Cisco Designated VIP (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)
When we asked Paul Stewart what he imagined as a kid he would be when he grew up, his response was, “So, who says I’m grown up now?” He definitely seems to have retained a kid-like level energy when it comes to contributing to the Cisco Learning Network.
Paul has always been intrigued by the way things worked. Even as a youngster he would fix things: mechanical things, electrical things, electronic things. One of his talents, which certainly comes in handy in his work today, is spotting things that are out of place. Even a small thing out of place can lead to a big discovery about where a problem lies.
Paul was interested in computers from an early age. He had an Intellivision system, which he describes as “the XBox and PlayStation of the early 80s”. He also had a Commodore 64 that was well equipped with the cassette player for data storage.
Paul was also interested in music. He played the Baritone—basically a small version of the tuba—in the band. It was his elementary school band teacher Mrs. Moneyhon, who made the biggest impression on him. She gave him the kind of supportive feedback that motivated Paul to work hard, improve his skills and feel a sense of accomplishment—the steps he could also apply to making progress in his technology career.
Paul became interested in Cisco Certification after he attended a three-day training course that covered topics along the lines of those included in CCNA His instructor worked for a local Cisco channel partner was both knowledgeable and entertaining—and excellent combination Paul found motivating. Paul continued to study networking technology topics on his own. He studied so well, in fact, that he so far has earned a CCIE Security, CCSP, CCSI, CCNA and CCDA and he previously held a CCNP and CCDP—and also racked up credentials from Novell, Microsoft, CompTIA, and Wireshark.
In his current position as Senior Systems Engineer, Paul often draws on components of his past experience to accomplish his primary responsibility: Fixing stuff. “I really enjoy looking at packets on the wire and figuring out what is out of place,” says Paul. “It is a great feeling to know why something was broken and to know with certainty you resolved it.” Of course, it’s even more fun, he adds, when you successfully solve a problem that has been described as “unsolvable” by the previous three people who attempted it and failed.
Paul has been working full time in IT for more than 13 years. His decision to pursue a career in IT came directly from his addiction to the PC—beginning with the Commodore 64 and moving up to increasingly more sophisticated PC-class machines. “I had to turn this into a career,” he admits, “so I could justify the amount of time I spent with these machines.” Over time, though, PCs became more of a tool and an annoyance and he turned his focus to networks and protocols.
Passing the CCIE Security Lab is what Paul identifies as his greatest professional achievement thus far. “That process,” he remembers, “was a great challenge for me and my family.” There were plenty of times when it would have been easier to quit—but Paul was too stubborn to quit. And he succeeded. He plans to continue learning more about both the technical and non-technical aspects of information technology and also to continue sharing what he learns with others.
Speaking of sharing, Paul gives a huge shout out to Keith Barker and Anthony Sequeira—fellow VIPs—for the videos they produce and share on the Cisco Learning Network. “These videos help make complex topics simple,” observes Paul. Having done a bit of video editing himself, Paul recognizes just how much time and effort Keith and Anthony have put into these videos and how valuable they are to the Community, especially to those just staring out who have difficulty visualizing certain topics.
When it comes to putting in effort, we want to thank you Paul for the countless hours you spend sharing what you know in the discussion forums on the Cisco Learning Network. He track and responds to dozens of threads by bookmarking the site’s main Recent Discussions link, which he jokingly calls “drinking from the fire hose.” “That is the most rewarding part of CLN for me,” he states. If he had to identify a single best contribution to the site—which we insisted he do—it would be the document on extended ACLs (https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-7514), which illustrates traffic flow and what packets look like as they bounce back and forth on networks— concepts entry-level technicians often have difficulty grasping.
One thing Paul has no trouble grasping is a slice of Pepperoni Pizza—his favorite food—and no, Paul, we don’t think it’s boring!