The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Chris Grundemann

July 02, 2024 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 99
Chris Grundemann
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
More Info
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Chris Grundemann
Jul 02, 2024 Season 1 Episode 99
Chris & Zoë

Today, we have a special treat for you as we delve into the life and career of our own Chris Grundemann. Known for his insightful interviews and technical expertise, Chris takes the hot seat to share his remarkable journey.

Chris takes us through the diverse career roles and paths he's navigated, and shares how his passion for technology led him to take on various positions, balancing employment with entrepreneurial ventures while raising his children. 

He discusses the challenges of dealing with impostor syndrome, especially in a field where he didn't fit the traditional mold of an entrepreneur, and from the perspective of someone without a formal education. 

Chris also shares personal anecdotes about his early life, the ironies of starting a career to avoid people only to find himself in roles requiring significant communication, and his intrinsic motivation to take initiative and try out ideas himself.

Don't miss this captivating conversation where we uncover some of the layers that make up the man that is Chris Grundemann.

"My driving force is learning…
 as long as I'm learning, then it's cool. 
We can get through this."

Chris' 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

Today, we have a special treat for you as we delve into the life and career of our own Chris Grundemann. Known for his insightful interviews and technical expertise, Chris takes the hot seat to share his remarkable journey.

Chris takes us through the diverse career roles and paths he's navigated, and shares how his passion for technology led him to take on various positions, balancing employment with entrepreneurial ventures while raising his children. 

He discusses the challenges of dealing with impostor syndrome, especially in a field where he didn't fit the traditional mold of an entrepreneur, and from the perspective of someone without a formal education. 

Chris also shares personal anecdotes about his early life, the ironies of starting a career to avoid people only to find himself in roles requiring significant communication, and his intrinsic motivation to take initiative and try out ideas himself.

Don't miss this captivating conversation where we uncover some of the layers that make up the man that is Chris Grundemann.

"My driving force is learning…
 as long as I'm learning, then it's cool. 
We can get through this."

Chris' 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] Zoe: Hello and welcome to the Impostor Syndrome Network podcast, where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't. My name is Zoe Rose, and this episode is the Chris Grundemann episode. That's right. Instead of being our co host, he's actually our guest. So let's ask him all of the questions. Chris is a passionate, creative technologist and strong believer in technology's power to aid in the betterment of humankind. Chris has been using technology, marketing, and strategy to build businesses and not for profit organizations for two decades. He holds eight patents in network technology and is the author of two books, a IETF RFC a personal web blogger, and a multitude of industry papers, articles, and posts. He's the co founder and chief executive officer for FullCtl, an interconnection automation company, as well as the co founder of the Network Automation Forum. That's the organization behind the AutoCon series of events.

[00:01:06] Zoe: He's also a co founder, director, and chair emeritus of IX Denver, and the chair of the Board of Directors of OIX. The Global Data Center Interconnection Standard Body. He has held previous volunteer positions with Colorado's ISOC, which he founded. ISOC in New York as the vice president. ARIN, NANOG, SANOG, AfPIF, CEA, UPNP, DLNA, RMV6TF, and several others. I'm sure all of the letters. Chris has also given presentations in 34 countries on five continents and is often sought out to speak at conferences, NOGs and NOFs around the world. 

[00:01:52] Zoe: Hey, Chris, would you like to? Further introduce yourself to the Impostor Syndrome Network and explain to us how you have time to sleep possibly.

[00:02:01] Chris: Uh, Hey Zoe, thanks. Um, yeah, so I'm realizing that there are a lot of acronyms in my bio. That's fun. Um, yeah, so my background is as a network engineer and I've been working in kind of a very, maybe not circuitous, but very interesting career path over the past 20 years where I've been able to bounce around and do a lot of different things and yeah, I'm usually doing at least two or three things at once.

[00:02:24] Chris: And I would love to talk about productivity a little bit. I'm sure we'll get into that as we dive deeper, but I think we can leave it there for now. 

[00:02:30] Zoe: Now that that's actually a really good segue into the first area I want to cover was what got you interested in technology? Why are you here? 

[00:02:38] Chris: Yeah. So like a lot of our guests, I think it started really early for whatever reason was kind of drawn to technology, love taking things apart.

[00:02:46] Chris: Uh, similar to some of our other guests, right. Was given like the old VCR. Or maybe even eventually an old TV, uh, radios, that kind of stuff, usually things that didn't quite work. And I could kind of take them apart and see how they were supposed to work, sometimes even fixing them. Although I think that was probably the minority of the cases for sure.

[00:03:04] Chris: And also in the pretty early in my life, I don't know exactly how old I was. This was probably like Mid to late eighties, I guess. My, my dad bought a Texas instruments computer, which was, was pretty interesting device, right? I mean, it was basically like the computer was kind of in the keyboard and then you hooked it up to a TV.

[00:03:21] Chris: In our case, it was a black and white TV. I think that might've been, I'm sure there was color TVs around then, but, uh, we had a little black and white TV. So you actually kind of like wired this keyboard thing up to the TV. And then there was an external thing. So you could like back stuff up to a cassette tape.

[00:03:34] Chris: And then there was another external box that let you use floppy disks with it. Um, it also had like game cartridges. And anyway, I played games on that, which were things like Math Blaster and like some educational games that my parents had gotten me for that, but also did quite a bit of BASIC programming and learned how to kind of move a cursor around the screen and randomly generate numbers and then use that in different reasons, you know, things.

[00:03:56] Chris: Nothing super productive, but, uh, but got to play with that and really got kind of hooked on that. And then later on when, you know, then we got like, you know, dial up modems and, and, uh, like a 386, you know, PC and got on Prodigy and, and as soon as like we had connection to the internet and through Prodigy.

[00:04:14] Chris: I was immediately trying to figure out how do I get actually to the internet like outside of Prodigy. I wanted to break through the walled garden there and actually find what was going on on the real web. Um, I just had this kind of innate sense of exploration, I guess. And I think that kind of drove a lot of that early curiosity.

[00:04:28] Chris: Um, I like doing things for the first time. I like doing new things. And I like kind of being somewhat of a pioneer, which actually, when I was a kid, kind of made me sad because I felt like we had already discovered the whole globe and I was like, well, where can I go be a pioneer? Right? Like I can't do like the Lewis and Clark thing and go follow a river to the other side of this continent that no one's ever done before.

[00:04:45] Chris: Um, and I think what I've found is that. You can't, there are different dimensions of exploration available. And within technology, there's lots of spaces that haven't been explored yet. And there's lots of things as we're pushing the envelope forward that we can do that are new and novel, and then people have to go there and try them out.

[00:05:00] Chris: And so I think I've found a little bit of that in, uh, in entrepreneurship as well. 

[00:05:04] Zoe: I like that. It's um, I have heard people say that, you know, we've explored everything, we've learned everything. I mean, I do disagree because there are things we learn every day, but as a kid, looking at the world, everyone else seems to have figured it out.

[00:05:18] Zoe: So I 100 percent understand why you would think that. I mean, as a kid, I'm in my 30s and I still think that, oh, I'm getting close to telling people my age. Um, but, um, so I, I do understand where it was almost like feeling like you can't figure out more, but that's really cool that the, the internet, the box kind of brought that light to your eyes.

[00:05:37] Zoe: I'm curious, because you are, you know, you work for yourself. So I imagine, does that kind of play a part with why you work for yourself? 

[00:05:45] Chris: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think there's a couple of factors there. One is, and I don't know how to like, there's a lot of times where I think I know the right thing to do.

[00:05:54] Chris: It's not always a thing that everyone else agrees is the right thing to do. And so just being able to try that out for myself and figure out. Actually, concretely, am I right or wrong? I find much more rewarding than bringing up an idea, having it shot down by a committee and then never getting to try and see, um, I'd rather be actually wrong than just be told not to try.

[00:06:14] Chris: So that's a big part of it. I think also I find that I am very like intrinsically motivated, very self motivated. I don't need someone else to tell me what to do. I tend to enjoy deciding what the right thing to do is and then doing it. And so even, you know, even when I had jobs through most of my career, that was a lot of what I did was just whatever I thought needed to be done.

[00:06:34] Chris: I would go do that thing. And it usually worked out really well. I like to tell people I have never accepted a job that I was qualified for. I think that's pretty much true. And then what's interesting though, is through most of my career, I was then either promoted or given a raise within the first year.

[00:06:49] Chris: So I would kind of overshoot right. And apply for the job that I wanted, which I hadn't done yet. So I wasn't qualified for. I would, you know, stretch as much as I could the current experience I had to kind of say, Hey, I think I can do this job. And luckily I was able to convince people that I could. And then I get into that job and just kind of see what was going on and do the most valuable thing that I could find to do.

