Chairman of the Network Professional Association - the Leading
Organization for Network Computing Professionals
This week, Stephen Ibaraki,
I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with James Belasco, Chairman of board of directors
for the Network Professional Association (NPA), the global voice of the networking industry and
international advocate for the network computing professional.
James has served as Chairman
for a number of years providing leadership and vision to the non-profit
organization. Prior to this, he was the president of the San Diego Chapter of
the Network Professional Association.
Leadership and community
involvement began as the student representative to the Poway YMCA in 1970.
James served as a member of Parish Counsel for St. Charles Catholic Church
(1991-93). He continues as a musician having been a member of the San Diego
Opera Chorus (1985-90) and 25 years as a soloist and performer.
James is a founding member of
Culminis and is currently Treasurer on the Board of Directors. Microsoft has
acknowledged his support of the technical community with the title of Microsoft Valued Professional (2003-04).
Earl Walls Associates (February
1991 - present) employs James as Director of Administration and Technology
responsible for computer network, telecommunications, facilities, human
resources and staff support administration. Extended duties include service as
chair for the Employee Stock Ownership Plan Administrative Committee, a lead
member of the negotiation team for ownership change.
Network and Computer training
began at Penultimate Systems Inc. (March 1986 - August 1990); James served as
manager of the systems/LAN service department providing client service and
repair for the Penultimate Legal Systems, an office automation solution. He was
promoted to Software Test Failure Analyst to qualify software for performance,
function, installation and configuration on Novell NetWare, Banyan Vines, Tiara
LanWare, generic network and single station systems. Moreover, James was an
instructor for ABC Technical Schools Inc. (May 1989 - May 1990) specializing in
AutoCAD and computer instruction for mechanical, electro-mechanical and
architectural draftsmen. In addition, James has certification as a Novell
Certified Network Engineer.
Q: Jim, as a top-ranking
computing professional and with
your busy schedule, it’s a real pleasure to have you come in and share your
valuable insights with the audience. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
A: I am honored. I see myself
as pretty ordinary doing ordinary things, as busy as anyone else - I think the
way most network professionals see themselves. Yet, each of us has some unique
aspects and experiences worthy of sharing.
Q: Your list of accomplishments is impressive highlighted
by years of service to the industry. Which ones standout most and share your
foremost lessons learned?
A: At first, I
think of my professional career but then I truly recognize that nothing comes
without God, faith and family. I am so fortunate to have these. They enable
everything that I may accomplish. God and faith lead to strength, vision,
planning and compassion. My marriage to Barbara is a leading highlight of my
In my early years
in computing, working with folks at Penultimate was a joy. We had a great
product, top notch programming team and earnest people. While its time has come
and gone, I gave up support of its last network just last year - 15 years after
it was installed. It is super to work with a solution which required such
minimal support but gave a full complement of features.
I am very
fortunate to have had extended employment positions in the network computing
industry. As a result, I can see the fruits of my efforts as well as the
failures. My greatest level of professional experience is with administration
of small to medium business operations. It is always a constant battle to
balance the good IT practices to user behavior. Earl Walls Associates is internationally
recognized for our designs of research facilities. My contribution was to integrate
architecture, networks and specialized business practices through the network
wire before it was easy. I am very happy to say that our corporate network is robust,
cost effective, and meets the expectations of the users. I follow a few simple
guides: communicate a reasonable vision, have flexibility and expect to make
changes, listen carefully for user expectations, and most importantly provide
gentle guides. I think of it as a path of least resistance leading to good IT
Q: As chairman for the NPA, can
you describe your vision and mission for the organization?
A: The vision is simple –
represent the best standards and ethics of the network computing professional.
What this means is to provide the daily benefits and opportunities one gets
from being associated with a special interest group, then go to the next level.
NPA can be the voice of the professional in matters of government, standards
and practice, provide ratification of the individual’s professional stature to
the public eye, work to establish better work environments, and promote
education and the balance of personal and professional life. When one is member
of the ranks of the NPA, you are joining the vision to be the best you can be as
a network computing professional and a person – an example for others. NPA
represents the highest standards of personal and professional honesty and
Q: What are the major rewards
in belonging to the organization and what have you gained from your years of service?
A: Initially the professional
joins NPA for the tangible items – free stuff, food, discounts and the inside
track to some area of technology. Over the years these things become nice but
not so important. As we climb the career ladder most of these things are
available for a multitude of sources. Relationships and contacts, recognition, a
bit of fun, and some influence in the direction of our industry are more
significant. What I find are people interested in so much more than “work”.
These people enjoy doing good deeds for others. We want others to be the best
they can be, and then provide guidance and direction for the next person. We
volunteer for the sake of the community, to enrich with our own personal
Q: How do you hope to shape the
organization in the next 2, 3, and 5 years?
