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Telemetry Now  |  Season 1 - Episode 23  |  September 5, 2023

From bootcamp to code: How military service can shape a career in tech

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In this episode, Shean Leigon and Doug Madory, both veterans of the US Air Force, join Telemetry Now to talk about their experience serving in the armed forces and how that experience helped shape their careers in technology.


Serving in the armed forces can change your life. It can help shape you, mature you, it could help you get direction. It can help you learn valuable technical and life skills and even provide you with some amazing experiences to see the world.

Now everyone's experience is different but that's what my guests on today's episode claim.

Joining me are Sean Legan and Doug Madore, both veterans of the US Air Force with strong opinions about how their service in the US military played a major role in their lives and in their career in technology.

Now this show is a little different today, but that's on purpose. I love hearing about people's life journeys and especially when it comes to tech. And I hope you enjoy it as well. My name is Philip Gervasse, and this is telemetry now.

Sean and Doug, it's great to have you guys back again. Thanks for joining today. For our audience's sake, If you haven't listened to the episode of telemetry now that I recorded with Sean and with Doug, a while back, make sure to check it out in that episode we talked about basically the the career transition from being a traditional network engineer to being more of a cloud engineer or a cloud centric network engineer. And we talked about Sean's journey in that process.

But one of the things that kinda came out of that podcast was was Sean and Doug's experience serving in the US armed forces, specifically the air force and how that helped shape them as people and and their career in tech. I thought it was just so interesting. So I wanted to I wanted to have Sean back and Doug as well and really fleshed that out today. And so as we get started here, Sean, Doug, from a high level, I'd like to know really your experience, what your experience was like serving in the air force.

What what motivated you to enlist? What was that like? What years did you serve? And what what was your role?

Yeah. I, so so I listed. I enlisted in the Air Force. You know, I I made the decision to enlist.

September fourth two thousand and one is when I signed the paperwork. So one week before nine eleven.


So You know, and and for me anyway, like the motivation was basically, like, I had some okay jobs, but, you know, it was, it was like, I need a career. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. All of my friends, it seemed like they had like good jobs or, you know, like things are going well for them. We're either in the air force or used to be in the air force.

So I was like, alright, you know, and I had talked to a bunch of bunch of friends about it. And I kinda went let me down that path. But basically, you know, I I made the decision to join in, I signed all the paperwork. Like I said, September fourth, I I, you know, leading up to that, I knew, like, I need the there's this kind of entrance test supposed to evaluate kind of your different skill sets.

And so you know, it was like, okay, but studied for that one took it and scored pretty high on the electronics section, you know, of the test. It's called the asvab for people that aren't familiar, and it's used across all the, all the armed forces.

And so that determined, like, what jobs I was kind of eligible for. Right? And then, and so anyway, there was this, this kind of neat neat curve field in there and really drew my attention. It was it was called, electronics, electronics computer cryptographic, in net like electronics computer cryptographic networking switching systems. I was like, I don't know what this is, but it sounds cool. Like, and and that was basically, you know, my intro. So anyway, I ended up going off to, I had to wait a little while for a slot to open up in the in the tech school.

Ended off going up to to basic training around like May of two thousand and two and and served six years. So yeah, I mean, at a high level, that's that's pretty much, you know, what got me started and then you know, into into joining the military.

How old were you when you signed those papers in two thousand?

Well, I was, twenty Twenty.

Yeah. Yeah. So a couple years out of high school.

Couple years out of high school. It's a little bit of community college.

But yeah, you know, enough enough experience in the workforce to be like, okay, you know, like, this, this isn't it.

I need to go do something, you know, something else.

And so, yeah, I was twenty years old.

Was it something about the Air Force in particular? Now, you you know, I mean, you said that you had some friends up in the Air Force. So there was that contact that know, those conversations that you had. Was that really the motivating factor?

I I think so. I, you know, my motivation was kinda like, Hey, let me go try and find career or a job that I would like. I thought I would hate the air force. My experience turned out to be completely different than that.

So I thought like, you know, let me be begrudgingly kind of like a sign up and, you know, I'll suck it up and go do this for six years. And, I turned out to be like pleasantly surprised about my experience, but yeah. It was mainly there for, so I knew like, you know, Marines isn't what I wanted to do. You know, army wasn't really it.

You know, my perception at the time, right? Like, being on a ship for six months out of the year didn't sound entirely too fun. So, Air Force it was.

Yeah. I mean, you said it was a week before nine eleven right?

So did you actually, like, I mean, you were still at home, presumably when nine eleven happened?

I I was. Yeah. I was at home and I have older sister. She served in the navy, oddly enough, not in tech or anything, but, we both kind of joined around similar time frames.

And, yeah, she, you know, kinda came and woke me up and was like, hey, you know, go look at the news. So, yeah. Yeah. It was week before nine eleven.

So then I was like, oh, let me go read some books, you know, who's the Taliban? Right? Like, maybe I should know this thing before I before I join and go see what's happening because obviously, you know, my military service might look a little bit different than than some of my friends that had joined you know, largely in like the nineties, right? Kinda like the mid nineties or, on that time frame.

So, yeah.


Doug, I I mean, I know a lot about your experience just because I've been talking to you for the past year and a half working with you. But, what about you? I know you're in the air force, but why? Did you join? And what what did you do?

So let's see. Coming out of high school, I I was college bound, but, was concerned about being able to pay for school. And I suppose in hindsight, I could have put it all in loans but, I I didn't. I was kind of debt averse and also kind of like the idea of being able to have to do something on my own that was gonna pay for, my school.

