In this episode, we chat with Jeff Doyle, a director of solutions architecture at Juniper Networks and a renowned author of several books on routing protocols.
Jeff has over 30 years of experience as a network engineer, working in various roles such as technical marketing, consulting, and engineering. He’ll share his journey from climbing poles as a” phone man” to writing books and becoming a director at Juniper.
We discuss how he discovered his passion for networking and writing, and how he balances his technical expertise with his communication skills. He’ll also give us some tips on how to write better and find a good editor.
We’ll explore his career path and the challenges he faced along the way, such as being a terrible salesperson, dealing with ego problems, and finding the right fit in the networking industry.
Join us for this fascinating and insightful conversation with Jeff Doyle.
“Find what really excites you, don’t settle.”
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[00:00:00] Chris: Hello, and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network podcast. This is where everyone belongs, especially those of you who think you don't. My name is Chris Grundemann, and I'm here with my partner in imposterism, our absolutely amazing co host, Zoe Rose. Hello! This is the Jeff Doyle episode. And I think you're going to love it.
[00:00:28] Chris: Jeff is the author of CCIE professional development, routing, TCP, IP, both volumes one and two, also OSPF and ISIS choosing an IGP for large scale networks. And he's a coauthor of software defined networking anatomy of open flow. Plus was an editor and contributing author for Juniper Networks routers, the complete reference, but he's not just a world famous author.
[00:00:51] Chris: He has designed or assisted in the design of large scale IP service provider networks in 26 countries over six continents. He's also one of the founders of the Rocky Mountain IPv6 Task Force, an IPv6 Forum Fellow, and helped me to run the Colorado Chapter of the Internet Society as well.
[00:01:07] Chris: Hi, Jeff. Would you like to introduce yourself any further to the Imposter Syndrome Network?
[00:01:11] Jeff: Hi, Chris. Well, I guess, uh, out of that long list of books. I actually have to laugh at the anatomy of OpenFlow because that book was pretty much obsolete by the time it hit the presses. I think OpenFlow was a deal for about six months, but I should mention, I also, um, it was a coauthor for another Cisco press book on, uh, network automation.
[00:01:35] Chris: Yes, indeed. Thanks for being here, Jeff. Let's dive in. I want to start the episode a little differently today. Uh, we've known each other for many years now through the Colorado chapter of the internet society, as well as the Rocky mountain IPv6 task force. And you are quite widely known for your books, especially Routing TCP IP Volume 1, which is still today, I think more than 20 years later, the de facto standard for understanding IGP routing.
[00:01:59] Chris: And so normally, I would start out asking someone of your stature a tough question, maybe about mistakes or regrets, but I want to switch it up today to keep future guests on their toes. So instead, why don't you tell us about the greatest achievement of your career so far from your current perspective, however you judge things these days?
[00:02:17] Jeff: Oh gosh, uh, greatest achievement probably would be the, the routing TCP IP books. That was a very early opportunity for me that just kind of made my name and, uh, you know, I've always been very appreciative of the people who appreciate the book. It does still sell, I still get a nice little royalty check, you know, every month, which is very unusual.
[00:02:42] Jeff: It's usually one of the first people I tell, first things I tell people, uh, that are interested in writing technical books. Is, well, you're not in it for the money because there is none, but that's a, that's a surprising exception. Uh, and I have to say, even though that's the most well known book, uh, the, uh, OSPF and ISIS book that you mentioned is actually the book I'm the most proud of.
[00:03:05] Jeff: I feel like that's a, uh, kind of an authoritative book on those topics and really enjoyed writing that one.
[00:03:13] Zoe: I'm curious on that, um, because I've looked at potentially writing books in the past, but timing never worked out and, but one of the things that really scared me is, and this is the problem I have with blogging, is saying something and then publishing it, because The feedback
[00:03:37] Jeff: is not always positive. You can't really avoid the negative comments, but your point is very important. You know that, I mean, if you're standing in front of a crowd, you know, and you say something dumb, you can, you know, you can always just kind of blow it off later. You know, I wasn't thinking or nah, I didn't really say that or whatever, but if it's in print.
