Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ken Lambert: IC's Chief Networking Wizard

If the SU Network had a face, it'd look a lot like this.
Ken Lambert is a quality subject for an interview, to say the least. He’s as interesting as he is useful, and knowledgeable as he is well-spoken. If you've met him, you’re not going to forget the experience, unless of course, he is trying to solve a problem at that moment, in which case, he would probably exit the conversation with a pleasantry and then continue to work.

Ken is like a Leatherman tool. He can do a lot of different stuff; Of course, unlike a Leatherman, he does all of his tasks exceedingly well (multi-tools are famous for being versatile but not always that functional)

Despite his busy schedule, I sneaked in a few moments with Ken so that I could ask him a few questions about himself:

Q: Would you mind telling me a little about yourself?
A: I was raised on a farm in West Virginia. The farm belonged to my Grand Parents. One set of them lived down the driveway, and the other set lived across a nearby field. I transitioned from farm life to working in technology in high school. I guess I had a knack for it, and right when I was in high school, computers really started to become an important thing. I started working with a TRS-80 and learned basic programming and then taught some of my teachers how to use their machines. I've actually been working in technology ever since.

Q: Since you were in high school there have been so many changes in computing, what do you think is one of the most fascinating changes?
A: Everything has changed so fast, I’m still hooked on the networking aspect. We have so much more capability now. It's nice to be able to make systems that are redundant and fault tolerant.

Q: Let’s put technology aside for a second, what are some of your hobbies when you are not working with a computer?
A: Wood working! I used to be a life-guard many years ago; and given the chance, I'll be in the water. Any chance I can be in the water, that’s where you’ll find me. Hunting, fishing, shooting, and reloading ammunition are some of my favorite things to do.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents?
A: I can whistle really loud, that's about it.

Q: Do you have any super hero nicknames?
A: I’ve had lots of nicknames over the years, but most of them involve a combination of my first and middle name. If somebody calls me Kenny Wade, it usually means they’re family or they’re just like family.

Q: What is your most memorable experience at SU thus far?
A: One day that always sticks in my mind, though I can’t recall exactly what it was that we were working on, years and years ago, is a day when I came to work on a Monday and left Wednesday afternoon. That was a long day, a very very long day.

Q: Are you an animal lover?
A: I’m 48 years old, and I’ve only lived without a dog for six years. I’ve always had dogs, and in 48 years, I’ve only had four dogs that I would call mine, so yeah I'm an animal lover.

Q: Do you have a celebrity look alike that you are aware of?
A: I don’t, not that I can think of anyway. Although, I do get told that there is a doppelganger that evidently lives down towards Front Royal or Strausburg. People who know me really well often report that they have seen me out somewhere in that area.

Q: What does a typical work day look like for you?
A: Busy... Very Busy. It’s just plain busy. You never know when you come to work if you will be working on a problem that has popped up, a project that you had planned, or some other significant issue that could not be foreseen. There are very few days that I have the luxury of coming to work with a set plan, and leave with it being executed without delay or interruption. The physical plant might serve as a good analogy for what we do here in IC; you never know where a light-bulb will burn out, or a water pipe might bust.

Q: What are the primary systems that you work with on a day-to-day basis?
A: Oh man, there are so many! Access points, network switches, any of the cloud servers, the storage area networks that we have access to, applications that monitor the network and network services. There are lots and lots of systems that we work with on a day-to-day basis.

Q: If you disappeared into an extra-dimensional pocket for an extended period of time and nobody took over your job responsibilities, what would happen after six months?
A: I mean, Shenandoah University would have to find a person to fill the position, you simply need somebody who can work with the different systems, monitor them, and then coordinate plans to fix them should something go awry. Somebody would have to fill the slot, and there are a number of people within the department that could step up and make sure that everything is functional. To be honest, pulling the pieces together and keeping people moving forward is probably the most integral part of what I do, and somebody would have to be here to do that.

Q: If you could provide users one quick pro-tip regarding the technology that you support, what would it be?
A: Almost everything looks like the internet is down. I mean, if somebody goes to access a website and they can’t access it properly or fast enough, sometimes they will call and say, “Hey, the internet is down.” But, it might just be that one site meaning that they have something wrong on their end, that does not mean the internet is down. Maybe somebody has an issue accessing wireless, but it could be an always an authentication issue (the service that allows you to log onto the wireless isn’t recognizing your credentials properly), but that does not mean the internet is down, it just looks that way. With redundant internet providers, SU's internet very rarely goes down. 

See, I told you he is interesting. It's easy to get involved in a long conversation with Ken because he is both engaging and interesting to speak with.  Though, if you get him on the topic of technology, get ready to be the recipient of a knowledge-bomb, because he has lots of information and he will, if time permits, inform you thoroughly.

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