I’ve been involved in the Computer Network Industry for a large portion of my life – and specifically in Wireless LANs for 14 years now.
In my many travels around the world I’ve been blessed to have experienced many different types of situations involving wireless networks, and have met, taught, and worked with thousands of individuals.
But this post is specifically to give kudos and thanks to those few who are truly consummate professionals in this industry.
(I like using the word consummate after watching this classic from Home Star Runner)
Sometimes we are quick to forget the great ones, when most of the time we are mired and working down in the bowels of some network data closet.
So I want to publicly thank all those who have influenced my life and career for the better. I’m not going to name names – I’m sure I’d miss someone. But I do want to review the common traits and skills between all those who I deem as Real Professionals!
First – they are confident. Confident not as in a cocky manner, though many of them also exhibit that trait. But I mean confident in their knowledge of how 802.11 works, confident in the entire OSI model – from Layer 1 to Layer 7. Confident in their own product line – if they are a vendor SE, then they KNOW their product in and out.
Second – they OWN their own tools. Perhaps this can be mis-construed – but I meant it in both senses. They not only have professional tools at their disposal – but they know how to use them. Additionally, most actually physically own these tools outright. Not all employers understand the value of professional tools – but these real Wireless LAN Professionals never underestimate the value of having the right tool for the job and so usually have their own copies. These tools include Spectrum Analyzers, Packet Analyzers, Validation survey tools, as well as tools for checking the wired network.
Third – they like the CLI of whatever they are working on. Sure – there are lots of great GUI tools – and just about all the professional-level Wi-Fi tools are GUI based. But there is something about being able to quickly assess and troubleshoot a problem via a CLI that puts these professionals as a cut above. If their solution at the time has no CLI, they will still know how to squeeze every little bit of efficiency from the GUI.
Fourth – they have no problem sharing their knowledge with others. This is a sign we are becoming more of a cohesive community. Those with knowledge freely share it with their colleagues, even if they are currently working for a competitor. Over time, many of us change positions and will work together or apart as seasons change. I am fond of quoting the following line about this topic: “Knowledge is line manure, if you spread it around, it will help things to grow. Keep it one place and try to hoard it, and you’ll just start to stink.”
Fifth – they have a home lab. Not just a couple of SoHo AP/Router/Firewall/CableModem devices… but real enterprise-class gear they work on, learn on, and test their skills on. If you want to play in the big-leagues with Wi-Fi – get yourself a lab with controllers, antennas, access points, bridges, spectrum analyzers, packet analyzers, survey software, etc. And learn to use them so well it isn’t that you don’t ever make a mistake, but that you know how to quickly fix your mistakes.
Sixth – they freely admit it is all about the clients! – Sure, we all work on the infrastructure side of the house most of the time, but we know at one end of every Wi-Fi conversation is a client device that is making most of the decisions. We try very hard to manipulate the environment to be as conducive as possible for clients to connect and exchange frames with the access points… but in the end it is all about the clients.
Seventh – they understand Wi-Fi is all about getting frequency re-use. We can put as many AP’s in a given area as possible – but adding one more AP to the same channel that is at that location won’t add any more capacity. These professionals understand and use this concept to maximize throughput by using walls, materials, and AP placement to get the most frequency reuse as possible.
Eighth – they take their confidence and have the ability to push back to customer requests that exceed what is possible with the budget given. I love a quote from one of these true professionals, “I simply tell the clients I can’t break the laws of physics…” – It if far better to be realistic with customer expectations, than to over-promise, and under-deliver.
In conclusion, I’m going to refer back to the very first trait of a real professional… they KNOW their technology. We all come across folks who have installed access points, perhaps even hundreds of them, and don’t understand the basics of how 802.11 fundamentally works. If feel sorry for those individuals – they will continually be tracking down errors in their network.
Compare those with real Wireless LAN Professionals – those who design, install, validate and maintain wireless networks that just work. Sure – we all have problems crop up as client devices change – but the fundamentals of how Wi-Fi works haven’t changed in a decade or more.
Kudos to all those Wireless LAN Professionals who take their jobs seriously enough to learn all they can about their chosen technology and spend the time and energy needed to be the best they can truly be.