Monday, February 21, 2011

Scott Morris, Hiding in a Crowd

It was a few years ago when I first met Scott Morris.  He was instrumental in helping me have the courage to pursue CCIE recruitment as a mainstay.  I had selected for my vehicle the CCIE Flyer which he found to be a great idea.  So we communicated a couple of times by phone in the beginning.  I was soon on my way to Cisco Live in Orlando where I was really not too sure what I would do.  I was going to Networkers to network, go figure.  The year leading up to this event had me excited about the Talent Program from Cisco called SRS.  Then the work I did with Cisco in freeing a pair of CCIEs’ numbers was followed by a couple of more noteworthy efforts I was a part of in helping a few other CCIEs were published in the CCIE Flyer.  Well Scott told me I should go to Cisco Live and meet more of the CCIEs who were reading the CCIE Flyer in person. 

 On my long journey there he texted me several times about a party being held off the Cisco Live premise.  It turns out this would be his last event for his employer at the time but I was able to meet a large group of CCIEs there.  The event was very cool and Scott was right, a bunch of the CCIEs did already know me or about me.  I was extremely flattered.  Then Scott left for another training company and in his wake things seemed to go quiet.  It was like he dropped out of site.  After being the poster child for CCIE training for a while it was odd that he basically dropped off the radar.  So I am very pleased to be interviewing him about life!

Q: Scott you have been busy lately.  I was at the open house to witness firsthand the next phase of your journey.  The training facilities looked spiffy and the team of Marvin Greenlee and Keith Barker looks like winning combination.  Tell how long have you known these two?
A:  Wow, it seems like eons!  I’ve known Marvin longer as I had worked with him at more than one vendor previously.  But even Keith, I knew “of” him before meeting him personally and working with him at our last employer.  Good thing is that we have several years collectively of working together as a team, and knowing how each other functions so that we can easily bring out the best!

Q: These guys are triple and dual CCIEs respectively.  Are they underachievers?
A:  Hmmmm…  I was thinking more like they have a better grasp on sanity than I do!  Never underestimate anyone’s desire for learning though!  Remember that my CCIE number is a bit lower than theirs, so they still have a few years to dazzle the world with their accomplishments, which may yet be significantly different than mine or even overshadow mine!  Besides, even if they had a single CCIE, as I’m sure you have come to appreciate in your working with talent all over the world…  it’s not JUST a certification (or even a plethora of them) that truly makes a person great.  I have a great team, or a team of great people no matter the specifics of certifications.

Q: While I was there Keith showed me the online training developed for the iPad.  It was cool in a few ways.  The dialogue was engaging and the graphics were pretty sharp.  Is online learning going to change the way network engineers prepare for certifications?
A:  Just a few ways?  J  Clearly you weren’t watching for long enough!  The thing about what we are doing is that it’s not a limit of ‘online’ learning.  It is an evolution in learning methods.  There are similarities to what others have done, in that it’s a recorded medium.  And yet there are several distinct differences that make it excel well beyond where others are at.  And, not just in the specifics of any given course, but in the idea of the entire curriculum.   But I think you are baiting me a little bit here.  That’s enough of a teaser for the moment.  I’m not quite ready to conquer the world via that mechanism yet, but stay tuned for some exciting developments in the world of self-paced learning!

Q: In the past you worked for two grey market training companies.  They function differently than Cisco authorized learning partners.  Since they are acting as unauthorized training companies do they have different kinds of business meetings?  Do they wear robes and hoods to remain incognito while reciting chants and interpreting runes?
A:  Well, you know that there are blood oaths of secrecy, so I’m really not at liberty to discuss those kinds of details even though I’m no longer part of either Guild!  :-)  They have different business models, and different things they need to do in order to keep in business. 

Q: Ok I understand these things are like secret rituals, which are partially expected to impart knowledge to those with wallets out.  I am cool you don’t have to put yourself in harm’s way.  But tell me which company had the coolest looking costumes?
A:  Ahhhh…  You should know by now, it’s not the costume but the person wearing it!   I promise you that no matter how hard we may try, Marvin, Keith or myself will not look NEARLY as good as your typical runway model no matter which outfit you choose!  Likewise, no matter which “outfit” the three of us are wearing, in the end, it is our specific knowledge, our specific style, and our specific methods of imparting knowledge and clicking with the students that sets us apart from the packs. But we do indeed have some neat new outfits now that we are within the Cisco authorized channel, and some promising fashion statements and trends yet to come to public view!

