The time I spent in NEC Pacific Asia as an intern from March to July 2018 was an unforgettable one for me as it was rich in experience and helped me realize my potential of working in an IT industry. I had a lot of opportunities that I believe will perpetually grow and influence my professional life while furthering personal growth and development in the future. This report would not have been possible without the collaboration and contribution of others. My sincere gratitude goes out for these people. The people who have helped me during the internship are Mr. Lawrence Chia, the Director of ESBU for endorsing my application for the internship. Mr. Victor Lim, he is the in-charge of the routing and switching team of which I was part of. Mr. Yusni Yusof, he has been there since I first set foot on this company. He is one of the network engineers, and he literally taught me the fundamentals of networking from the ground up. I am eternally grateful for his guidance. Last but not least, Ms. Jing Ping the pre-sales engineer she took an extra mile to help me whenever I faced difficulties.
This is an internship report regarding the ESBU department of NEC Asia Pacific. It starts with an introduction about the internship (I) followed by the background information of the organization (II). It gives a briefing about all the services that NEC Asia Pacific deliver and promised. This report also includes the training and work assignments (III) that I was tasked with during this internship. It gives a detail about the several projects I was involved in and how I helped the routing and switching team in their daily working. The report also shows my reflections (IV) on the challenges that arise during the several projects I was in and how well I am able to manage them. It also discusses how I could have done it better, the learning factors and how this internship better prepared me for the IT industry. In the end, I will talk briefly about the conclusions (V) in which I summarize my overall learning and achievements. I
The internship is a fundamental platform for anyone to gain experience in an actual workplace. Thus, NEC Pacific Asia is a good opportunity for students to learn and understand how the IT industry works. This company is mainly project-based, therefore it is expected that prospective interns will need to meet deadlines, encounter inevitable problems that may occur during projects and having the ability to make informed decisions that will benefit the company on the long run. In comparison to learning in school about theories, we only get to scratch the surface but by doing this internship, I learned the practicality approach to dealing with a real world. Most importantly, I believe that undergoing this internship has helped me control my attitude and behavior in dealing with all kinds of people and situation. This made realize that I am still lacking as an individual and employee who entirely helps me to identify my strengths and weaknesses. Other than that, I genuinely wanted to gain professional knowledge and skills by going through this internship. I wanted to actively contribute to the company’s objectives by applying what I learned in Republic Polytechnic so that I can grab this golden opportunity to improve current systems or automate their workflow. I am confident that whatever that I have experienced in NEC Pacific Asia will be beneficial in the future.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION OF ORGANISATION
Kunihiko Iwadare founded Nippon Electric Company, Limited in 1899 and was renamed NEC Corporation in 1983 which is both expressed as NEC today. It is Japan’s first joint venture with foreign capital in association with the U.S. firm Western Electric Company (presently known as Alcaltel-Lucent). Their motto “Better Products, Better Services” has strived them to provide value to their customers by maintaining high ethical standards, create world-class products and reliable follow-up service. Fast forward to now, they specialize in providing information and communication technology solutions. The company offers systems integration, managed services and network technology services. NEC solutions are designed to give clients exceptional levels of versatility and scalability which gives them the upper hand in the IT industry.
THE TRAINING AND WORK ASSIGNMENTS
I am under the Enterprise Business Solutions (ESBU) department but specifically working with the routing and switching team. I am deployed off-site to establish a network infrastructure for IMDA. The work processes that I was involved in starts during the deployment phase of this project. The first training that we received is wireless deployment. It’s about setting up coverage and capacity goals that meet the needs of the client’s business objectives. This means introducing predictive site survey, performing a manual site survey and deployment plans. The tools that will be used based from NEC context would be Aerohive Wi-Fi planning tool in HiveManager Classic. We will need to determine the number of clients expected to serve, type of traffic expected on the network, amount of throughput the network provides, the number of access points (AP) needed and where to mount them for maximum coverage. As such, a predictive model is created before performing a manual site survey to verify the accuracy of the predictions. Afterwards, we can make any adjustments if necessary.
As for the first project, I need to go to NEC warehouse store to do inventory checking of the switches that will be placed in level 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the wire centers. This simply means that I have to cross check the equipment list that was given to me and transfer it into an excel sheet in ascending order prior to the floors. I was introduced to a free and open-source terminal emulator, serial console and network file transfer called PuTTY which involves OSI Layer 2 programming. I have to connect my laptop to the switches so that I can proceed to do inventory. Next, I need to identify the serial number and model type of the switch on to excel. So instead of manually looking at the serial no. of every switch, I can just type a command which shows the list of all the information that is needed for an inventory check. Next, we will need to pack all the switches back into their respective boxes and cleaning up the place which can be done by 2 people. After that is done we are ready for deployment, we just need to transport the switches to the site so we need transportation and put it at the wire centre in IMDA, Mapletree Business City and this process is done. I have to go offsite at Mapletree Business City to do real work. Apparently, some of the levels are under construction so I’ll have to wear a helmet wherever I go for safety purposes. My task differs day to day. I entered into a server room with all the switches and wires connecting one end to another. My task was to go through levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 each including 2 wire rooms that have 3 racks of switches and do PuTTY programming. I had to do stacking which means converting the default numbering of the switches of 1 to 1, 2,3,4,5 in order.
