The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Tom Nadeau

August 01, 2023 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 53
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Tom Nadeau
Show Notes Transcript

Today we chat with Tom Nadeau, the CTO of Spirent. 

Tom shares his non-traditional career path, from his early days doing AI in undergraduate and autonomous robots cleaning the underwater side of boats, to his current role at Spirent, where he works on some cool projects like satellite technology and rocket science.

Tom also talks about how he moved over to Networking after AI didn’t work out, how he bumped into the inventor of SNMP, and had one of the hardest interviews of his career.

He also shares his insights on how to navigate difficult situations, how to make the best of it when things don’t work out, and how to build relationships even after making mistakes.

One of the secrets to being successful at the IETF is the people that roll their sleeves up and do the work.  
A lot of people are going to want to talk about things, they're going to want to tell you to do things.
That’s fine, but the most successful people are the ones that sit down and just write it down, build it, and get it going.

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Make it a great day.

Machines made this, 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 the hostess with the Mostess Zoe Rose. Hey, this is the Tom Nadeau episode, and I think you're gonna love it. Tom is an engineer and an engineering leader.

[00:00:31] Chris: He's an architect and an industry visionary who's worked across both startup and large company environments. And both equipment vendors and service Providers, as well as within standards bodies and, and other things around all of these things, he's often focused on the details of developing successful products.

[00:00:49] Chris: Hi, Tom, would you mind introducing yourself a bit further to the Imposter syndrome Network?

[00:00:53] Tom: Hey, thanks for having me on. Appreciate having me on. I, uh, I love talking to folks about these different topics. Yeah, just a, a little more on the intro, what I'm doing these days. I'm CTO at Spirent. If you folks haven't heard about Spirent, uh, we do testing of everything, software, hardware.

[00:01:12] Tom: Primarily in network, you know, in the network space, although we do RF and things like that. But working on some really cool stuff these days. Literally rocket science is one, uh, which is pretty cool. I didn't expect to be working on satellite, uh, technology. Uh, when I joined here. Just, uh, just some other, just really wicked cool stuff and, uh, like on a personal front, you know, just, uh, Memorial Day weekend, taking it easy, recovering a little bit.

[00:01:41] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Nice. Myself as well. And you're right, we're gonna dive into some of that stuff. We're definitely gonna get right into many of your achievements today. Probably not all of them. Uh, we don't have time. We'll, we'll run out, but I do wanna start kind of at the very beginning. I know you started at Cisco, I think in like 1998.

[00:01:58] Tom: Even before that. It's not even on my sheet. Yeah, it's, it was actually a place called Xyplex with an X. Okay. X, Y P L E X. And this was in 1992. 1993. And Xyplex actually was this, this is even before that time when you mentioned Cisco. Cisco was still not long after startup land at this point, and there were other companies around like.

[00:02:23] Tom: Xi Zy Logic, uh, geez, Shiva Networks. This was the beginning of Nortel days, way back when, and we were pretty much, you know, competing with all of those, sort of the bigger router companies at the time. This was before actually switches, real switches were around, I mean, we're still making bridging routers and things like that.

[00:02:46] Tom: It was weird time. Yeah, you gotta start somewhere. And, and it was a, it was really a fantastic place to start. I guess for your listeners, one of the things, the re the way I got the gig was worth talking about, you know, I had gone through a bunch of different gymnastics in undergraduate, and for better or worse, I guess the more things change, you know, the more they remain the same and all that.

[00:03:11] Tom: I actually spent my first two years of undergraduate doing AI at the time. Oh wow. You can't believe it. We're building autonomous, underwater, uh, robots primarily for cleaning ships and things like that, but never worked. Right? Lisp was a thing. Lisp was not the thing. The IETF people think of Lisp today, uh, and all that.

[00:03:31] Tom: But it was a really good experience in that the way I impressed the folks at Xyplex was, was actually seeking things out myself. I was looking for. I had kind of rebooted my thinking of what I wanted to do and I was, my AI thing didn't work out and, and I was really into networking and I thought, wow, I wanna get into this.

