The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Vint Cerf

September 12, 2023 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 59
Vint Cerf
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
More Info
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Vint Cerf
Sep 12, 2023 Season 1 Episode 59
Chris & Zoë

In this episode, we have the honor of talking to one of the pioneers of the internet: Vint Cerf. He is not only the co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocols and the internet architecture, but also a visionary leader and a passionate advocate for digital inclusion and accessibility.

He will tell us how he got interested in technology and software engineering, how he met and collaborated with Bob Kahn on creating the internet, and how he became an evangelist for bringing more people online. He will also share some of his challenges and achievements from his six-decade-long career, and his thoughts on the future of the internet. He will also give us some tips on how to deal with stress, burnout, and harmful behaviors online

Don’t miss this incredible and inspiring conversation with Vint Cerf.

"I’m smart enough to know that if you want to do anything big, you need to get help, preferably from people who are smarter than you are."

Vint's Links:


Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!

We'd love it if you connected with us on LinkedIn:

Make it a great day.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we have the honor of talking to one of the pioneers of the internet: Vint Cerf. He is not only the co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocols and the internet architecture, but also a visionary leader and a passionate advocate for digital inclusion and accessibility.

He will tell us how he got interested in technology and software engineering, how he met and collaborated with Bob Kahn on creating the internet, and how he became an evangelist for bringing more people online. He will also share some of his challenges and achievements from his six-decade-long career, and his thoughts on the future of the internet. He will also give us some tips on how to deal with stress, burnout, and harmful behaviors online

Don’t miss this incredible and inspiring conversation with Vint Cerf.

"I’m smart enough to know that if you want to do anything big, you need to get help, preferably from people who are smarter than you are."

Vint's Links:


Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!

We'd love it if you connected with us on LinkedIn:

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. My name is Chris Grundemann, uh, and Zoe Rose is waylaid at a bicycle mechanic, uh, clear evidence that she lives in the Netherlands these days. 

[00:00:24] Chris: This is the Vint Cerf episode, and I really hope that you are as excited as I am.

[00:00:29] Chris: Vint is widely known as one of the fathers of the internet because he is co designer of the TCP IP protocols and the architecture of the internet. That goes beyond the technology, though, to the institutions as well. He had a hand in standing up the IETF, the Internet Society, IANA, which is the Internet, um, Assigned Numbers?

[00:00:50] Vint: It's actually Assigned Numbers Authority, but it covered names and numbers. Uh, and more importantly, the institution that now houses it is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. 

[00:01:00] Chris: Fair enough. Uh, and other organizations that continue to be the foundation of the internet, along with those world changing protocols, right, the institutions and the protocols.

[00:01:08] Chris: In addition to that, he has received honorary degrees and awards that include the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Marconi Prize and membership in the National Academy of Engineering. Wow. 

[00:01:20] Chris: Hi, Vint. What a treat. Thanks for being here. Would you like to introduce yourself a bit further to the Impostor Syndrome Network?

[00:01:28] Vint: Uh, well, first of all, um, I resonate with the whole notion of imposter syndrome since a lot of us who've been involved in high tech development, uh, recognize the feeling that maybe we're not capable of doing what we're expected to do. Uh, and that feeling is, uh, not foreign to me at all. Uh, I, so I can resonate with that.

[00:01:49] Vint: I only would like to mention a couple of other things, uh, in terms of awards. The most recent and extraordinarily satisfying was the IEEE Medal of Honor, which is quite a major recognition from IEEE. If you look at the other people who have received this award, the names are shockingly, you know, just holy moly, what am I doing on this list?

[00:02:14] Vint: Marconi, uh, got the award in 1920. Wow. And, uh, since I just literally, uh, just within a few days, uh, stepped down as chairman of the Marconi Society and, uh, have been giving out the Marconi Award as chairman, uh, for about seven or eight years now. Um, the fact that, uh, those two things are almost like bookends.

[00:02:35] Vint: Uh, it was very exciting for me, uh, to, to be recognized that way. Yeah. Uh, it, but you know, at some point these kinds of recognitions take on a peculiar property of, of self generation. I think what happens is that after you receive a certain number of prestigious awards, People decide they want to give you an award because it makes their award look better.

