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How I started and learned (Hello World!)

 ·  ☕ 4 min read  ·  ✍️ Ben Mason

I think it makes sense to kick off this blog with a how did I get to where I’m at today. This post covers about 16 or so years (as of posting) of working in IT and Computers and well many years before them as a well….hobbyist.

My first introduction to communications, I guess you could say networking, was calling BBSs and eventually installing and playing with BBS software. I learned a lot about modems and dialup communications. Towards the end of this era (to learn more about this time in technology I highly recommend watching the BBS Documentary that was released by Jason Scott in 2005.) I leaned about 2600 Magazine and went to a 2600 Meeting in my area and starting to get interested in the Phone System and how the Phone Switching Systems work.

Then came along the internet, and I started to learn about programing in some classes in High School and on my own, eventually learning C Sockets and coding some basic Client/Server programs and showing me how applications worked across a network. At this time I didn’t know anything about the 7 layer model or another really about networking theory, but I do know now this knowledge has shaped how I have always approached troubleshooting.

Eventually I decided it was time to get a job working on computers and I found a job working for an outsourced call center for a major home computer manufacturer. This was a very valuable job in my career, here I learned one of the toughest skills to learn, customer service. There were many difficult customers, for example, “where the Start Button?”, Sorry your hard drive is clicking and your data is gone, ‘Yes, click the mouse button in the right” are just some examples. I learned to handle and lead non-expert users, and resolve there issues to the best of my ability. Doing it all with a smile in my voice no matter how frustrating they were.

Eventually that job ended (ahem laid off) and I moved into a job and small computer integration company (see Thoughts on Working as a Consultant for a VAR and THE VAR-Y GOOD UPSIDES TO BEING A CONSULTANT! both are true in a lot of ways about a 13+ years ago as they are today). On my first day I walked to a stack of Novell NetWare books. So I learned NetWare, then Windows NT, Windows 2000, the desktop OS of the month, how to run cable (badly), and just about anything you could imagine in a small company would use at that time. This made me a very well-rounded technician but not too deep any topic. I did always have a feeling I had an interest in the networking, so I made every opportunity I could to learn how to program routers and learn networks.

After enough time I studied and got my CCNA at the same time as my boss/owner of the company at the time. This is when I fell off the deep end and started to become a specialist in networking and connectivity, learning about T1s, factional T1s, 56k circuits working with phone companies, still running cabling, routers, switches and still doing all the server work when needed. Then the craze of IP Telephony hit and we started to install Cisco CallManager and Unity. Learning more about PBXs, call routing, dial plans, and auto attendants then I’d ever cared too. Some where in this time period I’d say i could be calling a Network Engineer and moved up form just being a Technician.

After long enough I decided it was time to get my CCIE, then I procrastinated a while and then I actually did my Written exam and then Lab exam. It was a lot of work but I got it done with a stack of Cisco 2600s, and a lot of late nights. Not long after this my work role changed a lot moving into a role as an IT Director, where I still did my fair share of engineering, but also dived into security and operational policy for internal IT along with our virtual co-location data center (what we would call IaaS now) that we built from the ground up which was very fun. This more or less leads me to today where after more role changes I now focus on Network Architecture for on site customer networks as a Managed Service Provider and the network for our Cloud Service we provide. Working more in diagrams, word, excel and documenting now then working in actual commands lines.

Not to wax poetic too much but it was been a long winding road, and all the change along the way has kept me on my toes and kept it interesting.

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Ben Mason
Ben Mason
Computer Security – Reverse Engineering – Malware – Electronics Hobbyist – Sometimes Photographer – Spaceflight – Cat Enthusiast