[00:07:11] Chris: Right. Cause I think that's something over the years I've realized, I think, you know, I'm really good at kind of two things, right. Learning really fast. And synthesizing really well. Right. And so synthesizing is like synthesis is kind of the opposite of analysis. Analysis is taking like the big idea and breaking it down into its constituent parts, whereas synthesis is like taking the individual parts and figuring out what the big idea is.

[00:07:31] Chris: And I tend to be really good at kind of, I don't know, I guess almost instinctively kind of seeing what's important in a conversation or in something that somebody tells me or in what's going on around me. And then kind of hone in on that stuff and then drive forward. And I think that's what's led me to be fairly successful in kind of taking these jobs that I, you know, I, you know, sink or swim kind of situation where, okay, here, now do this job that you don't really know how to do.

[00:07:52] Chris: And then taking that kind of intrinsic motivation and that kind of heat seeking ability to go to where the core of the, you know, the crux of the matter is. And so anyway, the, the most freedom to do that is to be completely on my own. Right. And so now I can do like some consulting, I've started some businesses and really just kind of see a need, fill a need, um, really directly.

[00:08:10] Zoe: Well, working with you in the last, what was it? Two years now on this podcast. I think it's been very clear to me you're a very different personality than I am for, for good. This is a good thing because I'm one of those people that I'm similar in the sense of, I need the autonomy. So I need to be able to do things in my way.

[00:08:27] Zoe: Otherwise I get annoyed. Um, so I get that, but whereas I'm like, okay, I've got this goal and I need to get there. Well, this is what I want to achieve in a general sense. I'm going to get there this way, you know, and you just kind of do it. And it's been like that for the podcast. And I've been shocked and like impressed where it's just for the podcast.

[00:08:47] Zoe: You're like, let's do a podcast. I'm like, all right. And then all of a sudden you have like 50 million things set up and I'm like, how did you do that? 

[00:08:54] Zoe: It's so impressive. So I could imagine that. Yeah. Your personality type is so different than mine, but it's brilliant watching it because we both are achieving things in very different ways, you know, um, maybe, maybe I shouldn't be a self employed then because I'm not like you, I don't know.

[00:09:11] Chris: I think there's different ways to achieve all kinds of things though. 

[00:09:14] Zoe: That's true. That's true. Um, but I think because you have so many different things you volunteer with, you build, you built many companies. What exactly does your day to day look like? Like, what are you doing right now to give people a bit more context?

[00:09:28] Chris: Yeah, yeah, that's an interesting question. So, like, what do you do has been, it started out as an easy question to answer earlier in my career. I was a network engineer and that's what I did, right? I worked on networks. I helped build networks. That was easy. When it started getting hard to answer was, um, when I got into the internet society and maybe we'll talk about that more.

[00:09:46] Chris: If we don't get into some career stuff, I'll try to stick to the answer of what am I doing right now? Um, but it's, but it's continued to be hard kind of since then gotten easier, harder through different jobs. And now I'm in a place where it is a very, like, feels like a very complicated question again, because I do wear several hats.

[00:10:01] Chris: Right. And that's part of how I work. I really kind of need that. I've found to have different things to work on at the same time, not exactly the same time, obviously, but roughly the same time. And so anyway, so right now, obviously the podcast is happening and that's taking, you know, a decent amount of time to kind of do the, which is some interesting tasks, right?

[00:10:18] Chris: Is. You know, finding and scheduling with guests, right? So figuring out who we should talk to and then who's willing to talk to us. Cause not everybody wants to come share their life story on a podcast. Surprisingly, um, there's several people we asked and they're like, ah, no, I'm cool. Uh, not, not gonna do that.

[00:10:33] Chris: Uh, and that's fine. Um, and then there's other people who do want to do it. And then you've got to work with their schedules. Cause again, a lot of these people we've interviewed are really successful and have very kind of demanding roles that they're in right now. And, um, and so finding time to even, you know, break out an hour to record is part of the job there.

[00:10:47] Chris: Um, so that's part of it, right? Just kind of that human interaction part of the podcast, as well as then like editing the transcripts and producing the social media posts. And so that's a lot of like stuff that's completely unrelated to network engineering at all, kind of technology adjacent, but. A lot of it's more kind of sales and marketing and project management type stuff, um, which is interesting.

[00:11:08] Chris: And I ended up doing a lot of that stuff. So then, you know, the other, one of the other big things I'm working on right now is network animation forum, which is, I have an awesome partner in that, just like I have an awesome partner in, in ISN with you, Zoe. Uh, so at NAF is Scott Robohn and we decided to co it was kind of the same thing, right?

[00:11:25] Chris: We started talking about this need for the community around network automation to come together and we said, Hey, let's, let's, let's start this conference. And then boom, we did it and we figured out how to pull it off. Um, the first one was really scary, but that job is again, kind of similarly, uh, technology adjacent.

[00:11:41] Chris: So, um, now on that one, Scott handles most of the kind of vendor and sponsor relationships, which is great. So I don't have that role. I don't wear that hat for that job, um, or that company. But, uh, so what I do is a lot of the kind of arranging with speakers and figuring out the content and the agenda of the events, and, Um, obviously Scott's involved in that as well.

[00:12:00] Chris: And we have an advisory board that does a ton of the heavy lifting. Um, but just kind of keeping that communication going with people who want to speak at the event. And then there's always other pieces of that, right? Which again, Scott and I kind of share the responsibilities, but there's all this logistics around finding a hotel, signing a contract where you're not going to get, you know, totally blown away with, with costs and things like that.

[00:12:19] Chris: And then making sure that all kind of comes together. There's all these pieces and parts of bringing, you know, 400 people together to have this shared experience. Um, seamlessly, right? So again, a lot of like project management and coordination and working with people and things like that, which as I'm saying this, I'm realizing how insane this is, because I think, you know, just like a lot of the other people we talked to on this podcast, I originally kind of gravitated towards technology to avoid other people.

[00:12:44] Chris: And now like 20 years later, my job has evolved into like, technology is a part of it, but it's a lot of people, which is wild. 

[00:12:52] Zoe: I'm just sitting here watching you and obviously the guests can't see you but it's just so funny because you're like, wait a minute, this is a lot of people. 

[00:13:00] Chris: Yeah, yeah. Um, and there is some other stuff right?

[00:13:03] Chris: I mean, I also manage like the mailing list and the website design and things. So there's some kind of low level technology stuff there. Um, that's interesting, but I'm, you know, in both of those roles, like there is no, I'm not building networks and I'm not writing code really, maybe a little bit here and there just for, for some, you know, to, to use technology to kind of do some of the production work and stuff like that.

[00:13:21] Chris: But, but then FullCtl is where I get to do a little bit more technology. Even there, it's maybe less than, than what I've done traditionally. So, you know, I took the role of CEO as, as we kind of started to grow the company, FullCtl, basically builds a suite of microservices that are all kind of automation tools.

[00:13:37] Chris: And one is an orchestration tool that kind of pulls all the pieces together for automation and others are kind of different sources of truth. Um, and then all kind of rolls together into like this customer portal. And, um, so my partner in that one, which is also another amazing partnership I have, uh, with Matt Griswold, we call him Grizz.

[00:13:52] Chris: And so he's doing all the software development, and then I've kind of done everything else, quote unquote, although we do again, kind of that wall shifts from time to time. But again, a lot of what I do there is, you know, work with our employees and contractors and make sure that kind of a team can work together, try to kind of look at the big picture and see kind of where we're going.

[00:14:11] Chris: I do dive in and work with the tools. I don't write much code, but I do kind of take the tools and use them and try them out with our customers. And kind of get stuff deployed and working. Um, but again, same thing, a lot of it's people stuff. So a lot of what I do is work with the customers kind of more in like a customer success role and make sure that they're getting what they need from our tools or from our people, making sure that our people are getting what they need from us.

[00:14:31] Chris: Um, and doing a lot of that kind of like CEO, like management. And again, also some sales and marketing, right? I also do a lot of the blog posts and Grizz and I still do, you know, we're going out and putting up presentations, uh, cause it's, tools we're building, almost all of them are open source. And so we want to go out and like make sure other people can use them if they want to for free as well.

[00:14:48] Chris: They don't have to work with us to use the tools we're putting out. So I don't know if I answered the question at all, but I think that's kind of what I'm up to. I don't know if that's clear in any way. 

[00:14:56] Zoe: Well, no, it is clear. I think we do have some similarities where I, it's very difficult to explain how my mind works because my mind is very strange.

[00:15:05] Zoe: Um, I recognize that because I'll have conversations and I, in my mind, it's all linear in their mind. It's like all over the place. And that's kind of how you explain your working environment. It works similar to the way I think. All of it's connected and all of it's very important, but you can't do, you're not going to spend, you know, an entire day doing programming or an entire day scheduling demos or something, you know, but you're going to have small pieces throughout the day as well as working for yourself.

