The Proliferation of Ways to Learn with Serena (@shenetworks)

Episode Summary

TikTok sensation Serena (@shenetworks) is back again for another round of “Screaming!” Now she is drumming up her Discord presence and the Cisco cert study group that she and others are forming there. Again, Serena continues to keep things fresh as she discusses the many, best ways, for all of us to learn. Serena gives us some insight into her study group, and the various certifications that they so studiously work over. Serena and Corey rake over the usefulness of certain certifications and practices. Serena talks about her own learning style and her implementation of actual work and some of the obstacles with certs. For Serena, she puts importance of actually learning, and not just regurgitating rote memory.

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.

Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by our friends at Sysdig. Sysdig is the solution for securing DevOps. They have a blog post that went up recently about how an insecure AWS Lambda function could be used as a pivot point to get access into your environment. They’ve also gone deep in-depth with a bunch of other approaches to how DevOps and security are inextricably linked. To learn more, visit and tell them I sent you. That’s S-Y-S-D-I-G dot com. My thanks to them for their continued support of this ridiculous nonsense.

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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. Today’s guest was on relatively recently, but it turns out that when I have people on the show to talk about things, invariably I tend to continue talking to them about things and that leads down really interesting rabbit holes. Today is a stranger rabbit hole than most. Joining me once again is @SheNetworks or Serena [DiPenti 00:00:51]. Thanks for coming back and subjecting yourself to, basically, my nonsense all over again in the same month.

Serena: Thanks for having me back. Excited.

Corey: So, you have a, I think study group is the term that you’re using. I don’t know how to describe it in a way that doesn’t make me sound ridiculous and describing and speaking with my hands and the rest. It’s a Discord, as the kids of today tend to use. There are some private channels on an existing Discord group, and we’ll get to the mechanics of that in a second. But it’s a study group for various Cisco certifications, which it’s been a while since I had one; my CCNA is something I took back in 2009. I’ve checked, it’s expired to the point where they can’t even look it up anymore to figure out who I might have been, once upon a time. What is this group and where did it come from?

Serena: Yeah, so the Discord itself is kind of a collective of a bunch of people that are creators on TikTok. And it’s just, like, a cool place to connect, especially people from TikTok join, people from Twitter join, they want to interact, you know, a great place to get resources if you’re early in your career. I—you know, new year, new me resolution was [laugh] I wanted to start studying for the CCNP a little bit, and I’ve been doing it pretty loosely for a while, but I kind of was like, all right, time to actually sit down and dedicate some real time to this. And I put on Twitter, you know, if anybody else was interested—I know there’s other various study groups out there and things like that, but I was just like, hey, you know, it was anyone interested and a study group and I got really good response. Of course, a lot of people are at the CCNA level, so I made a channel for CCNA and CCNP, so whatever level you’re at, you can come in and ask questions. It’s really great.

Corey: One thing that irked me when I first joined, as well, there’s no CCENT which was sort of the entry-level Cisco cert, the first half of the CCNA, and I did a bit of googling before shooting my mouth off. And it turns out that Cisco sunset that cert a while back, so CCNA is now the entry-level cert, as I understand it.

Serena: Yeah. So, when I did my CCNA, I did the C-C-E-N-T—the CCENT, and then the ICND2, and that’s how I got my CCNA. And then I went and got the Data Center CCNA, which was two exams… two? Or maybe it was just one. I can’t remember fully. But they basically got rid of all of their CCNAs and created one new one that’s just the CCNA Enterprise.

Corey: What I found worked out for me when I was going through the process of getting the CCNA—the CCENT, I forget how at the time, came along for the ride. And it was the CCENT, the baseline stuff that really added value to my entire career. That piece of advice that I would give anyone in the technical space is when your hand-waving over a thing you don’t really understand. Maybe stop doing that one afternoon when you don’t have anything else going on, dig into it.

For me, it was always, “What the hell is a subnet mask?” “I don’t know. It’s the thing that I put the right numbers in, the box stops turning gray and will turn black and let me click the button; life goes on.” Figuring out what that meant and how it was calculated was interesting and it made me understand what’s going on at a deeper level. Which means that invariably when things break as—they’re computers; they break—I could have a better understanding of the holistic system and ideally have a better chance of getting to an outcome of fixing it.

