Networking procurement and the merits of asking questions with Jezzibell Gilmore

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This is a podcast episode titled, Networking procurement and the merits of asking questions with Jezzibell Gilmore. The summary for this episode is: <p>On this episode, Avi talks with longtime friend Jezzibell Gilmore. Jezzibell is the Chief Commercial Officer at PacketFabric, and works toward revenue goals. She and Avi discuss: </p><p><br></p><ul><li>How Jezzibell entered the networking industry after not enjoying the world of law</li><li>Moving into operations and deployment at Akamai and then transitioning to enterprise</li><li>Differences between enterprise and service provider</li><li>The networking community, bringing people in and developing their skills</li></ul><p><br></p><p><br></p>
Episode overview
00:51 MIN
Jezzibell's role at PacketFabric as Chief Commercial Officer
00:48 MIN
Transitioning from law to networking for AboveNet
02:47 MIN
Being in the Bay area and how that helped shape Jezzibell's career
02:14 MIN
Investing in sales enablement and learning to support the customer base
03:10 MIN
How Jezzibell thinks about her interest understanding technology and policy, and the role of foundational questions
04:16 MIN
The path from AboveNet to Akamai, and transitioning to technology sourcing and procurement
04:51 MIN
Jezzibell on the differences between service provider cultures and enterprise cultures
07:14 MIN
Avi and Jezzibell discuss innovation in the network space, and what will drive real edge compute
04:10 MIN
Being authentic, asking questions, and gaining a wider perspective on networking
06:54 MIN
Learning communities and conferences, and engaging with passionate people about networking
04:06 MIN
Jezzibell's advice for new networkers entering the industry
05:43 MIN
Connecting with Jezzibell, and parting advice
03:26 MIN

Avi Friedman: Welcome to Network AF. On this episode, I talk with my friend Jezzibell Gilmore about how she got into the industry, starting working as an assistant at AboveNet, a hosting company, moving into operations and deployment at Akamai, going over to the enterprise side and then coming back, actually being an entrepreneur in the service provider world. We talk about how she got into tech, a little bit about the difference between enterprise and service provider, how she's thought about and learned between the business side and the technical side. And as we often do, about growing the community, bringing people in and teaching and educating. Thanks and enjoy the episode. Hi, and welcome to Network AF. I'm here. With my friend Jezzibell Gilmore. Jezzibell, could you give us a little bit of an intro? Where are you and what are you up to professionally?

Jezzibell G.: Hello everybody. I am Jezzibell Gilmore and I am currently in Milton, Massachusetts. There's an ice storm going on outside. And I am the co- founder and chief commercial officer of PacketFabric. We are a network as a service platform providing data center interconnection and cloud connectivity for anybody and everybody who needs to reach a destination.

Avi Friedman: Awesome. That sounds like a lot of people. What is a chief commercial officer?

Jezzibell G.: Well, that means I am in charge of the revenue of the business.

Avi Friedman: Okay. Finding customers and making them happy.

Jezzibell G.: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Avi Friedman: So we've known each other for a few decades. Could you describe how you got into networking?

Jezzibell G.: Well, absolutely. In fact, here's a great story that involves Avi. I got into networking totally by chance. I was working at a law firm which I found not to be a great fit for me and I was leaving the firm. One of the clients of the firm, which was the CEO of AboveNet Communications at that point, said," Hey, I hear you're leaving the firm. Where are you going?" I said," Oh, I am just looking for something new to do. This is not a great fit for me." He said," Hey, I have a startup company called AboveNet. And do you want to come and work for us?" And I said," What do you do?" And he talked about what AboveNet did which at that point it seemed like a total foreign language to me. And he talked about carrier hotels and internet. It sounded really cool, but I didn't understand really any of it. And I said," What am I going to do if I don't really understand what you do?" And he said," Well, everybody's learning because it's a fast evolving industry." And to me, that sounded very interesting, something that is moving fast and everybody in it is trying to do something new. So I decided to give it a try. And while at AboveNet Communications, I met Avi, who was the VP of engineering at that point. And Avi and many others at AboveNet truly helped me learn what internet is all about, what colocation is all about, how the ecosystem plays into each other. And in addition to learning the technologies which evolved tremendously since then, Avi, obviously in I think 1998-

Avi Friedman: A lot of the stuff is the same, but yes, the applications of it is different. Yes. It is different names, the same concepts.