[00:15:33] Zoe: You're going to kind of create your journey for that day, very chaotically almost, but it makes sense in the end. So I think, I think that's really interesting to people that kind of think in that way and work in that way. It's taken me a long, long time to be able to be in a position where I can do that in a corporate environment because you don't generally get that freedom.

[00:15:54] Zoe: Whereas now I'm senior enough that I do get that freedom because I'm building the direction of my team. Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. But I think the difference is I'm in a senior position. You obviously are also in a senior position, but you work for yourself. So it's almost, it's a natural thing because there's nobody telling you what to do.

[00:16:10] Chris: I have to do this, right? It's not that I get to, I have to. Yeah. 

[00:16:13] Zoe: Yeah, exactly. 

[00:16:14] Chris: And now that I'm thinking about it a little more, I think, you know, because you're right, there is kind of a theme there, right? And so generally, right. And, you know, not to be too cliched, but generally I'm trying to help, right? So a lot of this is around things that I'm passionate about, which is, Like IT careers, right?

[00:16:28] Chris: Which is where the, you know, the imposter syndrome network and the podcast came from, which is like, Hey, we're all alike in a lot of ways that we don't realize. And there's some stuff that we don't talk about. That's kind of uncomfortable. That makes us feel not great in our work a lot of times. And if we talk about it, then we can move forward and move past it.

[00:16:43] Chris: Right. There's a lot of things where like. Like shame doesn't live in the light. And so just talking about, oh yeah, like I don't always feel like I'm smart enough or I don't always feel like I'm good enough or like I didn't have the right, like pedigree to get into this job. And now I'm scared that I can't do it.

[00:16:55] Chris: And so kind of, you know, helping other technologists and maybe people beyond technology to kind of work through that is a big part of the imposter syndrome network. And then similarly, right with a slightly different vein, right? FullCtl was built because. I think the industry has been struggling for a while to get network automation going, and there's some pieces and parts missing.

[00:17:11] Chris: And so we're building and publishing and pushing out those pieces and parts to kind of help the industry move forward, which is exactly the same impetus between the network automation forum, which is, Hey, network automation is kind of grinding slowly forward. And if we pull people together to share their tools and share their experience, then we can all move forward.

[00:17:27] Chris: And so to me, it all kind of makes sense as one cohesive whole. And then within that, as you said, I'm kind of bouncing around like a ping pong ball inside of those things, figuring out, okay. What, what needs to happen now to make sure that all of this kind of continues to move forward and that everyone's actually getting what they need out of all these things we're doing, right.

[00:17:43] Chris: And then of course there's other pieces too, right? I didn't even talk about like what I'm doing for OIX or iX Denver and there's other little things that pop up all the time. I'm an advisor to a couple of companies, um, and I do some work with other nonprofit, but it's all kind of in that kind of shared, like, let's move the industry forward to where I think it should be going.

[00:17:58] Chris: Um, but of course that's informed by talking to all the people around me. So these aren't just my ideas. They're kind of my synthesis of the opinions of the people I trust. 

[00:18:06] Zoe: Yeah, no. And I think what stood out to me there is, you know, As you said, you're wearing many hats, but within those hats, you're wearing different responsibilities as well.

[00:18:15] Zoe: So part of it is, you know, project management. Part of it is working with a team and managing that team. As I said, some of it is single, uh, or what's called individual contributing, can't say the word, individual contribution. So I'm interested in your. Kind of your thoughts about being a manager, being an individual contributor, uh, being an influencer.

[00:18:38] Zoe: I say that with quotes because I think that term is hilarious, but we're both part of the tech field day delegates. So technically somebody has acknowledged that we are influencers. So I'm curious on your thoughts on those. 

[00:18:50] Chris: Yeah, yeah, that is a really interesting dynamic, right? The kind of, you know, management versus individual contributor path.

[00:18:56] Chris: And, uh, you know, I've been able, I've been fairly lucky to kind of walk both for quite a while now, to some degree anyway, or at least bounce back and forth between the two. What I've found. So in last year, I took a, a contract role with a friend of mine's company who was contracting for another company.

[00:19:11] Chris: Anyway, it doesn't really matter, but I got to work on like, Really nuts and bolts, like really get my arms all the way into the mud and dirt of like building out some automation for a big service provider, you know, and it kind of had the whole project like where I was working on it myself. I didn't have a team.

[00:19:25] Chris: I was part of the team. I was I was on the front line actually doing the work, which I hadn't had that kind of, you know, a year long engagement of really digging in there and building something as big as this in quite a while. And it just reminded me of the joy of why I got into this in the first place.

[00:19:39] Chris: There's some really cool things when you're working as an individual contributor. And when you're at least for me working on networks or working on security stuff where you're going in and actually building the configurations and building the code, right, standing up net box and populating it or building automation tools around that all those things.

[00:19:54] Chris: And what that is is there's this really defined sense of accomplishment, at least for me, right? There is. Okay, I'm gonna write this script that's gonna import this data into this database. Right. And, and you tweak it and there's some trial and error and you mess with it. And then eventually you get it right.

[00:20:09] Chris: And the data flows from, you know, the network devices into the database. Boom. And it works and no one can tell you that it didn't work. You saw that it worked. And so, you know, you've done your job, right? And there's this very concrete sense of accomplishment that I really enjoy. That is not true in all of the other areas where you kind of have to work with people, right?

[00:20:28] Chris: So if you're doing marketing, if you're doing sales, if you're doing management, it's not as clear if you're actually doing a good job or if you're actually succeeding. Um, it's not as clear cut, right? It's not like, Oh, I clicked the button, my script ran and it worked. It is. Oh, I talked to this person and I think they feel better or, you know, I talked to this person and I think they might want to like engage with us further or they might want to partner or whatever that case is, right?

[00:20:51] Chris: Humans are fuzzy and messy in a way that devices and configs and code is not. But at the same time, there's so much more possible with people, right? And and you know, It's really clear to me that if I can kind of bring people together and, you know, create a shared vision and we can all move together, we can do way, way, way, way, way more than what I can do on my own.

[00:21:14] Chris: And so there's a push pull there, right? Like, yes, I can drop in and just do it myself. And that feels really good. But if you really want to do something big, you need to bring people together and then somebody's got to, you know, handle that mess and bring the personalities together and talk to people and, and kind of, um, juggle that, which the hardest part for me was the fact that it's not so defined, right?

[00:21:33] Chris: I think that's why another reason why kind of technology appealed to me was that concrete nature. And as soon as you move into more human realms, it's just not there. You just, you don't get that like checkmark job done. It's really about other people's opinions and feelings and, and it's just, it's just not as concrete ever, which was hard for me for a long time to kind of get used to uncertainty and having gotten used to it now, it's, it's helped a lot for sure.

[00:21:56] Zoe: And on that, then how do you, if you're in a situation where you are not sure of the direction or in a relationship, you're not sure if you're, you know, succeeding, how do you kind of reset yourself and get yourself either motivated again or, or align your direction better? 

[00:22:13] Chris: Yeah. So there's a couple things there.

[00:22:15] Chris: So for me personally, right. And kind of like looking more internally, it kind of like, you know, am I happy in this situation? Is this working for me? My driving force is learning, right? I've actually like made up my own motto in Latin, which I don't know how to pronounce, but I think it's something like, Melius quam heri et cras iterum.

[00:22:35] Chris: But what that means is better than yesterday and again tomorrow. Right? So that's kind of my driving, like that's my fuel, is like, I'm going to learn as much as I can in this life. And so that's one thing where like if something's really going badly, I kind of like check in with myself, like, am I learning?

[00:22:51] Chris: And as long as I'm learning, then it's cool we can get through this, right. That's more like internal facing, external facing again, I, I try to, as you said, kind of like set these goals or these North stars or kind of know, like, at least generally where we're all trying to go, or at least where I think we should all try to go.

[00:23:08] Chris: And I've been wrong before too. And there's another, that's a whole nother aspect, right? Of like figuring out when you're wrong and be like, Oh, that thing I've been telling you for the last six months. Yeah. Forget all that. I'm a complete idiot. We're going this other way. Uh, cause Josie's right. You know, that happens too, which is, which is an interesting feeling.

[00:23:22] Zoe: Yeah, but being able to recognize that is key and not letting your pride cloud your judgment. I think that, I think that's very important and a skill in itself. 

[00:23:33] Chris: For sure. For sure. And definitely for me, it's taken like years and years and years to develop and it's still hard. The first step is recognizing it because at first your ego and your pride like shields you in a way where you have this confirmation bias and you won't even admit.

[00:23:45] Chris: To yourself that you're wrong and then, then at least in my experience, then there's a point in your maturation as a human that you start to realize, Oh, wait a minute, I was wrong, but it's really, really hard to admit that and to tell people that you've been like, cause the thing is right about, at least for me, being a good leader is a lot about providing certainty, right?