So, I’m not sitting here suggesting that anyone who wants to, “Oh, you want to work in the cloud and go and build things out on top of AWS or GCP. Great, go and get a Cisco certification is the first stop along your journey.” But understanding how the network works is absolutely going to serve you well for the rest of your technical career because not a lot has changed in the networking sense over the past 13 years since I sat the certification exam. It turns out that the TCP handshake still works the same way: Badly.

Serena: [laugh]. Yeah, and to your point, the troubleshooting part is really where you need that depth of knowledge, right? And that’s typically when it’s crunch time and things are gone awry. And you really need to have an understanding of okay, is it the subnet mask? And the quicker that you can identify that outage, that problem, the quicker you get a resolution. And you do need depth of knowledge for that, and understanding that kind of underlying infrastructure is so helpful.

Corey: And that was always the useful part of the certification—and the exam that went along with it—to me was, “Okay, with a subnet mask of whatever you’re talking about here, great. How many usable IP addresses are there in the network?” And yeah, that’s the kind of thing that we really care about.

The stuff that drove me nuts was the other half of it, where it’s the, “Ah, what is the proper syntactical command on the Cisco command line to display this thing?” And it’s, “First, I can probably look that up or tab-complete it or whatnot. Secondly, I get it’s a Cisco exam, but this is a world where interoperability is very much a thing and it is incredibly likely that the thing I need to find that out on is not going to ultimately be a Cisco device, once I’m working in enterprise.”

Serena: Yeah, I do have similar feedback when it comes to that because right now, I’ve been trying to do kind of a chapter a day out of the Cisco Press book, and that’s my main source of studying right now. I like to read a lot, so reading is usually my main method of studying, I guess. But I’m in a chapter right now that’s, like, 100 pages of just hardware specifics. And we’re talking about, like, PCIe cards and VICs and the different models and which ports are unified and you can configure for Fibre Channel, and which are uplink on the different generations. And I’m like, “Ohh.”

I hate that. It’s my least favorite part of studying because for that, I mean, I always just pull up the documentation. And it’s like, “Okay, here’s the ports that can be, you know, configured as Fibre Channel over Ethernet or Fibre Channel,” or whatever. Remembering it off the top of my head, which model, which year, which ports, I’m not great with that. And I don’t think it’s, honestly, that valuable when it comes to certification exams because you really should be using the documentation when you are doing those types of configurations between hardware and generations and compatibility.

Corey: We sort of see the same thing in the development space, where, okay, the job we’re hiring you to do is to work on some front end work and change how things are rendered, but when we’re doing the job interview for that role, oh, now we have an empty whiteboard, we want you to write syntactically valid code that will implement some sorting algorithm or whatnot, while some condescending jerk sits there. And, “Nope, that’s not it,” in the background in a high-pressure environment because for that jackwagon, it’s any given Thursday, but for you, it determines the next phase of your career. And I hated that stuff. Whereas in the real world, I’m not going to be implementing an algorithm like that in any realistic sense; I’ll be using the one built into whatever language I’m using. It’s important from a computer science perspective to know it, but from a day-to-day job environment, not so much.

And I can’t recall the last time that I had to fix a technical issue where I did not have the internet as a resource while I was fixing that issue, even when it’s the internet is down because it turns out without the network, I just have a whole bunch of expensive space heaters here, great, my phone still worked. I could check, “Oh, what is the command to get back into that firewall?” That it turns out, I just locked myself out of by—yeah, it turns out when you close a port and you’re using that port, mistakes show.

Serena: Yeah, I agree with that. And I mean, that goes into the much broader conversation of technical interviews because even as a network engineer, one time I had a whiteboard technical interview where they were asking, like, routing questions, but I didn’t have access to any equipment, and so it was just basically asking them questions. And I’m a very visual person, so for me to not be able to, like, kind of put my hands on something and, like, run some commands and look over it myself. I did so horribly in that interview, and I left feeling just, like—I left feeling really bad about myself, honestly, because I had done so bad. And for me, I was assuming they were using some routing protocol. And they’re like, “No, it’s actually all statically configured.” And I was like, I would be able to know that if I could run commands and, like, actually look. But it was so bad.

