E18 - Daren Fulwell at IP Fabric

George Barnes
Daren Fulwell

By George Barnes & Daren Fulwell

On this week’s episode on The Route to Networking, George Barnes the CEO and Co-Founder at Hamilton Barnes sat down with Daren Fulwell, the Network Automation Evangelist at IP Fabric. Daren has been in the game since 1997, so as you can imagine, plenty of experience and a lot to go through.

Back to where it all began… Daren kickstarted his journey in networking with a passion for IT and computing from a young age and he always knew he was going to eventually end up doing something to do with those things. He built on his passion and eventually found his thing which was networking. He jumped from a Network Engineer to Network Designer to Network Architecture and gradually worked his way up in the field. The idea of being able to build and design networks became his ‘thing’.

It then became a case of how you make them easier to use, how do you make sure they are always doing the right thing and that’s where automation comes in because it is this useful tool to put people on that journey to be able to pull all different information from different places and do interesting things with that as an enabler for businesses.

Daren studied at the University of Manchester doing a Computer Science degree, and with many people in this industry split down the middle and questioning whether university is useful or not, it was no question in Daren’s mind that university was something he loved and would do all over again if he could. The contents of the degree cemented something that was already in him as he had been playing with computers for years and so he knew it was inevitable that he was going to end up there. When he got there, it opened a lot of avenues in his mind that he didn’t realise he could study. It covered things like Computer Graphics and System Design, which is something he’d never thought about beforehand. It was incredibly beneficial for him as it broadened his view on the industry.

Being in the industry since 1997 so much has changed since then in the world of tech, the World Wide Web being one of them. When the WWW came along and gave networking a friendly face, Daren didn’t quite realise at the time how big it was going to be. That friendly face turned into something completely different. The fact they had this ubiquitous connectivity meant that it had driven everything, meaning they had to scale up the computing and storage, the cloud being the result of that.

The top 3 skills Daren believes you should have if you are wanting to get into the industry are 1. Learning: being able to learn and having an open mind to be able to look to learn. 2. Listen: being able to listen to the requirements for things you want to achieve and ask the right questions and genuinely being an open listener and finally, 3. Present: being able to present and talk your ideas back, to be able to approach the reasoning behind what you are doing. If you have got these 3 things, then you are off to a good start.

Nothing is ever plain sailing, especially in this industry, so much can go wrong and in Daren’s case, that is completely relatable. One of his biggest networking disasters came down to his first day on his first-ever networking job, he had made a change to a managed hub and while doing that he flattened this hub and connected several networks together that shouldn’t have been together. They had a server room next to where he had made this change which was filled with racks of compact Novell servers. When you put one of the Novell servers on a network that’s not meant to be on it, it makes a very loud beeping sound. Now when you have a room full of them, collectively it brought the house down.

Not long after that, he was doing an upgrade on a server, and they ran out of disc space. He thought he would boot off the CD-ROM and everything would be fine, but it had a huge scratch on it. His last resort was the boot of the floppy disc but because it hadn’t been used for so long, it was full of fluff and couldn’t read any of them. He sat deleting all the files with his keyboard on his lap, and the worst part about it was that this was in a law firm at 3 am and all the employees were due back in at 7 am.

Want to know what his other networking disaster was? Don’t miss this, it’s a good one!