, I really love it because I get to be a nerd and, and to embrace the engineer culture and still be there, but also be creative, sometimes fun, you know, with like memes and, and humorous videos just to connect with the audience.

[00:22:07] Phil: But also, you know, hey, I'm seeing like a lack of awareness about a particular technology. Let me, you know, educate people on it. An example might be, um, just the term network observability. Still by and large, not well understood in the industry. That's all I talk about and think about. So for me to do a video on that or, or, you know, a podcast on that is, that's, that's what I would do is kind of just bring that out to the world.

[00:22:31] Phil: Hey, here's the news about what, what we do and how we define that, uh, or a specific technology, uh, like EBPF, the enhanced Berkeley packet filter. A lot of people don't know what that is. It's a big part of what we do. And, and that enables observability in general, whether it's network or other. There's some stuff out there.

[00:22:47] Phil: If you wanna watch like a, you know, an hour lecture from a NANOG a few years ago, that's fine. But if you want something that's quick, easily consumable, that's what I do. And so that's a lot of fun. I get to play with cameras and microphones and meet people cause I'm doing podcasts and writing blog posts.

[00:23:05] Phil: And being creative and you know that a part of that is that didactic communication, the teaching kind of element coming out, which I, I really enjoy still as well. So as much as, uh, you know, it's been 15 years since I've been a teacher, I, I do miss it sometimes. I'll probably do it again when I retire.

[00:23:20] Chris: Awesome. 

[00:23:21] Chris: Yeah. And you'll be able to do it now and kind of weave it in a little bit so that, that's great. You mentioned that your favorite job was as a solution architect or solution engineer previously. Why is that? What, what was it about? And I'm guessing it's like, you know, kind of a standard pre-sales engineering role, right?

[00:23:35] Chris: Where you're kind of on the front lines with the sales folks trying to make sure that your company's offerings can fit into solving the customer's problems. 

[00:23:44] Phil: Yeah, I worked for, uh, like, I, like I mentioned, I worked for several different VARs and, uh, for one, I, it was a National var, uh, pretty large company, several thousand people.

[00:23:54] Phil: And I was a network engineer for a little while. And, uh, there was an opening for Solutions Architect. So, uh, I just applied for it and I was a natural fit, so I got it. Didn't know exactly what I was getting into. The primary impetus there, I'll be honest with you, Chris, was to get away from being in a data center at two in the morning.

[00:24:10] Phil: I didn't want that grind anymore. And so it wasn't necessarily, not necessarily that I had this desire to go design and be with customers, and it was just, I didn't wanna be in a data center at two in the morning doing a cutover and pings weren't going through and I'm crying and. And I, and I excelled at that and I found that I enjoyed it because I had to be very close to the technology.

[00:24:30] Phil: It was a requirement of my job. So we had extensive labs. I had an extensive home lab. I was always building stuff and then talking with customers about the very latest technology and specific solutions that would solve, you know, real problems that they were presenting. To me, that was so cool because I wasn't just going in looking at a statement of work that I was handed and then, you know, configuring whatever components on, on the routers and switches and wireless stuff.

[00:24:53] Phil: I was talking to the customer and figuring out, you know, if we, if we put a GRE tunnel over here and then if we run, you know, I don't know, I'm just making stuff up, but, and we do this over here that will solve this problem and, you know, customers appreciated that. That was really fun. I got a promotion to a senior level role and then, uh, a promotion to what we called, uh, our national team.

[00:25:13] Phil: So out of a company of thousands of people, there were solutions architects all over the country. But there was this team of like 10 or 11 that were assigned to no territory, and we got the biggest accounts in the coolest projects. So I got to do like giant SD-WAN, uh, design. We didn't sell it, but we got to do stuff like that.

[00:25:30] Phil: Huge healthcare things, all the latest stuff. So I was talking to folks at the time, Viptela had just been purchased by Cisco, so I was talking about Cisco SD wan, uh, I was talking about SD access, those kind of overlays. We were talking about wifi six being, you know, brand new and, and all that kind of stuff.

[00:25:47] Phil: and it was so fun to be that close to the latest and greatest technology. And then I had to, I had no choice but to be an expert in it, which was actually a joy and a privilege. So it worked out great. And then being able to go and literally present on that to large groups, uh, and, and then specifically, Small groups of customers that I was just selling to was really cool.

