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Interview with Top NetPros - Rob Huffman
rob.huffman - Rob Huffman
Rob Huffman is a voice network analyst for Mount Royal College
in Calgary, Canada. NetPro helped him make the transition from
managing TDM telephony to IP telephony without formal training.
"Initially I felt overwhelmed and daunted by the steep VoIP
learning curve. NetPro really changed everything for me."
Q. How long have you been in the networking industry and
why did you get involved in it?
A. I started working in the telecom industry in
1977, with a large telco in Alberta, Canada. A decade later, in
1987, I joined Mount Royal College to become a network analyst for
voice. Originally I worked with TDM voice systems. When an
opportunity arose for me to learn VoIP, I took it and have been
working with VoIP ever since. Today I manage all aspects of our
Cisco IP telephony system.
Q. Tell me about Mount Royal College.
A. We have an enrollment of approximately
12,000 full-time students, with 1600 faculty and staff. The
networking group has four people and is part of a 65-person IT
services group. Our role is to provide voice services for faculty
and staff. We have an end-to-end Cisco network, from the core to
the edge. In addition to Cisco Unified Communications, we also
still run a TDM voice system. The hybrid environment works well for
Q. What were the challenges you faced at work that
influenced you to use NetPro?
A. Initially I felt overwhelmed and daunted by
the steep VoIP learning curve. One day I was searching cisco.com
for white papers and other documents and stumbled upon NetPro. That
was in February 2006, and since then NetPro has become an extremely
valuable tool for helping me perform my job. NetPro really changed
everything for me.
Q. How do you use NetPro to find solutions to everyday
A. I have found literally hundreds of answers
on NetPro. My usual approach is to read threads on the topic of
interest. I also use the search function. The documentation on
cisco.com is so vast, with literally millions of documents, that it
can be difficult to find just what you need. By using the search
function on NetPro I find I can very quickly focus in on the most
Q. How about an example or two of issues that you have
had resolved on NetPro.
A. Recently I used NetPro to find out about the
required upgrades and patches to respond to the new Daylight
Savings Time. Also, when we were preparing to upgrade Cisco Unified
CallManager, I used NetPro to find hands-on tips from people who
had already completed the upgrade. We needed to make a small change
to the gateway configuration, and I could not find it documented
anywhere. One of the NetPro members had the answer, which helped us
Q. What other tools do you use to get answers to your
A. We use the Cisco technical documentation,
white papers, and the bug toolkit. I am also a member of the Cisco
IP Telephony User Group (CIPTUG).
Q. What is the most useful or inspiring conversation you
have found on NetPro to date?
A. I read NetPro threads without posting for
some time. I was inspired to post for the first time when a NetPro
member in the Cisco Unity forum offered to courier a set of media
CDs to someone who was having serious problems. I was so impressed
with that member's generosity and willingness to help that I posted
a comment and rated the member.
Q. What is your greatest accomplishment to date in your
A. I was proud to be part of the IP telephony
rollout on campus, which began in 2004 and continues today. I also
consider our campus wireless deployment a significant
accomplishment. We deployed 100 Cisco Aironet Wireless Access
Points in 2005, and then replaced them in 2006 with Cisco
Lightweight Access Points. For both accomplishments, the most
rewarding part was learning on the job. I'm still learning, and
that's why I appreciate NetPro. The opportunity to learn from
people around the world has been phenomenal.
Q. What was the toughest issue you resolved on
A. It involved licensing for a Cisco Unity demo
system we were building in the lab. I received a number of great
responses that fully answered my question.
Q. How often do you come to NetPro?
A. I usually visit at least once a day, even on
the weekends. My wife says I'm part of the "nerd herd." Part of the
reason I visit so often is to get a sense of trends and potential
problems so that I can be prepared. Also, I try to take some time
every week to read and rank posts and thank people who have been
Q. Which features do you find the most
A. I like the search function. I also like Ask
the Expert, which features Cisco technicians or engineers who are
very knowledgeable on a particular technology. The most recent Ask
the Expert session I followed was with Steven Rodriguez, about the
Cisco Wireless LAN Controller.
Q. Do you have a message for your fellow NetPro
A. I want to thank the other members for their
hard work, great answers, and sense of humor. It's nice to read a
funny post that lightens things up. I've never experienced any
forum or community that works together like NetPro does. People go
out of their way to help each other, even building systems in the
lab to verify proper configuration and operation.
My request for other users is to take a few minutes to thank
people and to rate their posts. In fact, I'll take this opportunity
to say a special thank you to the people who have helped me,
including Carmen, my great co-workers, and the wonderful NetPro