Episode 42! In which we are joined by Peter Jones, a networking expert, a distinguished engineer at Cisco Systems, and the chairman of the Ethernet Alliance.
Peter shares with us his experiences in standards development organizations, making technology easier to use, and overcoming the fear of public speaking. He’ll also tell us about his 30+ years of software and system architecture experience and his work on products such as the Cisco Catalyst 9000 family.
Join us as we delve into Peter's journey in the world of networking and his insights on how to navigate it successfully.
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This transcript was made by "AI" - mistakes and all:
[00:00:00] Chris: Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't. Welcome imposters. My name is Chris Grundman and I'm here with my extremely amazing co-host who is not a mouse, Zoe Rose, not a mouse. It is episode 42, and this is the Peter Jones episode, and it is gonna be great.
[00:00:33] Chris: Peter has reached that rarefied position in the world of technology that we call the distinguished engineer. He's a distinguished engineer at Cisco. He's also a chair of the Ethernet Alliance and works in the IEEE 802.3 AKA ethernet working group.
[00:00:51] Chris: Hey, Peter, would you mind introducing yourself a bit further to the Imposter syndrome network?
[00:00:56] Peter: Sure Chris. Thank you. Now we'll make the point that 42, while being the answer, the hard part is figuring out the question, which is where you needed the mice to start Earth as the computing planet. I'm so confused, and if you remember, one of the mice was actually named Benji. Benji. Alright, so having finished nerding out on Douglas Adams, so I, as you said, I'm Peter Jones.
[00:01:15] Peter: I work for Cisco. I've been with Cisco for 17 years, which is by far my longest job. So I'm still finding fun things to do. So from the accent, you can tell I'm not really an American local. I've been in the States for 22 years. I originally come from the west coast of Australia. For those who dunno, the geography, Australia is the size of the US with 25 million people.
[00:01:35] Peter: Um, in the western third of the country, two and half million people, 1 million, 2 million in one city. So there are more people in Shanghai than are in Australia. So we're sort of few and far between. I went to university planning to do a physics degree cuz my dad did physics and I thought physics was awesome cuz.
[00:01:50] Peter: It just made sense. You only need to know two or three things, and the rest you could work out. And I'm actually one of the people who really like quantum mechanics. I'm one of those people. However, when I got to university and in Australia, bachelor's of Science for three years, and so there's none of this general education stuff.
[00:02:05] Peter: You know, my fir, my first year was physics, maths, computer science and chemistry. Then physics, math, computer science, and then physics, computer science. But I figured out the people were gonna get the good jobs were the ones who, ones who were getting like 80, you know, 90%. The rest of us were gonna teach.
[00:02:23] Peter: So this is a while ago, so I was actually in university in 81, which is before most a lot of people were born. I looked around and said, this computer stuff looks interesting. Maybe I can make a business outta of that.
[00:02:33] Chris: Excellent. Well, we're gonna dive into the rest of that story through the rest of this podcast.
[00:02:38] Chris: But I wanna start, well, I mentioned ethernet a lot in my introduction and also the Ethernet Alliance, the IEEE, uh, and I know you've also worked with the NBASE-T Alliance. So maybe without getting too, too technical, what I'd like to understand is, is basically two things. First, what is it like to work within and across these standards bodies?
[00:03:00] Chris: And second, how do you even get started doing something like that? Maybe it's worth even backing up a little bit and describing what a standards body is, and then dive into your work with them and, and how you got there and, and that kinda thing.
[00:03:12] Peter: Sure. So there's, there's sort of two sides. There's what's called SDOs.
[00:03:16] Peter: Standards development organizations. That includes things like IEEE, the ITU, TIA, also IEC. And they tend to be very formal bodies. There'll be sets of representation rules. For instance, the ITU is country-based, IEEE 802 is individual based, and so that's where the standards are written.
[00:03:34] Peter: Then there's organizations that sort of go beside them, which are often how to promote the standards or maybe how to conform, how to form consensus ahead of them. So one thing about SDOs is they're often a bad, very bad place to develop new technology. Because the structure slow you down. So the Ethernet Alliance, which sort of sits beside logically, the 802.3 is really a marketing group.