[00:26:07] Phil: And it's also lucrative, you know, I happened to be tied to, uh, a very good, uh, salesperson who had a lot of big accounts and uh, and so he brought in a lot of business and I was tied to that, and so I got to sell a lot of big projects. So it was also very lucrative in that sense. Had a great boss, great culture.

[00:26:23] Phil: Just, just awesome. My favorite job, uh, by far for, for those specific reasons, I've had opportunities to go back to that. Cause I've been in tech evangelism for, for two and a half years. Both at Riverbed and now at KinTek. Kentik. And I don't think I would go back like, this is where I am now. This is who I am now, you know, you know, let me, let me correct.

[00:26:43] Phil: This is not who I am. Now, I do make a distinction about who I am at my core, and then what do I do What I do for work every day. You know, if the tech industry collapse and I have to sweep floors tomorrow, I'll sweep floors and, and my wife and kids will be fed. So at my core, I'm not a network engineer, which I think might come to surprise to some of your listeners.

[00:26:59] Phil: That's a very common trope in our industry, and I reject that. But, but it is a big part of who I am. Uh, it's a, it's a part of my identity. And right now I really just love what I do. You know, who knows, who knows what'll happen in three years, you know? But that the solutions architecture seems to me to be the best of both worlds.

[00:27:17] Phil: If you like being in front of people, if you like staying very close to the technology, and you don't particularly care for being in a data center at two AM. 

[00:27:25] Chris: Yeah, no on calls, right? 

[00:27:26] Phil: Uh, no on-call. 

[00:27:27] Chris: I, I love, I love that and it makes a lot of sense. It resonates with me quite a bit, but even more than, than that solution architecture role, which is really fun for a lot, for all the reasons you mentioned, at least I found it to be that way as well.

[00:27:38] Chris: That idea of not tying your identity to your role, it is one that I think is very, very, very powerful. It's something I personally strive to do. And not just roles, but, but everything, right? I mean, there, there's a lot of times where you might find yourself saying, oh, I'm a runner, or I am, uh, a vegan, or I am, uh, what, whatever it might be.

[00:28:00] Chris: And I, I think we accidentally tie ourselves into these things in, in really interesting ways. I think that idea of identity is, is really powerful. and I've seen it play out. One of the reasons I study it is because I'm a student of people, I'm still learning how to, how to interact with people and, and, and do well with people.

[00:28:15] Chris: And, and one of the things I've noticed is if you say something, uh, or do something that infringes on someone's identity. They can get really, really upset, like almost to the point of violence, right? If you, if you insult something that they see as part of their identity, they see themselves as insulted, even if that's not at all what you meant.

[00:28:35] Chris: And I think that happens in reverse where we tie ourselves up in these identities and then go out into the world to defend that identity versus actually paying attention to the fact that we are this multifaceted being. And it sounds like you're kind of, you know, in into that, right? With with, with, you know, I, you know, I work as a network engineer.

[00:28:52] Chris: I am Phil and I, I don't know, maybe I'm taking that too far from, from your perspective. 

[00:28:57] Phil: No, no, not at all. I do wanna, I do wanna, uh, reiterate that being an engineer or being a tech evangelist at this point, it is a big part of who I am. I mean, I do it for eight hours, nine hours a day, every day. So it is a large component of my overall makeup, and I think that's fair.

[00:29:11] Phil: It just doesn't, it, it's never, it doesn't, and it will never occupy the very core of who I am and, uh, for a lot of people, it does not engineering necessarily, but anything, uh, you know, you, you, I, you identify. But, but Chris, isn't that what we've always done? Isn't that what I mean? I don't know about you, but when I was, uh, 12 years old and first learned about, uh, you know, Nirvana and, and Sound Garden, it was like I was in, uh, eighth or ninth grade, boom.

[00:29:35] Phil: That was my identity. Who am I? Well, I'll latch onto that. And that was the thing. And then, uh, then I then, I don't know, I got in with a different group and I wa I was gonna be a prep, so I was like a preppy kid for a while. That was my identity and everything sort of re revolved. My music changed. I listened to Dave Matthews band for a short time.

[00:29:51] Phil: I'm sorry. Uh, you might lose half the audience, my, my apologies. But I did, uh, that was also partly for a girl, but, and then, and then I got into being a metalhead, then I got it. It's weird how in your teens, like your identity is always tied to music. When I, uh, when I was in grad school and I was getting into teaching, you know, I started to write a lot more poetry and send it to, to, to various, uh, journals of poetry to be published.

