SCTE member since 1985 Title: VP, Chief Learning Officer, NCTI Broadband Background: With more than 20 years of training experience under his belt, Babcock serves as the head of NCTI’s learning and development and education business units. Prior to joining the organization in 2000, he held positions including director of training development for the SCTE, director of training at TCI Communications Inc. and technical training manager for Time Warner Cable. Can you offer some background on this new TCP/IP course? As cable operators are making plans and actually implementing those plans to convert their systems to all digital, IP becomes the structure for delivering voice, video and data across those networks. We’ve got a lot of folks who have come into the industry from the data side, but we’ve got a lot of RF and video technicians who don’t necessarily understand networking and/or the entire TCP/IP rules and protocols that are going to be managing the products carried on their networks. This is one of the fundamental building blocks of knowledge that is necessary as we begin to prepare our folks for the next big wave of technological change in how we operate our networks. You addressed these topics in an Expo workshop, didn’t you? The session I did was actually on preparing technicians for the new digital world, for all of the changes. We’re doing a lot of engineering and discussion about what does the technology do, what does it mean, how do we implement it. But you don’t hear a lot of people talking about engineering on the people side, or how our folks are going to come up to speed to be able to support all of this change. I’m guilty of it, as well. We’re all technologists. It’s easy to think about the ‘things.’ It’s more difficult to think about the ‘who’s.’ This was your "Cable Guy/R2D2" paper, correct? Have you done anything with it? Yes, we have a white paper based on the talk I did at SCTE on our Web site (http://www.ncti.com.) Back to TCP/IP, there are many Internet protocols (plural). How do you deal with what is something of a moving target? Data has been moved around with IP for a long time. Video and voice are relatively new to IP transport, and I’m certain there will be new standards and protocols that will be created to do what we really want to do in the all-digital future. New algorithms and equipment are constantly being designed to make transportation of information more efficient. It’s definitely a moving target, and our intent here is to at least provide an introduction to the fundamentals of TCP/IP, not answer all questions, but to give people understanding enough to know what questions they can ask themselves. This involves educating people about the underlying theories and technologies, not just training them where to install some connections or push some buttons. Do you make any analogies between the RF and IP worlds? We don’t really draw any of those correlations in here. It really is pretty pure: just describing and helping the student understand what TCP and IP protocols are and how they work, addressing schemes, applications for these protocols, routing them, moving data between the layers of the OSI model, etc. Does this course fill a gap in what’s available? The problem with the type of training that’s generally available in the market is that most content is usually written for and targeted at the person who’s going to be a data technician or engineer. The cable engineer or tech, while they need to understand TCP/IP, probably doesn’t need to have the same level of comprehension. For example, the cable technician as our typical audience needs to understand where problems can occur, but probably doesn’t need to recall a datagram for a DOCSIS data packet. That’s not to say that there aren’t people in the cable industry who need that much greater depth. But the vast majority of technicians in the cable industry need to know what protocols are, which ones are used where, what they do and how they are deployed, but they don’t have to go in and understand every bit in an IPv6 address. This course isn’t ‘TCP/IP for Dummies;’ it’s more involved than that. But this isn’t a course for a data engineer. There is a deep end to this pool, isn’t there? Our intent was to teach you how to drive a car, not how to build an internal combustion engine. Is there going to be a sequel? The follow-on course will be one on basic networking. That will be out well before the end of this year. We’re also continually updating other content in more traditional courses to help technicians make the transition from analog to digital. Can you give us a quick update on NCTI’s certification prep guides? SCTE Certification is a hugely underutilized program for recognizing the level of competence of industry technicians and engineers. One of the big reasons that a lot of technical employees don’t attempt certification is the effort required to gather the study materials recommended for each exam. The prep guides address this issue. It is extremely easy to go to our Web site and look at the reference materials available for each topic listed for the various certification exams. A technician who has been in the industry for a while has learned a number of things that may appear on a particular exam, but may feel weak in a specific area. They don’t need to hunt down a wheelbarrow full of reference material; they just need a few pages on a couple topics. The prep guides were established to help individuals fill their knowledge gaps and help them gain the confidence to sit for certification exams. Of course, these prep guides don’t replace the more traditional training programs provided by NCTI and others, which are also very effective at helping people gain the knowledge needed to prepare for certification. Think of the prep guides as the "Cliff Notes" on specific topics.