MATT STARLING - ABOUT - WIFI NINJAS

A bit more about Matt Starling…

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Jan 2020 – I am super happy to announce that I have passed the CWAP exam and achieved CWNE & CWNT status! CWNE #369

Matt CWNE Badge

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Hey, my name is Matt and at the time of writing this post, I am 28 years old (Jan 2019) and have a love for all things Wi-Fi 🙂

I get asked this question a lot.. So how and what made you get into Wi-Fi? A relative of mine who was quite techie/ geeky showed me how to build and upgrade a computer when I was about 16 which I found interesting and then he showed me how to build and design my own website.

So after that I went on a IT training course that taught you the basics for PC builds and networking. At the end of the training course you take a test and if you pass it they then start to recruit you out to their contacts – which I did and so my first job in the industry was to be a field engineer driving around to various shopping centres to fix different types of equipment such as hand held terminals (HHTs) and printers.

I did that for a couple of years and then applied for a role as a wireless support engineer at Sky (The Cloud). Fortunately, I was successful, and this is where my love for Wi-Fi really started. From working in a support role for wireless I started to learn quickly what common issues there would be with Wi-Fi and more often than not it would come down to a cleaner unplugging the router to plug in their hoover or the magic of “can you turn it off and back on please” 😀

I was now in my early 20s, still doing the wireless support role and had been advised “you should get your CCNA Routing and Switching” by a few of the senior guys at Sky – and at this point I had one eye on moving up to becoming a Wi-Fi engineer and knew this would be a good step in the right direction to enable me to move up to this position.

So, I booked myself onto a 5-day Cisco CCNA boot camp course thinking – how hard can this be? Well.. I soon found out as shortly into day 1 with little to none prior Cisco knowledge or experience, pretty much most of what the instructor was saying may as well have been Japanese and what I was being shown at first to me looked like I was getting ready to enter the
Matrix!

Not discouraged by this I realised that I was going to have to put a lot more of my own time into studying for this and after a few months I thought I was ready to take the exam. Yep as you can probably guess I did not pass the first time – I think that in my first attempt I got around the 50% mark – which I will admit was very disheartening as I thought I had put in a fair amount of work to prepare for the exam but I think that if you ask anyone who has taken a Cisco exam before – there’s not much else out there like a Cisco exam, but once you had taken your first one and get a feel to how the questions are asked and worded you know what to prepare for.

I then spent the next 6-8 weeks studying super hard, before and after work and on the weekends. My social life was non-existent at this point as all I was focussed on was making sure the next time, I took that exam I passed. Which second time around I did and there is no better feeling than after all that hard work studying for all that time when you hit submit at the end of the exam and those magical words pop up “congratulations you have passed!”

With my CCNA R&S in the bag and a position of Wi-Fi Engineer at Sky had become available I was ready to apply and with my few years of experience in support and knowing the ins and outs of Sky’s Wi-Fi customers I was successful and moved up to become a Wi-Fi Engineer.

In this role is where I first started to get my hands on Ekahahu and start performing wireless surveys and doing designs which were something I just instantly loved. I found great satisfaction from performing wireless surveys – going to different customer sites across the UK and then doing designs in Ekahau and documenting them. Providing these designs to our cabling partners and then playing a part in the implementation of the design I found great satisfaction and job fulfillment seeing my wireless designs coming to life and customers happy with their new Wi-Fi!

There were a couple of guys that really took me under their wing when I worked at Sky, Gavin and Sean who taught me all the fundamentals of being a good wireless engineer, from how to conduct yourself on customer sites – to how wireless works and I owe a lot to these guys for their professionalism and work ethic which inspired me to want to keep learning and
progressing.

The next certification I had my eyes on was the Certified Wireless Networking Admin (CWNA) by the Certified Wireless Networking Professional (CWNP). Again, this was recommended to me by Sean & Gavin as a very well recognised certification track to pursue as it was vendor agnostic and would prove that you had a true of wireless fundamentals and how it works.

Again, I booked myself onto a 5 day boot camp training course and I had learnt from prior experience this was going to take a lot of my own personal time to study for. Which it did and I took my time to study for properly and now with a good 3/4 years of experience under my belt in troubleshooting, design and implementation of wireless I passed the exam in my
first attempt!

Moving on to the next chapter in my career and this time not just changing roles but changing companies to go work for Block Solutions in London was a big & to be honest quite a scary change for me as by this time working and growing up at Sky for the last 5+ years I had not only developed myself technically & professionally but had made some truly deep
& lifelong friendships with people who at first were colleagues but were now some of my best friends! I knew that this was the right move for me and always wanting to push myself out of my comfort zone to keep improving I made the jump!