And so I applied for a, an RTC scholarship with the Air Force. And, I got there's a couple different types. I I guess I don't know how it how it is. I think it's changed a little bit. Now, but in my day, this is like ninety five.

There were three types, each with different levels of, financial assistance.

I've got the top one, the the type one, which is basically whatever the bill comes to.

The air force is gonna pay. They don't actually do that anymore because tuition has gotten so crazy. They do they did eventually have to cap it.

But, in those days, yeah, so I got an ex I got accepted to University of Virginia. I was grew up in New York, so I was out of state, at the time, it felt expensive. Although now, I look back and I was like, oh, I wish I wish a school only cost, what I had to pay out of state, the air force had to pay out of state for me. But, anyway, so it was a there was a definitely the number one thing was a financial consideration.

My father was also, was enlisted in the air force. He was actually the same as Sean. He was a two e two. Right? That's what you were. Right? So he was the same same career field.

What's that, Phil?

What is it? Two e two?

So in the we and the air force is called AFSC Air Force Specialty Code is the is the alphanumeric, you know, code for the career field that you're in.

I think the other services say MOS, is the same acronym. And so it's whatever whatever the job you were. So Sean was a two e two.

That's his, that was his, career field. As was my father who worked on radar.

In the nineteen sixties. And so we had, yeah, most most of the men in my family were, have been served in the military.

Even with my my wife's family as well.

Ultimately. But, so, yeah, it seemed like Like, let's see if I can get a scholarship. I got the scholarship.

I did ROTC at the University of Virginia for four years. And, following that was commissioned as a second lieutenant. As a communications officer. So my AFSC or my MOS was, a three three S is the communications officer. So you're someone who's involved in all of the, the technical means of keeping the military communication up. So, Yeah.

And so then yeah. So then I entered active duty in nineteen ninety nine. And my my so that usually when you go like Sean mentioned this as well, once you enter active duty, you get through your initial training, then, go do some sort of a, kinda like a trade school, tech school, something to, teach you your specialty. And so, Sean is describing what it where a two e two goes, so I was a communications officer. I went to Keissler Air Force Base in Belaxi, Mississippi.

I was there for six months.

And, Yeah. I did well there. I I finished first of my class, which was kind of good because you get a little DG designation and then that, you know, when you wanna go to another a base, like, you're you're competing for the next assignment. So having those, types of, laccolades on your on your military resume help, for getting a little bit of preference. I mean, number one preference is where the Air Force wants to send you or where the needs are.

Way down on that list or where do you go? And are you, worthy of what you're asking for?

But, yeah. So so Sean mentioned, you know, he went through a basic training for officers.

There's So I did ROTC, which we have, we have, like, an officer basic training, between a sophomore junior year of college, and, and or you can do OTC, which is is the officer training school where you you didn't do RTC as well as a longer version of the boot camp kind of thing that I did.

And in it, your It doesn't have anything to do with your specialty. It's just, you know, can you, exist in a kinda high stress military environment, getting yelled at. And, yeah, I don't know.

So you you, were freshmen in college at, was it UVA, you mentioned? Yeah. At UVA in nineteen ninety five, And then after four years graduated in ninety nine, and then you went active duty in ninety nine. And that was for an additional what is it?

The the contractors five years if you're already yeah.

It owed four years. So, basically, this yeah. So, so it was four years active duty in the four years you're in the, the individual ready reserve, which is like a really lowest level of, reserves where there's absolutely nothing you have to do. You're you're just still in the system.

I don't know. When I got out, in two thousand and four, there it was not a, it was a non zero probability that you could get.

We we called to service. They were having issues with retention and army had stopped gap. You couldn't, you couldn't leave, you know, so we didn't have that thankfully.

And, you know, if if the US military wish to exercise it, they would have the power to compel me to come back, and maybe even turn me into a you know, an army infantry officer or something, but, I don't know of any, that never happened. And nobody, you know, got got pulled in and reclassed as, something else. But, anyway, so I, yeah, I owed I owed four years. I ended up serving over five partly because I took, an overseas assignment and, was stationed at Aviano Air Base, North of Venice, Northern Italy, of, and because because I was, married, then, I, it went from a two year assignment to a three year assignment, and and then I had to sign something saying, I can't leave until I'm done with three years in Italy, but I in my mind, I was like, I three years in Italy, that's not, that's a cell.

The air force was holding Doug hostage.


You're gonna you're gonna force me you're gonna force me to live in the, in the Doloway Mountains for another year.

Exactly. Okay. Like, so I that part wasn't. That wasn't bad. I would have, I I probably would have done another another year. There. It was really nice.

So you were active duty when nine eleven occurred. And then for the second half of your four year career in the air force, that's when we were, engaged in the war in Afghanistan. And so acquaintly Iraq. But what was your actual, like, role? What was your assignment when you first started?

Yeah. So I had been in Aviano. So so I did I did well. My first assignment was as a Kind of like not very similar to an IT, role as a junior network engineer, And so I I arrived in San Antonio, Texas, at what was then called the Information Wharfur Center. Now it's changed to, like, six times. I don't know what it's called now, but it's it's part of, lackland Air Force Base, part of the Air Intelligence Agency.

And, they did a lot of cool stuff, there, but I was kinda just maintaining the networks. And, so they they had money to send me to Cisco classes and kinda dived into that. And I still think that the whole curriculum is if you're if you're new to the space, that's a great way to get get get into it. Obviously, you need to be a practitioner to really master it, but the I thought the, the academics was, really well done.

