JUNIPER NETWORKS’ PETE KOLAK SHARES HOW HE STANDARDIZED AND MAINTAINS CONFERENCING SYSTEMS FOR MORE THAN 40 OFFICES AROUND THE WORLD. By Matt Pruznick AV over IP is the way of the future. It’s all you hear in the industry. So, to start a job at a company that was outfitting its enormous headquarters with fully end-to-end networked AV systems sounds like the ultimate thrill, right? Perhaps it would be in 2019; but six years ago, for a pragmatic industry veteran like Pete Kolak, it was a prescription for managerial migraines. “I was working at Adobe when this role popped up,” said Kolak, senior manager of conferencing services at Juniper Networks, an international networking company based in Sunnyvale, CA. “Everyone in the Bay Area knew that Juniper was doing this giant upgrade with all this networked AV, where everything you plugged into and every destination was encoded and decoded on the network. I almost didn’t apply because that sounded like a total nightmare to support.” But he decided to tackle the task anyway. “I get onsite and I’m looking around and looking at everything, and basically every signal—input and output—is encoded, sent on the network, and sent back, and that can cause some latency,” he said. “There were a lot of challenges, and the tremendous amount of traffic on the network from the AV equipment actually helped Juniper improve their switches.” Over his first three months on the job, he and his team worked tirelessly to stabilize the AV programming and settings on the AV gear, to get to a point where it was manageable enough to start on an overhaul plan. A SOLID FOUNDATION When he joined Juniper in June of 2013, Kolak had amassed more than 15 years of experience in managing communications technology, so he had a solid foundation of how to engineer reliable systems— and how to fix them when things went awry. He started at a company called Turn-Key Operations, managing its telecommunications, specifically its Madge Teleos switch-based system. From there, he joined Blue Shield of California as its conferencing services lead, where he handled the design of audio conferencing, videoconferencing, video production, and data collaboration for the entire enterprise.
F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H 2 0 1 9 | av ne twor k. com
Pete Kolak, senior manager of conferencing services, Juniper Networks
It wasn’t until joining Adobe as its conferencing services engineer in 2010, however, that he became fully immersed in the world of IT. “Network was a huge jump,” he said. “More than half of my career I was working in non-IP-based environments. IP was a challenge because I knew telecom, and trying to troubleshoot a network with a network team, trying to use the same verbiage I used to use with the telecom people—it was different. It was a struggle and it took a while.” Kolak eventually gained a mastery of it from hands-on learning. “I had to work really closely with the network team to understand how it worked,” he said. “It was just trial and error, and troubleshooting, and learning what they did to fix things over time, and learning what to ask for when you saw the same problems arise.” A GOLD STANDARD At both Adobe and Blue Shield, part of Kolak’s responsibilities included developing standards for the companies’ AV systems. Once he was able to get enough of a handle on the network at Juniper, he sat down with his engineering team and for-
Global Sensations. Juniper Networks' Pete Kolak On Standardizing An International Company's Communications.