Nº 9 2012 > Women and girls in ICT
Interview with Monique Jeanne Morrow
Cisco's Service Provider Chief Technology Officer in Asia
Monique Jeanne Morrow is currently Cisco’s Service Provider Chief Technology Officer in Asia and holds the title of Distinguished Consulting Engineer at the Cisco Research and Advanced Development Group. Ms Morrow previously worked for other companies in the United States and in Europe. She has more than 20 years’ experience in Internet Protocol (IP) work and has designed, developed and implemented managed network services, such as remote access and local area network switching, in a service provider environment.
She deployed one of the first Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks in the world, and has been recognized by the industry for her achievement in MPLS — a mechanism in high-performance telecommunication networks that directs data from one network node to the next based on short path labels rather than long network addresses, avoiding complex lookups in a routing table.
MPLS is used to ensure that all packets in a particular flow take the same route over a backbone. Widely deployed by many service providers for their Internet backbones, MPLS delivers the quality of service (QoS) required to support real-time voice and video as well as service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee bandwidth. Large enterprises also use MPLS in their national private networks.
Ms Morrow is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She is also a Life Member of the Association of Computing Machinery, and co-author of several books: Designing IP-Based Services — Solutions for Vendors and Service Providers; MPLS VPN Security; and MPLS and Next-Generation Networks — Foundations for NGN and Enterprise Virtualization. She has been co-guest editor of several special issues of the IEEE Communications Magazine, covering the subjects of “OAM in MPLS-based networks”, “Challenges in enabling inter-provider service quality on the Internet” and “GMPLS — the promise of the next generation optical control plane”.
Ms Morrow is active within both ITU and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). She participates in the activities of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T) Study Group 13, with a focus on operations, administration and management, and she also provides the liaison between ITU–T’s work on next-generation networks and IETF’s Internet Architecture Board. She was Vice-Chairman of the ITU–T Focus Group on Cloud Computing and is currently the ITU–T JCA Chair for Cloud Computing. Ms Morrow is also Vice-Chairman of the ITU–T Focus Group on M2M Service Layer, and is serving as President of the FTTH Council Asia Pacific.
Ms Morrow holds the degrees of Master of Science in Telecommunications Management and Master of Business Administration. She speaks English, French and German, and is learning Mandarin.
ITU News caught up with Monique ahead of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly in Dubai, to gather her views on technology and her own career.
How would you characterize your job and what are the rewards?
Monique Jeanne Morrow: I am having great fun in my job right now, and that is because it involves technology exploration — and yes, you could call it technology in the 21st century. But this technology is not going to be useful unless people want it. An example would be machine-to-machine communication, its use in e‑health, and how it serves citizens. There is a private industry part, and there is also dialogue with governments. There is an excitement around technology —about applications — and I think that is what drives me.
I also like the mentoring and coaching aspects of what I do. Actually, the mentoring is more like partnership. Because I learn from people — and I learn from young people coming in. You are bringing in your point of view, but you have to be open to different points of views from other people, and especially people in different countries.
From your own perspective as former Vice-Chairman of the ITU–T Focus Group on Cloud Computing, what do you see as the future of the cloud?
MJM: The Focus Group concluded its work in December 2011, so I am now Chairman of the Joint Coordination Activity on Cloud Computing. I am working with colleagues, not only in ITU–T, but also in the cloud computing industry. Virtualization through cloud will lead to lower infrastructure costs, and that has implications for software. The great challenge — and opportunity — is what to do about security and privacy. We really must pay attention to those areas as data become pervasive. For example, how do you deal with repatriation of data from a cloud?
Looking at the next-generation networks and the Internet of things, what areas are most exciting right now?
MJM: We could actually call it the Internet of Everything, because it is everything, when you think about it. As an example of M2M communications, you could think about sensors. There will be health applications. You could be wearing sensors and have applications for everyday living or for elderly individuals. There is excitement around intelligent transport systems, smart cities, and health care. Sensors can be everywhere, in oceans, in what we call a smart planet. And that has implications for the development of protocols.