Q: You have been at this training thing and CCIE thing for a while now.  You have been in a few scrapes but like the Energizer Bunny you keep on pounding your drum.  What happened to you?  It seemed like there was a period of time when you were completely off the radar.  Did you seek enlightenment from the Dali Lama or wander the desert in search of answers?  What happened?  You were basically hiding in a crowd out here weren’t you?
A:  I never truly disappeared.  I kept an eye on things, and kept watching.  Even those who take time to meditate will come back, and be amazingly cognizant of the things that happened while they were gone!  Or perhaps it was just sitting back and plotting my methods to take over the world!  Every OverLord needs to have a plan!  Either way, there was a lot that transpired in the last year, and a lot of good things that are coming (and going to keep coming) out of it. And besides, I emerged with another JNCIE out of it, didn’t I?  I know it’s not a Cisco thing, but it’s still an evil lab exam!  Gotta give me some credit for lurking and working in the underworld!  Four CCIEs, two JNCIEs and a CCDE makes me a whole new kind of crazy!  :-)

Q: We met at GITEX this past October and had a good time meeting the CCIEs that came by the booth and hitting the tourist spots like the Burj Khalifa and indoor skiing at the Mall of the Emirates.  This was the first time back on skis for you in a while.  What happened to make you stop skiing?
A:  Oh, I love snow skiing!  Work definitely gets in the way of being able to jaunt off every time there is fresh powder though, as much as I’d love to!  Also, having kids tends to change things a bit, but on the bright side, they are old enough now that we’ll start introducing them to the wonderful world of downhill skiing!  (Or at least tubing!)  On the other hand, snow skiing in the middle of the desert was an awesome time (while being wrong on so many levels), and it was great to have shared that experience with you!  And better yet to have had both of us emerge without any broken bones!

Q: CCIEs still come up to you all gushy sometimes.  I know I have seen it firsthand.  Like at the CCIE party young guns would come to me and ask me to introduce them to you and Terry and Narbik.  It seems like it was ok for them to interrupt me which makes me feel both good and bad.  Does that kind of reaction from other CCIEs or future CCIEs make you feel good?  It has to add some pressure to you to behave properly or look sharp or something!
A:  Have I ever struck you as someone concerned about looking sharp?  I’m just me, and I’m just a normal guy!  :-)  It is great to meet people all over the world, and better yet to know that somehow I have managed to make an impact on their lives.  As a trainer, that is really the best payback, to know that you were able to help other succeed. On the flip side, I have come to realize that I need to stay away from any major criminal activities, because clearly the Witness Protection Program is not something I will qualify for!  Too many people know my face or even my voice.  But it’s all in good fun!

Q: You were at Cisco Live in the UK this past month.  How was that compared to the Las Vegas version?
A:  It was a little colder.  But it was London in January, so it’s as expected!  Obviously that event is not as large as the flagship version that will be held in Las Vegas again this year, but it was still a good-sized event with lots of people and lots of vendors and lot of fun!  And it was great to have been over there!  Keith Barker and I were both there as part of the newly created Cisco Designated VIP program.  And we both were able to meet lots of great people over there. I’ve been told that the CCIE’s from Europe are a bit smarter and more coordinated than their North American counterparts though.  At the CCIE party, there was a “human chess” game that ensued with CCIEs.  We missed that part, hopping between gatherings, but I hear it was quite a feat!

Q: The folks at the Nova Datacom open house seemed keenly interested in the content you folks were previewing.  I was happy to learn that most of the folks actually knew about the CCIE Flyer and me.  That was cool, I keep getting a rush every time it happens.  What do you suggest I do to improve the CCIE Flyer?
A:  As I had told you years ago (which apparently you not only remember, but actually listened to me!), it’s a matter of being there for people.  When you help people out, they will always appreciate it and always remember it, no matter how small the interaction. With the CCIE Flyer, there is so much you are doing in various parts of the world trying to focus on helping CCIEs and CCIE Candidates out.  Just keep at it, do what you enjoy doing and people will see that! Oh yeah, and throw a really big party at Cisco Live!  :-)  In addition, I remember early on (seems like years ago now) you had some CCIE Meet & Greets around the world that many people enjoyed.  Perhaps it is time to kick that up a notch again!

Q: There are many CCIE training companies suffering these days from the economic down turn and some for simply having bad product.  What will set your effort apart from the rest of the pack?
A:  The instructors and the passion.  With the people, and the experience, that makes a huge difference.  We can enhance our consulting capabilities because of our educational background and likewise supplement our teaching capabilities because of our extensive consulting backgrounds!

Q: Welcome to the approved Cisco learning partner ranks.  The best instructors seem to end up in the CLP team.  What have you had to do differently for this inclusion to the club?
A:  The inclusion isn’t anything new.  One of the interesting things as you look around the ranks of instructors (not just CCIE, but the CCSIs of the world) is that you’ll find many who have been around a while and merely changed what and where they were working.  Keith and I have both been CCSIs for over 11 years now.  Marvin has been for over 5 years.  So despite a “hiatus” to have worked at some non-authorized places, being a part of the CLP team has never really been something that we ever actually left. We are merely rearranging our lives and our focus and working within the current Learning@Cisco, and Cisco360 structures.  But we have long been part of that club!

Q: Good luck with the new endeavor and thank you for the honor of working with you and your team as we plan venues globally together!

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