[00:03:51] Tom: I had never really actually played with real routers and switches. I, you know, I had done coursework and all that and somehow found some Usenix mailing lists, topic lists about networking, and bumped into this guy Bob Stewart, who some of you may still remember. He is one of the, Original people had invented the simple network management protocol, S N M P, and Bob and I got to talking.

[00:04:16] Tom: It turned out Bob lived about 40 minutes from me in New Hampshire and had a really interesting story, a really non-traditional story, like he went to college for a year, didn't work out. I ended up work at a job at a DEC, Digital Equipment Corporation, and somehow fell into this thing. And, and he told me early on, one of the things that, that really caught his eye about me was that I just really was enthusiastic about trying, you know, obviously I didn't have the skills, but I was curious and I was trying really those two things.

[00:04:48] Tom: And I still remember, um, I mean it was still to this day, one of the hardest interviews I've ever had in my life. It went over two days. You know, people think, oh, the Google thing's hard or whatever. Like I was, I was writing code, I was actually having to write firmware code on hardware I'd never run on. I mean, talk about like having your head explode as a, as a first interview going, oh my God, I'm never gonna make it through this.

[00:05:15] Tom: And that's actually one thing I still use today, by the way, is that they told me later, they didn't really care what answer I got. They just wanted to see me do it. See me think through it. And I still use this technique today when I interview teams. 'cause you know, it, it it, one of the things you'll learn in engineering over time is, is that there's usually more than one solution.

[00:05:33] Tom: And if you get too caught up on my solution, you're never gonna maybe get to the right solution, the best solution. But it was these experiences that really like lined me up early on to just to do it. Like Bob Stewart told me he was trying to get me to go to the IETF actually. Early on in 19 92, 93, and I said, geez, I don't know if I can make it.

[00:05:56] Tom: You know, I mean, there's all of these, like these juggernauts that are at this thing, you know, and, and all these, a lot of them, a lot of these folks now, I, I still refer to as friends of mine. It turned out, you know, it was another sort of lesson or experience for your, your listeners and that you don't know what you don't know.

[00:06:13] Tom: Go and get in there and try do it. And Bob told me, he said, one of the secrets to being successful at the IETF are the people that roll their sleeves up and do the work. He says, A lot of people are gonna want to talk about things they're gonna want to tell you to do things. He said, that's fine. He said, but the, the most successful people are the ones that sit down and, and just, Write it down, build it, get it going.

[00:06:38] Tom: And it was not long after that I, he introduced me to Keith McClury as well, Keith McClure, depending on how you pronounce his name, back to pronunciations. And that was sort of that. And then not too long after that, getting into, uh, starting at Cisco and, and going there. And then that really opened my eyes to like, what could, what possibilities were.

[00:07:00] Tom: But you know, just reflecting on my first, my first experience, who was. It was very frightening in the sense that you don't know what you don't know. And reflecting on that now, I, I very much kind of understand that now, you know, the four stages of human learning, like unconscious incompetence, that's where I was at.

[00:07:18] Tom: I had no idea I. I walked into a lab and I was like, what are those things? Are those routers? Wow. You know, and I had similar experiences later when I was teaching later on, I, I'm still an adjunct professor, but, and I, I enjoy teaching, but I still remember the look on students' faces when I, like, I used to teach classes at Cisco and, um, challenge for, to Massachusetts graduate graduate school classes for networking and at sort of halftime, you know, we'd have a two hour course.

[00:07:49] Tom: At halftime, I'd take students for a tour of the lab, say, let's go upstairs and walk through. Like we had a whole floor. That was stuff, you know, and it was really like, I have to admit, it was really kind of cool watching their reaction. 'cause it was the same as mine from when I, you know, first started.

[00:08:06] Tom: They were like, oh my God, is this what a real stuff looks like? You know? But anyway, that was a fun experience and, and just sort of reflecting on, on the first experience, it was really like those two things. Get in there, roll your sleeves up and just be voracious about learning. You know, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn and do.