[00:03:54] Peter: What we try and do is explain ethernet to the outside world. We do some work where we try and make sure when it comes out it works first time. So for instance, we'll run plug fests behind closed doors. We get all the engineers from companies together and sit them in a room and say, make this work. Right.
[00:04:08] Peter: As you can imagine, that requires an NDA because stuff doesn't work first time. And then once it starts to work, we go and show it off. So I was at the OSD Show, uh, not last week, but the week before, and there's a table there which has, from the OIF, the Optical Internet Working Forum Connection Forum. So they had a whole lot of very cool stuff that was all bare boards, right?
[00:04:27] Peter: With fans running over it, you could see all the boards open, and that's what I would describe as the Just About works. The Ethernet Alliance had a whole rack of new stuff, which is just about, just, that almost always works. So there's this thing from technology development to really technology consumability.
[00:04:44] Peter: So I'm interested in a bit where technology becomes consumerable, right? So there's a bunch of people in Silicon Valley who still wanna build Ferrari and Formula One cars, or maybe castles in the sky. Yeah. I'm sort of more the Camerys and corollas guy, right? How can we build stuff that everyone can just use?
[00:04:58] Peter: But that's what SDOs do. SDOs write, write specs. 802.3 is an interoperability spec. What we do is you define the behavior you can see outside to make sure they work together. We don't really define what you do in the middle, and sometimes people get confused. It's like, oh, this is how you build the Mac.
[00:05:14] Peter: This is the behavior you have to see outside. Because our job is interoperability, right? How can two or three people build something that talks to each other?
[00:05:21] Chris: Yeah, makes sense. And that's a lot of, I think a lot of standards are actually interoperability specs, right? Because we don't necessarily care what you're doing in your little box.
[00:05:29] Chris: We care how your box connects to the boxes next to it, right? I mean, that's what really matters a lot of times. At least in networking.
[00:05:34] Peter: To large extent, yes. That's what they tend to be. There are, I mean, I think there are some of the others, but most of the networking ones are. Here's how you talk to each other. I don't really care exactly how you run x excess X algorithm inside it, but the result has to be this.
[00:05:46] Chris: So how did you get involved in working in these standards bodies and, and, and then what does that work look like when you're actually there day to day or, or week to week or however often you're getting together and doing that?
[00:05:56] Peter: So, so this actually goes back to my, so maybe I'll quickly run through the career path and you'll sort of figure some of this out because what you do in Australia is very different to what you can do in the States.
[00:06:06] Peter: So as I said, I did a degree, a science degree. I finished that degree and I finished my exams and it's like spent a couple of weeks sleeping and like maybe I should go find a job. I looked around and I got a couple of job offers. Some of them were writing like payroll systems for banks and I was like, this is really boring.
[00:06:23] Peter: And I got offered a job that was for a big mining company and involved spending a year up working up the mine site and I thought, well that's, that sounds more interesting. With the help of my brother-in-law was a mechanic. I bought myself a car and flew all my stuff in it and we, I drove, it's about 24 hours drive.
[00:06:38] Peter: So I stopped halfway. And then as I'm going further up the coast, I'm basically going up the Coast road in Australia and there's a, there's one truck stop roadhouse before you take, turn off the page road to go on the dirt road. And this is the middle of summer and I'm there and my car won't start. So it's like, okay, so they ball out this huge rack, um, set of batteries and we get it going again and they say, look, just don't stop.
[00:07:02] Peter: So then I have another couple hundred kilometers of dirt to do. Of course, halfway through that. I get a flat tire, I'd have to actually change the flat tire while the car is running in the middle of the summer. So I guess, and that was, that was again on uh, a mine site. And so it's not a traditional technology place so you have to get issued hard hat you, you're in boots.