[00:30:14] Phil: Started. I, that was gonna be my, my thing. That's who I am. Uh, by the way, it was all rejected. It is an interesting feeling when you get in the, in that time it wasn't email, it was in the mail. I get, you know, these pamphlets back of all my poetry. And on the upper right I would see in pencil, no, no. But, uh, that was a quick change of identity when that didn't pan out.

[00:30:33] Phil: And it, we've been doing that our whole lives. I think it's part of human nature. Who, who are we and what is our purpose? What are we here for? Why am I alive? You know, is, is my existence really? Just getting a paycheck, figuring out what's on Amazon tonight to watch that putz around. Oh, I felt good cuz I gave that homeless person five bucks.

[00:30:51] Phil: That must be my purpose. But then that wears off and the buzz goes away, so you get back. So, so we're seeking for, for meaning. And so that's why I think this entire conversation get very metaphysical very quickly and, and rightly so. What is the meaning of all of this? And for me, you know, identity is, is made up of a lot of components.

[00:31:11] Phil: Uh, I'm a father, I'm a husband. Uh, I'm a, uh, I'm an employee of Kentic and that's a very, very. It's not a calling, but it's a very important thing cuz that's how I provide. And so, you know, to identify what's at your very core and to say this is who I am. . I think that's, that's tough. Uh, I don't know if that's possible.

[00:31:31] Phil: And then it changes, doesn't it? You know, it's, it's, it's malleable. Is it truly who you are? Maybe it is. Maybe that's the nature of our core, that it is malleable. Uh, I'm not sure. Now, for me personally, you know, I, I'm a pretty religious person, so, you know, my core is that. And so from that flows an entire framework.

[00:31:51] Phil: An entire worldview. And then things are put into that, uh, accordingly. So work being one of them. So for example, uh, in my, in my religious beliefs, your employer is extremely important and you're to work for your employer, uh, as if you're working for God himself. That's actually like what we're taught, to the extent that you're not doing something illegal,

[00:32:15] Phil: And, and to the extent that you're not providing for your own family. So if I'm like, I'm gonna stay in this job cause I feel called to do it, but I'm literally having my kids not have shoes, then I'm, I'm wrong. Go find something better. Hence me switching careers. So, you know, for me, that ends up being my core identity, but I know it's different for, for all people.

[00:32:32] Phil: And, and that's a, that's a journey, isn't it? A lifelong journey. Some people are blessed to have that answer. Very early on in life. I, I did not. So yeah. 

[00:32:41] Chris: Well, and to your point, I think it does change over time. I think it sh or maybe, maybe I, I think I believe that it should change over time. Like I, you know, without going too, too metaphysical or too out there in, in the wild.

[00:32:52] Chris: I think that there's a reason that humans experience time linearly. And we, we, we passed through time when arguably it's just another dimension and you could potentially see all of it at once. I think maybe the reason we don't is so that we can evolve as individuals and as a species. However, before we dive down that rabbit hole, I think we are actually about all out of time for today.

[00:33:11] Chris: This has been great, Phil. Thank you for sharing your story with the Imposter Syndrome Network. We appreciate you. Thank you to all the imposters tuning in. Thanks for spending your time and your attention with us every week. You can find us on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn if you're into that kind of thing.

[00:33:25] Chris: But before we leave, Phil, I am curious. Through, you know, your, your 15 year career coming to a, a pretty high pinnacle. I think technical evangelist is somewhere where, you know, if I was working on a help desk today, that would seem almost, if not completely out of reach, uh, as a pinnacle of, of a career. Do you ever feel like you're not smart enough?

[00:33:42] Chris: Do you ever have imposter syndrome? Do you feel like you're, you're not enough? Or, or, or in the wrong place? Or gonna be found out? 

[00:33:49] Phil: Yeah. So just now when you said that, which I take as a compli. Pinnacle and out of, out of reach. My goodness. Uh, thank you for saying that. I appreciate it. Um, yeah. Yeah. I, I, I remember, uh, the very first time that I felt imposter syndrome, I, I think more poignantly than any other time prior to that time.