[00:08:26] Tom: And since then, I'll tell you too, some of my best teammates on my teams over the, the years, including currently, but even previously when I was at Red Hat, I had a, a really large team. Before that I brocade. I had a really large team there too. The best folks there are the most curious and the most tenacious.

[00:08:47] Tom: Hopefully that gave you a little bit of background into what I was thinking way back when. 

[00:08:53] Zoe: Well, I, a full disclosure, when I started, my very first network diagram that I drew in school was, uh, it included unicorns and magic. Yes. So 

[00:09:04] Tom: it's still, and happy readers done 

[00:09:06] Zoe: had smiley faces. Yeah. Well, I got to a point where I just didn't know where to go anymore.

[00:09:11] Zoe: I like, I got certain things put together and I got a decent way through, and then I'm like, and now there's magic. 

[00:09:17] Tom: And now there's magic. Right. Physics or something, right? Yeah, something. 

[00:09:23] Zoe: Well, looking at your career, it's been quite lengthy. I've been, it's about the same age as me, so it's, it's interesting to see kind of the start and then where you are now.

[00:09:37] Zoe: I think it'd be interesting to see what do you currently do, like what is a day to day kind of look for you? On that being, as you're, you mentioned earlier your, your current business does testing of hardware and software and basically testing all the things. It's interesting to see, you know, why do you think you ended up there?

[00:09:58] Tom: It's interesting that if you go back to the, the first company I was talking about, I had this conversation or debate in my, in my mind at the time. I remember this. Because I'd been at the, the first place for a couple years and a few of the folks from the network management team had left and I gotten to know them.

[00:10:20] Tom: Very nice, very wicked smart engineer. Uh, also last name, Nadeau, no, uh, fun, fun coincidence. And I still know Maria, but they, they convinced me to split and go over there and it was, you know, a dual startup experience, which was also interesting. But it was also, Doing something a little bit different, and this was the first time in my career that I really had to take a risk, like step out of the box.

[00:10:47] Tom: So to give you an idea of, I was building embedded router software, router switching software. At the time, this was doing application network management. Which was different, you know, and it was a new thing and, and got me out of the box that I was in, and it was a little scary. But back to the first two principles, learn and be curious, be tenacious, and I figured things out, worked my way through it, gained an appreciation for a completely separate avenue of networking that I might not have gotten into.

[00:11:20] Tom: And then it was really interesting because in the network management group, I ended up being the bridge between the embedded software teams and the network management teams. And I, I did things like, I wrote parts of the CLI on the new device, and it was this weird, like, I won't get into the details, but it was, it was this weird hybrid technology of, you know, semi generated code even at the time.

[00:11:44] Tom: Ooh, you know, from, from models i e MIBs. And it was a good experience that you know, which is where I am today, very much how I got here today in including this position that I'm in today. Sometimes you need to, you know, it's like that scene in, in Indiana Jones, the third one, where they're in the quest at the end for the cup and the very end with the bridge where they have to throw, you know, they eventually throw the sand over the bridge and realize there's really a bridge there.

[00:12:15] Tom: But it's the leap of faith parts where you have to. Take the step off of the diving board into the, into the unknown. Not that it's that dramatic or anything, but it, it really is an analogy for what's going on, right? It's not a life or death thing or anything, but it could be a career ending thing depending on how you do it, right?

[00:12:34] Tom: And that's very much how I've done things in my career the whole time. A really smart person, uh, that a few of you may have heard of gave me this advice a while back, too. Dave Ward said, think about. Not just the next gig, the one after that, the next, next gig, the penultimate gig, because it's not that you're ready to leave, but the second you join a new company or something, it's that you've given your trajectory some thought.

[00:13:03] Tom: And it's not that you necessarily are gonna do that exact thing and the penultimate thing, but what it does is it gives you, it gives you a direction and a plan, and it makes you think about. You know, what your, what your plan is, what your trajectory is. This is one of the things that I don't think a lot of people do enough of.

