For me, the SCTE IP Challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow and network (in more ways than one). I have only participated in one year, however I plan to compete in the years to come. It gives me an avenue to challenge myself, meet my peers in the industry and have a good competition with skilled opponents.
This was also my first year attending the Cable-Tec expo. The sessions that I was able to attend were informative and were presented by experts in the industry. While these were fantastic for getting a deep dive for what’s to come (and the associated growing pains), the show floor offers a great place to look at new technologies and ask questions to those who are creating the devices to both learn more and give input from a customer perspective.
In my current role I don’t get the opportunity to wear the customer hat as often as I used to, so it was refreshing. Both the sessions and time spent on the floor helped to give me big picture view of where my industry as a whole is moving for the future.
The IP Challenge itself has its own series of events that end at the finals within the Expo halls. A few months beforehand there are two virtual qualifier rounds where you need to answer fairly difficult questions that I had to research.
While the main questions can be difficult, their weakness is that you have the entire qualifier to answer all of them. The real challenge comes from the limited-time questions (BONUS, Tok3n, Quick Draw, you know them). With these you need to pay attention and be able to get the answer very fast, as missing a beat can drop your place in the ranking. I am not going to sugarcoat this.
I forgot what the word “Sleep” meant during those weeks. The questions in the Semi-Final rounds are not as hard or exact on the responses as the qualifier, however the pressure of being in front of the judges and an entire room of people can make even the strongest of Network Engineers begin to sweat (the spotlights don’t help either).
The victors from the Semi-Final rounds move to the Hands-On Final round, where you’re “gifted” a CMTS that someone thought a good idea to play with and see what would “work”. And by “work” I mean I found several issues within the first few minutes of looking at it.
The ability to succeed in the Final round is very much dependent on your ability to quickly identify what you need to do and execute your solution. During this time, you have no idea how far along your competition is, so you’re definitely feeling the pressure as you’re trying to navigate to the answer.
In the end, it has been completely worth the cost of the sleepless nights and hitting the books like a mad man. When up on stage, we are all business. When the round was over though, we all resumed what came naturally to us. Even though we all worked for different providers (or different regions of the same provider), it would have been hard for someone to tell that we weren’t on the same team.
Being able to speak to my peers in the other Cable Operators (MSO and Single System alike) allowed me to see from a new perspective, and discover that what happens to my team isn’t limited to just my company. Having these opportunities are something that makes the IP Challenge an experience I will be looking forward to not only this year, but in the years to come.
Even with all of this, the IP Challenge Qualifier rounds are open to everyone with an Internet connection. So if you’re reading this you can participate. I would recommend anyone in the network field at least look into it to see what it’s about. And if you’re in the Cable industry, do your best and I’ll see you in the Finals.