Spreading the Networking Vibes with Serena (@shenetworks)

Episode Summary

Serena a.ka. @shenetworks as she is known on TikTok, or @notshenetworks on Twitter, is a Network Engineer who has made her mark on the digital sphere! Serena’s work on the social end of the spectrum is only a facet of her work. As a network engineer in the age of cloud, Serena has much to say about the work of data centers. Corey and Serena talk datacenters, cybersecurity, and the role that her social media presence plays into her work in that typically curmudgeonly world. She traces the rise of her content, which has only be going on for around year, and how she intends to utilize that previously untapped space to spread the network “vibes”!

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Serena 
Serena is a Network Engineer who specializes in Data Center Compute and Virtualization. She has degrees in Computer Information Systems with a concentration on networking and information security and is currently pursuing a master’s in Data Center Systems Engineering. She is most known for her content on TikTok and Twitter as Shenetworks. Serena’s content focuses on networking and security for beginners which has included popular videos on bug bounties, switch spoofing, VLAN hoping, and passing the Security+ certification in 24 hours.


Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.

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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. Once upon a time, I was a grumpy Unix systems administrator—because it’s not like there’s a second kind of Unix systems administrator—then I decided it was time to get better at the networking piece, so I got a CCNA one year. Did this make me a competent network engineer? Absolutely not. But it made me a slightly better systems person.

My guest today is coming from the other side of the world, specifically someone who is, in fact, good at the networking things. Serena—or @SheNetworks as you might know her from TikTok or @notshenetworks from the Twitters—thank you for joining me, I appreciate your time.

Serena: Yeah, thanks for inviting me on.

Corey: So, at a very high level, you are a network engineer, and you specialize in data center compute and virtualization, which is fun because I remember doing a lot of that once upon a time before I went basically all in on Cloud consulting, and then sort of forgot that data centers existed. That’s still a thing that’s still going well, and there are computers out there that don’t belong to what are the three biggest tech companies in the world?

Serena: Yeah. Shockingly, there’s still a ton of data centers out there, still a lot of private hosting, and a lot of the environments that we see are mixed environment; they will have some cloud, some on-prem. But yes, data centers are still relevant. [laugh].

Corey: On some level, it feels like once you get into the world of cloud, you don’t have to really think about networking anymore. You know, until there’s a big outage, and suddenly everyone had think about the networks. But it also feels like it is abstractions piled upon abstractions in the cloud infrastructure space. How much of what happens in data centers these days maps to what happens in these hyperscaler provider environments?

Serena: That’s a good question. I think—so I have two CCNAs; I’m very familiar with networking, I’m very familiar with virtualization, and I went and got my AWS certification because as we’re talking about a lot of cloud things happening now, it’s big, it’s good to know about it. And underlying infrastructure under the cloud is all the data centers that I work with, all the networking things that I work with. So, it maps very well to me. I thought I had, like, a really easy time studying for my AWS certification because a lot of the concepts just had, like, a different fancy name for AWS versus just what you know, as, like, NAT, or, you know, DNS, different things like that.

Corey: Of course, NAT used to be a thing that was—everyone would yell at you, “It’s not security,” even though there are—I would argue there are security elements tied into it. But honestly, that feels like one of the best ways to pick fights with people who are way better at this than I am. Nowadays, of course, I just view NAT through a lens of, “Yeah, I totally want to pay an extra four-and-a-half cents per gigabyte passing through a managed NAT gateway,” which remains, of course, my nemesis. The intersection of security, networking, and billing leads to basically just being very angry all the time.

Serena: Yeah. You come into the field, like, so ready to go, and then sometimes you do get beat down. But it’s worth it, I think. I really like what I do.

Corey: And what you do is something of an anomaly because most people who focus on this world of data center networking and the security aspects thereof, and the virtualization stuff, are all—how do I put it politely?—old, grumpy and unpleasant. I mean, I guess I’m not going to put it politely because I’m just going to be honest with it. Because I’m one of those people, let’s be clear here. Instead, you are creating a whole bunch of content on Twitter and on TikTok, where I’ve got to say that the union set in the Venn diagram between TikTok and deep-dive networking and cybersecurity is basically you. How did you get there?