Jezzibell G.: Absolutely. And we might have added a few zeros for the capacity. But the business concept didn't change, the ecosystem didn't change, what really drove the business had grown. And I think that my ability to really understand what is driving the business has helped me to get into the position that I'm in today, not just the technology itself.

Avi Friedman: Well, it was interesting because as someone that likes to solve problems for people, Dave Rand, who's the co- founder who I worked for had his own version of focus. I did an interview with Dave Schaeffer of Cogent and they certainly have a lot of focus. And Dave said," You're welcome to bring your T3 or OC3 in, but we give you an ethernet. Everything we do is ethernet. You can do whatever you want to the other end." And that brought a certain amount of focus to the organization and what we did and how we thought about it. And then the other principle which is still debated was QoS means quantity of service and not rate shaping people and aggressively peering, which again is still debated. More capacity means more revenue if you charge usage based and happier customers. And again, no one was talking about customer success in 1999 as a formal thing but the idea of that was a little bit heretical because at the time people were saying," Well, my goal is just to sell you as much capacity as I can and hope you use none of it," which is a very different philosophy than SaaS or network as a service or even modern networking the way some people think of it. Was it helpful to be in the Bay Area? Did you get involved? I'm trying to remember back into the late'90s, because I remember we had networking meetups and I think you might have went to one of them. We're trying to figure out when you met your now husband who's also in the networking community.

Jezzibell G.: Well, I actually did meet him back in the Bay Area and I think that I... He tells me all the time, he reminds me all the time that I don't remember meeting him in the Bay Area. But we did go to many industry gatherings and I think that really helped because everybody were willing to share, exchanging knowledge. And I think for me, I actually exchanged making dinner for the engineering team often for their support in teaching me how the technologies worked and set up labs for me to work on so that I can have somewhere to practice the information, the knowledge that I've learned. So it's not tit for tat but to me, it was a great exchange because that's not education you can buy even and I didn't really have any time to go to school to learn that. So it was really useful hands- on information that I was able to acquire that was not taught at school because that was technology that's being put into use right there and then that's being developed. So to me, that really helped shape my career and shape my understanding of pushing the envelope, doing something new on the fly and learning. Having the ability to learn while doing has really helped me grow throughout my career.

Avi Friedman: Yeah. And I guess also not waiting and not asking for permission, however you formalize that, which is... A friend of mine from high school, Hillary, who worked at my ISB also, she would just go up to people and say," Tell me this, tell me this, tell me this. Yeah, I'll answer the customer's question if you tell me this and enable me." And we had no training program and it was all just go figure it out, which only works to a certain scale. So you to have that willingness.

Jezzibell G.: Well, that actually is one of the reasons that I, as the chief commercial officer, today invest so heavily on sales enablement, which is basically training for the sales team because the better informed they are, the better that they can support the customer base. So having constant interaction with engineers and having the ability for the engineers to explain how something worked or why it works the way that it does, what are the features, what do they mean, how does it affect the customer's lives, empowers the sales team to work better with the customer base. Because sometimes when a customer asks the question and the sales team only can answer it in a way that is prescribed by the product team, if they don't understand why it is, then they can't answer it intelligently, but when the engineers or even the product team explains it in a way that the customer may not even be aware that it does more than what the customer wants to do, what it does, it just does what the customer wants in a different way, it can help the customer change their mind on how they're architecting their solutions by utilizing something that's more innovative. So to me, is always a different way of wrapping yourself around the knowledge and letting it help, not just me myself but others. So the learning piece of being in a growing environment is something that's always inspires me and inspires me to push others to learn.

Avi Friedman: It's a difficult life selling to network people. As a pain in the ass network person, we see this at Kentik also, if people are happy, then usually they're like," Leave me alone, I'm happy." Even if you want to say," Tell me about your problems and what you're trying to do. And even if it isn't something I can help you with, I'll introduce you, or I'll share with you from your peers who don't compete with you and you can all talk to each other." But it's a very multitasked world. The service provider and web company world and what we call production networking, it's not as much ticket based as IT, but there's lots of stuff going on and it's hard to compete. And so those conversations can be hard and yes, if you don't add value, then you get put in the category. It could be hard to go from the no value to value. And so yeah, you have to select for people that want to do that learning and take that plus their interpersonal skills. And so when I look at things to do, I generally want to make things happen and create things and drive them forward. And you can do that by building things. You can do that by selling things. There's this continuum between business and technology. When you make a company, you have to do both. You talked about labs and trading food for technical knowledge and well, let's say friendship and engagement for technical knowledge. How did you think about and decide between your interest on understanding the technology and policy and business continuum?