[00:02:56] Vint: Yeah, yeah. And, and so this is a self feeding thing and it's, it's wrong. And I try to tell people, look, why don't you, uh, there are lots of other people who deserve recognition. Why don't you, uh, consider someone else? I confess to you that from time to time, uh, I weaken. And I didn't know that the, uh, IEEE Medal of Honor was even under consideration.

[00:03:16] Vint: So there wasn't anything I could do about that. Anyway, I appreciate the opportunity to have a discussion about the imposter syndrome and how one can overcome it. 

[00:03:25] Chris: Yeah, perfect. Thank you. And since your achievements are so legendary, we usually ease into things a little bit, but I want to start off with a look behind the curtain, if you don't mind, too terribly.

[00:03:35] Chris: Maybe you can tell us what's the most embarrassing mistake you've ever made. 

[00:03:38] Vint: Oh, mistake. Okay. Uh, well, probably the worst mistake was not the 32 bit versus the 128 bit address space of the Internet, the IP version 4 and version 6. That was a mistake. Uh, although at the time, I think it would have been very hard to persuade oneself that it was a mistake because 32 bits of address space is 4.3 billion terminations and that's more than there were people in 1973 on the planet. 

[00:04:08] Vint: Uh, actually, it's a technical thing and so I'm not sure how quickly it will sink in. But when we were doing the packet radio network, um, which Bob Kahn foresaw was a necessary part of using internet technology for command and control.

[00:04:25] Vint: You had to be in mobile vehicles and ships at sea and airplanes. So we needed radio based technology and, uh, we developed the TCP IP protocols. We installed them in the packet, mobile packet radio network and it worked. And so I came away thinking, wow, you know, we, we've covered all the bases. The packet satellite network work, the packet radio system is working.

[00:04:47] Vint: We were able to get into the ARPANET and to the other networks, uh, that now form the internet, uh, through the packet radio system. So I must've done that right. And then later I realized. That I had failed to take into account the possibility that a radio based system would move from one IP address space to a different one in a different radio network and would then have to change its IP address.

[00:05:13] Vint: And we bound the TCP connections to the lower layer IP addresses absolutely firmly. And so if you move to a different IP address, you broke the connection and, and you would have to reestablish it. And the problem was how do you reaffirm your identity and so on. So we didn't do, I didn't do that right. I screwed that up.

[00:05:35] Vint: And now, of course, there are two things have happened. One of them is that at Google, a protocol called QUIC, Q U I C, has been developed. Which combines the, uh, TCP layer and the transport layer security system together as a single layer, uh, including the cryptography for confidentiality and cryptography for identity.

[00:05:57] Vint: And so if one or another side, uh, changes its IP address, you can reestablish the connection by saying, hi, I'm the same person and here's my cryptographic. Identity. If they both change IP addresses at the same time, it doesn't work because nobody can communicate with each other because they don't know where the other end is.

[00:06:15] Vint: So that's still not entirely a solid problem. I'm pretty sure that the only solution that looks likely is a kind of rendezvous arrangement where if you lose a connection, you go to a known place. And try to find the partner again, and then you do the cryptographic authentication in order to confirm it's the same party.

[00:06:34] Vint: Yeah, that makes sense. So anyway, I don't mean to dive so so deep into the weeds, but it was really a fundamental mistake And I just did not I just Did not pay attention to the obvious possibility that a mobile system would move to a different IP address space. 

[00:06:48] Chris: Right? Yeah, there's so many things you can't foresee right in the in the beginnings.

[00:06:51] Chris: It's wild how these things kind of extrapolate. And I think using your words, escape the lab and become totally different than what we may have imagined. 

[00:06:59] Vint: Well, I think the fact that it worked at all and it was was so exciting, you know, you know, wow, you know, finished business. So that tells you something about backing away and asking.

[00:07:10] Vint: What am I missing from, uh, from this? And that's a very important question for people to ask. 

[00:07:16] Chris: Absolutely. It really is. So fast forwarding a bit, I think, you know, I'm curious. I think people listening are probably really curious right now. You are a VP and chief internet evangelist at Google. It's a really cool sounding title, but I don't have any idea what it means.

[00:07:31] Chris: Um, what do you actually do? 

[00:07:32] Vint: Well, you know, we've been making it up as we go along. Uh, the, the story, uh, is that when I joined the company, Larry and Eric and Sergey said, so what title do you want? And I said, how about Archduke? Cause I thought that would be a great title. And they, and they went away and they came back and they said, you know, the previous Archduke was Ferdinand and he was assassinated in 1914 and it started World War I.