[00:04:00] Jeff: There's no denying it and, um, um, and so it's when you're writing, whether it's blogging or books or articles or whatever, you know, that's, that's something I always encourage is to look carefully at what you're writing, you know, if you can employ a friend or two to go over it, uh, someone, you know, that is, that doesn't mind telling you when you've said something dumb and that's, that's a very valuable thing.
[00:04:25] Jeff: I, uh, yeah. One of the books I wrote, I recruited, or actually the publisher recruited a guy to do tech reviews and pretty much everything he, all of his comments were, Oh, this is, this is great. You said that so well, and, and, you know, blah, blah, blah. And it's like, well, I really appreciate it, but that's not what I need.
[00:04:46] Jeff: I need for you to tell me when I'm saying something stupid.
[00:04:50] Zoe: 100%. Yeah. When I, when I started blogging, I had a lovely gentleman that I knew from, I think I knew him actually from Twitter originally, but we chatted on Slack. Uh, because he was fully happy to review my blogs and give me feedback and that definitely helped my confidence because it was somebody I respected and when they said, yeah, this is good.
[00:05:10] Zoe: Yeah. Um, or even I disagree, but actually I see your point. That was helpful to me. Definitely. It gave me more confidence.
[00:05:18] Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's valuable. And you know, depending on what you're doing, I mean, things, a good technical publisher, you know, I've written so many books for Cisco press. And they fully understand the day job demands of their authors, you know, and that if they're getting a good author, it's because they're very busy people and, you know, they're very understanding about those things.
[00:05:45] Jeff: And they also have really good development editors. And I've said this over and over and over that the development editor makes you look like a much better writer than you actually are. Or be, and it makes me a better writer anyway. And, uh, and nowadays, you know, we've got some great AI tools like Grammarly.
[00:06:04] Jeff: Not a plug here, it's just something I like, it's a tool I like to use that, uh, almost everything I write now. Down to, I've found even for text messages, uh, Grammarly will pick up on those and I'll, I'll run it through there. Uh, you know, and it almost invariably catch grammatical errors that I've made. So, there's great tools, there's great people out there that can help you develop as a, as a writer.
[00:06:29] Zoe: That's true. One of my, one of my best training courses I took at work was a writing course because we were doing pen test reports and if they're rubbish, that's, that's the product. You know, that's what they're paying for. So they can't be rubbish. So now that's a good point, using different tools out there.
[00:06:45] Zoe: I'm curious if there was a time that maybe in the writing experience or maybe in the job experience. But you did actually, maybe went through a situation where it wasn't, wasn't your best. And how did you kind of recover from that? Because I think for me, I do tend to, it does tend to cut down on my confidence a little bit.
[00:07:07] Zoe: And as you've written quite a few books, I imagine you've been in those situations a few times.
[00:07:12] Jeff: Yeah. As far as not being my best, I am a little bit of an obsessive writer and it's the roadblock for me on my day job. You know, I do a lot of just sales collateral and white papers and that sort of thing on my job.
[00:07:28] Jeff: And I am invariably late and, uh, you know, and I'm, I'm working on another book for Cisco Press right now and the chief editor there, longtime friend of mine, is monumentally patient with me because, uh, I think I should have had that book finished about two years ago and, you know, it's just. I'm obsessive.
[00:07:49] Jeff: You know, when I do finally turn something in, it's, it's fairly good because I worry so much about, uh, about it not being right or not being grammatically correct or, or that sort of thing.
[00:08:00] Chris: So I want to change gears a little bit. You mentioned obviously working with Cisco Press for a lot of these books.
[00:08:04] Chris: And then you also talked about, you know, currently in your day job, you do some, some sales collateral, maybe white papers, that kind of thing. And I know. I think your official title is member of technical staff, uh, at Apstra, which is now part of Juniper. What does a member of the technical staff do with what you actually do every day, Jeff?
[00:08:20] Jeff: Yeah, it's actually my, my title changed. My job hasn't changed, but my title changed when Juniper acquired Apstra and, uh, I'm a director of solutions architecture now, which, uh, uh, that was just. What they gave me and it's like, I've never really cared what anybody called me, so, so that's fine. But as far as member of technical staff, when I joined Apsara, uh, uh, a big part of my job, I was on the engineering team.
