At the Water Cooler – Intern Edition

CENGN’s “At the Water Cooler” seeks to explore the human-side of #cdntech as it continues to grow and prosper. Each month, we interview one of our extremely talented engineers to learn more about what they do at CENGN, and their personal experiences in Canada’s telecom scene. This month… engineering co-op student Ochuko  tells us how he made his way from Nigeria to Cyprus, and finally to the CENGN offices in Ottawa.

Tell us a bit about yourself: where are you from and where did you go to school?
I’m from Nigeria and I came to Canada for the first time a little over a year ago. I was going to Lambton College in Toronto, but before Canada, I studied Computer Engineering in Cyprus for five years.

How and why did you go from Nigeria, to Cyprus, to Canada?
I got on a plane! Cyprus wasn’t much of a personal choice. My parents just wanted me in school. I had a neighbour whose kids were in Cyprus so my mom got talking to them and it just happened. After my undergraduate studies, I went back home for two years and I wasn’t practicing what I had studied – so I came to Canada.

Why did you choose engineering?
I’ve always loved to take stuff apart and put it back together, but most of the time I didn’t succeed – I’ve shocked myself a few times because I didn’t take something out of the power outlet! I had a family friend that was an engineer when I was in high school, and I spent most of my time watching him do things the right way. When I started picking those things up – my career was born.

Sounds like you chose the right path! What led you to CENGN from there?
I have two really close friends from Cyprus who both reside in Ottawa. I began my program in Toronto, and when the time came for me to find a co-op position, I considered working in Ottawa and staying with my friends. One of them suggested I check out Invest Ottawa for job postings and that’s where I first heard about CENGN. The position title, Computer Engineering IT Specialist, caught my eye because I was studying IT in Toronto, and I studied Computer Engineering in Cyprus – it seemed like the perfect fit. I’m very driven and a perfectionist so I spent four hours writing the cover letter. At that point, I needed a break, so I got on the next Greyhound to Ottawa to visit my friends. I got an email from HR while I was there to set-up a Skype interview, and when I replied that I happened to be in town, we arranged for a meeting in-person.

Now that you’ve been here for a few months, what’s an average day like for you? 
It’s exciting to have CENGN’s networking infrastructure here. Whenever I need a break from coding it’s the perfect distraction. This week I’ve been working a lot with the hardware: testing, assembling the components and powering up the servers, prepping the systems for the next steps. Before I was applying my investigations to configure, troubleshoot and stabilize the environment of the servers that make our T0 systems, which are what our platform will be built on. I’ve investigated different levels of implementations of different protocols such as DHCP, TFTP, DNS, and NTP.

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of your term?
For starters, I want to be well-versed in cloud computing. I don’t even know how it’s built, I just know the concept and understand the components. CENGN is actively painting a picture of the cloud for me since, while I’m fulfilling my own duties, I’m able to follow up with my colleagues’ work investigating OpenStack. For example, I’ve been able to learn about different forms of infrastructure implementation that make up a data centre, a network, the internet… pretty much everything. It’s been a deep-dive into my conceptual knowledge. I’ve been able to work with bare metal, the underlying infrastructure that a data centre is built on. The servers and racks, they’re bare metal. I feel really fulfilled because I get to work with software, NFV, hardware – all at the same time. I like the flexibility between them. I’m trying to get as much knowledge as I can while I’m here because I’m hoping to pursue my Master’s in Embedded Systems, and CENGN is helping me to carve out an interest down the SDN and/or NFV research path.

Can you expand on that? How has CENGN contributed to your interest in Embedded Systems?
Do you remember when we participated in CENGN’s SDN training course, and we covered NFV? Those two innovations can be applied to my studies. Using a generic example for an embedded system, like a cell phone, with the emergence of the Internet of Things, having SDN and/or NFV on lockdown will open a lot of doors because networking won’t have to be fully hardware-oriented anymore. Most manufacturers are going to make a generic script or a code block, so devices will be thinner, faster and more reliable. If you want to break something, knock yourself out! We’ll easily be able to rebuild it, reset it and restore it to its previous condition. This goes for anything: a cup, as an embedded system, can have sensors that when your coffee is getting too cold, will send a signal through the network to a data centre like CENGN, and based on that signal and your details on the server, it will tell the cup to heat up automatically.

I hope you have that heated-cup idea patented! Considering CENGN’s title (Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks), how do you think CENGN is a “Next Generation” organization?
Anytime I think of something that’s “Next Generation”, I think of endless opportunities. Because I was studying internet programming in Toronto, I was only dealing with software. I took courses at school that were based on hardware, but CENGN allowed me to see its full capabilities, and how all the different pieces of the puzzle work together. But more than that, the idea that I have been given an opportunity to build a next-generation network, from the ground up, that will be the base for developing and testing so many leading-edge technologies from really cool companies across Canada – it’s really exciting!

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About the Author

CENGN, Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks, drives technology innovation and industry growth through our testbed, technical expertise, talent development, and partner ecosystem. Through our projects, CENGN enables small and medium Canadian Enterprises to test and validate promising technologies, removing barriers to product commercialization and accelerating market growth.

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