A: My goal for the upcoming years is to raise the
visibility of our fine organization, to work on the vision of representation,
and to provide recognition to the unique individuals contributing to our industry.
In the short term this will be the establishment of new local chapters to build
people networks, and volunteer resources to precipate the greater steps of
knowledge sharing and publishing or bring career building opportunities to the
member. A major component in these next years will be maturation of the NPA Awards for Professionalism and the
return of the Certified Network
Professional (CNP) certification.
Q: Do you have any major
upcoming programs and initiatives that we should watch for?
A: NPA wants to grow many new
local chapters and we recognize the dedication required to be a leader. A fresh
incentive/reward program has been initiated. It is a perfect time to jump right
Also, in 2005, I look to the
reemergence of publications by the NPA. With support of our eloquent
member-writers and some advertising support, we will see the new NPA newsletter
grow and develop. Where is it going? I hope to being a journal accompanied by
various small publications for the network professional.
Q: What prompted the NPA to
provide the Annual Awards for Professionalism
in partnership with NetWorld+Interop and in cooperation with Network Computing?
A: Pick up a paper or magazine,
who do you see being given recognition? Products, companies and the high echelons
of the corporate pyramid are what you see. What is missing is the recognition
for the professionals working the seams holding our computer network driven
society together. Wow, that is the typical NPA member.
With the help of major
publishers Fritz Nelson at Network Computing and John Gallant at Network World,
NPA launched the first Awards for Professionalism in 2002, a perfect fit with
the highly sought after industry awards at NetWorld+Interop. The fourth event
is nearing. Each year we look to refining the event to be more representative
of the network professional and provide the right mix of recognition and
education for all who attend.
NPA truly appreciates the
support we receive for the Awards. In 2004, Microsoft, National Seminars Group,
and Pearson Technology Group, among others, were additional valued
contributors. The response from the award recipients is of so much
appreciation. A little recognition goes a long way.
Q: Where do you see the networking
industry heading in the short, medium, and long term?
A: This industry is not going
away. Quite to the contrary, the manual skill sets change but the networking
professional will still be the person matching and mating sometimes divergent
solutions to build the most suited networks for corporations. Business
constantly looks for an advantage in the market place. Thus there is a constant
movement towards change. Perhaps in some sectors there will be fewer staff and
more consulting positions. But tides ebb and wane. There are advantages to both
sides and resulting jobs for the network professional.
Q: What are the job prospects
for the future?
A: Let’s see… there was the
millennium bug, now security is hot, email is about to fizzle due to spamming
pressures, have to sell more devices to perpetuate the development cycle. We
will see another step to reconnect inter-corporate communications. Of course an
ironic thing is what less connected parts of the world will be doing. Are the
real opportunities coming in the less developed areas of the world? The lowest
common denominator still exists and not everyone in this world could read a
postal letter if it reached them.
Q: What advice would you give
A: Hire the person of integrity
having a reasonable technical and communication skill set, compassion, and a
history of good decision making. A loyal team working for the good of the
company with an eye to the welfare of the hired staff breeds a healthy
Q: What are hottest areas of
interest to IT professionals?
A: These would be my top picks:
Area 1: Seasoned professionals
are looking for information management systems. This means more cost effective
storage and continuity solutions. With the volume of stored data growing
exponentially the need is for better information retention management
solutions, and data mining.
Area 2: We are struggling to
balance privacy, security and access. Very much rules based and in the eye of
the public – lots of opportunities here.
Area 3: Marketing and
advertising, drive industry and this requires access to clients and companies.
Will IM be the next email? I am looking for a skip ahead toward a better
solution. The power of the sales person is in many ways the power of the
contact management process. Business struggles to provide better solutions,
allowing for the individual personality and the corporate need to manage and
Q: Describe your current work
with Earl Walls Associates.
A: My position is to facilitate
the creativity of others and try to do so by providing a managed framework when
I began through computer networking, and now through full facility and employee
benefits management. The reality is, I watch and listen, then do what is
necessary to benefit the company and work environment. With this outlook I
perform many mundane tasks. I take the complexities of the computer network to
the backroom to give the users a better experience.
Q: As a highly respected senior
executive, what are your top tips for effective leadership?
A: 1) Take God as your CEO.
2) Delegate by providing a
framework and the resources to succeed.
3) Take responsibility, make
4) Allow other to be human.
5) Define, assign, and measure
then begin again.
6) Know when someone else is a
better fit and give them the choice.
Q: Can you comment on your
“other” life as musician and performer?
A: Foremost vocalist, music is
my passion. There is nothing more pleasurable than working with musicians who
require the top of your game. The results are immediate and penetrating. Music
is meditation and prayer. It lends to the organizing of the day. It is
something to look forward to and to fondly remember.
Jim, as a leading international top-ranked IT professional and senior executive,
thank you again for sharing your valuable insights and wisdom with our audience.