Lately I’ve been bouncing some generic DMVPN questions off the twittersphere. I’ve used DMVPN sporadically in tiny single-use cases before, but now I am planning to roll out a somewhat larger implementation with a dual cloud and dual hub, complicated by the fact that I don’t control the perimeter router at our DC and I am relying on the provider doing what I need for NAT.
While the responses I’ve received have been useful and helpful, yesterday I found myself feeling profoundly alone. I am the only network person in the organization. There are two sysadmins, and two desktop support guys. I’m the network guy. And sitting at my desk testing the DMVPN, everything seemed to be working; my tunnels are up, my NAT traversal looks good – even my EEM to flip the DNS seems good. But I still felt uncomfortable, and I wished I had someone to talk to; not generically, but in a specific, technical sense.
Part of this is my own nature. Despite working in the industry for nearly twenty years, I question my own abilities all the time. An innate lack of self-confidence or self-esteem, perhaps. But the larger issue is in being the only network guy around, and I suspect some of you who work in teams where you are the at top of the tree may experience this too. For all the interaction online, in forums, on Twitter and so on, what I really wanted yesterday was someone to look over my shoulder at my attempt at implementing an unfamiliar technology. Someone who could read the config, and understand it. Who can take a look at the show commands on the router and see if I’ve missed anything. Something more than you can get from posting a scrubbed config on the Cisco support forums or a quick email to the friendly SE.
It is the price you pay when you are out on your own. You have a certain freedom, and I’m sure some people look upon being the only network person in an organization as being an opportunity and not a problem. But the flip side is that you need to shoulder the responsibilities; making recommendations and standing by them, making the network robust and reliable, being honest with the organization about what their needs are and getting the best value for money. I feel these pressures keenly. The buck, as they say, stops here.
And yesterday, as one of the guys noticed I was staring at a console window with what must have seemed like a great level of intensity, I explained that I’d really like someone to check over my work. “I’d love to help,” came the reply. “But I can’t speak Cisco”.
Those of you out on your own – or just those who are the only subject-matter expert in your place – how do you deal with these situations? Is online enough, or do you also sometimes need a reassuring second set of eyes?