Serena: That’s a really good question. To your first point, the, you know, old grumpy, kind of, stereotype, those are honestly some of my favorite people, truly, because I don’t know what it is, but I just vibe with them in a work environment so well. And it’s funny, you know, when I got my first job out of college, I was definitely the youngest person on my team by far. And we would all go out to lunch, I would mess with all of them, we’d all play pranks on each other. Just integrating into the teams was always super easy for me, which I’m really lucky that—not everybody has that experience, especially in their first job; things are a little rough.

But it’s always great. Like, I love the diversity in tech. And to your second point, how did I end up here, right, with this kind of intersection from this networking world to TikTok? People are always confused. Like, how did that happen? How are you finding followers on TikTok that are interested in networking?

And I’m just as shocked honestly. [laugh]. I started making this content this time last year, and… you know, at first I was like, nobody wants to learn about DNS on TikTok. This is where people dance and play pranks and all this stuff.

Corey: And if there’s dancing when it comes to DNS, at some point, something has gone other hilarious or terrifyingly. That again, I use it as a database, so who am I to talk?

Serena: [laugh]. Yeah, but it’s been fun. I am shocked. But there’s such a wide variety of people now using TikTok and it’s growing so quickly. Early on in my TikTok career, I had messages and emails from people who are vice presidents at major Fortune 100 companies asking me, you know, if I’d be interested in working there or, you know, something like that, and I was just—I was so shocked because there was a company that was a Fortune 100, and one of their VPs joined one of my Lives, and was asking me questions, just about, like, my background career, and then they sent me a follow up email [laugh] to be like, “Hey.”

So, I was like, “Did I just get interviewed on my Live on TikTok?” And that they always, like, cracked me up. And at that point, I knew I was like, okay, this is something different; like, this is interesting. Because, you know, at the end of the day, you see the views and the numbers and the followers, but you don’t have, really, faces to put to them or names, and you don’t really know where a lot of these people are from, so you don’t know who’s seeing it. And a lot of times, I think I made the assumption that they are younger kids. Which is true, but there are also a lot of very seasoned professionals that have been in this field for a very long time that also follow me, and comment on my videos, and add great input and things like that.

Corey: There’s a giant misunderstanding, I think across the industry, that the executives at the big serious companies, you know, the ones whose mottos may as well be, “That’s not funny,” have no personality themselves as people and that they live their entire lives in this corporate bubble where they talk to their kids primarily via I don’t know, Microsoft Teams, or WebEx, or something else equally sad. And in practice, that just doesn’t work that way. They’re human beings, too. And granted, you have to present in certain ways in certain rooms, but the idea that, oh, you’re only going to reach developers with attitude problems by having a personality of being on modern platforms. I mean, it’s an easy mistake to make.

I know this because I spent years making it myself with the nonsense that I do until suddenly people are reaching out and it’s, “Huh. You sure did use a lot of high-level strategic terms for a developer.” And you start digging into it, and it’s like, “Oh, you’re your chief operating officer to giant company. I bet your code is terrible.” Is it? It’s like, “Yeah. Turns out, maybe I’m not looking at that through the right lens.” Meeting people where they are with engaging content is important, and I think that a lot of folks completely miss that bus.

Serena: Yeah, I agree. And this is a small field, right, so it gets kind of nerve wracking sometimes because sometimes you say things and it’s so easy to be like, this is how I joke with my friends. But I’m still somewhat in a professional capacity because of me associating with my career, right? And then when my videos reach a million, half-a-million views, when we think about how many people are actually in this field that would be interested in viewing that content, you realize, oh, wow. Like, this is a huge mixed bag of people, which does include very high level executives, all the way to people that are in high school that are just interested in learning more. So, it’s definitely been interesting to figure that out along the way. [laugh]. But yeah, they will have regular personalities. They all like TikTok too. If they don’t, they’re lying. [laugh].

