WWS – Working While Sick

Being sick, it happens to all of us. But in todays society do we take care of ourselves the way we should? Do we take our sick days, and truly rest so that our bodies can heal?

I know that myself the answer is usually not. I know that when I don’t have to be in front of a customer I tend to work when I’m sick. Even this last week when I had the flu I worked for three days before I went to the doctor. So let me go over this:

Sunday afternoon my youngest called me and wanted to come home from her moms, so I went and picked her up. She wasn’t feeling good and wanted to be home with me. Monday was Martin Luther King Day and she didn’t have school, what she did have that morning was 103 degree fever… and an appointment with the doctor. Yup, she has the flu!! I had made her get a flu shot as usual, the flu shot this year was not effective. So one pharmacy visit later she’s posted up on the couch with her medication, orange juice, bear, fuzzy blanket and NetFlix. While I continued to work, feeling steadily worse each day. Come Wednesday, I woke up feeling like a hammered bag of nastiness.

I finally took my girlfriends advice and made myself a doctors appointment, and continued to work until it was time to leave. 3pm hits and apparently I’d been working with a fever, it was 102 when I saw the doctor (explains why I’d been freezing for two days I guess). So there I am with my prescriptions, and my doctor telling me to not work (WHAT? Don’t work, surely you must be joking). So what the hell am I supposed to do? I had no customer visits, but I had work that needed to be done.


I’m not kidding this is actually what I was thinking…I don’t have time to be sick, I have RFPs to respond to, BoMs to be built, SoW’s to write. And don’t lie, you know you think the same way.


In todays culture of ubiquitous connectivity “WFX” (working from anywhere) is possible, and do I love being able to work from everywhere! But what is this doing to us physically?

Just because we can work from home, does that mean we shouldn’t take the time if we are sick? Just because we aren’t in the office, and can’t get anyone else sick should we still work? Should we continue to push ourselves to get our tasks completed, even though we are having trouble concentrating and staying on task?

I felt horrible on Wednesday and Thursday, come Friday I couldn’t even talk and it still hurts to do so today. I took the sick days, but did I really? I was still responding to emails and text messages.

Are we too connected (perish the thought!) today? What ever happened to being sick and resting? I told my daughter to sit on the couch and relax, but did I take my own advice?

“Ugh. Somebody told me the other day to take it easy or I’d relapse. I should have listened. So tired of being sick and always have too much to do so slowing down isn’t an option”

Where does this feeling, that we need to always be working, come from? I know my boss would rather have me take the time and get better so that I’m thinking clearly and can be really effective.


Should we be onsite at a customers working because “no one on the team would step up and relieve us”?


Should we even be questioning the need to rest and take the time to heal? Should we wonder “How is this going to effect the project/timeline/company?” Maybe, but remember to flip that around as well. “How is this going to affect me?”


“Work Life

I caught a post yesterday…ummmm ok maybe it was the other day…anyway when I saw it isn’t important what it was about is, “Work Life Balance”.


What is theWork Life Balance really? Well according to that wikipedia article, it is a concept of prioritizing work and lifestyle. Any less confused? yeah me either. What this sounds like to me is you work then you play…but make sure you make time to play.

Depending on your job, can you really balance work and life? Ok, sure if you have “desk job” an “8-5″ or something where you are forced into standard set hours? Sure you can manage to balance it pretty easily. Once you the 5 o’clock whistle blows, you make like Fred Flintstone and don’t think about work until 8am ( ok 8:30am) the next morning. But to me balance equates to 50/50 work/life.

But what happens if you have a job that is not bound by set hours? What if you are doing more “project based” work? Well then we take a look at Work Life Integration….yup no link for this one, I couldn’t seem to find any singular article that really defined what it is/was/should be.

So from what I can infer from reading lots of articles, Integration means working when you need to. Don’t watch the clock, work when you are best capable of completing a task. Is that 6am, or maybe for you it is 10pm after the kids are in bed and the nightly news is over. If you want to go to the gym at 11am go. if you want to go for a bike ride at 2pm, go!


