How Blogging, Podcasting, and Social Media Can Change Your Wireless LAN Career

Keith Parsons interviewed Rowell Dionicio on how his own wireless LAN career was started and continues to grow because of the web and social media.

If you are a part of the wireless LAN professionals community chances are you’ve heard of Rowell Dionicio and his podcast “Clear to Send“. Keith wanted to know the impact social media, blogging, and podcasting has had on Rowell’s career. Here’s their conversation.

If you’d rather, you can listen to the conversation on Wireless LAN Professionals Podcast episode 108 HERE

KP: I happen to be in Utah today and you are…?

RD: I am in San Jose. I’m at home.

KP: Good place. I hear when you do your own podcasts you have a glass of wine. Is it wine time there yet?

RD: Not yet. I didn’t quite get that in time. I literally got home about 30 minutes ago. So I just sat with my son and finished up the batman lego movie, and came down here.

KP: Well thank you for taking the time. I just thought it’d be good to do a couple things. One, cross-promote podcasts. You’re with Clear To Send. Love the title.

RD: Thank you.

KP: Especially for Wi-Fi guys. It has a lot of meaning. you could have done “RTS” instead.

RD: Well, if I did “request to send” It’s like I’m requesting to send the audio info to you. With “clear to send” basically I’m letting you know I’ve got the audio and “I’m clear to send it”. I just figured that way I’m “good to go” and audio is streaming your way.

KP: So the job of your whole podcast is to deliver the Duration ID?

RD: Yep (laugh)

KP: I’ve known you for a couple years now and from before you were even the “podcast guru” and head social media person you are today. I wanted to go back in history a little bit and and find out what triggered this change. You now are engaged in social media you have 80 something podcast episodes.

RD: Yeah, I think we’re at 84 now – I’m starting to lose count.

KP: That is a good number and that’s taken a lot of work.  It really helps build the community, so thank you for that. But can you go a little back in history? You were doing Wi-Fi before you were doing podcasting and blogging – what was the trigger point that made you finally say, “You know, I should actually write some of this stuff down?”

RD: I was working for a small MSP (Managed Service Provider) in San Diego and I started getting into Cisco wireless – and I found that I was doing it wrong.  When I started looking into more information I found myself with the CWNP material and as I started reading, I found and I could do this much better.

So at least I caught myself there and started optimizing my networks and then I started asking, “OK what else can I find out there?”  And of course I stumbled upon your podcasts and also some other ones like “No Strings Attached Show”. I started listening to those and it got to a point where I listened to every single episode that you guys had produced. I wasn’t really involved with the community just yet.

I decided to do something completely different and put myself in an uncomfortable situation which would lead me to grow in this field – and so I said, “You know what? I might not be the the expert in the field but I can certainly learn and then help educate other people who are just starting out like I was”. That’s when I decided to do the podcast.

It was you and and Blake and and Sam that helped me get this format running and then help contribute back to the community

KP: Well you’ve done a bang-up job – actually you’ve you’ve exceeded all our shows – if you count all of our podcasts together, you’ve got more episodes we do in total. So, well done there. How has this experience over these 85 episodes changed you, your career?

RD: When you first start off, the first thing that comes to mind – for anyone who starts in podcasting or just doing audio is “I don’t like the sound of my voice”. I quickly had to get over that and just produce content I thought would be useful to other people. and I hope it still is. I hope the content is great.

It also helped me learn. I feel that teaching other people whatever you’re learning is the best way to learn yourself. if you can explain something easily to somebody and they understand, then that helps you grow as well.

Doing the podcast has also helped me get out of this this bubble I was in of being shy with with people and being shy with putting myself out there. So now I’m a little bit better. I can now approach people. I can say things a little bit online and not be scared about saying it.

It also helps you put yourself into a position of becoming more of an expert in the technology.

KP: You don’t seem shy to me at all. You’ve overcome that really really well.

RD: Well I try sometimes. The in-person stuff is still something I try to get used to.

KP: Well the problem with the in-person thing is there’s actually people there.

RD: Yeah exactly.

KP: I mean really – we like technology – but the people side…

RD: Yeah, the people side is different. Doing a podcast I can hide behind a microphone. And I can always re-record and make it a little bit better if I need. But now, after all these episodes, I usually just record and let it go. I try not to cut out the “ums” and the little phrases you try not to say. I just let it go, it feels more natural that way.

