E37 - Tom Nadeau at Spirent Communications

James Dean
Tom Nadeau

By James Dean & Tom Nadeau

On today’s episode of The Route to Networking podcast, James Dean had the pleasure of being joined by Tom Nadeau, the Vice President, and Chief Cloud Architect at Spirent Communications. Tom talks about how he got started in the industry, and what he looks for in a team member and delves into more about what they are working on over at Spirent.

“The headline is How did I get here? Well, you got to start somewhere!”

Tom knew he wanted to be an engineer because of his passion for building things and his curiosity about how they work. This led him to become a member of online Networking forums where he got in contact with a man named Bob Stewart, the guy who co-invented the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Once Bob realised, he was still in college, he asked if he was looking for an internship which he ended up taking on and eventually was offered a full-time job.

From that point forward he has a couple of stints along the way at various Networking places but eventually ended up at Cisco in 1999, which funnily enough Bob referred him to. He didn’t realise then how important mentorship was until he met someone at Cisco called George Swallow who agreed to take him on as a mentee. He was on the distinguished Engineer track at the time working his way through that and didn’t realise how little he knew about Networking. It gave him not only a methodical approach to engineering but also a collaborative approach. He was at Cisco for 8 years before realising MPLS was weighing in slightly and nothing technologically new was happening and was essentially grasping at straws.

Some of the things he looks at when hiring is a diverse set of people in the team. This creates more ideas, more data and overall, a better working environment. What he doesn’t want is to hire a bunch of people who all think exactly the same. The Service Provider Solutions team he recently built at Red Hat is made up of around 50-60 people, all working well together which is the key to a healthy working environment. One big advantage of working with a team with a diverse background and make-up is that they can morph and move around and build what they need to build in an efficient way on any given day.

The criteria he sets out for his hiring teams when they are looking for people is no arrogance. Someone that’s abrasive, non-collaborative, or generally difficult to work with will simply not be the right fit for the role there and will ultimately result in people leaving the company. The team and coach mentality are very much a huge deal for them there which has built a team of smart Engineers that will continue to thrive and grow the business.

More on Spirent…

His role at Spirent is to lead all of their products architecturally which is the primary definition of his role. He does a lot of internal work, bringing open source in an official way, training and setting policies for all of engineering at Spirent as well as transitioning existing products to shift into a more cloud-native approach, as well as building new ones that are from the get-go.

Some advice he shares with anyone looking to get into the space is to find a mentor. It can be challenging for both the mentee and mentor, but it’ll be hugely beneficial for you stepping into your career. Both parties have got to want to do it and continue to want it though, like any relationship it can take a turn where one person might not want to carry on down that path.

Tom shares some of the most exciting things they’re currently working on over at Spirent, make sure you tune in now to hear what they are!