And so I started take passing certification exams and, you know, but it it was very similar to what a civilian IT person would have done. And then I, took over the, that we had a solaris administration. I don't know if people use Silaris anymore, but that was that was the DOD thing back then was Salaris, UNix. And, in my group, nobody no, none of the officers wanted to touch anything unix.

They're like, ugh, like, that's awful. And I was, and I was the opposite, like, I was, like, I would love to do this. And they're like, really? And I was like, I was like, well, you're now in charge.

And so they gave that to me and it was, yeah, so that was, it was fun.

But then yeah. So the I I did I did well there and then, got a, I got gifted or I got, you know, rewarded with this, command position in Aviano, and that's where I met, Sean. So I was his commanding officer. And so I was a whatever. As a twenty four year old, I became, the commander of this, communications flight that supported this squadron that would deploy out and set up radar in a battle, you know, wartime situation.

So we were a mobile unit. It was a lot of lot of a lot of responsibility, a lot of, you know, a lot of a lot more stress than just keeping the networks up. And then not only that, like, I was in charge of fifty five enlisted people.

And when I arrived, the first, my senior enlisted, off, at CIDR NCO that was, kind of my sidekick running the flight. She had been in the air force longer than I had been alive.

And I was her I was her boss. So those are those kind of like the weird dynamics you run into in the air force. But there's like a, you know, you after you you're living it for a little while, there's a way there's a there's a there's a reason why this is done and this has been done for a long time.

And there's a, there is some logic to it. And you just have to in both both roles both as the the baby lieutenant, who's commanding someone who's been in the military longer than they've been alive, from each person, there's a role to play of just how do you how do you, you know, you gotta get the mission done, but then also how do you treat this other person you know, you you you need to tell them what what you think needs to be done. You also take a lot of their advice and really consider it considering they've got a thousand times more experience than you do Sure. At that time.

A lot of responsibility for anybody, but I can't imagine, especially for a twenty four year old kid.

Yeah. No. As a kid, I I honestly, it was it was actually really hard, to be honest. So that was quite a transition from being a, you know, sitting in a cubicle doing, logging into Cisco routers, writing shell script to maintain, solaris stuff.

I had a couple contractors and enlisted guy that worked for me with a little team. And then now I'm standing in front of, this, unit that, has to deploy at a moment's notice into wherever. And, that was, That was a really hard there was no tech like, I had no technical responsibilities. It was pure leadership, dealing with the good and the bad that goes with that.

So I was I was pretty unhappy the first few months, and I tried my best to get out of it.

I tried to transfer into the so at Aviano, there's a, at every base, there's a communication squad call it comm squadron. And that's basically the IT shop for the base. So they handle all the, you know, the email, the networks, all this stuff.

And, and so that's where the traditional IT stuff. Again, you could take you could pluck somebody out of civilian IT and put them in. They they do fine and vice versa. They get really a lot of it's really equivalent.

And, and so I was in this, you know, quasi army unit, and I was like, get me into the comms squad, and I'll do anything. And, and they they wouldn't let me go. And, and over time, I kept I tried many times over my three years, and eventually I became, too valuable to the the deployable squadron I was in, and they wouldn't let me go because I had already been there, too long.

But Did you get the special identifier?

Oh, what's that?

Well, so, like, I know in the list of people that happen more with the operators, but you get a special identifier where that you're qualified to work up a unit. And basically, you're only going to those units.

Yeah. No. They don't like that. They don't do that for officers.

That's good. Yeah. That's great. Yeah. You need the diversity of yeah. Yeah. It makes sense.

Makes sense.

No. They don't. They they they definitely issue that for the officers because the idea is for the officers. And again, this is not just Air Force. You you're supposed to have a breadth of knowledge because one day you're gonna be a general you know, like you everybody's on this career path, and you have to have, done all these different things. So you can't stay in one place for a long time. And in the, in contrast, that's acceptable to a much larger extent, in, at the unlisted level, or you could stay somewhere five, eight years, in one base.

So you guys served, not necessarily the exact same years, but there was an overlap And, we've heard all about Doug's accolades being top of his class and all that, but I wanna hear the dirt.

At some point, Sean, you did serve under under Doug's leadership. So I I wanna hear about that.

So strict to all of us.

No no enjoying work. I mean, from the moment we showed up to the moment we left, it was like, you have to be, you know, top notch. No, I'm kidding.

No, it was it was, you know, as he alluded to, right? Like, it it's funny all these years to kinda to kinda hear from his side.

I think it was a, I think stressful environment just one because what was happening in a two, like type of unit in the area.


Like, the the whole idea of our unit is, like, you know, go deploy somewhere. So you do a lot of exercises, like, Our day to day was basically like training and exercises. This was our day to day to go deploy somewhere. Right?

So we'd have, like, I remember you know, we had this thing where, like, everybody got recalled, which basically just means they they call you off PTO, they call you off whatever you're doing. Everybody, like, goes to work and It was like, Hey, we might get deployed. So we're working eighteen hour days and, you know, palletizing equipment, which just means you you pack all the equipment up in these pallets. They have to you have to be able to like, you know, specify kind of like your your load and and the equipment that you need, go get this job done based on a set of parameters and then pack it all up and it has to fit on x amount of aircraft.