[00:07:59] Vint: Maybe that's a bad title. Why don't you be our chief internet evangelist? And I said, okay, I could do that. So, you know, what does that mean? Well, one obvious thing is that, uh, we're only about two thirds penetrated. If you look at the number of people who have direct access to the internet, it's estimated that only about two thirds of the population have direct access.

[00:08:19] Vint: And the reason that some of them don't might be that there isn't any available or it's too expensive or it doesn't perform adequately to be useful. So one thing that I do as Chief Internet Evangelist at Google is go around the world trying to persuade administrations to adopt policies that will encourage further investment in communications infrastructure that can support the Internet.

[00:08:43] Vint: And I am aided in this effort, uh, inadvertently by, um, the Starlink effort coming out of, uh, SpaceX and Elon Musk's work, uh, for which I'm quite grateful because a lot of places in the world that wouldn't otherwise have access. Uh, can get direct access to the low Earth orbiting satellite system. Uh, for the record, uh, Zoe is joining us, uh, now.

[00:09:06] Vint: Welcome, Zoe. We're glad, and we hope that your bicycle situation has been resolved. Hi, Zoe. Hi, Kent. So, we were, uh, just, uh, just off onto what does the Chief Internet Evangelist do. So, some of the work is policy work. Uh, I'm currently located in the Google Global Networking team. And, uh, we are in the process of essentially reinventing the networks that we rely on to, uh, distribute access to our products and services.

[00:09:33] Vint: Our aim is to increase the resilience of the network beyond what it has, uh, has been so far. And that means, uh, considerable re engineering of the underlying, uh, fiber networks, including the ones that go under the oceans. So it's, uh, both dramatic and extremely challenging. And I don't want to overstate that I'm not taking credit for this, the other people who have been working on this for some time are the real workers that are making it happen.

[00:10:02] Vint: I'm just over on the side admiring what it is that they've been able to do and what they plan to do. The other thing which I spend a lot of time on, two things actually, one of them has to do with the accessibility of digital technology. I happen to wear hearing aids, and my wife has two cochlear implants, and so I'm very sensitive to assistive technology and the value that it brings, and how hard it is to develop assistive technologies that make information technology more accessible and useful.

[00:10:32] Vint: So I spend time on that both inside and outside of Google. And the other thing that I'm deeply concerned about, of course, is the current harmful behaviors that are showing up on the internet. There is an organization called the Internet Governance Forum, which was created out of the World Summit on the Information Society.

[00:10:52] Vint: Its first meeting was in 2006 in Athens, and it has been meeting ever since every year. The meeting this year will be in Kyoto later in the year. Uh, and I participate in that and have done for most of the meetings. I may have missed one or two. Recently, the Secretary General of the UN appointed a leadership panel for the IGF, which works collaboratively with the multi stakeholder advisory group to organize the meeting and the leadership panel, which I now chair, is charged with making visible more of the IGF work and recommendations to operate as a two way street to try to bring concepts to the IGF and to export the IGF conclusions to other organizations that might otherwise not be aware of them.

[00:11:43] Vint: So a lot of this is policy related work, and a lot of it is aimed at trying to tame the harmful behaviors that we see arising in the online environments. I refuse to take responsibility for the bad behavior of others, but I recognize that they're using the internet to achieve their objectives, and we need to do something about that without destroying the value of the internet, which is largely based on its connectivity.

[00:12:10] Vint: Everything is connected to everything. That's both a benefit and a burden. 

[00:12:15] Zoe: No, that's a, that's a really good point. I mean, obviously I'm a mom. Oh, I suppose that's not obvious. I am a mom and that is a huge concern I have. I mean, I've worked in security for quite a while now and part of my job was investigating not so nice things.

[00:12:30] Zoe: And so it's scary to think. In a few years, my daughter is going to be online, you know, so it's even now, even now kids go in on YouTube and watch YouTube and then people already create content that's designed for kids to watch it and they're not, not friendly. So it's, it's, it's a scary place, but I, I 100 percent agree.

[00:12:49] Zoe: The internet has given me so much. It's given me my career, but it's also done a lot of bad things. So trying to balance the, well, I'm not, I need to design it in a way that works. For everyone, not just like, you know, as you mentioned earlier, people that need additional assistance or different accessibility reasons, people in low income environments, people in not as connected environments.

