Returning Fellows Offer Added Value to IETF Meetings

By: Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Date: March 1, 2013

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Dessalegn Mequanint Yehuala, lecturer and researcher at the Computer Science Department of the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, has been able to attend three IETF meetings—71, 77, and 85—because he received funding from the Internet Society. Both Dessalegn and the IETF have discovered value in the Internet Society’s Returning Fellowship programme, which encourages network engineers from emerging economies to ramp up their contributions to IETF working groups in return for the financial support necessary to attend multiple meetings.

By attending several IETF meetings, “I had the opportunity to [learn] new notions in the technology domain, and to network with people,” Dessalegn says.

The ISOC Fellowship program sponsors network engineers like Dessalegn to pay for their meeting fees, travel, and other expenses so they can attend IETF meetings. The goal of the programme is to increase the diversity of input to the IETF and to increase global awareness of the IETF.

Sponsored recipients are expected to participate in working groups relevant to their areas of work or study and to contribute to these working groups by scribing or taking Jabber notes at three working group meetings.

Dessalegn has been a silent subscriber to the Internet Congestion Control Research Group (ICCRG) and the Multipath TCP (MPTCP) working group. However, he is focusing on the Information Centric Networking Research Group (ICNRG), which is relevant to his research in latency hiding techniques for constrained networks that provide enhanced, ubiquitous access to big data. “Participating in the ICNRG [doesn’t] require me to catch up… the research areas addressed in the working group closely relate to my current work,” he says.

After attending several IETF meetings, Dessalegn learned that it was best to join only a few working groups—ideally when these groups are new. He recommends not trying to join every working group. “It’s better to be selective and focused with the aim of making meaningful contributions to a working group,” Dessalegn says.

Dessalegn recommends joining a working group of interest at the formative stage, in order to elevate participation participation beyond being an observer or bystander. “Returning Fellows need to be aware of the possibility of presenting their individual research work or Internet Drafts at IETF meetings as long as their work aligns to a specific working group’s area of focus,” he added.

Sandra Cespedes, associate professor in the Department of Information and Communications Technologies at Icesi University in Cali, Columbia, has had a similar, positive experience as a Returning Fellow. Sandra received funding from ISOC to attend four IETF meetings: 69, 76, 79, and 83.
Sandra says being a Returning Fellow has offered her many benefits, including “the opportunity to understand from the inside how the standardization process of Internet protocols works, and the ability to share that information with members of my community, including my colleagues and students at Icesi University and the group members of my research group at the University of Waterloo, where I was doing my Ph.D. studies.”

Sandra appreciated the opportunity to mingle with people who developed many of the protocols that she was studying as part of her Ph.D. “The Returning Fellowship programme helped me realize that everyone can contribute to the standardization process by revising drafts, asking questions on the mailing lists, writing minutes during meetings, or even proposing new drafts,” she said. “I am currently a coauthor of an Internet Draft as a result of my participation in the Returning Fellowship programme and collaborative work with other IETF participants.”

Sandra is active in the Network Based Mobility Extensions (Netext) and Mobility Optimizations (Mobopts) working groups. She gave a presentation at the Mobopts working group meeting at IETF 81 and wrote minutes during IETF 84. She also contributed to the writing of an Internet Draft which was presented during IETF 84.

“My advice to Returning Fellows is to take this opportunity as their chance to make changes in the real world,” she said. “It isn’t often that professionals and engineers from developing countries can find a way to make an impact of global scope. This is the perfect scenario to make that happen.”

To learn more about the ISOC Fellowship to the IETF programme or to apply for a fellowship, please visit