Right? There's there's a bunch of planning logistics that goes into it. And, you know, we're all working eighteen hour days to go get all this put together and you make sure that everything's you know, ready. And of course military being military, there's even a little bit of, you know, I think like heightened you know, heightened kind of pressure around this.

Then I remember, like, at the last moment, it was like, well, you know, the the joint chiefs instead of sending three hundred and forty or four people to go to this job. The joint chiefs decided to send, like, twenty five marines.

You know, to go do it. Stand down. You don't have to go on this deployment. It was like, okay.

And then, you know, next thing we know, I mean, I think it's like three months or four months later, you know, a bunch of people are going out to a NATO exercise and pull in and then a bunch of other a month after that, we're all the point in Iraq for for seven months. Right? And so, it was super interesting because, like, a lot of the job is, like, set up, tear down, set tear down. You know, so that requires kinda like you you get some exposure to a different type of, you know, the different type of work than showing up somewhere and like everything's set up and you're maintaining it.

Right? And so, you know.

Yeah. On that, like, that's the setup stuff. So that was one of my, responsibilities I had the inherited was just like, how do we how do we organize and efficiently set up a site? And so just to so people are familiar.

For our unit, we had, like, a hundred and twenty people, that we would deploy with, you know, give or take. And then we would have, satellite equipment would be our main connection back to the world, and there'd be a big dish. And and then from that link, then there were, multiplexers and router eventually you get the routers and phone lines and stuff, and there are different teams who would do these different things. But, we had to be able to arrive on scene and be up and operational in like twenty four hours.

And so you have both a lot of work to do and a lot of people to do it, but that's, but somebody has to figure out how to, how to make this happen and what has to be done before or something else. And who's working on, you know, where are their shortfalls in labor. And so it is a really unique, type of type of problem, but, we would just practice this a lot and just get get to know what works and it doesn't work.

I mean, you guys seem to have had a tremendous experience So looking back in hindsight, right? And I know this is kind of off the cuff here. So, you know, feel free to take a moment to think about it. But what do you think are the opportunities that you got to have because of your service in the armed forces and specifically the air force that you don't think you would have had otherwise.

You know, for for me, I think, you know, there's probably like a a a a fairly long list. Right? You know, there's kind of the you know, there's a set of, like, hard technical skills that I think are there. You know, but I'll I'll kinda mention first, you know, the military, I mean, it's it's definitely a diverse workforce. Right? So you kind of think about like working with a diverse group of people.

And and you know, it's not the same as quite working in the civilian world. Right? There's kind of that. There's a little bit of more rigor and structure around it that kind of you know, people learn to behave in a way that, you know, you can write a diverse workforce, right? But it's still it's still there and it's still important.

You know, there's really no There's there's not a lot of, like, right wrong or indifferent. There's not a lot of time to kind of show up with you know, your your quote unquote baggage, right? The the stuff that you're doing is super important.

The attention to detail Like, I know that might sound kinda cliche, but things like, you know, actually paying attention to details because it could be a little stuff where, like, You know, I mean, I used to, you know, have to know how to solder circuit boards. Right? Like, now that's not really a skill you do today. But, you know, you have to learn how to sa CIDR circuit boards.

You have to learn, you know, this, like, how to do some field level, like, in-depth maintenance on equipment that you know, you only have x amount of spares. You're not going to order more. Right? Like this way, and so, like, if you break it, you know, the consequences to that, right, is, is significant.

So again, like paying attention to these kind of little little little things really coming to play you know, really paying attention to the minute details, understanding and and kinda learning some of this comes with experience, right, but kinda learning, like, the important things to kind of pull out and and and pick up and pay more attention to than some of the others. I mean, you know, I guess could you learn those you know, in other roles or are they exclusive to the military? No, they're not exclusive to the military, but boy, you know, for myself, I mean, by the time I got to you know, I finished my tech school and I got to Italy.

I'm like the reverse of dog. Italy was my first base, and then I went to go I left Italy, I went to go work in in a comm squadron at a network center, like running the network. But, you know, at that age, right? Like most you know, I, most twenty twenty, I was twenty one by the time I got to Italy, right?

Most twenty one year olds, you're not exposed to those types of things. Right?

So Right.

Learning some of those skills sometimes comes a lot later, you know, I think. And so for myself, like it was really advantageous. Know, to be able to kind of pick that up. I I later, you know, my military career kinda like after Aviano, you know, got the opportunity to go work in some areas and work, you know, across branches and these joint teams that I think was like pretty that was pretty unique. And then it was like, okay, you know, you're getting inserted into kind of this, this, you know, bigger organization and figuring out how to go function and and, you know, show up and provide like significant value because the work that you're doing you know, it's incredibly important.

And and so I think, you know, for some people that might feel intimidating, I didn't I I felt like well prepared to go do it, at that point. And so I think that that, you know, like just having, you know, you build like a level of confidence Right? Like all of those things again at a at a young age. Even then, right?

That was in my early twenties, you know, kinda going and doing this stuff that, you know, Literally, I could I could see, you know, the work that I would do and it, like, hey, it allowed, like, other people that were over there, like, you know, hunting down Al Qaeda and going out on missions and stuff like, oh, the work that I do, like, if I do this correctly, like, maybe they get to go home you know, at the end of this deployment. Yeah. Right? Like, maybe they get to go home to their family.

Because the work I'm doing is allowing them to share information with others. It's gonna be super important.

That that type of, you know, it's it's hard to kind of get that level of you know, if you wanna call it like mission focus or whatever, right? Like that level of kinda like I get to see the reward and the work that I'm doing and understand how important it is.