[00:13:14] Zoe: But also you have to deal with the people that are not, don't have the best intentions. Um, I assume, because the way the internet is, I'm making the assumption that that wasn't potentially the first thing you thought of when you started out of, we have to design this so that bad people don't do bad things.

[00:13:32] Zoe: I imagine it was more of a, we need to connect the world. 

[00:13:34] Vint: Well, actually it was designed originally to support command and control for the U. S. military and for the U. S. allies. And which is why we published everything openly, because we didn't know who the allies were going to be 25 years later. We wanted to make sure we covered all bases.

[00:13:50] Vint: There is very little that you can do, uh, technically to prevent people from using these technologies in harmful ways. That's true for so many other technologies as well. You know, Atoms work. for nuclear power, and they work for nuclear weapons, too. Um, they don't care. It's the people who you abuse them that you have to cope with.

[00:14:11] Vint: So, uh, we struggle, as do other countries, with legal frameworks that would allow us to achieve accountability. And so what I would say to you is, first of all, that we should care about accountability and agency. We want people to be accountable for their behaviors, which means we have to be able to identify them.

[00:14:30] Vint: Which means that absolute anonymity is probably not in the cards. Uh, the second thing is that because the system is global in scope by design, it's going to require international cooperation to hold parties accountable because they could be in different jurisdictions. While you're harming people and the third thing has having to do with agency is we need to give people the capacity to defend against some of these things to defend themselves to protect their safety and security and privacy and Technically we can do some of that.

[00:15:02] Vint: We have means by which we can use cryptography for confidentiality use Public key crypto for strong authentication. We can't solve all the bad behavior problems with technology I mean, if we try and we turn the internet into a brick, which is very safe and secure, it just sits there and it doesn't do anything.

[00:15:21] Vint: Even that would be a problem because you could pick up the brick and hit somebody with it. So you know, there's, there's even that case. So I'm coming to the belief that what we need to do, even with, uh, with young children is to refine their ability to think critically about what they're seeing and hearing.

[00:15:40] Vint: Uh, this is good advice for adults as well. It takes work, however, and so we need to, uh, create a society in which critical thinking is rewarded, uh, that it is condoned and it's encouraged. And I, I suspect that, um, this is going to be part of the solution to the problem we're facing right now with the large language models, uh, which Chris and I talked briefly about prior to this recording.

[00:16:08] Vint: Um, which we know can produce false information because it, it conflates facts and gets them mixed up. And so it makes assertions which may sound credible, which turn out to be wrong. Um, figuring that out, uh, in a way that, um, still allows us to harness the creativity of large language models is, is part of the challenge that we have today.

[00:16:30] Vint: Uh, provenance, uh, where did information come from, might turn out to be a core piece of the solution to that problem. And again, critical thinking, uh, is going to be needed. 

[00:16:42] Chris: I like that, for sure. It's something that is a little bit underrated, I think, critical thinking. Even in our education system today, we talk a lot more about memorization and learning facts than we do about Figuring out what's actually true, which it seems today with such amazing access to information, again, because of the internet, um, that finding the facts is not quite as hard.

[00:17:01] Chris: It's it's sorting through them and understanding what's, what's relevant or not 

[00:17:04] Vint: before you veer off when you make one other observation, I, um, have been preaching critical thinking for a while now, and I discovered that there are some families that really resist the idea that their children should learn to think critically.

[00:17:18] Vint: And my reaction was, well, why is that? And the answer was something like, you know, we don't want our kids coming home and questioning our views and opinions. And of course, I'm tempted to say at that point, but what if they're wrong? Of course, that's not the best thing to say in a conversation with someone who feels strongly about the point.

[00:17:38] Vint: So we run into the situation that not everyone agrees that critical thinking is a good thing if it criticizes, you know, the parents perspectives and points of view. Nonetheless, uh, I think I'm still on the, on the side of. encouraging critical thinking because it's the only way that you can use some of the bad content as teaching moments for even young people to explain to them why this is a bad thing and how they should think about it and why they should reject it.

[00:18:07] Chris: Absolutely. You mentioned provenance, and I think a lot of these things we're talking about right at the very beginnings of the TCP IP protocol and building it for communications and these things, I believe you were doing that while you were a student at Stanford. Is that right? And then I asked the question there is what was your first ever job?