[00:13:25] Tom: I, I interview students all the time. I have interns, uh, in my team right now and I've had interns for quite a while and it. You know, it's, interns are fantastic for, for all the right reasons, but what they do is they give you an interesting perspective on what's going on today in academics and all that.

[00:13:45] Tom: And I gotta tell you, like maybe the last 10 years, there are a lot of students that I interview for roles, not at just as interns, but as you know, new hires. And there's not a whole lot of that going on. Not a whole lot of thought about what they wanna do. I ask people, I ask, what, why are you here? What do you wanna do here?

[00:14:05] Tom: I sometimes get this blank stare, like, what are you talking about? I want a job. And that's really like where the, where you can trip and stumble is by just, oh, I'll do this and I'll, that's how the midlife crisis happens. You know? People do that and then they look up finally, 20 years later and go, oh shit, I didn't wanna do this, but now I'm boxed into a corner and I can't figure it out.

[00:14:31] Tom: That's a thing. Like I, I knew of a, a, a friend of the family that years and years ago, that also was an example of that for me, that I saw just go way too far down one path and then realized, got down there and that at that time, you know, I was in my early twenties when I saw this and this, this gentleman was in the fifties.

[00:14:53] Tom: Going, wow, I've, you know, I'm outta runway, I think, and I, I can't learn anything new and all that stuff. I consciously thought about that the whole time in terms of, um, the penultimate thing and the trajectory and where do I want to be now, I. I don't necessarily think that, you know, 20 years ago I said I wanna be a C T O someday.

[00:15:14] Tom: You know, that's, that's definitely not how that works out. And you know, as you'll discover, like I discovered this job is not necessarily what the persona of the job is and. A lot of my roles previously were the same way. Part of it gets back to, you know, be curious and tenacious and figure it out.

[00:15:33] Tom: Sometimes I was given a role that was, you know, uh, it could have been written on the back of a napkin. That's the amount of detail that you were given that can be really frightening and overwhelming, you know, if you let that be what it can be. Right. And really, like I found for myself when in those situations and then ultimately, like the one I was just talking about, Thinking about the penultimate, the job after the current job.

[00:16:01] Tom: These, it all just revolves back around sort of just being conscious about what you're doing. What do you want to do and why do you want to do it? 

[00:16:10] Zoe: Yeah. That point you made about planning for your next role? I mean, I would say that there have been situations where I did not plan, and it worked out thankfully, but it was simply I needed a job, I needed the money, and there's nothing wrong with that.

[00:16:24] Zoe: Yep. But I do agree, I definitely do agree with the planning ahead and seeing, okay, where do I wanna go? Because you have. Um, most companies, most companies have budget for training and I think a lot of people don't realize that. Yeah, okay. You need to, you know, the training is there. It's for you to maintain your skills in your role and whatever, directly relatable.

[00:16:48] Zoe: But also if there's somewhere you want to go to, like maybe you work in infrastructure and you wanna go into cloud for, uh, cloud security or something, you can start taking training at your business. Maybe moving internally maybe, or maybe preparing for the next, for the next role because, you know, certifications are bloody expensive.

[00:17:10] Zoe: So yeah, take advantage of what you can. 

[00:17:13] Tom: Right? Yeah. And you might, may be able to get a, you know, for nothing or, or not just the training. You could do education after I did my master's degree at night. Yeah. Fair. I was fortunate enough to have my employers pay for my master's degree completely. 100%.

[00:17:29] Tom: That's something that I consciously had in my plan. By the way, guys, I want to have a master's degree not to get one. I wanted to have one so that I could teach at university, as bizarre as that sounds, but that's just part of my po. My plan slugging away at two in the morning on, on some graduate school project to kept saying, I kept telling myself, don't worry, this is the investment in the future so I can teach.

[00:17:54] Tom: And it turned out pretty well. That's how that worked out. Other things don't always work out though. And you've gotta, like you said Zoe, you know, you, you either get dropped in a, in a situation of a very large unknown or you know, and for whatever reason, and you have to make the best of it. I had a few of those in my career after I was a British Telecom, the first dot bomb thing happen and.

