Sunday, March 16, 2014

I've left Penn for a new job

After more than 20 years of working at Penn (University of Pennsylvania), I've decided to take a new job as Principal Research Scientist at Verisign Labs, the applied research division of Verisign Inc. You might know that Verisign is one of the world's largest DNS infrastructure providers. It runs the .com, .net, .edu, and .gov DNS top level domains, two of the thirteen DNS root servers (A and J), and performs the critically important root zone management function. Verisign also provides managed DNS, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) mitigation, and several other services. (Note: Verisign's certificate services business was sold off to Symantec several years ago).

I've been at Penn for so long, that I startled many of my colleagues with the news of my departure, so I'll say a few things about how this came about. I originally came to Penn in 1989 as an undergraduate. I became a full time IT staff member after I graduated - my first job was the system administrator of the new e-mail server for the School of Arts & Sciences, the largest school within Penn. I completed a Masters degree in Computer Science part-time while working. I later moved to the central IT organization, where I remained until last week, first as a Network Engineer, then as the Lead Engineer, and most recently as an Engineering Director. In addition, I've been a part time Adjunct Faculty in Penn's School of Engineering, teaching a laboratory course on Network Protocols.

I was approached by Allison Mankin and Matt Larson (I've known both of them for a while) about a year ago to see if I'd be interested in considering a research scientist position at Verisign Labs. Matt has since left Verisign to work at Dyn, and Allison is now a Director at Verisign Labs. At the time, I thought this was distinctly a long shot, but over the course of many months, I thought more seriously about the possibility. I visited Verisign Labs in September 2013, did an interview with them, and also met Burt Kaliski, Verisign CTO (Burt is a noted cryptographer and was the founding scientist of RSA Labs, and the developer of the PKCS standards). I kept in touch with Allison since, but it took me until the beginning of this year to finally come to the conclusion that I wanted to take this opportunity, so here I am. My first day at Verisign will be tomorrow (March 17th).

I've enjoyed my job and career at Penn a lot. I've been extensively involved in a very diverse range of technical projects, ranging from software development, systems engineering, and network design. Among others, I was responsible for the design and operation of much of the authentication and security infrastructure at Penn, as well as a variety of other services, like the DNS and DHCP (and many more that I don't have the time to enumerate here). I was the principal architect of IPv6 and DNSSEC deployment at Penn. I was the chief engineer of the MAGPI gigapop and through that role, was involved in R&E regional and national networking activities. Increasingly though, a lot of time is taken up by non-technical activities, and the longer I stay at Penn, the greater the possibility that I'll end up as a full time IT staff manager, which isn't the role I envision for myself. I've always seen my primary role as that of a technologist, and this job change will allow me to continue in that direction.

Verisign Labs appears to have a true applied research agenda, which I find appealing. Obviously DNS and DNSSEC research is an area in which I expect to be working. But there are many other interesting areas of work: routing, IPv6, reputation systems, security protocols, future internet architectures, etc. I'm also looking forward to attending more NANOG and IETF meetings to get myself more plugged into those communities than I've been able to thus far. Verisign Labs also has frequent, productive collaborations with computer science researchers through its university collobaration program.

In the process, I'm moving to the Washington DC metro area (specifically Reston, VA) where Verisign is located, another big change for me!

More later ..

--Shumon Huque.