You know, I would say I would say on that, Sean, like, you it's not hard to get fired up, about what you're doing.

When you're in that kind of environment, whereas I think, outside of a, a military, or something like that.

Maybe you're you're you're at Dunder Mifflin. You're on, you know, selling paper or something, like, that's something, you know, comedic example, but like it's hard to get fired up about selling paper.

Like it's, but you can get, you get pretty, pretty motivated, I mean, you both mentioned hard skills, just having worked with specific gear.

And Doug, you talked about going through the Cisco certification path for a time. Right? And I assume, Sean, there was a lot hard training there. I mean, you were in a training program. Right?

You also alluded us a lot of soft skills. So, you know what? I mean, I I wanna know why then you transitioned or rather you chose to stay in the tech field when you left the air force. I mean, I'm assuming it's because you already had that background and maybe it was an easier transition. I don't know, but why is it that you then chose to not do something else, but instead stay with tech.

Yeah. Happy to I I could say for myself, right? Like, you know, getting exposed to networking, like, that's I was like, oh, wait, I can do what with packets. Right? Like, first, it was just troubleshooting, you know, and you're like, okay.

It is cool.

I You know, so first, it was like, you know, you know, like, Hey, the printer doesn't work.

Right? And, I mean, if you wanna get motivated to become a better technician, like, go work on printer right? Because it defies all logic. Yeah.

They're so painful. And so I was like, I'm working on printer tickets and there's other people that are working on more important stuff. And I wanna get the hell off these printer tickets. So, you know, I went and really applied myself to to, you know, doing something more valuable, but you know, for me, like, I was, you know, I kind of the same same thing like Doug mentioned, right?

Like, I I got to go through, you know, different Cisco courses, you know, really learn, I mean, everything from, like, the the foundational fundamentals of, like, how ethernet works, right, to to, okay, here's how you operate a network. Right? Here's, you know, there's a lot of layer two kind of stuff at the time, right? A lot of old, like, catalyst four thousand five hundred and, you know, some pretty older older switches.

But even like Cat OS prior to Cisco iOS, good amount of that too. But, you know, it was like doing a lot of that, then I was like, oh, this is cool, right? And even at the time, I could see where, like, everything was running on the network. And I mean, that was you know, early two thousands.

Right? Like, you today, it's, you know, incredible. I mean, as you were describing, right, you're kinda like, talking about the the work that you do and it helps impact others. Right?

And we think about, like, the whole experience of everybody going to remote during COVID, Right? It's like, hey, internet and BGP can handle this. Right? Like, you know, it's pretty cool.

I don't know. I I Yeah. I think that's pretty amazing when you really think about what what's happening with it. So for me, I actually left.

It's it's so funny because the reason I left the military was You know, I was trying to kinda look and play out my next steps and, I enjoyed the Air Force way more than I thought that I would. They actually took you know, really good care of me. I had some incredible leaders and supervisors and met some great people in the air force.

You know, and, I mean, shoot my wife and I met, you know, the air force. Right? So, really, you know, for me, I enjoyed it. I was like, oh, I could stay in and keep doing this.

But it was actually like I was looking at the the real, you know, technical in-depth, like, if you wanna really spend and networking, those positions tended to kinda get contracted out, right, where you'd become a defense contractor. And so, you know, because military longer. You're in. You're gonna pick up some leadership skills and kinda, you know, they're gonna move you around even as an enlisted person.

Sure. You might have a a specialty, but things change. Right? And so I was like, Oh, I really enjoy this and I wanna stay really technical.

So I'll get out and become a defense contractor and go get my CCNP type thing, right? Like that was my.


And you know, that's what I did.

Right? Like that's pretty much the path that I took. But, so for me, it was it was clear. I actually was getting out because I found what I loved doing, you know, in in the air force if that makes any sense.

Oh, it makes total sense. Yeah. I mean, I love what we do as well. A different different path, different experience for sure, but, you know, I remember doing printer tickets on a help desk.

My my initial impetus get. I was a high school teacher. I taught high school English for five years, and, I the very very, very rewarding, but I wanted to make more money and I wanted to have a project never ended. I'm kind of a type a.

And so I was like, oh, I I need to I'm teaching Julius Caesar again this year. Yeah. You can change the lesson plan a little bit. And it's rewarding the work with young people.

Yes. But for me personally, I'm like, I gotta do something else. So I got into tech originally for the money and for the, like I said, the never ending project is just never ending stuff to do, and I wanted that. And, when I got into tech, I was fixing printer tickets or rather, you know, addressing and then fixing the printer, which, like you said, defied logic a lot of the time.

But nevertheless, that's what you did. You know, you change passwords and then you start doing level two stuff and and and that. And that's what happened to me. Again, different paths.

Yeah. Sure. So for Doug, I mean, and and for Sean, both of you guys how how is your experience then played a role in your career in the past years? How how many years since you've been in tech in a civilian capacity?

You've already went through a lot with me to tell talk about leadership and obviously you did some Cisco stuff. So you learned some of the basics about Ethernet and things like that. But beyond that, how has your experience contributed to where you are today?

Or, baby, I'll go for I'll I'll I'll just mention it quickly of my, so I I had to decide, a little like Sean, like, again, it's it's even worse as an officer of, like, as you as you stay in and move up, you're gonna get farther and farther away from, hands on technical stuff. And it's a little more just management, leadership.