[00:18:17] Tom: I caught a lot of heat for, uh, where I went to work after that for a little while anyway, and it was like, what you said, I, you do have to pay the mortgage. I have two kids, you know, you do have to, uh, be an adult also, so there's nothing wrong with that either. But during that time, I kind of used that to think about really like, this is a stop gap and where am I gonna go for sure.

[00:18:41] Tom: After this, it's like a training example. Use the resources that are at your disposal to the max and use that to craft your situation. I know you don't necessarily have to work towards exiting the company that you're at because sometimes you can reformulate your situation. I know a lot of people that did that when I was at Red Hat, uh, moved around the company.

[00:19:02] Tom: And this depends on the company too. The company's culture has to allow it. You know, it has to facilitate it. As you know, internal transfers and positional changes aren't always, even though they're on the surface, they're okay under the, under the hood politically, maybe not. 

[00:19:17] Zoe: And they typically have a cap on how much they'll increase your income, even if you're going.

[00:19:22] Zoe: To a more senior role. So sometimes it is financially a better decision to leave and maybe come back even, you know, so it's, it's good to not burn bridges, right. But, um, but sometimes it financially makes more sense. I mean, 

[00:19:36] Tom: that's another thing too that you touched on, like don't burn bridges. That's a thing that.

[00:19:41] Tom: You know, I've been in a lot of situations that, that were not only very frustrating, had some legal aspects to them sometimes too. You know, and when you're faced with those things, you have to still operate, you know, in a coherent and a cohesive way enough not let things go off the handle, uh, so to speak.

[00:20:01] Tom: And that's another thing that I encourage people to do, is. Things like that, they might feel good for 30 seconds and then you go, oh geez, what have I done now? That's part of the plan. It's not to the extreme point where, you know, you won't, you won't be able to find a job again ever or anything like that.

[00:20:18] Tom: But, you know, be careful because you're right. You, you sometimes you may want to come back to your, to a previous employer. You know, things like that will make it difficult. People often don't forget stuff like that. Um, and I will tell you too, that. I have one very specific case where that happened, where it had kind of a, kind of a nasty situation and, and it was at my second gig and, you know, and you could chalk my behavior up to very much immaturity.

[00:20:46] Tom: But one thing you can do is in the future, I turned that around. I had an opportunity where I was actually forced to sit down with this one gentleman and we buried the hatchet and sorted it out. And in fact, I used him as a job reference in the future. 

[00:21:01] Chris: Oh wow. That's definitely a turnaround for sure. 

[00:21:04] Tom: And there was another one where, you know, I was at Cisco early on, and again in the immaturity and flailing around of the, the IETF at the time inadvertently really insulted somebody and really just, I just sort of ate my shoe after I was like, oh my God, that was such a stupid thing to do.

[00:21:24] Tom: And I, I called her up and I apologized and I invited her out for lunch and bought her lunch. And we're still pals today. I talked to her a couple months ago, you know, about working together and all that. Redemption is, is a thing. Uh, even if you do make a mistake, there are ways to back out of it. You just have to have some humility sometimes too.

[00:21:45] Tom: I guess that's another thing out of, out of the past experience, I, I tell people to keep in mind, you know, is. Sometimes things, sometimes things just don't work out the way you think they will, but you know, you can work to repair the situation, get it back, hopefully, if. 

[00:22:05] Chris: At least making the effort. Right. At least, at least putting that effort into there.

[00:22:08] Chris: Yeah. So, you know, you've talked about the IETF a couple times. I know you were, you were co-chair of, of net mod for a while. You were co-chair of the energy management. I think Emon is the name Eman, uh, group. Um, you've also done a ton of stuff like in, in the Linux Foundation. With the Technical Advisory Council and the LF Edge board and, and a bunch of stuff there.

[00:22:29] Chris: I think you're now currently I think a committer for the Apache Software Foundation for the Area Toska project. I mean, just a ton of like really deep industry involvement and I know a lot of that obviously being. Kind of, you know, in product development, product management, through a lot of your roles as a distinguished engineer or, or otherwise, a lot of that's tied in is, is all of that just purely part of the job or, I mean, how, how did that co-evolve, right?