Consequently, I have to create a unique IP address for each room and do another set of inventory. Secondly, the team will need to survey the place. Meaning the client will escort us to the wire centre (server) and the individual switch rooms on each floor so that we know which switches from our side will be placed in which room. Apparently, we need to establish 2 networks A and B respectively and the mounting of the switches will be done by hired contractors. Mounting must always be done first else, we cannot start on anything. I will need to complete another inventory checklist for network A and power supply since it’s assigned to different rooms already while another person is doing the configuration and upgrading for network A. This can be done in a day but we wasted time as mounting the switches is the bottleneck.
Thirdly, I was capable to listen to instructions clearly hence the next day I was in charge to do network B. I was trained on the spot and manage to do stacking, creating an IP address under VLAN 1 for the switches as well as upgrading the version by using WinSCP (File transferring) and inventory check altogether. Fourth, once the switches are up and running we can mount the access points already. The process starts with transferring the AP boxes up to level 7 where the wire center is located. Next, we need to open it up and lay the APs row by row. It will then be connected by the switch using an Ethernet cable. My colleague will then assign this AP to an available spot from level 3 to 6 in an ascending order. So each floor has roughly 22-24 APs multiply by 4 floors, there is a minimum of 88 APs to be mounted by the contractor. After this task is done, we have to do the certification of the Alcatel switches which can be done in the master console in the wire center and that’s about it.
Next is Alcatel Hardening. Alcatel is one of the brands that NEC provides to users for acquiring switches. I was given a template to document hardening from switch A to H of network A. In the excel itself there are various hardening rules like authentication, authorization and accounting (AAA) rule, access rules, banner rules, password rules, clock rules etc. There is description provided from the user like from AAA rule the “configuration class which enforce device access controls, provide a mechanism for tracking configuration changes and enforcing security policy. This shall be applied to user login authentication, local console and VTY lines where applicable”. It also shows the commands that are expected to show from the SSH PuTTY program. So I have to see whether that whatever code that was input in the switch matches with the command given by the user. If it doesn’t match I will need to recode it to satisfy the user requirements. Once everything is the same as the template, I need to take a snip screenshot it and paste it into the excel template.
The other task that I was required to do was User Acceptance Test. I was only told to help the engineer take on and off the main power supply and backup power supply of the switches, pull off the stacking cable of each stack from 1 to 5 in ascending order, take out the uplink 1/49 and 5/49 then put it back while he does the documentation. The engineer checks whether there is a request timeout on the ping from the command prompt and if there is he will resolve the problem by using his troubleshooting skills. He will then take a snip screenshot of the ping and connectivity at the same time to review his progress.
The IMDA project is about to end and we must complete several documentations for archiving as well as signing off purposes. As such, I was tasked to assist my engineer to work on a network diagram of the established networks A and B in the building. I need to install Microsoft Visio to create the diagram. The network engineer just taught me a rough idea how IMDA network works on a blank piece of paper at the same time I must visualize the flow of it too. Since it’s a government project I cannot disclose any more detailed information.
The next project that I was involved in is called “Next-Generation Network (NGN) Upgrade” in National Institute of Education (NIE). I need to conduct a wireless site survey and produce active reports. I went to the meeting with the project manager for observation purposes. What I got from the meeting was a 2 weeks deadline to complete every block 1-7, from the basement to level 4 except block 6 as it is under renovation. I must know which SSID we want to connect and perform the active survey. This means I must have the credentials, set up a new network on my laptop, configure the survey pro software settings. I managed to liaise with the onsite engineer and he was a great help to us because he took his time and teach us how to use the Cisco prime infrastructure and get us all the plain floorplans we need for the site survey.
All in all, I was exposed to how a network engineer works on a daily basis. This is a challenge for me because my diploma barely touches on the fundamentals of networking. However, I am able to adapt and learn at the same time, therefore, learning a new language such as PuTTY is a breeze. Hence, whenever in doubt I am not afraid to ask questions and I believe a strong will to learn new things helps me to survive to work in a new environment every time.
REFLECTIONS One of the challenges that I faced was lacking the ability and technical skills to perform. The reason was that the job role that I got was completely different compared to the email I received as an “application programmer”. My initial thought when I got that role was doing coding on .NET or MySQL since this software are being widely used in the IT industry. In spite of that, my job role was a network engineer instead. A role that was not in the prospect of my course which is business information systems. Needless to say, I can only rely on my prior knowledge to do networking tasks. This means that I need to observe, learn and work progressively. I was new to the concept of network infrastructure but with guidance from Mr. Yusni, I am able to cope better.
Despite the lack of technical knowledge, I managed to follow through what Mr. Yusni taught me in using PuTTY. Hence, I was able to do a solo configuration in network B. Based from that experience, I encountered several problems and questions myself why certain things did not pop out in the screen. In fact, I made mistakes as I miss out some commands. Hence, I usually try to solve any problems on my own first if I truly cannot find the solution I will ask the engineer by taking a photo/call him. There was also an incident whereby I tried troubleshooting and apparently the reason why I cannot connect to the network was because of a damaged LAN cable and issue was solved by replacing it with a new one. Having said that, I persevered on and tried to make the most out of this internship to learn as much as possible. This is evident in the fact that Mr. Yusni keeps teaching me new things about network during lunch time or when we are working. Apart from that, I always put down the instructions he gave me and transfer it to my iPhone notes for knowledge retention. So, if there are future projects that I need to configure switches, I can just go to the notes application and refer from there.
Personally, I think that my overall performance is good because I can adapt to a new environment despite having a different line of study and still make the most out of it. This internship has sharpened my analytical/problem solving skills and other soft skills. I realize that by being part of working society, I will need to meet different people around the office and I will have to communicate with them to meet their needs. As a whole, undergoing this internship is very challenging however with great effort, commitment and having the will to learn has helped me better prepared for the IT industry in the future.