The human OSI stack


Earlier this year, I attended a growing InfoSec event hosted at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland called Securi-Tay. One of the talks was about carving a career out in InfoSec, presented by the talented Javvad Malik during which he showed the well known OSI model as mapped to humans.

I’d had something like this in mind for a while so, with Javvad’s kind permission to partly rip off his concept and his subliminal motivation, here is my take on how to make sure your human OSI stack is compliant with any current or potential employer’s.

Human OSI stack

  1. Physical. As shallow as it may seem, first impressions do indeed last. How you dress, your personal hygiene, your haircut, what type of glasses you may wear, the colour of your nails, whether you make eye contact or look at the floor. All these things, rightly or wrongly, form an impression. Try and be as smart and professional as you can be, whilst maintaining a certain degree of individuality. As with all layers of the OSI model, you can get a good idea of how best to be ‘compliant’ by looking at other successful people
  2. Data-link. Beyond first impressions, the way you actually communicate is going to make or break you. The importance of knowing how to talk to people at all levels cannot be overstated. Don’t think that emails, IM or social media are exempt from this rule. It covers all form of communications. You can spend a long time carefully building a professional persona and bring it crashing down in a single exchange. As one of my colleagues at a previous company used to say, ‘you are always just one click away from being fired’.
  3. Network. OK, so you’ve managed to get this far but you are only known for your abilities within your own team or maybe your company. It is more important today than ever that you get out and about and make a name for yourself. You need to extend your network of people beyond the walls of the building you work in. At worst, people will hear about the good things you are achieving, at best you will have a large pool of resources you can rely on for the rest of your career. Get to know key people in other businesses, especially your customers, competitors and vendors.
  4. Transport. Driving a nice car might draw more attention than taking the bus but I want to discuss the transport of work through your part of the business. Have you ever even considered the concept of work in progress, even just in your team but more generally through your business? Do you sit and complain about how there is never enough time in the day or do you look for the pinch points and what can be done to remove them? Defining what the manual process is will always be the first step. Write it down, step by step. Then look at how that process can be improved and made more efficient. Then start automating the different steps, with the aim being a completely automated workflow. Now you have more free time to work on other tasks and keeping the work in progress down to a streamlined minimum. Time well spent.
  5. Session. Not sure about the rest of the world, but in the UK, going on a session means having a few drinks. For the purpose of this bullet point, I’m talking about taking regular time outs. Don’t burn yourself out with work all the time. Find the things in life that make you relax, sit back and smell the roses/coffee/whatever. It might be having a social drink with friends and family. Or taking your kids geocaching. Or hitting the gym. The important point is…don’t lose sight of this. It is critical to achieving a work/life balance and you’ll not regret the long hours and hard work you put in.
  6. Presentation. Not so much about your own presentation, covered in the Physical layer but more about your presentation skills. Whether standing up in front of a group of people or publishing a book or a blog, you should be able to adjust your message based on audience to get it across in an entertaining and professional manner
  7. Application. How you apply yourself to your role is critical. Are you a 9-5 type person who comes in, works through their ‘in tray’ and signs out again? Or do you rip up the role and responsibilities sheet and look for new and different ways to offer value to your employer? The latter approach will almost certainly accelerate your career but at the very least expand your knowledge


This was a slightly tongue in cheek look at how to use the OSI model to help guide you in your career but the truth is that using a simple set of guidelines like this should prove more useful than just winging it or worse still, being a passenger.

Till the next time.

Technical rewind


I was recently thinking about the future of this blog and had been considering whether to bin it or come back to it with renewed enthusiasm. After all, there are thousands of other blogs out there that cover similar topics, ranging in quality from barely readable to excellent. Whilst I hope that mine falls no further down than the middle of that scale, I asked myself what value do people get from my own posts.

When I logged on to the admin portal for the first time in a while, I  saw two key things that made me realise that I should continue writing, perhaps not as frequently as some other bloggers, but with more posts that are close to my heart and hopefully that will shine through in my writing. The first was that, whilst my viewing figures are not particularly spectacular, they have been constant throughout my recent absence so people are still coming over, both to check out what is on offer and also from search results. The second thing I noticed was that there were almost a dozen updates for WordPress itself, the theme and some plugins and I found myself feeling quite protective and applied the relevant TLC.

