Giving back by getting involved on a broader scale

A conversation with Vincent Celindro, NANOG Program Committee Chair.

Brandi Herrera

Presented by some of the brightest minds in our industry, every NANOG conference is built around a program that includes hours of peer-reviewed talks, tutorials, keynotes, and panels.

Nominated by the NANOG community and appointed by our Board of Directors, the current NANOG Program Committee (PC) is made up of 25 industry experts who volunteer their time to ensure our best-in-class content continues to evolve as the industry rapidly changes.

In anticipation of NANOG 78 (Feb 10-12, in San Francisco), we spoke to PC Chair Vincent Celindro, Global Sales Architect at Dell Technologies, on the power of giving back by getting involved on a broader scale; what he's learned by becoming more active in our community; and the meaningful role face-to-face interaction plays in empowering and educating networking professionals.


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How were you first introduced to NANOG?

Like many in the NANOG community, I started out in Higher Ed, when I joined Northwestern University (AS 103) back in 2001. We ran the StarLight facility in downtown Chicago, which was a major peering or exchange point for many domestic and international R&E/RENs (Research and Educational Networks).

One of the peers was MREN (Metropolitan Research and Education Network), which we were a charter member of. Merit was also a member of MREN, and it was through these networks I then became familiar with NANOG.

In what ways did you become involved with our community?

Honestly, I wasn't as involved in NANOG back then as I am today — I would mostly read and learn things from the mailing list. And when I left Northwestern and joined Juniper in 2010, I wasn’t involved at all. But I started to get involved again in 2015; regularly attending meetings, joining the Program Committee (PC), and presented for the first time in 2018.

And since then, you’ve taken on the role of PC Chair. What prompted you to get involved with NANOG, and the PC, on a broader scale?

I started noticing that people new to networking were faced with a number of challenges, and that many members of the NANOG community had the experience to provide the guidance they needed.

The knowledge I gained from joining the NANOG mailing list helped set a good foundation for my career, and the interactions I was able to have with other people in networking who were also a part of the NANOG community helped reinforce a lot of those concepts. But I didn’t really make that connection until I became actively involved with NANOG again.

I was having a difficult time hiring qualified network engineers. When I first started in the field, everyone wanted to get into networking. It was considered the elite IT job — we make the Internet run! But now, there definitely seems to be a lack of qualified candidates as well as an overall lack of interest in our field. That’s when I decided to take a more active role in NANOG, by giving presentations, and joining the PC. I wanted to share what I had learned, and give back to the community, so that others could benefit in the ways I once had.

That’s definitely in the spirit of all that NANOG stands for. Since you’re at the center of all that happens with the PC, could you tell us a bit more about the role it plays at NANOG?

The PC is made up of a diverse group of volunteers from various networking disciplines and backgrounds, and is responsible for seeking out and selecting presentations — including keynotes — for each of NANOG’s tri-annual meetings. The committee works with both experienced speakers and novices alike, to help them craft the kinds of quality presentations that the NANOG community has come to expect.

Throughout each meeting, you'll also see members of the PC moderating daily sessions, as well as serving as table leads during the Newcomers and Women in Tech lunches, and serving more informally as mentors to others in the community.

Every February, we hold nominations for those interested in getting involved on a broader scale by volunteering to serve on a committee. The 2020 nominations process is now open, and runs through February 11.

Can you tell me a bit about the process for selecting presentations?

To select a presentation, one of the following generally happens: a PC member reaches out directly to a speaker to see if they’d be interested in giving a presentation on a given subject; a speaker already has an idea for a presentation ready, and submits it to NANOG during our open Call for Presentations; or, a speaker has an idea, but needs a little guidance in shaping it.

The process really begins, though, when a presentation or an idea gets submitted through the PC Tool. Once a talk is submitted to there, it’s then assigned to a PC member who serves as a shepherd to help the author with their talk in any way needed; answering any questions, providing constructive feedback, or relaying additional feedback from other PC members in order to transform their ideas into a presentation that will resonate with NANOG attendees.

Once the shepherd and author both agree the presentation is ready, the PC collectively votes on it, taking into consideration criteria such as the completeness of the presentation, originality of its ideas, and its relevance to our community. If the presentation hits the mark, the author is then notified and will go on to present at the meeting.

I know that will help a lot of people new to the process better understand how it all works. What categories do NANOG presentations generally fall into, and are you seeing any new ones emerge as networking technologies continue to evolve?

We always aim to ensure just the right mix of programming; balancing the technical with the non-technical, which also overlap in many ways.

Technical, non-technical, educational, and outreach-focused topics typically fall into the following presentation formats: general sessions, which are 30 minute talks; panels, which are lively debates surrounding some of the most pressing subjects facing networking professionals today; tutorials, which are longer, deep-dive sessions; as well as sessions that cover things like public speaking, how to white board, and other types of professional development.

In recent conferences, we’ve had quite a few talks about indigenous connectivity as well. It’s not only a super interesting topic, but it really helps our community see some of the challenges faced by indigenous communities they may otherwise not be aware of. These types of talks also allow for greater diversity of thought, which can help our community bring new solutions to their own work, not to mention inspiring them to use their skill sets to support such initiatives.

Because things change so rapidly, it can be difficult to determine whether or not an emerging technology is already at its peak or not, and there’s no way to accurately predict what’s going to happen next. That said, we’ve had a few talks on 400 Gig, which is definitely up and coming; and Segment Routing (SR), which has been a leading topic for several meetings, as has Automation. While these topics may not apply to everyone’s daily work activities, seeing these sessions can certainly help keep one’s self up to speed on current trends and advancements.

There’s always going to be something on Routing Security as well. At NANOG 78, there’s a lot about Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI), which is a method of secure internet routing. Because of recent events, it’s become a hot topic in our community.

Another category of presentations are those that fall under skills development. These are talks and forums not only meant for newcomers, but professionals in any stage of their career, and include things like the NANOG Public Speaking Forum, which helps people become more comfortable with speaking in front of a live audience, in a safe and supportive environment.

What kinds of presentations can our community look forward to attending at NANOG 78?

We have a great lineup! There’s a panel planned on RPKI router security, keynotes by Amin Vahdat and Bikash Koley, as well as another panel on the “Next Network Professional”.

On that note, how do you feel NANOG programming like this supports our mission to foster the education and empowerment of the next generation of networking professionals?

Technology is always changing, and we need to be able to provide a vehicle to help spread this information, aside from the easy route of just posting something online. I learned a lot just by joining the NANOG mailing list, but things really changed for me once I was able to start interacting with other NANOG members in person.

One of the key things about NANOG, is that it allows people in networking to meet face to face, and interact in person. In other words, human networking. Being able to follow up with a speaker by having a dialogue with them after their presentation goes a long way. In addition, we have programs like the NCI, which brings the next generation directly to our meetings, and gives them the opportunity to engage directly with our community.

Interested in getting involved by volunteering your time on a NANOG committee? Consider joining as a member and taking part in the 2020 nomination process — now, through February 11.

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Brandi Herrera

Brandi Katherine Herrera is NANOG's Senior Content Strategist.

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