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Nerd Journey Podcast
49 minutes | 4 days ago
Tinkering into Specialty with David Klee (1/2)
Welcome to episode 119 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 1 of our interview with David Klee in which we recount David’s career journey from generalist to specialist through career changes and a move into consulting. Original Recording Date: 04-12-2021 Topics – Career Path, Scaling up, Transition to Consulting, Body of Work 3:39 – Meet David Klee David Klee is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP and a VMware vExpert. He owns two companies: Heraflux Technologies – They do business to business consulting around Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Data Platform and everything underneath related to performance and availability. Virtually every application out there has some means to drive data to it. David specializes in SQL Server and how it interacts with eevrything underneath it. David has done a lot if presentations for VMUG, and Nick actually attended one the week before this recording happened. SQLibrium provides training content for performance and availability tuning for the Microsoft SQL Server data platform and each layer of the infrastructure stack, be it physical, virtual, or cloud, underneath the database. 5:10 – Walking the Career Path This is a follow up to our discussions about generalists vs. specialists in Episode 26. Go back and listen if you have not. David’s first computer was a Tandy Color Computer 3 at age 5. His grandmother was a librarian. He used to type in all the Basic code from magazines, spending hours playing around it and learning Basic by age 6 or 7. His mom got tired of David breaking her computer, so he was able to build his own from various parts at age 8. At 10 he was repairing computers for friends and family, which continued until age 16 or 17 (repairing anywhere from 10 – 20 computers per week). There were a lot of modem lighting strikes he helped resolve for people. In college David took over a Systems Administrator job for a small military contractor, learning Windows, SQL Server, and Microsoft Access. He eventually discovered a copy of VMware Workstation in 1999 and put a copy of Windows NT 4 and SQL Server 6.5 on it, running on a hacked together computer he had built. It worked great! Helping people fix their computers allowed him to tinker with all kinds of technologies. It was really fun, different than normal kid jobs at the time, and allowed him to keep learning. Family and friend tech support has not ended. Most family members have somewhat disposable computers. David studied Computer Science / Computer Engineering in college, which was mostly centered on programming. From here David got a job as a programmer / application developer and found out he was terrible at it. He understood it and could code but really did not like it, and it did not come naturally. Many of the methodologies learned were challenging and stressful. After a couple of years David realized the job was really not for him. Omaha was opening a new performing arts center. David took a job there as a Database and Systems Administrator. He had kept up his Systems Administration chops through various side jobs and tinkering. The performing arts center gave no thought to IT when they had initially planned its construction. Listen to David’s story about building a server room out of a janitorial closet he and his co-workers had to steal. They had 42U of rack space and needed to run 37 servers. Can you say virtualization? David shares some great stories about having behind the scenes access at the performing arts center to see B.B. King and then a special all night personal concert. It was the right place at the right time as David says. He was part of a team of 3 that integrated 6 different arts organizations under one ticketing umbrella. This required all kinds of skills related to SQL Server like website integration, disaster recovery, reporting, point of sales, and more. He and the others designed this from the ground up. David leveraged books along with a home lab for experimentation. Listen closely to hear just how extensive David’s home lab was at the time. Building a lab teaches you what can happen if you do something incorrectly and how to recover form it. Two years post implementation, a friend of David’s said he shouldn’t virtualize any important systems while sitting inside the performing arts center. David took the opportunity to educate his friend that everything inside the performing arts center except the phone system was powered by virtual systems. David stayed about 3 years at the performing arts center and even built a volunteer management system the house managers could use to gain efficiencies. David leveraged this job as a way to learn .NET. The performing arts center was using Excel to manage over 3000 volunteers, which was extremely taxing for performing arts center employees who managed the volunteers. David built this in 4 months from scratch (including the database design). The first week it went live saved 50 man hours of time between two positions. This system was in place for 10 years before the company built a successor to David’s original build. By the time he left, the place was streamlined and running like a well oiled machine. 19:50 – Scaling up with a Consulting Firm Things were status quo. David wanted to do something on a larger scale. One of the volunteers at the performing arts center was a CIO at a financial group. He helped virtualize the servers, setup disaster recovery, and a lot about 3rd party vendor application interaction with databases. David was able to play with bigger and better technologies, supporting over 300 users and 16-17 lines of business each with its own ERP system. This was the first time David had dealt with more than one large ERP system and had to make them all play nice together. You have to know how the business is using the application to determine how to leverage it and make IT better. David worked on a massive survey platform in one previous job but was an intermediary between two different team (platform builders and platform users). These two teams were very disconnected. The performing arts group was very similar but with multiple groups. Can business change to work the way the ERP system works, or can you change the ERP system so it works the way a company does business? These decisions need to be made before implementation but are not always that way. *David was part of a team of 7 here, acting as "geek of all trades" and taking on projects that his co-workers would rather not. David wore a lot of hats at this company, and then another opportunity found him. David got to know the founder of an Oracle consulting firm who was looking to have someone start a SQL consulting practice. David found he liked working at many different things at the same time. This new company ended up hiring him. David had to ask his boss about interviewing with the new company. David’s boss at the time understood he wanted to "deal with more" and encouraged him to go for it. At the time, David had a running train of thought about how an IT Professional breaks into the business side of a company where what you do contributes to the wellbeing of the business rather than keeping the lights on. This was something David always wanted. But when you are in the weeds, this is very difficult with companies at times treating IT like a cost sink and not a business driver. To make a bigger difference to the business, David wanted to start specializing. This new company focused on the database side but they also dabbled with the components underneath (physical machine, storage, hypervisors). This was in line with David’s interests and a direction he wanted to go. The act of being a generalist made it easier for David to be affective as a specialist. He was able to look at things as a system and not individually to see pieces individually. David stayed with the consulting firm for about 4 years and built up a big SQL Server Enterprise Consulting practice. As