In this episode, we chat with Dave Siegel, a visionary technology leader who specializes in product strategies, network planning, business planning, network architecture and design, and leadership and management. Dave has been helping build the Internet since 1993 and has been self-employed since 2018.
Dave shares his journey from starting his own ISP in Tucson to working at Global Crossing and Level 3, and how he became a consultant and a board member of NANOG.
We also discuss Dave’s passion for learning new things and how he applies his technical skills to different domains such as marketing, audio engineering, and video editing. He also gives us some tips and advice on how to deal with imposter syndrome and how to keep learning and growing.
Never stop learning.
You just don't know how learning a thing is going to translate into whatever task you have to do next.
Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!
We'd love it if you connected with us at the links below:
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, and we are joined today by the very pregnant Zoe Rose, Zoe, thanks for being here. I know it's getting close to time off here. This is the Dave Siegel episode, and I think we're all in for a treat.
[00:00:29] Chris: Dave is a visionary technology leader who specializes in product strategies, network planning, business planning. Network architecture and design and leadership and management. Dave's been helping build the internet since at least 1992 and has been self employed since about 2018.
[00:00:51] Chris: Hey, Dave, would you mind introducing yourself a bit further to the imposter syndrome network?
[00:00:56] Dave: Sure. I don't know that. Now that you read off all those specialties, I don't know that those all really apply. I don't feel like a specialist at all. I feel more like a generalist at this point in my life, but that's, that's pretty good. I, I wouldn't say I've been building the internet since 1992 that really started in 93 started my first business in 1992.
[00:01:17] Dave: And eventually we actually started doing stuff like consulting and writing software in 93, late in 93, we became an ISP in Tucson's first dial up internet provider. So that's really when I would say that my true internet journey really began is providing internet service. And then things got a little, a little crazy after that.
[00:01:38] Chris: Awesome. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I would like to kind of jump into the present a bit in your case, that seems quite busy. If we include volunteer work, I think if I read your LinkedIn page correctly, it lists about seven active roles. Is that for real? And how do you keep that all straight?
[00:01:54] Dave: It is for real.
[00:01:55] Dave: And, and it's maybe also a little, a little misleading because as a consultant, I have many clients and some of them like having me as a relationship on their LinkedIn page. Because maybe I actually have an official role with them. I, I do have two clients where I am retained for a certain number of hours uh, every month with them and I have responsibilities inside the business and attend, you know, certain staff meetings, departmental meetings.
[00:02:23] Dave: And that sort of thing. So it does make sense for me to be listed on their LinkedIn page. Some of those are like, uh, inflect, you know, I'm a, I'm an agent for inflect, which I use for, um, solving certain customer problems that relate to a procurement of, of telecom services. And that one is not really.
[00:02:42] Dave: You know, I don't really work there. I, you know, I, I use them as a service, but that indicates that relationship. As far as volunteer work. Yeah, I, Nanog, I, this, I'm just about to go into my sixth year as a director of the board and, uh, that's quite a bit of work that it's not, not just the board work, but the committee work that you get involved in as well.
[00:03:07] Dave: I'm currently the treasurer, but. You know, I've been involved in the education committee for the last several years, rotated between the audit committee and I've served on the compensation committee. I've done that a few years and, you know, there's always a lot of committee work to do as a board member.
[00:03:26] Dave: So like, it's not just the board meetings, but you tend to get involved in. all different aspects of the community driving the strategy of the organization. So, you know, that can be, you know, anywhere from up to six hours a week and doesn't even count like the offsites and the conferences and stuff like that.
[00:03:43] Dave: So, but yeah, all those relationships are real. Um, I think I also list mastered mix, which is my audio production company and I haven't actually done any audio production in a few years now since, since I relocated up to Estes park. I did have a studio at my last place and, uh, did do some audio recording, not only for my wife, but for some other musicians as well, and, you know, put some stuff up on Spotify and, and that sort of stuff, but the, we kind of outgrew the studio space.