Corey: Right. And it’s stressful working in front of people. I know that whatever I’m typing in front of an audience, I don’t do it, but it feels like what I did first is, all right, let me put my mittens on, and then I—because I can’t type to save my life, and I look incompetent across five different levels at that point. And yeah, it’s these contrived problems. One of the things I like about the study group is when there’s a question that is, I guess, not the answer, I would expect, it’s okay, we can talk about that. Give me more context behind why.

I thought it was this. Clearly, I’m missing something—or the bot is broken—so what is going on here? Help me understand why this is the way that it is? And back when I was learning how this stuff all worked, I went through originally a class at a community college and then finished it up with apparently with sort of a brain dump style boot camp, which I didn’t really realize was a thing until after the fact. It was just memorization of these things.

Which okay, great. I could memorize my way through some things I would never use again like EIGRP, one of Cisco’s proprietary routing protocols that I’ve never heard of anyone using in the real world before, but I’m sure it’s a thing and they’re trying to push it. Great. I can skate past that well enough to hang a cert, but it didn’t feel like the way to learn it because there was no context. It was just the rote memorization.

Serena: Mm-hm. Yeah, and that is very difficult. I’m a big fan of theory, so you know, when we’re talking about VIC cards, I was going through each generation, and which you would use for a blade or a rack server, whatever. I think that your time is better spent understanding what a VIC card is, why it’s important, maybe, like, the history, and all that instead of being, like, “This version isn’t compatible with this UCS blade server,” or whatever. Because I am studying for the Data Center flavor of the CCNP right now, so it’s a little bit of a different path. I think most people take the enterprise, that’s the more traditional route, switch, IOS. Mine’s more UCS, Nexus, HyperFlex type questions.

Corey: One thing that I always appreciate is, for example, take subnet mask [crosstalk 00:10:57] calculations. Yeah, I can figure that out on a whiteboard now. But here in the real world, everyone uses a subnet calculator. It’s the way that things work. And there’s a lot of discussion back and forth about things like that, without talking about the real-world implications, such as, if you’re building out two subnets inside of a larger range, don’t put them right next to each other because if you need to expand the network later, you’re in a world of pain compared to if you had given them some significant breathing room.

And okay, great. You probably don’t need to use all the [ 00:11:30] network in your small-scale environment, and even some larger-scale ones you’re hard-pressed to use all those things.

It’s just the real-world experience, and you understand that you don’t want to do that. The second time. The first time you do it because why not? It’s easy to remember for humans. And then you run into weird issues with oh, well, why would I ever have more than 254 servers sitting in a subnet—or 253, whatever the number is these days, don’t yell at me—great.

What about containers running on top of those things? Oh, right, the worst answer to so many architectural patterns, we’ll throw some containers at it. And you’re back into those problems.

Serena: Yeah.

Corey: It’s the real-world scars you get.

Serena: Yeah. And I think that there is such a difference between when you’re studying and learning versus—and taking certifications or tests—than in the real world. And that was very discouraging for me when I was first learning because I would take these exams—and we had a Cisco academy where I went to college—and I would take these exams, and my professor was just known for her very difficult test, so I think her advanced routing course, maybe only 30% of the people who took it passed it their first try. And so I would take these exams, I’d walk away being like, “I don’t know anything. I’m never going to be a good network engineer, I’m never going to be able to get a job or anything,” because I couldn’t regurgitate which show command was showing me errors on a switch, right?

And then now in the real world, I’m like, okay, relieved because I was like, I can look this up, like, I can take my time. And then you know, with getting your hands on—I mean, you learned so much within your first year; that is probably more than I learned in all four years of school. But saying that, it was really great for me to have that base of all of that underlying networking and already kind of understanding the terminology alone is such a big… barrier, I would say, like, just being able to sit in a room and listen to these conversations and understand what’s going on. That’s half the battle in the beginning. [laugh].