Jezzibell G.: At the beginning I never thought that I was going to get into the business side of things. I was really interested in operational side of things. I wanted to know how things worked, how to make them better and how to improve the processes and the technologies to just make it work better. I enjoyed, as you say, helping others to achieve their success. But then I think it's part because that I had to learn on my own and that I didn't quite feel as confident and as technical as probably most others in the industry. When someone's talking about something in a really technical fashion and I see other people's eyes glaze over, I-

Avi Friedman: I apologize.

Jezzibell G.: ...I want to... Thank you Avi. Although you can be extremely technical, you are also able to explain in layman's terms how something works. You've done that for me so many times and I absolutely appreciate that. And so I want to be able to do that for others, which is I want to help others understand the benefit of some services or technologies that brings for them because it could truly change somebody's life and make their lives better. And I recognized at some point in my career that I had the ability to be able to break things down into terms that others can understand and feel comfortable with and asking questions and listening to what I'm trying to explain because I don't appear to be super technical and I'm not using technical jargons left and right. I'm not trying to prove myself. I'm trying to help others to understand. And so I think I've over time gained the luxury of people putting their guards down and having honest and grounded conversations with me. And again, that has a lot of influence with me asking really probably pretty dumb questions early on and having the patience crosstalk-

Avi Friedman: Please say foundational questions.

Jezzibell G.: Foundational questions. I had to ask very foundational questions.

Avi Friedman: Yeah. I mean, it's interesting because the time when you're learning is the best time to teach other people, because you're just remembering what was confusing that shouldn't have been. And so how do we normalize that when I run into people that are, I guess I'm an old person now, but graduating college and they're talking about how they get a job and career, I'm saying start a blog, document the things that you're learning. Julia Evans does this with zines in the observability and inaudible space. And they're foundational things but they wind up being very helpful to people because it's at that time when... The experts write the books but they're written for experts. And then so it can be difficult to get into that. So from AboveNet then you went directly to Akamai, right?

Jezzibell G.: That's right.

Avi Friedman: Which is not where you met your husband, but you did work there.

Jezzibell G.: Well, that's where I thought I met my husband even though I actually met him in the Bay Area multiple times apparently as well because multiple people vouches for him for meeting me.

Avi Friedman: That's right. We used to have this sushi meetups in the Bay Area.

Jezzibell G.: The sushi cabals. That's right.

Avi Friedman: Yes, the sushi cabal. Yes. So there you were more on the operational side making the world's largest non network get bigger, working on the logistics of all that, but then you went into the enterprise side.

Jezzibell G.: I did and crosstalk-

Avi Friedman: Was it directly there to State Street or?

Jezzibell G.: Yes, I went from Akamai to State Street on the technology sourcing side, so a totally reversed role. I was really pushing Akamai's ANP services to the networks and now turning it around at one of the largest financial institutions in the world at that point, sourcing all the different technologies that they needed from the network services, whether it's wave and/ or ATM service or IBM mainframe. I remember at the last day of the year or the two days before the last days of the year, we were running around trying to complete a purchase, multimillion dollars of mainframe maintenance contract and it required so many different signatures across the organization and people had already gone on holiday and trying to call people on their really precious mobile phones, because it was still early, not everybody had mobile phones and while they're on holiday to obtain a signature, because you have to fax the contract over and then re resort them back into the way the contract needs to be, taught to me the process how enterprise companies worked in their purchasing process, which came in... And I thought, oh my God, this is the most ridiculous thing, at that point. But now it is so useful because now as the chief commercial officer, which sells largely to large enterprises, I have a total appreciation for the trouble that my counterparts have to go through in buying a service and how challenging it is even when they want to spend the money.

Avi Friedman: It's amazing how much longer it can take to buy it than the decision that they have to make to buy it, especially with large service providers. And then yeah, lots of, I'll say, customs that we build up, that get brought from company to company that probably need to be modernized but on the other hand, there needs to be some way to safeguard that people are spending properly. Have you at PacketFabric considered offsetting your calendar year and fiscal year? We keep talking about it and not doing it. Somehow-

Jezzibell G.: Not quite yet, not quite yet. Although I am going to say that PacketFabric is very focused on automation, but there's a human element in the enterprise purchasing process today that you cannot automate because you cannot change the culture of your customers' organization.

Avi Friedman: It's the customs of the customer. It's the traditions, the way people are raised. Yeah.