Corey: I used to be very down on the whole TikTok thing, but I started experimenting with it. And yeah, it turns out I have a face for radio and, you know, the social graces for Twitter. So, it’s not really my cup of tea, but I enjoy watching it. I found that I’m not really a video person, but something about the TikTok format means I’m just going to start scrolling. And oh, dear, it’s been six hours and my phone battery died. Thank God, or I’d still be there. There’s something very captivating about it and I really like the format.

The problem I always had with looking at a lot of the deeply technical content out there is so many companies are out there producing this and selling this. And that’s fine. Like, money is not the end all, be all [of this 00:09:40]. I’m about to spend weeks of my life on something, the fact that it cost me 30 or 50 bucks or whatnot is really not economic thing I should be concerning myself with. But it all feels like it’s classroom stuff. It’s if you give people an option, are you going to go to a college lecture or are you going to go to a comedy show? Does the idea of, I want to be entertained. If you can teach me something while entertaining me, that feels like the winning combination, and you’ve absolutely nailed that.

Serena: I think a lot of these companies that are producing content, hold themselves back a lot. And that is why they’re not successful, right? Because there’s so many stipulations, and there’s teams of people, and boardrooms of approvals, and all these things, and me, all I’m doing—I record all my TikToks on my iPhone, and I just use in-app editing. I spend a lot of time kind of researching, right, maybe I will experiment with different formats, but the best format that’s worked for me is just being authentic, kind of, not having that corporate vibe, right? And also not really expecting anything in return.

So, a lot of times, corporations are putting out content because they obviously want to drive traffic to their websites, and different things like that, but the companies that do the best are the ones that are just putting out content for free, and really not necessarily expecting anything in return. And they also give themselves so much more leeway into the type of content that they create because they’re not thinking about the numbers at the end of it, right? You just got to put stuff out there and people will see it. For me, I just put stuff out there, I don’t need to wait for someone to approve my TikTok for me to push it out and have this content there. So, that is a big difference.

And I’ve learned that through working with sponsors where they’ll send you a giant list of talking points they want you to say and I’m like, “You guys know this is a 60-second video, right?” It needs to be really small. You need to, like, really learn how to get the really important stuff out there because the rest of the smaller stuff doesn’t matter as much. Like, sell them on one big thing, and that really makes a difference.

Corey: Oh, very much so. I see that sometimes with this show where people will reach out and ask about sponsoring, and they’ll want to have a URL that I read into the microphone, and it’s with UTM tracking parameters and the rest. And it’s, like, “I appreciate where you’re coming from and your intention here, however, that is not generally how this format works, so let’s talk about this and the outcome.” And again, it’s a brave new world out there. Yeah, if you’re used to buying display ads in various places, that is exactly what you do.

For some reason, there’s this corporate mentality toward we’re going to spend $25 million on a billboard saturation campaign, and not really give any thought about what we’re actually going to say now that we have all of that visual real estate to get people’s attention with. It’s, there’s not enough focus on the message itself, and I think that is a giant lost opportunity. Enterprise marketing doesn’t have to be boring, it can be a lot of fun.

Serena: I agree. And I think podcasting was the last, probably, big area that people budgeted for marketing, right? So, you have your traditional TV commercials and there was YouTube, and—you know, TV commercials, billboards, newspapers, then there’s YouTube, and then podcasts, I would say, probably came a little bit later, as far as these companies look at for marketing potential. And now TikTok is so new and a lot of these marketing companies have no idea how to be successful on it because it’s just so different. It’s Gen Z, the humor is different.

