Everything Alejandra Moreno and Joel Pacheco do is centered on community, collaboration, and connectivity — from routing traffic to and from the MEX-IX, to peering relations and education with networks around the world.
The two, who work together at MDC Data Centers in McAllen, Texas, first met while attending NANOG 70. As part of MDC's Revenue Department, Alejandra and Joel now head up peering coordination and marketing, respectively. We spoke with them recently about the role of empathy and a shared sense of purpose in staying connected during a pandemic; translating passion into action through one's professional work; and the importance of teamwork and mentorship in growing and evolving a career.
Alejandra, you recently began working as a Peering Coordinator with MDC Data Centers. Can you tell us about your role, and the path you’ve taken in tech that ultimately led you to this position?
As the Peering Coordinator, I’m in charge of all activities related to our Internet exchange; the MEX-IX. Part of my role at MDC is to ensure that our participants’ traffic gets to and from its destination in the best possible way. So I’m the point of contact between the individual participants, and I help them through all phases of the peering process.
My past professional experience has really guided the path that led me to this position. In this industry, the technology constantly evolves, and you have the opportunity to merge your creativity with your technical skills to really make an impact. I love to be part of a community that continuously works to grow and improve the Internet. I’m a proud woman in tech!
Alejandra, I love hearing that. You have so much to be proud of! Joel, as the Head of Marketing and Product at MDC, you’ve been with the company now for over five years, and worked in Venezuela prior to arriving in McAllen. In what ways did those former positions prepare you for your current leadership role?
Great question, thank you for asking. Venezuela gave me purpose and resourcefulness. I found passion in how our industry can make a real difference in people’s lives, by enabling social and economic change. At MDC, I’ve been able to translate that passion into action, along with an amazing team that understands the impact of our job for making a better Internet for Mexico and LatAm.
Creating that kind of impact through the work you do is hugely important. How do your respective roles at MDC intersect, and what’s one thing that each of you has learned from the other, that’s helped you become more successful?
Alejandra: My position is housed within the MDC Revenue Department, and Joel is chief of this area, so we're part of the same team. Joel is a great leader, and I admire that. In the short time I've been working with him, I've learned a lot about the importance of teamwork. He's an excellent negotiator, and he expresses one of the most needed virtues in a business setting — empathy.
Joel: Alejandra and I share a sense of purpose and a set of work ethics that make us succeed as a team. We’re both driven by creating value and helping others. In our day-to-day, we work together with networks from around the world to enable peering relations and provide education on peering practices. I truly admire and support Alejandra’s active role in the Women in Telecom organization. Her community-building skills have been so impactful to the growth of MEX-IX and its contribution to the Internet in Mexico. Her solidarity, kindness, and attention to detail have made Alejandra the great professional she is today. I’m thrilled to be working with her on this mission!
“I love to be part of a community that continuously works to grow and improve the Internet."
Empathy, community building, and a shared sense of purpose around helping others are perhaps more critical now than they have been in a long time. How has living and working in the midst of a global pandemic impacted each of your lives, and the work you do at MDC?
Joel: I believe the pandemic has been an opportunity to rethink everything that we value in life and business. Ironically, the social distance has forced people to get closer to family and friends; and the Internet has been there to make it possible. Most of us at MDC feel more productive working from home, and we get the added benefit of spending more time with our family. I love taking some random time off to play with my little one at home, and you'll often see him in the back during video conference meetings with me.
Alejandra: Definitely, these are difficult times. We need to learn how to adapt to the situation, but I think that unusual experiences and lessons transform us into stronger people. In this global pandemic we have a lot of challenges, but we're getting ahead with the help of teamwork and collaboration. MDC takes care of its employees, and of course its clients, and I very much appreciate that.
Can you tell us a bit more about the unique relationship between Mexico and the United States that MDC helps make possible via peering, colocation, and network connection?
Alejandra: One of the objectives of MDC is to connect networks on the border between Mexico and the United States. We enable interconnections between network operators and content providers in our neutral data centers along the border. Today, MDC connects the largest concentration of Mexican networks in the world.
Joel: MDC is part of the value chain that enables connectivity in and out of Mexico, connecting millions of people and thousands of schools, hospitals, businesses, and universities across the country. This relationship between both countries is largely due to the fact that a majority of Mexico’s Internet traffic is being routed through the United States to reach Tier-1 networks and content providers. We turned the border into an interconnection fabric with colocation data centers and international fiber crossings to facilitate this level of connectivity; and we have done so successfully with a proactive approach to carrier neutrality that we like to call Actively Neutral™.
Today, thanks to the collaboration and trust of our customers, we connect more Mexican networks than anywhere else, and we operate the largest IXP Mexico has ever seen.
“The social distance has forced people to get closer to family and friends; and the Internet has been there to make it possible."
It's really cool that you both get to play an active role in helping to connect so many people not only to each other, but also to essential services and institutions. You’re both also active members of the NANOG community — how were you first introduced to us, and in what ways does NANOG help support the work you do at MDC?
Joel: I was first introduced to NANOG by one of our customers a couple of years ago. So I went to DC for NANOG 69, and I had a positive impression by the welcoming community that I found there. It was very different from other telecom events, and I had just begun my mission of bringing more content down to the border to peer with Mexico.
The MEX-IX didn’t even exist back then, and peering was a word that I didn’t use very often. A lot has happened since that first NANOG I attended; not only have I made friends in the community, but I’ve also gained mentors who've greatly helped us build and achieve important milestones at MDC and for peering in Mexico. I’m a big fan of what the community stands for, and the team that makes it happen. Thank you!
Alejandra: My first NANOG was NANOG 70, in Bellevue. Fun fact: at this NANOG I met Joel. For me, NANOG has been a community where we respect and help each other. Here you can find mentors, friends, and colleagues who are willing to help you and share their knowledge.
“Collaboration is key and egos only get in the way of accomplishing great things.”
We're so lucky to count both of you as members of the NANOG community. As seasoned professionals, what advice would each of you share with someone looking to enter the Internet-tech workforce for the first time, especially right now?
Alejandra: Don’t be afraid. Difficult times guide us to understand not only our weakness, but also our true potential and abilities. Trust that you’ll always find people, like those in the NANOG community, to help you along the path to continue growing your career.
Joel: First, I'd like to help them understand the contribution they're about to make for people all over the world. It’s so much easier to embark on a journey when you have a purpose that's bigger than you, and you're aware of your role in it. Second, ask questions even when they seem trivial. The Internet community is packed with talented professionals that can help. So find a mentor, ask questions, and listen carefully. Third, and last, check your ego at the door. Collaboration is key, and egos only get in the way of accomplishing great things.
Photos courtesy of Alejandra Moreno and Joel Pacheco.
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