Caffeinated thoughts about wi-fi and our world

WLAN Professionals Conference Awards

In this newbie's opinion, they represent something bigger than glass plaques

In case you missed the announcement by Keith Parsons at the conclusion of the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference, two awards were presented. Andrew VonNagy was named WLPC Person of the Year, and Devin Akin was given the WLPC Lifetime Achievement Award. Both were met great applause, and both are far more than merely deserving of the honor. 

In a way, I feel a bit awkward writing this post, as most of the people in the wireless community have known Devin and Andrew on a more personal level, and for much longer, than me. In another way, however, I think it's okay, and in trying to explain why I hope I'll drive home my point about why a couple of hundred people were so happy to see them recognized. 

Devin may be the very reason I decided to focus my career on Wi-Fi. A few years ago, while he still worked with Aerohive, I reached out to him via Twitter in sort of a Hail Mary attempt to help a customer. My company, a VAR in Oklahoma City, had recently become an Aerohive partner and our team was... Let's just say we were all trying to "get up to speed" as fast as we could with a new wireless product line. Internal red tape kept us from getting lab gear in a timely manner, and we were trying our best to implement for customers while figuring things out on their gear as we went along. I was feeling pretty frustrated, and knew if we could just get some better hands-on time with our own equipment we'd be miles ahead.

I don't remember what exactly I asked Devin, and he probably doesn't even remember this interaction. But I do remember to this day exactly what he said back in a direct message: "Hey, Josh. Send me your home address. Expect a box at your house in a couple of days." Like clockwork, I arrived home about 50 hours later to a box on my porch with three access points, a USB stick, and a license key to HiveManager. The equipment and licensing did the trick. We labbed some APs, and figured out some things in short order. Much more significantly (for me, anyway), I discovered in that moment of generosity a community of people unlike anything I have encountered in my 20 years in technology. 

Andrew, to me, is sort of a wireless prodigy who has forgotten more about 802.11 than many of us will ever know. I do know that I enjoyed meeting in person this week someone I've seen over and again share mountains of information about how this stuff works, and isn't afraid to equally encourage and admonish people in the WLAN community for the sake of moving everyone forward. I have no idea how many hours/days/weeks he's spent developing capacity planners and writing whitepapers, but he didn't have to do any of it. It would have surely been easier to keep it all to himself and cash big checks for being a Wi-Fi wunderkind.

Most importantly, Andrew and Devin represent perfectly what makes the WLAN community so special. That dozens of engineers from around the world regularly go out of their way to inquire, contribute, brainstorm, debate, and collaborate for the good of an industry (and each other) is not only remarkable, it's almost mythical. You just don't see it other places. The best part is, it's self-perpetuating because of its openness. Long before I ever met most of these people in person, they were answering my questions and encouraging me to contribute what I could as well. This not only ensures the long-term success of the community, but for many of us inspires us to do more to develop our craft and push our own boundaries. (And thanks, Lee Badman, for talking about this at the conference.)

My place as a relative newcomer (I sat in the shadows on Twitter for a couple of years before I ever engaged, and this was my first WLPC) doesn't qualify me have an opinion on the merits of either honoree. But I think it does speak directly to the larger theme: The WLAN community is great because of the word "Community," and not "WLAN."

Much thanks to all of you, who I look forward to learning from and helping where I can. And hats off to Devin and Andrew for all that you represent.