It’s kind of like [laugh] the wild west on social media where things are just, like, crazy, and you have to fight the algorithm because on TikTok it’s, if you don’t like it, you just scroll within three seconds. The attention span is so short. So, you really have to capture people’s attention within those first three seconds. Versus a podcast, you have the whole, let’s say, first 20 minutes to get people, kind of, interested before you can be like, oh, hey, and here’s my sponsor. So, it’s very different versus TikTok, they’ll just, like, oh, scroll. So, [laugh] you have to get creative and think differently.

Corey: Many moons ago, when I was getting my CCNA, I worked at a company where we wound up getting a core switches for the data center, which was at the time, something like 65 grand. Great. And then we rented—because we had configured it in our office—and then a couple of us had to rent a commercial van, which I think ran something like $30,000 itself to transport this thing 20 miles to the data center, and I’m sitting there going, like, “Wow, the switch is worth way more than the van that’s sitting within. Also were really shitty movers and that doesn’t seem like the best idea for anything.” But I just think they remember that, and it left an impression on me.

What I like about cloud with what I do is I can take a credit card and then spend less than $10 on AWS—or theoretically, Azure, or Google Cloud or, you know, $2 million on IBM because oops-a-doozy, but fine—and I wind up coming out the other side of that with having done some interesting disaster stuff. You are teaching people about how this stuff works, but in a data center world, it seems to me that the startup costs of, “Oh, I’m going to buy this random router or switch to wind up doing some demonstration stuff for,” it feels like the startup costs of getting hands on that equipment would be out of reach for an awful lot of people. Am I just completely out of touch with how that world works?

Serena: No, you’re right, you’re one hundred percent, right. It is difficult. So, in college, my undergraduate degree is computer information systems, and they had a Cisco Networking Academy. And so we had old switches, old layer 3 switches, and then we had some routers, and 
this is all stuff that was EOL, donated equipment, right? And this is going to—

Corey: It breaks down you’re bidding against very faraway places with no budget on eBay for replacements. Oh, yes.

Serena: Yeah, exactly. And it was a lot of IOS stuff, right? And so when I was in college, I had no idea that NX-OS existed, which is the data center Nexus version operating system for their switches and things. And so when I got to my first job and saw NX-OS, I was like, “Oh, crap, [laugh] like, what is this?” Right?

Because I honestly didn’t even know. I graduated and did not know that existed. And I didn’t know a lot of the stuff that I was working on at my first shop existed. And I really had to rely on, kind of, the fundamentals. And they are transferable, right? That’s why it’s good to kind of get into—like, I know what these routing protocols are. I know, layer 2, I know this cabling, so let me just learn these command differences and things like that.

And once you get into a production environment in general, out of a lab, it hits the fan. Like, everything you feel like you’ve learned is gone almost because there’s so many layers and now all of a sudden, you have these firewalls, when before you were just trying to get, like, your routing neighborships to establish [laugh] and you weren’t worried about rules on a firewall somewhere. And [crosstalk 00:16:39]—

Corey: “Oh, and by the way, in this environment, that link that you’re working on goes down, every minute it’s down, here is the number of commas in the amount of money that we’re losing, and yes, that’s a plural.” It’s, “Okay, so I guess I’m going to double-check everything I run first.” Yeah, it’s that caution that gives people a bit of credence there. [unintelligible 00:16:58] do these things in a, more or less, cowboy style in these environments, at least not for very long. Because you can break individual servers; that’s fine, but if you break the network suddenly, you may as well not have the computers.

Serena: Yeah. It can be paralyzing, truly. It can be very overwhelming your first networking job. Especially for me, I was just dealing with outages constantly because I worked for a vendor, and I was [laugh] like, I was just scared, you know? Because I would get these cases and it would be a hospital outage.

And I’m like, “I just graduated college. Like, what do you want from me?” You know, and back to your original point, it is difficult in a data center space because the equipment’s so expensive. So, a lot of people ask, “Do you have a home lab?” And one—there’s a couple of reasons I don’t really have a significant home lab. One, I move so much.

Corey: Oh, and in the spare room basically is always 90 degrees and sounds like a jet engine taking off.

