We are thrilled to announce a new addition to our Ambassador team, Yasmin Lara. Yasmin is a quad JNCIE and the 1st female to achieve this designation! She has a great story about how she got started in the Networking industry, find out more in our Q&A.
Welcome to the team Yasmin!
What did you want to be growing up; did you see yourself where you are now?
There are a couple of interesting stories here.
My Dad is an Electrical Engineer, and yes, he is my Dad, but many people can attest to what I am going to say: He is the best engineer ever,! one of the smartest people I have ever met, and someone who can do anything, anything! From designing a PBX, to building a wood box to ship a painting overseas (leaving the FedEx guy speechless), all with the most incredible perfection.I grew up watching him fix the TV, the car, my toys… and whatever everybody (including family members, neighbors, friends) brought to him.He helped me with my school projects, from a simple drawing, to building house models and other things. All while loving every second of the process. All I wanted to be when I was a little girl was someone like him. I followed him around the house asking questions, and helping him (you know, passing him the screwdriver, or the pliers). I wanted to know what those drawings he used to bring home from the office (the PBX’s schematics), and all those awesome electronic components of different colors and sizes that look somehow like LEGO did; sooo fascinating. And I guess it’s true when people say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because even though I can’t never ever in a million years claim that I am smart like him, I did get something going on in my brain for math, physics, logic, science, and technology.I LOVED those classes in school, and always got good grades on them.
I was also lucky that my Dad had absolutely no concept in his mind of: “girls don’t do those things” so he had no problems with me using his tools, or trying to fix stuff around the house (including that old rotary dial telephone that gave me a painful electric shock, because I tried to repair it without unplugging it from the wall - he only knew about that event just recently BTW).So, at the young age of 11 years old, I declared: “I am going to be an Engineer!” and actually chose the college I wanted to go – Universidad Simon Bolivar (only because the campus was pretty – we used to go there to ride our bikes – and because I was told that it was one of the best in the country, and that there, I could become an Engineer).I only applied to that college on my senior high school year, to the dismay of my friends and Mom, but I put my heart and brain into it, and I was admitted. I imagine my Dad had no doubts I would, because he never said anything about my lack of applications anywhere else. 6 years later I was an Electronic Engineer!
Now, during those years in college, I went through many courses in Math, Physics, Digital Circuits, and so on, and I enjoyed them all, but there was that one class that ignited a new spark in me: Data Communications! The teacher? Margarita Juanatey: a smart, beautiful, and amazing rock star woman that earned my admiration on the very first class. She taught me about IP, TCP, Ethernet, and routing! I remember that during one of her classes I thought: “OMG! Maybe this is it! I can be an engineer and build networks one day.”
My husband and I went to Colorado to get a Master’s degree in Telecommunications almost right after we graduated from college. (Yes, I met my future husband while becoming an EE – he is also one). And what was my favorite class at CU? Data Communications, from Dr. Harvey Gates, who could make IP packet fragmentation sound like playing a game. My future career was now set in stone.
In parallel with the story of becoming an EE, is the story of becoming an instructor. My Mom was an extraordinary teacher with a passion for making sure her students understood what she was teaching them no matter what. I am sure I also got some of those genes. I discovered early in my life that I enjoyed, and was very good at teaching others, probably with my own personal style. Over the years, I have come to understand that maybe because of the way that I learn (with colors, pictures, tables, trying to put the pieces together, and trying to make sense of the concepts rather than simply memorizing a formula), I understand things in a way that makes it easy for me to explain them to others. Sometimes, I feel like teaching is just the natural next step of my own moment of understanding of something.
During my school years, somehow (I never really knew how it happened), I ended up being everybody’s tutor. Suddenly, my classmates in high school, and my younger cousins, started to come over to my house so that I taught them math and physics, and that made me happy. Later in college, I would make my friends and study partners mad because I needed to understand the concepts, instead of doing all the exercises in the book that they wanted to do; but I ended up explaining to them what I figured out anyways. 😊
Now, here is a twist: public speaking was never my thing. In fact, I can probably say I was terrified of it (I still get nervous sometimes), so I survived my school and college years doing the minimal public speaking possible.
After I finish my master’s degree, I started to work for a company that was both a Cisco partner, and a training partner, and their modus operandi was that the customer engineers (I was one of them) were also the instructors. The idea was that being in the field with customers would make us better instructors, which made sense. I wasn’t too fond of the idea though, and my plan was to avoid the teaching part as much as possible. Little I knew that a few weeks after I started, my manager would call me from Bogotá, Colombia, and ask me whether I could teach an ATM class. I told him that I would think about it, but he got a little annoyed, and told me that he was there, in front of the customer, and that he needed an answer right away. How can you say no to your boss, when you are the newbie, and you are still proving yourself, and he’s in front of a customer?
So, here I was, just a few weeks after starting my new job, on a flight to Bogotá, to teach a private class for a customer. I was so mortified, that I could not sleep at all the night before and called my husband at 3:00 am to tell him that I wanted to go home. Without going into much detail, the class went fantastic, my students were extremely happy, and a couple of days later I was flying back to Caracas, and was planning my trip to San Jose, CA, to become a Cisco Certified Instructor (CSCI).
So, here I am now, many years later, and quite a few more interesting stories and experiences later, (including turning to the light side and becoming a Juniper Networks (Jedi), and I’m still an instructor! Still enjoying being able to make something that looks so complicated at first sound easy and simple, and to see my students faces go from: “I don’t get it!” to “AH! OK! That makes sense!”.
