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Guardian of Internet Safety

China Today,June 13, 2018 Adjust font size:

Following rapid development of science and technology, the Internet has found its way into almost every household in China. With the Internet now intertwined with our computers, smartphones, and home appliances, it’s hard to imagine how we used to manage without it. A normal day in China begins by checking the WeChat app on our phone. Most people can’t wait to check the latest updates on the app, which serves as a gateway into the lives of our friends and a place to read about world news. On the way to work, map apps help us avoid traffic jams. For daily work, people use search engines, emails, teleconferences, voice mails, and video clips. After work, they play online games, and search for popular restaurants on food apps. Before going to bed, people watch TV series online and even buy things on popular shopping apps. With as much as we now rely on our smartphones, it’s unimaginable to think of what our life would be like without all this technology.

Chen Lei is a diligent worker, utilizing any available time to delve deeper into research and development.

The Internet has made our lives so much easier, largely because of the engineers who work as builders, firefighters, and doctors in the virtual world. They provide us with first-rate services by developing faster and more stable Internet and troubleshooting the numerous bugs. Their contribution is invaluable. Chen Lei, a senior network engineer at China Unicom’s Shenyang branch, is one such engineer. Through his tenure, he has earned many titles such as Internet Expert and Master in Shenyang Unicom. He has worked 17 years to safeguard Internet safety in Shenyang for hundreds of thousands of users.

More Haste, Less Speed

Seventeen seconds is more than enough time to type in two computer commands, however, when and where to type them have been practiced by Chen Lei over the past 17 years. Chen graduated from the Liaoning Provincial School of Posts and Telecommunications almost two decades ago and went to work in China Unicom’s Shenyang branch as a computer room technician, which he admits was rather boring. Despite this, Chen did not stop striving to learn all he could, fully immersing himself into computer science. “Chen was only 19 years old when he came here but he was aspirant and never lagged behind,” recalled a manager at the center for Internet service.

Chen Lei (first left) and his dedicated team members testing out their research results.

During the day, he worked hard, and after work, he was usually so immersed in reading books about computers that he often slept only a few hours. Despite his exhaustion, he still found creative ideas to solve previous technical difficulties at work. Like a sponge, Chen absorbed everything around him, constantly taking in new knowledge. Although he worked full-time, he received his bachelor’s degree in Computer and Communication Engineering in 2004 from Jilin University through part-time study. In 2006, Chen was offered a new post in the Internet Management and Maintenance Center and spent lots of time working at night, which gave him a leap forward in his expertise. In 2009, he received the CCIE-SP certificate, the most authoritative one of its kind in the world, only given to 2,000 people at the time. Pavel Fefelov, an expert from Cisco, was amazed by Chen’s expertise. Chen had already established himself as a pillar in his company, known for his sharpness, knowledge, and technical ability. In 2015, China Unicom decided to challenge the IPv6, a cutting-edge IT technique. Right before they had finished, the experts were faced with a tough challenge. With a solid theoretical foundation and rich experience, in only 20 minutes, Chen submitted two commands, perfectly solving the initially insurmountable problem. His contribution made China Unicom the first domestic operator that put IPv6 into use in the Internet for companies and public institutions.

Massive Innovation

The Internet Management and Maintenance Center where Chen Lei worked is the brain of Shenyang’s network. Chen’s responsibility is to overcome difficulties to maintain smooth operation and implement innovations to make it even better. At the beginning of 2007, Shenyang was selected to host the football matches for the 29th Olympic Games in 2008. In order to provide service for many sports enthusiasts who would visit the city, Chen’s company decided to upgrade and rebuild the core and convergence layers of its network. However, ordinary operators did not have the ability to undertake this task. When Chen was asked if he could do it with his team, his reply was positive and firm, and he revealed that he had wanted to do it for a long time. Without any prior experience, Chen and his team worked for 120 days and nights, successfully completing the task.

In 2012, when checking potential risks that might lead to serious problems, they discovered that there was something wrong with several LDPs. They needed to immediately uncover the causes to avoid bringing trouble to millions of Internet users in Shenyang. The potential trouble rendered the workers at a loss as what to do. They could think of no other solution than to ask Chen for help. Chen spent 15 minutes brainstorming, isolating the cause, and then repairing it. In the eyes of Zhang Hongyan, general manager of Chen’s center, the key to solving such problems lies in the familiarity with the structure of the Internet and the equipment on which it runs – which can only be done by Chen Lei.

In 2015, in order to make up for the deficiencies of the traditional IP leased line, Chen devised a special mode based on PON. It made the opening of a special leased line fully automatic and solved a big problem linked with user access. Chen also applied a virtual dialing technique on BRAS, which interfaced AAA certification and the resources system, and automated the forms for special line business. This saved the company over 90 percent of optical cables, all human resources, and 75 percent of the address resources, and shortened the time needed to start the service by 97 percent. Soon after, China issued the strategy for Fiber to The Home (FTTH). With the solid foundation that Shenyang Unicom had laid, China Unicom quickly occupied the market and became competitive in this field.

Promoting Teamwork

Although Chen was able to solve many problems in a short amount of time, he realized that teamwork was the only guarantee of a company’s greatness. In the eyes of Mu Feng, Chen’s colleague, Chen was willing to share everything he knew with whoever came to him. Under Chen’s guidance, numerous computer engineers have gone on to make outstanding contributions in their work groups.

In his team of over 10 people, Chen Lei and his colleague Chen Xiaobin are rated as B Level Talent of China Unicom, which is a national honor (only 55 people have won this honor nationwide). Another eight colleagues are rated as C Level Talent of China Unicom (a provincial honor). In the eyes of Qiu Rui, who came to Chen’s center a few months ago, Chen is like a brother who always gives him the perfect solution whenever he is in trouble.

In 2012, a communication technology innovation work studio named after Chen was opened in Shenyang Unicom. Here, everyone is encouraged to express his or her ideas and teamwork is cherished. Chen Lei does not think of himself as an authority and in his eyes, ample experiments speak louder than mere words. With their joint efforts, Chen Lei’s studio has accomplished a number of innovation projects. When the studio was first set up, in order to save costs, Chen Lei and his team developed a new method to deploy IPTV, which eased the pressure of servers on IPTV platforms and saved half of the data traffic used previously. This innovation helped increase platform users to 140,000 from 70,000, ensured the use of IPTV for 100,000 users, and saved nearly RMB 20 million of investment.

For Chen Lei, it is important to improve oneself, but more important to improve a team. Through mentoring, experienced workers advise and help those with less experience, which proves mutually beneficial, injecting new energy into their team as well as the company. As an IP worker in the virtual world, Chen Lei guards the safety of the Internet for millions of people in Shenyang, and nurtures Internet professionals with his experience. He has devoted himself to his career with a passion and perseverance that has proved beneficial for millions of people.  

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