part of this, he was on the ground floor of some industry shifts to virtualize major business applications. He worked on some of the original SQL Server on VMware training and started working on projects for really large companies of all types. Right around this time David started playing with Hyper-V also. 30:16 – Transition to Consulting To go into multiple different industries with the same technologies and see different use cases, implementations, etc. was fascinating. The learning curve never stopped, and David felt like he was interviewing for his job every single week. He was able to see patterns in certain places he could apply elsewhere for getting better performance out of these systems. Every month as a consultant you grow a year in professional experience due to seeing so many different things. Most people see consultants as people who will challenge everything they have done or potentially take their job. Many people want you at arm’s length to prevent skeletons from being found in the closet. David does not work like this, treating himself like part of the business, as someone who wants to help make things better and teaching people how to solve these problems in the future. "Don’t call me back for the same problem. I already showed you how to fix it." – David Klee Keep in mind the customer may have been burned by other consultants who promised the world and got things that were not impactful or wrong. Listen to David’s story about running into this recently. David loves giving away information away publicly. He may not know everything, but what he does know is showcased in public facing evidence of his expertise. Instead of being asked about his credentials these days he is asked if what is happening actually can be fixed. Some of the challenges he has seen are quite significant. 35:29 – A Body of Work We should all be building a body of work. In 2011, David was part of the SQL Server User Group in Omaha. They had 60 or more attendees every month. David and the group leader decided to put in a SQL Saturday for attendees at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. One of the speakers backed out, and David’s friend said David would be presenting on SQL Server performance tuning on VMware. There were about 40 attendees, and David quite enjoyed himself. About 3 months later, someone who had heard David’s presentation reached out to him, asking him to co-present on the same topic at a much larger conference. This happened to be the author of SQL in a Nutshell. The presentation was so packed they closed the room doors 30 minutes before it started because of fire code capacity constraints (over 500 people). The track record of community speaking, blogging, and videos builds your reputation in a specific area. This was unique in the industry and helped David make a name for himself. Would it have been hard for David to go back to being a generalist? He stayed up with the technology (infrastructure) and always kept up the home lab. David still finds it being fun to figure out how the pieces relate to one another. He still enjoys the SQL Server part of things but enjoys working on other projects like hypervisor upgrades and cloud migration. It’s fun for him. Is greater specialization a gateway to more pay? You hit a point where you become a specialist in a technology and stay at a company that will pay you for that specialty, or you become a consultant in that specialty and make good or better money with a lot more demands. Or, you become the Enterprise Architect that understands all of the pieces conceptually and hand off to people who specialize in different areas. There has always been a need for people to understand how the pieces work together. David gives an example of someone he knew that was an Enterprise Architect. This person understood when to hand things off to someone in another area. The title is evolving. The Infrastructure / Solution Architect were at some time the duty of the IT Director or Senior Engineer. The roles have existed for a while, but the words around them have changed. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
42 minutes | 11 days ago
The Career-Minded, Curious Mother with Kate Emshoff (2/2)
Welcome to episode 118 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 2 of our interview with Kate Emshoff and discuss aspects of motherhood and career along with interview considerations and women in technology. Original Recording Date: 04-06-2021 Kate Emshoff works for Innovatis Group and serves as the Senior Director of Program Management and Operations for VMware User Group (VMUG), one of Innovatis Group’s largest clients. Catch part 1 of our interview with Kate in Episode 117. Topics – Mother as Part of the Woman, Advice for the Career-Minded Mom, Interview Approaches, and Women in Technology 2:17 – Mother as Part of the Woman Kate’s mother-in-law was a stay at home mom. Kate’s husband has always supported her pursuing a career. Even on days she feels overwhelmed, her husband reminds her that she would be otherwise unhappy and lose her mind if she wasn’t pursuing a career. He knows her well enough to understand she needs to be in a career she loves and enjoys. If she was not, she would feel unfulfilled. Listen to Kate’s story about being able to give her husband the freedom to take risks and make big moves. Does it offend a mother of young children if you say "I could never do that, have a career and be a mother / parent of small children?" Yes. People may not understand it is extremely hard for a mother of small children to go to another country and be away from them. Traveling to other countries made Kate more appreciative of her country and appreciative of how big our world is. She loved being able to give her kids the perspective of different cultures and countries. Listen to her story of having to make a trip to Vienna with less than 24 hours notice, being 12 weeks pregnant, and feeling sick the whole time. This type of feedback from others can make you question your sanity. Does being away from family like this help you be more present when you are with them? Kate knows she and her family have a system that works for them. She is thankful her kids are with people who care when she is away. She sees mother as a part of her but not the entirety of her. Being a mother should not be something we use to define a woman’s capabilities. Kate’s boss at the time of all of her international travel (though a woman) did not have children and couldn’t understand why Kate wanted to take a full 12 weeks of leave to have a baby. Her boss eventually had a baby and finally understood the struggles associated with leaving the country and needing to worry about all business travel related items as well as caring for small children. She and Kate were about to support each other. No one Kate knew was doing anything similar to what she was with the international travel. Kate’s friends said things like "I will travel when my kids are grown" or "now is not the time for me to travel." Nick mentioned Caitlyn Bryan’s story of taking extended maternity leave after initially not knowing if she would take the full time. Kate references a documentary called Zero Weeks about the US and maternity leave. Kate had spoken with the producer of this film about being filmed at the office, but it never came to fruition. 