Belinda Loi is Manager of Network Automation at Cox Communications. Keep reading to learn about her experiences behind the code at Cox.
If you ask Belinda Loi – Manager of Network Automation at Cox Communications – to describe her team in one sentence, she’ll probably say something like this:
“We are building the next generation of network engineers with a focus on automation-first design.”
Born in Norway and based in Atlanta, Belinda said that her friends and coworkers alike would describe her as “a hype woman” – someone who loves bringing out the best in everyone, empowering others and collaborating for success.
“Our focus is not to build big applications, but rather services that support business processes,” she said. “It’s less about the applications or products, and more about training and growing our people to apply the open-source products that are already available.”
Belinda and team have the unique challenge and privilege of having multiple tech stacks beneath their umbrella. One specific one that comes to mind is Red Hat’s Ansible platform – which Belinda says is a flexible solution for helping network engineers “crowdsource” automation.
“With thousands of modules prebuild and curated into Ansible Galaxy Collections, you can create automation that turns up a VM, sends emails or reports, communicates with REST services, modifies ACL’s on network devices, deploys Docker containers, manages Kubernetes clusters or performs a backup of the configuration on your network devices…the possibilities really are endless.”
What does the word “innovation” mean to Belinda?
“Innovation is often born out of necessity, starting with an idea and fueled by passion,” she explained. “To supplement and foster innovation, the Network Automation team is working to equip our engineers with ways to leverage the latest technology stack to continue challenging the status quo and making things more efficient and reliable.”
Simplifying the complex
One example of how Belinda’s team makes tech more efficient and reliable is a project that took place in 2021. Belinda’s team was asked to provide automation in support of NIST-800 compliance efforts that the Cox Business Engineering and Security teams were focused on delivering.
“This work would require some very complex cleanup and validation of our prefix-lists on the Cox Business Nokia fiber network, as the inventory is a staggering 45,000 devices strong and growing,” Belinda said. “That’s combined with some of the most cutting-edge and emerging software design patterns, GitOps, Network ‘as code’ and closed loop automation style principals as the core of the design.”
Partnering with other network engineers at Cox, Belinda and team set off to deliver an Ansible playbook that could maintain one source of truth about IP prefix-lists for this network, house those “golden configs” in Git and then calculate the remediation plan on a per host basis – executing and ensuring ongoing compliance in a unified way.
At the end of the project, the team deployed configurations to the entire Nokia Core (approximately 750 hosts) in all six regions of the enterprise on several separate occasions in 2021, causing zero service-affecting or zero-impacting outages. The project was even used as a source of demonstration for Pair Programming at Red Hat’s AnsibleFest 2021 Developer Conference.
“These kinds of opportunities and challenges are my favorite thing about working at Cox,” Belinda said. “I like that I’m able to voice my opinion on projects and my leaders are very supportive of things I want to try.”
The path ahead
Belinda worked in the telecom industry before beginning her career at Cox and understands the importance of good workplace culture. Referring to the telecom company she worked for previously, Belinda said: “I was really invested in the company but didn’t feel like they were invested in me.”
When a recruiter reached out regarding an open position at Cox, Belinda was intrigued by the opportunity.
“Cox cares about their people,” she said. “It’s something we pride ourselves on and I was struck by that from the very beginning.”
Belinda feels that she’s contributed to meaningful tech transformation during her four years at Cox.
“At Cox, I feel like I’ve made an impact and that I’m valued,” she said. “There’s a path for my career here.”
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