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Interview with Marvin Rhoads: Topping Cisco Support Community Leader Boards


Marvin RhoadsA network engineer with Presidio, Marvin Rhoads is a top contributor in the Network Management, Optical, and Security Management forums. Asked why he does it, he says, “My main motivation is continuous learning, which is one of the reasons I continue to do hands-on engineering after almost 30 years in the industry. I’ve concluded that the best way to learn something is to teach someone.”



How did you get your start in networking?

I became a network engineer in the 1980s, when LANs hardly existed! I’ve worked for several government organizations and a service provider. In the process I’ve acquired expertise with every type of LAN, most protocols, network management, content networking, and optical networking. I have a master’s degree in systems engineering and a bachelor’s in electronics engineering.


What’s your current position?

In 2011, I started my current position with Presidio, working in the security practice. Presidio is a Cisco Gold Certified Partner, the third largest channel partner in North America, and the first Cisco Master Partner for Managed Services, Unified Communications, Security, and TelePresence Video. Working for a partner has given me a broader exposure to the different ways organizations use their networks.



How did you discover the Cisco Support Community?

When I started working with Cisco products in 1994, it was a novelty that Cisco offered support on a new thing called the Internet. I stumbled across the community, saw that it contained good information, and have been contributing ever since. Cisco Support Community is the first place I go when I have a question that’s not answered in configuration guides and installation guides.


What do you like about Cisco Support Community?

The community is very responsive. I post when I have a configuration questions because the answers are as good as I’d get from Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) and I often receive an answer in an hour or two. Even if I ask a question at 10 p.m., it’s daylight somewhere. Hearing from engineers outside my own team helps to broaden my perspective on a problem. I also think that Cisco Support Community helps to break down global barriers. Network engineers in Egypt need to move bits the same way we do in the U.S.




How do you participate?

I browse the Network Management, VPN, and Firewall forums a couple of times a day, looking for questions that haven’t been answered. If know the answer, I respond quickly. If answering will take some research, I come back to it when I have time. I’ve used enough times to know whether I can find the answer within five minutes. I also read blogs and product announcements, and plan to blog myself at some point.

You’re very generous with your time. What’s your motivation?

My main motivation is continuous learning, which is one of the reasons I continue to do hands-on engineering after almost 30 years in the industry. I’ve concluded that the best way to learn something is to teach someone. Answering questions makes me a better engineer at the same time it helps someone else. I’m gratified by doing my job well.

Do you have a particular style in your answers?

I try to back up my answers by citing the source. This helps me make sure I’m not misremembering something I learned a few years ago. Also, my background in systems engineering leads me to look at servers, storage, routing, switching, and applications in the larger context of the business need. So when someone asks about the best tool to accomplish a technical goal, I answer in terms of the accomplishing the business goal. It’s rewarding to me to not just give people an answer, but to also explain why it’s the best answer.

What does your employer think of your participation in the community?

My managers at Presidio actively support our participation because they see it as making us better engineers. If my boss asks me tomorrow if I’m up to speed with a particular technology, I know I can find the resources I need on Cisco Support Community.

How does Cisco Support Community compare to other communities you’ve joined?

A. I participate in a couple of other forums, and what makes Cisco Support Community unique is its combination of depth and breadth. TAC engineers contribute very deep knowledge, and other Cisco contributors can reach back into development organizations for answers. In terms of breadth, Cisco Support Community is the only one that spans infrastructure, security, wireless, collaboration, voice, wireless, and service provider technologies. I know that if my question relates to Cisco technology, I can get an answer from bona fide experts.

Do you have any advice for fellow community members?

I encourage people to give back as much as you get. Answering posts is rewarding. Not only are you helping fellow forum members, you’re also reinforcing your own knowledge. You don’t need to answer a thousand posts; even one can make a difference to someone. Also, be patient with the asker, and keep in mind that there may be other approaches to the same problem.

Vinod Arya
Cisco Employee

Congrats Marvin and thanks for your continous commitment with CSC. You inspire many CSC'ians!

Marvin Rhoads
VIP Community Legend

Thanks,Vinod. I'm glad to be of assistance.


Congratulation for gaining this kind of experience through years!

Jan Rolny

Congratulations Marvin. I just would like to say few words. I read a lot of interviews like this. Many expert says, that best thing how to lear is practising and hands on labs. I agree with this, but how can I access to Cisco gear like Nexus 7000 or ACE, ACS, CUCM, simple datacenter hardware to train on it to get experience and become expert? I cannot buy all the hardware because it is very very expensive. Will somebody give or lend me access to such this hardware for free or cheeper? Rack rental is also little bit expensive. Imagine how many hours you need to spent to learn something new. And last thing, best practice is real-worls situation not simulated environment. Usually in practice lab ususally you will not experience problems what you have in real world with customers. You had luck that you started your job with ISP. I would very like to train and train and train but no chance to get such a hardware. I very appreciate your answer.

Kent Johnson
Community Member

Marvin, I appreciate all of the information that you provide on the forums!

Thank you,

Kent Johnson

Dennis Furlong
Community Member

Marvin, it's Dennis Furlong. We worked together when I was with Dickstein.  Where are you working at these days.  Drop me a line, I'm looking for a good engineer to possibly contract with on a WAN implementation project.