Hello Voxilla Visitors,
I’m starting this commentary on technological happenings and other items of interest to the Voxilla community. As an introduction, I thought I would provide some of my background information.
I started programming in BASIC in fourth grade. I still have the code for my masterpiece Apple IIe “high-res” rendering of the Chicago skyline.
My first formal programming class, beyond “computer camp”, was a for credit course offered by the local community college. The course had a cryptic title like Business Programming Logic, and was basically a how to draw flow charts (on paper, pre-Visio days) and program on the Mainframe in COBOL course.
I was only 12 at the time and had to get special approval to take the course. One of the conditions of my enrollment was that my father had to take the course with me. My father was not thrilled, if you ask him what kind of computer he has, he will tell you he has a white one. The first day of class my dad was completely overwhelmed by the course and our first assignment of coding a basic payroll program. He’d managed my mother’s small business for years, but programming was new to him.
After class, he asked me if I understood what the instructor was talking about. I told him that I was confused by the course too. “What’s payroll and time and a half?”, I asked. Programming in COBOL was no problem, but at age 12, these terms were new to me. Once he explained those new concepts to me, we both did great in the course, we both got A’s; my father was never one to worry about plagiarism charges.
My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 100. It was an excellent laptop for D&D campaign battle management. I came up with some quite ingenious programs for battle hit point tracking and character creation.
I started at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. I immediately started messing around with a new web browser called Mosaic. My first foray into UNIX was managing a NeXTcube and SPARC station for some student organizations. My strength was computer networks and I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Engineering.
While in school, I started Chamberlain Computer Consulting, providing computer solutions to university faculty and staff. In October of 1997, Chamberlain Computer Consulting was acquired by Telecomm Industries, Inc.
Telecom was Ameritech’s (then SBC, now AT&T) largest distributor in their five state region. Telecomm provided voice (Centrex, ISDN, and PRI) and data (T-1, DS-3, frame-relay, and ATM) circuits and hardware (Nortel and Cisco).
In April of 1998, I and several coworkers left Telecomm Industries to found Telogix Systems, Inc. Telogix grew to become the largest voice and data distributor in Central Illinois. Telogix was a Cisco Premier Partner providing LAN and WAN solutions to small and medium business.
As CTO, it was at Telogix that I began my VoIP work. We had customers with multiple office locations that wanted to call between offices. This was right when toll by-pass was gaining popularity. Customers were generally buying dedicated T-1’s between offices and running VoIP traffic over the data lines, instead of dedicating circuit channels to voice traffic.
Being a rural area, T-1 prices were very high and frame-relay was even higher, so I sold a number of customers on the idea of using 2.4GHz ISM band unlicensed spread-spectrum wireless (this was before the 802.11 standards) to interconnect their offices. Illinois is very flat and renting space on grain elevators was very cheap. My largest installation was for a bank; their wireless network interconnected 8 locations over a 1,800 sq. mile area. Our longest links were 17 miles.
In May 2001, University of California (UC) Berkeley accepted my partner to Boalt Hall School of Law. So I sold my interest in Telogix to my coworkers, and we moved to Oakland, California.
It was a bad time to move. The dot com bubble was bursting and no one was hiring. I spent the summer looking for work and earning certifications (CISSP, MCSE, CCNA, and CCDA).
In October, 2001, I was hired by UC Berkeley in their Central Computing Services unit as the Campus Active Directory Architect. It was a fun job; I was technical lead for the campus wide 60,000+ user Active Directory deployment.
Berkeley’s campus governance is very decentralized and the project was opt-in. So, my job was to keep the system up and running and convince units to join the project – a difficult task in an anti-Microsoft environment.
Did I mention the campus didn’t have firewalls at the time? With a 2Gbps pipe to the internet, no one had a wire-speed firewall at the time. And then there are students. The joke was that we should put in firewalls, but put them in backwards, to protect the Internet from the students.
Despite these challenges, I love information security and quickly became know for my skill and put on several training sessions for the campus. Our servers were never hacked while I was there (across the servers, we averaged an attempt per minute) and our Active Directory service uptime was 100% with no scheduled or unscheduled outages for over two years.
Berkeley was fun, but after three years, I was ready for a change. I knew public sector work wasn’t for me and when I got a great offer from ActivCard I took it.
ActivCard (now ActivIdentity), Inc. is an interesting company. ActivIdentity is huge in the digital identity management space (over 80% of the U.S. Federal Government business). I joined ActivIdentity as Regional Support Manager for the Americas.
My job was to keep the US customers happy and we had some pretty big government and commercial customers. And that my superiors were either in Paris, France or Canberra, Australia, didn’t hurt either. If you like autonomy and can get a job with a boss on another continent, take it.
My team was located in Fremont and Washington, D.C., it was a great team. I built the team from two to six and we were the most productive of the support teams.
Unfortunately, my team was too good and half of them got promoted to other departments all around the same time. I wasn’t looking forward to rebuilding the team again, and came across an opportunity with Voxilla that was too good to pass up.
I started with Voxilla three months ago as Director of Engineering and have loved every day of work. I didn’t realize how much I missed and enjoyed the pace of start-ups until I was back working for one.
I’ve been very busy these past few months, updating Voxilla.com, the Voxilla Forum, and the Voxilla Store. Changing all three platforms in time for VON was quite an undertaking.
I’ve also been evaluating new products and developing new tools. Some reviews and tool are available on the website now and some will be available soon.
When I’m not working, I enjoy motorcyling, kitebaording, and glassblowing.