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Interview with Top NetPros - Sankar Nair

Sankar Nair

thisisshanky - Sankar Nair, Dallas, Texas

Sankar Nair is a network engineer with Cisco Gold Partner General Datatech, a network infrastructure professional services firm based in Dallas, Texas. The company started 12 years ago as a reseller of networking products, then branched into network services six years ago. Today, General Datatech provides industry-leading wide area and local area network services to its clients across the United States.

Nair joined General Datatech in 2003, after a four-year stint with Cisco Gold Partner NEC Unified Solutions. Although he holds a degree in electronics and communication engineering from the University of Kerala, India and years of solid experience, Nair still runs into issues that he can't solve alone.

"Whenever you do an implementation, you run into problems," Nair explains. "Of course, I always try to solve these issues myself, but when that's not possible, I contact the Cisco [Technical Assistance Center] TAC for help."

As effective as a TAC can be in addressing network issues, however, getting a response can take time. "Working with TAC, you have to open a case, be on the phone, and explain the problem," Nair says. "So to save time, I plug the question into NetPro."

NetPro, a virtual community of networking professionals, has become something of a problem-solving clearinghouse to those who participate. According to Nair, the support and information he's found on the NetPro site has been invaluable.

Recently, Nair was facing a particularly challenging implementation, and he turned to the NetPro community for ideas. "I had to implement wireless access on a train that would be moving at 60 miles an hour," he explains. "I've never deployed a network on a moving object before."

"NetPro was the right place to pose that question. I got answers I needed from a Cisco engineer."

One of the principal benefits of turning to NetPro is the wealth of experience the community can provide, says Nair. "I've posted a lot of questions on IP telephony" to the NetPro boards, he says. For example, "We have several customers using fax machines with the Cisco analog telephony adapter [ATA] product, and some of the new fax machines are capable of using the SuperG3. There are some compatibility issues with ATA, however, and I've been scratching my head a lot trying to solve that problem. I've gotten lot of helpful responses from different NetPro members who had issues with the same product."

"Hundreds of engineers are logging in daily," Nair says. "I have often gotten help in solving an issue from NetPro before hearing from TAC.

Another responsibility for Nair is providing support for his company's sales staff. The NetPro site is a place he can access that information quickly. "My day-to-day job involves talking to customers and presenting information to them about technology, design, and solutions for IP telephony, wireless, routing and switching, and security," he says. "While salespeople bring business to us, they are not always as proficient as engineers. If they have a question about a product, and they want to tie into a solution for a particular customer, I can provide the information they need. And, Cisco's Website is the best for documentation, for every single product. No other vendor is comparable in terms of documentation."

But NetPro is not just a numbers game, Nair explains. The quality of the responses on NetPro is what sets it apart from other networking professional communities.

Many of the Cisco employees who reply on NetPro provide a lot of information that isn't available to the general networking professional. "Cisco employees have access to resources that we don't have," says Nair. "It's comparatively easy for them to troubleshoot a problem, and their answers are very helpful."

In addition, Nair says, he's getting quite a bit of satisfaction out of posting his own experience and advice to the NetPro site. "I may put three or four hours a day into responding to questions on NetPro," he says. So far, Nair has posted more than 2,000 replies, most of which were helpful in solving others' technical questions.

But personal satisfaction isn't the only motivator for Nair. Each time he responds to a question, and has his response favorably rated by other NetPro users, his NetPro profile is expanded. "If you are looking for a new job, you can show your NetPro profile as part of your resume," he says.

Despite the easy-to-use rating system, he says, many users forget to provide ratings for whoever helped them. "NetPro has tried to make people understand that many professionals spend a lot of time to answer questions.. Sometimes, a thread goes 40 responses, and at the end, the person who posted the question thanks everyone, but may forget to rate the person who solved the problem."

"NetPro is the best Website for anyone seeking resolution from Cisco," Nair says. "My advice to the users is to show appreciation."

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