Connectivity is My Touchdown

A year and three months into my Networking Specialist program and I've begun to foresee a new challenge. I can no longer easily explain what it is that I'm doing to friends and family to justify why I just jumped up in exuberance from my computer desk. "Yes!" I'll suddenly burst out loud, "Yes, yes, yes!." Maybe a couple fist pumps or a victorious robot dance will make an appearance....by now you've formed the proper mental image. Why is getting two computers to communicate so damn exciting for me!?

What I've found most intriguing is the new methods of explaining these complex network configurations to those around me; those who don't share the same nauseous levels of enthusiasm for networking connectivity that I do. Yesterday I found myself presented with a question I was asked in response to my newly performed robotic dance. "What did you just do?" After four hours of working on a CCNA network lab, setting up protocols, VLANs, and troubleshooting a very tricky NAT problem, I finally got PC A to ping an ISP while using PAT to go from a private IP address to a public one. As one can imagine, I received a blank stare, but sometimes I just get so enthusiastic about teaching it that I just have to try explain it to the layman.

"Well, remember what I told you about everything needing an IP address? Kinda like how everyone needs a unique phone number?"
"Well some of those IP addresses are private, that everyone can use in their own home networks and they don't work when trying to contact other computers beyond this house."
"Why not?"
"Well ..."

This is where it gets tricky. Going into intense details about port address translation and private/public IP addressing just isn't going to cut it. I also think being able to explain something complicated (even when simplifying it down) is a great way to see if I actually know what I'm talking about as well. It's like creating an analogy about networking. Plus it gives my friends and family a chance to see what all this fuss is about.

"Well...imagine in this house your parents are here. You call them Mom and Dad. When you call them those names they respond right?"
"Well if we were in a crowd of people and you needed to call to them and just yelled Mom or Dad more than the two might respond to that name.
"Well think of the internet as the crowd of people. Your parents are the computers. And there are rules set up on the net that don't allow you to yell out "Mom or Dad" in public. You'd have to use something more unique like their first or last name. All 'NAT' does is change their names when they are inside the house from Mom/Dad to their unique names when we leave the house. So nobody gets confused.
"Oh I get it!"

At this point we all jump up and down and everyone gets so intrigued about networking they all run off and set up their own networking labs. Okay, so it doesn't go exactly like that, but it's always fun for me to explain the things that I just spent several hours meticulously calculating over in an easily digestible way. Besides, when it comes down to it one day, I may have to explain it in such a manner to convince an Exec the justification for a shiny new piece of equipment.

"Well, see Sir, this prevents us from losing five million dollars in the event that this doohickey here breaks..."

So in the spirit of analogically speaking, I've been asked why exactly is it so exciting to have one computer 'ping' another. The best way I can explain it is it's like a football game to me. You try and try to get set up and make the right moves. Things go wrong, but you keep trying to figure out how to get passed the other team, and then finally you make it to the other side; Touchdown! Time to show them your new robot dance. I see connecting computers like that. The challenge of figuring out the network and connecting one side to the other. In the end, that glorious moment when it's all configured just right and you get that connection reply from your ping request. In my mind the crowd... goes.... wild and I just can't stop doing that robot dance! So you see...connectivity is my Touchdown.

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