[00:07:23] Peter: And so some of my background is very different to your average IT person. I didn't come outta college and go into a nice air, air conditioned office. And so amongst other things had to do was cause it was a unionized mine site. I just sort of figure an understanding with electricians union to where I could carry tools and I wouldn't go out and strike.
[00:07:40] Peter: So I think almost from the start of my career, I've been used to talking to people who aren't like me. So I was there for a couple of years. I moved to a company which was sort of like the gap. I was running point of sale, terminal code, and this was relatively early cuz they had a non, a non DOS compatible PC with a nice color screen and a keyboard cash register.
[00:08:00] Peter: Twin floppy drives, right? One with the program, one with the data, uh, cash register and modum. And so we were running cut the gap and we were doing all work corner sales stuff. One stage. This got me into it to talk a sales man, a store manager, through doing a, a block edit on a floppy disc to recover her files because otherwise she couldn't transmit numbers.
[00:08:22] Peter: So this produces, you know, again, the ability to talk to various people. Did that for a while. Then I moved into data coms. That was a company called Computer Protocol and became Data Craft, and that was any protocol to any other protocol. Did some software maintenance. Then I spent a year in the States doing pre and post sales support.
[00:08:39] Peter: Then I went back and became a developer. So that ran for another couple of years, became a development manager. Rinse and repeat., go. Go to a university research group, spun Company, outta that end up in America in 2001, I worked for a startup. Be there for the life of its of its peak until it fell out and then moved to Cisco.
[00:08:59] Peter: So there's this very long swarth, which really starts getting interesting about the time I get to software for embedded systems. So in that time, I've done a whole lot of different roles, but they've all sort of been, they go more and more embedded and embedded, could go anywhere from Ridge to bash into writing network management code.
[00:09:16] Peter: So when I moved this startup that was in the us, this is 2002 ish. All of the people are basically, we were all trying to do a new standard cuz all the startup wanted have the name on a standard. So I got sent to IEEE to do a new standard that was called 802.17 resilient packet rings. This turned out to be great standard, which died as many great standards did.
[00:09:37] Peter: But this is where I started to learn about what was required to work in this type of environment.
[00:09:42] Zoe: It's interesting though because you do mention you have a non-typical career path or maybe slightly varied direction into your career, and also you didn't obviously go to school for computer science in the beginning, although I think you might have ended up getting one.
[00:10:01] Peter: Yes. Yeah. That, that was the, the first year realization that the good physics shops were gonna, the people who got 95%, not the rest of us, at 75. And this computing thing looks like a cool plan.
[00:10:11] Zoe: D's get degrees. I'm just saying. But No, that's a good point. But, but is there a time that you kind of felt like, you know, you're working, as you said, you work with a variety of different people.
[00:10:25] Zoe: You've had a very slightly, a very slow, um, it's slightly different career journey and also kind of experience with people that aren't super happy with you sometimes. So is there ever a time where you felt like, Ah, you're not smart enough or you don't have the right knowledge base. And how do you get further from there?
[00:10:45] Peter: Well, yes, I mean, the simple answer is you, is you talk to. Okay. I think the simple answer is there's, you know, I've seen this. There's a bunch of people and they sort of go into the people who are absolutely confident with themselves and those who aren't. And you can never tell from the outside which one they are.
[00:11:00] Peter: So I guess the first time this really came up for me was when I accepted a job to go from having done a year of software maintenance for this company. And they said, look, we need someone to go to America to be a prepaid style supporting engineer. It's like, okay, that sounds like fun. So I went home to my girlfriend of about four months and said, Hey, work's sending me to America.
[00:11:17] Peter: Do you want for you? Do you wanna come? You know, so this stage and me sent over to pre and post sales support for a networking company. And so I dunno that much about networking. So on the way across on the plane, which is, and this is a while ago, so this is mid 89, I read Tanenbaum's book on networking. And, and that's, that's where I got, okay, so now I understand a lot more about how the stuff works.
