Our Featured Member series is a way for us to show appreciation and highlight active contributors in our community. Communities thrive on interaction and our Featured Series gives you some insight on some of our most engaged folks. DevCentral Member Alex Tijhuis is our Featured Member for November! Let's catch up with Alex!
DevCentral: First, please explain to the DC community a little about yourself, what you do and why it is important.
Alex: I’m originally from the Netherlands but live in Newmarket (UK), together with my wife Jana and two kids. Jana is from South Africa where we met, and after having lived there for a few years, decided to move to the UK for a couple of years. That was 14 years ago and we’re still here!
I’m a full-time F5 engineer, specializing in training and consultancy for all the major F5 products throughout Europe. And why it’s important? I don’t think I’ve got to tell you why F5 is important… 😉
DevCentral: You’ve continued to be an active contributor in the DevCentral community. What keeps you involved?
Alex: Well thanks! I find myself coming and going to be honest. If I’ve got a few days off, I jump on there for a bit, see if I can help someone out, but also whenever I’m looking for obscure answers, DevCentral is one of the first places I end up. During consultancies as well as training sessions, I often get some very tricky questions (these students can sometimes throw me some very interesting curveballs…) – DevCentral has already come to the rescue quite a few times for me.
Although I think I know quite a bit about the F5 products, I’m definitely missing some in-depth knowledge in some of the products. On DevCentral there is always someone around who either had the problem already before, or someone who knows more about it, or at least tries to help figure it out – it’s awesome!
DevCentral: Tell us a little about the technical expertise you have.
Alex: None… But for some reason people think I do, so I might as well pretend I know something… 🙂
DevCentral: You are a F5 Trainer and Consultant at ABCT.net Ltd?. Can you describe your typical workday, how you manage work/life balance and the strong support of F5 solutions? How has the pandemic impacted your work?
Alex: Back in my later days of employment, an important part of the job was sales. Although I know (roughly) how it works, and I appreciate that it’s a necessary part, I hated it. Starting to work for myself gave me the freedom to no longer do the sales part and purely focus on the techy bits. Although ironically now I need to sell myself… And in case you’re wondering, ABCT.net comes from Alexander Boudewijn Christiaan Tijhuis, but that’s probably too long as a domain name, so I shortened it.
People/companies hire me for a few days or a week to help them sort all kinds of things out; health checks, design chats, but also official F5 training, bespoke workshops or whatever comes up at the time. Consultancy and training is a tricky field though to get a steady stream of work and we tend to be quite flexible with our customers; sometimes our calendar is booked up for months in advance, all of a sudden we get a bunch of cancellations, meaning we’ve got some time off, and two days later, other people may have picked those dates up again and we’re booked solid again! Hard to predict really.
It took some time to get used to it, but luckily F5 is a brilliant product (ahem) and there’s always need for good engineers so I learned to have some reserves in the bank and just roll with whatever happens. If I’ve got work, great! If I’ve got a couple of days off, great! During the pandemic for example, we initially had a lot of engagements cancelled. Great time to help the kids with their school work though, no travel for a bit and very much enjoyed spending more time with them for a couple of months. When people realized that home working was here to stay, a lot of training and consultancies started to move to fully remote and work picked up again. The extra time that was left, I then used to dive into some of the areas of F5 that I didn’t get time for yet so far such as NginX and SSLO as you’ll never know when that comes in handy. It’s good to have a ToDo list available in case I’m off for a week and to avoid getting bored, but so far that hasn’t happened yet.
DevCentral: Do you have any F5 Certifications? If so, why are these important to you and how have they helped with your career?
Alex: 401 and 402 certified, oh and the elusive 202! And yes, they are very useful. I was about to go on a rant on all the pros and cons of certification in general, but it’ll probably be easier to just reference on of my earlier rants;
Jana has actually also started picking up some F5 certs! After spending some years with the kids at home, she wants to get back to work and actually quite likes the world of F5. Although she’s already been a valuable part to my company behind the scenes, she wants to actively pick up jobs in the future. Having a few of the F5 certificates shows all our customers that she’s not “just someone who’s interested”, but that she actually knows her stuff. So far, she’s passed the 101 and planning on doing the 201 on December.
DevCentral: Describe one of your biggest Customer challenges and how the community helped in that situation. (Does not necessarily have to be DevCentral)
Hmm, I’m struggling to think of a nice example that I can talk about, but here is to me a community that shows all the worth of “community” and the opportunities it brings – Linux! I don’t think there’s many communities that are bigger than that one out there, and what an impact it has made! Where would our modern world be without it? How many systems and devices aren’t running on it in some capacity – and for that matter, what would F5 look like?
I think the power of communities are not always clearly visible, nor are the benefits immediately obvious, but at some point there will always be a community to help you, whether that is your local community or an online community. DevCentral being no exception to this!
DevCentral: Lastly, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing – what would be your dream career? Or better, when you were a kid – what did you want to be when you grew up?
Alex: I think I’ll be giving a pretty cliché answer here and say that I’m more or less having my dream career at the moment; tinkering with techy stuff, messing with my lab setup or talking to like-minded people about how to fix tricky problems – can’t complain! If I wouldn’t like what I’m doing, I should change it.
Within reason of course, but I do believe that most people can do a job that they love – the question is if you’re willing to make the sacrifices that come with it. For me, that was many years ago to take a massive pay cut from a swanky railway consultancy job to become a junior network engineer, and more recently giving up stability of a job to create my own business. Having a bit of luck and support does help of course, but did it and never looked back.
And what I wanted to be when I was a kid? For many years I wanted to paint houses. Start with a scruffy looking place and a couple of days later, end up with a plain, freshly painted building! I suspect that when I noticed how much work it actually was, I quickly forgot about it - lazy bugger…
---Thanks Alex! We really appreciate your willingness to share with the DevCentral Community. Stay connected with Alex on social media: