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Interview with Top NetPros - Rob Huffman

Chris Deren

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."


BACKGROUND


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 us.


CHALLENGE


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 networking issues?

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 relevant documents.


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 avoid downtime.


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

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 networking career?

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 NetPro?

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.


NETPRO


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 especially helpful.


Q. Which features do you find the most helpful?

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 users?

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 community.


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