[00:04:16] Dave: So one of the reasons for moving was to have more, more room for, for recording. And I haven't actually finished the studio yet. I've been so busy with consulting work. So that stuff's all kind of on hold right now, but, uh, hope to hope to be back in recording ready, probably summer of next year. I think it takes a long time when you only work on it on the weekends.
[00:04:43] Zoe: Yeah, no, that's fair for me. It's like. hair planning. I'm like, Oh, I can do all these things. I'm like, Oh, wait a minute. I have a toddler and I'm pregnant. Um, what's the timeframe there? Between naps, am I going to have maybe five minutes? So I can definitely relate to that. But, but yeah, no, that's a lot of things going on all at the same time.
[00:05:05] Zoe: We did speak to one person, one of our guests recently that said the way that he keeps motivated and keeps Consistently being able to apply himself in such, so many different areas is because actually they kind of relate to each other as well as there is passion. So is there any kind of sense of, is it, okay, these are all my jobs, I have to do them or is it I want to do them because there's a more of an intrinsic motivator there?
[00:05:32] Zoe: As well as do you have similarities between them or is it, they are quite distinct roles.
[00:05:39] Dave: There are some similarities between some of them and then others there, there are not at all. I mean, I think the thing that keeps me motivated is I'm a, I'm a service oriented person. I like helping people. So the people that I am working with, they need my help.
[00:05:57] Dave: And that's pretty much the only thing I need to get me out of bed in the morning is knowing that. That somebody needs my help and that I have the ability to help them. So that's the main theme between all of them. But like if you take my two largest clients and, and compare them, they are a hundred percent different.
[00:06:16] Dave: So with Seabourn, I had up the engineering and the architecture function for that, that company, pretty small company of 40 plus people. I own the engineering and the architecture and I've been helping them with some insourcing projects and things like that. And like for me, that's like back to my roots.
[00:06:37] Dave: That's really heavy duty engineering. Like I actually get to log into internet backbone routers and make configuration changes, which is. Something that I, you know, I hadn't, I hadn't been, I don't think I had root password on a internet connected backbone router before this, I mean, going all the way back to like the early two thousands and they pretty much, when I, as soon as I got into management at, at global crossing, they pretty much took root password away from me, you know, once I was no longer on call, which was a, you know, a blessing, of course, I no longer had the need for root.
[00:07:12] Dave: They, they took the enable privileges away. So it's been kind of fun to get back into that and I've really enjoyed it. But if we then pivot over to selector, which is a, uh, a software company that sells to networking companies or networking departments, they're having a lot of success in the carrier space with internet providers and network service providers, but.
[00:07:35] Dave: But really their stuff is applicable to enterprises and everything. I am helping out the marketing department. I'm not doing anything particularly technical in terms of hands on keyboard for them. As an end user of their software, somebody who understands like what it does and how it helps and like innately gets the value proposition because I've spent so much time as not only a business owner doing, doing marketing, but.
[00:08:02] Dave: But also 10 years at global crossing level three and product management conveying value propositions and you know, that sort of thing. All of the marketing stuff that comes with that. As an end user, I know how to talk about their product and I can actually write about their product in a way that like an ad agency couldn't, couldn't hope to do.
[00:08:22] Dave: So it's been, you know, not what I did, not the work I expected to get with them, but, but it's been really good. We, another area where there was crossover, really unexpected crossover was the audio engineering work led to kind of helping my wife take her band to the next level. And I learned how to, uh, make music videos and do a lot of video editing.
[00:08:45] Dave: And I also, and, and, and to shoot videos well. And I also learned how to, um, promote that on Facebook and Instagram. And that actually became really, really helpful for selector who, you know, they didn't have anyone on staff who knew anything about that. And they, you know, they didn't want to spend a lot.
[00:09:06] Dave: They wanted to kind of dabble, but they still needed help with it. So took all these like creative skills that I had and kind of mashed them together with my technical understanding of their product and what it does. And it just created this really weird synergy that, that I never, I never would have expected to be doing that.
