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Listen up: The Network AF podcast is here

Director of Communications

Network AF Podcast

Hear here! Today we’re very excited to share that our Co-founder and CEO Avi Freedman launched a new podcast, Network AF.

If you like nerding out on all-things networking, cloud and the internet, this podcast is for you.

If you like networking how-tos, best practices and biggest mistakes, this podcast is for you.

If you want to up your poker game, well… this podcast might also be for you. (After all, Avi has played at the World Series of Poker and the Ultimate Poker Challenge.)

As a self-proclaimed internet plumber, Avi plays host to top network experts from around the world for in-depth, honest and freewheeling banter on all-things-network.

Network AF is a show about inspiring the next generation of network engineering professionals. In each episode you’ll learn a little about industry changes and trends and what lies ahead. Without further ado…

Network AF, Episode 1:

Career and networking evolution with BGPMon Founder Andree Toonk

In the inaugural episode of Network AF, Avi chats with Andree Toonk, founder of the network monitoring and routing security tool BGPMon. The two discuss Andree’s career and some of the current projects he’s working on.

As a 20-year networking professional based in Vancouver, Canada, Andree says he’s always had one foot in what is now called DevOps and another in networking. During the podcast, he shares a bit from working for various ISPs, OpenDNS and Cisco through the acquisition of BGPMon.

Andree and Avi cover a bunch of topics, including:

  • How to overcome intimidation to learn more advanced networking skills
  • How to stay connected to mentors to provide a path to greater success
  • How to drive growth in your network engineering career
  • Trends in SaaS, zero trust, automation and more

Watch and listen to the episode here, or check out some of the highlights below. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify so you never miss an episode!

And here’s a bit more from the episode…

Andree’s early networking career and mentorship

Andree discovered networking during his time at university because of a Cisco-sponsored lab on campus. The company provided the newest infrastructure equipment, Flash-based tutorials, and Excel materials that were instrumental in growing Andree’s networking skills. Often he would study at that lab until midnight when it would close, meeting new friends and building an obsession for tinkering with networks. Eventually he got a gig at AMS-IX (the Amsterdam Internet Exchange) one of the larger internet exchanges in the world at the time. For him, it’s where the door opened beyond the default routes. He discovered a whole world behind the network, and never left that world.

Hearing of Andree’s past at AMS-IX, he and Avi traded stories about the organization, including its interesting approach to layer zero using Glimmerglass. This prompts Avi to ask Andree about mentorship, about who helped him along the way to learn such complex ideas and information. While Andree had several mentors, he jokes that at the beginning it was his time at SurfNet Communications that really helped him grow his automation expertise. As a new engineer, he often received all the “crappy jobs” like being told to collect all the serial numbers from all the devices. He realized it was a three week job if he went to each device manually, or a two day job writing a program and executing it to do the same thing.

To the point of mentorship, Andree says even if you’re going to get a coffee with a new colleague or having a one-on-one with a peer in the industry it can be useful to hear their approaches to problem solving and what they’re currently working on. He encourages everyone to take the chance to meet with people outside their own company’s bubble, whether it’s reaching out to a professional a few years senior you respect, or someone you’ve enjoyed working with previously. He says it can be scary, but to find someone to regularly have coffee or meet with once a week or per month, but that “you never know where you’ll find gold.”

Avi reinforces this idea that you never really know what will happen from staying connected with people and demonstrating that you’re interested in learning and getting involved in projects. He says that in a healthy company and healthy environment, people will recognize that effort and give you the opportunity to grow.

The world of SaaS networking and Mysocket.io

When asked about his interest in pursuing high-speed networking and the evolution of Linux, Andree talks about the history of his work being a main influence. Seeing “SaaS-y” options sprouting up that packaged traditional networking services made him curious how to build those in a cloud-native way in a virtual environment, both reliably and speedy. He liked the two main problems of solving a distributed computing problem without incurring prohibitive costs, and building hybrid virtual environments that could operate quickly to perform the best of both worlds. Joking that at the time, the main problem he was hearing was how slow Linux was, so he decided to solve for himself “what is slow?”

Andree and Avi then follow this path to discuss custom solutions versus vendor solutions, and how both have different merits but moving toward more custom solutions often means losing vendor support and integrations.

Avi then wants to know what motivates Andree, leading to discussion of Andree’s new service Mysocket.io. This service offers a zero-trust private access solution that replaces VPN solutions with an identity-based zero-trust alternative. This solution allows more control over asset and environment access so that a Wiki-server can point directly to a particular port, acting as a bouncer that sees if someone is allowed and what they’re doing within an organization’s framework. From a technical perspective, he is focused on how to build this in a clientless way where an individual can be anywhere.

Getting started in network engineering and advice to the younger networker

Avi and Andree discuss the idea of getting started despite some of the intimidation that surrounds networking.

“The other thing with networking I’ve found is that it can be hard until you’ve put your hands on it. You think there is complexity that there isn’t,” Avi mentions. He adds that when he was learning BGP, he was always second-guessing himself about the possibility of performance-based speed issues, realizing eventually this was not the case. To this point, Andree agrees and mentions that in his perspective there is no better way to demystify networking than simply getting started and keeping your hands dirty so that those skills are always growing or staying in shape. While he admits that these are time-intensive practices to learn that not everybody has, he urges anyone interested to start at whatever capacity they can given their available time and work balance.

As for advice Andree has for his younger self? He feels very lucky to have stumbled into the right environment with people who were able to guide him through the right risks. But when he thinks about new people entering networking, he advises to make sure to spend time with people you think you can learn from, and find an environment and company where experimentation is encouraged. Without fear, you’ll never learn much. Read and lurk during presentations. And most importantly learn how to code, even if it is just basic scripting and Python. It will set you apart and will make your job a lot more fun, it will “take the handcuffs off,” he says.

Avi adds that as you learn make sure to document and teach! It’s helpful to the community, and somebody else will have experienced the same problem or benefit from you doing that. Take the time to do what you think is interesting, demonstrate passion in your area of interest.

If you’d like to follow Andree’s work or connect, he’s on Twitter @atoonk, or check out his website toonk.io, where he offers insights and writes about adventures in networking and software. And don’t forget to subscribe to Network AF.

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