[00:24:03] Chris: Like you've got to sell people we're marching to that hill. Right. Even if in the back of your mind, you're like, I have no idea where we're going. You know, like you, you, you, it's hard. And sometimes it's better to tell everyone, you don't know what you're doing, but a lot of times people just need to feel comfortable and safe and you know, we'll figure it out and you know, you will.

[00:24:18] Chris: So you've got to provide that confidence. But then if you provide that to this confidence, right. Where you've told people for the last three days, we're marching up this hill, we're marching up this hill. This is the right way to go. And then finally somebody's like, you know what? This is not the right way to go.

[00:24:28] Chris: It's really tough to be like, cause you've, you've, you know, you've really kind of hung part of yourself on this direction that you're going. And so, like I said, the first step is then being able to realize that you were wrong. The second step is like being able to admit that you were wrong, which is maybe even harder.

[00:24:43] Chris: After you've been able to admit it to yourself, you'll be able to admit it to everyone else. But what I find is, it's only really hard like the first couple of times. And then you kind of like, well, that's not true. It depends. It can be hard all times. But yeah, that's a big part of it. 

[00:24:55] Zoe: But I think it depends on the situation.

[00:24:57] Chris: Yeah. 

[00:24:58] Zoe: Like internally, like most of my career, I was a consultant. So I kind of base my answers off of being a consultant. Now I'm internally facing, but it's super weird to me, I'll be honest. And so I kind of still approach things as a consultant. And so external to my team, I'm like, okay, I have to put up this face of knowing everything and, you know, and, and having all the answers.

[00:25:18] Zoe: And sometimes I have to remind myself that that's just not possible. And it's okay to not have the answers, you know, but as a consultant, you're often, and you would probably face this a lot because you're, you are, for example, you are a consultant in every sense. So when you admit you don't know something, people can judge you harshly, especially when you're building that relationship in the initial phases.

[00:25:40] Zoe: So it's not just that it's hard, but it can actually cause problems. So I think we have to be a little bit mindful of that, um, when we're, you know, criticizing ourself for not admitting where we don't know and it's, Oh, it's my ego. I can't get over it. Wow. Sometimes it actually does impact your job. And so admitting.

[00:25:57] Zoe: In a way that's still productive is, is important, I think. 

[00:26:01] Chris: Right. Well, and that's an interesting piece too, because I think that's, and again, we're kind of, you know, there's all these different lines we're kind of crossing around here because there is, you know, I think the kind of consulting relationship is slightly different, but related to like a leadership role.

[00:26:13] Chris: And so there's kind of, you know, there are some pieces where. In certain situations, different things are more important or less important in the way you approach things. Right? And this kind of comes back to, I think, on the consultant side, which again probably plays into the leadership side a little bit, too, which is, you know, the most famous answer from a consultant is it depends.

[00:26:31] Zoe: It depends 

[00:26:33] Chris: because it does. And it always does. Um, and I think that's Actually useful if you start with, I don't know. Right. So I think that's, that's one of the keys is like, don't jump to that confidence before it's time. So yes, at some point you need to exude confidence and say, yes, this is what we're doing, this is the right way to go.

[00:26:50] Chris: And whether you're a consultant telling customers, or you're a leader telling your team, you know. At some point you do, I think, need to have that confidence, but it doesn't have to be the first thing you do. Right. You can ask a lot of questions and talk about how it depends and, and, and get through the messy mud first and then come to a conclusion and then be confident about it.

[00:27:05] Chris: Right. So I think that helps to mitigate that risk a little bit anyway. I mean, you still can end up at a place where you're wrong and have to admit it, but it's less likely if you've actually like, Asked maybe five times more questions than you thought you should have up front, right? 

[00:27:17] Zoe: Yeah, and it, I mean, it's situation specific as well.

[00:27:19] Zoe: Like in designing, which you probably deal with a lot, is designing a solution for a customer or choosing the right solution for a customer. You have to ask a lot of questions, I would say. I caught myself there. But in the situation of an incident, you don't get the luxury of time. Right. So sometimes you have to make that confident question, or you have to make the decision with confidence, reassure the customer.

[00:27:40] Zoe: I mean, it might be your senior leadership, it might be the board, it might be your customers, you have to make those decisions. Even in the case where you don't have all the answers, and that one's hard, that one's really hard, because when you're wrong, you could have a quite a significant impact. But the one thing that I've been told many times, and it's something that helps me deal with the frustration.

[00:28:02] Zoe: of being upset about things I've done in the past is everybody says, you know, hindsight is 2020. You were, you know, you, you made the decision with the information you had at the time. And so I think I used to get caught up a lot early in my career with feeling like, Oh, I made the wrong decision there. Or, Oh, I should have done this wrong.

[00:28:21] Zoe: Or, Oh, when I broke this thing, I responded wrongly and I shouldn't have done that. But now I have a lot more awareness, I know the business better, so I can make educated guesses better now than I did earlier in my career because I didn't know the business, I knew technology, right? So I think part of that growing and understanding and dealing with your own ego as well as admitting you're wrong.

[00:28:43] Zoe: One, does also take context, so, you know, it depends, but also for the situation, but also analyzing it and being able to grow from situations you've done not so best in the past. I think we have to give ourselves a little bit of credit. Because at the time, that was the right decision you made, right? 

[00:29:01] Chris: I agree 100%.

[00:29:02] Chris: I think that's, that's a really, really good point, Zoe. And I think we do need to be gentle with ourselves. And a lot of that hindsight is, right, like, yeah, okay, I made this decision, something bad happened. And now you're like, oh, well, now I know I shouldn't have made that decision. But hold on. Was there any possible way to know that?

[00:29:18] Chris: Or do you know that now? Because I mean, that, because that, that whole thing of like hindsight 2020 is really interesting in that now that you've seen the outcome, of course, you know what you should have done. But like, you can't really judge yesterday's Zoe on what today's Zoe knows, you know? I mean, yes, learn from it, but don't beat yourself up about it too much, usually.

[00:29:36] Zoe: Yeah, yeah. And you know how I view it? I view it as like an incident autopsy view. You know how when you're investigating an incident, you have the timeline, and you say, at this time, this happened, at this time, this happened, without any emotion. Yeah. If you're not in forensics or not in incident response, you might not be realized, but you can't have emotion.

[00:29:52] Zoe: You can't have opinions in these things. They have to be facts. You know, you, you might think this is what caused it, but if you don't have a fact, you can only say a likelihood. You can't say this happened, you know, cause that's putting your opinion in. So that's how I view it. And that's how I kind of view my life is what this time I knew this and I had these skills and I had these resources, you know, so that takes a bit of a cold view, but it helps me, helps me.

[00:30:16] Chris: But that's, I think it's great. Yeah. If you can do it, it's really hard to detach the emotion. And especially when you're looking at yourself, but I, I agree. That's. Super productive way to do it. 

[00:30:25] Zoe: Yeah. Well, let's talk more about you now. Interrupting. Um, so what was your first ever job? 

[00:30:33] Chris: So I guess it depends on how we define job, which I think, again, a lot of our guests say the same thing.

[00:30:39] Chris: I think technically the very first thing I got paid to do was mow some neighbors lawns. Which is interesting, right? I never had, like, I never did the lemonade stand. But I did, like, walk to my neighbor's house and be like, hey, for, I don't know, I remember, like, at the time, right? In, like, the late 80s, early 90s, it might have been, like, five bucks.

[00:30:56] Chris: Like, in my head, it's 20 bucks, but I bet it wasn't 20 then. I don't know. Um, it might've been 3. I don't know, but you know, Hey, I'll for, for whatever, for five bucks, I'll, I'll mow your lawn and, and I would do that. Now I didn't do a lot of it, you know, maybe a few neighbors, we live pretty far out in the country.

[00:31:09] Chris: So even if I had mowed all of our neighbors lawns, it wouldn't have been a sustainable business, but for a kid, it was pretty good. Um, just to kind of have that a little bit of understanding of that. My parents were actually pretty good about some of these things. I think there's, there's a few skills. In life that like, at least in the U S our schools do not teach at all, like completely avoid it.

[00:31:27] Chris: Right. Like, like how does compound interest work? How does interest on a loan work? How do you balance a checkbook? Um, just kind of these, some of these basic, like, and a lot of it, like a lot of stuff around finances, um, other stuff around maybe like, how do you do your laundry? And like, you know, maybe the more house chore stuff is a little different, but I learned a lot of that early on.

[00:31:43] Chris: Right. Like how do you actually like structure a life in full? Right. How do you feed yourself? How do you clean yourself? How do you also like take care of your financial wellbeing? And I think having that early experience of like going, like going out to mow lawns was, was interesting. Um, like a lot of people, right.

[00:31:56] Chris: My dad, if I ever asked him for money or if I told him I wanted something, he's like, well, better save the money. Right. That was always the answer. And I learned about kind of interest and all that stuff. So anyways, that was my first job. I think first commercial thing after that, as far as like actual, like having a job and having an employer and like getting a paycheck, I think it was landscaping, which was again, more mowing lawns.