[00:11:41] Peter: I found that really helpful. You know, there's, there's a bunch of cases where you go, I dunno what I'm gonna do next. And some of this I think, becomes mentors, right? Who can I ask? A whole bunch of it I think you never actually get over, right? Because I mean, I still get the stage. I might have told you Zoe, that when I get up on stage and speak at Cisco Live, I'm terrified before I get up there.
[00:12:01] Peter: And so the, there's always the problem of there is what your, the thinking part of your brain knows and what the emotional part knows and they're often very different. It's a thinking part of your brain that says, I dunno enough. You can usually do something about it. It's the emotional side that's hard.
[00:12:13] Zoe: No, definitely.
[00:12:14] Zoe: I would like to note that it's interesting to me that you say you're still terrified every time you speak. I actually had that noted in my notes to mention, because the thing that's interesting is you're a distinguished speaker times two, which is. Basically saying, not only are you a good speaker, but you are impressive to, you know, the audience.
[00:12:34] Zoe: They're well impressed with the way that you speak and present your topics. And the, one of the things that you mentioned to me when we were chasing ducks and geese with my daughter, I. Was, you had mentioned that actually the trick is talking about what you truly believe in. Do you have some more insights there as to maybe somebody starting out in their public speaking or somebody that wants to enhance their public speaking?
[00:12:57] Zoe: What? What do you mean by truly believing in the topic that you're presenting? Because sometimes you're presenting very technical, sometimes you're presenting procedures. I don't know.
[00:13:08] Peter: So the question is how do you deal with it when you are scared and how do you get over that? So when I got into this business I'd sort of gone back and I started a little on my IEEE work and the same time I'd started running this alliance called the NBASE-T Alliance, and so I got some fresh training outta of that because I was gonna have to do some public intro stuff.
[00:13:30] Peter: What really made the difference was a friend of mine, guy called Dave Zakk, who's now my, my normal co speaker and is now 20 times distinguished. He saw a presentation I gave inside Cisco about, you know, what was happening with ethernet, where things were moving. He said, that would be a great presentation you should do for Cisco life.
[00:13:46] Peter: So I've been going to Cisco life for a little while as part of a sort of exposure experiment. And I said, yeah, I'm not sure I could do that. I think it'd be interesting. And he said, look, what about if we do it together? I'm like, fine. Okay. I got seduced into this partly because I thought the story we had was really interesting.
[00:14:00] Peter: I thought it would be a good plan to tell. I just know, didn't know how to tell it at Cisco Live. So I worked with Dave and we put a story together and we presented it and I think the first time was San Diego. I don't remember which year, maybe 2015. We actually got the best score for a new session. This stage, I'm sort of astounded, right, that some someone's come to listen to me talk about this stuff and particularly Cisco Live is often very technical sessions and my sessions tend to all be about context.
[00:14:25] Peter: Even technically they're about stuff you don't actually have to know. That helps you understand what's around you. And so the question was is how do you deal with that? And so I think, so when you go to training for Cisco Live, they give you a whole lot of good tips. Like for instance, how do you transition from side to side in the hall?
[00:14:41] Peter: You look at one person at once and then they say, you should practice, practice, practice. I tried that and I failed. I just cannot do it, right? The whole thing about speaking to yourself in a mirror just doesn't work for me. Although I know, I know people who do it and get very good scores, I just can't do it.
[00:14:57] Peter: But one of my other mentors said, what you need to do is have your first five minute solid and know the material right. Once you have that, you can go through it. It's gonna work. It'll be different every time, but that's fine. He also said, you know, when you're getting ready to talk, right? Meet three or four people as you, as they're coming in, what you want is have three or four people in the room you can hook your story to theirs.
[00:15:17] Peter: So, for instance, in this case, I'm talking about something. I'd say, look, you know, Zoe is the security manager for, for Cannon Cannon's a very large company so they're gonna face this problem. So hooking someone in into that story makes a huge difference. Cuz it makes it real to people, right? They can see themselves there.