Corey: I have never heard anyone be prouder of being bad at their job than a professor saying, “I have a 30% pass rate.” Isn’t your whole ethos of that role to be someone who teaches people how to do a thing? So, if two-thirds of your class is not learning that thing, it doesn’t mean you’re a hard grader, it means you’re bad at conveying the concept and/or testing for understanding of the thing that you’ve just taught them. If you’re a teacher listening to this, please don’t email me until you fix your problem first.

Serena: [laugh]. See, and… she would come in and say on the first day class—I took multiple classes with her and she was like, “If you read everything in the book, and pay attention to all the slides, you’re still going to fail.” She wanted you to really go above and beyond, and commit and run all these labs and do all these things, and in college, I hated it. I was so resentful and angry because it really did make me feel bad. But at the same time, there was one point someone had asked her a question, and she was like, “Why don’t you ask Serena? She has the highest grade in the class.”

And I was shocked because I had, like, a C in the [laugh] class. And I was like, “Me? I’m the one that has the highest grade in the class?” And I would definitely do things a little bit differently if I were teaching that course because it, I think, turned off a lot of people into the field. But me passing those grades, I mean, I really could have probably taken the CCNP right when I was done with those courses and passed with flying colors. But I didn’t have the money to take the CCNP exams until much later when I had a job. And now it’s like so much has changed. The exams have changed. I’m in Data Center now. So, a little bit different. But yeah. [laugh].

Corey: I never understood the idea of charging for certs. If people are spending the time and energy to learn about your company’s specific technology well enough to take the exam, they’re probably going to want to use it in their career as they move forward, so charging a few 100 bucks to sit the test has never struck me as a good idea. And the cloud companies do the exact same things as well. And every company that attains some level of success launches a certification exam, but then they charge a few 100 bucks for it, which… does that money really matter because either you’re an engineer, and your company is going to be paying for it, or you’re making engineering money these days, and it’s just an irritant, but it feels to me like the people that really get disadvantaged by that are the early learners, the students, the folks who are planning to have a career in this, but a few 100 bucks becomes a barrier.

Serena: Oh, it’s a huge barrier. I mean, it was a big barrier for me. I didn’t have money to go to college, so I took out student loans. I worked my way through college and constantly had a job, which then was difficult because my grades suffered because I didn’t have the same amount of time.

Corey: You did have the highest grade in class, I recall.

Serena: [laugh]. For that one course. For the one course. [laugh]. But I didn’t have the same amount of time in a day to study as some of my classmates who didn’t have to have a job in college.

But then also, I couldn’t afford $300 to take one exam out of the three that you needed at the time for the CCNP. And that’s when I was early in my career. The CCNA, too, like, I didn’t have the money to take that exam either. And I think a lot of people are in that position because they are trying to better their knowledge. They’re trying to achieve a new job.

That’s what those certifications are geared towards, right? And so putting that $300—I mean, that person might be working a minimum wage job, and they’re trying to get out of that minimum wage job into a higher—paying tech job. And $300 is a lot of money. It is a lot of money. My rent in college was $300. That’s a whole month’s rent for me, right, to put it in perspective. So yeah.

Corey: Yeah. We’ll be throwing a bunch of credit codes your way for folks who are learning and [unintelligible 00:17:10] the financial burden because it’s important that people be able to not have money being the obstacle to learning a technical field. I am curious, though, as to the genesis of this whole Discord because I heard you talking about it, I joined, but there are a lot of other people talking about different things. Most notably and importantly, there’s an Ohio slander channel—

Serena: [laugh].

Corey: —in there, which is just spot-on perfect from where I sit. But it’s not just you, and it’s not just networking stuff. It’s a systems engineering Slack. Where did it come from?

Serena: Yeah so sysengineer, my friend [Chris Lynd 00:17:43]—she’s also a TikTok creator—and she set up her own Discord server, which I have kind of like inserted myself into. It’s very hard to run your own server, right, so it’s kind of more of a collective at this point. But she’s sysengineer on TikTok, and so her server is just sysengineer. And there’s a lot of memes, right? Because we have a lot of, like, Gen Z—I mean, who doesn’t love a good meme? And Chris Lynd, sysengineer, is from Ohio, I’m from Ohio. So, the Ohio slander thing is kind of funny because we’re just like always talking crap about Ohio. [laugh].

