156 | How To Invest In Your Wireless Career with Ferney Muñoz

In This Episode:

Keith kicks things off with introducing us to another page of the Wireless LAN Professionals Custom Field Notebook. This is the page that contains 3 resources:

  • dBm to milliwatt conversion chart
  • State Machine – great for explaining concepts visually for clients
  • Frame control field chart

Ferney Muñoz talks about what investing in himself as a Wireless LAN Professional means to him. He also shares a couple of his favorite tools for surveys. No surprise one of those is the Ekahau Sidekick. Another tool he loves, especially for outdoor surveys is a hunter’s range finder.

Time Stamped Transcripts

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Episode 156.mp3

Wireless LAN Professionals is a place to educate inform encourage and entertain those involved in wireless LANS. This wireless LAN professionals podcast is an audio manifestation of these goals. Our host is a wireless LAN veteran consultant designer and teacher Keith Parsons. And now the podcast for wireless LAN professionals by wireless LAN professionals.

In this section we’re going to talk about one of the pages from the WLAN Pros Notebook.(https://www.wlanpros.com/shop/notebook/) This is the page that has dBm to milliwatt conversion. One of my favorite things to teach and I have a little thing it’s a five minute to dB the milliwatt conversion (https://www.wlanpros.com/resources/easy-db-math-5-minutes/) it’s a very simple way to go about doing it. And I think anyone who is in this industry should be able to think in your mind very quickly the dB to milliwatt, the milliwat to dB and that should be almost instantaneous going back and forth. But first some of you might be new in the industry haven’t been going long we added this little conversion table right here for you. The tricks we use in dB the milliwatt conversion – things like you know using 3s and 10s. So a 3 on the left side in dB is equal to a 2 two on the right side in “normal math”. Those tricks work really good and very fast to figure out how to do that. Just realize that when you get up to some numbers like if you do double double double double the 2 4 8 16 you get up to 512 or 1024 on this table it shows a thousand. That’s because the difference between the trick using the dB math trick and the actual logarithm are slightly off. So if you if using your tricks and you get a number like 512 and the table shows 500 or you use 500 but 512 is what you’ve been using. They’re still the same. You’re not going to get too confused with that.

We also added on this page a couple other pieces that I think wLAN pros should know fairly, fairly consistently. And the reason we added them here so when you’re talking with customers sometimes it’s easier to show them a graphic. So the “State Machine” is a graphic that you can go and show and when you’re describing the process of how a client does probe request – probe response, than authentication request then authentication response, then association request, then association response and it gets into the authentication process later.

You can point back in a show where there’s layer, there’s 802.11 authentication and there’s authentication after 802.11 finishes and how the state machine works. As well as looking at the disassociation and de-authentication showing how far back in the process you go depending on what frame is sent.

And the third thing we add on this page was the frame control fields, specifically for the “to bit” and “from bit”. These little DS bits are very useful and depending on how they’re set each of the addresses will either be BSSID, the MAC address of the AP, or the station, the source address, the transmitter address, the receiver address, or the destination address. And those are all little table there for you to understand.

It also shows when you get to the, the only time you use all four of the addresses are if you’re “to bit” and “from bit” are both set to 1. If they’re both set to 1 then you are in bridge mode or a mesh mode.

Let’s get to know our colleagues and friends with a shared passion for Wi-Fi. It’s time to search WhoIs…

Ferney welcome to the show amigo. How are you sir?

I’m doing great. Matthew thank you for having me on the show.

Of course. It’s been a while since we’ve been face to face.


I guess the last time I wasn’t too far long ago. We were moving boxes around. I think.

That is correct. We were rearranging the Lending Library inventory and all kinds of things. Yes.

And now you just kind of got back from a whirlwind tour with your family a little different traveling than normal. Tell us about that.

Well I am usually traveling just for work as you know with CWNE, CWNA classes or Ekahau classes or consulting and this time it was it was just a holiday. Just vacation with my family. I have three kids, 3, 8, and 9 and traveling with kids can be challenging. We went to Europe and everything went well except that I left the passport in a taxicab in Rome and we had no passports a few days but we got emergency passports. But other than that it was very good. Just the same challenges going through airport security and all kind of the hassle channeling. But this time without gear and just relax. So yeah it was definitely.