To me Work Life Integration feels like “Get your work done on schedule, to the best of your abilities, be responsive to your team/customers and all is good”


With the amount of remote workers increasing, I hope that the above methodology will become more prevalent. Does it matter if i’m at my desk from 8-5 so long as I am reachable? Does it matter if I take a couple of hour break in the middle of the day, so long as I put in my time later(or earlier)?

I won’t go into how this can keep workers more focused, less stressed and in general happier. But I will end on this post that I like to read when I’ve been thinking about taking a vacation. US vs Europe

Books and Covers – Don’t judge me

We tell our children “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Modern Day Adages But isn’t that what we do everyday?

If you’ve talked with me before, you know my stance on “suiting up”, I think it should be left to Politicians, Layers, Gangsters and other such scum. But that’s purely my opinion and, usually, said in jest to the lawyers in my family. I equate wearing a suit with those people, and since I tend to not trust Politicians and Lawyers..well why would *you* trust *me*?


But I digress. In this modern day, we are no longer locked into working in a hard office 8-5 with an hour lunch where we go and have a couple of cocktails with our co-workers. Today we work from home, Starbucks, the airport or anywhere else that we can get free wifi. So I ask you, does it matter what I wear? If there are not customers coming into the office, I’m not visiting customers that day and I’m getting my work done in a quick and competent manner, why does anyone care if I’m wearing Jeans and a Polo?

Business Casual

What I find the most interesting about this is:

There is no generally agreed definition of “business casual”.”

I actually hate the term “business casual”, because to me it means I can wear jeans and a polo. I also prefer that people be clear in their instructions. If you want me in khakis/trousers say so. I prefer the stance of  “As your customer or better”. It’s clear enough, but still gives you some flexibility in what you are wearing.

“Dress Professional”, what exactly does that mean? Does that mean that if I wear a suit I’m suddenly better at my job? That I am suddenly “Professional” because I’m wearing a suit, even if my job is to sweep the floors?(and no I’m not knocking on janitorial duties, trust me all young Marines are professional janitors).

I’m sorry ladies and gentleman, but professionalism always has and will always be a measurement of how well we do our jobs, and not how well we dressed while doing it. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m in front of a customer I wear slacks and a polo, tattoos are in full view. Back when I was a field person doing installs and move/add/change I wore jeans. I’d much rather rip a $20 pair of jeans on the keyboard tray someone left just far enough out to snag and rip my pocket, than a $60 pair of trousers, which has happened.

Are Doctors professionals? Last time I took my daughter into the doctors office, guess what? The doctor and nursing staff (professionals right?!) were wearing scrubs, not slacks, a button, tie and a white lab coat.

Bikers (not professional right?) big scary guys on loud Harley’s, nasty tattoos, and bad attitudes….not so much BACA


So I implore you, don’t judge me by how I’m dressed, my tattoos or piercings, my hair. Instead judge me on my work ethic, how well I perform, how easily I can make you laugh when I’m presenting.

The Importance of Social Media to the Network Engineer…Or I Tweet therefore I am

It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a Community to raise an engineer.

Over the last few years, more and more of us are using social media. And by “social media” I’m not just talking about email lists, support forums whether vendor supported or not (though they are important as well). No, I’m talking about Twitter, Facebook, Skype, FaceTime and all other forms of instant(ok semi-instant) communication.

This growing trend, from my perspective, has helped us grow more as engineers than anything else I’ve encountered in the 18 or so years I’ve been repairing/installing/designing systems.

In the beginning we all have a mentor. Someone that we are assigned to work with to help get us up to speed. Once you reach a certain level of competence you are thrust out into the big bad network to keep things moving smoothly. Of course you still have your co-workers you can rely on when you need help. But what happens when you encounter a problem they haven’t seen before? You can reach out to the vendors tech support group of course, but sometimes that can take days to get an answer from. I’m not bashing tech support, I spent the better part of five years doing it. But understand that tech support gets tons of calls, and you can only be so productive.