[00:32:17] Chris: Um, but then that turned into, Actually, I ended up designing and building, uh, sprinkler systems, like irrigation systems for like watering lawns, and that kind of got bigger and bigger, and I got pretty into that for a while. 

[00:32:29] Zoe: That's kind of like a network, isn't it? 

[00:32:31] Chris: And then of course, with that in the winter in Colorado, there's no lawns to mow and no sprinkler systems to build, so we would plow snow.

[00:32:37] Chris: So I drove like a pickup truck with a plow in the front of it for a few winters as well. 

[00:32:41] Zoe: So starting with the whole kind of outside job and then moving into a more inside job, literally physically, how would you describe your career in 60 seconds or less? That's a hard one. 

[00:32:53] Chris: It is. So, um, and this is where I think maybe we'll, maybe we'll have time to dig into this more.

[00:32:59] Chris: Maybe we won't, but there is this kind of pivotal moment in my life that has caused A lot of my own personal imposter syndrome, especially for the first decade of my career, for sure, which is that I actually got in trouble when I was a kid and went to jail instead of going to college. So after spending about roughly between everything going down, like two years in like incarcerated as a kid, right, from like 17 to 19 or so.

[00:33:23] Chris: I got out and found, I think I first found another landscaping job, which was fine. And then how did it all work out? But again, like the seasonality of that, and there's some weird things there, you know, it's not always great because again, there's this kind of drop off in the winter and it doesn't actually pay very well at all.

[00:33:37] Chris: And I ended up working at a, a concrete plant for a while, which was kind of interesting. And that kind of played to some of my more like technology interests a little bit. It wasn't really a technology job, but. This concrete plant they made, they don't call them pipes, but they see those big like concrete pipes that go underneath streets and stuff like where like storm drains are and so they made pipes of all kinds of different sizes and there's machinery there that makes it so this was mostly an automated factory, at least the part I worked on, and they had these big machines, which were all computer controlled machines like PLC programmable logic circuit controlled machines.

[00:34:09] Chris: To weave like the metal frame that goes inside the concrete. And then there was like, I don't even have to scrape. It was really, really cool. There's, there was like flying buckets of concrete, like the slit around on rails and the ceiling, and there was like little robots that would like move rings around and like this welding robot that would like weld stuff together and then this big machine that would come out.

[00:34:24] Chris: And had basically like, I don't know, like, um, what do you call that? Like, it looked like a bullet or a torpedo, like a metal, like hole that would like go up. And then it's like metal case. It would come down and it would fill concrete in between them and then vibrate. The middle one was basically a big vibrator and it would like shake the concrete and then yeah.

[00:34:41] Chris: And then the top thing would pull off and you'd have these like concrete pipes, like standing straight up and down, but with wet concrete. And then they would go into this oven on these carts anyway. So I was working there for a while and doing a little bit of programming of the, of the PLCs, but also doing a lot of just like cleaning concrete off of machinery.

[00:34:59] Chris: Also like every now and then they wouldn't get the mix exactly right. And so when the machine would like lift the molds, the concrete pipes wouldn't stand there, they would collapse. And then you'd be shoveling wet concrete for, you know, an hour, uh, which was super awesome. Anyway, I was doing that for a while and then I think through, I think my mom's church or something, she actually met a person, this guy who was running a low voltage wiring company, uh, which low voltage wiring is basically like ethernet cables, speaker wires, um, coax cable, all that kind of stuff.

[00:35:30] Chris: And he basically had a contract with a home builder and this was in, I guess like the late nineties, maybe early two thousands when like there was a big, like housing boom going on in Colorado. And so they were building tons of stuff. And he had a contract with one of the big builders to do all the low voltage wiring for the homes pre construction.

[00:35:48] Chris: And so I started working for him. It was all piecework. So you would get paid like 50 cents to pull one ethernet cable. And then you would just get a route each day. And I, you know, had, I had my like little pickup truck and back was all full of all these different cables and tools and parts and stuff.

[00:36:03] Chris: And I'd go to like, you know, the construction sites and then, you know, go into the house and Pull cables through the house and basically like it was a really cool lesson in efficiency because like the more pieces you do, the more money you make. Right. And so really it's kind of up to you to some degree how much money you make.

[00:36:19] Chris: And so I got really good at, you know, every time you go into the house, you carry as much stuff as you're going to, as you can when you need it. Right. And then if you need to go back to the truck for something, you take anything you can out of the house or something like no wasted trips, no wasted motion.

[00:36:33] Chris: And, and then even like when you go into the house, you think about like, how do I run these cables in the most efficient way possible? Right? How do I, can I do like three pulls at once instead of one pull or like, are these all going in the same direction and kind of mapping out like how you're doing this stuff to get as efficient as possible?

[00:36:47] Chris: And I actually got pretty efficient and was able to like make a pretty decent amount of money more than, you know, I would have thought going into it and doing this piecework and just adding things up and doing it really efficiently. So that was kind of cool. There was a side part of that business, which was because we were doing low voltage cabling, we would also then go back after the house was built and flush some of this stuff out.

[00:37:06] Chris: So like those speaker wires, sometimes you would put in like speakers in the ceiling or speakers in the wall. Right. And kind of install that stuff. There was, we'd also like do these like built in vacuum systems, right? So we're like, there'd be like a big vacuum in the basement or in the garage. And then it had pipes that ran through all the whole house.

[00:37:20] Chris: And then instead of carrying a vacuum around the house, You just like plug a tube in and have just the head. And so we go install that stuff. But then also we install like cable TV, which that's easy. You just hook it up, but satellite where you actually go hang the satellite dish and like point it and get them connected up for satellite television.

[00:37:36] Chris: And the reason that part is interesting is that then when that job, um, stopped working out, I got another job with another satellite, the dish network installer company. And the second dish network installer company was working alongside of a wireless internet service provider. And they were kind of sharing an office and they're kind of sharing customers.

[00:37:55] Chris: They were two separate companies, but they were kind of working together. So I got a job with the, with the satellite TV company, installing satellite dishes, which I did for a while, just going around, hanging up dishes on people's houses and running co ops. Through their walls and stuff. But like I said, at the same time, there was this wisp who was operating in the same space and the satellite installer basically failed.

[00:38:12] Chris: They went out of business, they went bankrupt or whatever, but the guy who was running the wisp had seen me and, and kind of liked my work ethic and, and the way I was doing things. And so he brought me on and about the same time he brought me onto the WISP. They fired their whole technical staff and I had to figure out how to build networks, how to hang antennas from big towers, um, how to handle customer calls.

[00:38:34] Chris: Like basically I was running an ISP myself for a while and then as our funding went up and down, like we would hire people and I'd run a team and then we'd, we'd have to like lay people off and I wouldn't. And that went on for a couple of years, but that was where I really got kind of trial by fire, like.

[00:38:46] Chris: Learned how to run a network and how to build a network and how ISPs work and how the internet works and got really, really, really fascinated by the whole thing. And what's interesting too, is we did it all on our own, meaning this was kind of pre Quagga, pre Zebra. Like there wasn't like open source routing packages out really at this time yet.

[00:39:04] Chris: This was like really early two thousands. There may have been something, but it was really early days. And so we actually, and we didn't buy commercial routers. We actually built these like Linux bridging routers using just like Perl scripts and IP tables to like build our core routing system. And, um, so that's how I kind of got introduced to networking.

[00:39:21] Chris: It was like building it all from scratch, from like, from code. Uh, which is kind of interesting. Cause like now we kind of come full circle and we're actually going back to like building networks as code, uh, which is pretty interesting, I think. So that's not my whole career, but that's kind of how I got into it.

[00:39:33] Chris: And maybe I'll stop there. Cause that's a, that's a huge story already. Um, but that was kind of where the bug bit me of like internet service writers and internet. And from there it kind of blew up where I just kind of pursued that more and more. Um, I got deeper into it, started volunteering and figuring out how like the governance of the internet works and, and all that stuff kind of blew up from there.

[00:39:49] Zoe: Yeah, but that's interesting because you know, we talked a bit in other episodes where you were, you were very clear that you're not, you know, you're not, you didn't go to school, you didn't get certifications, you know, you, you're very self taught. Yeah. which is clear from this story. You are very self taught.

[00:40:05] Zoe: Um, and I, I find that interesting because you did touch on how it does kind of did lead to a lot of imposter syndrome of not being good enough. One thing, I mean, I do share, well, different story, different, different story. Uh, way in, but I did share similar ways of, you know, being self taught and learning.

[00:40:23] Zoe: And a lot of times I struggled with knowing I was good enough, I suppose, and, and feeling a sense of achievement in myself. I'm curious on how you kind of combat that, especially as you now are, again, working for yourself. How do you feel like you're good enough and how do you kind of remind yourself or maybe reassure yourself you're, you're achieving what you want to achieve?