[00:34:09] Phil: I, I have, but, but there was one time in particular when, um, uh, Ethan Banks reached out to me to say, Hey, would you like to attend a networking field day? Now, at that time I had been listening to Packet Pushers and I had been familiar with Tech Field Day in general. I didn't realize that they weren't, I thought they was just all like the same company,

[00:34:29] Phil: So when Ethan reached out, I'm like, oh, cool, he's invited me to his thing and I got onto, uh, I, whatever we were using, zoom wasn't around at the time. And, uh, . I remember telling him like, why, why did you, why did you reach out to me? You know, like, what, what's the deal? And you know, he talked about how, Hey man, we all feel that way.

[00:34:48] Phil: I read your blog and blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, I'm just some guy like configuring routers. Uh, you don't even know, like some of the stupid stuff that I've done, you know? And. I, I don't you, you probably shouldn't be talking to me. So we had, we had that conversation pretty much with that language and uh, and I think even brought up the concept of imposter syndrome, maybe not using those words.

[00:35:09] Phil: So that's the first time I, I really ever felt it in a very poignant, sharp manner. And then ever since then, I have many times when, uh, I'm in a conference room and I'm presenting on something and I look around at some of these other, other engineers and I'm just, No way. Like, and, and you know what happens is there's a motivation to study more and to get better, to make sure that I provide some sort of value.

[00:35:33] Phil: Because like you said, one day I'm gonna get found out that I've been googling my way through my entire career, and, uh, I better get on the stick and study something, you know, be good at something. But that being said, I sometimes I feel like I have meta imposter syndrome because the concept of imposter syndrome, the fact that it exists suggests that some people must have it for it to exist.

[00:35:54] Phil: So therefore somebody out there must have it. Why not me? So it's not, it's not only that like, oh, I don't have imposter syndrome, or I have imposter syndrome, but we deal with it because we're mature adults. No, it might actually be that I'm not actually good enough. Because that is tech a technical, logical, uh, possibility.

[00:36:10] Phil: You see what I mean? I, like I said, it's a rabbit hole of imposter syndrome wrapped in imposter syndrome. 

[00:36:16] Chris: Well, I mean, half of us have to be less than average, right? 

[00:36:20] Phil: Yeah. It's, I mean, there is a technical probability, like a logical probability rather. And so, and so Wal, why can't that actually be my situation?

[00:36:29] Phil: It, it can actually be that I stink. It really could be, but then, you know, you look at your, your work product. You know, your feedback, which is why I do value feedback and probably a lot of us in our industry do. And, and where what I do today is very public facing. I'm not configuring routers. Um, so it's a different type of imposter syndrome.

[00:36:46] Phil: And you know, why, why would folks wanna listen to my podcast when I put a video out there? I'm like, oh my goodness. I, I pour over it so much and, and edit it over and over and over. Cause I'm just so concerned that, man, they're gonna see that I'm some, you know, idiot. Some hack, you know? So, uh, the amount of research and the amount of anxiety that goes into it, uh, is very high.

[00:37:07] Phil: Then that all stems from that, I guess, that imposter syndrome. 

[00:37:11] Chris: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. 

[00:37:12] Chris: And I think that's a pretty positive way to deal with it, right? To use it as motivation. I don't know, I, I, you know, I think you have a choice of, of deciding if the glass is half full or half empty and, and you can sit there and, and worry about not being good enough.

[00:37:23] Chris: Or you can say, I'm doing the best I can and I'll continue to learn and grow and, and be better. And, and hopefully that, you know, maybe a better way to deal with it than just getting really, really scared. 

[00:37:33] Chris: Do you have any other projects, uh, that you'd like the imposter syndrome network to know about? Um, things you can point us towards or, or, you know, and if, where can folks find you if they wanna reach out and, and chat more?

[00:37:43] Phil: Sure, well, you can, uh, read my blog network I've been inconsistent with writing, uh, the past year or so. Um, but I'm getting back into it thankfully. Uh, Twitter is Network underscore Phil, and I'm pretty active there. Uh, and you can search my name Philip GSI on LinkedIn. Uh, apparently that's where I get the most engagement these days.

[00:38:01] Phil: So I'm very active on LinkedIn and if you are interested in just getting to know me a little bit more personally, I did just start an Instagram page. You can just look it up, look up my name, because I do keep my social media pretty strictly to, uh, technology, even in a fun way. But, uh, very little of my, my personal life.

[00:38:17] Phil: But, uh, on Instagram I do share some pictures and things about what I do in my personal life, uh, admitting to camping recently, for example, and, um, going up to the Adirondacks in. Love it. I bought a canoe and everything and uh, and things like that. So 

[00:38:31] Chris: Fabulous. Well, we'll be back next week.