Time to continue the Author Series of posts, this time with Ron Fuller, CCIE 5851. It is the intention of these interviews to bring a human side to the technical author. I feel that each author has a story to share , and I wanted to provide them a way to share that story.
Author Name: Ron Fuller
Book Title: NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching – Next-Generation Data Center Architectures 2nd Edition
Book Publisher: CiscoPress
Other books authored:
NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching – Next-Generation Data Center Architectures 1st Edition
Building Cisco Wireless LANs
1. Tell us a little background on yourself; is there anything unique about you that you would like to share that people might not be aware of?
Haha, that’s a broad question. I guess I’ll start with my professional career and see where that takes us. My first real job in IT was for a local PC retailer, Micro Center. At the time Micro Center was based in Columbus, OH and only had two stores. I was hired as a build technician as this was “back in the day” when you bought a PC, you picked out the video card, HDD size, how much RAM was installed, etc and someone had to assemble and test them. That was me. I did that for most of a year and then was promoted to service technician repairing PCs, printers and monitors. This was my first real exposure to vendor certifications and where I learned that you could get paid more if you had them. W00t! I was in like Flynn. I soon became the most certified technician in the company and had certs from IBM, Compaq, Okidata and HP to name a few. I did the service technician for a year and was itching to move on and took a role in our central phone support group. This was a job I liked for 2 weeks and then loathed. Supporting consumers over the phone in the era of dip switches, IRQ conflicts and DOS memory requirements was painful. While I worked on this job I hooked up with a local Novell reseller who paid for me to earn my Certified Netware Engineer (CNE). The day after I passed my last CNE exam, I turned in my two weeks notice to Micro Center.
The reseller was a company called Burkey & Associates and everyone there was a CNE, it was a bar they set to differentiate themselves and they were also the 1st Novell Platinum reseller. We had a great team and that was where I met my best mentor, Scott Phelps. Sadly, they had a number of challenges that hit them at the same time and were out of business in less than a year. A company from Tennessee called Intersys hired some of the engineers and bought the customer base and I worked for them. It was sort of an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” scenario as Intersys bounced payroll twice. I left shortly thereafter to go work for another local reseller, 3X Corporation who was interested in starting a network division.
3X was a great place to work. We were able to build the team, grow the business and expand from server and AS/400 development centric work to networking. Along the way, this “Cisco thing” kept coming up so we convinced the owners that we needed to get hooked up. I went to Intro to Cisco Router Configuration (ICRC) and learned about a new certification called CCIE and was hooked. I convinced 3X that we needed to do this and they were super supportive. I earned my 1st CCIE in April of 2000 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We kicked butt and took names winning all kinds of business in our region but Y2K took its toll on 3X. I saw the company start downsizing and shifting focus and found a job working for what at the time was Bank One.
Bank One was a ton of fun as they were hiring a team of CCIEs to rebuild their network from the ground up. This was my first real exposure to a true data center compared to a server room. I worked there for a little over 3 years and was part of a team that built 4 new massive data centers and migrated from our legacy sites into the new facilities. I was focused on mainframe connectivity and led the charge to migrate from DLSw, CIPs and FEPs (if you don’t know those acronyms, consider yourself fortunate) to SNAsw. We did so much work that I actually was given a session at Networkers in New Orleans to speak as a customer on our migration. I also spoke at IBM’s SHARE conferences in Boston and Seattle. Very cool opportunities and had fantastic management who supported me. It was a great experience but a *ton* of work. Bank One was acquired by JPMorgan Chase and I worked in the combined team for about a year. Quite honestly, I let myself get burnt out and needed a change. This is when I started at Cisco.