[00:09:26] Dave: But, but, uh, that particular client is completely different than all of my other clients. All, all the other clients that I have. Uh, they're interested in my technical expertise, which is great, but it's nice to, nice to pivot sometimes and do something that it's not just that it's creative, but it's creative in a way that, that really lets me use my, my technical skills.
[00:09:48] Dave: So that, and that's the unique value proposition for this particular client, right? They could. I don't think they're of like literally a million ad agencies to do a video for them, but how long are they going to have to spend with that ad agency explaining what their artificial intelligence operations platform does, right?
[00:10:09] Dave: You know, 99. 99 percent of those agencies are going to be, are going to be lost. You know, for the first month and, and that's helpful for the client
[00:10:21] Chris: when that ties into, you know, teaching in general, right? I think a lot of really effective marketing today, maybe the only effective marketing today, especially in the kind of B2B technology space is educational.
[00:10:34] Chris: I think, and maybe I'm oversimplifying things or, or maybe drawing too big of a generalization, but I think. A lot of the most effective marketing I see these days is if I have one of those problems I need to solve and I go searching around the internet for it and I find a solution and that solution is actually on the blog of a company that, you know, helps with those solutions, I'm much more likely to call that company right and be like, Oh, they're like, they've already been useful to me.
[00:10:57] Chris: They've helped me understand it and and they kind of frame your understanding, which I think, you know, not to go too far off topic here, but you know, it makes sense why some of the big networking vendors like Cisco and Juniper and even Arista to maybe a smaller degree have built these kind of training and education programs, certification programs.
[00:11:14] Chris: If this vendor is who taught you how to do this thing, maybe you're more likely to go with them in the future, but, you know, circling back to what I was trying to say, I think that that because you actually understand the use case and understand at least to some level the technology behind it, you can actually educate people, provide educational information much easier than PR firm really have no idea how this works or why it's important, and so they're going to have a really hard time producing valuable information.
[00:11:42] Chris: Yeah. Materials, right? They may be able to talk about the thing, but to actually provide the value there of like, why the thing is important and how to use it, you know, maybe they'll never get there without someone like you.
[00:11:51] Dave: It's, it's like the difference between talking to the sales guy and the sales engineer, right?
[00:11:56] Dave: You know, the account manager is going to get out of their depth really quickly. You know, as soon as you start asking questions, they're going to turn to somebody else and bring them in. And I'm not pretending to, you know, to know the product itself inside out. You know, I can play that, that solutions engineer to where I, I, the sales engineer where I can really talk about use cases and how the product can help.
[00:12:20] Dave: And if you can talk about it, then you can write about it. And if you're going to write about it, then you can make a video about it too. So I don't think that, that this particular client is far enough along to where they have a lot of educational material up on their website. I mean, their company is so nascent, they're still, still getting the basics together and making sure that the website is just even talking about the features in the right way.
[00:12:46] Dave: It's um, you know, just part of, part of a developing company. As they move along, but they definitely are looking at more, more tech bulletins on just even how to use their product like manuals and things like that, being able to have those online so you can see how their product solves problems. They do have a blog and it does have some, I would say some generic information about AI and models.
[00:13:11] Dave: And there's probably some value in that for, for people, but yet leveraging the organic search that comes from a Google search by, by having like real technical content, I mean, it is. You know, that's the secret sauce of SEO, right? Search engine optimization. If you want that, those free organic leads coming in to your website for people to find you, you got to have like regular use, you know, generically useful, uh, technical content up there to pull those people in.
[00:13:45] Zoe: Yeah, well, I, I can't even begin to count the number of times that I've written a, anything from a pen test report to even just a vulnerability scan report or, or like, um, one of those, um, compliance based toolings that gives findings and how often I will put the finding, I'll put my summarized recommendation, but then I'll go and I'll find a good blog on it.
[00:14:08] Zoe: Because that will go more into depth. I make use of my friend Scott Helms blog all the time when it comes to, like, web security. I think, I think blogs, when they're well written and actually clear and not absolute rubbish, I think those play a huge role because they can go into the depth that you can't go into in a report.