13:50 – Advice for the Career-Minded Mom Trust yourself, and listen to your gut. The rules someone else has made don’t necessarily apply for you. You can have it all if you find the right company. Look at the turnover ratios and the number of women in leadership (very important to Kate). Have a strong support network. It is a little lonely out there with not many like minded women out there who really want to pursue a career while having small children. Kate might not feel comfortable asking a company what the policy for maternity leave is how they treat women. Pay attention in interviews for subtle details about a work / life imbalance (i.e. working late, sending e-mails late, etc.). Listen when people talk about their bosses, and make sure someone alludes to a woman in leadership. That is very important. Ask the HR screener about benefits packages, etc. Once you have an offer, you can ask more of the HR questions. Listen to Kate’s story about asking if a company had a formal HR department and the interviewer’s reaction. It can be tricky during the interview process to determine what the culture is really like. In Kate’s last job search, she submitted her resume but also networked with others. She prioritized things like an organization of interesting thinkers where she would often feel like the dumbest person in the room and that had a high level of integrity. The field didn’t matter to her, and it did not have to be in a field where she had experience. She was talking with a consultant in the field who recommended she talk to the company where she works now. She reflected on the things she liked most in previous jobs. She realized at some point in a previous role that she had not been committed to learning and decided to lean into it (taking courses, coaching, mentoring). Focusing in on what she loved about coaching and mentoring others. At this point in her career, a strong mentor and a strong boss are critical. Surrounding herself with people smarter than her makes Kate feel more comfortable and that she is growing and learning. Hire to your weaknesses. Get people better than you that you can learn from, and Kate learns from her team every single day. 22:57 – Approaching Interviews How does Kate’s approach to interviewing another woman change based on her experiences with the process? She is careful not to ask questions that may make the candidate feel uncomfortable. She gets annoyed when someone does not try to negotiate their salary (especially women). It’s challenging for women to ask for more money, but Kate celebrates when it happens. In performance reviews, people use the words "I feel / think I have accomplished X." You don’t have to say I think / I feel. You did it! This behavior is a pattern for women that Kate has seen. There is a role to play in mentoring and coaching to make everyone better. Nick cites the interview with Brad Christian in which Brad says technical people are too humble about their accomplishments. For the male bosses who are managing women as direct reports, seek an open and honest relationship, and listen to feedback. Be inclusive and helpful. Make sure you understand the perspective from your employee’s side. 26:52 – Thoughts on the Tech Industry Kate is relatively new to the tech industry. Here experience in radiology was that it is like the tech industry of medicine. VMUG has just launched a diversity and inclusion advisory council. This is in the early stages, and hearing how much everyone wants to address this makes them take it even more seriously so as not to be just lip service. VMUG has 3 female board members. There is much work that needs to be done in the diversity and inclusion field (in addition to inclusion of women). It’s uncomfortable to be the only woman on a large call. Kate does a lot of financial management and reporting. Right now this is a committee full of all men. Another woman will be joining the committee soon, and Kate is excited about that. Does this lessen the blind spots of others? What about men as direct reports to women? Kate shares a story of throwing a baby shower for a member of the team that was a man when his wife was about to have a baby. Maybe a male boss would not have thought to do this. As it relates to VMUG, there are not a lot of women members, but it seems like those who are members are somewhat active. We need to tackle getting more women students interested in the IT field in general. Whose responsibility is this? VMUG may not be solely responsible for this, but they can help. Kate didn’t see examples of women in science or technology when she was younger, and those examples matter. Check out Girls Who Code and Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network as ways to contribute. It all comes back to being open about how we think, how we feel, what we worry about so that we and others can be more empathetic to others. If we can make everyone more comfortable talking to one another it would go a long way. That may also be the formula for world peace (an ambitious goal). It takes time to develop deep relationships to feel comfortable enough talking in an open way as described here. 36:36 – Parting Thoughts Follow what you are truly interested in. People feel pressure to find a passion. Kate encourages us to find what is making us curious, making us wonder, and making us ask more questions. That is where we should go. Sometimes there are reasons you don’t go in that direction like no other representation in that area. This is all the more reason to go and stand out. If you are asking a lot of questions about one specific thing there may be a reason why. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
37 minutes | 18 days ago
Bold Moves and Blind Spots with Kate Emshoff (1/2)
Welcome to episode 117 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 1 of our interview with Kate Emshoff and discuss Kate’s early career, challenges around relocation for work, and some interview subtleties for women. Original Recording Date: 04-06-2021 Topics – Early Career History, Relocation, Job Changes, and Interview Subtleties 2:32 – Meet Kate Emshoff Kate Emshoff is a mother of 3 living in the Chicago suburbs and works for Innovatis Group. One of the largest clients is VMware User Group (VMUG) where Kate serves as the Senior Director of Program Management and Operations. Kate started on March 9, 2020 (which was about the time everything shut down because of the pandemic). Her focus is more on execution of programs like UserCons, and she has never attended a UserCon in person. All of these are virtual at present. Going into the pandemic, VMUG already a fairly robust virtual event platform, so it was not too difficult to change everything to virtual events. VMUG hopes to begin having some in-person events in September of 2021. 5:11 – Early Career History Kate attended Illinois State University studying communications and then focused on public relations and business administration. Upon graduation she wasn’t extremely clear about what she wanted to do. But, she had the chance to study abroad in Salzburg, Austria and visit a number of countries in Europe. Kate had to take out a loan to take the trip, but it was worth it, and the experience helped her realize she wanted to work in international business. One of her first jobs was working for the Radiological Association of North America (RSNA). The Marketing position where she started was more of an admin role. Interestingly enough, every position Kate has taken in her career has been a role that previously did not exist at the company. Kate was charged with marketing the company’s scholarly journals to institutions like libraries and hospitals (where RSNA had been targeting individuals only). This included negotiating licensing with universities and healthcare systems internally. Every country has a different healthcare system. Navigating these new waters for the company helped Kate elevate quickly. She became a manager at a young age and was horrible at it. As you elevate to management it’s less about executing and more about being more intentional about growing, encouraging, coaching, and mentoring. At one point she wanted to leave Chicago (had never lived anywhere else). She accepted a job at The Royal Society in London after flying out there to interview, but it ended up not working out. This was after she had given up her apartment lease and sold all her furniture! She still wanted to live somewhere else and interview with a company that published content online. After interviewing with one company, she called a friend who told her about a new opportunity in Marketing at his company (Silverchair). Working for Silverchair was like working at a 20-year old startup, but it also prompted a move to Charlottesville, VA. Kate met her future husband right before moving. They maintained a long-distance relationship. Charlottesville was a cool university town and a good experience. During this time Kate was able to get into the STEM field and worked with scientific, technical, and medical publishers. 