And I had to make a decision how much Did I wanna do that, versus, like, you gotta figure out what's what makes you happy. And, I was, I think I was happier. I still am, with the, getting close to the technical stuff. And I, in two thousand and three, at that point, I hadn't decided to leave yet.

But I had, started a dialogue with the US Air Force Academy where they had a program where they would pick you up to be an instructor and they would send you to graduate school somewhere, where they recover it. And, and then, so I had is a there's kind of an informal process and then there's a formal process. And so I had an informal conversation, and they were they were gonna pick me up as an air force academy instructor and then sent me to a civilian grad school of my choosing. And then, I so then I started shopping around for grad schools and, in the end, I made a trip back to, yeah, right around the same time.

I I made a trip back to the US. So I was living in Italy. You went back to, the US to visit, Dartmouth. I met, the guy who ended up being my adviser.

And, and he basically made an offer, and he's like, we're gonna we'll we'll pay for you to come to grad school for free. Like, we'll, in fact, you'll get a stipend. You'll essentially get paid to go to grad school here at Ivy League institution. I was like, there's no strings attached.

Like, I was just I didn't understand. I couldn't compute that with my military mind because everything you get in the air force, there's kind of a string attached. You have a call active duty service obligation. So if you they pay for more school, then you have to stay in for a little longer.

And it, and to get something, I was like, like, I just don't get this. I I even asked him, like, can you put that in writing? You know, he thought it was really funny. He's like, yeah, we could put that in writing.

That's fine. Is like this is pretty standard. He had grant money. And, and so then around the same time, I got back to Aviano when the Air Force County was like, where you'd have to commit to a p PhD at, the Air Force Institute Technology in Dayton, Ohio.

And I was like, well, I was like, Darma is offering me free, like, a free master's degree if I go. And so it kinda made the decision fairly easy. So I ended up actually filing my paperwork to leave the air force before we deployed to Iraq. So it was already, I've already I was already on my way out And then we, Sean and I went to Iraq.

Anyway, so then I went to graduate school. I I lucked out. We're both now my undergrad and my graduate school. I never paid a dollar of tuition.


It's very hard to do that these days. Both things.

Oh, yeah.

The, you know, the the Razi scholarship now is capped and, schools. It's really rare to get a master's degree. They'll pay for PhD, but a master's degree, to get that covered with grant money.

And, At an elite school, no no no.

Yeah. It was a pretty good school. And so then, Yeah. And then I started working as a defense contractor a little like Sean, and I was like, I I kinda wanna do something different, worked in healthcare IT for a bit, and then landed in, this little internet measurement startup cold Renaissance that, and that kind of set me on the path that I'm on now.

Yeah. The rest is history.

You know, I think I think one of the interesting things, like, Doug, for you that's cool, and I think a little bit for, for, you know, a little bit unique in the industry. It's like you bring this element of kind of like geopolitics to what's happening with the internet. Right? And kinda like marry these two things together.

And so from from my perspective, it always seems like this good kind of mixture of you know, your your time in the service, your air force backgrounds, and kind of things that you're exposed to. And then, you know, on the on the non technical side of that, right? And then kinda like bring in the technical side of it too. And I think it's always interesting because to me, like, it brings a really cool, like, human element to, you know, it's not these aren't just routes being change between routers.

Right? This is, you know, there's a, college exams happening in this country and they shut down the internet. You know, there's all these different things happening in the world. Right?

And we watch like the intersection of these two things occur, you know, from a lot of your your you know, analysis and reporting back on it. And I think it's just, I don't know. It's pretty unique.

Yeah. I would draw. I would draw a line. I would draw a line from that of living overseas definitely was following the news very closely.

We were following September eleventh, and, yeah, that I arrived in Aviano, August two thousand and one, September eleventh was the following month. So all that one month, we were on the hook of getting our chain yanked to get deployed.

And like you mentioned this a minute ago of, I think every deployable unit, across the entire department of defense was having having this experience where they were constantly getting recalled back from vacation or something, start packing now, stand down this isn't the time. Okay. Now it is. Now it isn't, you know, you'd be, and eventually you end up going.

But, yeah, I guess the, I guess, the, as far as soft school. There's probably a a variety of skills. One, I I I guess I'm more of an introvert than an extrovert, and the experience of having to be in charge of all these people and getting up to speaking and, that was a big growth, experience for me. And that definitely has a big shape definitely shapes how I am today. Like, the the person, the Doug going into that job, and then the Doug that came out three hours late, three year three years later, very different people, you know, demonstrating a lot more confident like Sean is mentioning.

So, I mean, you guys have mentioned all of these positives. I don't wanna be contrarian, but I kinda do a little bit. I mean, is there anything that you can think of that you'd say? Honestly, this was kind of a negative experience that was something I had to work through when I transitioned to civilian life or when I got into civilian tech.

I've got a quick one. The Right. Definitely comes to mind. So I mentioned I worked with health care IT, and I was in a situation there where, there was don't wanna, I don't need to derail this whole conversation to explain, but it was just basically, it was a, I was the IT security off officer, the head of the networking services did not wanna cooperate. There was a lot of conflict, a lot of, yeah, a lot of conflict in the job, a lot of arguments.

Yeah, pretty tense. And I was, as a young man, was like, I don't I don't care. I will not back down. I will fight this, you know, and at some point, I you, that's I wouldn't make that decision today. I I, like, looking back on it, it was a it was a scenario where I probably should have left earlier.