Jezzibell G.: And so, so much of that that you have to adjust the way that you are doing business towards. And so sometimes you say you can't lead. You can lead the horse to water but you can't make them drink. And there're two diverse side of the organization. The engineering side, yes, I want to consume the automation, I need it. And then you have to have both the patience and appreciation and create a process that can work with the sourcing, the procurement team to make it work on their side so that the engineering side can have the solution that you offer it.

Avi Friedman: Yep. Yeah, no, all of these are things to nerd about. You can nerd about the networking, the interconnection, politics and policies, the business side. And ultimately to make something and bring it to market, there needs to be a team of people to do all these things. And it's interesting. And we're thinking about for the community that the mix, if you go to a peering forum, it's a much more diverse crowd than ITF or an area where people are building protocols. Actually probably ITF is more diverse than NANOG actually in some ways on the core engineering side. But it's just interesting to see what people's passions are and how you pick it up. But it's all things to know about. So you were in enterprise. We talked about understanding how enterprises buy, the reverse, how you sell to them. But it's interesting because there's smart people doing things that are really critical in both service providers and enterprise, but they are different cultures in some ways. What was your takeaway from that? And did that drive some of your choice to come back more onto the service provider side? Or is that more about stage of company and wanting to be in startups? What did you take away from, I'll just say the enterprise experience about the deltas and cultures and how that drives your passions?

Jezzibell G.: Well, so first of all, what drew back into telecom is the openness, the welcomeness, and the tight knit community and the interdependency that the community has. And I think the word frenemy or coopetition is common and I think everybody knows that. And we all work together to really at the end of the day to create a better internet for everyone to consume. And from the enterprise side, I learned so much not just the mentality, the practice, which is the key objective that enterprises had or that drove their decision making. And it's so very different than what carriers and telcos keep in mind and have as their decision making criteria. So that actually helped shape PacketFabric as a company. And by the way, for all of you who's out there and didn't know, PacketFabric was a company that Avi actually started in 2007-

Avi Friedman: Version one.

Jezzibell G.: Version one. And Avi as a friend of PacketFabric gave us the company name as a gift in support of the company. So Avi, we are eternally grateful for that.

Avi Friedman: You're welcome. That's a future conversation is when you're right with the idea of it, wrong with the timing, which I've had happen to me a few times.

Jezzibell G.: But I was there with Avi in the rev one of PacketFabric. And then Avi had already, at that point, started the rev one of Kentik in Cloud Helix and so he gave us his blessing to move forward with PacketFabric rev two in 2015. But coming back-

Avi Friedman: Yeah, we though we.

Jezzibell G.: Go ahead.

Avi Friedman: We thought we might want the name because early on, we actually were doing sensors and packets and stuff, but Cloud Helix, now Kentik, has stayed at the high level analytics, telemetry, operations, security, and in the modern ways of orchestration and cloud, and as you said, automation. People generally don't want to be watching all the packets. So the PacketFabric is moving the packets, not watching them. So I'm glad to see everyone talking about PacketFabric and the name being used well.

Jezzibell G.: And again, thank you. But something that you talked about earlier, that's a legacy mentality in... At AboveNet days, people wanted to have customers who bought a lot of capacity and didn't use any of it. The mentality, at least to me, has really shifted in that your network is really only as good as the people that's consuming it. If nobody's using it now what good does it do? So interconnection is based on the principle that you are leveraging each other over a platform. And that's what I think made PacketFabric really powerful and will continue to make PacketFabric powerful. And that's what I learned from the years of us working together and listening to the conversations. I'm generally not this talkative and I let other people talk, smart people like Avi. And I like to listen and hear everybody talking, the consumption model of services across a broad platform. And it always made me think why is it so difficult for people to get connected to each other? And that's really at the end of the day, the driver that we came up with for PacketFabric for interconnection.

Avi Friedman: So first of all, don't downgrade your own smarts. Second of all, synthesis can be more valuable than deep technical knowledge. Because as you said, if you can't make people understand it, then what good is it? But I'll make a note mentally. Definitely we'll do a panel about the evolution of peering from cost optimization to... I mean, you have taught me value increase. How do you get synergistic value by bringing people together? Or is about control and performance? Which it is for a lot of my customers. We always viewed it that way at AboveNet, which was heretical back when people were trying to shape rate limit the bandwidth down and optimize. And that's still a... Something that's interesting as I think about enterprise versus service provider is service providers being on this shift away from just like, oh, I must make a maximum amount of return for my CapEx to just thinking more broadly about services that they can be in to help customers and that also happen to be higher margin and where people are on that trend. It was very interesting for me at PTC where we didn't have quite as many meetings as previous years. So I actually went to the panels, which I didn't usually do. And just to see that what we're doing, especially with COVID people really understand being connected is important, both the coopetition and frenemies and just all people on panels that used to work for each other, but they're now competitors, but also just people are understanding that core infrastructure can be good business. It's very sticky and it's also necessary and it's probably not going away because the data center space has been hot and not multiple times, let's just say, over the decades.

