A senior consultant with Chesapeake NetCraftsmen, participates in the community to help others and stay abreast of trends. He says, “The Cisco Support Community is about good engineers helping each other out by giving good answers.”
Q. How did you get started in networking?
A. In the initial stages of my career, my primary focus was Windows-based servers and applications. After a few years of working as a consultant on defense contracts, I was offered an opportunity to work for a large company in the housing/mortgage industry, and that’s when I really got started with networking. The company had great networking talent, and I picked up on things quickly. I met my current colleagues Bill Bell and Andre Wright, and established the core of my experience with unified communications. We’ve worked as a team ever since, and have been together at Chesapeake NetCraftsmen since 2008.
Q. What do you do with your current company?
A. Chesapeake NetCraftsmen is a consulting company and Cisco Certified Gold Partner with expertise in high-end routing and design, switching, VoIP, unified communications, security, network management, and other areas. With 13 CCIEs, NetCraftsmen has some of the most experienced engineers in the country. I’m a senior consultant in the unified communications practice, where I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects with a variety of customers. Some of our current projects include system and dial-plan redesigns, upgrading existing customer environments to the latest Cisco Unified Communications application versions, and performing health assessments to help customers more effectively achieve key business goals.
Q. What Cisco products do you use personally?
A. NetCraftsmen is primarily a virtual company. Our consultants work from home or client sites, depending on customer and project requirements. We leverage Cisco WebEx audio and web-conferencing services internally as well as for customer engagements. WebEx is a great tool, enabling us to communicate effectively and affordably. A number of us also have our own labs, which we can access by way of a corporate lab VPN. In my lab, I have a Cisco Unified Computing System C-Series server running Cisco UC applications, a 2800 series ISR gateway, and a number of Cisco Unified IP phones.
Q. How did you get started with Cisco Support Community?
A. Our company president, David Yarashus, encourages all of us to be active not only within the Cisco community but in the industry in general. My coworker Rick Burts has always been very active in the Cisco Support Community and is even a Hall of Fame member. So initially, I think David just thought it would be good for more of us to get involved and create an active presence in the community. At first, Bill Bell and I made a bit of a competition out of it. If he answered a question, I’d answer two. After a while I started to realize how much good content is in the forums, and I began using the community as a primary source for troubleshooting, and also staying on top of trends. If I had known how much value the Cisco Support Community could provide in the earlier stages of my career, I probably could have saved myself a lot of headaches!
Q. Why did your president encourage you to participate?
A. I think David’s primary motivation was just for us to help others and make a positive impact in the community. As a side effect, our participation in the community has helped to make people aware of who we are individually and as a company.
Q. How do you use the Cisco Support Community in conjunction with TAC?
I always go to the Cisco Support Community before opening a TAC case. The Unified Communications forums are like a mini TAC repository. If I search for an issue, I almost always find a post from someone who has seen the same or a similar issue. If there’s a response with links for troubleshooting or resolution, I’m willing to try them if I haven’t already. If there is no posted resolution, then I open a TAC case. I tell the TAC engineer the steps I’ve already taken, which saves time.
Q. Tell us how you participate on a typical day.
A. Some people take a break by going for a walk or looking at Facebook. If I need a break, I go to the Cisco Support Community. Typically I visit in the morning and once or twice more during the day to see new questions or topics. If I have the time, I’ll try to respond to questions I can answer quickly.
Q. How about a story about a particularly rewarding experience in the community?
NetCraftsmen has a booth at Cisco Live, and in 2010 I was surprised and pleased that people came to the booth to meet me, mentioning my posts. This year, even more Cisco Support Community members came to the booth. It’s enjoyable to meet people in person when I’ve interacted with them in the community. I especially enjoyed going to the VIP event to meet other people who post regularly, like Jonathan Schulenberg, Tommer Catlin, and Ginger Dillon. The VIP event brought home to me how knowledgeable the contributors are.
CISCO SUPPORT COMMUNITY
Q. Which community resources are most useful to you?
A. The search function is good, and brings up documents as well as posts. The forum organization by categories, such as IP telephony, and sub-categories, such as video and contact center, makes it easy to find specific content. When I wanted to brush up on Fax over IP, I watched an Ask the Expert video presentation, which was a lot more engaging than simply reading documents on the web.
Q. Do you have suggestions to make the community even more valuable?
A. If you come across a response that helps you out, please rate the content. People participate because they enjoy helping, but they also appreciate recognition. Another reason to rate is that it makes the forums even more valuable. If several people rate an answer as being helpful, the next person with the same question is more likely to try that answer first.