13:30 – Fitting into a New Group of Peers Kate had the Marketing and PR background and worked with people who were editors by trade. She was a bit of an outlier at the time. Sometimes in your career you may lean toward places that make you feel comfortable, but it’s important to embrace somewhere where you are uncomfortable or don’t fit in with everyone else. It can make you stand out. The people Kate worked with loved talking about what they had learned and what they did in their field. You have to be ok with being vulnerable and asking questions of others, but it can’t always be peppering them with questions. * Kate considers many of the people she worked with lifelong friends despite their differences from her. Listen to Kate’s story of being a young woman in her field and her willingness to point out arrogance in the Sales teams she worked with who wanted to sell to nonprofits. She was willing to speak up when others might not have, and her co-workers took the feedback. Nick stressed the importance of giving difficult feedback. He cited Thanks for the Feedback as mentioning sometimes the people who disagree with us the most may have the best feedback for us. Sometimes people might not know they are acting or presenting themselves in a certain way. 19:58 – Back to RSNA and a Desire for More Kate was working from home in Chicago and not loving it. She is an extrovert by nature. The Executive Director at RSNA (a former employer) wanted her to have lunch to discuss a new department focused on International Affairs. She had done licensing negotiations with people in other parts of the world, which really does require learning different cultures. She would be starting from scratch, build a team, and create a committee to get this department off the ground. Kate stayed there for 7 years. During this time she got married and had 3 kids. At some point she got bored and started looking for a new job. She interviewed for a job while 9 months pregnant. Many people in her life questioned what she was doing looking for a new job with small children. She regrets listening to them. You’re going to be away from your family to some extent, so find something that interests you. There are not many examples of women with small children that are looking for a career change. It’s like we have a societal norm that says it’s not ok. Many working women might say if they could work at McDonald’s and make the same money, they would do it. This is not the case for Kate. It should be ok to say you want to pursue a career even if you have small children. She tried to stick around at RSNA, but it came clear she needed more. 24:16 – Subtleties for Women in Interviewing There are things people might not realize are different for women when doing virtual interviews. Kate received some advice from other women to do the following: Removing pictures of children Taking off your engagement ring so people don’t perceive wealth and decide to pay you less It is likely men and women alike might not know they are judging someone on these things. There are some subtleties present even on virtual conference calls (i.e. Zoom or other). Kate had to remind her husband to be mindful of giving the women on his calls an opportunity to talk. He dismissed it at first and then came back to Kate days later agreeing that this really is a problem. Her husband said people were talking over the women constantly. Maybe this stems from talking with those we feel comfortable with, and it’s easy to forget you need to include someone else. It’s important to be able to have open discussions where we admit our blind spots and try to learn together. It’s how we encourage change, but it’s hard to have them and makes us uncomfortable. Even after reading Fierce Conversations and Crucial Conversations, these situations can still be challenging. We have to practice. Most of the initial interviews Kate attended as part of her move to Innovatis Group were virtual. There were some in person interviews taking place at that time, but this was February / March 2020. Kate was asked about her family in interviews. She took HR training while at RSNA and learned what you can and cannot ask during interviews. Asking whether someone has kids is generally a getting to know you kind of question. She lived in the suburbs of Chicago at the time but wanted a job in the city. Interviewers asked her if she would be ok with the commute. Kate was also trying to get away from so much international travel and felt a little judgement from interviewers when they found out she had small children. When Kate interviewed for her role at Innovatis, she was told she would fit right in as many of the women she would work with had a baby within the previous year to Kate coming aboard. Does telling a potential employer about having small children lead them to automatically believe the potential employee will need extreme flexibility? Kate points out a bias she has seen from male interviewers that have learned about her having small children. Does this influence a decision between two strong candidates? Perhaps an employer might not feel they will get the most from their investment if the candidate is a mother of small children (Nick’s opinion). Contact us if you need help on the journey.
41 minutes | 25 days ago
Pulled into a New Challenge with Jeff Eberhard (2/2)
Welcome to episode 116 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 2 of our interview with Jeff Eberhard, recounting Jeff’s job change that started as a noninterest but turned into something he could not pass up and the implications of going through this change during the pandemic. Original Recording Date: 04-01-2021 Jeff Eberhard is a Sales and Solution Engineering Leader at Oracle focused on Oracle Cloud VMware Solution. Catch part 1 of our interview with him in Episode 115. Topics – Pulled into a New Challenge, Changing Jobs During the Pandemic, Learning a New Organization 2:09 – An Opportunity Arises Nick asks to dig into a talk Jeff gave back in February at the Dallas / Fort Worth SpiceCorps meeting. What were Jeff’s motivations for making a change even when he originally did not think it was needed? Jeff was a huge fan of a former boss at VMware, and his goal was to eventually take his boss’ job when he retired. While still working as part of the VMware Cloud on AWS team, he was asked to come back to the organization in the company where he had previously managed a team before making that move (and was able to be under a boss that he loved). Things were going well for Jeff, and then he received a LinkedIn message from someone at Oracle asking if he wanted to learn about what VMware and Oracle were doing together. Jeff said no, but the person was persistent and asked Jeff to take a 15-minute phone call.