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Interview with Top NetPros - Scott MacKenzie

Scott MacKenzie

ScottMac - Scott MacKenzie


Scott MacKenzie, a lead technical support engineer for AT&T, uses NetPro for early visibility into problems his customers might experience.


BACKGROUND


Q. How long have you been in the networking industry, and why did you get involved in it?

A. I began my career in networking in 1983, working at a business-oriented ComputerLand store in Illinois. When networking emerged as a business solution, my job was to set up LANs for our business customers. My networking skills developed as network technology evolved. In 1993, I joined Anixter, a wire and cable company, to be the "Ethernet help desk." After a series of acquisitions, I found myself working for Ameritech, SBC, and now AT&T.


Q. Tell me about your current job.

A. I provide tier-3 support for the AT&T PremierServ Customer Care program, which serves thousands of customers. Most of my job involves providing support for customer premises equipment such as Cisco (R) switches, routers, and firewalls. I also assist in maintaining our lab and virtual lab access system for our engineers.


CHALLENGE


Q. What were the specific business challenges you faced that influenced you to use NetPro?

A. I heard about NetPro from coworkers and used it the most while I was a technical instructor at SBC. I started with the career certification topics and later spent a lot of time in the wireless forums. Today, I like to use NetPro to get an early glimpse into problems affecting new products or software releases. Reading the discussions gives me a hint as to what kind of customer calls I might be receiving later. When I read about a new problem and, frequently, how to fix it, I consider how the problem might affect our customers.


Q. What is the most useful conversation you have found on NetPro to date?

A. The Layer 3 design for Cisco lightweight access points with centralized management can be somewhat tricky. Although I do not do hands-on work in the field, I do help to maintain our lab, and I use the information on NetPro to help ensure that we have a valid setup. In general, NetPro discussions help me understand potential problem areas that customers might call about.


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

A. I was in charge of the technical design and configuration for the Anixter trade show booth for several years and a member of the SBC Datacomm backbone integration team for the Networld+Interop trade show. In the Anixter booth, we presented a multiprotocol, multimedia network, and I am proud of the variety of technologies we got to interoperate. Our 1997-98 booth network included Token Ring, Ethernet, ATM, Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI), and Copper Distributed Data Interface (CDDI) technologies connected with copper, single-mode, and multimode fiber, most of it carrying voice, video, and data. We also integrated clients running Microsoft Windows, IBM OS2, Mac OS, and UNIX. We ran fiber to the demo pods, then fiber and copper to interconnect the devices within the pod, simulating typical "vertical" and "horizontal" structured cabling. As a member of the SBC backbone integration team, I worked some N+I shows to install and test the Gigabit-Ethernet backbone that exhibitors used to connect to each other and the Internet from the show floor. I consider it an accomplishment to build a secure, interoperable network from almost nothing to thousands of nodes in a week. The entire N+I crew does an amazing job every show.


NETPRO


Q. How often do you come to NetPro?

A. I usually visit at least once a day. NetPro is a useful tool for my job.


Q. Which features do you find the most helpful?

A. The search tool is excellent. I use it when a customer calls about an unfamiliar issue that I think might have been discussed.


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

A. A possible improvement might be a FAQ section or topic maintained by the moderator or volunteer members.


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

A. First, try the search! If the search does not answer the question, then new users can help out by providing detailed information when they open a topic. It can take days to extract enough information to provide a helpful solution if someone opens a topic with "My router is not working. What should I do?" Be sure to include the hardware, software, versions, and circumstances of the problem. For example, rather than saying, "My router will not talk to my switch," it is more helpful to say, "I am using this kind of router with this kind of switch, with this version of the Cisco IOS (R) Software, over fiber, and I am getting intermittent connectivity." I would also encourage members to use the rating system and add the red checkmark to a solution that fixes the problem. Then other members who experience the same problem will know that the thread contains a possible solution or good reference.


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