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Why I Network: Mike McBride

Jan 16, 2017

Mike McBride, Senior Director of Innovation & Technology Strategy at Huawei, shares how a friend got him hooked on networking.  

I network because of Joe.

Joe was a colleague of mine at Apple Computer in the Bay Area back in the early 90s. We were both enjoying being young and employed by a cool company who let us show up to work in Levi’s, had great parties and who brought us all those sweet computers including the modular Mac IIcx, the wicked fast Mac IIfx and the Mac Powerbook (which replaced that incredible mini suitcase the Luggable). The times were good, I was finishing up my degree in the evening at San Jose State, we were working on awesome computers, John Scully was at the helm and Steve was busy breaking out the cube over at NeXT. I thought Apple could be my life for many years to come.

That is, until darn Joe decided to do the unthinkable and leave Apple. Joe had much more career ADD then I had. Actually, perhaps it’s more like he had career vision. So after two years at Apple he moved over to this company that none of us had heard of before. cisco. Lower case c. I’ll miss you Joe, wish you well and let’s keep in touch. My wife and I have a new baby and we are happy and stable. Joe loved his move and we continued to keep in touch over the coming couple of months. Then my world forever changed. I kept in touch with Joe and for some reason I agreed to talk to Joe’s hiring manager and cisco actually sounded pretty interesting. The whole company uses Macs?! I can still wear jeans?! Cool technology?! Free sodas and food?! More pay and stock?! I guess I’m in. I will forever be grateful that he convinced me to get out of my comfort zone and follow him there. I’m grateful that he taught me the importance of networking, in the social sense, because after Apple, networking was the prime reason I moved around inside and outside companies throughout my career to this day. But I’m also grateful I was introduced to networking, the bits and bytes kind.

I first fell in love with the hardware. Troubleshooting the Cisco AGS applique plates and ribbon cables and figuring out the dip switch settings along with setting up the modems to dial into the customer routers. I loved it. Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI, ATM ports. Great stuff. So much to learn about – the hardware, working with customers and field technicians, and learning to configure it to actually get information to flow from one side of the world to the next was amazing.

Then I fell in love with the protocols. Holy cow, so many protocols. I was responsible for knowing them all intimately enough to troubleshoot them with customers. Customers who were sometimes just setting up the internet for the first time into their small business and huge customers who were sometimes losing gobs of money as the minutes went by without their network working. High pressure. RIP, OSPF, BGP, EIGRP, IS-IS, PIM, Spanning Tree…So much to learn and it was fascinating. I learned a ton from others and learned a particular protocol pretty well and, through social networking, moved into development and deployment groups. Eventually I moved to other companies which have provided exciting opportunities with innovation and strategy leadership.

Now, so many years later, I still love that there is always more to learn with networking. With SDN, NFV and Cloud computing taking off a handful of years ago, a new networking paradigm exists. So many startups with their specialties in this new world in both hardware and software. Operators and vendors working together to provide real solutions and solve needs. Many new communities and amazing opportunities to meet and learn from others, particularly within the ONF and ON.Lab.  These open source communities have given me opportunities to try fun new things beyond traditional network engineering.

So, why do I network? It’s because of my good friend Joe, and it’s due to the satisfaction of constant learning and use of my skills in an ever fluid environment. Now that I’m focusing heavily on virtual reality and emerging technologies, along with their impact on networking, I have that same giddiness I had while trying to configure BGP communities, troubleshooting Ethernet line cards or navigating the brave new world of the SDN ecosystem.

– Mike McBride, Senior Director of Innovation & Technology Strategy at Huawei and ONF Deputy Area Director