Jezzibell G.: And there's so much building happening on the data center side. And I think that's something I learned early on in my career for being at AboveNet. I was told what is a data center going to do if there's no network? It's just a concrete box with power. So-

Avi Friedman: inaudible You grow weed. Just don't mind. I mean, there's a few things you could do with cool power.

Jezzibell G.: Absolutely. I hear cannabis is big business and crosstalk-

Avi Friedman: It is one of the hot opportunity zones. I know some buildings where opportunity zones are doing both crypto mining and flora.

Jezzibell G.: And agriculture.

Avi Friedman: Forestry. Yes, agriculture. Everyone wants to be in opportunity zones, which is another question policy wise, what we should do there. So yeah, I know I was in Virginia a few times the end of last year and I just... As much as you know how much building there is, I just to see crosstalk heat map. There's more. Everywhere I was driving. I was like," Oh, let's go to the McDonald's, let's go to the..." Whatever. Everywhere that I was driving, there was six more multi gigawatt data centers probably that I had never seen. Well, half of our stuff is at DC3, which I think it was actually an old Exodus Data Center that that then Equinix took over that's off the campus. So that's quaint and tiny by inaudible, even AboveNet was quaint and tiny except for the DC plant that Dave was a big believer in. So you did mention back in the'90s when everything was moving very fast. I think it is definitely that kind of time nowadays from what we see with customers with, where's the network? Is it the cloud? Is it the container native of interface in the server? Is it my network? Is it their network? Is it the application? People are trying to replace network people with APIs, provisioning and automation of everything. What makes you excited to live in these times and be in the network space? What are you watching over the next couple years and hoping or fearing around innovation?

Jezzibell G.: Well, I think there's a lot of different things to watch. First of all, I am always looking for the killer application that is going to drive real edge compute. Everybody's been talking about edge. And then lots of people talk about-

Avi Friedman: It's not Tesla.

Jezzibell G.: ...self- driving cars. Right. And then I was like," Listen, if the car have to wait for the network to drive, then I'm never getting in the car again." So it's not the self- driving car, the compute on the car has to be able to make the decision. The data connectivity has to come at later point. But what is the application? Because we know it's coming. Everybody talk about cloud computing. Avi, I know that we talked about this in 2004 at Akamai and it's too bad that we didn't get into the business then, because-

Avi Friedman: I still suck at product marketing, but I really sucked at product marketing at the time. And let me clarify, it might be the metaverse on Tesla, Ready Player Two, which we should only do while parked, but it's not going to be merely smart city telemetry that requires that to be stored and processed at the edge today. But you're right. I mean, everyone's investing in it. The infrastructure's there. We know CDNs need it. We know performance testing needs it, but how does it evolve from there? I'm fascinated too.

Jezzibell G.: And is it going to be the killer health app, lifestyle app? What is it that's going to be driving this? We don't know that. Is it going to be that we can now in the future in watching Game of Throne, you can actually now be a part of Game of Throne. Is future entertainment going to be that you are actually part of the entertainment. You participate in entertainment yourself. And given Twitch, again, it was a total new concept to me back in early 2010s. And wait, somebody's going to want to watch somebody else playing video games online? Why?

Avi Friedman: Okay boomer.

Jezzibell G.: But God, millions of people do that every day. So who knows what the future would bring? And I am open- minded. I'm trying to be more open- minded keeping my eyes out, but knowing that all of that will depend on having infrastructure and that yes, software is cold, but I also know deep down that there's a physical element to infrastructure that's not going to be able to go away. And unless you have the ability to put them together to associate that the software element to the actual physical infrastructure and tie them together to work for the eventual business objective, you are not going to be able to take advantage of the entire stock.

