is a Senior Trainer/Professional Services Consultant with Red Education Pty in Australia, covering the Oceania and Asia markets. He has done training and engagements from New Zealand to Taiwan and points in between. About 60% of his time is running F5 courses, ranging from the from the introductory Admin course through the high-level courses like AFM, ASM or iRules. He enjoys the mix of work, where teaching allows him to be social and PS work lets him delve into the technical nitty-gritty. Rob is also DevCentral’s Featured Member for September!
DevCentral: You were an F5er (ProServ Consultant) from 2013-15 and continue to be a very active contributor in the DevCentral community since then. What keeps you involved?
Rob: Long before I did PS Consulting for F5, I worked for F5 in Seattle, first as a Network Support Engineer and then as Software Test Engineer, and I always found DC to be extremely useful. While F5 puts considerable energy into its product documentation and knowledge base articles, there are times when you need an ‘outside’ perspective to really understand what a feature is and how to use it. I always exhort my students to use DC as a resource, and not just for iRules.
I stay active because I use the site to answer my own questions and because I appreciate it when someone knowledgeable contributes a write-up or a really solid comment. I try and give back by commenting when the subject of a question is one in which I have experience.
DC: Tell us a little about the areas of BIG-IP expertise you have.
RC: I’ve been working with BIG-IP since 2005, when there were only two products, BIG-IP and 3DNS (FirePass joined F5 a few months after I did), and those two (well, the current iterations of LTM and DNS) are my strongest products. I’ve also worked with BIG-IP ASM, APM and AFM over my career. Today, I’m most comfortable with BIG-IP ASM and general Application Delivery more generally at this point.
DC: You are a Consultant & Trainer at Red Education . Can you describe your typical workday?
RC: If I’m training then I try to be onsite about an hour before the students. I need the time to setup the room, settle my thoughts and flip through the material we need to cover that day. Generally, training is a nine-to-five experience, although that can be modified by where the training is being done – in some countries, courses start later, then run into the early evening. Regardless of the specific hours, my tasks for the day are pretty much the same: cover the material, answer student questions and redirect where needed, proctor the labs and troubleshoot course and student issues. It’s almost like being on stage for an eight-hour show.
Consulting, on the other hand, is generally quite a bit more solitary. I do most of my work remotely, so once I’ve met with the client and we’ve had our kickoff activities, I’m back in Melbourne working from my home office. It’s not unusual to have a conference call once a day with the customer and technical staff and there is always email communication about the design and documentation tasks.
In the background, there is always communication with the constellation of trainers and consultants that I work with, sharing ideas, running questions past one another or bantering.
DC: You have a number of F5 Certifications including most of the Technology Specialist (LTM, GTM, APM, ASM) certifications. Why are these important to you and how have they helped with your career?
RC: I have all the F5 Certifications at this point, including the 401 Security Solution Expert exam and I suppose I’m a bit proud of that fact. I think F5’s certification exams are pretty good at covering what you need to know to be successful working on F5 systems in the enterprise, certainly more so than some of the other vendor exams.
In Australia, engagements often come with a requirement that you have certification for the product or products, so in that sense having the certifications has been good for my career. More generally, having the certifications has given me more confidence in representing my skills to prospective clients.
DC: Describe one of your biggest BIG-IP challenges and how DevCentral helped in that situation.
RC:Recently, I was on an engagement where the customer was migrating internal architectures for some highly fragmented legacy applications, as part of a PCI compliance project. We needed to replace many mod_proxy implementations and to mitigate application issues that came up during this transition, all on a short timeline. We ended up using multiple iRules with each service, providing routing and forwarding and fixing issues like improperly set cookie attributes. iRules is such a powerful and flexible solution that in the near term, given our timeline, it was the best and fastest way to manage the application issues.
DC: Lastly, if you weren’t an IT admin – what would be your dream job? Or better, when you were a kid – what did you want to be when you grew up?
RC:I’ve always enjoyed gardening and I’m fond of zoos and animal parks, so if I wasn’t working in IT, I think I would like to be a gardener at the zoo.