My Personal Look Back on 2016

I haven’t ever written a “year in review” type of post before. Sure, I do a post to summarize how the blog has done over the year but I’ve never done a personal look back. Last night–New Years Eve–I was thinking about everything that I was involved in during 2016 and I realized “I should write this down! I was involved in or a participant of some amazing things last year!”

So here we go. In an effort to show a more personal side and not just my geeky side, here is my personal 2016 year in review.

Got Married

In February, my then-girlfriend and I got married! I know everyone says their wedding was the best, but ours totally was! Trust me! 😜 In all honesty, it was one of the funnest days of my life. Full credit to my wife for planning what was essentially an awesome party with our families and closest friends. Oh, and the venue and staff were absolutely amazing as well which sealed the deal as the greatest wedding ever 😁.

Launched a Second Blog

Samples from ispywifi.ca
Samples from ispywifi.ca

For a while now I’ve been in the habit of snapping photos of wireless access points and antennas. Besides being interested in the tech, I think it’s fun to see how truly ubiquitous WiFi is becoming. I hear the stats all the time that it’s a mobile-first world now, but nothing drives that home like seeing the physical infrastructure that enables always on connectivity.

In March I launched a new blog–ispywifi.ca–as a place to share and comment on all these pictures I’ve been taking. It’s a fun hobby and gives me incentive to explore when I’m out and about somewhere or visiting a new town.

Finished Two Major Projects at Work

CPOC Workroom Panorama Shot
CPOC Workroom Panorama Shot

In June, I went to Research Triangle Park to attend my third Cisco Proof of Concept lab tour. This visit was part two of two for one of my largest customers and allowed them to finalize the design of their cross-continent wide area network. This visit was unique because, due to scheduling and logistics issues, I had to take on the role of the lead test engineer (which is normally done by one of the resident CPOC engineers). I therefore had to take on the responsibility for pre-planning, driving the test plan, coming up with an inventory of equipment, communications to all stakeholders, cabling the lab (with much appreciated help from the CPOC interns!), laying down the detailed configuration on all network elements, executing the test plan, briefing and handing off part of the test plan to my American counterpart who also covers this customer, and playing host to the customer in RTP. Whew!! I’m very proud to say that the customer had excellent feedback about this CPOC and has now put the end-to-end design into production.

The other major project I was involved in for a customer–and this one is public knowledge so I can name the customer–is the opening of the new international terminal at Calgary International Airport (YYC). This was a multi-year, mega-bucks project that was highly dependent on the ability to digitize the passenger experience and all of the operational systems within the terminal.

Cisco won the right to provide the core wired and wireless network infrastructure, first for the new terminal and then in parallel, to the existing terminal as well. As a field SE at Cisco, it’s rare I get to see a project through from start to finish. Usually I’m involved only on the front end and then either the customer takes over doing the testing and implementation or a group like Cisco’s Advanced Services steps in to do that. In this case, due to the strategic nature of Cisco’s relationship with YYC and also because of the trust and relationships I had built within the YYC team, I stayed on right through and was involved in everything to do with bringing up the core network infrastructure, short of executing the configuration commands on the devices. 😊

YYC Pen Commemorating Opening of the International Terminal Building
YYC Pen Commemorating Opening of the International Terminal Building

Since all of my other customers are oil & gas or energy related, it’s rare I get to see the fruits of my involvement with my customers. But every time I pass through YYC now and I hear an announcement from the overhead paging system, or I see an airline employee scanning luggage with a wireless scanner, or I put my passport in the new electronic customs kiosks, I know that all of that is made possible by the work we all did on the network that sits behind the scenes. Working on the YYC international terminal was the biggest, most complex and most gratifying project I’ve ever been a part of.

Travel

I made 7 trips in 2016. Most of them were for work, some were personal, but all of them were fun!

  • Las Vegas in January for our annual guys’ trip to the Consumer Electronics Show
  • San Jose in April for a week long internal Cisco meeting/training
  • RTP, North Carolina in June for a 2-week CPOC
  • Las Vegas in July for Cisco Live!
  • Las Vegas again in August for Cisco sales kickoff
  • Vancouver in November to see friends and enjoy some R&R
  • Bartlesville, OK in December for a week long customer visit

Bartlesville probably sticks out as being an odd one but it was actually a neat trip. It’s a small town (around 35,000 people) that has a lot of history. It’s the birth place of the Phillips Petroleum Company and much of the town still revolves around its successor, Phillips 66, as well as ConocoPhillips.

I Became an App Guy!

Going back to my wedding for a second, one of my responsibilities for the dinner/reception was technology (of course!). We both knew we wanted our family/friends taking and sharing pictures so my first idea was to hit up the app store, find a popular photo-sharing app, have everyone download it prior to the wedding, and then rig up something to show everyone’s uploaded photos in real time during dinner.

Problem #1: That’s a lot of logistics for something that needed to be siiiiimple. The need to download an app worried me too; if someone had issues downloading the app or they just chose not to, then they wouldn’t be able to participate with the others and we would probably miss out on seeing their photos.

Problem #2: The terms and conditions on the existing apps are atrocious. The leading app (which I’ve actually since forgotten the name of, so won’t be publicly naming) actually has a clause in their Ts&Cs that says they own all pictures that are uploaded and they can use them basically however they see fit, including marketing and promotion of their software. Our photos. From our wedding. Owned by a third-party. Deal breaker.

I decided to start writing my own app with the primary goals being to address the two problems above and to ensure we captured as many photos from our family/friends as possible and could easily show them all in a real-time slide show during the dinner & reception. I had already been taking some Python courses so this gave me a means to immediately apply what I had been learning.

Samples of the photo-sharing app
Samples of the photo-sharing app

The app worked very well and we got a lot of unexpectedly positive feedback. So much so in fact that over the following months I refactored the app and morphed it into something that we could offer as a service to a much wider audience and for events other than just weddings. My wife and I had planned to launch the app as a service in the second half of the year but other priorities got in the way as we got closer to that goal. For now we offer the service to “friendlies” (mostly family and close friends) for their weddings, baby showers, gradations, etc. Launching it formally will be something we look at again in 2017.

CCIE Recert

Anyone who has taken the 400-101 exam knows that it’s not friendly. I did my first attempt at Cisco Live in July using the free exam voucher I got with my conference pass. I went in cold without any concentrated studying beforehand and the results reflected that.

I started studying in earnest in September and didn’t take the test until late November. Based on what a passing grade is and what I scored, I estimate I missed the mark by only 3 questions.

In early December I passed with room to spare.

I’m very happy to have this behind me for 24 months!

Made Some Significant Career Decisions

In late 2016, my wife and I made some decisions which will greatly impact our personal and professional lives in 2017. I’m going to be a bit coy for now since I’m planning a separate post on this topic. Let’s just say I should have a lot of material should I decide to do a “2017 in review” post a year from now! 😁

So cheers to 2016! A lot of exciting things happened both personally and professionally. Thank you to everyone who was a part of these events with me throughout the year!

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