There’s this notion of real time. What we are doing in smart grid and metering, and what you are doing in terms of mobile networking are absolutely real time.
What are next-generation networks exactly?
MJM: “Next-Generation Networks” is not a new term, but reflects the evolution of networking in the context of emerging technologies that may impact infrastructure and services. Examples include MPLS and nascent Named Data Networking (NDN).
I believe that the notion of next-generation networks will be around how you deal with web applications that are personalized for you. They will follow you in terms of what it is you want — your preferences. We are starting to see footprints — and they certainly will develop.
Actually, next-generation networks will be more than personalized. They include the notion of pervasive computing, but pervasive computing that becomes very much personalized for you and is easy to use.
What opportunities did you have during your education and training that gave you a chance to pursue a career as a telecommunications engineer?
MJM: It starts with family. Your family has to encourage you. I was always encouraged to follow my dreams. I know this sounds rather idealistic, but it is true. You should follow your dreams in an area that you are curious about. I had wonderful mentors along the way. A colleague of mine encouraged me to take an interest in telecommunications in the mid-1980s, when the subject was very male-dominated, saying that it is just about solving problems. And support systems are key — I have been blessed in that respect.
What professional and personal obstacles have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
MJM: Women have their own obstacles — not about gender per se but about trying to solve a problem. Personal obstacles have been challenging, and of course you have to take a step back and say ok, slow down. As women, it is in our nature to want to take everything on, to show that you can do everything. It is not so much the quantity as the quality. Sometimes you have to take a step back and say no! You have to say this is the area that I am going to bring value to. There have been many times where I have been the only woman in a room. And someone would ask “who is going to take the minutes?” —and they would look at me. The best way to approach this is, whoever calls the meeting should take the minutes. This is not about feminism. It is more about how you approach a problem or an opportunity, and whether you are able to set boundaries for yourself. And that takes time. There is no gender in collectively seeking solutions!
You are also a writer. So which writer or philosopher has most influenced your way of seeing the world?
MJM: Marcel Proust, Arthur Rimbaud and Albert Einstein. I appreciate very much the multidimensional aspects of space and time in Le Temps Retrouvé (“The Past Recovered”) by Proust. My favorite quote from Proust: “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Le Bateau Ivre (“The Drunken Boat”) by Rimbaud is an evocation of life itself and the journey therein.
My favorite quote from Rimbaud: “I have stretched ropes from steeple to steeple; garlands from window to window; golden chains from star to star, and I dance.”
And last but not least, my favourite quote from Einstein: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
The combination of multidimensional viewpoints and the courage to follow your path fundamentally define who I am.
What is a typical day in the life of Monique Jeanne Morrow?
MJM: There are days when I am moving very fast, starting at 5 o’clock in the morning. Because I have a global responsibility, I have to be reachable throughout the world but I also have to take time for myself. Maybe I will do 35–40 minutes of exercise, and then some quiet reading. Of course there are a lot of meetings, and then I need quiet time to do intellectual work — writing a patent or a paper. Often I am in an airplane. But it is cyclical. At this time of the year the pace is very fast. Setting a boundary is a necessary fact of life and one must do so.
What advice would you give any young woman starting out today to build a career similar to yours?
MJM: No matter where you are in the world, follow your curiosity and your passion. Technology is so much fun. It’s all about having a good time, and using technology to have impact. As you pursue your education, be curious and seek to invent. Create groups in terms of what you are curious about in technology areas. Get your mentors and coaches along the way. Get your support system along the way. Think about why you are learning something. People seem to take a systemic view to education. But they should do more than that now. How are you adding value to your society? There is no barrier. I hate the term “out of the box”, because there is no box. Don’t allow yourself to be boxed in. Take risks. But don’t let a person stop you. That’s the worst that can happen. If somebody says no — don’t take it personally, ask why.