Paul Negron - An Interview

I have had the pleasure of knowing of Paul Negron for a while now. In fact looking at my network I find I have had a couple of email exchanges over the past couple of years. So When I decided to go to Glendale, California to visit with Narbik’s boot camp there this week I was excited to learn I would also be meeting with Paul. So after leaving the wife and kids in NYC to spend the week running around and having fun, I flew out to Burbank Airport. When I did meet with Narbik I discovered Paul could not make it. So instead I had to settle for a very long phone call with him. Paul is a great guy and I soon learned of his infectious passion for technology and teaching. I enjoy hearing guys like him talk because they never talk about money just their love for what they do and where they do it. In fact we share a view about the value of the CCIE certification outside of the US and UK. Many network engineers in those two countries use certification to improve their careers and to enhance their earnings potential. In many more countries the CCIE certification is a way to escape poverty. Really, many of the engineers who share their journeys with me are talking about how the CCIE certification allowed them to start whole new lives away from the desolate conditions they grew up in. I share that feeling about my youth and the grip of poverty. So learning about Narbik and Paul working to take the lowest priced boot camps around the world was exciting for me.

Exciting is the new effort underway for both Narbik and Paul to hold boot camps at the same time in some great locations. In fact the first of this new concept of boot camps is coming up in September in Cairo. Paul will be holding the SP boot camp while Narbik conducts the R&S. These are being offered in different rooms in the same location.

So I had a chance to ask Paul a few questions…

Q: I am interested to learn about you. Can you tell me how you got into IT as a career?

A: Ya know Eman…Some people talk about how they worked so hard to get where they are. I was given a chance by a gentleman who took a chance on me based on my military experience. It ended up being a good fit and took advantage of every opportunity that I was blessed and presented with. I did Satellite Communications in the Military which just happened to give me a slight advantage.

Q: Did you have a mentor?

A: I have several. Wendell Odom is a notable one. I have never met someone with such humility in my life. Narbik has become an overall mentor as well. He has taught me so much about the business aspects of what I do and has kept me from making a lot of mistakes that are common for people like me in this industry. To them and others I am eternally grateful. They are living examples of how to serve people better.

Q: When did you move into instructing and why?

A: I moved into instruction due to some bad instructors I had in the past. Like many of my students, I was trying to build a 30 node ATM backbone and was just starting out. They did not give the answers I was looking for in a practical sense and never responded after class was over. I promised myself that if given the chance, I would try to change that image. That is why Nabik and I get along so well. We both share the same ideals.

Q: You have been in print for a few years now. What was the first book you contributed to?

A: The Ip Telephony QOS Study Guide. It was a joy to technically edit for Wendell with real life experience in mind as he had done for me on other projects.

Q: How many have there been since?

A: A few more. The CCIE Practical Studies Volume, Networking Basics and CCNA curriculum. I love the CCNA stuff. It reminds me of why I got into instruction in the first place.

Q: Training for you is a passion I know I was delighted to hear you going on about it. Where have you held international training sessions in the past?

A: England has been a hot spot working with British Telecom, German Telecom, and French Telecom. Those were fun. People overseas tend to not take themselves so seriously which makes the classroom experience extra special.

Q: What are you favorite topics?

A: BGP, MPLS and QoS are fun to teach. They allow me to think outside the instructor box and work more as a Consultant.

Q: When did you first meet Narbik?

A: About 18 months ago he attended my MPLS class. He asked me a really tough QoS question and thankfully I answered him well. Since then it has been a very “TRUST” based relationship.

Q: What were your first impressions?

A: He has a great sense of humor. His greatest assests are: He does not take himself very seriously and he does not talk shop when we are hanging out. I love that about him. However, he know Cisco IOS better then anyone I know. He is an Instructor of Instructors.

Q: It sounds like it is was inevitable that you two would end up working together. What do you think about the dual boot camps in Cairo?

A: It’s definitely different. I agreed with you on the phone when you said the trip to Cairo is as sesible as a trip to most places and I thought it would be a new experience in the way we present training as a whole. I am looking forward to it.

Q: The concept is interesting to me, holding boot camps in places of interest with activities mixed in the evenings. The boot camps in Rome, Athens, New Orleans, Jamaica and Nigeria sound like interesting and attractive places. What do you think of this new concept?

A: In the words of Narbik: “Fantastic”. I have not been to those places either.

Q: The price of the boot camps are below $3,000 and even lower for groups and you guys are taking Cisco Learning Credits. I also know Narbik is including the 360 Learning Program materials as well. I am delighted you guys will be helping many people who could not afford other training offerings by keeping the prices so cheap. How do you feel about this?

A: It’s fair. All we want to do is show off the best product and show how it works. We want to help people who purchase and support Cisco Equipment to be armed with a thorough understanding of services on the gear to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.

Q: We often place higher goals for ourselves than we can achieve in my case I am always trying to help CCIEs and network engineers get better jobs. What are your goals in this very unique endeavor?

A: To give people the truth of what I teach. That’s the thing about Narbik as well. We don’t mind being wrong and we don’t mind being corrected. We enjoy learning different perspectives. It is what keeps this industry interesting.

Q: What would you like to share with those future CCIEs looking for a chance at certification?

A: Kepp studying and keeping up with the technology. You don’t just want to be a good CCIE. You want to be a GREAT one.

It begins with a little humility.

Q: Do you read the CCIE Flyer?

A: Not regularly. I have 5 childern and they keep me pretty busy. But I will continue to.

Q: What do you think of it?

A: It is pretty good to hear success stories but more importantly, it is really good to hear that it has an effect on people’s lives and continues to.

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