[00:14:27] Zoe: So I think companies that spend the time to have, even as you said, generic information is actually super beneficial because, you know, I would read that and say, Oh, they clearly know what they're talking about. Maybe their product is not that rubbish because at the moment there's so many, uh, if we go back to what you were saying about you actually understanding what the product actually is and therefore being able to do all of these other stuff for the company.
[00:14:55] Zoe: Is when you don't understand and you're not a technical person. That's where we end up with so much like, um, the, what's the term? There's, uh, marketing, marketing words, architecture, buzzword, bingo. Yeah. Buzzwords. And it's like, oh yeah, it's super fancy, sexy thing that does this thing. And you're like, okay, what does it actually do and why is it important?
[00:15:15] Zoe: And then they can't explain that. That always gets me.
[00:15:19] Dave: But it has all the buzzwords so we got our VC money real easily.
[00:15:22] Zoe: Exactly, exactly. I mean ticked all the boxes. All of the boxes, yeah. I had a question about, because your career has been quite a long time, I mean basically my entire life, so it's quite a, quite a vast career.
[00:15:38] Zoe: I, I imagine there's been situations where you've had Mistakes happen or screw ups happen and maybe, can you tell us a little bit about maybe an experience that was not so pleasant, but maybe ended up in a pleasant way, like it taught you what you didn't want to do or, or it helped you direct yourself a bit more potentially.
[00:15:59] Dave: Yeah, I mean, a lot of engineers have, have a story about how they broke the entire internet. I have one of those. I have one of those as well. That might not be the most interesting or current story, but, but, but it's, it's out there. You know, sometimes, sometimes when you're learning or when you don't, when you haven't gotten to the point where you know something well.
[00:16:19] Dave: And you don't have a resource. You don't have somebody looking over your shoulder to say, that's a really bad idea. That is gonna, you know, nothing good will come from this idea that you just had. If you don't have that person nearby, then sometimes the only way to figure out that it's a really bad idea is to do it.
[00:16:39] Dave: And you can't be afraid to do it, right? Because then you'll just sit there not solving a problem. And that doesn't, that doesn't do anybody any good either. And if you don't never solve the problem, then you're basically paralyzed. You can't be paralyzed. You have to, whatever the fear is of, you know, making a mistake, you have to get past it.
[00:17:02] Dave: And I was really young. I didn't have the fear of making the mistake. I didn't realize how bad it could be, but I did it. I, I made the mistake. You know, this was, it was, it was something that probably shouldn't have been that hard to do. But again, there weren't that many resources to look at. I was just trying to figure out how to get a new prefix.
[00:17:23] Dave: announced out to all of our peers and I knew that the route was in OSPF. So I decided to redistribute OSPF into BGP and that was, didn't solve the problem. And I don't know why I thought this was a good idea, but on a different router that we have, I then decided to redistribute BGP into OSPF and, uh, that, uh, pretty much broke.
[00:17:48] Dave: Like every, every single router at every exchange point, our network was present at basically got a full table from, from us thinking that we were the originator of, of those prefixes because of, because of what I had done. And so every router on the internet tried to send every route on the internet to me, all the traffic to me on my piddly little Cisco 70 tens that I had at the time.
[00:18:16] Dave: And basically everything broke for pretty much everybody because the internet was, the internet wasn't that decentralized back then. So it only had a few peering points at the time. Pretty much most of the internet traffic went through those peering points and the routers at those, those places, they, they were the hubs for all of those networks.
[00:18:38] Dave: And I'm going to, I've learned about my mistake, but of course, once something like that happens, Even if you're logged into the routers, they're not responding to keystrokes or anything like they're just basically locked up. And the only real solution is to. Go in and have someone like do a hard reboot on the router.