[00:22:52] Chris: I mean, is it, has it been jobs sending you or you're at the IETF and that leads to jobs? Or how does, how do those things all work together? 

[00:22:58] Tom: That's a, it's a good question. 'cause sometimes. It depends. Sometimes it's one way, sometimes it's the other way. Which is to say, this goes way back to advice I get from Bob.

[00:23:09] Tom: You know, he said these things are means to an end. These aren't a career choice. When we've seen, there are people that do that for a living, you know, they do, they do the standards thing for a living and it was that advice. And then, you know, my longtime mentor and, and very good friend George Swallow.

[00:23:28] Tom: Also told me, he said, never get too far away from engineering because you'll be irrelevant. You know, you'll be working on the ivory tower stuff and chances are low that that will mean much. So, you know, that's what I've, what I've always tried to do is the things like at the IETF, the things I worked on are things that not, not only I.

[00:23:50] Tom: I believed in it or was passionate about, but was implementing, you know, to some degree. I guess the only, the only exception would be eman I did that as kind of a favor for the, uh, area director at the time. 

[00:24:03] Tom: Yeah. Sometimes there's 

[00:24:04] Chris: just work that needs to be done. Right. And, and, uh, 

[00:24:06] Tom: yeah, that's, that's what I was saying so earlier too, like, sometimes work needs to be done.

[00:24:11] Tom: It's not the sexiest thing in the world or anything like that, and you know, you make it what it is. I parlayed that into. Getting another chair position in Net Mod, for example. I just, you gotta do it. You can do the, can you do the job? It was a good test. So keep that in mind too sometimes. Well actually a lot of the times you're not gonna be handed the Choice project as an engineer, you've gotta prove yourself, you know, can you do it and all that.

[00:24:39] Tom: But I've always looked at those things as a means to an end. Um, you know, the Linux Foundation stuff, the. Apache stuff that I did, those were all done in the context of projects that I was working on or in the context of, oh, well, the, like Apache was a good example where I was, I was consulting for a company at the time and, and that was part of working for them, but I also used it as growing opportunity for me.

[00:25:06] Tom: They were gonna pay me to figure out how to run this project for them and be the, be one of the committers and then that. That was also another, uh, uh, um, contrasting experience to the one ahead of the Linux Foundation previously to that, you know, where I worked in open daylight and some of the other projects.

[00:25:25] Tom: But, you know, it's also good to understand things are done differently in different places. So later, now, fast forward, even further forward from, from experiences. I actually do this internally. Uh, a lot of times I have to decide, you know, are we gonna join a project or I have a new project, where am I gonna put it?

[00:25:46] Tom: Where are we gonna do it? Who are we gonna collaborate with? A lot of that experience from the past is used for things like that, but again, they were really, or there were things that I could see that were needed to be done, like at the beginning. Um, I mentioned when I was, uh, and when I was at Juniper, way back when.

[00:26:06] Tom: Open daylight was not even a thing. S d n controllers were a thing, but really commercially, primarily, and there were some open source ones starting and a bunch of us got together and like could see this like this is happening and let's figure out the right open source one to be the vehicle for this.

[00:26:26] Tom: What was interesting is, is most of us had no actual. Uh, contributing experience in open source. You know, most of us take install, use, you know, that kind of thing. But it's very rare, relatively speaking, that people contribute back to any of these projects. So that was the scary part too. It was like, what are we doing?

[00:26:49] Tom: We don't know what we're doing. Ah, we'll figure it out. And, and we did. But it's a good example of, you know, like to your question, Chris, I worked on that project specifically because of that, and then ultimately went to Brocade and, and was able to build a team and a product out of that. I generally wouldn't have worked on that after if, if there wasn't a commercial thing in that.

[00:27:11] Tom: 'cause otherwise it's just that it's a toy project. You can see in the, you know, since then, my interactions with different organizations, like you mentioned, Linux Foundation and some of the others O C P and things like that. My interaction with those is very tactical and very specific, so it's very complimentary or directly associated to projects we're doing internally.