[00:18:23] Chris: Were you working before that? Or was it after that? Or when did you get into the actual workforce? 

[00:18:28] Vint: Okay, so let me de conflate a couple of facts. I was a student at Stanford from 61 to 65, uh, and I had summer jobs. I worked for different divisions of something that was then called North American Aviation.

[00:18:43] Vint: Uh, so, uh, when I graduated from high school in, uh, February of 1961, I wasn't quite 18. I didn't turn 18 until June. But I had six months to work before I started as an undergraduate at Stanford, and I was working at an organization called Rocketdyne, which made the F 1 engines for the Apollo system. And so I was working on software to evaluate the likelihood that those F 1 engines would last until they ran out of fuel, after which we didn't care what happened.

[00:19:17] Vint: Unlike Elon Musk and others who would like to reuse the first stage. Uh, to his benefit and all of our benefits because it reduces the lift, the cost of lift capacity. So that was my, one of my early jobs. I had jobs in high school earlier than that, but they weren't, uh, had nothing to do with computing.

[00:19:36] Vint: They were more like, you know, working at a furniture store and, you know, doing a customer service. But the biggest important first job I had was at, uh, Rocketdyne. Uh, when I graduated from, uh, UCLA, uh, graduated from Stanford, I went to work for IBM in Los Angeles, and that job was running a time sharing system called QuickTram for two years from 65 to 67, at which point I realized I needed to go back to school to, to get an advanced degree in computer science.

[00:20:08] Vint: and went to UCLA. So as a graduate student at UCLA, I was introduced to the ARPANET project, which is the predecessor to the internet, and met some of my colleagues who are still close friends and were part of the both the ARPANET and the subsequent internet development. So I was at a graduate student when the ARPANET first showed up at UCLA.

[00:20:33] Vint: And, uh, was responsible for, uh, doing software to support the Network Measurement Center, which was evaluating how well the ARPANET worked, and, uh, it was comparing that against the, uh, queuing theoretic models that, uh, Professor Leonard Kleinrock had his students developing to predict what the internet would do, and we compared the predictions with the actual measurements, which is how I met Bob Kahn.

[00:20:58] Vint: Who at the time was working for a company called Bolt, Baranek, and Newman that built the packet switches of the ARPANET. And by the time we had a four node network running at the end of 1969, he came out to UCLA with one of his colleagues, Dave Walden, to kick the tires. And he had a theory that it wasn't going to work properly under certain heavy load conditions, and his colleagues didn't believe it.

[00:21:22] Vint: So Bob and I concocted a series of artificial traffic generation, uh, scenarios in which we killed the network repeatedly. And he came back, you know, to show his colleagues that they had work to do because the system would collapse under load. Uh, that formed a professional relationship, which has gone on for now, well, I guess on the order of 50 years or more now, almost 55 years.

[00:21:48] Vint: Okay, so coming back to Bob Kahn came out to UCLA with this idea that the ARPANET design was subject to failure under certain kinds of load. He went back and showed his colleagues that in fact he was correct and they needed to do some revision of the protocols that were being used. Um, at the time he worked for Bolt, Baranek, and Newman, but he went on to, um, the Advanced Research Projects Agency in late 1972, about the same time that I left UCLA with my PhD and rejoined Stanford as a member of the faculty.

[00:22:24] Vint: And it was at Stanford that I started work with Bob Kahn on the internet design. And for the record, Bob started the project and asked me to join him, not the other way around. And of course it has been a wonderful collaboration now going on nearly 60 years. 

[00:22:40] Zoe: Um, I was going to, going back to what you mentioned earlier, I was just going to mention that strong, independent and intelligent children are absolutely difficult to handle.

[00:22:50] Zoe: I know because my daughter is. I agree, they're 100 percent worth it, because I'm excited for her to become a strong, independent, intelligent woman. Um, it's just, the interim is a little difficult. Um, but, uh, 

[00:23:05] Vint: Well, as a parent, I resonate with this. I have two very bright sons who are now in their 40s and early 50s.

[00:23:12] Vint: But the thing that we have to keep in mind is that our children will grow up and become adults at some point, and they will be on their own, and we can't be with them all the time. And so as protective as we want to be, part of our job is raising them to become safe and secure while they're independent.