Serena: Yeah.

Corey: Yeah, it’s one of those, I should probably find a different place where I don’t live, to have that equipment. Yeah.

Serena: Yeah. And I have access, like, remotely to all the lab equipment that I really need. So, I don’t personally have one, but a lot of things that I do work with are so expensive, that I’m like, I can’t afford to put this data center equipment in my house. That doesn’t make any sense.

And there is luckily now a lot of virtual labs that you can do. There’s some sandboxes by Cisco and other vendors, where you can kind of get a little bit of hands-on experience. A lot of it relates to their certifications. You can rent racks, but that gets pretty pricey, too. So, it is difficult, and sometimes that’s why a lot of these jobs, I think I have a lot of people who are looking for entry-level work, and it’s hard to get into a specifically a data center space.

And aside from racking, stacking, working in a data center—maybe a NOC—if you want to get into the actual,s I’m configuring Nexus switches, I’m configuring, you know, Palo Alto firewalls, it can be difficult because it’s hard to get to that point, there’s not a clear path.

Corey: What is the entry path these days? I entered tech by working on a help desk, and those aren’t really the jobs that they once were, in a lot of different ways. So, I’ve stopped talking to entry-level folks with the position of, “Oh, yeah, this is what you should do because that’s what I did.” It turns into, like, “Okay, Boomer. Great job. Tell me a little bit more, though, about what the Great War was like, first.” No, we aren’t going to go down that path. It’s just I don’t know what the entry-level point is for someone who’s legitimately interested in these things these days.

Serena: Nobody does. It’s crazy. And you’re right at the, “Okay, Boomer,” thing. See, networking was one of those… things that just got pushed onto people in, just, a general IT department, right? So, that’s when everything was like, “Okay, we need to get on the internet, so, you know, hey, you handle some of the computer stuff. It’s your job now. Good luck. Figure it out.”

And so, people started doing that and they kind of just got pushed into it, and then as the internet grew, as our capabilities grew, then the job became, like, a little bit more specialized. And now we have, you know, dedicated network engineers, we have people running data centers. But that’s not necessarily a viable path now for people just because there’s so much to it now. There’s cloud, there’s security risks, there’s data center, wireless, pho—I mean, you can be an engineer just for phones, right? So, it’s a little bit difficult for, especially, the younger people coming in, and the people that I talk to, and figuring out, well, how do I get to what you’re doing?

And the way that I did is I went and got a four-year degree and then joined a new college graduate program at a Fortune 100 company. Which is a great path, I highly recommend it to anybody that can do it, but it’s also not available for everybody, right, because not everybody has the means to get a four-year education, nor do you necessarily need one to do what I do. So, everybody’s kind of has this different path, and it’s very confusing for people who are aspiring network engineers, or aspiring cloud engineers, even.

Corey: This episode is sponsored by our friends at Oracle HeatWave is a new high-performance accelerator for the Oracle MySQL Database Service. Although I insist on calling it “my squirrel.” While MySQL has long been the worlds most popular open source database, shifting from transacting to analytics required way too much overhead and, ya know, work. With HeatWave you can run your OLTP and OLAP, don’t ask me to ever say those acronyms again, workloads directly from your MySQL database and eliminate the time consuming data movement and integration work, while also performing 1100X faster than Amazon Aurora, and 2.5X faster than Amazon Redshift, at a third of the cost. My thanks again to Oracle Cloud for sponsoring this ridiculous nonsense.

Corey: The narrative the cloud companies have been pushing for a while—like, and I’m in that space deeply enough that I haven’t really thought to go super deep into questioning this—is that well, the future is all cloud, the data center is basically this legacy thing that the tide is slowly eroding, in the fullness of time, because everything will one day be cloud. Do you think that’s accurate?

Serena: I don’t. I really don’t think that’s accurate. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the cloud is here to stay, and a lot of people are going to be using it. And it’s going to be—and it currently is a huge part of our lives. Like, as we’ve seen recently with a few of the AWS outages, when it goes down and goes down hard because everything’s so centralized.