[00:18:59] Dave: And that's what everyone else had to do too. So every major provider was dispatching remote hands to go out and reboot their routers because what I had done, so caused an internet outage for. It was probably a couple of hours. The entire internet was down. Well, not probably the entire internet, but all the relevant bits,
[00:19:20] Zoe: a significant enough amount that it was probably quite scary.
[00:19:26] Dave: Yeah. Uh, it was pretty stressful when I realized, you know, what I had done and then I thought about why, what I had done caused the problem that it had caused. It was like, Oh, well of course it was a stupid idea. And,
[00:19:40] Zoe: but you learned that lesson.
[00:19:42] Dave: I did. I did learn that lesson. But you know, like the, the worst, but there's many lessons that you could take from an experience like that.
[00:19:49] Dave: And one of them would be, and probably one that a lot of people would, would take from it would be, you know what, maybe, maybe I'm not cut out for this kind of work. That'd be the worst possible lesson you could take from something like that. Super embarrassing. Super stressful. Absolutely. 100%. But, like, you can't let it sap your confidence.
[00:20:13] Dave: Be willing to break the internet again.
[00:20:18] Dave: Because that's how you learn. And maybe, maybe try and think through what you're going to do a little bit more so you don't break the internet again. You know, and learn from what you did last time and definitely don't ever do that again. But I, you know, I see a lot of young people that when they do start leaning into something and it doesn't happen easily for them, they get so discouraged from taking the next steps from trying harder, you know, taking on the next project or the last project didn't go so well.
[00:20:49] Dave: So maybe this is not for me. And you know, that's the worst lesson that you can take from it is that you're not, you're not cut out for it. And that's, I mean, I think that is kind of an imposter syndrome when maybe what you're doing is pretty good, but you don't see it that way. And there was, um, I guess he's a graphics designer.
[00:21:11] Dave: His name is Ira Glass. Has he ever come up on your show before?
[00:21:15] Chris: Uh, I don't think on the show, but I've definitely heard the name before elsewhere.
[00:21:18] Dave: You should Google it. He's got this really cool thing called The Gap and I think he was just like on a radio show or something like that or I don't know if he recorded this, but it's this little thing that talks about, you know, when he first got started in graphics design and started doing some stuff that he wasn't happy with his own work, like he would look at his work and it didn't live up to his own expectations.
[00:21:43] Dave: It like he, and you know, how many of us, when we're, when we're doing, when we start off a project, right, we have in our mind, like, this is what this thing is going to look like, you know, whether you're building a table or whether you're, you know, building a piece of automation software or doing a painting or writing a journal, whatever, we have this vision for what it's going to look like and.
[00:22:04] Dave: You know, we get into it and we do it and then we get to a point where we know it's not done, but we have to call it done. And we look at the work and it, it's not good enough. It's not, it doesn't match our own vision for what we thought it was going to be. And it certainly doesn't look like what we thought it doesn't, it doesn't match what we think good looks like.
[00:22:27] Dave: And you know, Ira Glass talks about this in the gap. This is, this is. This is normal when you're starting out that your work is not going to meet your own standards of performance when you're starting out. And it happens to him. It happens to everybody else. The only way to get through it is to do a huge volume of work.
[00:22:49] Dave: Just keep doing the work and eventually the gap will close and your work will, your work will match your expectations. And this guy eventually went on to I think if you look him up, you'll see that he's done the logos for like Nike and a bunch of other really famous brands. He's, he, he's the guy behind the logo design and stuff like that.
[00:23:13] Dave: So he definitely got it figured out. And I, I, you know, I think he's done some screenplays and, and other kinds of writing as well. This, when I took a design class, this is somebody that they, they brought in because it, It is so important that you not get discouraged when you're starting out. Of course, you're going to suck when you start out.
[00:23:32] Dave: Of course, you're going to look at whatever you've done and say, you know, that's. That's not good.
[00:23:37] Chris: Or at least hopefully you will, right? Because hopefully you have high enough standards that you can look at it and say, that isn't good enough. That may actually be a good thing to be able to see that.
[00:23:46] Dave: Well, yeah, but if you look at it and you say, Oh, this is amazing.