I don’t think I can say I could see myself where I am right now, back when I started the journey; perhaps I was just too young. But I do feel like everything just evolved as it was supposed to be to where I am today.
What was your first experience with Juniper? Do you have certifications?
My first experience with Juniper is also kind of interesting. As I mentioned, I became a CSCI in my first job after graduate school. We moved back to the US 4 years later, and I became a full time Cisco instructor.
In 2008, the U.S. Government mandated that all Government agencies have IPv6-ready equipment enabled in their infrastructure, by June of that year. As a result, the demand for IPv6 training skyrocketed. I was teaching the Cisco IPv6 class almost every week, while working for Sunset Learning Institute.
We got contacted by a Juniper Resident Engineers’ manager, Wayne Council, who was looking for IPv6 training for his team. He found us while doing research. During our first meeting, I explained to him that I knew IPv6 very well, but that I was not really sure how to even spell Junos. He decided to go with us anyways. Apparently, I asked the right questions and convinced him. He gave me a stack of 12 x J2320 routers, which I took home. (My kids who were 3 and 5 years old at the time, had a funny little argument about whether these new boxes were computers or routers).
I took the old CJNR class with Juniper, and then built a Juniper IPv6 class covering the same topics I used to cover in my Cisco IPv6 class, from scratch. I taught the class a few times to some large groups of Juniper Engineers, many of them already JNCIEs, and honestly, I am sure I learned more than they did.
While building and teaching these IPv6 classes, I fell in love with Junos. It was so intuitive, and interactive, and logical, and it just made sense! It felt like driving my manual car (yes, I drive a stick and I LOVE it), and being in sync with the engine. I took my JNCIA-JUNOS just a few months after that, and a couple of years later I was working for Juniper Networks. I will never go back to the dark side! 😊
Regarding certifications: I am 4xJNCIE (SP, ENT, SEC, and DC), JNCIA-CLOUD, JNCDS-DC, CCNP and CCDP. I get asked from time to time which certification I am most proud of, and I have to say: CCIP (unfortunately retired by Cisco now), and the JNCIE-SEC.
I got the CCIP while being a stay-home mom with two boys under 4, which years later blows my own mind, when I think about it. The stories of how I did it are actually hilarious, but it would take me a lot of writing to describe them here. The CCIP certification was the card under the sleeve that allowed me to come back to the workforce (the person who hired me wasn't convinced I could do the job, after being away for 3+ years, until I placed my new badge in front of him).
The JNCIE-SEC simply was one of the biggest challenges of my career. It took me so many tries, so many tears, and disappointments, and I said so many times: “no more!” just to come back and try again. Finding out that I had finally passed was an indescribable feeling. It actually felt surreal, and like I was dreaming, for quite a few weeks.
What advice would you give someone just getting started on Juniper products?
Avoid getting into the habit of translating, and comparing what the other vendors do, and how you configure things on that other vendor all the time. It’s like when you are learning a new language. You truly learn it the day you stop translating in your mind, from your native language into this new language, before you say or write anything.Allow yourself to see how Junos works without thinking of what you’ve done with other vendors in the past and test all the different options you have to edit, and fix, your configuration file, so that you can really see what I tell my students is the power of Junos.
Build yourself a little lab. If you don’t have access to equipment in your company. Maybe you can install some vSRX or vMX instances on a server or buy one or two small SRX or routers on eBay. You can create many different topologies using routing instances, and logical systems and test many features, at least all the basics like routing protocols, interfaces, routing policies, firewall filters, and so on.
Tell us about a typical day at work. What are some of your daily routines?
It depends on whether I am teaching that day or not. On a teaching day, I start class at 10am ET, and finish at 6pm. During that time, I don’t pay to much attention to anything happening outside the classroom, so people in my office know that unless it is an emergency, they will likely don’t hear back from me until the day is over. I am super focused on my students and my class during that time.
In the evening, I review my slides for the next day, and usually put together additional slides and material to help me explain things to my students, or to provide additional examples, information beyond what’s on the slides, or references that they can use when they get back to the office. I might also research or put together a demo for any questions that I couldn’t answer in class, because I didn’t know or because we didn’t have time.
I am thankful for having a supportive husband who keeps things running with Dr. appointments, baseball practice, music lessons, and everything else going on in our house, while I am busy teaching, and prepping to teach the next day.
The days I am not teaching I usually prepare for new classes or take any exams that I might have pending. We also have mentoring or tech talk sessions once per quarter, so I prepare the material I will use for those sessions during the days I am not teaching.
What do you like to do when you’re not working, what do you look forward to doing on the weekend?
I enjoy watching baseball or better yet going to Nats Park to cheer for my Washington Nationals. I like going to see my oldest son play baseball or my youngest play the drums with his band.
I love spending time with my husband and 2 boys eating together, talking about things (baseball is usually number 1 topic) or just watching TV.
I look forward to my Tae Kwon Do class on Saturdays. I am a third-degree black belt, and I really enjoy breaking boards, doing forms, or practicing my kicks. I don’t like sparring that much, and only do it when I have no choice.
Also, I tell people that I am obsessed with a few things: Star Wars, Mustang cars, U2, Starbucks coffee (triple grande latte), and baseball (Washington Nationals is #1, then Rockies and Red Sox).
I also like checking my Facebook friend’s updates!