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Interview with Reza Sharifi: Cisco Support Community Top Contributor


VIP-Logo-regular.jpgPrincipal network architect for the Washington Post, Reza Sharifi is a top contributor in the LAN and WAN Switching & Routing forums.

He says, “The beautiful thing about Cisco Support Community is that you learn at the same time you’re helping other people. Learning from a book is not the same as learning from other people’s real-life questions.”



Q. How did you become interested in networking?


A. In the late ‘80s, I worked for a computer reseller, repairing modems and hard drives. Those were the days when it cost less to fix your computer than to buy a new one! When a customer hired my company to replace their network, I helped to change out the old cabling. That got me interested in networking, and the more I learned, the more interested I became.


Q. How did your career progress?


A. Later I got a job with a research company that had a networking contract with the Department of Defense. The on-the-job training I received prepared me for my next position as a network administrator with GTE Government Systems. We had a big contract with a prison system, and I was lucky to be mentored by some talented networking engineers. In 2002, I took a position with General Dynamics, where I became a senior network architect. Then, in 2013, I joined the Washington Post as principal network architect. We’re in the process of moving to a new data center, and part of my role is to make the transition as smooth as possible.


Q. What do you enjoy most about your work?


A. I’ve been fortunate to work on many big, intricate projects. I really enjoy being exposed to different designs and architectures. 



Q. How did you discover the Cisco Support Community?


A. In 2007, I was working in a lab and needed help with a switch configuration. Cisco Support Community came up in my search results, and I made a mental note to post there the next time I had a question. That opportunity came soon, and Edison Ortiz responded within one hour, suggesting a configuration that worked. I gave Edison the highest ranking, 5 stars, and decided that I wanted to help people in the same way. I began looking for questions that I could answer comfortably, and my participation grew from there.


Q. How do you participate?


A. I mainly follow the LAN and WAN Routing & Switching forums, and also spend some time in the Server Networking forum (Data Center). Whenever I have a spare 10 minutes—at lunch, on the weekends, or even during a lull in one of my kids’ sporting events—I check to see if there’s a question I can answer. I have the Cisco Support Community icon on my laptop and iPad, so it’s easy to check in from wherever I am. It’s my hobby.


Sometimes I ask questions in Ask the Expert sessions about specific products, whether they’re new or old. The experts are good at responding within 24-48 hours.


Q. What motivates you to be so generous with your time?


A. I love helping people. I also truly enjoy technology, so following the forums is fun for me. Sometimes I’ll start reading and answering questions in the evening, and then notice that it’s already midnight! It’s especially rewarding when members let me know that a configuration or solution I suggested helped them out.


The beautiful thing about Cisco Support Community is that you learn at the same time you’re helping other people. Learning from a book is not the same as learning from other people’s real-life questions. In addition to answering questions, I make it a point to read responses from VIPs like Peter Paluch, John Marshall, and Rick Burts because they have so much knowledge to share.





Q. Can you provide any tips for members who post questions?


A. When you post a question, please keep in mind that we’re answering in our free time. We have jobs, families, mortgages, and car payments, so the forums are not the place to be demanding.


My other suggestion is to include as much information as you can. For example, if you’re asking about a Cisco switch, include the model number and IOS version, and then explain your issue. Providing more information in your initial post will help us resolve your issue with less back and forth.


Good to hear about you Reza..