I joined Cisco in 2005 as a Systems Engineer and worked with our Enterprise customers in Columbus. I liked being a SE, but wanted to be a bit more focused as the data center bug had bitten me at Bank One. I expressed interest in focusing more and took it upon myself to earn my CCIE Storage Networking. After a while I became a Consulting Systems Engineer and started working with more customers and eventually became a Technology Solutions Architect focused on data center. I loved this role as I covered customers across all of Ohio and Michigan, led lab tests in Cisco’s Customer Proof of Concept (CPOC) labs in RTP. I did this role for over 2 years during which I wrote the 1st edition of the NX-OS book. I spent a lot of time working with customers on some of the technology I love, like the Nexus 7000 and started looking at a role that would allow me to focus on Nexus 7000 even more than the TSA role. With that I transitioned to my current role, which is a Technical Marketing Engineer (TME). I work for the team that “owns” Nexus 7000 in Cisco and assist customers and partners with designs and details on how the platform works and where we are taking it in the future. It is hands-down the best job I’ve had (they don’t pay me to say that!) We’ve just wrapped up the final review of the 2nd Edition of the NX-OS book and I am working on sessions for Cisco Live in Melbourne and Orlando.
So if you are still reading, you’ve reached the end of my professional history. If I could sum it up, I’ve worked hard, taken advantages and risks along the way and things have worked out well. I’ve had some fantastic managers and some that were not so hot – that’s life. I could write more detail for each one of them but tried to keep it focused and succinct.
As for other things, I am an Eagle Scout and I worked as a backpacking guide at a Boy Scout high adventure base in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico called Philmont for a summer. Scouts was a great foundation for me and so much of what I learned in Scouts applies to the professional world. Such a great program and I had the opportunity to do so many things I *never* would have done without Scouts. I also enjoy Geocaching with my family. It’s a great blend of outdoorsy stuff with the kids and nerdy GPS to feed the technology side.
On the home front, I am married to a wonderful woman who puts up with my craziness and whom I love beyond words. We have four children; two boys and two girls. The interesting trivia not many know is that the first three of them were made the old fashioned way (ha!) and our youngest son is adopted from China. I could write pages about how and why we did it. I can sum it up quickly – if you have compassion for children, you can’t *not* seriously consider it when you realize the situation these orphans are in. I don’t want to soapbox, but we literally changed our son’s life from one of mere existence in an orphanage to one of opportunity with a future. It truly was a life changing event for our family. Feel free to reach out to me about it if you want more details. I’d be more than happy to discuss it.
Finally, if you follow me on Twitter you know I like to travel, especially with my family and watch Formula 1 racing. We have been fortunate enough to be able to take our kids on some pretty fantastic trips including Australia, Japan, Germany, France, England, China, Hong Kong, Canada, all over the USA including Alaska. Sometimes we see F1 races, but not always. 😉 They are great travelers and we have so much fun. I enjoy the logistics of the trip and am always thinking about where we’d like to go next. Uh, wow. I should work on question #2.
2. What kind of non-technical books do you read and enjoy? Any titles that you would want to encourage people to read?
I have a pretty broad personal taste in books. I didn’t mention it earlier, I but I used to work in a library as a page shelving books and stuff like that. It was a super job and married well with my love of reading. I have always liked Stephen King and just recently finished his book on the Kennedy assassination. It’s not a typical King horror novel and was fun to read. I also like fantasy books. Some of my favorite fantasy authors are Tolkien, Terry Brooks and Piers Anthony. I just finished the Game of Thrones series and am waiting for the next one. I also enjoy Grisham books and travel/adventure books. Today I am reading American Sniper by Chris Kyle. I bought this prior to his tragic murder and find it an interesting read.
3. Are there any authors that inspire you?
This will sound weird, but while re-reading the 2nd edition of the NX-OS book, I was also reading the Stephen King book. King’s writing style seems to have influenced mine as I saw similarities between them. Now if only the NX-OS book would sell as many books as Stephen’s. hahaha. As for true inspiration, different books inspire me in different ways. Fantasy books inspire me to stop thinking about tech all of the time and “take me away”. Travel books make me want to hit the road and have an adventure.
