UW Information Technology

Dan, Network Architect

What the title really means

Keeps millions of people connected 24/7

The job

I’m a network architect, and I focus on supporting the K-20 Education Network—the network that connects most of the schools, libraries, telemedicine and other educational institutions throughout Washington. Many people don’t realize that our division not only runs the campus network (which is on the scale of operating a large city network), but we also run major regional and international networks.

At UW, I get to wrangle with these massively scaled, complex networks that serve millions of people on a daily basis—but I don’t have to deal with the intense pressure of working for a service provider, or endure the grinding hours of working for a startup. Our pace can be both exciting and comfortable.

A typical day

Every day is completely different, and that’s one of the things I love about my job. Some days, I’m talking with users to help them figure out problems and collect feedback that I can incorporate into future designs.

Or, you might find me at a whiteboard with my colleagues, brainstorming ideas on how to provide better services. And on other days, I’ll be immersed in concentration—writing python code, authoring design documents, or researching arcane network protocol features.

Everything I do exercises a different part of my brain, and it keeps my days interesting and fast-paced. The thing that binds these all together is that I have so many smart and interesting people around me to learn from, and I feel like I can offer a lot to my colleagues in return.

Career tool box essentials

My team tries to respond quickly to our users’ needs so that we can provide real value to them, but we also have to do it in a systematic and sane fashion.

It’s our mission to provide complete and accurate designs, on-time and in a consistent manner. So in order to reach that goal, we must be curious, ask the right questions, while also being responsive listeners. We all have to write and speak coherently about the underlying technologies that we design and operate.

And we have to think creatively about how we can tweak our processes and procedures in order to be effective in our mission, at speed and at scale.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that I’m expected to always be learning new things. In the last few months alone, I’ve had to pick up a new programming language, figure out how K-20 can best embrace software-defined networking, investigate the capabilities of a new breed of hardware, and hone my public speaking skills in front of audiences around the state.

Challenging? Yes! Fascinating? Yes!

I love the UW because

I’ve spent most of my career working in research and education workplaces. What I love most about these environments is that they tend to value divergent thoughts, creative solutions and of course, an academic rigor in the decision-making process. UW-IT is no exception, and in many ways, exemplifies these values. I’m expected to be an authority in my domain, and to own my work from start to finish. With that comes a tremendous amount of pride and excitement in my work, alongside just the right balance of autonomy and collaboration.

Life/work balance, you say?

I also love the incredible emphasis on work-life balance at UW-IT. We have two young daughters—both under 3. My wife also works outside the house, so for us, having the ability to be present both physically and emotionally for them during this precious time is essential.

I also love to unwind after work by puttering around my backyard, or doing projects around the house, cooking family dinners or making music—I play the cello, the guitar and the drums, all equally poorly.

Since I live pretty far away from campus, finding the time for these things isn’t always easy or convenient, but working for UW-IT makes it possible: My supervisor encourages us to take time for ourselves and our families when we need it, and she knows this makes us better at our jobs, too.

Of course, I love the Pacific Northwest, so I consider our location as a bonus as well. My family takes every opportunity we can to escape into the mountains, peninsulas, and islands. We swim, camp, hike and picnic with our friends. And we try to take full advantage of the incredible local breweries, cider farms and wineries on the weekend.

Nothing beats sipping a craft IPA with friends on a Saturday afternoon while our kids explore and goof around!

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