[00:40:44] Chris: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think, you know, for me, it's gone through several waves when I was, you know, fresh out of jail, living in a trailer in a trailer park in like a not great part of Denver, raising like a newborn son with my wife at the time and working landscaping and coming home, you know, after like 10, 12 hour days of being out in the mud, just like covered and showering that off.

[00:41:08] Chris: There was a lot of times where I had some like major, like existential, like, Oh, well, like, what is going on with my life? Like, this is not the life that I had laid out for myself as a kid, right. At all the life I imagined for myself. And part of what I thought about then was just like, okay, but, but I am out here working.

[00:41:23] Chris: I'm out here earning money. The kids I went to high school with are right now going to college. And so like, I had this like, almost like internal, like. Scorecard or like, like race board, or I don't know, I don't know what you call it. Right. But I was like, okay, like, because they're still in college, they're not even starting their careers yet.

[00:41:37] Chris: Some, I was doing math in my head, right? Not real math, but like figuring out like, okay, like, but, but I'm kind of actually ahead of them because I'm, I'm actually out working and kind of building a career and I kind of, that was kind of a self justification scheme. I had further along in kind of, once I got to like this company, which was called a hometown access and then wave max, right.

[00:41:54] Chris: That ISP. I knew I didn't know anything. I was pretty open about the fact that like, I didn't really know what I was doing. Well, kind of open, I guess, but like, there was a piece of it, which was just there. It was more about like, this needs to get done. And like, it doesn't matter if you know how to do it or not.

[00:42:07] Chris: Like, this is what has to get done. And I think that's been a piece of it for me too, is. Like all humans, right? I tend to like when something has to be done, I'm pretty good at figuring out how to get it done and actually making it happen. And I, and I think, you know, kind of like, maybe this is like a, I don't know if this is good advice or bad advice, but kind of a life hack that I've found is I tend to corner myself into situations where at least I feel, maybe it's not totally true, but I feel like I have to do the thing that I actually want to do.

[00:42:35] Chris: So if I decide I want to do something, I kind of like force myself into a situation where I have to do that thing. Um, because then I know I'll do it. And, and when you're doing something you have to do, at least for me, worry a lot less about like what other people think now, not that I haven't had major massive doubts, right?

[00:42:50] Chris: I mean, the other side of that coin is. When I first discovered conferences and like internet governance and like ARIN and NANOG and these things, you know, when I first started going to NANOGs, a couple of things, right? One, I was not in a position at work where like they cared about me enough to send me to a conference, right?

[00:43:07] Chris: Like I was a very junior at the time. So I was self funding. Like I maxed out a couple of credit cards, like sending myself to conferences because I saw the magic there. So I was there. Without corporate backing, without company backing, like nobody wanted me there except me. And I was the youngest person in the room in most cases.

[00:43:22] Chris: And I had this background of like not having any idea what I was doing. Right. Like I had kind of figured out how to build routers out of Linux at one point. And then I was working through a certification track, but like definitely didn't have degrees or history or backing. And like at that time at NANOG, there was still like the gray beards of my age were the people who would like really built the first ISPs.

[00:43:41] Chris: I mean, these were like, they had done some amazing stuff. And so I was super intimidating. Uh, for sure. And, and I kept a lot of like my background and my history and like where I'd come from really, really close to my chest. Right. Really almost like, like kept it secret. I didn't talk about that kind of stuff.

[00:43:55] Chris: It's somebody, if, if people started talking about college or like earlier, I was, I was like finding a way to go to the bathroom or like go get more drinks or, you know, some way to avoid these conversations was, was part of how I dealt with it too, which I think was it Anna Claymore who talked about that?

[00:44:06] Chris: Right. Like the denial as an actual, like useful strategy. I don't, I don't know, again, maybe good advice, bad advice, but. Sometimes just, uh, just kind of faking it. And, uh, I don't know, it worked for me. I don't, again, I don't know if it's good advice or not. It kind of reminds me of, um, who was it? Hunter S Thompson, who like went to speak to a school group and they asked him how to be a good writer.

[00:44:23] Chris: And he's like, well, I don't want to recommend drugs and alcohol, but it's worked for me. Um, so I feel like, you know, I did everything the wrong way, but it worked out. 

[00:44:32] Zoe: But I feel like it depends on the person. Oh God, that's another. It depends. I think it does depend on the person though. Cause I think for me in my career, I did the same thing.

[00:44:40] Zoe: Like I wouldn't admit when I didn't know something, I would just wouldn't speak up, you know? And, 

[00:44:44] Chris: yeah, 

[00:44:44] Zoe: and yeah, it probably wasn't the best thing cause I got things wrong because I assumed I knew or I didn't get the context, but I was too scared to ask. But I also knew that if I admitted in some situations, if I admitted I couldn't do something, I would be judged so harshly, I would never be asked again.

[00:45:00] Zoe: Yeah. You know, so I feel like, again, it's, you know, it depends on the situation. 

[00:45:06] Chris: It does. And there is a double edged sword there, right? I think that's a really interesting point. So, on the one hand, it's not just you or not just me that. Maybe it makes bad assumptions and gets into a bad spot because we don't ask a question or don't admit we don't know something.

[00:45:17] Chris: Sometimes it's the whole group we're a part of, right? Cause I've definitely been in a lot of situations where I was too shy, too scared to ask my question, right? And then realize later that no one knew what was going on and that that question would have saved us from making some horrible mistake. And so now I really try to, you know, I I've kind of learned over time and trained myself to get over that fear, uncertainty, and doubt and raise my hand and be like, Hey guys, Maybe I'm a complete idiot.

[00:45:41] Chris: Maybe I'm missing something, but your math does not add up for me. Can you walk me through it again? And sometimes I'm just missing something or I just misheard something, but sometimes like there's three other people who are like, Oh my God, I'm so glad you asked that question. Cause I don't know what the fuck's going on, or this is a terrible idea.

[00:45:56] Chris: And like somebody needed, you know, it's like, but you're right at the same time. You're kind of putting your neck out when you do that. Not all environments welcome that there's not all people giving the presentation are going to be happy that you interrupted them to tell them they're wrong. Even if you did it as nicely as possible, I kind of think what I was watching some show recently and this lady was talking about like how she's like, she's an interior designer or something.

[00:46:17] Chris: And she wants to like surround everyone by beauty. And she was talking about this and the guy she's talking to is kind of like, yeah, don't you just hate poor people who can't afford to surround themselves with beauty? He was being sarcastic. To her, right? Like he was being super sarcastic because like she was producing this ideal of like, Oh, we're like, you know, the world would be better if we could all just everyone was surrounded and like find furniture and flowers all the time.

[00:46:37] Chris: And he's like, this is not reality. Right. And I think there's something to that too, which is like, I would love to say that every single time you should say, I don't know, you should speak up. You should ask those questions. But, but the truth is the world isn't always surrounded by beauty, right? There are places where you're in this, like, maybe emotionally intelligent poverty or whatever it might be, right?

[00:46:56] Chris: Where you're in this place of like, where that environment doesn't exist. And so, you know, yeah, don't get fired for sure. Find a way to get another job and quit first. Yeah. 

[00:47:05] Zoe: Yeah. That's good advice. Don't get fired. No, I agree with you. And I also think, I think it's also important to highlight because we do mention a couple times in our series that, well, if it's not the right place to leave, but you're not always capable of leaving.

[00:47:19] Zoe: Like, I'm not saying I have a bad job. I have a good job right now. I have a good situation. It pays well. I've got a good team, you know, but I don't have the capability of leaving. Like, even if it was rubbish, I couldn't leave because, you know, I'm not an EU citizen. I have to have a visa. I can't leave a job without getting another replacement.

[00:47:38] Zoe: I also, I'm a single mom. I need an income, you know, so it's not like I have that flexibility either. And especially early in your career, you don't have that flexibility because people will look at your experience and say, well, why'd you leave them after a month? Why'd you leave them after a year? You know, so a hundred percent, like.

[00:47:55] Zoe: Do it in a way that works for you, but don't do it in a, in a situation where it ends up causing even bigger problems. 

[00:48:02] Chris: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. I think, yeah, like you said, right, there's these things that are situationally dependent for sure. 

[00:48:09] Zoe: I have a really good question that I'm, I'm quite interested because I don't know what your answer would be.

[00:48:14] Zoe: What is your greatest achievement of your career so far? 

[00:48:18] Chris: Yeah. Um, again, like almost all of our guests, I find that a really hard question to answer. There's lots of different ways to look at it. I know that, you know, rolling all the way back to what was it like 2007 or so when I like got my first, my JNCIP and then my JNCIE, which at the time they were both lab exams.