Avi Friedman: It's an interesting question that's playing out before us. Where is the line between network and application? Is it... Even if you ask someone, what is a service mesh? What is a load balance? Or what is a network mesh? Where do you apply policy? Where do you get telemetry? How much do you compute at the edge versus not? Yeah, it's fascinating. And then there's different tribes who have different religious opinions about how far up and down it's going to go. The trend that we're seeing and investing in is that we really ultimately need to be more like it was in the'90s, when there was just nerd and it wasn't CIS admin nerd, or it ops nerd or database nerd or storage nerd or telemetry nerd or security nerd. It was the entirety of it yet at the same time, as things get more complex, automation doesn't mean simplicity. And if you do need to go down what you said Jezzibell about there's ultimately infrastructure, that's true across all these dimensions and which I guess leads to a next topic, which is let's play on your Game of Thrones. One of the quotes from Game of Thrones is it is known. You look at someone it's like," Well, how could you not know that?" But in many professions, including networking, a lot of what we need to know doesn't come from classes that we learn or study on our own, but is... Someone says, well, of course you wouldn't use inaudible that way or you wouldn't ask network Jill to do this because their policies are this. And if we want to grow the network of networkers and awareness and going between layers, we need to recognize that is that this tribal knowledge and apprenticeship versus formal knowledge? How did you... You talked about being in conversations and trading food and friendship for learning. I mean, do you think that's getting better or more complex? When you're hiring people, how do you address it now?

Jezzibell G.: Well, that's actually a very difficult question because there's a whole new set of platforms, information, attainment, apparatus, methods that you can obtain information. It's much easier to search for information these days, but even then, how do you know what's correct, what's not? One. And even if you learned in school, how do you know it's still relevant? Because things are moving so fast and everybody's making changes all the time. So from the tribal knowledge perspective, you know that people say," Oh, there's the in group, there's outwork," but it's not even that. It's," How did you get into the in group?" And people say," Oh, how did you get in to be accepted? You're not a normal nerd." Well, we broke things together. We grew up together and we helped each other out while someone broke the internet helped me fix it. And I took part of the internet down, oh my God. crosstalk-

Avi Friedman: We had a panel about that a couple of inaudible ago.

Jezzibell G.: Right. And nowadays, nobody has the ability to easily break the internet anymore because crosstalk. Okay. Nevermind. Well, yes, but most companies crosstalk-

Avi Friedman: But you don't have permission. The consequences are more severe. Yes.

Jezzibell G.: Yes. Nobody ever had permission to break the internet, but it was easier to make a mistake then, because now there are gatekeepers in technology that prevent you from doing something stupid. But back at those times when you broke something, that's when you really learned that you screwed up and you are trying to find ways to fix it and you are leveraging all of your friends, all the people that you know on helping you and those people became your trusted resources and you rely on each other, you still do that today. We talk about frenemy and coopetition. If one part of the internet is down, that means that nobody else can reach it. It's not just that part that is down, that it's down for everyone. So its-

Avi Friedman: We used to talk about the hallway track at NANOG, which is getting going again, but with COVID, is not fully enabled.

Jezzibell G.: Right. And people are also more open. In the, we call it olden days, people were open to talk about the mistakes that they made. Nowadays, nobody wants to talk about it because the companies that they work for prevent them from talking about it. Nobody wants to admit.

Avi Friedman: There's also over tens of billions, hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars, which is a little different than the'90s.

Jezzibell G.: Absolutely. The little industry that we worked down that was sort of the science project is now one of the largest industries in the world. So, absolutely, things have certainly evolved and grown and are very different today than they were back then. But even now, when you are thinking about how to get into that, really, you just need to lose your inhibition and step into a conversation, ask the foundational questions. See Avi, I can learn too.

Avi Friedman: Yes.

Jezzibell G.: Ask the foundational questions. Don't let your ego get in front of you being a part and taking part because just so that... For the people who are listening or watching, if you think that, oh, how embarrassing it is for me to ask something that's not smart or not be seen as sophisticated, nobody really go out there and think, oh, I'm going to ask a question that's going to make me look really sophisticated. We ask questions.

Avi Friedman: A lot of people that do that, everyone hates them because they're asking a question just to ask a question. So don't be that person.

Jezzibell G.: Right. But you ask questions to learn. And when it's authentic, people spot that, people recognize that and they want to help you. And we live in a community, in an industry that people truly want to help each other. So that's how I got into the industry and I think Avi would say that's how he's helped many, many others. And that's how I continue and we all continue to help many others in the industry. Be authentic and just don't be afraid. And let yourself ask the questions that you want to know and want to learn about.