So what do you do? What should you do?

Why, reach out to the social media channels! Tweet out your question or issue! You would be really surprised by who will reply to your issue and how fast a response you can get. I’ve seen engineers in the US work with engineers in the UK, Australia, Germany (you get the picture?) to resolve issues. If someone doesn’t know an answer, they can retweet it to their followers as well:


We have study groups that run across social media, shooting out questions and scenarios they have in their books, and getting responses and explanations from other studiers or people that already have that certification. Being able to reach out to the people that create the materials, like Joe Onisick and Ron Fuller.

From Denise “Fish” Fishburne

In 2001 I tripped into what seemed to be the perfect job for me. I learn, I teach, I help people, and I get to play detective. Had anyone heard of “Denise Fishburne” (aka “Fish”) before 2013? Not really. Did I care? :) Not really. It’s hard to care about not being “known” when you are a lab rat having tons of fun with great co-workers.

Social Media

In 2011 a friend of mine setup introductions with Network World. I submitted 2 sample blog posts and they picked me up. Network World suggested I sign up on this “Twitter” thing. Like many people who aren’t on twitter I had my own notions and ideas of what it was and I hadn’t voluntarily joined it. But I signed up. Didn’t do much with it. Just signed up.

In the spring of 2013 I started playing more with this “twitter thing” prior to CiscoLive. I still remember Jeremy Filliben coming up to me at CiscoLive in 2013 and saying “hi” as if he already knew me. He was my first “in real life” twitter connection.

**January, 2014** – yup… That’s when it all happened. John Spade had asked me on twitter to do a “Cisco Helpout – Women in Network Engineering” podcast. I said yes. Amy Lewis @commsninja was also on the show. Soon after I become a Cisco Champion. Then?

CiscoLive 2014
Met awesome and incredible other Cisco Champions
Hung out at the Social Lounge with the fabulous “tweet-up” gang
Went to my first customer appreciation party ever
Had a lot of fun playing with others with sparkly bats, bacon, tiaras, and masks
Got lots of hugs
After CiscoLive 2014? I have now moved over to writing for PacketPushers and Networking Computing. Admittedly I still pinch myself about Packet Pushers.

I’m your basic lab rat. I like playing in the lab. I come out of the lab about once a year for CiscoLive. Not really the type of job that screams “name recognition OUTSIDE of Cisco comes with this job”. The name recognition outside of Cisco truly has its root in social media. Social media allows me the best of 2 worlds: the lab rat job I love and the interaction outside of Cisco with awesome incredible people I would not have otherwise met.

Dennis Smith
I’d say being active in social & community help me move from Dell to EMC. Never hurts when ppl know who you are before you apply.

Jeremiah Dooley
It’s fair to say that Social and Community have been at the center of every professional opportunity I’ve had since 2010.

I was a Director at a regional service provider in February of 2010 when I initiated the first SP POC for the then new Vblock, long before there were “Acadia” or “VCE” organizations to support it. EMC drove it, with most of the original group of vSpecialists jumping in to assist. Needless to say, there were…issues. I got frustrated, and shared with Chuck Hollis one of the internal e-mails I had sent to my management, and his suggestion was that there were lots of people who would appreciate me sharing my experience publicly. He asked if I’d ever thought of standing up a blog.

From there, things snowballed. My sharing with the community led to relationships, that led to me being hired by Acadia/VCE, that led to me moving into a very visible position with the company. I’ve gotten to travel the world multiple times over, I’ve gotten to work with some of the best and brightest individuals and companies. I’ve been rescued when I needed it, and able to rescue others when they needed it. I’ve found incredible people who I want to learn from, learned to treasure mentoring and helping new people in the community and had fun creating new ways to give back. Being in the right place helps, but it was the community and my willingness to engage them directly that made those things happen. No one is an island in this industry. No one.