[00:48:37] Chris: That felt like a pinnacle of like technological achievement. Right? Like that, that was something that was out of reach for a while and then actually doing it felt amazing. It's a really cool personal accomplishment to like overcoming like an academic kind of challenge like that for sure. So that felt really good now, but as far as like, how much did that matter in the course of my life?

[00:48:54] Chris: I don't know. It felt really good. It definitely made me a better engineer. Uh, to have gone through it more recently, I think, I mean, even just like finally having the strength and courage to like quit a job and say, I'm on my own now, like it's all up to me. I'm going to be a consultant and I'm not going to have a regular paycheck.

[00:49:12] Chris: And I've got to like figure out how to do this on my own. That was a big achievement to have done that and had it work out. Right now I've been, you know, I haven't had a, like w two, like real employer kind of, you know, like job, I haven't had a job in at least three years now, a little bit longer than three years now, which feels like a pretty cool accomplishment.

[00:49:28] Chris: Um, it's something that I really always wanted all the way back from that first job at hometown access slash wave max, where we were building that WISP. You know, that was such a small company, but it was just like a couple of investors and then like me and, and, uh, like a project manager, executive assistant lady, and then like a few people we hired over time and got rid of, but it was really, it's really small.

[00:49:47] Chris: And so I saw like the nuts and bolts of like small business and entrepreneurship right up close. And I loved it. I really like, even though it was painful and sucked almost every day, it's something about it, like really attracted me and I loved it. And I wanted that back. I wanted to like run a business and be in that, and it never really happened.

[00:50:04] Chris: And so now having made it happen, finally coming back around to that and saying, okay, no, I'm, I'm doing this. I've learned all the skills I need. I've got the confidence. I've got the ability to do this and doing it felt really good. But honestly, I think greatest achievement right now, if I was weighing everything up, I think is network automation forum and the autocon events.

[00:50:23] Chris: And the reason is it's very clear to me, especially after, um, as we're recording this, the AutoCon 1, our second event, because we indexed to zero, obviously AutoCon 1 in Amsterdam, uh, just happened last week. It really, really, really hit me that this thing is bigger than me. Like what Scott and I kind of, we, we, we planted the seed and we poured some water on it and we've, we've tended the garden, but what has grown.

[00:50:47] Chris: Is, is beyond us, right? This is definitely something that like, I feel like I helped create that's bigger than me. And I don't know how to explain that feeling. It's really amazing. Part of it's terrifying because this thing that you created is now. It's own thing that you can no longer control. Like it's like, cause that's part of what bigger than me means, right?

[00:51:04] Chris: It's like, I'm no longer in charge. Uh, I'm still the shepherd. I'm still kind of, you know, stewarding this thing. I'm going to pick the weeds. But it has a life of its own and it's going to grow and continue without me, regardless. And that's, um, a really, really cool feeling for sure. 

[00:51:18] Zoe: Well, all three of those things, if you come back to, you know, being young, fresh out of jail in a life that you were like, how did I get here?

[00:51:25] Zoe: It 100 percent makes sense that those are your achievements that are like really stand out. It's, you know, having somebody else externally validating that you are good at what you're doing, passing those exams, being able to quit your job and sustain yourself. Because quitting your job and working for yourself for the first year, you could do that.

[00:51:43] Zoe: But to last three years and still be able to feed yourself and, you know, support your family. That's really like, that's actually a sense of achievement. You know, that's actually something that you can, okay, this is succeeding and then be able to build this AutoCon. Um, I'm still sad I couldn't see you cause you were like 30 minutes away from me, but whatever.

[00:52:02] Zoe: But, um, that's okay. But, um, yeah, it's, it's, it makes sense that you would go from being like, Oh, how did I end up here to being like, wow, how did I end up here? You know, like, and now it's actually building it more and it fits within your. Goal of, you know, building something that solves problems for other people, you know, helps other people.

[00:52:21] Zoe: I think that's really cool. And it makes sense. 

[00:52:24] Chris: If I can, I know you're not asking a question, but I have one. I'm going to answer one that you're not asking. 

[00:52:29] Zoe: Anyway, answer one. Yeah, definitely. 

[00:52:30] Chris: As you were talking through that, I think, cause you talked about something you said really triggered me. To think about this, which is like that, I forget what you said, but anyway, like there's this thought I've had in the past, this, um, like, how did I get here?

[00:52:42] Chris: That, that thing you said, you said something about like, how did I get here? Where, you know, kind of thing. So the year I turned 30, my dad passed away and he was 59. It was like a couple of weeks before his 60th birthday. And it was pancreatic cancer. So like we found out he was sick and then he was dead.

[00:52:57] Chris: Like it wasn't quite days, but definitely weeks. It was really, really fast. Um, that same year I got divorced. I changed jobs very drastically. That was, that was the same year I changed from working for an ISP to moving to CableLabs, which is a think tank. So I changed from like building stuff to like creating stuff, which was pretty interesting.

[00:53:15] Chris: So, so I also had a really, really good friend of mine who passed away and essentially committed suicide. Um, cause he was dealing with MS and it was getting really bad. And, um, he just decided to check out another person we worked with, committed suicide. So kind of a big year for me, the year I turned 30 was, was this huge year.

[00:53:30] Chris: It was also kind of this awakening. And I think, is it talking heads? I'm going to screw it up. Music lovers are going to hate me, but there's a song where the guy's like, he's talking about driving his big fancy car and living with his, with his beautiful wife. And he's like, but, but then, you know, you wake up one day and you're like, this isn't my big fancy car.

[00:53:47] Chris: This isn't my beautiful life or wife. Like this isn't like, like whose life am I living? And I definitely had that happen to me when I was 30 and I've kind of really didn't change course too drastically, but definitely have been more intentional about building the life I want from there. Now, what's interesting is that, like I said, you know, basically, like me and my ex wife, my kid's mom got pregnant and had our first son like pretty quickly after I got out of jail.

[00:54:12] Chris: And then. Basically for those next 10 years for my whole 20s, I was just trying to figure out how to make more money. And that may sound really terrible, but where we started was, okay, do we buy food? Do we put gas in the car or do we buy diapers? Because all three is not an option, right? I mean, we, like, we were really struggling for the first few years.

[00:54:33] Chris: And so. For my whole twenties, it was just like, how do I find a better job, work my way up in this job, whatever I need to do to like increase my income so that I can actually like feel confident about caring for this family. And so that was my twenties. And luckily by the time I hit 30, I had done that well enough that I was in a pretty good place where I didn't have to worry about whether we could not buy food or not anymore.

[00:54:53] Chris: Right. After, after kind of 10 years of building my career. And then all this kind of dramatic stuff happened. And then I really kind of looked at life as like, okay, like, what do I actually want? What do I want to do? Which I had never really done before. It was always like, I need to take care of these people.

[00:55:06] Chris: I need to take care of my family. I need to do what my parents expect of me. I need to do a, you know, just all this expectation and obligation from society and people around me. A lot of it was good. Some of it wasn't. Um, and then that kind of blew up when, like I said, when my dad passed away and everything happened in my thirties and then kind of had that awakening, which that's what it was reminding me of.

[00:55:23] Chris: Like when you said that, it reminded me of the lyrics to that song, which were like stuck in my head for that whole year or maybe a couple of years after. And then really kind of shifted and focused on building the life I want, which also happens to take care of the people around me as well. 

[00:55:37] Zoe: Yeah. And I think, I think that's for me, I was the same.

[00:55:40] Zoe: I mean, my twenties were me trying to afford to live as well. I mean, I didn't have a family at the time, but it was the same. It was the same thing. I need to, I mean, I did slightly different 'cause I did move countries, which is financially not the best idea. , but add a little spice. Yeah. . Yeah. But, um, but yeah, no, and so I completely resonate with that is, you know, and, and people are always like, well, money isn't everything.

[00:56:06] Zoe: Yeah. But it is bloody nice to be able to afford to eat, you know? It is bloody nice to be able to be able to afford life. And then looking at. Other things. So I, I would agree money is important. It's not everything, but it is important. Um, and then figuring out what it is you want to do. I think, yeah, I, I'm recently have gone through that phase a little bit past what you did, but, um, I'm recently getting in that phase of what do I want, which is hard.

[00:56:33] Zoe: It's hard to figure it out. You've kind of already touched on this, but would you consider that being your biggest challenge that you faced in your career or something else? 

[00:56:41] Chris: Um, no, I actually, so I think that if I'm being totally honest with myself and apparently with everyone, um, the biggest challenge I faced in my career is me.

[00:56:53] Chris: I think that there's the more I've focused on myself and my own personal growth. The better everything else has worked and the better I've been able to be a employee or employer or friend or brother or father, like everything gets easier. The more I've kind of worked on myself and what I mean is, you know, a lot of what I've done in my career was really focused on how do I make myself the most productive thing possible?