Corey: Which it deserves, let’s be very clear here. I have family in Ohio, myself. Every time I visited them, my favorite part was leaving Ohio. I mean, data transfer between AWS regions, the least expensive one is the one cent instead of two cents between Ohio and Virginia 
because even data wants to get out of Ohio.

Serena: It was like, 11 of the astronauts are from Ohio. And it was like, “What about Ohio makes me want to leave the Earth?” [laugh].

Corey: Yeah, “How far can I get from Ohio, the absolute furthest place away?” “Well, here’s the furthest place on earth.” “Not far enough.” I know, if you’re from Ohio, I know you’re going to be very upset. You’re going to be listening to this and angrily riding your horse to Pennsylvania to send an angry email my way, but that’s okay. You’ll get there eventually.

Serena: But yeah, there’s a lot of memes and stuff from TikTok. It’s funny because we love to joke; we love to keep it light-hearted; we want to attract people who are younger, a lot of the memes come from TikTok. And so it’s a fun, good time. And there’s developers on there, there’s tons of people that work other jobs that aren’t systems engineering, or network engineering. So, we have a bunch of different opportunities and channels for other people to kind of ask questions and connect with other people in the field. Especially with everyone being remote for the most part now, and Covid, you don’t have a ton of social interaction, so it’s a good place to go get some social interaction.

Corey: This episode is sponsored by our friends at Oracle HeatWave is a new high-performance query 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 OLAP and OLTP—don’t ask me to pronounce 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: It’s also great because when I was early in my career, I was a traveling consultant, and periodically I would find myself, well, working 40 hours a week and then in a hotel room for the rest of it. That’s sort of depressing; I would go to local meetups. I’ll never forget going to one Linux user group meeting. In this town, apparently, Linux wasn’t really a thing, so the big conversational topic is how to sneak Linux into your Windows job. And I’m sitting around here going, “I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best way to go about it.”

But I checked; there were no reasonable Linux jobs in that community. So, all of their focus in these user groups was about doing it as a side project, as this aspirational thing. And I’m sitting here visiting from out of town, I’m thinking, “Well, I have a job in the Linux environment. And how did I find it? I just went online and looked for jobs that had the word Linux in the title, and there you go.”

That option is not open to everyone in every geography, so being able to get exposed to folks who aren’t all in your neighborhood is one of the big benefits I found online forums like this.

Serena: Yeah. One of the things that I think was positive that came out of Covid is, if you are in a smaller region—one of the reasons I left Ohio was because of a lack of jobs, right. And because there was more opportunity in other areas. And now I wouldn’t have had to move. Not that say—I mean, I would have probably moved out of Ohio anyway.

But if you don’t want to, if your whole family’s there now, you’re luckily not really stuck with just the jobs that are in your local area. There’s tons of remote jobs now. I think that’s fantastic, and like I said, one of the positive things that did come out of Covid.

Corey: The thing that I don’t fully understand is folks who are working for remote companies—we’re a distributed companies outside The Duckbill Group, and we pay the same for a role, regardless of where on—or off—the planet you happen to be sitting, just because the value you’re adding makes zero difference to me based upon where you happen to be. And there are a number of companies out there who are being very particular about well, where are you geographically because then we need to adjust your comp so you’re appropriate for that market. And it’s, really? Is the work you’re doing this month materially different than the work you’re doing next month, as far as value goes, based upon where you’re sitting? I don’t buy it. But it’s also challenging at giant companies to wind up paying the same across the board for all of your staff in one fell swoop.

Serena: I think it’s particularly bad. I had seen some companies that were basically saying if they’re already employed and already getting some salary, and then, like, if you move, we’re going to lower your salary. And I was like, it just to me seems so greedy, especially coming from these massive companies that charge huge profits, that you’re going to be concerned over a ten, twenty, thirty-thousand dollar difference, right? And it’s like, it just seems greedy to me because it’s like, well, you had no problem paying that while I was living there, but now it’s a problem that I move closer to family or something like that? I luckily was not in that position, but it would have put a distaste in my mouth towards that company, I think, as an employee in that position.