4. What do you like to do when you are not working?
Spend time with my family either traveling or something as simple as playing games. We did a 1000 piece puzzle just the other day as a family and completed it in a single day. I enjoy reading and watching auto racing, but especially Formula 1.
5. What are your three favorite movies and, briefly, why?
Raiders of the Lost Ark – I wanted to be Indiana Jones and do archaeology for a long time. Just a fun movie to watch
Aliens – Love the action and tie in to what for me as a youth one of the scariest movies I shouldn’t have seen, the original Alien.
Escape from New York – Sounds corny but I really like it – Snake Plisskin is just one bad dude.
I will probably get derided for not mentioning Star Wars/Star Trek and Lord of the Rings – I love them all as well, but I can watch the above three again and again (and have!)
6. What was your favorite cartoon as a child, and why?
Robotech – great mix of technology, action, some drama and romance and was Japanese. I used to have VHS tapes of almost every episode from the Macross Saga, Masters and New Generation. Now I have 5 DVDs of it all. hahaha
7. If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Wow, so many ways this could go – do I go spiritual, historical, current day…or random? I’d say Jesus Christ, but since I believe I’ll meet him when I die, I’ll pick someone else. Looking back over my life, I’d like to speak with my maternal grandfather. He died when I was in 4th grade and I’d love to chat with him as an adult.
8. Do you have any inspirational phrases that you would want to share with the readers?
“Commit your way to the Lord and trust that God will act” – Psalms would be the spiritually inspirational phase I’d choose as it was something we took comfort in during the adoption. On a more professional track, “Fortune favors the brave” would be it. Take risks, step outside your comfort zone. Sometimes you’ll get shot down, but I’ve found usually it is worth it.
9. How and why did you get started in this field?
I covered that earlier, probably in too much detail.
10. What influenced you to write this book, or was this something that you wanted to do?
The primary driver for this book was professional/career development. It is a great addition to your resume. Though I already had been published, I wanted the prestige associated with a CiscoPress book title. The 2nd edition was even more work than the first as we took feedback from Amazon reviews, customers, reader and people inside Cisco about what else we should cover.
11. How long did it take you to write this book, and where did you write it?
It took a little over 1.5 years to do this title. There were so many changes and additions made that it was mind blowing. We added MPLS, OTV, FabricPath, Multi-hop FCoE, QoS and so many other topics. My portion of the book was written mostly in my den at home on weekends or at 30,000 in the air while flying for work. I am not sure where Matt and Dave did theirs.
12. What challenges did you face in writing this book?
Time, time, time. The main reason it took so long is that this book isn’t part of my day job, it was mostly an off-hours endeavor. Working for Cisco access to the gear to collect CLI or talk with experts on a topic if we wanted clarification made those non-issues for us.
13. What was your favorite part of writing this book? Any special chapters or topics that you enjoyed more than the others?
The whole process is great. Just when you think you know a topic you find that when you try to put it to words that it is a real challenge. I liked that aspect of it as I was learning more as I put words to paper. I really like Chapter 7 Embedded Serviceability Features because there are so many cool things NX-OS can do to make customer’s life easier from an operational aspect. I think beyond the technology overviews in the other chapters, Chapter 7 looks into some of the “corners” of NX-OS and think people will walk away with some ideas and topics to explore more in their network.
14. What is your advice to others who want to write a book?
Do it! Think of a topic, submit a proposal and get ‘er done. If someone like me can do it, anyone can.
15. Any new books on the horizon, if so – can you share what they are?
I do have a proposal in to CiscoPress right now but have not heard back on it so will reserve the right to not say the topic. 😉
16. Any closing words that you would like to share with the readers?
I hope the book is helpful and that this Q&A shed some insight into one of the authors on the title. Don’t doubt yourself, go out there and do what you love to do. I am fortunate that I love my job so it seems less like a tedium and rather something I enjoy. Find that passion and go for it! Remember, “Fortune favors the brave.”