[00:15:34] Peter: And apart from that, I think you just have to, you have to understand the view from the inside and the view from the outside, are different, right? This is, this is like the waterfoul. If you're a duck, right? You are paddling like mad underneath, but you look very serene on
[00:15:45] Zoe: top. I liked that point about uh, the ducks mainly cuz my daughter loves ducks, so I've.
[00:15:51] Zoe: Chased many ducks and fed many.
[00:15:53] Peter: See? See what you wanna do is hook your story into the person you Yeah,
[00:15:57] Zoe: you at it very well. But, um, that does bring me to what are the points that you made about actually, Previously in a conversation I had about you,
[00:16:07] Peter: about me, or with me just checking,
[00:16:09] Zoe: right? It was with you.
[00:16:10] Zoe: It wasn't in my head. Um, pre um,
[00:16:13] Peter: hang on, you're talking in your head about yourself.
[00:16:15] Zoe: I mean, that also happens, but in this context it was actually you. Um, but it was, uh, being harsh on yourself because you know the internal, you know what's happening. Externally, but you also know what's happening internally in your mind, whereas other people only see the external view,
[00:16:34] Peter: which is where I would say the inside view doesn't look like the outside view.
[00:16:37] Peter: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
[00:16:38] Zoe: I'm curious about your thoughts of how to get over that concern, because obviously you've had a very impressive career. You're not only a distinguished engineer, you also distinguished speaker, I mean, My daughter was very impressed with you.
[00:16:50] Peter: I'm a legend in my lunchtime.
[00:16:51] Zoe: Yeah, there we go. So from somebody that like me that has not the greatest confidence in herself.
[00:16:59] Zoe: I would love to hear your thoughts on how to not be so rubbish at it.
[00:17:03] Peter: You mean not be so rubbish and believing in yourself? Yeah. And the way you described it, of course sets the que, so I think there's a couple of things you, you need some people who you can talk to and you can decide that you'll believe them over you.
[00:17:16] Peter: Because there's the, there's thinking part, there's the monkey brain part, and you gotta, at some stage get at peace with the fact that your view isn't right. I'm sure we all know some people with, on the autistic spectrum scale, right? Asperger is, you know, Asperger's is reversed, inherited. You diagnosed the kid, then the parents, then the grandparents, she's like, oh, that explains this.
[00:17:36] Zoe: Yes, that does make sense.
[00:17:38] Peter: So one of my, one of my kids has this, and when he was doing social training, they have a concert called Mind Blind, which is the inability to believe, understand someone else's mind is not like yours. This is where you see Asby in a playground. They get really upset because, They have one idea of the playground rules and if anyone else is not doing them, they're clearly cheating.
[00:18:00] Peter: Which on playgrounds where you know, things change all the time doesn't work.
[00:18:03] Zoe: I'm just laughing cause you've clearly defined me right there.
[00:18:06] Peter: Yeah.
[00:18:07] Peter: And so I think what you have to say is, okay, I have a veiw of myself, but I know I'm looking from the inside of the house. I know what the outside looks like is gonna be different.
[00:18:14] Peter: Who can I talk to? Who can tell me what they see that I trust? I mean, so scores is one way, right? Like Cisco live with the scoring. That's one way of doing it. It's gonna be a somewhat brutal way, but ultimately you need people you can trust who say, Hey, that worked out, but we'll tell you when, when it didn't.
[00:18:31] Peter: Um, I don't think there's any way to ever stop worrying about it. Not that I've found.
[00:18:35] Zoe: No, but that's a really good point, is the getting somebody that you trust because I can get feedback from people, but if I don't think that they have my best intentions at heart, it's really hard to take their honest feedback.
[00:18:46] Zoe: And I am a little bit sensitive.
[00:18:48] Peter: Well, on this topic, right? So being a new recent parent, you've undoubtedly run into the fact everyone will give you parenting advice. I'm bloody hell yes. And what you do with all that is you say thank you and then most of it you throw away, right? The stuff that feels good, you try and then you throw some of it away Anyway.
[00:19:03] Peter: And, and just to check on this topic, right, when you took your baby home, did you feel like you absolutely had all organized, you knew exactly what you were gonna do or, or you the, how the hell can I be a mum?