[00:23:50] Dave: You probably don't have the imposter syndrome. You have, you have a different problem and. you know, that kind of, uh, lack of self awareness can be, can be good. Maybe you, maybe you're trying to sell whatever this thing is that you've built and you can't figure out why it doesn't sell and no one will tell you that it's not that good.
[00:24:08] Dave: You know, that's a different problem. That's not the one that I worry about really. I, I worry about, you know, a young person and again, like the dangers of the internet and the evil of the internet. They see people on YouTube and TikTok and whatever else doing this thing and making it look so easy. Like it looks so easy that it just came naturally to that person that they went out and did this amazing thing.
[00:24:34] Dave: Without knowing that that person, maybe they did it 300 times before they got it to look like that, right? When you're an influencer on one of those platforms, you don't take the time to talk about how hard it was to develop a skill. You just want to, you know, show off your good stuff. And, and so. I think these misaligned expectations sit out there with so many kids that are, and even adults that are trying to, you know, find their way through this, this new world, this new economy.
[00:25:05] Dave: And they think, well, I know something about this. I'm going to go try and do this. And then they don't see immediate success and they go, well, maybe, maybe that's not for me. It's, it's a rough world out there for sure.
[00:25:21] Chris: It is. And, um, even rougher is the fact that we are about out of time for today. Dave, do you have any projects or causes you'd like to highlight for the imposter syndrome network before we close out here?
[00:25:34] Chris: Ooh, a cause. It can be anything. It doesn't have to be grandiose at all.
[00:25:38] Dave: Okay, well, one thing that relates to the volunteer work that I do is that the organization that helped me the most early in my career, as far as not the physical networking, but the human networking of finding people that I could ask questions of is Nanog, the North American network operators group, and they are seeking a new executive director, someone to head up the organization, work with the board on implementing strategy to find new sources of funding to perpetuate the mission of educating operators about.
[00:26:16] Dave: Uh, networks and how to run stable networks and build them and et cetera. So if anyone that's listening to this is interested in such a role, go to the NANOG webpage and apply.
[00:26:30] Chris: And I'll plus one that NANOG has a huge impact on, on my career as well. So even just checking it out in general, if you don't know about it, it's probably good advice.
[00:26:39] Chris: Uh, Dave, thanks for sharing your story with the imposter syndrome network. And thank you to all of our listeners out there tuning in right now 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.
[00:26:58] Chris: Before we close out, Dave, if I can trouble you, I am curious one more thing over the past 30 years or so of this career, what's the most valuable lesson you've learned so far?
[00:27:08] Dave: I mean, I think it's keep learning. Never stop learning. You just don't know how learning a thing is going to translate into whatever task you have to do next, right?
[00:27:23] Dave: I was in engineering and architecture and. I moved into product development and I didn't really want to go into product development. I liked engineering and architecture, but, but I learned a whole bunch about how products are implemented in systems and, and how to deliver, like how to systematize processes and things.
[00:27:44] Dave: Then I moved into product management and I had to start learning all kinds of stuff about business that I had never had to learn before, not just marketing, but I had to learn a bunch of finance. And that actually made me like a much more well rounded manager and business leader because I knew like both sides of things.
[00:28:04] Dave: And then, you know, I gave the example of selector where like I took on a personal project to learn audio engineering and video editing and, you know, directing music videos and all kinds of stuff, which had no idea that I would actually get paid, you know, to do some of that in the future. But, Everything you learn is probably going to come in handy again.
[00:28:27] Dave: And I think that's the lesson for everybody is don't stop learning, learn how to enjoy learning because it's always going to pay for itself. Like even if you never, you know, even if you never monetize it, learning is, I think. valuable just for the sake of learning, learning something, and then being able to use that to provide a service to someone, to help someone.
[00:28:56] Dave: That's what brings joy in life for me.
[00:28:59] Chris: Absolutely. I mean, that's great advice. Thanks, Dave. We will be back next week.
[00:29:05] Dave: Thanks so much. You two.