And people like to think, like, oh, you know, we have all this redundancy, yadda, yadda. That has not protected us so far, [laugh] like, from these major outages, right? And a lot of places that I see—especially when you’re looking at public sector—is a hybrid, where you do have data center on-prem and you have cloud. And I think that, personally, is the best way to go. Unless, you know, maybe you’re a fast growing startup and AWS or Azure makes a lot of sense to you.

And it does. There’s great use cases for that, right? But they’re—not only aside from the whole cloud shift, there’s another shift of, you know, making our data centers eco-friendly, too, and workload optimization. So, maybe the price point that you’re looking for, what’s going to save your business the most money, is doing that hybrid. So, I’m going to store a lot of my private documents on site, I’m going to have this as a backup disaster recovery, but we’re also going to operate in the cloud. I don’t think that the data centers as we know them are going to go extinct. [laugh]. I think they will be around.

Corey: Well, AWS finally made their Outpost—the smaller ones; read as servers that run AWS services on in your facility—available a year after announcing them. And I looked at it like, oh, wow, these things are 600 bucks a month. Which is not nothing, but certainly something I could afford to wind up exploring and doing some content. But okay, first, it’s a three-year commitment. So, that’s 20 grand or so. Okay, not ideal, but fine.

That would effectively almost double my AWS bill, but that’s not the hardest part because, oh, and to get one of these, you have to have enterprise support. And when I pointed this out to some Amazonian friends, their response was, “Well, what’s the problem on this?” Yeah, enterprise support starts at $15,000 a month minimum, and that means that people aren’t going to pick these up to do proof of concept work. They’re going to do it when they already have a significant infrastructure out there, and I think that’s leaving an awful lot of money on the table by making people jump through sales hoops, and getting proof of concept credits, and doing all the other stuff for this. It’s just ship me a box for a few weeks and let me kick the tires on in my environment and see if it works or doesn’t work.

Worst case, I’ll ship it back to you. Worst, worst case, I lose the thing, and then you charge me whatever it costs to replace this. But it still feels like they are really doing the whole, “Oh, it’s only big legacy companies that have on-premises stuff.” I don’t like that narrative.

Serena: I don’t either. And I honestly think it’s a bad idea, right, because if you do put all of your eggs in the AWS basket and they have all the power, that’s not going to give us a lot of bargaining, right? That’s not going to give people a lot of—because they’ll know. They know how hard it is to get off of AWS at that point: They know it’s costly, it takes manpower, it takes knowledge, right? And I think that it is in people’s best interest to kind of have that mixed environment. Just for long-term, I’m just very wary of centralizing everything in one area. I think it’s a bad idea. [laugh]. I think that we need to be prepared for ourselves, and that means also relying a little bit on ourselves. We can’t just, in my opinion, put everything in the AWS basket. [laugh].

Corey: Not very long anyway. It just doesn’t seem to work.

Serena: Right. And it’s a great product.

Corey: Oh, it absolutely is, but—

Serena: There’s so many positive things about using cloud. Because I’m not the type of person that likes to, kind of, talk crap about any vendor. I think everybody has their pros, cons, flaws, whatever. It’s really about what works best for your environment, and that’s part of being a network engineer or an architect is evaluating your environment and figuring out what is going to be the best for you, right? There’s no one size fits all, unfortunately.

Corey: Yeah. And AWS is uniformly excellent, let’s be very clear. Okay, not—maybe not uniformly. Some services are significantly better than others, but I have an opinion piece in the information—paywalled, unfortunately, but I’m working on i—the general thesis that AWS has gotten too big to fail, in that when it’s not—like, first, they are going to have better uptime than you or I will running our own data centers, across the board.