[00:27:36] Tom: Like the I E T F work as well. That's another example where generally speaking, you know, like if you rewind back to, uh, when, when I started over there, almost every contribution I made, every R F C from that time are MIBs that I, that I had implemented. So I was implementing them or building them with other folks.

[00:27:55] Tom: And so, you know, and that, that's why those, those are still used today. They're very specific to implementations and making implementations work. In fact, That's where the eman, I mentioned the eman part. We didn't implement that. I didn't implement that at all, but I actually did get involved in some of the implementations where I was working at the time, just simply because people couldn't understand they need, and there are only like 12 little MIB variables for a UPS.

[00:28:25] Tom: But they're very useful if you know they're there and you know what you can do with them. So that's been my kind of experience. I didn't really wanna make a career out of. Working at or for any of those kinds of organizations? Certainly temporarily and all that might be, would be fine. Like being a chair, you know, like NetMod chair, I implemented an initial implementation of, of Netconf around that time and so I had experience with the technology and could help drive it in the right direction.

[00:28:58] Tom: I worked on some of the, some yang models. The SDN project at Open Daylight was going at the same time. So we were ingesting those models and incorporating them. So it was all, you know, it was all being worked together. I, I rarely have anything that's just floating in the side as a pet project. That's just kind of some noodly fun thing.

[00:29:20] Tom: That's what I have guitar and a farm for. 

[00:29:24] Zoe: I had a question about your quite vast career. I imagine there's been situations where you're like, Hmm, that was a little bit of a mistake. Oh yeah. Was there, is there a situation you could think of that maybe it was a horrible mistake, but you actually learned a lot from it?

[00:29:42] Zoe: Like maybe it was like, I dunno, something happened and you learnt to go from there? 

[00:29:47] Tom: Oh yeah. I, I, and I probably shouldn't bring up names, just so I don't. Uh, you know, annoy people or, or, uh, have lawyers calling me either way. Um, no, but I, I definitely have, and I've, like I mentioned that one situation, Zoe, where the dot bomb thing happened.

[00:30:07] Tom: There was nothing to do. In fact, right around then, my family was supposed to move to London. We were gonna relocate. We were in the middle of this, this whole thing. And then that all got shut off. And so you, you know, you have to do what you have to do. I've had a, a couple of spells between pretty significant assignments that I've had in the past.

[00:30:30] Tom: You know, I've, I've done consulting you just to kind of, you know, you, you, you have to pay the bills. But consulting, it's funny because it, it keeps you in the mix and eventually something falls out of the hat and I've gone and done something else. You know, something more significant. Because I, you know, it's interesting, I know a bunch of people who have been in those situations and rather than doing the consulting thing in the in between, they just don't work.

[00:30:56] Tom: They just take the time off or, and, and all that. And I guess if you're doing something specific, you know, and using your time wisely, I guess that makes sense. I know some people had just went, sat on a beach for six months. I dunno. I mean, sounds great. Sounds like a good time, but, Not my thing. I mean, I've been, I've been on vacation for five days and I've, I installed an irrigation system.

[00:31:24] Tom: I've worked on my tractor. I, uh, got a whole body about my guitars, disassembled downstairs. I mean, I gotta be doing something 

[00:31:31] Zoe: you would not appreciate a week on a beach. That's all I'm say. 

[00:31:35] Tom: Yeah. I get bored after three days. I'm like, I wonder what I can do here. You know? 

[00:31:41] Chris: That sounds familiar. And speaking of having too many things to do and not enough time, I.

[00:31:46] Chris: As expected. We've, uh, we've pretty much run outta time here before even getting close to covering the fullness of your amazing career. Tom, we didn't even touch on the books you've written. Are there any other projects, stuff going on right now, maybe the podcast that you'd like The Imposter Network to know about?