Corey: We want to know where people are for tax purposes, we have this whole thing about not committing tax fraud, but aside from that, we don’t care where you happen to be. We’ve had people take a month in Costa Rica, for example. Great. Have fun. Let us know what you think. As long as you have internet there and you make the scheduled meetings you’ve committed to make, great.

But that’s part of the benefit of having a company has been distributed since before the pandemic. What I really have sympathy for is folks who had built companies that depended on an in-office culture, and suddenly you’re forced into remote during a very stressful time.

Serena: Mm-hm. Yeah. Luckily, I mean, most of my jobs are very easily remote, but I can see that. I don’t know. The whole—I don’t ever want to work in an office again, personally. It’s just not for me. I have done really well transitioning to work from home and still keeping up with all my coworkers, and reaching out to them, having meetings.

I think, at this point, after two years in, companies are going to have a really hard time justifying to their employees, like, oh, we have to be back in office. And it’s like, well, why? Is productivity down? Are we not as profitable? Like, what happened within these last two years that is making you think, like, we need to go back into the office? And they don’t really have anything besides, “Culture?” And it’s like, yeah, you’re going to need to do more than that. [laugh].

Corey: It’s important for us to see our co-workers from time to time, and once it’s safe to do so we’re going to be doing quarterly meetups in various places, but that’s also… it’s not every day.

Serena: Right.

Corey: The technology problems, I have less sympathy for it now than I did at the start of the pandemic, where network engineers were basically calling the data center and, “Yeah, can you go reboot the VPN concentrator?” “Uh, okay. Which server is that? Probably the one that’s glowing white-hot right now.” Because they aren’t designed for the entire company to be using it simultaneously all the time. Two years later, we have mostly fixed those problems.

Serena: Yeah, yeah. Two years later, it’s like, okay, you’re going to really have to convince me to go back into the office. [laugh]. And I like the flexibility. Like, I really do. If I want to move, I can move. If I want to, like you said, go to Costa Rica for a month, I could do that. But there’s a lot of options, flexibility. I’ve been having a great time work from home.

Corey: And I’ve been having a lot of fun exploring the bounds of this new Discord group, and I’ll throw a link to it in the [show notes 00:24:49] because anyone who wants to show up and can validate that their human being is welcome to join until they turn into a jerk which is basically the [audio break 00:24:57] the community these days, let’s be clear, but I found there are a couple of Discord bots—and yeah, it’s all the same thing now—that ask test questions, and you can give an answer and it tells you in a DM whether you got it right or not, which is always fun when the bot is broken, and you’re sitting there going well, that doesn’t make much sense. But what other stuff has been built into this? For those of us who spend all of our time in Slack these days, what is the advantage of the Discord way of doing things?

Serena: I guess for me, I’m not, like, a huge Discord person. This is really the only one that I participate in. I’m in a couple of my friends Discord as well, but there’s a lot of stickers that are customizable, that relate back to memes a lot of the times. But yeah, the bot that you had mentioned is a great feature that Discord has where @terranovatech, who’s also another TikTok content creator—his name’s Anthony—he created from Python a practice question bot for CCNA and CCNP. And so, uploaded some questions to those.

The bot is in beta guys, so you know, just like, [laugh] be aware of that. We are trying to constantly improve it and add new features. I have been adding a ton of questions for [D core 00:26:05] as I go through my book studying; I’ll, you know, create practice questions. And that’s typically a part of my normal studying routine, is creating practice questions that I can then go back to after I’ve read something to solidify it in my mind. And you know, you can use those questions, too, you can suggest questions. If you’re like, “Hey, I was doing studying and I think this would be a cool question to add to the Discord bot.” We can do that as well. And so that’s great. I love that feature.

Corey: One last question before we wind up calling it an episode. Recently, you have caused a bit of TikTok controversy, for lack of a better term. And sure enough, we’ve had people swing in from all over the planet that chime in and yell at you in the comments. What’s going on there?

