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Interview with Vinit Jain, Cisco's Top Events Contributor


Vinit Jain is a technical lead with the High-Touch Technical Support (HTTS) team supporting customers in areas of routing, MPLS, TE, IPv6, and multicast. He also supports a wide variety of platform issues such as high CPU; memory leaks; Cisco IOS, IOS XE, and IOS XR Software; and NxOS code base. He has delivered training within Cisco on various technologies as well as platform troubleshooting topics. He has also written a workbook about Cisco IOS XR Software fundamentals on the Cisco Support Community. Vinit has expertise in troubleshooting Service Provider, Enterprise and Data Center environments and holds holds CCIE certification (no. 22854) in R&S, Service Provider, and Security, as well as multiple certifications on programming and databases.


Q1. How did you start your career in Networking?

I actually began my career as a software engineer. I got into programming and software development at an early age. I was one of the youngest corporate trainers in programming and new software development; languages and technologies that were coming out in Microsoft and Java. Then I worked a bit on databases. I was also interested in system administration, wherein after some time I wanted to work on some kind of software to prevent hacking. That’s where I felt the need to learn networks and that’s how I actually got into networks.


Q2. How did you start studying in networking?

I was actually preparing for my MCSE exam, and around that time I had to work on IP addresses, so that’s when I began reading about networks and how IP addressing works, how they are set up, etc. Then the journey actually began with leaning into the CCNA courses.


Q3. What is your technical area of focus at this stage of your career?

Presently, my specialization or most of my time is spent on Routing, MPLS, Multicast, and this is across all platforms like IOS platforms, IOS XR platform, Nexus platform. Whenever a Routing problem comes in, I have to deal with those, on any of the platforms. Apart from this, I have my own interests, I like learning new technologies. For example, I worked on OpenStack and I worked on ACI, though they are not related to my day-to-day job.


Q4. So have you applied any of those new technologies, which you are learning?

Yes, I have my own server space, I keep doing R&D in both OpenStack or ACI related topics, especially in the networks area of OpenStack. That is where I have been trying to implement whatever I have learned or whatever is new and trying to integrate it with the existing technologies that we have.


Q5. How did you get involved with the Cisco Support Community?

The thing is, when I joined Cisco more than six years ago, we had an internal tool to do some research on cases/problems that we got, but lots of times we ended up doing Google searches and we came up with similar questions, or problems, that others might have faced. These quick answers that we got via Google results were often the Support Community answers which experts had given on those forums. Because of that, after a few years of gaining knowledge and experience, I thought I could share it with others, and that’s when I started feeling that now is the time to move to Support Forums and share some knowledge there. There is another factor to it. When we come to the Support Community, we see a wide range of problems, from very basic, to very complex as well. And the fun part is, because it’s not direct communication, you have some time, you have some buffer, you look at some questions your customers have, and you try answering those. At the same time, you help others learn stuff, which is the most amazing fact. I was a CCIE trainer for few months, and I think training is an amazing job. If you share your knowledge, the satisfaction that you get is beyond limits.


Q6. Where do you spend most time in the Community?

Most time I spend is searching for questions. There are some areas where my specialization is so I have already subscribed to those communities, and there are some areas where I think I want to learn more, so I also subscribed to those communities and try to get those questions. Even if I don’t answer them, I try to lab them up, because, they help me learn, but if I’m able to answer, I try to answer them.

Q7. Can you give me the names of a few of the sub-communities you are subscribed to?

Some forums related to the Cisco Modeling Labs, forums related to ACI, forums related to Security. Though I have done work in Security, but my active job doesn’t need any security specialization. Security is one area of my interest, which has always kept me wanting to learn more. Actively, I contribute to Routing, MPLS, IOS-XR and all the Service Provider communities. Those are the areas where I provide the responses most.  


Q8. You’ve done a few webcasts and Ask the Experts with the Community. Which were these and what were your experiences with the events?

How many Ask the Experts- that’s a good question- because I’ve done quite a few. I think I have done one on BGP, I have done another on MPLS Traffic engineering, and on High CPU, I don’t recall the others! On webcasts, I have done a webcast on ‘Configuring and Troubleshooting MPLS VPN’, and another on ‘BGP Fundamentals and Troubleshooting’. I have also done two or three webcasts in Cisco Live along with 2 sessions at Cisco Live itself.


The Support Community events have been fantastic. It was great to have such a huge audience, and at the same time, so many questions coming in, so many thought processes. The thing is, when you are on the training side, or the presenting side, you have limited number of questions in your mind. But, when you are on the receiving side, you get such a variety of questions. Say, for example, there are 500 people attending the session. 500 people might not think in the same way, and that’s the most interesting part, because they come up with these different questions which make you learn more. And maybe think towards the technology in a different way. Because the most interesting researches that have happened, are based on those small thoughts, which we receive from those very basic questions. It might be a very basic question for someone, but there might be a big logic behind those questions. Or maybe, a new idea hidden behind those questions. This is what I always try to look for.


Q9. What was the most memorable experience you have had with the Cisco Support Community?

I think the last one, the webcast, was most memorable. I was not expecting such a huge number of registrations, neither I was expecting such a huge audience. But otherwise, Ask the Expert events have been more interesting because those questions are posted, and, some questions are really very interesting. So it is really fun to do those Ask the Expert events.


Q10. Please give us about an example of something you’ve learned by helping someone else.

So, I was working with someone on an MPLS traffic engineering question, and trying to answer some questions. I had a different opinion about one small feature, but the opinion actually changed after I did the research on it, to answer the question correctly. That was one of the most interesting conversations I recall to date. I think it has been over 5-6 months ago, but it was the most fun discussion that I had.  


My way of answering questions on the Support Forums is usually, before I answer any question, I try to do some research and then answer it. My opinion on a problem may be something, or I may not have come across such a question or problem, but when you actually drill down to answering such a question and you research it, you figure out a lot many things may actually be different than what you think.


Q11. What motivates you to participate in the Community?

Oh, new questions, everyday! This one is easy!


Q12. Do you have any suggestions to fellow members to make the community even better?

I think, there is no time to say that after some days or maybe someday, I will start working on answering questions. If you don’t know the answers, do ask on the forum, there are experts to ask. If you know the answers to the questions, do reply to those, because this is how you gain your credibility and you also gain some more knowledge. This is the only suggestion I can give.


Q13.  What would you say to encourage your peers to participate more on the Community?

I would say first start reading some of the posts or some of the interesting questions, and see what will be the graph of your learning when you try to respond to such questions. That will actually motivate you to become active on the forums and do more stuff.