Did you hear? Robb Boyd, Chief Storyteller, is coming to Networking Field Day 22. Let’s get to know him! And don’t forget to connect with Robb at @RobbBoyd on Twitter, the web, or the Tech Field Day web site.
What was your first computer and what is your go-to computer now?
I came to computer technology a bit late. I was not doing anything special on the keyboard in those early days other than trying to get away from a typewriter for my school term papers. I do remember dating a girl in the late 80’s for longer than I probably should have simply because her family had a computer. It was in its own room…and the paper would just feed itself! I switched to Mac in about 2005 and never looked back. I don’t get excited about the Apple store anymore since I own at least one of everything they offer. (Exception…Mac Pro…that sucker is way expensive).
Tell us a little about what you do now in your current role.
I left Cisco at the end of 2019 and started my own media and education company, ExplaiNerds. I continue to do the same kind of work: writing, hosting, producing content around the network technology space…but now, I am doing it for more than just Cisco.
How did you get into Technology and IT?
I have always been a tinkerer. I like to know how things work. But I also distract easily.
I started college in San Marcos fully intent on pursing a broadcast journalism degree. During that time I worked in radio, post-production video and even ended up doing grunt work for KBVO (Fox) in Austin, TX. I picked up part time work in a local motel however and started moving up into hotel operations then security with the Four Seasons and Westin Hotels. I got a BS in Hospitality Management from the University of Houston in ’92 and was nowhere near any real technology at this point. My hotel career peaked as Director of Operations for the Westin Hotel in Columbus, OH when I decided to toss it all out and get a technology sales job.
From Pagers to T-1 Circuits
I took an inside sales job for PageNet that quickly led to outside sales. That led to a mid-market accounts role at MCI which soon became WorldCom. (I wish I could find my picture taken with CEO Bernie Ebbers at a sales award event…shortly before he was sent to prison). I ended up as an Audio/Video conferencing specialist for MCI and they moved me back to Texas to support the Perot and EDS accounts. I appreciated the paid move, but I could not stay with that company any longer…I jumped to a video conferencing integrator specializing in large PictureTel room installations and the incredible surge of Polycom ViewStations…(many of which were running without ISDN or dedicated T-1 lines!). I say all of this because you asked…and because it was at this point that I joined Cisco in November of 2000.
Bubble? What bubble?
I joined Cisco right at the end of a historically successful run. It took almost 8 months of interviewing (they were a cocky/picky bunch) to get hired as a field sales rep in commercial accounts. I had met some of the SE’s as we partnered on video projects and I was really fired up to work with some of the smartest people I had ever come across. I had very little networking knowledge, but I knew how to study. I finally got a role covering the Fort Worth side of the DFW metroplex. It was a crazy busy time. Sales seemed to be so easy (relatively speaking). But I was only 12 months into it when the bottom fell out of the market. Layoffs and big changes were coming for everyone at Cisco and I knew, that as one of the newest guys, I was surely on the way out. But instead of getting the boot, I was asked to become a Security Specialist…a new role in a new overlay organization.
Fighting Imposter Syndrome
I was so happy to get a chance to stay on that I did not immediately reflect on the fact that I knew next to nothing about network security. This was ‘imposter syndrome’ …in my reality. That scared me into a lot of studying (again). My role involved supporting Cisco sales reps across 5 states. I knew the real selling was done by the engineers however and I was even more panicked. Who am I to show up in their accounts and somehow offer something unique…something they did not already know? I was desperate to figure out my value. Cisco was making acquisitions at the time…still a reality of course…and that was where I chose to differentiate. I latched on to the new stuff since I figured it would take me a long time to catch up with their knowledge of IOS, PIX or IDS. I dove into a number of different things, but Okena CSA and MARS became some of my lead technologies. These may mean nothing to many of my peers now however as they are all long gone from the Cisco Security scene….but then? It was my own little hype cycle and I rode it for all it was worth. I did pretty well…I even took over the equivalent role on the channel side to become a SCAM (Security Channel Account Manager) and was able to get several industry certifications with the CISSP and GSEC. I was still covering 5 or more states however and my strategy for being productive was to host large regional events. I loved getting on stage and walking a crowd of customers and partners through my security pitch. Those presentations landed me in a series of interviews at the corporate office in San Jose toward the last fiscal quarter of 2005.