Technical rewind

I’ve worked in IT for well over 10 years, achieved my CCNA back in 2009 and my CCNP in about 2012. I got past the half way point towards my CCNP Security and then something dawned on me. Something that made me down my certification tools and take a long look at myself. My appointment to a management role in the last year has only cemented my thinking.

The quest I was on to further my knowledge according to Cisco’s road map in addition to my new, less hands on role had left my foundational routing and switching knowledge less polished than I would have liked. I still function as a good network engineer, but I get a certain satisfaction from having nuts and bolts knowledge at my fingertips and I’ve been aware that this has slipped since the new year.

Regarding the certification path, the blueprints for most of the exams never match the on the job knowledge requirements. So in a busy world, you spend huge amounts of time learning about things that Cisco want you to learn, but your boss isn’t bothered about and quite often, nor should you be. They are just not relevant for the day to day or even tomorrow.

With that in mind and with the time that I am currently able to commit to studying, I am going to aim for the CCIE R&S Written as a way of refreshing my current certs but more importantly, I will deep dive in to all the relevant topics to give that much needed polish. Those studies will hopefully provide me with some good topics on which to blog too.


As I recently tweeted, I find that knowledge is a foundation to build upon rather than a skip to fill up. Being self aware of when that knowledge needs some maintenance is a key skill for any engineer to prevent it all falling down about them. Do your core skills need brushing up on?

Till the next time.

10 tenets of working in IT – Tenet 7, Honesty


This isn’t a post about stealing your colleague’s lunch from the fridge in the kitchen. You will also be disappointed if you came here for advice on what to do about people who park in disabled parking spaces without a permit. Rather, it discusses being honest with yourself and with people you have real, direct interactions with.


There are many related words/phrases I could have chosen to base a blog post on in lieu of honesty. Courtesy, integrity, morality, etc. They are all worthy attributes but I somehow feel that honesty encompasses all of them. Rather than get into a  deep philosophical discussion on truth and the ways of the world, I’d prefer to use some simple bullet points from the original 10 tenets post to keep things simple:

  • Be honest with yourself in the first instance
  • Only then can you be honest with colleagues, customers, friends and family
  • Know when to put your hands up and say “I don’t know”
  • Don’t bury things when you get something wrong, get it out in the open
  • Know when it is time to change job
  • Know when it is time to change career
  • Ask for the same level of honesty from the people you deal with (this needs to be addressed differently depending on who we are talking about!)
  • Ask for feedback about yourself from those people you deal with
  • Make sure you get your yearly appraisal. This is the ideal opportunity for you and your line manager to align your goals with that of the company


In an era when people are all too keen to splash details of their personal life online, discussing what they’ve had for dinner, who they were out with the night before and what they think of their boss, many people are still unable to be as honest with themselves or with people when face to face and not hiding behind ‘the net’.

It is human nature for people to build walls to hide behind and sadly, the first casualty is often truth. I’ve found that my career has taken the biggest leaps forward when I’ve been honest with both myself and those around me.

Try being more honest with yourself and with the people you deal with. You may find it  very liberating.

Till the next time. – a new IT career site


A new site has recently been set up, the goal of which is to provide career advice and resources to techies. In their own words:

The Tech Interview is a site dedicated to the career aspects of technology.

The list below is a small sampling of the types of articles and resources that will be made available over time.

  • Getting A Job Interview
  • Resume and Interview Skills
  • Landing A First Job in Technology
  • Turning A Job into a Career
  • Staying on an Onward and Upward Track
  • Technology and Education
  • Technical Certifications

The two guys who have set this site up are John Harrington (@networksherpa) and Paul Stewart (@packetu). You have probably already heard of them; they’ve been around the block many times and are most certainly carbon neutral with regards to how much they put back in the community against what they take out.

Show them your support by heading over to The Tech Interview and help it grow in to what will hopefully become a massively valuable resource.

Till the next time.