Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Does It Take To Be The Juniper Lab Madness Champion?

Lab Madness, a competition for the best lab setup, took off on our social channels a few weeks ago, bringing together fantastic selection network setups that the community could vote on. See this blog for details, Juniper Lab Madness. I checked-in with this year’s Lab Champion, Ezekiel Castro, whose setup, The Playground, took the title win. At twenty years old, Ezekiel is working to pioneer the adoption of Juniper Networks’ equipment in the Philippines. Find out what he has to say about why he participated and why he like to work with Juniper equipment in this interview.

Did you enjoy your championship experience, and what was your motivation to join?
Yes of course, it is a great privilege on my part that my entry was chosen to be the first Champion in your Annual Juniper Lab Madness Competition. I remember when I received an invite from you. I just talked to my boss and he encouraged me to join. However, when I submitted my entry, I guess it was the last day of submission, I submitted   my personal picture with our lab because I did not have more time to take another picture.

We are impressed with the huge community support you received throughout the 2013 Lab Madness Championship. What would you describe as the value of building relationships in the network community?
It is my pleasure to be voted by our fellow Filipino friends. The competition became extremely viral on Facebook every time my entry was in a matchup. It was an overwhelming experience when I saw all the Filipino names voting for my entry. The importance of building relationships in the network community is that you share and gain the knowledge that you have. It is a collaboration of our common interests. Our goal is to achieve global recognition that Filipino network engineers can also participate in such competitions. And by that, we can also be known for having unity and camaraderie.

Tell us a little about your network engineering journey. How did it start and what are you doing now?
Yes, as of now I have worked as a network security engineer here in Makati City. I am actually a young, new breed of network engineer. I am only 20 years old and I landed on this job. I started dreaming to be a network administrator or network engineer when I was still at Holy Angel University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, majoring in Network Administration. At that time, I was not excelling in my subject matter, and wanted to discover more in the real industry environment.  So, before graduation, I tried my best to look for a job that offered opportunities to learn and have a good experience in the networking industry.  Then, God gave me an opportunity in that He allowed me to be hired on as a system integrator here in Makati City, which is NERA Philippines Inc. Currently we are handling projects with T series Routers and SRX firewalls in one of the biggest internet service providers in the Philippines.  Also, we have various Juniper Networks projects in the enterprise. I handled Juniper Networks equipment when I configured a virtual chassis on EX3300 and EX4200 switches.

What song would you say is your theme song when you work with your setup, The Playground?
I guess it will be “Good Time” by Owl City. This is one of my favorite songs and it says that it always a good time. So, whenever I look at our lab setup I always feel that it is a good time.

What is unique about your setup that represents the needs of your business and/or environment?
The lab setup is actually for simulation. It is composed of various types of Juniper equipment. We use the lab setup for network scenarios that we encounter in our business. Most of the time, before we implement or suggest a network design, we simulate it first and check the behavior of the packets based on the configuration we are suggesting. We also use the lab setup for troubleshooting purposes, like when there are problems that arise in our network deployment and maintenance. Our lab setup is a good tool for us to comprehend the actions that we will implement and at the same time help us be efficient in serving our clients.

What inspires you to try new setups?
The technology is innovating each day, and the network industry is also evolving each day. By the resources and deep study we do on new network implementation and design, we are trying to cope up on the industry best practices and trying to make our lab setup simulate new network scenarios and gather more precise solutions.

Your setup does not include cables. Can you provide us some details about how you use the setup? Do you tend to use these products separately or always together?
It depends on the network scenario that we are simulating. Our lab is like a one stop shop. We have various types of equipment from switches to routers to firewalls. We sometimes integrate the whole lab, but sometimes we use only what the customer has in its network.

How do you test your setup?
Like I said, we actually simulate the real network scenario of our customer and we configure the devices according to the configuration of our customer’s network equipment.

Is there an interesting insight about your methodology that you would like to share?
Yes, I guess this is a common practice in the industry today. Before we go to the client, we first simulate the network and test the design that we are providing as a solution on the existing network design of our clients. Planning is very crucial when implementing network projects. However, it is very important for every project that we may create, it is like laying the foundation before constructing the house itself.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in your field?
I am too young to give advice, but for the sake of sharing my testimony, I would like to encourage someone who would like to pursue network engineering. It is a challenging job but it is a very satisfying career.  In this career, you should be a self-absorptive individual, you should know how to explore by yourself, and you should study new features of the network. In my case, I always explore things in networking industry with a study habit. After work, I always pick up a book and study it. Even during weekends, I read and learn new things. I believe it will be advantagous for us if we all have a study habit. But the most important thing is that you should put your trust in the Lord and do good. I may say that is my secret. I always tell to myself, win or lose, I will still Praise Him.

What do you look forward to pursuing in your career?
As a young, ambitious network engineer, I would like to work and explore more of the industry somewhere in the U.S. or in Europe in the near future. I want to be one of the Filipino network engineers that could influence and could impact the next generation of aspiring network engineers as well. I have a mission to  spread JunOS in our community as well as other Juniper Networks products and services. I am also looking forward to being JNCIE-SP certified, hopefully as one of the youngest.

2013 Lab Madness Setup of Champions.jpg

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