They are very good at keeping things up, but when they do go down, it’s not just your company or my company anymore having an outage, it is a significant portion of, you know, the global economy, and that is an awful lot of systemic concentrated risk. I’m not suggesting they did anything wrong, as far as how they sold these things—though, some people will want to argue with that—but it’s the, “What does this mean?” Are we ready to reckon with that as a society that whenever us-east-1 has a bad day, so does the stock market? Is that something we’re really prepared to accept or wrangle with? Or worse than that, there are life-critical services now. Does that mean that we’re going to accept there is some number of people who will die when there’s an outage of a data center? And that’s new territory for me. I have not worked in environments where it was life or death consequential. At least not directly.

Serena: Yeah, I have. So, I have definitely worked in those environments, right, and it’s very scary, and especially when it’s outside of your control. So, if you are relying, or just waiting on AWS to get back up, you don’t have the control to get in there and start fixing things yourself, which is my instinct, right? Like, I immediately want to get hands-on. I put my troubleshooting hat on, like, let’s figure this out, let me look through logs, let me do this.

And you don’t have that option with AWS when it’s a significant outage that’s impacting multiple people, it’s not some configuration internally to you, right?And that’s scary. It’s a scary place to be. And I think that we need to really consider the cascading effects that will happen, which a lot of these outages that are kind of starting to show us, right? And luckily, there hasn’t been anything major catastrophic, but we do need to really consider life when we’re talking about, you know, hospitals, 911 systems, all of these critical infrastructures that are going to be cloud managed, and out of our control, and centralized.

So, you know, you lose one 911 system, okay, well, you can do a backup, right? You may be able to route all your calls to the city over because their 911 systems are up and running. Well, what if there’s are out now, too, because you’re both hosted on AWS?

Corey: Or you’re, “Ah, we’re going to diversify and we’re going to have this other one on a different cloud provider.” That’s great, but there’s a critical third-party dependency that’s right back to the thing you’re trying to avoid. And there you go again.

Serena: Yep. And that’s dependency hell, right? [laugh].

Corey: Oh, yeah. And I don’t know how we get away from that.

Serena: Yeah.

Corey: Like, we don’t want everyone writing all their own stuff from scratch, like starting with assembly, move up the stack. But here we are.

Serena: Right. And it’s funny because these AWS outages specifically effects—or cloud outages, right? I feel like I’m picking on them. I’m not 
trying to—sorry, AWS, but [laugh] don’t come for me.

But you know, explaining to my mom, why her Ring doorbell is not working and her Roomba stopped working when that outage happened, right, she’s like, “Why is this not—it won’t connect.” Like, “I don’t understand.” She’s like, “What’s AWS?” And then to tell my mom that the company that she buys her socks from, like, that she goes online and, like, buys on Amazon is the company that also is hosting her Roomba, you know, services, her Ring services, it’s so interesting to have those conversations. And a lot of people who aren’t in our field don’t understand that. They don’t understand cloud, they don’t understand on-prem versus, you know, hosted by a third-party. So, it’s interesting to watch that kind of unfold now because it’s very new. It’s very new territory.

Corey: And one last question before we wind up calling it an episode. It is remarkably clear in talking to you that you are in no way, shape, or form, junior. You are not a beginner. You know exactly how this stuff works in significant depth. Your content that you put out is aimed at beginners. I do something very similar. So, to be very clear, this is not a criticism in the slightest, but I am curious as to why that’s the direction you went in.

Serena: I think there’s a few reasons. Well, I might have this knowledge, right? I still consider myself very junior in my career, very early in my career. There’s so many things that I don’t know and I recognize that. When you’re first starting out, you might have this kind of inflated sense of knowledge where you’re like—like, me, I was like, “Oh, yeah. I know all about OSPF and running on IOS and the command line,” until I figured out there was an NX-OS and I’m like, “Oh crap, what else do I not know about?” Right? [laugh].

Corey: Oh, by the way, that never goes away. I feel exactly the same way 20 years into my career, now. I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. So smile, nod, and get used to it is the only insight I’ve got there. But please, go on.