Avi Friedman: It's interesting to hear you talk about the in crowd. And I certainly in, I'll say middle school and high school, I was not in the in crowd, but it's interesting because I don't see it. I've heard you and your husband Patrick describe it and others, but I don't see it because I started helping people long enough ago that to me, it's just a bunch of people and we all talk. But as I've tried to pay attention, it does seem like it is better than it was. And let's just pick on NANOG, the North America Network Operator Group, I think there's news combo breakfast, there's women's lunches, there's ways that we try to formalize that and I definitely also would encourage people. And also I know it can be hard. I won't say that everyone in these communities is friendly or that you'll hit them at a time when they're not working on five other things because sometimes network people get like that, but I definitely would also encourage just trying to make connections and chat. And if you're going to your first conference and wants some assistance, feel free to ping Jezzibell or I and we will try to help as well.

Jezzibell G.: Absolutely. And Avi, something you just said, the in crowd. People who are in the in crowd don't think that it's the in crowd, it's just friends getting taught together sometimes having very passionate discussions and that make it seem very intimidating for others. It's not that we're fighting. We're not fighting with each other. We're just very passionate about what we're talking about. Sometimes our voice get raised and our arms are moving around, but it's not the in crowd to... People probably consider you and I are in the in crowd, but we're not. We never think it's the in crowd. It's just friends seeing each other, talking about something that is really important to ourselves, to us. And so if you see us talking in the hallway and that seems really heated and passionate, come in and listen and talk and jam with us and dive in and jump in and talk to us.

Avi Friedman: Yeah. And it's all relative. One time I saw Steve Bellovin and I forget who he was talking to and someone else. And I was like," Oh, I wonder what they're talking about. Those are smart people." And then Steve turned to me and talked about how his son saw me on TV playing poker and I didn't even know that he knew who I was, but I have his book and followed the work that he did at Bell Labs and all that. And when you then meet people, you realize they're just people.

Jezzibell G.: Absolutely.

Avi Friedman: Yeah. And we definitely do talk about things that are not only networking and maybe food is the second topic, not only networking and food, but crosstalk which NANOG and which city, just remind me which restaurant we ate at.

Jezzibell G.: Absolutely. And-

Avi Friedman: Although I definitely have-

Jezzibell G.: I was going to say so much relationships, so many great relationships and conversations were had over meals or people sharing meals together and what a great way to build friendships.

Avi Friedman: Mm- hmm( affirmative). Definitely. You talked about, I'll just keep coming back to it, because I don't remember the trading food for networking tidbits and lab assistance and all that, but that certainly wasn't in your job description as executive assistant to the CEO.

Jezzibell G.: No. Not at all.

Avi Friedman: So when you think about people that do want to get into the industry, get into more advanced kinds of networking, whether it's the technical side or the business side, what are you looking for when you are hiring? What do you encourage people to do when they're new to the industry in the job sense?

Jezzibell G.: Nowadays I recognize that something that you cannot teach or build is grit, because you have to come back... Life is not easy. Building a network is not easy. Working in a fast pace, fast moving, ever changing industry is not easy. And what you really need is someone who is willing to get up again and again every day after challenges, insurmountable seems like amount of challenges.

Avi Friedman: You're saying everyone should start as a recruiter or an SDR and spend a few months being told no 50 times a day or 500 times a day?

Jezzibell G.: It's not just that. It's not the external. Sometimes it's even internal. When you are trying to do something and you are not just finding the success. As a parent now, I'm learning how you help your child build confidence is to allow them to fail and then help them try again and succeed at that. That's how you build confidence. If they succeed the first time around, it doesn't help them build confidence. So if you give them an answer and help them succeed the first time, it doesn't really help them. And really what needs to happen is for people to get... Well, they need to experience the failure and then they need to be able to get back up and do it again. But when that's repeated, as you say already 50 times a day, it becomes really challenging. And then for someone to come back again and willing to put in the effort and then do it again the next day and the next day, and that's the kind of perseverance, that kind of character I look for in someone. Obviously you need to have the basic knowledge and the technical knowledge that's needed, but even if... Nobody's going to know it all and it changes all the time. So you have to have the drive and a curiosity to say that I'm going to learn what I don't know, and I'm going to do it until I get to success. And I think that you can call it drive, you can call it grit, whatever it is. It's that character that I look for individuals that help helps me and helps my company to be successful.

