After a brief hiatus for the New Year, we're kicking off the 2018 Featured Member series with a new DevCentral MVP : MrPlastic, Lee Sutcliffe . Like Kevin this past December, Lee does a great job with the opening question, so we'll let him tell his story. A long-time DevCentral member and always engaged with the community, Lee Sutcliffe is DevCentral's Featured Member for February 2018. Congrats Lee!
DevCentral: First, please explain to the DevCentral community a little about yourself, what you do and why it’s important.
Lee Sutcliffe: I guess always enjoyed fixing and building things, taking things apart to see how they worked (admittedly, not always being able to put them back together again). From a young age, my younger brother would design something on paper and I’d have to build it with Lego. So it comes as no surprise that he is now an Architect and I’m an Engineer (of sorts).
My first IT job was a sandwich placement; after two years of University you spend a year working in Industry before going back to complete your final year. The idea being, when you graduate you already have some level of experience in the real world as well as your degree to help you get on the job ladder.
My placement was at a local high school as an ICT Technician, doing anything from network cabling to NT4-Windows 2000 migrations.
After going back to University and graduating I spent a year being a typical long haired hedonistic backpacker commonly known as hippie before finally deciding I should stop enjoying life and go earn some money for a change.
Since then worked in another high school as a Network Manager for three years before landing a job in 2009 with Callcredit, a credit reference agency in Leeds UK. It was here where I really cut my teeth and was able to develop my career as a network engineer using Cisco, F5 and Check Point technologies amongst others.
I left the safety permanent employment in 2013 to become a freelance contractor, working for a variety of clients, mostly in the financial sector to where I find myself today at Lloyds Banking Group.
DC: You are a very active contributor in the DevCentral community. What keeps you involved?
LS: DevCentral always is my first port of call for anything I don’t know straight away. Members of the community have really helped me out over the years, especially in the early part of my career. I get a sense of satisfaction helping others and it’s important to give something back. For fear of sounding too altruistic, it is also a good way to keeping up to date and refreshing old skills, as well as learning new ones.
DC: Tell us a little about the areas of BIG-IP expertise you have.
LS: Like a lot of people BIG-IP LTM is my bread and butter and coming from a comms background it’s definitely the product I’m most familiar with, especially given its wide adoption. However, I have also worked a lot with GTM, APM and AFM, at the moment I’m working exclusively with iRules. I’m just starting to look into iRules LX which is a really interesting area.
DC: You are a F5 Consultant at Lloyds Banking Group. Can you describe your typical workday and how you manage work/life balance?
LS: I have been working as a contractor at LBG since July last year. I work within a team that are responsible for the maintenance and development of iRules used within the Bank, mainly for the online banking platform. Without disclosing too much, the use of iRules are vast, easily the most comprehensive I’ve seen anywhere, with custom proc libraries and in-house certificate management APIs to name but a few. For all intents and purposes, it’s a developer role which had quite a steep learning curve but I’m enjoying the challenges. Work life balance can be tricky, mainly because I work away in London during the week and home is over 300km away which means weekends can become a bit rushed and end too quickly.
DC: You have many F5 Certifications including Technology Specialist (LTM) certifications. Why are these important to you and how have they helped with your career?
LS: Having F5 certifications have certainly helped me align my career down a more specific F5 route. They haven’t been plagued by brain dumps so the certifications actually mean something. I also like how the exams are written, you can’t learn parrot fashion and you have to have had hands on experience working with the technology. I’d like to sit my 401 exam eventually but my limited ASM knowledge is currently preventing me getting all four CTS certificates – something I’m keen to resolve!
DC: Describe one of your biggest BIG-IP challenges and how DevCentral helped in that situation.
LS: I think my biggest BIG-IP challenge has been the adjustment to my current role. To go from a guy who ‘did wires’ to writing code for a living was a challenge, especially in the first couple of months. My first project at Lloyds was to develop a framework for a micro service which involved multiple separate iRules, hundreds of lines of code for session management and encryption services. However, one of my most memorable challenges was earlier on in my career and was actually quite simple, I do remember feeling particularly pleased with the solution. I had to create a monitor for a webmethod, at the time the required version of NTLM wasn’t supported as standard, I was racking my brains for ages when someone on DevCentral suggested I could use cURL and an external monitor. So I had to use tcpdump to capture the request, rebuild the XML using cURL, test the result then and use an external monitor to check the service. I remember how impressed I was, how customizable the product was and if it didn’t do it out of the box, there’s usually a way to do what you need.
DC: Could you also give the backstory to Mr. Plastic if there is one?
LS: As for my DevCentral handle; MrPlastic well that may take some explaining! I used to produce a form of hard, aggressive dance music called Breakcore under the pseudonym Monster Plastic and ran a club night in Leeds, with my brother where we played our music and booked guest DJs and producers. It was a mixture of jungle, hardcore, gabber and heavy breaks – your mother wouldn’t approve! Monster Plastic soon developed into Lee Plastic. As for the Mr? I don’t know, maybe I just got married and settled down!
DC: Lastly, if you weren’t an IT admin – what would be your dream job? Or, when you were a kid – what did you want to be when you grew up?
LS: I’d like to be able to work outside, I’m a keen rock climber and mountaineer and working in London doesn’t lend its self to getting out as much as I’d like. So I’d probably like to work as a climbing and mountaineering instructor. When I was younger I wanted to pilot search and rescue helicopters for the Royal Air Force but after university I was still enjoying partying too much and wasn’t quite ready for a twelve-year commission!