And the reason I stayed as long as I did was, because of maybe, maybe a bit of pride and also just, feeling like I I gotta win. I gotta I gotta, don't back down kinda thing. But I think I I feel like that was a little bit of a mental military mentality where you're like you can't You have to keep fighting. You have to keep, you cannot, give up on, getting to advocate for your thing, but at some point, you do have to recognize you're in a bad situation and you just have to leave, like, sometimes that's just the, you don't have, you don't have control of the environment. So, don't know. I had to I had to kinda learn that, after after getting out of the military.

I mean, that sounds like a good quality, a good a good character trait. Sticking to something and and pushing until you get your, you know, accomplish your goal.

Yeah. You just have to know. You have to know when when the time's up, and I I went.

Yeah. Right. Right. Yeah. It's more nuanced than that, isn't it, in real life? Yeah.

You know, for me, like, I don't know. I was pretty I was pretty fortunate. I'd say that probably one of the more challenging things maybe coming out You know, I I I kinda, you know, I was able to to work across, like, when I was still in, I I, you know, kinda volunteered to go do this assignment because I was getting the deployment, and she wanted to go deploy again and ended up going with, like, a, there's a really Lane did a really cool job, like unbeknownst to myself, and I know what I was getting into, but it's, you know, can I go in and working with this, this joint special operations command?

So it was just a really interesting dynamic environment. But, you know, after that and then getting out of the air force and going in becoming a defense contractor that, you know, the perspective changes a little bit. Right? The value that I brought to the employer was not only the the skill set that I had in security clearance that I had, but also, you know, kind of that that, ability to, like, align around a common vision, you know, kind of, kind of building unity of effort, you might call that mission oriented.

Like, that was a value that I brought to. But the dynamic there is like much different. Right? You're kinda going into this business world where, you know, it's much different than in the Air Force.

Some of the metrics in a business world that they go look at is, you know, significantly different than in the military, where there's all these things that you have to kind of consider that don't really, you know, come into play. The other thing that I realized quickly, so so I'll say one like that wasn't is just a bunch of skills I didn't really have. Right? And the of kinda like it was a completely new environment. And so it took me a while, I think, to kinda figure that out.

The other one was that I didn't really realize some of the common kind of unifying character traits of being in the military.

You know, it's one of those things like you take it for granted till you don't till it's not there. And so once I kind of, you know, quote unquote entered the civilian workforce a little bit more, you know, there's, there's extremely different levels of, like, work ethic that that people have in different things that motivate them. And, you know, you know, that's not always a bad thing, right? Like sometimes, you know, there's work that has to get done and you need somebody to go get that work done and kind of maintain some things.

And there's value that they bring to the table that, you know, they might not be the the a type top performer on the team. Right? But, like, you can't have, you know, by definition, everybody on the team a top performer. Right?

You need You need some folks that they're like, you know what? I wanna show up and go do this stuff. And sure I'll handle these things that need to get done, and I'll be content with that.

It took me a little bit to respect that, to be honest. So so that was like a little bit of a a little bit of an adjustment, but overall, I mean, I there's, you know, I I didn't have much of a much of a downside.

I might I might hop on, Sean. Something you had mentioned a a while back here of, some of the maybe get back on the positive things of strengths.

You had mentioned diversity.

And I feel like there's, that too is something that struck me. And, was that there are people coming from every walk of life, of American society, entering, you know, and they were just kinda thrown together.

Variety races, religions, we've got inner city guys with guys from little little, rural town, somewhere in America.

And everybody learns how to work together. And, and so there's a very, very cool egalitarian element to that that, and there's people I I I probably wouldn't have otherwise interacted with that I had to work with that I think was, it's a really neat. That's a it's a, it's a very unique, environment. That make, the military in that respect.

So then, here's here's my last question for you guys. What would be your advice to someone today, right now, who is considering enlisting in one of the armed services, maybe considering getting into tech as a career or this is kind of weird maybe considering doing both. What would you say to them?

I to to me, I would encourage anyone, you know, to go do it, especially if you don't If you're like a little bit on the fence, you're not really sure what you want to do and you need some direction, you know, look, everybody's experience is different.

There's people go enjoy the military and they're like, they hated it, right? Didn't work.

But that provided them direction.

I mean, like, like, you know, it's a perspective, right? Like, that's true. Right. Sometimes you learn what you don't wanna do. Right? And so, you know, I am fortunate that that was in my scenario.

The benefits that I from that six year enlistment, right? You know, I mean, it helped pay for my college. Right? I I did a little bit started a bit of college and in the military and then, you know, coming out of it, it helps pay for all my college tuition, which wasn't cheap.

It helped provide you know, not only all the direction for things, but also, you know, I get, you know, if I I can buy a house easier with a VA loan and don't require money down. Right? There's, there's, like, all these little things from my service that throughout the course of my life if continued to benefit me, is kind of like a redeeming value that just kind of continues. And so I would say you know, there's a lot.

There's a lot you can get out of it. It's like anything. Right? You you gotta put some in, you know, you gotta put skin in the game to get something out of it.

The military is no different than that. You can I know people that went in there four years and then went back home and picked up right back where they were before they left off? Right? So Like, you have to put something into it to to get out of it.

But, to me, I I think there's a lot there. If you look at you know, just the the the state of cybersecurity today. And if you wanted to go or you have maybe an inkling of an interest in that type of career field. Like, I wasn't in cybersecurity.

Right? Those fields in the military when I joined were, like, kinda didn't exist when I first joined. Right? But you can look at that today.

