CWNP: A Historical Perspective

Over the past 13 years, I’ve been asked many times, “what do you do?”, just as many people get asked this every day.  When I answered “I own a small business that trains & certifies network engineers in Wi-Fi”, I’d always get a lot of strange looks, not to mention some deer in the headlight looks.  The most common next question would be something like “why does anyone need training for wi-fi?!?”  Those of you who are in Wi-Fi today just rolled your eyes, rightfully so, but let’s not forget that not everyone plays in our little Wi-Fi sandbox.

The second half of the discussion, after I explain that Wi-Fi is not ‘plug-n-play’ in the enterprise, is “how’d you get into that?”  Good question.

I always knew I wanted to own my own business. I just didn’t know what that business would be.  Turned out to be CWNP, but it wasn’t always so.  As with many businesses, we took a while to find out what would stick.

How did you start?
I was working for a small (40 people) telco service provider that had just been acquired by First Data Corp / Western Union. Our network was a shambles of hubs and daisy-chained hubs and more hubs, all running on Novell Netware.  Yes, I know. But remember, this was 1998-ish, and we were using brand new 1995 technologies!  So we called in a network consulting firm, who sent Devin Akin in to our shop as basically a full time employee to fix the network, mainly by replacing hubs with switches and Netware to MicrosoftNT. Devin and I worked closely together because I was in charge of customer service, which stunk at the time because our systems were so unreliable, again, because of the aforementioned non-network.

Devin and I got to talking about what we want to do…next, whatever that meant. We both wanted to start a business, but we didn’t know how or what to do. He was in the midst of passing Microsoft, Cisco, and Novell certifications, and was really interested in wireless networking. I said, “What’s wireless networking?”  We gathered with 6 of his IT type friends at his apartment in Roswell one evening. By the end of that meeting, there were just 3 of us left. The other 5 basically said they weren’t up for risking anything to start a completely unknown business.

Lesson #1: every business is unknown when it starts, and it’s founders are willing to risk something, maybe everything, to start it because they want to control at least some part of their own professional and career destiny.  There are many who opt for job security. No shame in that at all.  Those of us who start businesses need those who want a steady job and are willing to work hard for it.

The next week, the 3rd guy bowed out, and it was just Devin and me. “Devcomm” (guess where that name came from?!?) was born. Keep in mind here that we were both still employed. Whoo hoo! Our first moonlighting gig!  What was it we were going to do again?  Next entry…

What do you think?