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Interview with Top NetPros - Chris Deren

Chris Deren

cderen - Chris Deren


Chris Deren is a senior network voice engineer for Berbee Information Networks, helping companies in the midwestern United States deploy Cisco Unified Communications solutions. Among his Cisco credentials are CCIE Voice, CCVP, CCNP, and several Cisco Qualified Specialist certifications. "I found NetPro especially useful during the time I was studying for the CCIE Voice exam," he says. "I received good explanations to my questions about technologies I didn't fully understand, such as advanced Cisco Gatekeeper scenarios."


BACKGROUND


Q. How did you become involved in the networking industry?

A. I began working in the networking industry around five years ago, after receiving my BSEE. My first job was with Rockwell, integrating its IP-based automatic call distributor with Cisco Unified CallManager. After that I worked for a short time with IBM Business Consulting Services, deploying call centers. I prefer to not travel so much, however, so I left to join USG Corporation as the lead IP telephony/contact center architect, and then later joined Meridian IT as a unified communications consultant. At Meridian I worked with customers of all sizes, from small companies using Cisco Unified CallManager Express and Cisco Unity Express deployments to enterprises with thousands of endpoints.


Q. Where are you working now?

A. Recently I joined Berbee as senior network voice engineer. Berbee is a leading Cisco partner in the midwestern United States and the first global partner to receive the Cisco Unified Communications Master Specialization and the Cisco Security Master Specialization. My primary role is architecture, design, and deployment of Cisco Unified Communications and contact centers for enterprise customers.


Q. What is your greatest accomplishment to date in your networking career?

A. I'm proud of the CCIE Voice certification, which only 360 people in the world have earned to date. In general, I feel a sense of satisfaction whenever I complete a customer project and everyone is pleased with the outcome. An experience that stands out is when I designed a Cisco Unified Communications solution for a church that had four locations, using Cisco Unified CallManager and Cisco Unity® voicemail. That was a novel project because I typically work with financial, educational, and manufacturing organizations.


CHALLENGE


Q. How did you hear about NetPro?

A. In 2002, a colleague introduced me to NetPro when we were trying to resolve an issue. Until that time I had not been aware of NetPro, although I often searched cisco.com for answers to my questions. I initially used NetPro to research issues, and later began contributing.


Q. How do you use NetPro to find solutions to everyday networking issues?

A. First I use the search engine, which is very helpful. If I cannot find the answer, then I post a question. It's very beneficial that NetPro contributors include Cisco TAC [Technical Assistance Center] engineers, as well as individuals such as myself. Cisco TAC engineers can assist on some of the more complex issues, which has saved me from having to open a TAC case.


Q. What other tools do you use to get answers to your networking questions?

A. I often check cisco.com. In addition, I use my current employer's internal distribution list. With 33 CCIEs and 6 voice CCIEs on staff, Berbee has a very extensive internal knowledge base. I'm inclined to first post my question on NetPro because of the great success I have had with it. I know that sooner or later I'll receive the answer.


Q. What is the most useful or inspiring conversation you have found on NetPro?

A. The most useful conversations have been Ask the Expert sessions, which often feature the Cisco engineers who actually designed the products. I find it very valuable to talk to the brightest engineers for a particular technology or product. I especially enjoyed a recent Ask the Expert session with Ben Ng, the CCIE Voice proctor. At the time I was studying for the CCIE Voice exam, and I had the chance to ask him questions about the new version of the exam, which used a new equipment list and software versions. A few months later I took the exam and passed. I found NetPro especially useful during the time I was studying for the CCIE Voice exam because I received good explanations to my questions about technologies I didn't fully understand, such as advanced Cisco Gatekeeper scenarios.


Q. What is your greatest accomplishment to date in your networking career?

A. I'm proud of the CCIE Voice certification, which only 360 people in the world have earned to date. In general, I feel a sense of satisfaction whenever I complete a customer project and everyone is pleased with the outcome. An experience that stands out is when I designed a Cisco Unified Communications solution for a church that had four locations, using Cisco Unified CallManager and Cisco Unity® voicemail. That was a novel project because I typically work with financial, educational, and manufacturing organizations.


NETPRO


Q. What is your overall impression of NetPro?

A. I'm very happy with NetPro. I'm amazed at how many people contribute, from all over the world. The same people keep coming back, making it possible to establish relationships. I now exchange e-mails on a professional basis with people I met on NetPro. I think NetPro is a powerful and useful tool for everyone in the networking industry.


Q. How often do you visit NetPro?

A. I participate daily-even now that I'm new on a job and working on multiple projects simultaneously. It's that helpful.


Q. Which features do you find the most helpful?

A. The search engine and Ask the Expert are most helpful to me. The point system for rating participants is an excellent idea because it encourages people to come back. Earning points is very satisfying.


Q. Do you have any suggestions for changes to the site?

A. I would suggest consolidating some of the topics. If only one or two questions are asked on most days, perhaps the topic can be merged with another topic to keep the site streamlined.


Q. Do you have a message for your fellow NetPro users?

A. Before posting a question-especially if you post it in multiple categories-do a search. You might discover that the same question has already been asked and answered a hundred times. Also, please remember to rate helpful responses.


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