A different kind of gear gear for kids.

Yes yes. Diapers and bottles and milk and yes.


Yes absolutely.

For the few that may not know you at all, tell us a little bit about yourself, where you got started in Wi-Fi and what you’re up to, you know you alluded to some training, but what are you up to nowadays?

Well for those who don’t know me I’m Ferney Munoz they call me Fernie or Prenay or something like that..

Or “hey you!”

Hey you. But Ferney works. I’m originally from Colombia and I moved to the States back in 99. March of 1999 and started working at a school district in high school as a volunteer doing all that technology stuff. I start with technology many years before that in Colombia and here I started working directly with networks and then later I owned the network for the District – a big network. Of course in about 2001 or so we were working just with mostly wired networks

school districts..

School district yes. Started seeing some of the wireless stuff come into play and then later on about 2009 we started a new district. That district split off of a big district. It was about a hundred schools before the Salt Lake Valley area. The Jordan School Districts split and from there Canyons School District was born and then we own that network. We started implementing wireless like big time. Removing all of the standalone a 802.11b,g devices and getting rid of difficult to manage. Basically home devices were installed in the district before. And now we were finally working on an enterprise class network. So I was thrown in the Wi-Fi arena as many of us were. Where we were on wired networks and one day someone said, “Hey, you know we have this new wireless thing that needs to be installed or configured.” And all of the sudden they made us wireless professionals without us knowing what that meant.

We started installing Xirrus those big flying saucer looking arrays. They were not called access points – arrays. Multiple radios and all kinds of challenges with the wireless. Of course we have 50 buildings about 40000 students and some 4000 employees and we have to provide Wi-Fi for everybody. And in a school district is a very dynamic environment. Everybody is – teachers trying to add curriculum and cool devices to their curriculum. And trying to rely on Wi-Fi and many just bringing Apple TVs and many home devices that they want to implement in the enterprise environment. And it all came at once.

You got thrown in the deep end and you suddenly we’re a wireless LAN professional.

Yes. Of course today it’s like,”Well, do you know how to do it?” “Yeah I got Wi-Fi at home.” “So you know Wi-Fi – then you’re in charge now.”

Now actually we had about 650 of these devices implemented in the network and were in charge of computer making work. Of course we having all kinds of problems and we had issues. The company they sent an engineer and they walked around with a computer and gear and stuff then they gave us a green map at the end. But we still had issues.

And through that process I just got tired of kind of being held hostage by vendors.

“Hey what do you go there? Let me do this myself.”.

We have a big environment, we have budget and we cannot just schedule an engineer to come whenever they can when we need it now. So we like let’s do it ourselves.

Through that process we met Mr. Keith Parsons. That’s how I met him is that he was hired to come and help us. We worked with a gentlemen Jared Griffiths before and now he kind of met Mr. Parsons and brought him on board and he help us. That’s how I started basically doing Wi-Fi. Before I was just kind of like try and figure it out with my team and finally with Mr. Parsons kind of showed us how to do it ourselves and understand it. And I got some training from Airmagnet and that some CWNA training.

So you just kind of started jumping in there and learning all you could. Well one of the purposes of this interview and kind of this series of interviews is obviously taking experience from guys who have been in the trenches and sharing that with obviously your peers and your colleagues but also people maybe who are getting started in wireless LAN. And so I was thinking of some questions that might be able to help us with that end in mind. And one of those is “If you could go back to your younger self thinking about when you got started here like in the story, what’s a piece of advice you’d give yourself then that might have helped you avoid some of those headaches along the way?”

Well you know without a doubt. If I could go back to that first instance said, “Hey you know you’re going to be in charge of these wireless networks.” I would have said “OK. I need training.

Don’t assume that because it works at home I can do it here in the School District. “Why not?” I mean and everybody has that mentality like “How hard can that be? I mean just plug it in and it works.” That’s one of the problems with Wi-Fi – It works. It always works, it’s just works poorly. We were just putting out fires that we had no idea how to approach. So getting training would’ve definitely made our lives so much better.

So, right away just say, “OK, I need training just jump in there and do it.”