The community is the gateway to knowledge. It’s the gateway to resources. It’s the gateway to people and access to technology. Social is how the community interacts. You can’t separate the two, and without them my life would be very different, and my horizons and aspirations would be much smaller.

Heck, I even asked for help writing this blog post!:

CLUS 2014

Well, another Cisco Live has come and passed. And again, it was a great time with the tweeps (twitter people for the unknowing).



Again this year I was astounded by the huge sense of community and togetherness that comes when geeks let their flags fly. I think the only session I made was the Cisco Champions radio, but that session was so much fun.

Cisco Champions

Cisco Champions

Click here for more about the Cisco Champions

I think what I like best about #CLUS is the ability to have an intelligent conversation almost anywhere. Sitting around the Social Media Routed Bridge, Lunch, Dinner…everywhere.

Wednesday evening comes to mind, where a group of us were sitting in a cigar shop after the CAE, and talked to a voice engineer, CCIE candidate about why he should be on twitter! The best part of this, was when Renee joined in and explained how it helped Aaron study. Growing the community, getting people involved, helping each other, THAT is what it is about!

Or Thursday evening sitting in the lobby of the Hilton talking about SDN and wireless enjoying the “hometown gift” that Scott Morris brought with him.

Getting to meet the greatest people EVAR! like:
Denise Fishburne



Denise Donahue



John Schreiner Capt USMC @jschrein

Carole Reece @cwreese

and many many more.

as well as just hanging around the best people in the world!

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Some parting questions. If you didn’t enjoy #CLUS2014, why? What can you do next year to make it more enjoyable?

If you’re not part of the community, why? Why are you not participating, sharing, and growing with the all of us?

Lesson learned? When you need a little bit of luck, kiss a unicorn!

for luck

for luck

Clean Up Aisle 6

So, remember when I said that AP count shouldn’t be a factor? Well let me add to that a bit. You also need to pay attention to the type of antenna you are using, as well as placement of AP. Please dear lord, PAY ATTENTION TO AP PLACEMENT!! Design, Design, Design!

I was called out to work at a customer site that was having issues with one of their warehouse spaces. Now this was not designed by anyone I work with, and it was kinda useable, but had roaming issues down one set of aisles in particular.

This in particular stuck in my head. The customer has a 3602e with an AIR-ANT-2566-P4W-R. This guy is a pretty powerful antenna, and the back lobe on this guy was….wow.


This AP was 90 feet away, mounted on a metal girder, and had to come through all that FSPL as well as people, machinery, and a metal shelving unit. The signal, from its back lobe!, was still useable for the most part, but once you got a few feet down the aisle, the devices were dropping off. There are APs farther down but the roam wasn’t clean.

So from a ‘coverage’ standpoint, it looked pretty good, from a usability standpoint, not so much. And then I find this guy.

This AP was mounted pretty much above the AP on the pole, but notice that it’s behind that big air intake unit. The lift you see in the RSSI image is the AP being moved about 10′ to the side. Once this AP was moved from behind the intake unit, roaming improved down the aisle where we had issues. Checking the rest of the area, we had no noticeable impact from this AP being moved, but time will tell.

So lesson learned:

    1. Don’t mount your AP behind air intake unites
    2. Pay attention to the back lobe from antennas you mount
    3. Bacon is still awesome

Secure Wireless…Why?

With the growth of wireless networking a very common question we hear is “How should I secure my WLAN?”

Well as I said in my last post, “It Depends”

What are you looking to do? Do you have administrative control of the devices that are going to be on the network? Do you have AAA, want to implement one, what about PKI? Oh and my favorite question, is your LAN secure?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a well oiled EAP-TLS environment (PKI is required here folks it is not an option) . But if I can walk in and connect my laptop to the LAN and get access to your network, what’s the point in securing the wireless?

I am by no means saying that you should have a completely open wireless network. Except for guest, that needs to be open and ACL to high heaven to just have internet access. You need to have a secured wireless network, encryption at a minimum.