[00:08:46] Jeff: If, for those viewers who may not be familiar with Apsara, it's basically a data center automation tool. You know, and the whole idea is you have this one user interface and you do everything you need to do through that interface. I'm not doing it. Product plug here at all. Just a product description. But your data center switching architecture can be multivendor.
[00:09:10] Jeff: Uh, you know, Juniper, Cisco, Arista, Sonic. It can be any of those or any combination of those. And when you generically or abstractly Uh, describe what you want to happen in your, uh, data center fabric. Uh, Apstra then pushes configurations out in the correct syntax for whatever device, vendor device is there.
[00:09:37] Jeff: And that long story is to say. My job, I'm not a software developer at all, and this is a software company, in fact, it's the first software company I've ever worked for, but my job was to sort of look at, well, what should that configuration for anything you do in Apstra look like, you know, when it goes out to the switch, whatever vendor it is.
[00:09:59] Jeff: And, you know, do the configurations, do the exact same thing, no matter which, which, uh, vendor you're pushing configuration to. So, so I would, uh, look at what are, what are the, uh, resulting configurations and then that would go into engineering and they would figure out how to put that into the software.
[00:10:17] Jeff: My job has evolved since then. I'm more, uh, I'm more in technical marketing now after joining Juniper, which I love. If you're working for a company that has a product you actually believe in, you know, it makes the job a whole lot more fun. It sure does. Yeah. So, you know, when you don't mind standing in front of customers, you know, plugging a product because you actually believe what you're saying.
[00:10:40] Jeff: It, uh, makes a difference.
[00:10:42] Zoe: Really does. It's awful when you're like, no, don't buy us.
[00:10:48] Jeff: And I've, I've in the past been, uh, been with a couple of companies where that's been the case.
[00:10:55] Zoe: That's, that's a hard one to get through because you're also like, I do need. Money to live, but my reputation, so I get that. Yeah.
[00:11:05] Zoe: I've been in situations like that before. Um, I'm curious, you obviously are quite far in your career. You've had quite a few really brilliant achievements, but why did you get into networking? What was the, what was the mindset there? When you started, however long ago.
[00:11:23] Jeff: Um, interesting question. I, and I, I really like this question.
[00:11:28] Jeff: I have, across my career, there's been cases where I've just stumbled in to opportunities that I wasn't expecting. I actually, when I, when I left college, um, graduated college, I got a job as a phone man. I was one of those guys climbing poles and crawling under houses and All that kind of thing. And, and, uh, went through, uh, you know, a few different jobs within the phone company and wound up eventually on the company team that, uh, I, after a while got into PBXs, which are, um, you know, large business phone systems.
[00:12:07] Jeff: Uh, but then went on to a team that took care of the company's own phone systems. And part of that job was taking care also of the networks. And at that time, you know, there were mostly dumb IBM terminals on all of the account managers desks and all that, that all wired back to a. Uh, front end controller that then wired back to the computer room and got fascinated with networking at that point.
[00:12:35] Jeff: And that was really the start of my networking career. I had no idea that it would be as lucrative or turn out the way it did. This was back in the eighties, you know, but it just, it was interesting to me. And so managed to get into the networking career, you know, some years later, we've been talking about the books.
[00:12:54] Jeff: I thought, I've, I've always been an avid reader and always enjoyed writing all kinds of things. And I thought, well, you know, I think I would like to start writing network textbooks. And figured, well, I should start by writing articles for magazines, industry magazines. Just see where that ends up, you know, surely if I, you know, get enough of these articles behind me.
[00:13:17] Jeff: I can propose a book at some point. Well, I wrote one article. It was an article about how to build a, an access list. Uh, keeping in mind, this was early nineties, I guess, mid nineties. You know, when that was more of a mysterious topic than it is now and, um, and published it in, uh, Cisco world, which at the time was, was a paper periodical based on that one article.
[00:13:43] Jeff: I was approached both by Cisco press and by, uh, another publisher saying, you want to write a book for us? And, uh, when it was Cisco press just said, sure. The only book they had out at the time was Bassam Halabi's BGP book, which was one of my favorite books. Another classic. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely.
