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Top Contributor Interview : Stephen Rodriguez: Cisco Designated VIP (Wireless)

Stephen Rodriguez: Cisco Designated VIP

Stephen Rodriguez is a senior solutions engineer for GDT, a Cisco Gold Certified Partner. He says, “There comes a point in your career where you can’t learn any more just by doing. You need to teach, because it deepens your knowledge.”

Q. How did you get your start in networking?

When I was 17, I joined the U.S. Marines and learned to repair the small components in telecom devices. That led to a job with a NEC value-added reseller. We hired an engineer to work on Cisco Unified Communications, and it looked very interesting. I asked to shadow her so I could learn about switch and router configurations. Soon I started implementing Cisco switches, routers, and unified communications systems on my own. In 2006, a Cisco recruiter approached me about working with TAC. I did that for five years, passing the CCIE exam in Routing and Switching in 2009.

Q. What are you doing now?

I joined GDT in 2012. We’re a Cisco Gold Certified Partner with customers all over the U.S. I’m a senior solutions engineer, and I work on wireless design, implementation, and troubleshooting, which lets me also touch switching, security, and voice.

Q. What’s your proudest accomplishment in networking?

I have two. One was working in Cisco TAC. The other was helping to deploy a large, high-density wireless network for a Dallas-area church that seats 5000 people in one area. The ceiling is 30 to 40 feet high, so it was a challenge to fine-tune the RF to avoid a huge signal bleed. We deployed 26 Cisco Aironet 3602 Wireless Access Points in the sanctuary alone, and another 44 to cover the rest of the building.

Q. How did you discover the Cisco Support Community?

A. I heard about the community for the first time in 2001, on a Cisco webpage. But I didn’t start participating actively until I joined TAC several years later. In TAC, each engineer was assigned five or six new cases a day. That’s a lot of work, so I started answering questions in the forums to stop them from becoming TAC cases!

Q. How do you participate?

Mostly I monitor the Wireless forums. My favorites are Getting Started with Wireless and Security and Network Management. I’ve set up alerts to come to my phone when people post. I answer questions when I have spare time. And when I notice issues that are affecting other companies, I alert my own customers. A few years back I conducted an Ask the Expert session on configuring Cisco wireless networks.

Q. What do you enjoy most about the community?

It’s interesting to see how other people use wireless, and it’s satisfying to help them make it work. Some people use wireless in ways that are very different from what the developers had in mind. I’ve worked with people as far away as Russia, Japan, and South America. I also enjoy meeting other community members in person at Cisco Live and the Cisco Partner Virtual Summit.

 There comes a point in your career where you can’t learn any more just by doing. You need to teach, because it deepens your knowledge. When you pass on knowledge, you have to break it down for someone who doesn’t understand yet.

Q. Does your company support your participation?

Yes, because the name recognition I get from being a VIP also helps my company’s brand. Once I responded to a Twitter question about wireless. (My Twitter handle is @WiFiJanitor.) The other person said, “OMG. Are you Steve Rodriguez from Cisco Support Community??”

Q. Any suggestions for fellow community members?

Participate! And if you have a question about an answer, just ask. We’re happy to explain more so that you can ask better questions.

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