Our today’s guest’s story proves that hard work and constant self-development pays off tenfold. He’s a seasoned Extreme Hero who knows the value of technical excellence and great business relations. Without further ado, please welcome Rien van Maurik, EMEA Network Solutions Consultant at Black Box Network Services!
Hello Rien! How are you doing these days? Hope you and your family stay safe and healthy!
Hello, thanks for having me! I’m glad to say that me and my family enjoy good health.
We’re fresh from TechTalks 5.0. Did you enjoy the show?
Oh yes, I enjoyed the show. Each time it’s interesting to learn about both the existing and new technologies and how Extreme Networks is going to use them in their solutions. As far as the “Tech” in TechTalks is concerned, I was more than satisfied.
But… I just really miss the social component these days. Not that long ago Extreme organized events like this in every country and those were the moments when you could approach someone and have some personal conversation with Extreme engineers and fellow partners. I really hope that will be possible again soon. 😌
Can you recall your first experience with Extreme technology?
My first experience with Extreme Networks… you could say it was almost in another century! 😀 I think it was 2000. I just started to work at Fujitsu and we were launching this partnership with Extreme. Being a junior engineer back then, I was trained with the good old EXOS (Extreme Operating System) and the Summit 24 and Summit 48 Alpine switches.
From that point forward, I have been continuously installing and configuring Extreme Networks equipment, such as the EXOS switches, different types of wireless network solutions, network management such as Epicentre, Ridgeline, Netsight, XMC, ExtremeCloud IQ, various network access control solutions, and so on. And most recently, I also got into Fabric.
Over the years, I have worked with a number of different manufacturers, such as 3com, HPE, Cisco, Baynetworks, and Symbol. but what I really like about Extreme is that they make good and well-thought-out network solutions that are primarily aimed at technical functionality. And you have to appreciate the support. Whether it’s technical or sales contacts, it’s always there for you.
All of it has certainly contributed to the fact that the customers using Extreme solutions are active are very satisfied, and I can provide them with a high quality support and advice. I hope to be able to do that for a long time to come.
Rien van Maurik, Extreme Hero
You’ve racked up quite a career, playing for both the business services giant like Fujitsu and the world's largest independent provider of communications, infrastructure, and product solutions that is Black Box. How would you compare these two experiences?
There’s a little back story to that. In the fall of 2009 Fujitsu made a decision to close their Network Services department in the Netherlands. As a result, Extreme lost their biggest partner in the country and I had to consider a different role within the organization.
And because nature abhors a vacuum, this is when Black Box Network Services came into play and took the Extreme partner’s mantle after Fujitsu. Together with Extreme, Black Box asked me to join their ranks and build their emerging partnership from scratch. And that’s what me and one of my colleagues from Fujitsu did.
The difference between working at Fujitsu and Black Box is quite considerable. I have learned a lot during these 10 years I spent at Fujitsu. And Black Box has given me space to further develop my skill set. I have grown from a full engineering role to a combination of presales manager, consultant, senior engineer, and a mentor for new colleagues. And this combination suits me a lot.
Let’s talk about one of your most esteemed accounts: The Royal Library of the Netherlands. What is the secret to running such successful project for over 10 years?
Luckily for us, The Royal Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek, or simply KB) is not my only account. 😄 But together with my other client, Audax, it is indeed the oldest and the biggest.
My first contact with KB was back when I worked at Fujitsu. When I moved to Black Box, KB basically did the same. Initially, the client was very happy with the EXOS switches. Basing on the positive user experience and a great cooperation between us and the IT engineers on site, KB’s network infrastructure was introduced with a growing amount of Extreme equipment, evolving into a complete installation with EXOS and VOSS switches, Identify Wireless, about 140 access points, XMC network management, ExtremeControl, and analytics.
The project we are carrying out today is based on three postulates:
- The existing data center in the main location will be replaced by two new data centers.
- Current core switches, a total of 4 type Summit X670 have become depreciated.
- The Internet connections (BGP based) are overloaded and need to be upgraded to 2x 10Gb.
After a careful consideration of KB’s needs, I prepared a new network design together with Extreme, using the newly available VSP4900 switches and the Fabric technology. This design was met with a warm welcome from KB and I’m proud to say that during the long test period, which took about 3 months, the proposed network setup has more than proven itself.
The key to this success lies in the long history with Extreme Networks, proven reliability of the solutions, fast and professional support in case of problems, and a thorough cooperation between the customer, partner, and the networking vendor. KB has indicated that with an equivalent level of solutions and service, they expect to continue the cooperation for many years to come.
You got your Bachelor degree in ICT after having worked for two decades in the IT industry. You’re a walking proof that in order to succeed in the networking industry, you don’t necessarily need an academic title…
Indeed, academic training is not necessary to work as a network engineer. But it definitely comes in handy. Back in 1988, I graduated as an electrical engineer for 230/400V installations. However, after 20 years in the industry, I started to feel that my level of knowledge was no longer sufficient and started to hinder my performance. At some point, I needed to better understand the IT needs of the customers from the business perspective and then translate them into actual network solutions.
That is why I took up Business IT & Management and got my bachelor’s degree in 2016. Not only has this study helped me in developing solutions that fit the customers’ objectives, it was also a new impulse for my career. With Black Box I was able to grow into the position of network consultant. Today I’m responsible for all network solutions to be installed by Black Box Network Services within the Benelux region.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
An old colleague of mine once told me: "Rien, you are great at technical stuff, but you also need to look beyond the boundaries of technology and try to empathize more with the person you are communicating with”. And he was right. Heeding his advice has helped me build stronger relationships based on mutual trust and gain much needed help, both with the technology and my professional career.
And based on your experience, what would you tell your younger self and other up-and-coming system engineers starting their careers in the networking industry?
First of all: completing the school education is nothing more than a starting point for your career. Be on the constant lookout for ways to improve yourself. Stay hungry.
Secondly: try to experience various roles, do different types of work. Don’t be afraid to change something if it doesn’t sit right with you. And if you feel that your work makes you happy, focus on that.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly: build a network of people around you, people you can rely on and who will help you develop and grow.
If you stick to these three points, you will quickly learn that the work you perform brings out the best in you and gives you more energy instead of draining it.
Do you feel like a hero sometimes? 🙂
Feeling like a hero thing doesn’t really suit my character. But if I can complete an engaging project and I can see that the customers really appreciates the commitment, I will drive home with a smile on my face. 😉