` Jeff felt there was no harm in taking the call to understand what Oracle was doing. It might even help him to know it in his current role at VMware. The job sounded like what Jeff wanted to have after his current boss was to retire. After having the conversation with the person from Oracle, Jeff called his boss and spoke to him about it. Caution – having a personal relationship with your boss is important in this situation. Many may fear being fired for telling your boss something like this. This is not recommended unless you know you are in a good spot. Jeff’s boss encouraged him to stick it out for a while in his current role. Jeff decided to go through the interview process, which was completely over Zoom. As the process continued, he got more and more excited about the opportunity and the team. At the end of the process, Jeff received an offer (a very good one). He had been keeping his boss updated on the process. A boss generally knows how much they can offer an employee to stay. Jeff was pretty certain his boss could not match or exceed the offer made to him (and he was right). This was an opportunity to build a business and a team around it, taking on something well outside his comfort zone. The team Jeff was running at VMware was comprised of very smart people who didn’t need him as much as a new team might. Jeff feels like his boss understood his need to continue the process and eventually take the new job with Oracle despite earlier encouragement to stick it out. Jeff felt like his boss truly wanted what was going to be best for him in the long run. 9:00 – Negotiating to Stay or Leave When employees leave Jeff shares a story of an Academy team member who got a job elsewhere. He knew it better fit what she wanted. His goal is never to trap someone. He’s also had conversations with the high flyers on his team who shared that they were interviewing elsewhere. In those cases, he will provide advice and help so the employee can get the new job. Jeff shares some stories from his experience. If the new job is offered to the person with a different company, Jeff is happy for that person and now has a friend at another company. If the employee gets an offer and shows it to him, he can try to get the employee more money to stay. If he can compensate someone better and have a happy employee, all the better. Jeff also shares situations where people he can’t afford to lose plan to leave. What about when employees who were going to leave end up staying? If you have a good relationship with your boss and it is open like Jeff mentioned, there will be no target on your back. It’s a business negotiation. When it’s completely out of left field, it can sound spiteful and that you’re saying you will go do something if you don’t get what you want. In this case, go take the other job. Listen to the inside scoop from Jeff on how a manager can be made to look very bad if an employee leaving comes out of the blue and they have to ask to get you more money. 13:52 – Plunging into Oracle Jeff’s wife has been with Oracle for a number of years. The company is divided into two sides of the business, one managed by Larry Ellison that his wife works under, and one managed by someone else whom Jeff works under. Other than his wife, Jeff didn’t know anyone who works for Oracle. The relationship between Oracle and VMware has traditionally not been great. Jeff knew who to go to at VMware for things after being there for many years, but at Oracle he would need to learn the organization. He was provided a Sherpa at Oracle (someone who is now a manager of a team in Jeff’s organization) who was invested in his success and would help him learn the organization and make contacts within the company. Jeff’s boss has also provided helpful guidance and support. Jeff’s stress level was high when he first started but has decreased significantly through the support he’s received from his management chain and reports. Jeff is about to move from 17 direct reports to 4. This change will allow him to focus on strategy rather than the day-to-day tactical issues. There is some fear when you go from being in charge of something to someone else being in charge of it and you are just getting reports on it. You have to learn to delegate and rely on others. Jeff read a good CIO.com article called [Delegation IS Leadership Development](Delegation IS leadership development) on this topic. Giving employees the chance to own a project or a task helps everyone. The first one may not be what you wanted or may turn out different than you wanted. But it creates a chance to have a conversation about it to understand how things were done or if you set incorrect expectations as a manager. The managers under Jeff can do much of the daily tasks that Jeff was doing so he can focus in other areas. His job now is to teach the managers how to pass along what was great about them as individual contributors to their direct reports. This allows bidirectional growth for these managers and for Jeff (so he can learn from them). 21:40 – Team Details When Jeff joined the company, he had 8 folks working for him. The team is about to be 26 people. This spans the globe – India, Europe, North America, etc. (across many time zones). The hardest thing is that most folks have never met each other in person. Jeff has managed remote teams in the past, and they would usually get together a couple of times per quarter with some baked in team building activities. Listen to Jeff’s story about the Slack channel he created to promote team interaction. Team cohesion would likely be better if they could meet in person, but they are doing their best. Teams are geographically disperse, have not met each other in person, and are new to the company makes for a unique challenge for onboarding new employees. Reach out to Jeff if you have ideas on how to promote engagement! Many people are changing jobs right now. How do we bring people on and get them excited about working for a new company? A best practice for interviewing from both the hiring manager and employee perspective, an in-person interview is ideal. Everyone Jeff has hired at Oracle had remote hiring processes. At VMware it was probably 50/50. It did not always make sense for the candidate to travel to Austin to interview with Jeff or for him to travel to their location. If you can, rely on referrals and others who know the candidate. A boss may not care about meeting the person outside of a video call if the referral comes from a trusted source. What is Jeff’s process like for hiring? Jeff usually does all of the first screens. Then 3 members of the team will interview the candidate. The final interview is a bar raiser. This is someone who is not part of Jeff’s organization that looks for whether the person will make the company better and the longevity of the person’s career at Oracle (i.e. make sure that person would have a job if Jeff’s team’s function went away). Jeff likes doing a customer scenario and will look at a candidate’s ability to think and adapt quickly. Getting told no may mean the manager had your best interest at heart. The goal is to never hire someone that won’t work out. Jeff likes to be honest with candidates by giving feedback quickly. It’s important to give that honest feedback to someone, even if it is in the interview or right after it. Go back and listen to Keiran Shelden’s story about feedback after an interview in Episode 46. 33:25 – Parting Thoughts If looking to change jobs during the pandemic run toward something super exciting and not away from a current situation. It’s hard enough to get a job normally but has been more challenging for many during the pandemic. If you are looking to get into leadership, say it early. With the manager Jeff recently hired, he brought up his desire to go into leadership in the first conversation he and Jeff had. This makes you top of mind when an opportunity comes up that is interesting. Jeff shares how he was able to stair step this candidate into leadership. The first time your boss hears about your interest should not be when a requisition opens. For external candidates looking for manager roles, ask in the first screening call if you are going up against a bunch of internal people. Be prepped for it and understand the situation as it could be way harder up against internal candidates. Reach out to Jeff on LinkedIn. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
53 minutes | a month ago
High Flyers, Solid Players, and A Good Manager with Jeff Eberhard (1/2)