KP: “You know….sometimes…yeah..I yeah…” You mean like that?

RD: Yep exactly.

KP: So you’re a part of this this whole social media phenomenon. How “social” is social media?

RD: Man, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t even keep up anymore. Right? We started off with Twitter. Twitter was great. I started following a few people, and then I started adding more people that I follow. And then I got to a point where I started creating lists on Twitter so I can just follow Wireless people and keep everyone else on my main feed. And then came “slack”. So you got different slack groups and channels and it’s becoming a pain to be everywhere and still be social. Lately I’ve been kind of quiet just because I’ve been so busy.

I try to at least read what people are saying, participate in discussions and try not to be afraid of being wrong, because sometimes that’s gonna happen.

KP: Oh, for me it happens all the time.

My question was more focused on the social aspect. Some people, Not you and me of course – other people like my wife and others say,”these aren’t your real friends -They’re just people on the internet”

What’s your reaction when people say “Oh they’re just they’re not real friends – they’re just internet friends?

RD: My wife will tell me to get off my phone a lot of times. I tell her, “I’m communicating. I’m participating”.

It’s different because a lot of us work individually right? Most of us aren’t working together, in person, so I feel that social media is the best way to communicate with people in our field and our industry if they’re not in the same room with you. I think that’s the way social media plays out.

I think my career started off with social media. I have to give social media a hand there helping me get to where I am today.

KP: and that was why I had you on – just so you could say that one line.

I see a lot of people who say, “well I’m on Twitter, but I don’t know how to do what you guys do.”

RD: It’s, “Just do it.” It’s just like talking to somebody in person except yet you’re limited to a hundred and forty characters.

KP: You just mentioned social media is what kind of started your career – how so?

RD: It all started off when I started tweeting about networking. So just generally about networking not really specific to wireless. With social media it’s really about creating relationships. So I started making actual friends that I would meet in person whenever we could conferences like Cisco Live. And from there, one thing led to another, and I got a job at another location. That also helped get me into an area where technology is everywhere – Silicon Valley. That helped me get to where I am today from who I am able to connect with and socialize with on on Twitter and create relationships with. I think creating those friendships with people and not just treating people on Twitter as an “avatar” – just being friends. It’s different with with this community especially in the Wi-Fi community.

KP: You just have to engage. Don’t just sit there being a troll just listening along. Get in there, answer questions, ask questions. Do those kind of things.

RD: yeah

KP: Well I just want to go in the “way back machine” and remind you of a visit to a bowling alley… where was it? San Jose? Palo Alto?

RD: I think it was near Cupertino or something.

KP: You came for a Tech Field Day and said “Oh man, how do I get involved in this?” and I think, to a person, everyone told you the same thing – “Blog.

RD: Yeah pretty much

KP: And so, what do you say when people ask “How do you do that?”

RD: You just do it

KP: I remember you can came and said, “I’d like to be here, how do I become a Tech Field a delegate? How do I have followers?” A now you’ve done it all. So… how did you do that?

RD: That one day when I met you guys, I wasn’t a delegate yet, but I did actually attend the “post event” at the bowling alley so I was able to communicate with the guys and meet some of you guys for the first time. And with the feedback you guys gave – which I know it sounds generic, but it was to:

  • “just do it”
  • “just start blogging”
  • “just start tweeting”

What really helped me was the blogging piece.

To get started on blogging you just got to come up with a topic. Write whatever you’re learning about. If it’s about “how association works over Wi-Fi” go and try to figure out what that looks like. Write down how that happens and occurs. What tools did you use to gather the data? And just document that.

It looks technical at first, but then you massage it and make it like a conversation you go, “Hey, I used the Wireshark on my MacBook Pro using AirTool and I was able to sniff the frames on this channel and saw these frames…” – that kind of thing helps you develop a different mindset.

So when you write about it – you’re actually describing a lot of the processes in words, so yeah it has to be understand- I try to write it so it’s understandable for somebody who’s not that technical.

I think that helped me as I kept writing a lot more. It helped open doors to other engagements where I started writing or even taking part in Tech Field Day.

KP: Back up and I just want you to repeat that again about the value of writing because other people say “Oh, you don’t need to be able to write”.

RD: If you just practice writing it takes time. If you go through my blog and look at my earliest posts they are not the best – but you just want to keep writing – just start writing.

