Jazzed about IPv6

Education’s Peter Tseronis gets the message on government’s mandatory transition to IPv6

Peter Tseronis was relaxing at Bethany Beach, Del., nearly two years ago, when he received an e-mail from his office.

He admits he shouldn’t have been checking his BlackBerry while on a family vacation, but the message had come from the top echelons of the Education Department, where he is director of network services in the office of the chief information officer.

Scrolling through the message, he found that the department’s executives had passed the e-mail down to the chief information officer, who sent it to the director of information technology. It traveled through a few more accounts, finally landing in Tseronis’ inbox.

The message informed Tseronis that he had been named Education’s transition manager for IPv6, the nascent successor to the current IP version.

“It was like, ‘Pete, I think this is your area.’ And I’m like, ‘IPv6? I’ve heard of it, but what?’ ” said Tseronis, recalling his reaction to the e-mail.

“That, to me, is baptism by fire,” he said. “It was kind of like, ‘Boom! It’s going to be a hard road to hoe.’ ”

After returning from the beach, he immersed himself in IPv6, knowing it would have an impact on his work.

What he didn’t know at the time was that his encounter with IPv6 would launch him into a leadership role in the government’s move to the new Internet platform.

That’s a surprising fate for someone who had little interest in technology when he was a student at Villanova University. After graduating in 1989, Tseronis had a short-lived career in mortgage banking. Two years later, he went to the Pentagon through the Defense Department’s Outstanding Scholar program, working as a civilian-buildings space management specialist for the Army.

When he helped set up a local-area network at the Pentagon, he was especially struck by the ability to send e-mail among the 30 PCs via the LAN. “We were writing e-mail and thought it was like the Second Coming,” he said.

That was a revelation about the benefits of information technology that would change the course of Tseronis’ career. Four years later, he became an IT specialist at the Education Department’s office of the CIO.

About two months after Tseronis received the e-mail message at the beach, in August 2005, the Office of Management and Budget mandated that agencies transition to IPv6 within three years. By mid-2008, OMB decreed, agencies would have to build a basic, IPv6-capable network backbone.

IPv6 is expected to solve demands for more Internet addresses, better security and greater mobility. But it is more than just a technical transition, officials have said. It means agencies must overhaul their IT infrastructures — from routers down to applications — to support the new version.

It will be a massive challenge, but Tseronis is passionate about IPv6 and his role as Education’s transition manager. He reads about IPv6 on his daily commute to the department on Washington’s Metro system, and he researches it at work. “I think about IPv6 all throughout the day,” he said.

A few months after being named Education’s IPv6 transition manager, Tseronis asked for 10 minutes in front of the CIO Council’s architecture and infrastructure subcommittee to talk about IPv6 issues. He wanted to get the discussion started and find out where the rest of the government stood on the transition.

“I was a no-name,” he said. I was just a guy who invited myself in.”

John McManus, deputy CIO and chief technology officer at the Commerce Department, was at the meeting. “Who is this guy?” was McManus’ initial reaction to Tseronis’ presentation. They chatted after the meeting and ran into each other on several more occasions.

When the CIO Council began developing its IPv6 Working Group, McManus was named chairman. Seeking a co-chair, he thought of Tseronis and offered him the job. It elevated Tseronis to a governmentwide leadership position on IPv6.

Tseronis’ zeal has impressed his colleagues. “As co-chair of the working group, Pete has been a great asset for agencies’ and the federal government’s IPv6 transition effort,” said Carol Bales, senior policy analyst at OMB’s information policy and technology branch and OMB’s lead on IPv6 transition policy.

“Pete has taken a very active role in coordinating with the federal agencies,” Bales said. He also has provided guidance and worked with industry to share information on transition strategies and best practices, she said.

Tseronis said his goal is to make IPv6 something his parents can understand. “If I can…speak [about a technology] in layman’s terms, that’s my mission — and that’s why I get excited, emotional and jazzed about it,” he said.
The Peter Tseronis FilePosition: Director of network services in the Education Department’s office of the chief information officer.

Career highlights: Information technology specialist in Education’s office of the chief financial officer from 1997 to 2000. Management analyst for the grants and contracts service at the CFO’s office from 1993 to 1997. Space management specialist for the administrative assistant to the secretary of the Army from 1991 to 1993.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Villanova University and a master’s degree in information and telecommunications systems for business from Johns Hopkins University.

Family: Married to Betsy Tseronis and has one son. Hobbies: Fitness training and golf.

Management tip: “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” — Ronald Reagan

Last book read: “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography,” by Sidney Poitier.

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