[00:19:12] Zoe: I, no. My daughter was like super tiny. I was so scared I was gonna break her like, Bloody how she was like a doll!
[00:19:20] Peter: And, and everyone focuses on the okay pregnant, pregnant, birth.
[00:19:23] Peter: Like, oh, after just be, be, just be a mum. You're like, holy shit, how do I do this? True. I've run into people who are absolutely confident. They know exactly what they're gonna do. I mean, I think probably Elon Musk is one of those, I mean, I don't know if you've read the biography of Steve Jobs. I think he was as well, and I don't think I'd like to be around those people.
[00:19:39] Peter: I don't think there's any way to actually stop it. You can't be cured. What you can do is work with people with you, trust you can manage to deal with it.
[00:19:47] Chris: Just on that point, cuz, well, one thing you mentioned Zoe, was you know that you want to take feedback from someone who has your best interest at heart.
[00:19:55] Chris: And I, I was gonna challenge that a little bit because I, you know, I think that there are definitely people who have said things to me intentionally to hurt me. That were true, which is why they were going to hurt me, which I needed to hear.
[00:20:10] Peter: I said, trust, and so he said, best, best interest doesn't mean being nice to you.
[00:20:16] Peter: All's true, fair. So instance, I'm mentoring something. My best interests, best people in the, and everything will be try and provide. I mean, this is where the constructive criticism comes. So you need to trust people. And people you trust will actually tell you when something's going wrong. If someone is just nice to you all the time, that's a bit suspicious.
[00:20:36] Chris: It is, it is suspicious.
[00:20:37] Zoe: I wanted to talk briefly about potentially one of your biggest achievements in your career. I've, I, I've read your, uh, well, I spoke to you about it previously, but also I read your, the We are Cisco profile, and I think it was very clear because one of the. Most well known, I would say probably, maybe I'm wrong, it would be the Catalyst oh 900 series or 9,000 series.
[00:21:02] Zoe: I don't wanna offend anybody. Um, and you played a key part in the development of that, and so I'm curious on your kind of mindset there of, oh my goodness, we have to build a solution. You being asked to create something that hasn't been done before, how do you go about doing it? And also how that feels emotionally as well.
[00:21:25] Peter: I think you've just overrun the chat, G P T, uh, memory bank size a little bit. So I'd been at this startup company, it was called Luminous Networks, and they're done fairly well, but not well enough to succeed. And so I bailed out like the end of 2005, like a week and a half before they closed their doors.
[00:21:44] Peter: I went to Cisco cause I was sick of building stuff that disappeared. And the problem with a lot of venture startup companies, you build stuff that disappears, you build that disappears. And I found that really frustrating, right? I want to build stuff that actually got used. So I end up in the group of Cisco that made Catalyst two K and three K in which you, as you know, was the, um, the camerys and corollas of networking.
[00:22:02] Peter: And coming into Cisco is sort of odd. It was the biggest company I've ever worked for, my biggest tech company. And I had a very strong culture and I'd just sort of figure out where I was in that. I spent six months sort of futzing around doing some things and they said, look, can you go and work on this program?
[00:22:15] Peter: And I, it's called the next gen wiring closet. Cause everything is always the next gen. It's like, okay, so at this stage what I can bring is I have a bunch of outside experience. I mean, I had run a Cisco network, I building networking for a while, but I really didn't know very much about how Cisco did this business.
[00:22:29] Peter: And so I end up on moderately two senior leads on the tech, on the software side. So the first thing I get told to do is like, go throw together a software architecture list. Okay, what are we trying to achieve? So that safety base, you put together an architecture which looked much more like a virtual chassis than it had done before.
[00:22:45] Peter: Cause we wanted to make it seem like it could be consumable. At that stage. Cisco had the catalyst 2K three K, right? The 4K and the 6k. And they're all very different, different chipsets, different flavors of the os. And it was really frustrating for customers, right? Cuz there isn't one person, one, there isn't one customers only.
