I can remember the definite day when I got a SANOG 34 fellowship.I can still feel the tension and that thrill. That day, I signed in to my record, and close to my name it said "Accepted". That single word brought me boldness and certainty and transformed me into who I am today.

At first, I was nervous to share this good news with my parents, just over-thinking their reaction. My heart bursting happiness somehow caught my father’s eyes and finally I shared it with him. His reaction was entirely opposite that I thought it would be. He was more joyful than me.

Each year SANOG arranges conferences and Workshop, the SANOG community has the chance to come together for policy development, education, information-sharing, decision-making and networking both professional and social.

I was only one of two fellows selected from Sri Lanka, among 26 other fellows from India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. We blended in with the crowd of mixed cultures so nicely and are still in touch with each other.

SANOG 34 conferences are divided into three sessions. The first two days are for Conference Program Outline, after that day for Tutorial Program Outline and  last five days are for thands-on workshops. I received the fellowship for full sessions.

Picking up hands-on involvement during Workshops

SANOG offered three workshop tracks during SANOG34: Network Security, Linux System Administration & Security and Introduction to Routing. I went for Network Security as it matches with my role as a security specialist. I wanted to learn enough so that when I returned to my job, I could implement it.

The workshop covered cryptography, VPN tunnels, packet analyzing, DNS Security, Honeypots, IPv6 Security etc. We came to know new security technologies and new schemes of securing our data that we didn’t even think of in our daily life.

Our instructors were highly skilled security experts who are working day and night to secure the Internet.

Having the opportunity of interacting with them was so educating and fruitful and they were kind enough to share their contacts with us. Whenever I get stuck in any work I ask for their mentor-ship and they try to assist me wholeheartedly.

The conference week provided us with greater value. I was surprised with the workshop.

Networking with Others

This was my first ever international conference. On the first day of the conference, the entire lobby was crowded by the shining stars of the Internet industry.

So many big whose groundbreaking hard work brought the Internet to this level gave valuable speeches on their chosen topics. The best part was after each session they mingled with each of us, listened to each of our interests, mesmerised us with their suggestions and shared their contacts.

In a small country like Sri Lanks, we work, we eat and we go to bed. However, somewhere in a corner of this big world a bunch of people are working so hard, putting all their knowledge and energy to create a secure Internet. They are also looking for ways to transfer the knowledge to developing countries like us so that we can experience a better Internet and can develop our local community.

I feel proud that I met them in person and received their attention. I can’t thank SANOG enough for this opportunity.

An opportunity of lifetime helps with getting ahead

Like SANOG, there are many other non-profit organizations that are there to assist us. They provide fellowship as well. We have so many resources available. We just need to look around and need to stretch our hands.

Before attending this conference I was so lost as a novice. Information Security is a huge area and I didn’t know where to start from. Attending the workshop and conference didn’t make me an expert overnight, but it left a huge impact on me. It helped me to think in a different and better way.

This was also my ever first travel alone outside Sri Lanka. It is hard to describe in words that how special it was to me. I may get more fellowships in future but those will not be like this one. When they say, they say it right “anything for the first time is very special.” SANOG 34 is very close to my heart and the sweet memories with my fellows make me emotional. It was learning with fun.

An entire week we were away from our families. We laughed together, we helped each other. We promised one thing that no matter where we are after this conference we will contribute to present a secure and better Internet to our next generation and will help to develop our local community.

Hopefully someday, at another conference, I will get to see those favourite fellowship faces again, to laugh and share, and to make new promises!

By: Hadshana Kamalanathan
      Sri Lanka.