Serena: And even on Twitter sometimes, I’m reading people’s stuff, and I’m like, “How did you get into these obscure protocols and all these things?” And, you know, I just kind of dive deeper into there. But I think the big reason that I create a lot of my content for beginners is because I remember so well how it was at the beginning, learning about subnetting, and that IOS—[laugh]—[unintelligible 00:30:52] learning about subnetting, and all of the different models that we have, right? And I was overwhelmed, and I was stressed out, and it just seems so… just, like, a giant mountain to climb. It seems so daunting in the beginning, for me it did because there’s so much, right?

And it felt like everybody was so far ahead of me. And I don’t want other people to really feel like that. Like, I don’t want people to be turned off from networking because they feel like the bar is too high, that we’re not letting enough new people enter because we’re discouraging them from the beginning by saying, “Oh, well, you’re going to have to know all this. And let me throw this certification book at you.” And they’re big. Like, my certification books—and these are massive. And this is for one half of the CCNA.

Corey: For those who aren’t, like, on the video call—it’s not being recorded video-wise—she’s holding a book that you could use to kill a mid-sized dog by accident if it falls off a table. It looks like a phonebook with a hardcover on it.

Serena: Yeah. [laugh]. It’s huge, right? And there are thousands of pages, and we just give this to somebody and say, like, “Here you go. Make sure you remember all this.” And this is all new information.

Corey: And does it still cover things like EIGRP? Like Cisco's proprietary routing protocols that I’ve never once seen in the wild?

Serena: Yeah. So, sometimes you will have to learn that, and they’ve changed it recently, too. They update their certification exam. So, you will learn about some legacy protocols because sometimes you do run into them.

Corey: Oh, yes. That’s when I have the good sense to pay professionals who know what they’re doing.

Serena: [laugh]. Yeah. Exactly. So yeah, you do run into those sometimes. But it feels so daunting for new people, and I totally recognize that. And by nature of TikTok I, especially when I first start making content, I assume that most of the people on there are going to be people who are younger, who are interested in this career.

And as you know, in tech in general, especially networking, security, cloud, there’s a massive shortage of people, and how are we solving that, right? And my contribution to helping solve that is by getting people interested. And now I have people that DM me and say, “I passed my [Network+ 00:33:01],” or, “I just took the CCNA,” or, “This has been helping me with my class so much.” And that is like, okay, this is great.

Like, that’s exactly what I want. I want to help the pipeline, I want to get more people interested and help a diverse group of people get interested in tech and say, “Hey, like, this is, you know, where I came from. And I did it; you can do it; let’s do it together,” type situation.

Corey: I really want to thank you for being so generous with your time. If people want to learn more, as they absolutely should, where can they find you?

Serena: I am on TikTok as @SheNetworks. I am on Twitter as @notshenetworks because somebody else—

Corey: That is very confusing.

Serena: [laugh]. I know. Well, my initial thing was like, I didn’t really use Twitter that much, and I would just like—I kind of used it as, like, a backchannel to my TikTok, right, where I would just, like, “Hey, I’m going to go live,” or do this. And then my Twitter, kind of, got a little out of control [laugh] and out of my hands. And so—

Corey: It does that sometimes.

Serena: Yeah. I had no idea there would be so much interest. And it surprises me every day. So, it’s exciting though. I really love all the people that I’ve met, and I feel like I fit in, and I’ve met so many good friends that it’s been great. But yeah, so @notshenetworks on Twitter because somebody had shenetworks and it was a joke. And [laugh] so if you want to find me there, you could also find me there.

Corey: And we will, of course, put links to that in the [show notes 00:34:20]. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I really do appreciate it.

Serena: Thank you for having me. This has been great. [laugh].

Corey: Serena, also known as @SheNetworks, networking content creator to the stars. I’m cloud economist, Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice and then a long, angry, rambling comment about how the network isn’t that important that you’re then not going to be able to submit because the network isn’t working.

Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit duckbillgroup.com to get started.

Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.
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