Yes, yes. Absolutely. And some companies are proactive because one of my, many of my students have been in class and they are like, “Well I was the cable guy and now the wireless guy left. And now they want me to start doing this but and they send me to get training.” So those are easy to work with because they have nothing – no knowledge. The are starting from scratch. But others like us that were thrown in the field with no knowledge it’s their responsibility.

We start figuring out how to configure the controllers and how to make this work and how to enable and disable things and we know how to do it but we don’t know why. Or we don’t know if it’s performing like it’s supposed to until something blows up. So definitely training. CWNA is a very good vendor neutral training. Because that’s another thing I found out Matthew, is that a lot of guys that come from Cisco backgrounds they come from Aruba backgrounds and they have all kinds of certifications and training from that vendor. But once you start getting to the basics of the technology – not the brand – is like, “Well this is totally different.”

So obviously if you have access to those trainings and certifications take them.


Don’t just stay there.

Absolutely. Don’t just think that because you’ve got a Cisco certification in wireless you’re a “wireless expert” No, it just it just doesn’t doesn’t end there.

What’s one thing you think you did right early on as you started in working with Wi-Fi?

Umm I think it was admitting that I didn’t know anything. I kind of knew, I mean I thought I knew how it works – some basics. Later on when I met Mr. Parsons and we took some like formal training, real training I started realizing that we were doing a lot of things wrong. But I think that the first approach is just kind of being humble and saying, “You know what? I don’t know it”. I think that’s the hardest step. Because of course you’re a professional, you’re in the field, and you’re in charge.

And you do know a lot probably.

Yeah and you know I mean a lot of these guys there they have knowledge about servers, they have knowledge about virtualization, they have knowledge about networks, wired networks, switching, routing and a whole bunch… I mean these guys are super smart. But Wi-Fi is just a different monster. It just works differently. And also I’ve come across guys come from the cellular networks. And they also, “of course I know this, I’ve been doing this for many years.” But when you start talking about Wi-Fi is that some things just don’t make sense. “Wait isn’t that how it works in cellular.” Exactly. Wi-Fi is just different.

And you mentioned CWNE and the whole gamut of those – Is that the certification you recommend for everybody or is there a path you recommend?

Yeah well for those who are not familiar with CWNP program – starting with CWNA is definitely “the” beginning. If you want to continue walking this path. That’s a certification. You can study on your own. You can take a formal class – CWNA class. and then for the certification you have to go to one of the Pearson VUE testing centers (https://home.pearsonvue.com/) and get certified and you pass then you’re good, that’s your certification.

Then you there are three other certifications you have to do. The CWSP is the “Security” one. CWAP which is the “Analysis Professional”. And also the CWDP which is the “Design Professional.” They don’t have to be taken in that order. I recommend taking the CWNA then AP, then SP, then DP. Some guys take it out of the way after the Ekahau class because a lot of stuff in there (inaudible). But once you take those four certifications you submit an application to CWNE board. They’re a board to evaluate. You have to do some essays, write some stuff. They will evaluate it and you have to log… I mean the listeners who are not familiar with the program they can just research and find out exactly what they have to do. But that’s definitely the way get it. And once you get approved then you become a CWNE which is like at the expert level. Which by the way it doesn’t make you an expert you just get your certification. And once you’ve gotten there…

It’s just the beginning as you’ve said I think in the past before. So kind of along this train of thought, what does “investing in yourself as a WLAN professional mean to you? Is it just certifications? When someone says, “You need to invest in yourself as a WLAN pro.” What does that look like?

For me, in my case, with the school district there are certain limitations and politics involved – policies, “If you are going to go to this conference you have to apply within 30 days. And it can’t be out of state. And the school district is not going to pay for certain things. And it will not pay for others.” So it’s kind of complicated. And one of the challenges I faced when I wanted to attend the first wireless LAN Professionals conference was that I didn’t get the school district to pay for it. Either travel, or attendance, or days off or anything. So investing in myself at that point – I had to make a decision. OK, the conference is $2,000.00. I’m going to have to take a week off that I’m not going to get paid for. This is family vacation days that I could use with them somewhere. Or just go a get – just go to the conference. Paying for all this stuff at that point was a decision we made. And yes, later then it was the certification that the district did pay for the class and then I had to take the exams. I think investing in yourself, for me it was not only making the investments that I have to pay this money from my own pocket. No company is paying for it. Nobody is sponsoring me.