Serena: Okay. Yeah, so that’s not unusual for me to cause some TikTok drama in the tech space. Okay, so there’s a TikTok trend right now where it’s a song and the song lyrics are, “You look so dumb right now.” Okay? And the other videos, like, if you click the sound, you can see, like, some of the videos will say, like, “They told me I needed to rotate my tires, but they rotate every time I drive.”

And someone was like, “My girlfriend said she needs new foundation, but our house is just fine.” And so in the background, you hear the song that says, like, “You look so dumb right now.” So, it’s just, like, a funny… funny joke. I did it, and I was like, I knew some people were going to miss the joke. And I said, you know, “When they say you need a backup, but you use RAID.” [laugh]. And so the sound is, “You look so dumb right now.”

And I was definitely expecting people to miss the joke. And so I even tweeted at the same time, I was like, “I posted a new video, like, about that joke.” And so I was like, “Be prepared for the comments.” Because I knew even someone would be, like, she’s just backtracking now. Like, she just is embarrassed. But I was like, “It’s the joke guys.”

I even put in the caption #thisisajoke. And, like, 90% of people that commented on it just completely missed that joke and were very upset that I made that—that I said that.

Corey: Anyone who believes RAID is a backup only has to make one mistake deleting the wrong thing or overwriting something important before they realize that is very much not the case. And if you’ve been in tech for longer than about 20 minutes, you probably made a mistake like that at one point. It’s not one of those things that could reasonably be expected that someone would take seriously. But yet, here we are with entire legions of people with no sense of humor.

Serena: Yeah, it ended up in, like, Facebook groups and stuff, too, where these people thought I was being serious. And in the comments, I started making more jokes because someone’s like, well, what if your data center catches on fire? And I was like, “Well, don’t have a fire at your data center. Like, I don’t understand. Obviously.” And so I just tried to, like, you know, make more jokes back to, kind of, keep it up 
and people were very upset. [laugh].

Corey: That’s why you’re not allowed to smoke in them. Problem solved. Where would the fire come from? Yeah.

Serena: There was, like, someone was like, “Well, what if you get ransomware?” And I was like, “We have Norton.” Like, what—[laugh] like, just, like, making the most red—and I was trying to really go outlandish with some of them because they’re like, “RAID is not a replacement for cold storage.” And I was like, “Well, we have a lot of fans, so our RAID is very cold.” [laugh]. And, like, just kept it going. Some people were not happy.

Corey: I love that. They just keep doubling down on the dumb. The problem is some people are lifelong experts at it, and they’re always going to beat you with experience when you try it. It’s…

Serena: [laugh]. Yeah.

Corey: Honestly, the hardest thing to learn, one it was valuable, least from my perspective, is learning when to just ignore the comments and keep going.

Serena: Yeah. I definitely get some that I ignore. I mean, if they’re, like, overly mean, I’ll block somebody or something like that. You know, 
for someone just missing a joke, it’s like, “Okay, whatever.” But yeah, some people—even after they’re like, “Hey, man. This is just a joke.” They’re like, “Well, this isn’t a funny joke.” And I was like, “I will never make a joke about RAID as a backup again. I promise.” [laugh].

Corey: No, you already told that joke. There are better ones you can explore.

Serena: Yeah. For sure.

Corey: So, if people want to come and hang out in this Discord, what’s the best way for them to find it? We’ll put it in the [show notes 00:30:05], but sometimes people listen rather than read.

Serena: Yeah, I think if you even just Google ‘sysengineer Discord’ it should come up like that; it’s on the Google returned searches. It’s a link in my Beacons on my TikTok. It’s in a link in sysengineer’s TikTok. So, there’s a couple different places that you can find and join.

Corey: And of course, in the [show notes 00:30:27] for this podcast, as well.

Serena: And the [show notes 00:30:30] of this podcast, of course. [laugh].

Corey: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about all this. If people want to follow you beyond just the Discord, where’s the best place for them to find you?

Serena: So, I’m @SheNetworks on TikTok and then I’m @notshenetworks on Twitter. So, you can find me in both of those locations.

Corey: Fantastic. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I appreciate it.

Serena: Thanks for having me on.

Corey: Serena DiPenti, network engineer and of course@SheNetworks on the internet. 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 along with an angry comment telling me which RAID level makes the best backup.

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 to get started.

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