Technology you can Use, from Geeks you can Trust
Cisco’s TechWiseTV launched in 2006 with an inaugural episode featuring me as the security host. I joined a brand new group of people charged with creating web based TV series for Cisco’s US market. None of us knew what we were doing. It was chaotic, stressful and incredibly exciting. I have a lot of stories to share over a beer or two if asked…but this is where I met my soulmate co-host, Jimmy Ray Purser. We started with our own shows that first year, each trying to figure out how this was supposed to work…we quickly realized that there was less of a long-term strategy from the suits above us than we originally credited them with and thus…we saw an opportunity. We teamed up to cover all content together since he was an actual engineer and I was a dedicated enthusiast who liked learn and share and enjoyed being back in media production. We soon took the show to a global audience, started doing live tapings at industry events and kept up a weekly release pace for the next 10+ years. We built our own studio on the San Jose campus, expanded into animated explainers, audio podcasts and a bunch of other TV show concepts that ran and dissolved over time…all the while, keeping the flagship alive and well. TechWiseTV has now been producing content for over 13 years, collected over 25 industry awards (including 2 Emmy nominations). We featured almost every new technology and architecture at Cisco over the years, debuting and debunking in our deep dives.
I found my calling in life with this show. The ability to learn from such an incredibly diverse bunch of geeks. Helping them shine a light on their accomplishments continues to drive my energy. I love a good story…and I really enjoy helping others tell their story better. Shaping a narrative to increase the audience…expanding the pool of potential buyers by helping everyone see what is really possible.
What are your biggest challenges?
Gosh. It would be much easier to list the things I don’t find challenging…certainly a shorter list. In many ways, I find myself struck by how fast things are moving. I am adjusting to being on the outside of the Cisco bubble. In the same way that I was so nervous about my skills not measuring up to the engineers I was supposed to support…I look around at my fellow Tech Field Day delegates and I come away both humbled and nervous all over again. But that is a challenge I enjoy. The challenge not being something as stupid as trying to be smarter…but really getting to figure out where I can add some kind of unique value that works in concert with these new peers that surround me.
Where do you see IT going in the next 3-5 years?
It’s obvious that we all need to keep working on our software development skills. And now cloud is settling in. It’s hard to get used to feeling in control of an architecture that is increasingly out of our physical purview. Things are changing really fast and as frightening as it can seem…there are a lot of things that will continue to move slowly. It’s hard to decide where to cut off your learning path these days as everything seems to bleed over. The fundamentals won’t go away however so our base knowledge will long be required.
If you weren’t working in IT, what would you be doing instead?
The easy answer here would be media related. Anything with teaching, writing, storytelling, leading an audience, live or recorded.
How do you manage your work/life balance?
This really hard. I like what I do so much that I easily conflate the two. As I think is common among many of us…I am very extroverted when it comes to work…but otherwise, I consider myself an introvert. I don’t generally enjoy a party unless I have a defined role (one reason I started DJ’ing house parties). I think I balance things OK..for myself at least. My family may not always agree but I have gotten better at finding a point to end each day and then not looking back until the next day. Nothing like a Netflix binge to re-focus my attention.
If you had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Mission Statement by “Weird Al” Yankovic (because the lyrics are catchy…they remind me of everything we always had to fight to keep out of our TechWiseTV scripts).
“Rob Boyd is God” (because the title is obviously catchy).
Do you have any hobbies?
I still enjoy tinkering with music and home automation. I grew up motorcycle touring and camping. I have recently been getting back into adventure touring now with a dual-sport bike. I have been consciously trying to get out more. I am ashamed that I don’t know the local music and art scene here in Dallas (20 years in the burbs) and so I am working on that.
What are you most excited about seeing at the event?
I am most excited that there is no Cisco technology. As I am pre-studying the sponsor companies and I can already feel how eye-opening and refreshing this will be.
What is your current obsession?
Navel gazing. Baby Yoda. The latest shiny thing?
Do you have any hidden talents?
I only recently accepted that I can’t be a child prodigy…no matter how hard I keep trying. I am usually told that all of my talents must still be hidden.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Anthony Bourdain. Because I could not get enough of his writing, his style or his outlook on culture.
What was the last book you read?
“Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions” by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths.
Who would you most like to swap places with for a day? It could be a celebrity, family member, animal, etc.
Nobody really. I am what I am and I don’t really want to know any differently. But, in the spirit of the question, my labrador Gerard, because he is always happy, he can nap all day and still be ready to play in an instant.
“There is only one thing more important than the right answer, and that is asking the right question.”
— TK KEANINI
Thank you, Robb! We look forward to your questions and are excited to have you as a delegate at Networking Field Day 22 this week! Don’t miss a minute of the presentations beginning Wednesday, February 12 through Friday, February 14!
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Dr. Avril Salter - July 16, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Kyle Jenner - July 14, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Lariana Luy - July 14, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Calvin Hendryx-Parker - July 13, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Andy Thurai - July 13, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – John Deegan - July 9, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Neil Anderson - July 7, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Jim Jones - July 2, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Tony Bradley - May 14, 2020
- Meet Field Day Delegate – Pieter-Jan Nefkens - May 6, 2020