Although later I got sponsorship from Wireless LAN Professionals. I got a scholarship, to go to the second conference. That’s how I ended up to working out for Wireless LAN Professionals and some of the stuff formed in Ekahau and then just independent contracting. But it was also the effort, it’s just the time you’re putting to it. That’s just an example. The other one was when taking the certification of the exams. I mean, studying for the exams. Investing myself meant that I had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning, study for a couple hours then go to work. Then after work, I had to come home to help with the kids and stuff and study some more. Then my lunch break just grab something that is really quick and study more and study more. So at that point, I was not investing money. I mean, I have already purchased a book and study on my own but it’s just that extra effort when instead of watching a show, you’re sitting down, reading a book and making research to understand the concept. And also, another thing, there is the pain by yourself to go to conference and exams and classes and stuff. That’s when the effort that you have to make to chill this certifications and learn it.

Its almost like “no one cares about your future more than you, at all”. That’s for you. It sounds what I’m hearing is, there’s this point in time where you make a very clear decision like this is worth whatever it takes.

Yes. Absolutely. And then on top of that “if”, because I’ve come across many guys that they’re not working for anybody. So you don’t have that playground to learn the actual status. Taking the exam and passing the certifications can be simple for some guys.

And the exam is based on what I’ve read. And then they have the certification but experience is the biggest because the exam is the exam but the real thing that getting the experience out in the field is the difficult thing if you don’t have an environment. I was lucky enough that we have the whole district. That was my playground but that was my age up that I had to make work efficiently. So I had a real environment.

What about labs? Investing in lab? I hear Keith talk a lot about that when I got the Lending Library (https://www.wlanpros.com/how-the-lending-library-works/) and those kind of things. Why is that important? And how do you do that?

Yes, thank you and that’s the next. Thank you for the segue. That’s my next point. If you don’t have an environment to apply the knowledge and real environment, then you have to build the lab and that implies buying some equipment. And yeah, we have the Wireless LAN Pros – Lending Library (https://www.wlanpros.com/product-category/lending-library/) where people can just get like enterprise class equipment that they can play with in configuration and wipe it clean without affecting users. So it is really really necessary to have a lab environment. Now here’s the other thing that’s cool. If you don’t have a real environment, you don’t have the means to get your hands on that enterprise equipment, it’s down here. That’s how a huge investment because I approaches somebody you know on the field. If you’re going to do a survey, can I just shadow you go there with you. And you don’t have to pay me because that’s when there’s…

There are a lot of people like “yeah, you can come with me.” But they can be company policy so you cannot just bring in somebody have this stood with you. They get heard who’s liable for the company where you’re doing the survey or us doing this. I mean it’s just not as simple as that, but if you come across somebody, “hey, I’m going to do an installation”. Sure! I help fill your cables, I’ll help you mount a piece, or show me and I’ll have to configure in. Just volunteer. Volunteering I think is one of the greatest things that I’ve done throughout my career, not just on Wi-Fi but on networks and computers.

But again that’s another thing that has to be align right. Because you have to get the right people, the right environment and if you have a day-time job, then you have to make sure you can make it work around your schedule. So that’s not another big investment, but another nice way to obtain them.

And something that’s worth doing. Worth the sacrifices.


And I know it’s so much easier to just go home and sit down and watch a show or do nothing. Doing nothing is fun. But it’s just sometimes we have to sacrifice.

On a different kind of angle, I just have some other questions here. What’s a mistake in the industry you see people making on a consistent basis that you wish you could stop from happening?

Well let’s see.

You’re teaching a lot. Is there things you’re running into that people just aren’t thinking about?

Well, I think the first thing that comes to mind is the installing APs, since it’s always one thing that is commonly being done that just doesn’t work that well in Wi-Fi. There are many reasons why there are blogs, lots of blogs out there explains why. That’s a very common problem. Sometimes it’s not because people don’t know that that’s bad. It’s because they are told to put in there. And that’s one of the big mistakes that I see overall in the industries – is that we, as Wi-Fi professionals are been told by engineers and architects and interior designers where and how to monitor access points.