Avi Friedman: That's a good way of describing it. I sometimes think about looking for people that enjoy being confused and unconfusing themselves, like the solving the puzzle, but not everybody works that way. Sometimes you still have to get through it even when it's very frustrating. One of the masters at the TaeKwonDo school that I went to in Philadelphia, I quoted Keeping the Faith and was like," Well, I just have to embrace my suckiness because I'm never going to be good at this." And he said," But that means you can be the best again." Very sort of... In TaeKwonDo, there's a principle, baek jeol bul gul, which is the indomitable spirit, which is just keep trying, keep at it. And he said the people that come to TaeKwonDo that in his experience who have been cheerleaders and athletes and super flexible and it's all super intuitive to them, all hit a point where all of a sudden, it's hard. And then more often than not, they quit. They're like," Okay, this is no fun anymore." But the people for whom it's super hard from the beginning have to self- select that they want to do that. Now, everyone, I think has to figure out their own way of endorphin mapping. How do they get the reward? For me, it's about creating things and seeing people use them and talking to customers, but for some people it's knowledge for knowledge’s sake. So yeah. How do we select for that? How do we look for that? Is an interesting question. And give people the opportunity and permission to do that, maybe not the permission to blow up the internet or to blow up production. But that's a challenge too, which I have talked about with other folks is there used to be smaller consequences. As a company that talks about outages on public media, well, public and private media and in the press and provides data, we try to keep it just to the facts, but these things have bigger impacts. So how do we help people learn? Now we have virtualized labs. You don't need to put routers on your bookshelf or your basement or whatever, but interesting questions. Well, I hope to see you soon. Good luck with continued with PacketFabric. If someone wants to contact you or find you, how should they do that, Jezzibell?

Jezzibell G.: Oh, well you can reach out to me at jezzibell @jezzibell. com or jezzibell @ packetfabric. com. And to see me in the hallways, flag me down. I am also on LinkedIn, Facebook, all different types of social media. Again, I think Avi, you hit on something that you just said, which is that people are normal people. Everybody are just people. So we are the ones that get in our own way. Our ego is what gets in our own way of becoming the best versions of ourselves and often preventing us from reaching out to connect with others to become better versions of ourselves. So don't let that happen. Don't let your insecurity prevent you from growing. Avi makes it so easy for me to always reach out anytime to ask any kind of questions, whether foundational or not on the inaudible.

Avi Friedman: Well, for those that are feeling what you're describing Jezzibell, I'd encourage them to google imposter syndrome. And most of the most successful people that I know of that I've talked about with it have imposter syndrome themselves. And I think we haven't talked a lot about it, but through the decades, Jezzibell and I have seen many people that have gotten wealthy. And one of the things that you learn is a lot of it is just about luck. A lot of the timing and luck. Now you can help your own luck in different ways, but there's some great people that worked really hard with super grit, created great things that we all use who didn't get that wealthy and then there's some people that it's easy to look at and say they didn't deserve that, they just got lucky. But some of the people that wound up creating the most foundational things and/or did the best still are saying to themselves," Well, why am I in this position? I'm just a person. I'm just a nerd." And so these are the people you want to be friends with. But if you feel like that, it probably means that you're coming from a good place and just trust that other people are feeling the same way, including the people that you think built all the foundations that you live in and work in.

Jezzibell G.: That's right. And people I admire like Avi, just a normal person.

Avi Friedman: I may be the third least normal person at my company, but I pretend to be normal and collect friends that are at least, I'll say unique. We don't want to inaudible to say unique, express their uniqueness comfortably.

Jezzibell G.: And thank you you for appreciating my uniqueness.

Avi Friedman: Absolutely. Anytime. Well, thanks again, Jezzibell. And this has been Network AF. I'm Avi Friedman. You can reach me on avi @ kentik. com. I'm Avi Friedman on Twitter. I'm avi @, Avi Friedman on LinkedIn. And we've got cool educational resources at Kentik and also lots of fun conversations on the blog.


On this episode, Avi talks with longtime friend Jezzibell Gilmore. Jezzibell is the Chief Commercial Officer at PacketFabric, and works toward revenue goals. She and Avi discuss:

  • How Jezzibell entered the networking industry after not enjoying the world of law
  • Moving into operations and deployment at Akamai and then transitioning to enterprise
  • Differences between enterprise and service provider
  • The networking community, bringing people in and developing their skills

Today's Host

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Avi Freedman

|Kentik CEO and Co-Founder

Today's Guests

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Jezzibell Gilmore

|Chief Commercial Officer and co-founder at PacketFabric