Welcome to episode 115 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 1 of our interview with Jeff Eberhard, discussing his path to management, team career progression, and what makes a good manager. Original Recording Date: 04-01-2021 Topics – Early Career Path, Motivations and the Move to Management, Characteristics of a Good Manager, Career Conversations, New Talent, Academy Team Our guest this week is Jeff Eberhard, a Sales and Solution Engineering Leader at Oracle focused on Oracle Cloud VMware Solution. Contrast what we hear from Jeff’s path with that of Brad Christian in Episode 113 and Episode 114. 2:30 – Recounting the Career Path Jeff resides in Austin, Texas with his family. He grew up in California and moved to Austin after college. Jeff’s first job out of school was with a ticket resale company doing Systems Administration. The back end systems comprised of hundreds of hosts that purchased tickets from Ticketmaster. He racked and stacked servers, worked with proxies, and did some scripting. Jeff decided to move to a slightly different field with a longer career path. He started working for Dell selling personal computer equipment. Jeff’s peers in the Enterprise group were selling servers, storage, and networking. Jeff decided to go and learn how to do it as well. He eventually moved to HP and sold servers and storage to customers in the UK and Ireland. After HP, Jeff got a job at VMware after many tries. He had originally tried to apply for a role as a sales rep, but when he got the job it was for a Solution Engineer position. A Solution Engineer talks to people in technology and explains what VMware technologies do. After about a year, Jeff moved into leadership, starting a team that supported small to medium businesses. Over the course of 9 years he worked in a variety of segments, including Enterprise, and then moved into a management role related to VMware Cloud on AWS. This experience allowed Jeff to understand and work with people at AWS via the partnership between VMware and AWS on this solution (learning all the good and the bad that comes with this). This translated well into Jeff’s current role as a leader at Oracle, where he has been for about 8 months. 07:07 – Understanding Motivations and the Move to Management What made Jeff go into full sales? It was the hours and the money. Jeff had an interesting schedule at the ticket resale company, having to start at 6-8 AM to ensure servers were up and running during times of special sales. It was low paying at $12 / hour and required working overnight shifts. He had some friends who had started at Dell working the day shift and making more money. He loved the technology was getting well versed at scripting. "But when you are 21 and want money, you go where it is." – Jeff Eberhard Jeff had no hesitations about stepping away from the keyboard. His interests are in technology, but he prefers understanding the technology, what is cool about it, and then moving on. This is likely why a move into leadership made sense for Jeff. As a leader he needs to be more than just the suit in the corner, and he does not want to be someone who plays in a lab or fiddles with the technology all day. He got to chase down a passion of talking about technology and understanding it at a 200 level rather than having to go super deep. What made management interesting to Jeff? First, Jeff was on a very strong team of Solution Engineers at VMware, most of them very well experienced. When Jeff first started in Solution Engineering, it was very new to him. He had been in Sales for 10 years previous to this. The team was far more technical than Jeff, but he had a lot more success than many of his peers. After 9 months in the role, Jeff went to his boss and asked to be considered to lead a new team that was forming but was told no. The boss did not feel the team would take him seriously after 9 months in the role. After this conversation, Jeff called his peers and asked their opinion of him being their future boss. The answer was a resounding "that’s a good idea." They were open to learning from him as a leader. If Jeff could help improve the team but learn from them at the same time, it was an ideal scenario. This prompted Jeff to go back to his boss and mention he had his peers’ support. After being put through the formal process, he got the job. Jeff knew the move would be beneficial to himself and the team he would be leading. He knew he would never be as technical as those he would manage. Asking your boss to go into leadership depends on the leader and your relationship with that person. Jeff has had many of his team members express a desire to go into leadership, and his goal is to try and help the person get there. If someone has the drive and desire to move into leadership it makes your job as their manager easier. Consider giving the person some managerial tasks to complete so they can dip a toe into what it’s really like. In your career if you do not take chances and ask for things, you are not going to get the things you want. Jeff had to learn how to manage people significantly older than him. *How do I lead someone who has been doing this since before I was born? If you get the opportunity to try it, you will learn what works and what does not work quickly. In general, Jeff feels that people have not had issues with having a younger manager…as long as they felt he was competent. Jeff has been able to use positive peer pressure to help influence members of his team he might have trouble influencing initially. A manager may suggest a methodology the employee tried years ago that did not work. The question is…will they be open to trying it again since time has passed? Most external candidates come in knowing technology companies like Oracle and VMware are hard to get into, especially leadership positions. Where Jeff ran into some minor challenges was mostly with internal moves. Experience is not just a function of time. Jeff’s current boss has moved up quickly in the business and has very good business sense. Jeff sees that his boss has been able to accomplish many things and is looking to try and emulate that level of success. 22:26 – A Good Manager Jeff has liked having managers who are interested in a personal connection. Before COVID, Jeff would spend more time with co-workers than his own family. A boss can have more of an impact on your life than probably anyone except your significant other. Much of our work livelihood relies on our boss. A good boss will take the time to get to know you on a personal level – likes, dislikes, etc. Good bosses should send presents to their people. It shows they care as does remembering birthdays. Good bosses recognize people have their own skills…some very useful and some that need work. Help people working for you by strengthening the good things while helping to improve the weak spots. It is important for the boss to have a good grasp on the business. In the end, from senior leadership’s perspective, they are not necessarily looking at what the front line employees are doing but see employees as a member of the boss’s team. If the boss is not thought of as competent, knowledgeable, etc. leadership will have a similar perspective of the entire team. Career Conversations Some people are happy where they are. If you hit an employee that is a solid A- player and extremely happy in that spot, this should be ok. These folks may not want to take on a next position with extra travel or other requirements and may not even be interested in a big raise. Probably 1/3 to 1/4 of a team falls into this category of solid players. The next group is high flyers / those who expect to be high flyers with excellent work ethics. Jeff’s goal with this group is to put them in a spot where they can showcase their work to the rest of the organization. Listen to an example of someone on Jeff’s team who is a high flyer that had no interest in leadership. This person wanted to remain technical. Another quarter of the team will struggle a little. Are they comfortable being seen as a B or C player on an all A team? Some may be fine with it. Others will be willing to work to improve. Perhaps it makes sense to find the person a role that allows them to bring more passion. Don’t sit somewhere for 20 to 30 more years where you’re not really into it. Maybe the person needs a shift in role or responsibilities to generate some excitement. Then there are the new people. They come in with excitement, and some want to have a career conversation immediately, seeking to get promoted right away. Listen to how Jeff helps these folks understand where they are without completely deflating and discouraging them. The key thing is to hook these folks up with a mentor of someone in the solid players group. The solid players are content and won’t be threatened by the newcomers, even if