Category Archives: About Joel

On Why I’m Shifting my Career Focus to Software

For the past few months I’ve been involved in a case study project with some colleagues at Cisco where we’ve been researching what the most relevant software skills are that Cisco’s pre-sales engineers could benefit from. We’re all freaking experts at Outlook of course (that’s a joke 🤬) but we were interested in the areas of programming, automation, orchestration, databases, analytics, and so on. The end goal of the project was to identify what those relevant skills are, have a plan to identify the current skillset in the field, do that gap analysis and then put forward recommendations on how to close the gap.

This probably sounds really boring and dry, and I don’t blame you for thinking that, but I actually chose this case study topic from a list of 8 or so. My motivation was largely selfish: I wanted to see first-hand the outcome of this project because I wanted to know how best to align my own training, study, and career in the software arena. I already believed that to stay relevant as my career moves along that software skills would be essential. It was just a question of what type of skills and in which specific areas.

Continue reading On Why I’m Shifting my Career Focus to Software

My Personal Look Back on 2017

Continuing in a tradition I started early this year where I take a look back at the year that just passed, I’ve again been very fortunate to have had an amazing year, both in my professional and personal lives. Writing this post is my way of forcing myself to stop and take notice of what I was involved in (something I’m not very good at letting myself do in the moment) and also give readers a chance to see the “me” behind the scenes.

Let’s go through the list! Continue reading My Personal Look Back on 2017

How I’ve Attempted to Blog More in 2017

This post has been sitting in the “drafts” folder for a while now. Clearly, since it’s August and is therefore a little late to be deciding on a plan that is supposed to carry through all 12 months of 2017. Regardless, I think it’s still worth sharing how I’ve attempted to increase the frequency of my blogging. My basic goal for 2017 is:

Create more content in 12 months than I ever have before in order to a) significantly build up the depth and breadth of knowledge on my blog, b) increase my skills as a writer, and c) continue to build this blog and the readership as a key part of my online persona and brand.

In order to achieve this goal, I’ve identified a couple of tactical objectives:

  1. Reduce the friction between me and the keyboard; make it possible to “just write”.
  2. Be able to “just write” anywhere. At home. On vacation. In a waiting room. On an airplane. I should also be able to start a post in one location and pick it up again in another. Indirectly this means I need to be able to write on any of my computers or mobile devices.

In order to meet these goals, I needed to improve my tools and come up with a better workflow.

Continue reading How I’ve Attempted to Blog More in 2017

Reflecting On My First Cisco Live! Presentation

Well, I got to tick a big item off my list of goals last week. I successfully delivered a presentation at Cisco Live! in front of a large group of people. It didn’t kill me and I didn’t trip over anything and embarrass myself so no matter what, I have those two points to feel good about :-)

Me starting my presentation
Me starting my presentation

All joking aside, it actually went a whole lot better than that. Continue reading Reflecting On My First Cisco Live! Presentation

Big Changes in 2017

This past June when I was in North Carolina at Cisco’s CPOC lab, I learned that there was a chance–albeit a slim one, but a chance nonetheless–that a position would be opening up on the CPOC team in the fall. By that point I had been to CPOC three times and knew many of the engineers who worked there. I spoke to them to get their feedback, met with the newly-hired manager of the team, and just generally did all the things I thought I should be doing to take advantage of my time being face to face with these folks.

Then I flew home, subscribed to the “new jobs at Cisco mailing list” and waited.

And then, one day, it was posted: CPOC Technical Projects Systems Engineer. I immediately sent a message to my wife who responded as only she knows how:

Excitement :-)

Five short interviews later I was offered the job!

This brings me to change #1: As of this month (January), I am no longer a Systems Engineer with Cisco Systems Canada. I am now a Systems Engineer on the CPOC team reporting to a manager in the US.

Beyond the basic level of excitement I have about joining this team, I’m even more excited because I’m being hired for a role that isn’t quite the typical CPOC engineer role. My role is part of an initiative to help field sales teams (which up until today, would’ve included myself) sell various Cisco enterprise networking solutions, the first of which is Cisco Intelligent WAN. My role in this initiative is to provide technical expertise in helping field SEs conduct proof of value (POV) exercises with their customers through a combination of remote support and direct hands-on engagement at customer locations (as the situation warrants).

This is a new initiative at Cisco and involves a lot of people at different levels and in different parts of the company. I’m really excited to get back to a more technical, hands-on role, to feed my field experience back into this initiative to make it successful and valuable to the field teams, and to be involved in an initiative this big from the ground floor.

Now, you may have noticed that I said above that I am reporting to a manager in the US. Well, that’s because the CPOC lab is in RTP, North Carolina and that’s where the team is based.

That brings me to change #2: My wife and I (and the cats, can’t forget the cats 😼) will be moving from Calgary to the Raleigh/Durham area in the coming weeks.

The Raleigh area is green. Like, REALLY green.
The Raleigh area is green. Like, REALLY green. [Pic after takeoff from RDU]
Something else we did when I was at CPOC in June was to make sure my wife came down over the weekend so she could (finally!) see the area and understand why I loved going down there so much. It took her no time at all to get it. Now that we’re looking at moving, she understands the area a bit and has a feeling for what we’ll be stepping into.

She grew up and has lived her whole life in Calgary and I grew up not far from Calgary and have been here for about 15 years. We’re very excited for this change! We’re excited for a different climate, we’re excited to explore, and we’re excited to be close(r) to the ocean.

So there we go! Not a long list, but a very impactful one, for sure. Thank you to everyone for your support, small and large, over the past few and upcoming weeks! Bring on the BBQ!

Update Feb 22 2017

It’s been a few weeks since I posted that I had taken a new job and that we were moving to North Carolina. A lot has happened since then, enough that I thought it warranted this unplanned update.

First, I’ve been doing the new job since early January and it’s been a lot of fun. Normally a Cisco CPOC engagement means the customer comes to Cisco and does their testing in our lab, but I was hired to take the show on the road and conduct demonstrations on-site with customers. It’s been a lot of fun playing a part in getting this new type of CPOC delivery up and going.

Second, there has been a rather major, unexpected wrinkle in the relocation. While reviewing my tax situation with a professional tax advisor, I came to learn about a Canadian tax known as the departure tax. This tax kicks in once you become a non-resident in the eyes of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). CRA has a set of criteria for determining who is a resident, none of which we would meet. As a non-resident, we would be hit with the departure tax.

The departure tax is basically CRA’s way of ensuring they get what they feel they’re entitled to in terms of taxes on capital gains and other investments. The reasoning seems to be that if you leave Canada, you’re untouchable from CRA’s perspective and they won’t be able to collect tax from you. The departure tax is very odd though because you don’t actually have to sell anything or realize any actual capital gains for the tax to kick in. What happens is something called a “deemed sale” where–for all intents and purposes–everyone pretends that you executed a sale and you are summarily taxed on the imaginary capital gains. Beyond just capital gains, there are other investment assets that are also taxed.

What hurts about this is that it all comes in one shot. And in our situation, having never heard about this before now, we had not done any financial planning in order to mitigate the tax hit. Our exposure to this is rather high and being that it comes all in one shot, would be very difficult to absorb.

Because of this tax situation, the move is now on hold until further notice. Thankfully, my role on the CPOC team allows me to work from anywhere and my manager has been absolutely amazing in her understanding and patience.

So for now, my wife and I are digging our toques and mittens out of storage, mentally preparing to have to continue dealing with winter, and making plans for the future to cut our exposure to this little known, high impact part of the Canadian tax code.


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. Continue reading My Personal Look Back on 2016