[00:23:02] Peter: Only, yes. One thing. So I sort of had to haul that together by finding a bunch of people and get 'em to write things for me. At this stage, I've got a name as a meeting nuts inside Cisco. So it's often technology, particularly America, their meeting culture is horrible, right? So everyone wants to drive the meeting and so I would have a, an agenda.
[00:23:18] Peter: I'd run the meeting and if you wanted to go and have a different meeting, you could go do that somewhere else yourself. So that took a while for people to adopt. But then, so we were a bit further along than I'm having a conversation with the director lead and my, you know, my co software lead about what we should do next.
[00:23:31] Peter: This, so you sort of split it. So, um, I went really more towards the ASIC item up here. Went more towards the, the feature software side. Cause it'd been as Cisco forever. So at this stage I basically get handed an architecture spec for a chip. It says go review it. It's like, okay, let me start with this. And I started reading, I think the architecture spec was probably 500 pages, this maybe.
[00:23:51] Peter: And then we got out with a, a full external reference spec, which was 1500 pages of texts and like 13,000 registers managed. And so during this period it's just thought of incrementally working through with people like what is it you're trying to achieve? What do you wanna do? In this case, having the physics monitor was really handy cause it meant I could speak to the ASIC designers much more easily.
[00:24:10] Peter: One of the things I got involved with was defining the stack protocols. So the, the Catalyst two K three k slash nine three are all stacking system. They're all basically a ring. They built ring protocols before, so that was like, I know how to build one these. I think it's, it's actually little bit like boiling the frog, right?
[00:24:26] Peter: You just sort of start pieces at a time. So it was like, okay, so I had to do a couple things. I was the person charged with running the review process of this chip design for, um, the software side, which meant putting together and running all things. I probably read the document 10 times myself. I also got involved in really specifying what pieces of the chip should do and how they should do it, and lost the time.
[00:24:48] Peter: You have to learn stuff you had never learned before, so I didn't really know. How they would build the buffering system. I sort of didn't know how it would work in software, but in hardware is entirely different. How would build the deposit? So I've been involved to some level, but this was a whole new level and a lot of it, I think is being willing to learn from other people.
[00:25:04] Peter: Right. Showing up and don't, you don't say, look, I know what to do. It's like, okay, here's what I'm thinking. How would you see this working? Uh, what do I not understand? Right? What problems you have. So I think you can always be really useful by going in and trying to help as opposed to going in and trying to drive.
[00:25:19] Peter: You need to be really careful with that because if you try and drive without skill or knowledge, it's hard. I think you can, I think management skill is transferable, but you have to trust the people underneath you. So, you know, the starting point was trying to, uh, you know, inherit and understand like 10, 15 years worth of history and try to apply it.
[00:25:39] Peter: Now that was a very long program. So I started near 2006. We got our first chip back in 2011. We shipped product in 2013. Yeah, that's a very long development cycle. But that became the best selling switch in the world, which is a very cool thing. Now let, let me ignore the web scales for the time being, cuz I mean, they come in at some stage.
[00:26:00] Peter: The place I was interested in was the enterprise networking. So introduced in 2013, I got involved in teaching the field and then teaching customers about how to use this stuff. Basically went along with the times I was going back to standards. So I, I moved from being quite internally focused to being quite outside focused.
[00:26:16] Peter: And, you know, at all times the question was what can we build that can be exposed and be consumed? And so the, I think the key thing we actually did differently was we said, look, you know, we could make it faster, we could make it cheaper. And we said, no, we'll make it flexible. I think the thing to think about here is that in enterprise network, right, you only update things every, you know, with site say five years, well it's more seven to eight.
[00:26:38] Peter: So if you put something in for eight years, I think back seven years, how much change happened? Think four, eight. So the real goal was to create something that could actually change to make sure what people need it. And that I think was the key thing we did that made it such a success cuz that then became, that's the fundamentals for the cat.