I don't know if there's a better place out there to go learn, cyber security, right, and those type of capabilities. Yeah. Right. Sure.

You know, My security clearances took me in all sorts of jobs. I mean, I I came out making a fantastic salary for somebody at the time with no college degree.

You know, six years of experience and a security clearance, I, it, again, it set me on a good path.

So Yeah.

I know watching some of the, the airmen that were in our squadron.

It's interesting to see the ones that were really taking advantage of the situation, you know, to their extent. It kinda had how to mature enough to have a plan of, trying to get some skills, not blow too much of their money.

I don't know. There was a kid.

I don't know what Sean is. I remember there was a kid, Ruben.

I forget what group he was with was. Anyway, He we had some conversation. You'd find these weird things as well where you'd you'd, you'd have the younger guys would, like, reenlist to get a little bonus and then they're driving like a brand new BMW or something, in the parking lot and the, officers are driving the ninety two Honda. And, I had conversation with this one kid.

And, he, I was like, you're not gonna do that. Right? And he's like, no. He's like, fact, he's like, I don't spend, like, almost any of my money, because I, I'm living in the dorms all my food is covered, and my plan is to try to save every dollar.

Like, I have a hundred percent disposable income, my my salary, and I was like, man, what a this kid's nineteen. He's like, he's act he's, he's got a plan like fifty year old. So, like, how would you maximize the benefit? And he he had studied the system.

He was like, I'm maximizing everything that I can get out of the I don't know where that guy is now. But I'm sure he's I'm sure he's doing great. I was just like I was like, I never really thought about it. Like, but, yeah, like you.

So I I think of that guy and I think of, like, of a a kid who, you know, there's a lot. I think there's a lot of, a lot of, young people out there are sufficiently bright to learn any of this stuff.

And, yeah, if they can make the cut, like, the air for the air force, and I guess the model for all the military, you know, you're you're bringing a lot of people. You're bringing a lot of people and, assuming some of them are gonna work out and be, be highly skilled. And then somewhere that you have to get to get rid of a bunch. And that's just the way it works.

A company wouldn't we'd go out of business if I had to operate like this, but, just to hire legions of people right out of high school. And, but if you are if you turn out to be, a smart, useful person, then there's, like, so much training money to be showered on you. You may not make a huge salary, but they've got a lot of money to train you. And if you seem like you have some, ability to be trained, then you're gonna be getting a lot of this.

And, anyway, so I think there's a lot of opportunity for, for folks, especially these days. So I think, if you don't know, you know, like Sean said, if you don't, you're not set on your direction. You're trying to figure it out.

It's a great, I think there's a lot of opportunity there. And you can learn a lot of skills and then you can leave and go do something else. Like Sean and I did or you can say, like it's it's up to you.

But at that point in your life, it's a great time to, to also not just get the skills, but then go get stationed overseas, you know, go to Oh, yeah.

Live in a league, live in Japan. I probably I if I was to tell a high school kid, I was like, go enlist and get stationed in Germany or Japan or somewhere. Go live overseas because you'll never you may never do it again. And most people never have that, opportunity.

It's just an amazing When I arrived, Tatalie, I was like, they're never getting rid of me.

Like, if they keep this up.

Well, guys, I'm really glad to hear that you had such positive experiences. Anyway, I appreciate, you guys joining me today and for your, your stories, your experiences, and and your advice to those that are looking at this as an opportunity, for themselves, whether it be, serving in the military, getting into tech, both So, you know, as we wrap up here, Sean, can how can folks reach out to you online?

Yeah. I'm still on Twitter. I'm not gonna call it X.

I'm on Twitter. So, yeah, Sean l v s h e a n l v. And then, you can find me on LinkedIn to usually Usually LinkedIn is not the best place to reach out to me. I usually ignore messages, but Twitter, is is probably the best spot. So Yeah. Thanks, Phil for for having me on. Much appreciated.


No. It was my pleasure. Great. And, Doug, how about you?

I'm on Twitter. I'm also on LinkedIn. And I will respond to your message on LinkedIn, unlike some people.

I usually, you know, people send me, I I'll write something. I gotta I just wrote a couple things recently. I get a bunch the, like, friend requests or whatever you call it on LinkedIn. I usually write a little message back to the person that tried to do this, and just say, Thanks for linking, with me.

If there's anything I can do for you, let me know. And, I I try to do that every time, and I, every once in a while, it sparks a great conversation most people are just like, oh, thanks. And I was like, okay. And then every once in a while there's somebody somewhere in the world with some interesting story to tell me.

So I will I will respond.

Yeah. So for our audience out there, if you are interested in connecting with Doug on LinkedIn, I encourage you to do that right now in spark an entire conversation of, of of of great depth and insight with our director of internet analysis.

Now, on the serious note, if, if you have an idea for a show or you'd like to be a guest on telemetry now, I do encourage you to reach out to us at telemetry now at kintech dot com. And, of course, thanks for listening, and until next time. Bye bye.

About Telemetry Now

Do you dread forgetting to use the “add” command on a trunk port? Do you grit your teeth when the coffee maker isn't working, and everyone says, “It’s the network’s fault?” Do you like to blame DNS for everything because you know deep down, in the bottom of your heart, it probably is DNS? Well, you're in the right place! Telemetry Now is the podcast for you! Tune in and let the packets wash over you as host Phil Gervasi and his expert guests talk networking, network engineering and related careers, emerging technologies, and more.
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