[00:23:30] Vint: And that means teaching them early on how to do that. And it would appear to me that you've come to a similar conclusion. So we have this tension between trying to protect our kids from harm, which we surely should do, But equip them to protect themselves as time goes on. 

[00:23:47] Zoe: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I also wanted to say, your career length, kind of, I don't know how long you've been working, but it sounds like it's about double my age.

[00:23:57] Zoe: So you've had quite opportunities. Um, I imagine you've held, you've held many different roles and you've had, as I said, many different opportunities. Of all the positions you've held, I'm curious, what was your absolute favourite and why? 

[00:24:12] Vint: Wow. Um, let me suggest two in particular. One was working for six years at the Advanced Research Projects Agency running the internet research program and related programs, packet radio, packet satellite, packet security.

[00:24:27] Vint: That was an exhilarating six year period, partly because I had effectively money to spend on some of the smartest people you could possibly imagine. I was also allowed in that role to dive as deep as I wanted to into the technology and the details, so I was down in the weeds a lot. I'm sure the principal investigators didn't always like the fact that I could jump in and, you know, poke at the details.

[00:24:51] Vint: But, uh, for me, it was just an exhilarating period. The second thing, uh, which I would say continues to this, to this day, started in 1998 when I became a visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in aid of developing an interplanetary, uh, network. Or the design of an interplanetary network, which is now thoroughly underway.

[00:25:13] Vint: It's 25 years later. We are, we've implemented new protocols for that purpose. They're on the International Space Station. Prototypes are running on Mars. We're anticipating being part of LunaNet and part of the Artemis return to the Moon mission and the subsequent missions to Mars in the 2030s. You know, that 25 year period has been like living in a science fiction story.

[00:25:37] Vint: Uh, and I have to say, I could not leave out the 18 years that I've been at, uh, at Google has been wonderful period for me because Google has been very, uh, I would say, willing to allow me to work not only on inside projects, but on things on the outside as well. 

[00:25:56] Zoe: Those are really big challenges you faced and I imagine coming from the beginning of the internet to trying to build the internet in not on earth. I'm curious, there's probably been situations where you felt overwhelmed or you felt like maybe you're not smart enough. Can you think of a time that potentially you were in that position where you're like, I don't know if I can do this.

[00:26:19] Zoe: And how did you overcome that sense of feeling like it's just so much you have to learn and be able to do all at once? 

[00:26:26] Vint: Well, first of all, you're making the presumption that I think I'm smart enough to do all the things that I've been credited with. Let me tell you, I've always known that I'm not the smartest guy in the crowd.

[00:26:37] Vint: I surround myself with people who are smarter than I am, because I am smart enough to know that if you want to do anything big, you need to get help, preferably from people who are smarter than you are. And I've never been afraid of hiring people who know more than I do and turning to them. To make big things happen.

[00:26:54] Vint: And so when I was working at M C I, the first time I worked on M C I mail, we built a commercial email service. In nine months time, I had a fantastic team, not only, uh, at M C I employees, but also we had contractors from, uh, from uh, I B M, from Hewlett Packard, from Digital Equipment Corporation for network.

[00:27:15] Vint: American management systems and the teams all work together. And what I learned was it was enthusiasm and and perceptive questions that help people make progress. If I didn't know the answer, I asked, you know, what's the answer or how do we do this? And if, if they didn't know, they went off to try to figure it out.

[00:27:36] Vint: If they didn't know, they told me and that helped me figure out, you know, where do we go next? So, almost all of the projects I've worked on have had the, uh, satisfying, uh, element of teamwork, uh, and the recognition that, uh, as long as everyone is attempting to achieve a common objective, That even when there are intense debates, and believe me, in many of my projects, there are quite, you know, engineers can be quite animated when they, uh, have strong views about which way to go, but at no time, uh, did these turn personal because we all realized we were all trying to get to the same place.

[00:28:15] Vint: We just had different possible ways of getting there and so listening to other people, knowing that that's their, uh, mindset, makes it possible to have intense debates without anything turning personal. And for me, that has been a very important factoid, I guess, in, or factor, uh, in the projects I've worked on.

[00:28:35] Chris: That resonates a lot. I think, um, that's one thing I've seen happen in some places I worked that could have been more than they were. Was due to the lack of debate and, and, and usually that's because of, you know, a lack of psychological safety, a lack of trust. Um, we don't feel like we're all working for the same things, maybe, you know, office politics or whatever you want to call it.