[00:14:00] Jeff: And, and I thought that's some company I want to be in. And so I said to them, yeah, I'd love to write a book. And they said to me, well, what topic do you want to write on? Because they were just looking to build, you know, build a, a library at the time. And so I just grabbed the most prominent ring and said, I want to write a book on routing, you know, just sort of write about all of it.
[00:14:23] Jeff: And that's where the routing TCP IP books came in. And the third story, kind of like that, I, throughout my career, I've always sort of tried to chase the, you know, the bleeding edge technologies. I was very interested in, you know, whatever is new and fascinating, you know, again, just curiosity on my part.
[00:14:43] Jeff: And kind of easily bored when, when I, you know, things get old, but early days with Juniper, when I joined Juniper, I was a 285th employee. It was very small, little aggressive startup at the time. And I was in Beijing, uh, for something, some kind of customer meetings and a, and a VP for Juniper was in Shanghai and sent me a message one day saying, Hey, I'm supposed to speak at this event.
[00:15:10] Jeff: It's an IPv6 event that an organization in China is putting on. And since you're in Beijing, would you mind covering this event for me? I said, sure. I'll be glad to do that. Um, it was literally the next day, send me the slides. The slides were just all marketing, a lot of marketing slides and, you know, being familiar enough at that point with technical forums, I knew that that's the kind of thing you get eaten alive if you try to present.
[00:15:39] Jeff: And so I spent all night, stayed up all night revamping the slides into what I knew about IPv6, presented the next day, and it was popular enough that, you know, I started getting very involved in the IPv6 world and started getting invited to speak at other places, wound up being the IPv6 corporate spokesperson for Juniper.
[00:16:00] Jeff: So, you know, the third instance of just kind of being in the right place at the right time and stumbling into something that was a major direction in my career. And, uh, so that was kind of a long story, but I think the takeaway from that is, you know, for anybody listening, you know, is to keep your eyes and ears peeled for those kinds of opportunities and never think that you can't do that.
[00:16:25] Jeff: Oh, I've never published a book before, or I, you know, I don't know that much about IPV6 or, you know, whatever it might be currently. And just always be willing to say, sure, I'll do that. And, uh, it can really take your career in some unexpected directions.
[00:16:40] Chris: Yeah, for sure. That's well, and I think it's interesting to how much of the careers of folks we've talked to are kind of that, you know, maybe not quite stumbling into opportunities, but, but definitely, you know, and maybe as I'm saying this out loud, it becomes obvious, right?
[00:16:55] Chris: I mean, it's almost impossible to chart a clear path. From today through the next 20 years of any career, especially one in technology where, you know, the ground is moving as as you are, uh, to some degree, right? I think it moves a little slower than we try to make it out to move, but things definitely are moving and shifting and changing, right?
[00:17:11] Jeff: Absolutely. That's one of the things I like about, uh, this job. I mean, I you. People at, at my age. Yeah. You know, I turned 70 this year. You know, people ask all the time, well, do you have a, what are you gonna do when you retire? And, uh, , it's like, well, I don't, I have no retirement plans at all. I, uh, told, uh, I was talking to a neighbor the other day and I said, well, my plan if it works out, is to retire on the day I die.
[00:17:35] Jeff: There you go. And, uh, full retirement . It's just, yeah, it's, it's just, I'm having a lot of fun and as long as I'm still mentally capable of doing the job, uh, I'm going to keep going because it's just, you know, and kind of along with that is, you know, in this career, you can't sit on your laurels, a career where, you know, technology is constantly changing and if you're not keeping up with it, you're going to get left behind.
[00:18:02] Chris: Definitely. Well, and so speaking of that, right, I think, you know, one, you said you're still working on a new book. That's great. And you're also doing a podcast with Jeff Tanura, uh, between O X two Nerds, if I, if I spell it out there.
[00:18:15] Jeff: Bet Between two Nerds. Yeah. With, uh, two in Hex. And you were the, you were the guest our, on our last show.
[00:18:23] Jeff: I was, yeah. That was quite fun. It was a terrific show.
[00:18:25] Chris: Yeah. So what's the goal? What were your motivations with, with the podcast? I mean, is it just, you know, talking to great people or are you trying to get a message out? Or, or, you know, why, why, why do the podcast? Is it just to keep you sharp, or, or, yeah. Why?