[00:26:55] Peter: Well the Catalyst 9K family today. That's where, I mean, that's my proudest thing cuz this is the camerys and corollas of networking. So I can honestly say that, you know, we have, uh, more than half the market. It's been a few years. So my stuff is actually helping people work around the world. So for me, this is, this is a weightfull thing, right?
[00:27:13] Peter: You can't get this anywhere else.
[00:27:14] Chris: It do, it really doesn't get much cooler than that. I mean, to, to work on a project like that and have such a, such a driving force in that project and
[00:27:20] Peter: don't get a share of the money fair. That would be different thing.
[00:27:23] Chris: That would be even better. That's the, that's the cherries on top, I guess.
[00:27:25] Peter: Right? But you know, we, we were lucky to sort of be there at the time where we got the trust and the management and we got to achieve something I think was, was really awesome. Right. We got to build. Flexibility into systems so people could actually add value to the networks after they bought it. Right.
[00:27:40] Peter: So the big thing for us became fabrics that SDA, et cetera. That's all vxlan. VXLAN didn't exist when we, when we designed the chip. So have we been able to consume all the flexibility? No. But the fundamental idea of being able to build something that can change with the business is way cool.
[00:27:56] Chris: It is. It is.
[00:27:57] Chris: Well, time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so. But this podcast is not, uh, and the time has come to wind this episode down. Peter, thank you.
[00:28:11] Peter: I'm not, I'm not done.
[00:28:13] Chris: We'll have to bring you back where's, we definitely didn't ask you anything about what it's like to be a distinguished engineer, although I think some of the standards work does copy there, but, but we definitely have some more to talk about as is often the case.
[00:28:24] Chris: Thank you for sharing as much of your story with us as you have today. The imposter syndrome network is, Very happy to have, uh, heard this. I am sure. Thank you also for being here on episode 42, a special one for me anyway. And, uh, and thank you to all our listeners for your time and your attention. Uh, our goal is to help as many folks as we can, and so we'd really appreciate it if you share this episode and this podcast with others who might be interested.
[00:28:50] Chris: Now. Now, Peter, there is one more topic we didn't get to that I want to touch on before we turn off the mics.
[00:28:56] Peter: Where is my sticker?
[00:28:58] Chris: Yeah. Okay. We can get you a sticker that's coming. Send an address, we'll get you. What I wanna ask though, before we, before we shut off the mics here, is for your perspective on, on mentorship and particularly the mentor-mentee roles and responsibilities, I guess can, can you define kind of what, you know, maybe quickly, you know, how, how to be a good mentee, how to be a good mentor?
[00:29:19] Chris: How, how should they work together? Obviously, that's a big question, but maybe just, you know, the bullet points of.
[00:29:23] Chris: You know what you think.
[00:29:25] Peter: So I actually, I, I covered this in, in a recent presentation and maybe you guys can link to it. And I have a slide in there which basically talks about why I do this thing.
[00:29:34] Peter: It's both a professional and moral responsibility. You wanna leave the world better than you came into it. And so you sort of look around and you go, okay, who's missing? And who can I help? Now, the trick with being a mentor is you get into a conversation. You have no idea what you, what you're gonna say, cause you dunno where it's going, and you don't go in knowing all the answers.
[00:29:50] Peter: So I think being a good mentor is actually about listening and good questions. I think being a good mentor, you need relation trust in that relationship, which is a mentor you almost have to offer first. But ultimately it's, I think on both sides, it's being open to telling people and listening. Now as as a mentor, right, often I'm not the person people need to speak so I go find someone for them.
[00:30:11] Peter: But you know, as a mentee, it's the same thing. You wanna find people who gel with you and you have to have a trust relationship, alright? Without trust, nothing works. Now my mentees are scattered over a bunch of different types of functions over a bunch of different places in the world and a bunch of different ethnicities and languages.
[00:30:27] Peter: I tend to look for people who don't look like me.
[00:30:29] Chris: Excellent. We will definitely link to that presentation along with several other things down in the show notes. So if you're listening, check out the show notes. There's gonna be some good stuff there, and we will be back next week.