[00:28:53] Chris: Things get involved there where people are turf battles and things instead of let's just all push the same direction and trust each other. And, you know, we can think each other are wrong without actually being, you know, personal about it. 

[00:29:04] Vint: Well, just to make an observation about trust, uh, there is a kind of trust that doesn't help, and I'll give you an example.

[00:29:11] Vint: There are some cultures where the leader is assumed to have figured it all out, and to contradict the leader is considered inappropriate. And I have had to work from time to time to remind my teams. that I don't know everything, that if I said we're going that a way and they know that that's off a cliff, uh, it's their job to say, wait a minute, you know, that's off the cliff and here's why.

[00:29:36] Vint: And they, they better have a good reason for saying wait, but I remind them it's important to say that, you know, there's a hazard there, or at least I think there's a hazard there. And to have that discussion, uh, you know, my view is that if you know that I'm about to screw up and you don't tell me. You have failed my trust in, in you, which is to expect you to tell me when you think I'm wrong, and to not make the assumption that I've discounted all the hazards of a particular path.

[00:30:05] Vint: So, what I tell my, uh, engineers is that if you didn't tell me, That you knew I was about to screw up at the end of the year, that will be reflected in your fitness report. 

[00:30:17] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. One. I mean, and there's something there about asking stupid questions too, right? They're usually not stupid. You know, maybe somebody hasn't thought about it.

[00:30:22] Chris: You can't assume that. However, I will, I'm noting the clock here and it's with deep regret that I recognize we're just about out of time for today. Vint we've talked about a lot of things you're working on and a lot of things you've worked on over the years. Are there any specific projects or causes you'd like to highlight for the imposter syndrome network?

[00:30:39] Vint: Uh, yes, several. And thank you for the opportunity. One of them is to please turn to the Marconi Society. It's literally marconisociety. org and have a look at its efforts on digital inclusion and to celebrate the contributions of people in information technology and communications. The second thing is to be attentive to the difficult task of making technology accessible in the assistive sense.

[00:31:05] Vint: It's actually very hard to make IT systems accessible. And I would encourage people to give thought to that because there are a lot of people who would benefit from that. And the third thing is to observe that as wonderful as the Internet has been, it's also a platform in which harmful behavior is occurring.

[00:31:26] Vint: And we need to find ways of defending against that. There are only three. Mechanisms I can think of that would, um, allow us to tame the, um, on, on, on the wild internet. One of them is technology that just keeps people from doing harmful things, and if you can get away with that, that's helpful. The second thing, since that doesn't always work, is to put, uh, enforceable...

[00:31:50] Vint: Uh, regulations in place that say if we catch you doing certain things, there'll be consequences and to make good on that. And the third thing is to tell people, don't do that, it's wrong. And although the last choice sounds wimpy, I have to remind everybody that the weakest force in the universe is gravity, but when you have enough mass, it keeps the planets in orbit.

[00:32:11] Vint: And so if you have enough social mass, You may be able to introduce norms of social behavior that will, uh, in some ways constrain some of the bad behaviors that people would otherwise engage in. 

[00:32:23] Chris: I like that a lot. I think that goes a long way. Um, yeah, there's tons of stories that are about folks, um, you know, doing things for the people next to them versus based on law or, or, or things even beyond that.

[00:32:34] Chris: So I like that a lot. Vint, thank you so much for making the time to come on the show today. Uh, and share your story with the Impostor Syndrome Network and thank you to all of our listeners for your time, your attention, and your support. If you found this episode insightful or interesting, please consider paying it forward by letting others know about this show and the great guests we have on, uh, before we turn the lights off, Vint.

[00:32:56] Chris: I would like to know, uh, if there's folks listening to this episode, possibly young technology professionals early in their career, or maybe folks that are in a rut looking for a change, if they take one thing away from this conversation, what would you like it to be? What's the one piece of advice you wish all of us would act on?

[00:33:14] Vint: I think the most important piece of advice is, again, if you want to do something big, get help. Especially from people who are smarter than you are. Don't be afraid to, uh, either hire or work with people who smarter than you in some way, area or other, because you'll benefit from that. 

[00:33:33] Chris: Amazing. Thank you. We will be back next week.