[00:18:36] Jeff: That's a great question. It's really to keep people informed of what's going on in networking. And I mean, that is once again, it's kind of grabbing the biggest ring, you know, because that subject can take you anywhere. And it was actually Jeff Tansura was one of my teammates at Apstra. He's gone on to NVIDIA.
[00:18:58] Jeff: Since then, but our mutual boss actually had the idea for, for this show and said, you know, it would be a great idea if, uh, you two guys just had a show where it's just, just two guys sitting around talking about networking. Hence the, the title, which was, uh, sort of stolen from, uh, what was that show between two ferns?
[00:19:21] Jeff: Yeah. With Galifianakis. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, it, it, it started out with just the two of us just talking about what was going on in the industry and, you know, in the format or supposed to be just chatting, which is pretty much like what we're doing right here. I don't know, maybe six months into the show, we started talking about, we should have guests on the show and I don't think we've done a show since then without a guest, you know, and we just started very quickly realizing all that, that opens up so many other aspects.
[00:19:55] Jeff: Tensura is a chairman of the IETF routing working group. And so he, he pulls in some incredibly smart people to talk about some really challenging topics. Yeah. It's just industry chat.
[00:20:12] Zoe: I was wondering about, um, you've talked about your great opportunities. You've talked about, it sounds like a little bit of almost sponsorship as well.
[00:20:21] Zoe: Uh, specifically for the. Authoring or writing books, they're like, Oh, what do you want? You know, let us know. And we'll encourage you or support you to do it. And those are all the positive things. And obviously that's absolutely brilliant, but I'm curious on the less so positive. And if you worked in a team that.
[00:20:41] Zoe: Maybe it was dysfunctional or struggling, we'll say, and what are your, one, advice for people going through that, but also how did you get out of that? Cause it doesn't sound like you're in that at the moment.
[00:20:54] Jeff: Um, yeah, it's, I'm not in that in the moment. I'm, I'm loving what I'm doing and loving who I work for.
[00:21:01] Jeff: I have to say. I, I mentioned I was, you know, joined Juniper in very early years when it was just a small startup and probably five years, the first five years there was the most fun I'd ever had in my career. By the time I left Juniper in 2007, I was saying, well, you know, I can sort of see where it's not becoming as much fun because the company is getting too big and, and, uh, you know, big company problems and all that kind of thing.
[00:21:26] Jeff: Well, there were 3, 000 people at the time. I ran my own consultancy for quite a few years and then kind of bounced around to a few different companies. And what I was really looking for was another small startup that was as much fun as Juniper was. Finally landed at Apstra, uh, which was, you know, well, small startup, you know, less than 200 people, you know, cool product, things for me to learn that I didn't know before.
[00:21:54] Jeff: And Juniper, like I said, it was the first time I'd ever worked for a software company. And then Juniper acquired us and, you know, I'd left Juniper because of saying it had gotten too big. In 2007 at 3000 people. And now they were like 11, 000 people. And I was really skeptical of, you know, is this, is this right?
[00:22:13] Jeff: Uh, do I want to go there? Turns out it's been wonderful, cool company. They've pretty much left us alone, you know, internally. So. The Apsara group still kind of feels like a little startup and, and, and all that. And I'm not really answering the question you gave, but you know, it's another time when I've, uh, Juniper has done several things that have really impressed me since we've been back there.
[00:22:37] Jeff: Enjoy working for them. Not meaning to plug juniper. You know, I'm just saying it's a fun place to work. It's a good place to work, but, uh, there's the butt, you know, in that time of between I left juniper that last time to the time I joined Apsara, I did a lot of bouncing around to different companies, like I said, because I was looking for that same experience, including running my own consultancy, which was fun in a way Except I'm a terrible salesperson, you know, and I finally, after a while realized I need to be with a company where they have competent salespeople that know what they're doing and because that's not me.
[00:23:14] Jeff: And so out of those companies, uh, the main reason I, I bounced around was, you know, there just never seemed to be the right kinds of fits, you know, there were times when there was at least one place where. Uh, and I won't name any names there, but, uh, was at a company for a short amount of time and ran into this syndrome that you see a lot in even public spheres nowadays, where, you know, a CEO of a company has had a, uh, has built a really great company based on one idea.
