Reflecting on 2021

Another flippin’ year goes by with curtailed social interactions, travel and that raised baseline of anxiety but aside from all that, here’s what I’m thinking.

It’s been another tricky year for lots of businesses. Network assets get sweated for a bit longer because everyone’s a little uncertain, so you don’t spend money you don’t need to. For me, that meant the year began with the threat of redundancy. More on that later…

Wi-Fi continues not to be taken quite as seriously as it should be by most enterprises. As Keith Parsons commented in his London Wi-Fi Design Day talk, Wi-Fi doesn’t punish you for doing it wrong. That’s not strictly true as a really badly designed network can fall apart entirely under load, something I’ve seen a few times, but his point stands; namely you can throw a load of APs into a space with very little thought and… it works.

An interesting challenge I’ve encountered has been organisations ignoring the design, doing what they’ve always done, and then complaining they have issues. I’ve also encountered an organisation stating “Wi-Fi is not business critical” when clearly it is because as soon as there are issues it becomes the highest priority. In many circumstances Wi-Fi is the edge everyone uses. Not only is Wi-Fi as business critical as the wired network, in many cases it’s more so. Of course the wired edge supports the wireless edge, we need it all to work.

And on that subject, we continue to see a separation between wired and wireless in many network teams. In my mind this doesn’t make sense a lot of the time and I consider the wireless and wired edge to be the same domain. Plus we all know the wires are easier.

Wi-Fi6E has arrived and will totally solve all our problems… It’s something I’ve yet to play with, but lacking either AP or client that will have to wait. Wi-Fi6 (802.11ax) has arguably so far failed to deliver on the huge efficiency increase promised I think because legacy clients persist, and will do for many years to come, but also because the scheduling critical to OFDMA is probably not where it needs to be.

It was also really disappointing to see Ofcom release such a small amount of 6GHz bandwidth here in the UK.

This has been another year of firsts for me, working with high profile clients, learning new technologies (gaining Checkpoint certifications), embracing project management (I’m a certified Prince2 Practitioner)

It’s also particularly struck me how much my so-called “career” has been held back my ethics and, what could refer to as loyalty but, if I’m honest, is probably comfort. I don’t have a complaint about this, I am who I am, this is just an observation.

I’ve been approached for, and turned down extremely well paid roles working for organisations who’s core purpose is something I cannot support. I’m happy with this. If I’m not working to make the world better, I at least need to feel I’m not actively making it worse.

This is no judgement on anyone who does work in areas I disagree with btw. We all have to make our own decisions about what matters in life.

The loyalty/comfort is a trickier area. I declined a really interesting opportunity that meant moving overseas. Ultimately that was probably the right decision but, on reflection, it was taken too quickly. I work an interesting role for a great company, long may that continue, but when the feet start itching or an opportunity comes my way, I need to be ready to embrace the uncertainty. Starting the year with redundancies, and losing a great member of the team, served as a reminder that loyalty in employment is transactional.

Wi-Fi Design in Higher Ed

I was recently invited to speak at the London Wi-Fi Design Day hosted by Ekahau and Open Reality. It was a fantastic day, great to catch up with people in person and some excellent talks (if I say so myself).

You can watch all the talks, from this and previous years, on this playlist. Talks from London 2021 start at number 41 as the list is ordered today.

My talk, some thoughts on Wi-Fi Design in Higher Education can be watched below.

I was particularly challenged by Peter Mackenzie’s talk on troubleshooting and the idea we all tend to jump to answers before we’ve asked enough questions. Hugely helpful and highly recommended.