[00:32:02] Tom: Yeah, yeah. Check out, the podcast. Um, we focus on networking, uh, as a broad, broad cardboard box to put things into, um, We talk about network related issues, networking related issues. But you know, the other day we were talking about generative ai, uh, and ML as it pertains to that. Some of 'em, some of us are working on this stuff and it's, you know, it sometimes we have, we have interesting guests.

[00:32:33] Tom: Um, we've actually had our own a couple of career episodes where we've had people come in and talk about stuff. And then I guess, uh, besides that, I know other interesting things going on. In the industry these days, uh, obviously around 5G and containers, you know that, that whole space server evolution, I'm working on all of those things.

[00:32:56] Tom: That's really interesting. Where's all that going? I don't have any books in the works for a while. I guess that was the, the last one. The, uh, the duck book. Uh, there is a unicorn in there, Zoe, in chapter one. Um, but I don't think I'll be write writing any of those for a little bit. I'm just too busy with, you know, the new job.

[00:33:17] Tom: You know, being a C T O is not, I guess that's the other interesting thing that's, you know, I'm working on, that's one of my big projects right now is, um, it really is a project in the sense that it, it's not a, in a lot of ways, it's not what I, I would've expected it to be. Like as a growing up as an engineer, you expect that to be the pinnacle of engineering.

[00:33:40] Tom: You know, you're just like the Midas of engineering of some sort, you know, it's all just like a hundred percent of the time, uh, fascinating projects to work on. And Bill, it turns out that there, yes, that's true, but then you have a whole other job or two to do other things. And not that, not that it's bad or disappointing or anything weird, it's just, it's not what you think it is.

[00:34:05] Tom: And it's, I've learned a lot in areas that I never thought I would've been spending time on, like finance, the importance of running a business correctly, who go figure, you know, you know, working on a lot of other interesting topics around strategy, strategic partnerships, M&A type stuff, finance, personnel stuff. You know, one of the things I do these days is I co-manage the intern program here.

[00:34:36] Tom: One of the things that I've learned from my mentors over the years, folks like Dave Meyer, George Swallow, I mentioned Bob Stewart, these folks, is that it's important to give back to the engineering community. So being a distinguished engineer, Means, you know, various things. One of those includes being a good shepherd for, for New DEs and fellows and training them to be very, very good engineers.

[00:35:04] Tom: And that's a very deliberate and specific thing that I'm very passionate about and I do here and I have at, at a variety of previous gigs. It's really important to, to support that. And you know, like you were saying, When you bring earlier in the, in the, uh, in the podcast, you know, early when you bring in junior engineers and, and folks, that's the path that you can put them on.

[00:35:29] Tom: They can be on, you know, and that's part of the plan. You know, is this where you want to be? Okay, let's, let's head towards that direction and here's what you need to do to get there. You know, so those are, those are the things I'm up to these days anyway. 

[00:35:44] Chris: Awesome, awesome. Well, that's great, Tom. Thank you so much for sharing your story with the Imposter Syndrome Network, and thank you to all of our listeners for your attention and your support.

[00:35:53] Chris: I know that, uh, time and attention are, are today's most valuable resources for everybody. We appreciate you spending them here with us. We do have a LinkedIn group for the Imposter Syndrome Network that we'd love for you to join to get or give career advice, mentorship, or just general community support.

[00:36:09] Chris: Although, you know, I do have one more question for you, Tom, if you're willing Yeah. You know, after, I mean, you know, not, not to date you too much, but I'm just doing the math here. It's, you know, maybe 40 years of, of engineering and, and technical career at this point. If, uh, if there was a new, you know, cloned Tom that was just starting out right now in 2023, but could talk to you.

[00:36:28] Chris: The Tom with this wisdom from, you know, a, a, a decades long career at this point, what advice would you give, give younger Tom, starting out right now. 

[00:36:35] Tom: Have a plan and don't be too disappointed when you know you trip. 'cause you'll get up and carry on. That's, that's what I would tell myself. Don't, don't let people disappoint you too much.

[00:36:47] Tom: Believe in yourself more. 

[00:36:49] Chris: Fantastic. We will be back next week.