new team members eventually reach higher than them at some point. They will mentor like crazy. It may be hard to get the high flyers to mentor. If the only real path forward is management and you don’t think you want it, don’t do it. If people management is not something you enjoy, see if they can create a next level individual contributor role for you, or find an organization where it exists. Jeff has seen highly technical people get promoted and continue to be the technical expert without truly relying on the team and allowing them to shine. The individual contributor path upward may be through taking on a project or a product instead of a team. At small organizations the only way to move up may be to move on. A move, even after a number of years at the same place, can energize you. Every time Jeff took a new job within the same company or at a different company, it energized him. There is something good and something bad about having no idea what you are doing for the first 6 months. Jeff recounts not knowing very many people even when making the internal transfer over to the VMware Cloud on AWS team within VMware. That six months is a little stressful but can produce a new high of energy. How do you focus on your own career as a manager? It’s easier to criticize someone else than yourself. When you point out things others need to work on to get better, you start to reflecting on yourself also. Jeff mentions a team member of his that needed better time management eventually teaching him a better system to use. Look outside your organization within the company. A manager needs contacts in other business units to help employees make a move over to those organizations. Jeff gives an example of building connections that helped him get a different job. 40:58 – Building The Academy Team Many technology companies are trying to "build their own." They go after college juniors and seniors for intern-like programs. They go pick very lucky, very intelligent recent college graduates to get trained on technology, how to sell, how to demo, how to be technical, etc. Jeff was responsible for the Solution Engineering Academy at VMware, which was extremely fun. These folks know they are special and know they are coming in to learn. They understand it is a great opportunity to get a career head start. You love the passion these folks have because it builds the team up. Everyone starts off jealous. The Academy members come in and are so excited people just want to help them. Some of the best interviews Jeff has conducted has been with candidates coming into the Academy program. They have the passion and the excitement. It may take some time for the new employees to be effective (i.e. need training), it raises everyone’s level on the team. Having this new energy on the team can even get the B / C players fired up and motivated. From a business perspective, having an Academy program supports diversity and inclusion (a big issue in technology). You’re hiring based on schooling, passion, and excitement and not based on an existing pool of candidates that may not be diverse. Jeff gives the example of an Academy team class with 7 women and 1 man on it, the opposite of what we might normally see on a Solution Engineering team. The dynamic of this team was completely different than other teams Jeff managed at the time (one with 13 men and 2 women, for example). All of the women on the Academy team mentioned have been promoted and are doing really well. Many of the folks Jeff has hired as part of the Academy program came through Industrial Engineering, which has a lot to do with process improvement. Jeff gives a great example of some of the responses people had in interviews with the Industrial Engineering background. Initially, the Academy team recruiters started looking at Computer Science majors. These people like to code, but Jeff and team figured out they needed people who could present and talk and had interests in making customer’s lives better. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
47 minutes | a month ago
Career Insight from the Manager Lens with Brad Christian (2/2)
Welcome to episode 114 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss career insight from the manager lens in part 2 of our interview with Brad Christian. Original Recording Date: 03-16-2021 Topics – Becoming a Manager, Managing Up, Safety Nets, and Finding Talent Brad Christian is a Solution Engineering Manager in the Networking and Security Business Unit at VMware. Catch part 1 of our interview with him in Episode 113. 2:06 – Individual Contributor to Manager Brad received a call from Sean Howard asking if he wanted to come work on NSX at VMware. Brad found out he got the job and knew he could not continue running VMUG despite loving it. He felt like he had been drafted for a pro sports team. Brad got in and worked on a new product (NSX) and learned a ton. It was like climbing a mountain. You rest at the top and catch your breath a little. Going to work for a manufacturer like VMware is not for everyone. You have to enjoy working with people. Brad understood he liked being in Sales and got energy from meeting with customers and more importantly solving their problems. If meeting with people in this way takes energy away from you, this field is not for you. There are many paths to pursue to get more money. At the end of the day we are taking care of our families. Brad ended up in leadership. Brad would have laughed at someone who told him he should go into leadership 10 years ago. In the Dallas County days he went through leadership training. He came to understand that with a team you can widen the impact and scope of what you can accomplish, especially with a high performance team. At the county the biggest problem is people just being there for the paycheck. Brad learns a great deal from his current team and considers himself a servant. He and warns against being pushy or having the idea that you’re going to be the "big man." Regardless of the company, no one is going to put up with that. Brad’s goal is to remove impediments from the team and help them do their job better. If you can do that and enjoy it and hold onto your technical skills a little, you can be successful. Cross over skills from the VCDX? Brad re-emphasizes the need to understand how the tech helps a business. Right now Brad is trying to understand how SaaS and subscription affects revenue bookings. It’s a challenging problem compared to perpetual licenses. You will still keep learning technical things, but enterprise architecture hammered into Brad that there must be a justification for everything to the business. He could not have done VCDX without all the folks who helped with feedback on his design. It was humility to take advice that directly translated to leadership. John mentioned being a manager means you give up on being the best at everything. The people interactions Brad had also helped. 