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From Liberal Arts to Car Sales and Writing Wireless Exams – How Marcus Became a Wi-Fi Expert

Lisa Yeaton Senior Specialist, Social Media Published 16 Dec 2020

This technology evangelist started out like many college students and recent graduates – he loved to learn but wasn’t sure what career he wanted to pursue. After working a few different jobs, Marcus Burton put his writing skills to work drafting and editing exams for a Wi-Fi certification company. That’s when he became interested in wireless technology and began to study it himself. Fast forward a few years, and Marcus is a Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) and a technology evangelist in Extreme’s CTO Office. When he’s not recording episodes of The Approachable Guide to Cloud and Data Science video podcast, you’ll find Marcus clearing his mind on the river. See how Marcus advances with us!      

What’s it like to work in the CTO office?

My role is to expand Extreme’s thought leadership and elevate our technology strategy. It’s a little bit more of inventing, thinking ahead, and looking at how business and technology approaches intersect with trends. It’s exciting because it’s a strategic role and I still get to have influence over what we build even though I’m no longer doing day-to-day product management.

Why do you stay at Extreme?

It’s the people. When you’re working with good people, you build camaraderie and at some point, you’re no longer coworkers – you’re friends. Anywhere you go, there’s going to be challenges, but with good people, a lot of meaningful stuff will come. Plus, there’s a lot of humor and personality that comes with the day-to-day work to pull projects together.

What is your favorite memory at Extreme, so far?

The video podcast series, The Approachable Guide to Cloud and Data Science, that I co-host with GT Hill. I’m a bit of a melancholy guy by temperament, but I find that when I’m hanging out with GT, I laugh, and I laugh a lot. Another great memory would be authoring the Cloud Managed Networking for Dummies book because it allowed me to tap back into my writing background.

What advice would you give to a colleague or a recent college grad who wants to pursue a job similar to yours?

Know that you have more to learn. You should always be willing to learn. You might not get your dream job out of college and that’s okay because every job is just an opportunity to learn something. Take every job opportunity that you have as an opportunity to learn something. Build on your skillsets, spend your twenties learning skills, and don’t feel like you’ve got to make all the money at first – that’ll come with time.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Chase my four kids around, and I’m really big into fly fishing. My kids have actually gotten into fishing now too. I get them rods and bobbers, but then they’ll steal my fly rod and make me use their bobbers. My favorite place in the world is probably the Au Sable River in Grayling, Michigan because when I go fly fishing, being out there just sort of purifies my thoughts.

How did you get into fly fishing?

Well, I’ve been fishing my whole life – I learned how to from my grandpa in his boat on a farm pond. Then in high school, I realized that I wanted to fish more, so I taught myself how to fly fish. I went out and bought a fly rod and taught myself. For me, a day on the river by myself is the most cathartic thing that I could ever ask for. It’s not easy though, fly fishing is super technical. It looks all graceful and artistic but, believe me, there’s a lot of hard work and struggling (and swearing, for most people) along the way.


[Marcus with the biggest salmon he’s ever caught with his fly rod (20lbs)]

As a long-time remote worker, what advice do you have for employees who just made the transition?

Some people will say that when you work from home, you’ve got to treat it like you would if you’re going into the office. Get up on a schedule every morning, take a shower every morning, get dressed every morning. I 100% disagree with that… for some people that’s necessary, but for a lot of people, it’s not. In fact, working from home gives you all the benefits that you might not like in the forced schedule of going to the office. I would say if you’re trying to figure out what works for you, don’t take everyone’s general wisdom. Just because something works for them doesn’t mean it will work for you. Everyone’s personality is different. If it’s helpful for you to not have a schedule, don’t. If it’s easier to get up and work at 6 am instead of 9, do that. Don’t be bound to someone else’s way of doing things.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I am right eye dominant, left-handed, and right-footed – except for when throwing a frisbee (oddly) or when doing shooting sports.

How can companies be more inclusive?

Companies need people from all different backgrounds so they can have healthy debates when making decisions, for example on products. You don’t want people who all have the same thought processes because they’ll never debate…and debate is good! I believe it’s important to recruit people from all different walks of life and backgrounds, but we also need to think in terms of diversity of experience, education, upbringing, interests, personality, thought process, outgoingness, etc. You can’t limit diversity and inclusion initiatives to just a few subtypes of social differentiation because then it’s just the same issue over and over. You have to make sure all voices are heard and represented from all kinds of backgrounds.

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