[00:57:18] Chris: How do I get the most work done? How do I, how do I get stuff done faster and harder and bigger so that I can just, you know, again, follow these goals, right? Originally it was kind of survival. After that, it was just like, I wanted to like, you know, kind of pay it forward, pay it back, contribute, whatever. I just have this desire to like output.

[00:57:35] Chris: And early on in my career, that definitely manifested in some weirdly weird ways where, you know, distraction was an evil, right? So I'd be at my desk working. And if someone came up to me. To be like, Hey, how was your weekend? It would make me mad. I would get angry because they're interrupting me and I got work to do.

[00:57:51] Chris: Like, why are we talking about stuff that has no, like, this doesn't matter. Like get away. Like I'm, I've got stuff to do. Like, this is not important. And I was like, and I would be rude to people and shut people down. Um, right. And then they stopped coming to talk to me about their weekends, which at the time was the goal, but definitely long term, like not really the best way to like live your life in an enjoyable, happy fashion.

[00:58:11] Chris: Right. And a lot of kind of things like that, right? Like just kind of figuring out my quirks where like, there are things that, you know, and a lot of it's around anger, to be honest, right? A lot of it is like, Oh, you're not doing that right. Like, here's how you do it right. And not understanding how to actually like communicate with people and how to like, I think it's a two things, right?

[00:58:27] Chris: One is like human communication and that's a big theme. I mean, that could, that could be a whole nother podcast episode is just my social anxiety and how I've kind of like worked through that over the last, you know, I guess now 43 years or whatever. So that's part of it. But on the other part. Is I forget now, actually what I was going to say, there was two parts.

[00:58:44] Chris: Um, communication is part of it. Um, 

[00:58:47] Zoe: But, but you, but the way you've explained this is. Very much emotional intelligence, and it's hilarious to me because in my career, and I'm generalizing here, so I apologize to everyone because this is generalization and it is not fair to everyone, but in my career, a lot of times I've noticed women are forced to build their emotional intelligence.

[00:59:08] Zoe: So that they can fit into a professional atmosphere. Men don't seem to have to build that as effectively. And the ones that I have, and again, like I said, I am generalizing, but the people that I've worked the best with have high emotional intelligence. And so I feel like what you're describing is the way you're able to be more effective, More happiness in your job, in your life is you focused a lot on building your emotional intelligence and identifying what you truly want, but also how to relate to people.

[00:59:40] Chris: That is exactly right. That was the second piece. Um, for sure. A hundred percent. So like communication was part of it. And like the social anxiety stuff, but then yes, a hundred percent of the emotions. And what I was going to say is I think that, and again, I don't, I don't want to blame anybody. Right. I'm not saying this is my dad's fault or like society's fault or anything.

[00:59:56] Chris: It was, you know, a lot of it was my own self internalizing stuff. Right. Right. But like, for example, when I was growing up, me and my dad, one of the things me and my dad did together was watch star Trek, the next generation, watch a lot of star Trek. And almost all of it watched with my dad. And I identified most with Data.

[01:00:10] Chris: I wanted to be like the emotionless, like effective thing. Right. And what happened is I think that whatever that desire was, I don't know where that came from exactly, but that then combined with, you know, this kind of like more traditional man's man upbringing, anger became like the only. available emotion for me.

[01:00:29] Zoe: Yes. That's, that's what I was wanting to bring up is what you were talking about. You know, it's the emotional intelligence, but men are always taught anger is like what's allowed, you know, and that's so unfair. 

[01:00:40] Chris: Yeah. So if I got sad, if I got scared, sometimes you got happy, right. It all came out as anger.

[01:00:46] Chris: So you're a hundred percent right. Building that emotional intelligence, um, which has been hard and has taken years and years and years of reading of talking to people of, you know, I've added all kinds of practices to my life. I have a gratitude journal and every night before I go to bed, I write down the things that I'm most grateful for that day, which like that is like that practice over years, like at first it was just a weird thing I had to do.

[01:01:07] Chris: And I forced myself to remember to do. And now it's like this beautiful part of my day. And it actually like, I think really has opened up that emotional intelligence, right? Journaling every day in the morning, I journal as I have, I've, I've lots of journal and running and a lot of the things I do are actually built around, like, just like opening myself up in, in a way that like allows me to be not just productive now, but actually happy and fun to be around, hopefully more fun.

[01:01:30] Zoe: No, I, I agree. I think for me it's also been difficult. I mean, I, I laughed when you were saying that because yeah, I like, I love data. I, I related to data. I didn't like emotion, but I didn't understand it. I actually just had a chat with my team yesterday where we were talking about career inspirations.

[01:01:48] Zoe: And I talked about how much I love fantasy novels because it gave you both perspectives. It gave you what was happening in the scene and it gave you the person's internal thoughts. And I felt like that taught me how to socialize with people. Again, that probably is why I'm so weird because I like to socialize through fantasy.

[01:02:05] Zoe: But anyway, um, but, uh, but yeah, it was like learning, forcing myself to understand my own emotions and connections with people. I'm still rubbish at it, to be clear. I still need a lot of work. But it's that continuous work on trying to figure it out and trying to relate. I think, I think it makes you better out in your job.

[01:02:26] Zoe: At everything. Yeah. Yeah. It makes you a better person, better at your job, better at everything. 

[01:02:31] Chris: Yeah, I agree. And I think that what's interesting there too is I think when I kind of started on that journey, or maybe not, you know, for a long time, I tried to understand other people. And that definitely helped me to an extent, but when I realized that I needed to understand my own emotions, right.

[01:02:46] Chris: And that's something you just said that would kind of, you know, once I started like looking inside to myself and being like, Oh, like I have all these emotions too, like all this stuff that I've been trying to figure out and other people it's going on in me, I've just kind of repressed it or ignored it or whatever.

[01:02:59] Chris: And so I think turning inwards, at least for me, right, there was a big stepping stone or like gateway or whatever forward in that where like, Oh, okay. Like that helped me under, like, instead of forcing myself to try to understand other people, once I understood myself a little better, the other part became easier.

[01:03:13] Chris: Right. And, and not that you have to, you know, can only do one or the other, but, um, yeah, 

[01:03:16] Zoe: Yeah, no, it makes sense. We are well over time, well, you're very interesting. So it worked out so well, unfortunately that's all the time we have today. Thanks. Thanks. Chris, do you have any projects or causes you'd like to know about?

[01:03:31] Chris: Um, yeah, we've already talked about it. You know, the big one I think is network automation forum, which right now is focused on these auto con events, but we're looking at other ways to support the community. So if you're interested in network engineering at all, and especially network automation, I think take a look over there.

[01:03:46] Chris: It's network automation. forum. There's some cool stuff and then obviously also my kind of pet project with FullCtl. The software that Grizz and his team have put together is amazing. And so if you've got automation use cases, especially around interconnection and kind of edge routing, um, edge, edge networks, take a look, F U L L C T L dot com.

[01:04:05] Chris: I also do tend to like write about some of this like philosophical stuff that I've gone through or that I think about that's helped me. So I think in the show notes, we'll probably have a link to a couple of blogs, like my personal blog on my website, but also I've got one called modern autodidactism on medium, which has some of the kind of longer form articles around some of these things that I think about, and, uh, I'm hope to find more time to write more of that.

[01:04:30] Zoe: Thank you so much for sharing your story with ISN. It's been really cool because we've been working together for, what, two years now, so it's cool to get your side after all of these interviewing other people. Thank you again 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.

[01:04:52] Zoe: Before we close, Chris, I am curious, what advice would you give yourself for when you first started your career? 

[01:04:58] Chris: Yeah, I think go bigger, take more risks. Now, again, I kind of, the theme of the show is it depends. There are contacts, right? You know, one of the reasons I was more conservative in my choices, which, and the thing is people didn't think I was being conservative, right?

[01:05:13] Chris: I think I scared the crap out of my parents, probably my, my, you know, ex wife, wife at the time. Um, and in some of the career changes and jumps and things I made, but looking back, I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that I was good enough to run my own business, and then I stayed within the safety of employment because I was responsible for feeding and clothing, you know, one, and then two little boys who have now grown up into great young men.

[01:05:39] Chris: And so, you know, no regrets on that front, but I think I could have taken more risks. I think I could have had more confidence. I think I let some of that imposter syndrome, um, of feeling like based on my background and what I had gone through as a kid that I didn't quite have what it takes. And I wasn't the same as these other people.

[01:05:55] Chris: I wasn't a Harvard graduated trust fund kid. And so maybe I wasn't the right person to be an entrepreneur. And I think if I had, you know, maybe ignored some of that and, and, and taking some bigger risks earlier on. I may have even had a bigger impact on the world by now. So, you know, go big, take more risks.

[01:06:11] Chris: But again, within the context, sometimes that's, uh, harder than it sounds. 

[01:06:15] Zoe: Brilliant. We'll be back next week.