So notice I said encryption at a minimum.

WEP TKIP and AES-CCMP are encryptions. PSK or even better 802.1X are authentications.
PSK is a shared key. Think of this like the password to your clubhouse as a kid. It could be overheard and anyone could have it.
802.1X uses either credentials (usually domain) or certificates (PKI). Everyone has been trained to not share their domain login.

So decide how much you want to invest in your security, PSK minimal, TLS high. And remember to secure all your layer 1.

How many AP’s do I need

So one of the most common questions I hear is “How many AP’s do I need?”

The honest answer here is, It Depends. And believe it or not, this is a very common answer with regards to wireless.

What are you looking to accomplish with your wireless? Data or Voice usage? High Density? Video? All of these are questions that need to be addressed prior to being able to determine a “number”.

But on that, the “number” isn’t what matters here. What matters is the user experience.
If we, as wireless engineers/architects/monkeys/whatever, just give you a number then we are doing you a great disservice.
On top of the “number” we also need to talk about where we can mount the APs, how high, do we need to hide the AP and just have an antenna visible? All the aesthetics that you, as the customer, may require from us. As well as signal propagation, penetration, diffraction, and attenuation.

For an example:

I have a customer that had enough AP to cover each floor of his building. The problem was, access to the wireless was horrible. (Told you the number wasn’t important!!) When I started digging into his configuration, I found that all of his AP were at maximum power. In wireless networking, the client is what determines which AP it will connect to, not the AP/WLC. Yes we can attempt to influence this, but ultimately it’s the client and its driver that will decide.

So why is the AP at maximum power bad? Well, at any given time clients were hearing 3-4 AP, while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it also depends on how well the AP is being heard. In this case the client was hearing an AP across the building, and the signal was still decent and the client decided it would stay on that AP versus roaming to an AP that was closer. What do you get when that happens? Really, really slow throughput which tends to make for a bad user experience.

Part of what we Wireless Engineers do, is work to limit the Cell Size of any given AP, so that you don’t hang onto an AP that is farther away, so that you are able to maintain good throughput.


Yes this is an older image that doesn’t go into 802.11n/ac rates, but the theory is the same. Lower data rates, if enabled, carry really far. And this was part of the problem the clients were seeing. They stayed connected far past the time frame “we think they should have roamed”. The drivers of the clients believed they had a good enough signal to work, and they did, just at very very slow rates. My recommendations to my customer, turn the power down and disable the lower data rates. This was done on a test floor and on that floor things got better.

Years ago, the number of AP “really mattered” and was the focus of conversations. APs were installed sparsely, and with their power on high. This was how wireless networks were designed, right or wrong it’s the past.

Now we know better and design better. We use more APs, disable lower data rates and turn the power down to keep the cell sizes small. We do all of this to keep clients connected to the network at their highest possible speed. We do this so that your clients are able to connect to your network and get work down. We do this so that your users have a good experience on wireless.

But for those that are looking for numbers, it depends

*1 image is from here http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps10315/products_tech_note09186a0080bfed06.shtml

Emotionally Invested

So recently, I’ve been hearing from a lot of different sources that “We need to keep emotion out of it”, whilst talking about business. And for the most part I was agreeing with this, and then I really started to think about it.

Can you keep emotion out of it? Really think about this for a while, then come back. I *love* what I do, love is an emotion right? I *hate* when I fail, again isn’t hate an emotion? I get *scared* when I think I’ve missed something, especially when there is a deal hinging on if I missed this or not. I think you see my point.

You absolutely can NOT keep emotion out of it. With out emotion you don’t have *passion*. With out *passion*, you should be looking for another job. I can’t ever see myself just going about my day to day, being ambivalent as to whether or not I win, lose, fail, succeed, get a raise, get fired, get a promotion etc. etc. And I sincerely *hope* that if I ever do feel that way, I’ll have already found a new job.