Chatting with Radia

One thing I've been meaning to blog about for weeks is my participation in Sun's Engineering Enrichment and Development (SEED) mentoring program. Katy Dickinson runs SEED - she recently posted this compendium of articles - everything you need to know about SEED is there.

Anyway - I hit the jackpot with my mentor - Sun Fellow Dr Radia Perlman. You may know Radia as 'Mother of the Internet', inventor of the Spanning Tree algorithm and author of Interconnections: Bridges, Routers, Switches, and Internetworking Protocols. SEED participants have to select several potential mentors, writing a few sentences about each one. Here is what I wrote about Radia:

I started the current arc of my career in 1997, implementing SSL in Java and contributing to a 'clean room' implementation of JCA/JCE. Radia Perlman has been a familiar name to me since that time, given the security aspects of her work.

Not only does Radia have DEEP technical knowledge, she combines this with a refreshing willingness to speak her mind. When I received a comment on my blog asking about 'Identity Based Encryption', I fired off an email to Sun's internal security mailing list to find out more. Radia gave a detailed and comprehensive reply, with permission to quote her on my blog.

Since security is an essential part of my work, and identity is a key consumer of Radia's work, there is a certain synergy possible in Radia mentoring me.

Our mentoring relationship comprises a phone call every couple of weeks and face-to-face meetings if we ever end up in the same city at the same time. I have to admit, I was pretty intimidated the first time I called Radia - she is not exactly a shrinking violet - but we seemed to hit it off and have spent several hours - well - chatting, basically.

Chatting about her work, my work, career progression at Sun and anything else that's on our minds. I get a lot out of it, I hope Radia does too, and it's fun. And, let's face it, that's about 50% of Sun's unofficial mission statement

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