I wouldn’t say that’s the biggest thing. Because of course, they end up in the hallway there’s a subset of somebody told me to put that. Why? I don’t know. They said put them there because that’s the only way to access. Because they look pretty in there, because they want a blinking lights inside this room or that room or because my code, they cannot have an some areas, industrial areas. I mean, there’s so many things but to summarize that, the biggest mistake is that we are letting others to tell us how to design. And another kind of related to this, is that a lot of deployments are being done without designing, without doing all of the research. Do you know why were so many news during the ancient times they had, they were deployed? They were just installed by somebody because that’s what they said and then there is no design because nobody sat down to figure out why and where. I mean, what type of device? How long you have these? Asked all questions we have to ask when we’re creating a Wireless design.

Well, it sounds like with this podcast and a lot of the other great podcasts on Wireless LAN and the conferences, were hopefully moving the needle on some of that stuff and educating and encouraging each other and better testing gear, sidekick those kind of things that help prove the need to do things properly.

Absolutely Yes.

Alright. Well, what is one project you have been involved with that you’re the most proud of and why?

Well, there were several which is the network I owned. I worked on other network but this is the biggest one. And I think not the biggest project but one of the project that makes me proud that I had all which I had was some Wireless LAN we had to do for a school. That was a school that was being demolished. That school was crossed the district office and transportation warehouse of the entire school district transportation department and warehousing. They were connected to the school that was being demolished. We got quotes from companies to get another 9 run to that transportation from the district office. And they came to $70000-80000 to run the new fiber cable over there. Because they had to go across the street, and they needed city permits and they need it.

It was just complicated long and difficult. It was $80,000 and I got that one like $105,000 for that Wireless LAN entire department- Those two buildings and facilities very critical portions of district transportation and it would be warehouses as well. So that was one of the little projects can like wireless works and they saved the district money and we had another.

Lot of money.

Yes, a lot of money. We had another similar project where we had to to build a school in between two buildings and with wireless. Thanks for acknowledging Wireless. Have that done fractional cost and the time because basically had to change in the winter and we had to wait for temperature, equipment and the permits and everything. Basically, Wireless is one site that now goes out the other one like within half a day, we had a whole building connected.

Everyone was shouting: “Ferney! Ferney!”.


The flip side that’s the..

It’s the contractor that wanted to do it.

Yeah, exactly! They were hunt you and hide out for a while.


On the flip side of that, what’s a mistake you’ve made that has really taught you something valuable?

Oh men! I made so many mistakes not knowing which one could be more significant.

But oh! And you know what? I think here’s one. Now that you really got. I took at first year CWNA class and the AirMini class on Mr. Parsons. It took me like 4 years to actually get certified. Big mistake! Because you take the classes its four days, five days and you did it from 8 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon. At the end of Friday, your brain is just overwhelmed with Wi-Fi knowledge and you have all that stuffs fresh in the head. Big mistake I made. I’ll take the exam when I’m break. You’ll never gonna be ready. There’s so much tool. It was a big mistake. And then made it to the class again. I’m going to study and then when I’m ready, like never way. So if I could do that one after the first class on the day of the end of class, I shouldn’t have done and take the exam or the morning following that. That was one mistake and that would have saved me a lot of hassle and I would have made my CWNE process each year.

A couple couple more questions here. Favorite piece of equipment you’re using these days and why?

You know without a doubt the sidekick (https://www.wlanpros.com/resources/ekahausidekickreview/) Yeah, it used to be my Air Check. That was pretty useful and I think I still have it. And of course I think every Wireless LAN Professionals should have checking their tool bags. But the sidekick definitely has changed the way in which I do surveying and the analysis on it. So I’ll tell you why? We have doing surveys we have to carry USB hubs, we have cables next to it and we have wireless mix and we have spectrum analyzes and we have two carry 2.4 and 5gig one. So we have all this bunch of little bits and pieces connected to our computers. Which you’ve seen in videos. You know the survey tray. How troublesome that can be just carry around your computer with a whole bunch of little gadgets hanging around the computer. So the sidekick summarizes all that into one piece of equipment. Using that for surveying was really good. We had a big project in the Silicon Valley. We survey like 68 kilometers that’s about 42 miles. We have to survey for multiple days. And with this hiking, I just had a backpack and outside of the backpack is that thing gets really hot one headed inside. And you think you’re using it. On a Segway, say that I used to kind of not to be a friend of the Segway, because like well I can walk, I like walking and I think. But when you’re doing 42 miles, Segway was the way to be my second favorite tool if you asked me.

