Wi-Fi Takes the Engineer Out of the Cube. Use this time to educate an end user

By George Stafanick, Blog Contributor

A unique advantage to being a WiFi engineer is it takes the engineer out of the cube and onto the production floor, where the WiFi engineer interacts and is visible to the end users. As a WiFi engineer, troubleshooting a WiFi issue, you become very good in your interviewing techniques, drawing out answers to questions from users with limited technical expertise. Frankly, when was the last time the Routing, Switching, Security or that annoying Server guy you sit next to in your cube that slurps his coffee every morning visited an end user who is having a network issue? My point exactly.

Good WiFi engineers also leverage their time when interacting with end users to help educate and dispel the "wireless network has issues". One such opportunity happen this week which involved client roaming. I received an email from the CMO about a very prominent physician who was complaining about WiFi issues in his lab. Of course, this physician brings up his WiFi network issue during a morning meeting among a group of physicians. Nothing like spreading the word.

After a few minutes of discussion with the physician, he described what appeared to be an issue with roaming and was later confirmed. I asked if I could test the device and try to reproduce the problem, which I was able to. A layer 2 analysis repeatedly showed client behavior which exhibited a poor client roaming algorithm. The client was extremely stubborn, would stick to an access point, and not send a probe request until the RSSI was at -82 dBm!.

I took advantage of this opportunity to educate the physician. His assumption was the wireless network had issues when in fact, his device was the one with issues. After sharing the data I collected and presented the information in a non technical way he understood. After researching the device I was able to do a driver update which improved roaming considerably.

I walked away from this interaction with a check mark in the WIN column. I helped educate an user who had a negative notion and a bad experience on my WiFi network. The alternative, I could have just updated the driver and walked away. The physician would assumed I tweaked the network and fixed his problem.

In closing --- Being a GOOD WiFi engineer is more than just configuring a controller, installing access points, conducting site surveys, using layer 2 and spectrum analyzers or knowing best practices. Taking the time and educating users goes a long way to dispel the "wireless network has issues".

Take the time and educate!