I can remember the exact day when I got an APNIC fellowship; I can still feel the suspense and that thrill. That day, I logged in to my account, and beside my name it said “Accepted”. That one word brought me courage and confidence and changed 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 happier than me.
Each year APNIC arranges two huge conferences – the first is held as a conference track of APRICOT and the second as a standalone conference. Each year, the APNIC community has the chance to come together for policy development, education, information-sharing, decision-making and networking both professional and social.
Learn more about APNIC Fellowship opportunities.
I was lucky enough to attend APNIC 40 in Jakarta, Indonesia (3 to 10 September 2015) as a fellow. I was only one of two fellows selected from Bangladesh, the other a professor of Computer Engineering at Dhaka University, and was among 26 other fellows from Bhutan, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka. We blended in with the crowd of mixed cultures so nicely and are still in touch with each other.
APNIC conferences are divided into two sessions. The first five days are for hands-on workshops and the last three days are for the conference. I received the fellowship for both the sessions.
Gaining hands-on experience during workshops
APNIC offered three workshop tracks during APNIC 40: MPLS, BGP routing and Network Security. 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, Incident reporting 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 official work I ask for their mentorship and they try to assist me wholeheartedly.
I was already surprised with the workshop week but the conference week provided us with even greater value.
Networking with the big guns
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 guns 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, mesmerized us with their suggestions and shared their contacts.
In a small country like Bangladesh, 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 APNIC enough for this opportunity.
An opportunity of lifetime helps with getting ahead
Like APNIC, 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 Bangladesh. 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.” APNIC 40 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!
Afifa Abbas is a telecommunications professional working as a Security and Governance Specialist Engineer for Banglalink Digital Communications Limited in the Department of Technology Security and Governance in Bangladesh.
The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.