[00:23:48] Jeff: And out of that, they get an attitude of. Well, I'm a genius and I know everything about everything. And, you know, you know, and they, they don't want to listen to anybody when they have a dumb idea. Uh, they're just convinced it's a brilliant idea and they don't want to listen to, you know, why it's dumb. And so for me, and I think this is true for, um, for anybody that has.
[00:24:13] Jeff: A decent resume is, you know, networking industry is huge and there's always opportunities out there. And so out of that really long story, I would say, you know, if you have the right skills, if you've developed the right kinds of skills, and I'd like to talk about that in a minute, but never be afraid to say this is not a right fit.
[00:24:34] Jeff: And, you know, I'm going to look for something else. Even if you've only been there for four months, which has happened to me, uh, you know, don't, don't be afraid to find what really excites you and don't settle just because, you know, well, it's job security or they're paying me a lot of money or, or whatever.
[00:24:52] Chris: Well, unfortunately that's about all the time we have for today. Um, Jeff, do you have any projects or causes that you'd like to highlight for the imposter syndrome network?
[00:25:02] Jeff: Oh, uh, you know, the newest one, and, uh, I don't know if you've talked about it on the show or not, but it's exactly what you and I are doing right now.
[00:25:11] Jeff: This is, uh, for the audience. Chris and, um, and our mutual friends, uh, Scott Robon have, uh, started the network automation forum. And I was lucky enough to be invited to help contribute to that. And it's something I'm very excited about. I've been talking about a lot to both internal and external to, to where I work.
[00:25:32] Jeff: And, uh, I think this is going to be a lot of fun and I think this is going to be a very useful industry forum in, in the years to come.
[00:25:40] Chris: I hope so. Yeah, I'm excited about it as well. Our, our inaugural event, AutoCon Zero will be held November 13th and 14th in, uh, in Denver, Colorado.
[00:25:48] Jeff: Right here in my hometown.
[00:25:50] Chris: Yeah, exactly. I get to come home. So that'll be great. Yeah, I'm excited about that as well. Thanks, Jeff. And we'll have some links in the show notes for, for your LinkedIn and stuff like that. If people want to get in touch with you, your author's page to find those books. And yeah, just thank you for, for sharing your story with the imposter syndrome network.
[00:26:04] Jeff: I appreciate being, being invited. When you said we're almost out of time, it shocked me because, uh, I thought we were like 15 minutes into the show.
[00:26:13] Chris: Yeah, that's great. It's a good episode when we have a good conversation, right? And uh, yeah. So thank you to all of our listeners for your attention and your support.
[00:26:20] Chris: If you found this episode insightful or interesting, please do consider paying it forward by letting others know about this show and the great guests we have on.
[00:26:28] Chris: Now Jeff, before we close out though, I am curious, you mentioned something about getting the right skills or having the right skills or what that is.
[00:26:34] Chris: Maybe you can talk to us a little bit more about that before we totally shut the lights off here.
[00:26:38] Jeff: Oh, I really appreciate the question. Yeah. It's, it's something when I talk to young engineers about, about career development and what I always emphasize is if you really want to be successful in networking, you need to go beyond, obviously the, the essential part of that is knowing technology and keeping up with the technology.
[00:26:56] Jeff: But if you, uh, are going to be successful in your career, you have to be able to be a good writer. Uh, you know, whether it's just technical manuals and how to kinds of things, or whether you're writing books. And so develop those route writing skills. The other part is being a good speaker, you know, go to some public speaking classes.
[00:27:18] Jeff: You know, if you're in college, uh, you know, take an acting class. Uh, learn to be comfortable in front of an audience because you're, you know, whether you're presenting stuff to your bosses or whether you're presenting to, uh, you know, 3000 people in front of some industry forum, you've got to be able to have good presentation skills.
[00:27:37] Jeff: You know, writing is the same thing. I always encourage, uh, you know, don't, don't take a technical writing class. Take a creative writing class. You know, so that you learn how to tell a story, but yeah, develop those writing skills, develop your speaking skills, um, and they, they will serve you immensely across your career.
[00:27:56] Chris: It's worked for me. That's great advice, Jeff. Thanks. We will be back next week.