One of the main reasons I wanted to move to Block to become a Wireless Consultant was because they were a Cisco Gold Partner and after spending so much time and effort in learning my CCNA R&S I wanted to be more hands-on day to day with Cisco equipment – which I most certainly was! My main responsibility at Block was to perform wireless surveys and implement Cisco wireless solutions and after only a few months at Block and all the hands-on projects I worked on I felt that I was ready to sit my CCNA Wireless.

I did study for this exam, but I admit not as hard as I did the others as I felt in a fairly comfortable position from what I knew from the on the job work plus my CCNA R&S + CWNA. I took the CCNA W exam and passed first time!

Amongst other great people I met and learned from at Block, Marko – a CCIE Wireless really helped me step up to the next level with implementing Cisco Wireless networks and over the course of the next couple of years of constant hands-on Cisco project work and constantly asking Marko for help and questions I also passed a couple of CCNP exams (CCNP Switch – one the CCNP R&S modules & CCNP Wireless Design – one of the CCNP Wireless modules). As well as another of the CWNP certifications Certified Wireless Design Professional (CWDP).

At Block every year they would have an apprenticeship program where they would take on a couple of apprentices for a year – to 18 months where this would give them the opportunity to try their hands across all verticals of networking. As I was the main wireless guy in London it was my responsibility to take some of these guys under my wing for a certain period to train them up on how to perform wireless surveys and implement wireless solutions.

Training and developing the apprentices was something that I really enjoyed doing – watching one apprentice impaticular (another Matt believe it or not!) who joined Block with absolutely no networking experience to in just one year of shadowing me was now competent at performing wireless survey by himself and now had a good routing and switching
knowledge – he actually managed to pass his CCNA R&S + CCNA wireless in his first two years in networking – which I think can all agree is pretty impressive.

Management seeing how well and how far Matt (apprentice Matt) had come from working so closely with me they wanted to explore a new direction at Block and Role so promoted me to become the Field Services Team Leader. A role where I would now manage the junior guys at Block as well as mentoring them to develop. This, therefore, meant I would be doing a lot less of the hands-on work and more people management.

This was a new kind of role for me and a new role for Block, which I was enjoying helping junior guys in their career but after a few months went by I was really starting to miss the hands on side of things and the fear of “if you don’t use, you lose it” started to set in.

And then I met Ian and Mac from Natilik…

Ian Interviewed me over the phone for a role of wireless project engineer and straight away I knew he would be a great manager to work for. The next stage in the interview was a technical assessment/grilling from Mac (WiFi Ninja) where we bonded instantly over a tomato juice in a pub from our passion for wireless and his sneaky questions trying to catch me out “Oh Matt so when would you want to bond channels in 2.4GHz in an enterprise? And Adjacent-Channel interference is worse than Co-Channel interference, right?” No Mac you most certainly would never do that and ACI is definitely worse than CCI!

So now Mac finally had a new wireless buddy at Natilik that could help him with his work load – we worked closely together over my first month or so there and we both knew straight away that this was the start of not only a great working relationship together but we would become close friends – which led to the creation of the Wi-Fi Ninjas podcast!

It may be worth mentioning at this point that we both Mac & myself want to become Certified Wireless Networking Experts (CWNEs) which is currently the highest level you can achieve with CWNP. To become CWNE you have to have passed all 4 of their exams (CWNA, CWDP, CWSP & CWAP), have similar vendor specific certifications and be giving back to the wireless community.

With both of us having becoming CWNE in mind we were just casually talking one day in the office and was like “shall we start a wireless networking podcast – I don’t think there is one in the UK and we really might be able to help some other guys with what we know and it will help us with our CWNE application”

The podcast was an idea we had after listening to many other podcasts. Our goal is to help contribute back to the community by providing a podcast dedicated to wireless networking. We wanted to help others who may be just getting started in wireless networking, or even just getting started in network engineering.

We’ve come across wireless networks that should have been installed differently. There should be more awareness and education for wireless planning and deployments. Additionally, we always enjoyed hearing how others have started in wireless, what tips they have for those just getting started, and what tools they use.

So, January 2019 the first Wi-Fi Ninjas podcast was released and a few months later we were lucky enough to have some extremely well-recognised industry experts on the show and more podcast downloads than what we expected – it was safe to say we were both extremely pleased and motivated to continue to keep delivering more Wi-Fi techie content for our listeners! 

Also by this point, I had also passed the Certified Wireless Security Professional exam from CWNP so that just leaves me with more exam to go (CWAP) to pass before being able to apply for my CWNE… 

What you won’t find on LinkedIn about me…

I recently got married (last year, 7 July 2018 – yes this was lucky enough to fall on the same day & time as the England vs Sweden world cup quarter-final!) to my wonderful wife Francesca. I enjoy playing and watching football (Arsenal Fan), try and go to the gym regularly – approx. 4 times a week and about 2 years ago decided to go vegan #plantpower. I also, for some strange reason, enjoy getting tattoos.

Matt CWNE Badge
CWNT