Meet the #TFD20 Delegates: Jordan Martin

By Jamie Easley, Airheads Community Manager
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Jordan Martin, Tech Field Day delegate

Tech Field Day 20 is happening now! Before the event kicked off, I caught up with Jordan Martin, a technical solutions architect at World Wide Technology. Jordan got his start doing data entry on the graveyard shift at a community bank, and since then he’s developed deep expertise in data center, SD-WAN and enterprise networking. Jordan is the cofounder and host of the Network Collective podcast. Follow him @BCJordo.

Register now to view the TFD#20 live stream on Friday, November 15 and learn how to simplify networking tasks with automation.

Jamie: How did you get involved in technology?
Jordan: In my case, technology was mostly hereditary. My grandfather was a physicist and my mother was an electrical engineer. I had access to computers very early in my life with my first computer having such advanced features as a monochrome monitor and a 5 1/4-inch floppy drive. I was fascinated by computers very early on. When I got Internet access in high school is when it really took off.  I was very curious about how the Internet worked and that curiosity may have gotten my family kicked off an ISP or two for “testing protocols” (hacking).

In high school, I wanted to be the cool kid though, so I started playing drums and joined a band. After high school I started working at a bank, doing data entry overnight. It was the best job for a guy who wanted to be in a band. The batch processes were run at night, and all they cared about was that it was done by 7am when the courier picked up the checks. I could play a concert, get to my job at 2am, and have all the work ready in time. I still miss that freedom sometimes.

They quickly recognized my interest in technology, and I was soon asked to work as a generalist in their IT department.

Jamie: Network Collective is a popular podcast. How did you involved podcasting?
Jordan: Podcasting started as a passion project for me, and I was surprised at how well it was accepted. It must have hit a nerve. Before podcasting I had built up a small following through social media and blogging.

I also was lucky to have the opportunity to get involved with Tech Field Day and going to conferences. I was rubbing shoulders with people who I consider legends in this industry. I recognize that most people don’t have the experience of building friendships with the person who wrote the book or built the product. I wanted to see if it was possible to make those relationships public so other people could benefit from them.

Jamie: What keeps you motivated working in the networking field?
Jordan: My passion is sharing knowledge and helping people make good decisions about technology.

I’ve always been drawn to the networking technology because it’s the foundation of any technology stack, whether systems, applications or cloud. As I get deeper, I realize how challenging the problems in networking really are. Some people say the networking problem is solved, but I disagree completely.

Something that I’ve learned over time is that technology seems to always be on a pendulum. My favorite RFC is 1925, The Twelve Truths of Networking. Rule 11 roughly says “Every old idea will be proposed again with a different name and a different presentation, regardless of how well it worked the first time.”

We’re moving into the software-defined era, but we’ve had centralized control planes and tightly coupled networks before. It’s likely that in 10 to 15 years the pendulum will swing back to favoring decentralized designs again. I feel like we’re on a bit of a precipice in networking though. We’re moving into new territory with software-defined offerings, but there’s still a lot of opportunity and challenge in designing and deploying networks, especially at the points where we need to stitch them together.

Jamie: How will the rise of network automation and programmability change what network architects need to know?
Jordan: My view is that it’s really not that much of a change. I’ve always believed that once you go beyond a few devices, you should have already been automating. The difference is that vendors are now providing more robust tools and access to make automation easier. For those that haven’t been using automation, they will need to skill up with scripting and interfacing with their infrastructure in a programmatic way. For a vested engineer, not that much changes. Automation is just going mainstream and becoming more refined.

I’m not convinced that networkers need to become developers though. As networking becomes more automation-oriented, I believe we will see automation run from platforms and frameworks like Ansible. People who specialize in programming will do the hard work of building the framework, leaving those who specialize in networking to skillfully consume it. We need both programmers and networkers moving forward.

Jamie: From data privacy to biohacking to AI, technology has raised a number of big ethical questions. What’s your biggest concern around the ethics of tech?
Jordan: It’s privacy. The insatiable appetite for the availability and access to data to profile and manipulate people is always increasing.

Private and public entities are favoring less secure technology in favor of ensuring the continued availability to data. Politicians are arguing over things like whether encryption is good or not when to technologists it’s a no brainer! But the whole problem is not an easy one to solve because we’ve gone from an industrial society to an information society. Access to information is capital and those that have it aren’t going to willingly give it up.

Bio-identity information is the worst case scenario of data privacy in my opinion. My DNA, and my profile of my DNA, can’t be changed or modified and is literally my identity. If I lose control, there are serious ethical considerations.

Jamie: What advice would you offer to someone who is just starting out in enterprise networking?
Jordan: Focus on the fundamentals of technology, which are being lost with software-defined networking, and I think that is misguided. Technology can only be fully abstracted when it’s completely reliable, consistent and error-free. We aren’t there yet so the need to understand how it works “under the covers” is as critical as it has ever been.

Another thing that I think gets missed is that it’s far more important to understand the why of technology before understanding the how. Training, workshops, books and blogs spend the large majority of time on the how, which is practical, but a bit backward in my opinion. The how is only important when you understand why. If product X isn’t the right answer, it doesn’t matter how you implemented it. If you want to advance, understand why it’s done one way or another, and what the alternatives are.

Jamie: Why did you become a delegate for Tech Field Day? What do you get out of it?
Jordan: I’ve always admired what Tech Field Day was about and it was an absolute honor to be asked to be a part of it for the first time. It’s such a great venue for articulating technology and having a voice in the industry. Spending three or four days geeking out with companies who deeply care about the technology they are building, as well as the delegates who are some of the best in their fields, is an excellent experience.

I really believe that the Tech Field Day model is immensely valuable and beneficial for everyone involved. Vendors get honest feedback from a handful of engineers who have a pulse on the industry. From a career perspective, interacting with the people who build the products we use helps the delegates as well as the people watching the presentations from home, and it’s a good opportunity to build relationships between practitioners and the vendors.

If you’re watching Tech Field Day from home, you can see engineer-to-engineer conversations, absent the marketing hype. I often point my customers toward Tech Field Day videos. Where else can you get a concentrated view on how a specific technology works from an engineering perspective? Everyone gets something valuable from Tech Field Day. Why not participate?

Register now to view the TFD#20 live stream on Friday, November 15 and learn how to simplify networking tasks with automation.