I take notes in Evernote. I write bullet points on what I want to touch upon and then I just elaborate on those bullet points. You take the technical content and just try to rephrase it into a way as if you’re describing it to a five-year-old kid right? Tell it like I’m five – or explain it like I’m five – however they say it on reddit.

But you just want to explain it so that you’re teaching someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic. If you can do that and write it – you’ll improve over time and it’s it’s okay to just put something out there that’s not perfect. You just have to overcome the perfection piece.

People in our industry will correct you if you’re wrong – It’s not to say “Hey, whatever you said is incorrect” it’s more of a like a peer review, and it’s education, and we’re not just trying to put each other down we’re just here to learn and help teach others.

When I first started out I just wrote what came to my mind and then eventually you get better as you write. You’ll eventually use a thesaurus to even come up with synonyms for words to make it sound a little bit better.

You know, just start writing – is basically my my advice there.

KP: The sad part is all these things come down to “just do it”. One of the terms I like comes from oh like eisenhower times when he just said “be in the arena” – yeah if you’re not engaged you don’t have to be great just start – and I can’t tell enough people that.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt – April 23, 1910

Now there’s there’s a story from a Tech Field Day from years and years ago when someone had a question, googled it, and their own blog came up. Everyone said they had that same experience.

RD: Happens to me too

KP: If you think, “Google’s pretty good at being my memory for me. Even for the things if I was interested in once. I’ll probably forget it and be interested in again.” So put it in a blog, and when you search for it in google again down the road, you’ll probably find it indexed in your own blog.

RD: One time I had a co-worker come up to me and said, “Hey can you google this?” I googled it and he goes “what’s that result right there? Can you click on that?” I said, “That’s my blog. Why are you making me click on it?”.

It’s funny because you’re your own co-workers are going to to find you. If that’s a concern, one of the things I recommend is to sanitize whatever you’re saying and make sure you don’t publish something you shouldn’t be publishing – like sensitive information.

KP: “My coworker Joe, man he stinks” – Don’t want to put those kind of things in there.

RD: Don’t make any references to coworkers. Don’t make any references to the layout of your network, and other IP addresses and things like that. What I do is I lab it up in my own environment. If you’re able to get the equipment or if you have equipment at work that you can just wipe and you know do basic names and basic IP address schemes so that way you’re not using it on production.

KP: Good, good, good recommendation.

So I read a lot of podcasts have “podcast fade” They can disappear after a while. My Wireless LAN Weekly show went like 50 episodes before I dropped out. Actually, I just got too busy. Kudos to you for hitting 80 something you’re definitely on a stride. What’s the future for Clear To Send?

RD: I will say it’s probably the one of the most difficult things to do – podcasting. You’ll understand this, because if you don’t have the resources to help you, you have to do everything on your own. You have to set up the microphone, the mixer, make sure the audio is good. Then you got to do the editing afterwards. And I’ve gone through growing pains on the podcast myself. There are weeks where I don’t record it.

Now I have another host on to at least help with topics. He helps start discussions and with the back and forth. It gets boring talking to yourself, talking to the wall. What we want to do is bring on more interviews to help boost the education. One of my favorite episodes we’ve done was the one with Devin Akin. I felt like I learned so much from that podcast. That’s what we want to do, help educate people and also bring in news about the industry, what’s going on. A perfect example is Mobility Field Day that’s coming up which for sure we will be podcasting about.

KP: I had your co-host François Vergès in a class in Oslo Norway. I asked if he wanted to go to dinner. He said, “no I have to go podcast.” It’s a commitment. You have to kind of cut other things out in order to to dedicate the time.

RD: I wish he told me I would have let him go to the dinner.

KP: Oh no. He he had his wife there too. So they would rather stay together than go to dinner with me.

Well thanks Rowell for your time. I appreciate all you’ve done in the podcasting world helping the community. Anything we can do to help more people understand more things about how Wi-Fi works and to let them learn they can be involved is great.

RD: Yeah

KP: Everyone I know who’s involved in Wi-Fi at some point wasn’t, wanted to, and got engaged. If you’re listening and you’d like to be more involved just listen to Rowell and “Just Do It.”

RD: Just do it

KP: Now you got Nike paying you on the backside for that? Probably sue you for using their terms.

RD: All right so I’ll say, “Just go ahead and do it.”

KP: There you go. Well done. Thanks for your time today Rowell.

RD: Well thank you.