Friday Mar 23, 2007

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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