Maybe that should be our next bundle.

Yeah, get a Segway as well and it pays off. And actually they have to buy a Segway. I rented one from one of these. Because nowadays, and pretty much of the world I think well, in major cities and tourist places, they have the Segway tools. So I call on this places and I rented when I was like $100 a day, like $300 a week, I rented for a week but only uses it 3 or 4 days. But I was it and just rented. We do have some special pigments to attach the survey tray and put the computer up and then you still have one cable going from the sidekick to your computer. But it simplifies that. So that’s my favorite tool nowadays.

Related to that, what’s an unexpected tool in your tool kit that you always go to that? Maybe someone might be surprised to know. Just a little favorite piece of equipment or something that you rely on that maybe is out of the norm of what you normally think of?

OK. I would say that there are couple. Since I’ve done several of the point to point links out there just connecting buildings wireless and avoiding running cables. One tool that is kind like not expected as you asked, is the rangefinder. It’s like a binocular but it’s just one lens. So how do you call that?. It is just one lens.


It is a small ones like the size of a small box and then you look and then they’ll give you the distance. That it’s used for hunters a military also. You look at that spot and then you press a button and we will show you the distance from where you are to that point that you selected and show you the angle of elevation. Like if it’s near five degrees up or down and then you go to the other end and then you end because when you’re doing that point to point connections you need the antennas to be align aiming at the same direction. So they see each other. Of course like if you’re doing a light, you can see the light. But when we’re talking about Wi-Fi, we cannot see these waves in the air. So we have to rely on tools like this tools to give us distances and angles of elevation inclination to aim our antennas right.

Do you have favorite one? What’s that brand that one you know?

I don’t really know how to pronounce that. You just go to as like a hunting store and get like a rangefinder- just a one lens device. There are different ones that will show you. There are multiple brands. You just have to find one that fits your budget and that’s what you wanted to do. Some like they want to have goes like 1000 meters. That’s about 300,000 meter and how many well? That’s a kilometer. Like more than half a mile. This is pretty decent for point to point.

Along with that there is a tool that goes on iPhone. It’s a piece of software that you can also do cool things. It’s called Theodolite. It said T H E O D O L I T E-its just one word. Let me spell that again for you. It’s T-H-E-O-D-O-L-I-T-E.

I’ll get that in the show notes.

Get in the show notes and also they are the same application for Android is called DIOPTRA. (D-I-O-P-T-R-A) So those tools will make those type of outdoor installation point to points easier.

Well, awesome! Ferney, thank you for spending time in answering these questions. If people want to follow you, how can they get in touch with you or keep up with all things?

The easiest way probably to Twitter @Ferney_munoz add that to show note’s because my name is not easy to understand just in English. It makes sense in Spanish. I have to add that when I go to places to order food that you know was the name? What’s your name John or Fred or something that they’ve don’t asked me. How do you spell that? Ferney_munoz on Twitter. Thats the easiest way. I also use WhatsApp.

People can reach me out that way as well and that’s my phone number 1 801 618-8712 and WhatsApp is another easy way for people to reach me anywhere.

Well, thanks again Ferney! And you have a great rest to your week and we will talk soon.

Thank you Matthew for having me and I appreciate your time also.


Thank you for joining us for another episode of the Wireless LAN Professionals Podcast. The podcast for Wireless LAN Professionals by Wireless LAN Professionals. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @WirelessLANpros for all the latest news and updates and also connect directly with Keith on Twitter @KeithRParsons. Head over to WWW.WlanPros.Com for this episode show notes as well as the latest in all things Wi-Fi.

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