12:22 – Managing Up and Safety Nets When you become a boss, it’s not like you think it is. * When you are highly technical and high performing as an individual contributor, you are not being watched as carefully as you might think. * It’s important to learn to manage up. You can’t just leave it up to your boss to get you a raise or pay bump. Help him / her realize your worth. * Be able to draw attention to what you are doing. If you don’t sell yourself, no one else will. * Make sure people know what you’re doing and update accomplishments on LinkedIn. * Brad struggles with getting his people to cheerlead for themselves. He tells his team to make a folder and call it I Love Me. Every time you get an e-mail complimenting you, save all of that to help you remember what you did successfully, and use it to help your managers. * Managers have to manage up as well. Brad’s management chain has been great to work with. * John mentioned there is a perception that documenting your work is just extra work, and people may not know how to do it well. * Brad recommends Getting Things Done by David Allen. * If you have not updated your resume in years, it is extremely stressful when applying for a new job. Follow a system, and as part of it update the resume consistently. * Many people may not apply for a job because it’s too much work. * When you finish a cool project, write it down and track it in some kind of system (like Evernote, for example). Make this part of every Friday’s routine. Take screenshots, etc. Save that stuff, and updating your resume is easy. * You need to be planning for your next job NOW! You can’t rely on a company as a safety net. You’re not going to get a watch in 20 years like it used to be. Brad gives the example of his dad working for Eastman Kodak and getting laid off at one point. He did not have a plan of what would be next. Have an exit strategy, and be thinking about what is next on the ladder for you, even if not management. Firing someone is incredibly hard to do. Not everyone is meant to have that. Don’t think that the next step needs to be manager. Consider the project manager role and other options in the industry. It’s not the company that will be your safety net but the people you develop relationships with over time. Remember to also ask your network what you can be doing for them to keep the connections warm (i.e. don’t make every contact you asking for something). Constantly pay things forward. Brad’s current role was the genesis of raising his hand at that VMUG years ago. Find ways to directly give back to others, the community, etc. In-person training is Brad’s biggest problem with COVID. The best thing you can do when the pandemic is over is to train in person. Brad remembers getting energy from experiences with training and listening to people talk about their experience, share ideas, etc. He cites the NSX Ninja program as something extremely beneficial also. Hearing the best in the world teach networking helped him finally get it. 23:23 – Finding the Right Talent Finding the right talent for his team was way harder than Brad anticipated. He had been a leader before but did not have control over who got hired (seemed to happen at a level higher than him). Normally he was the technical interviewer. If someone does not know the tech, Brad doesn’t really care. If they have experience as a customer and can share that experience, it will be helpful in the role. Brad has managed SEs who specialized in Networking and Security as well as HCI (i.e. vSAN, Cloud Foundation). As soon as someone gets into a role like this, there is a ton of training. There are things which cannot be taught – getting along with others, for example. One test is to ask yourself if you would want to be in a car with the person for 3 hours. Diversity and inclusion is hard as well. Finding female engineers is challenging, and the process has to be different. Guys will lie about their accomplishments and exaggerate skills, while ladies won’t do that. Some may see a list of requirements in a job description and decide not to apply based on them. There are way too many dudes in our industry. John mentioned it is now more culturally acceptable for women to be nerds. Sometimes you have to dig for the nerds. Brad likes to ask what people nerd out on in their spare time. He reads a great deal in his spare time. Dig for what people are passionate about in the interview, and learn about what makes them a good fit for the role. Brad wants to help the person in the interview relax and feel at ease. And in his conversations with people he is trying to sell them on the role. A good manager will stay in touch with people who made it deep in the process but did not get the role. Little things like sending a thank you note are helpful. Connect with the hiring manager on LinkedIn. Not getting a job in one instance doesn’t mean you are out of the running forever. At VMware there are panel interviews. The process goes like this – discussion with HR, discussion with the manager, and then the panel process. Remote interviews are a challenge and require a presentation. Brad encourages presenters to choose a topic other than the technology. How do you mitigate risk in hires? Some of this is tied to the segment where you work (in Sales, at least). Each has a unique challenge. Brad is in the commercial segment (the mid-market). Maybe you are new, inexperienced, and want to make the jump. If you have the experience it may take you a while to train to standards, but as long as you have the social skills and are a nice person, Brad will take that chance. Try different companies, different segments, and look at Value Added Resellers. Brad learned a ton about how the business works from someone at Sigma. The real risk is managing customer outages. Work at all different sizes of companies to gain experience. Don’t give up after one try. Brad says he has a hard time finding people to hire. Not enough people will apply, and many may self-select out of the process due to lack of confidence. Brad gives the example of a recent hire he made where the person was not an expert at NSX and gives an example of his employee’s expertise in other areas of the VMware portfolio. Brad explains why he took a chance on this particular person. Don’t send more than 1 page on a resume. Brad shares what he looks for on resumes during the hiring process. Job hopping does not look good. There are so many resumes that there is little time to spend too much time on each one. Keep in mind HR filters resumes based on key words. You need to get through that to get to a hiring manager. Make sure the resume says who you are and what makes you stand out. Show enthusiasm about the job if you talk to the hiring manager. The hiring manager is a human who wants you to be excited about the company. Ask questions during the interview! If you show you are worried about the culture, you are most likely a fit. There are genuinely nice people at companies. Ask questions about who your teammates will be. One of the hardest things for leaders right now is building a high performing team when no one gets together in person. Brad is managing a team of people who for the most part have never met each other and expecting them to be a cohesive team. Don’t hesitate to bring your experience on teams in the past (sports, military, etc.)? 40:52 – Parting Thoughts Don’t be afraid to dream big. Brad plans to go back and teach (PhD in History) after finishing his career. Really Brad has enjoyed the teaching aspect of all of his roles. He mentioned it took a long time to figure out his life’s task. There are tips for helping you figure this out in the book Mastery. He enjoys building others up, teaching them, and giving them the chance to advance and make more money. It will be something else for you. Figure out what that thing is and what the next steps will be to get there. Find systems and networks to get you there. Don’t be someone who does break / fix for 25 years. Find out what your life’s task is and work toward it. Brad went for the VCDX even though he was cautious at first, but it got him to where he wanted to go. Listen to podcasts, go to user groups, and rely on the people around you to get to that next level. After the Recording Stopped… Nick and Brad had an interesting discussion about fitness and stress relief. Brad wanted to emphasize the role physical fitness played in stress reduction for him. Recommended reads on this from Brad are Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe Iron and the Soul blog post by Henry Rollins It would be good to follow up with Brad on these items at some point in the future! Contact us if you need help on the journey.
57 minutes | 2 months ago
A Series of Humbling Experiences with Brad Christian (1/2)
Welcome to episode 113 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss a series of humbling experiences in part 1 of our interview with Brad Christian. Original Recording Date: 03-16-2021 John has to step away for a few weeks to focus on house hunting. The journey will continue, and he’ll be back with us as soon as he can. This reminded Nick of Episode 68 – When Life Disrupts Your Work Life Balance. Topics – Early Career Journey, Leadership Potential, The Value of Practice, and the VCDX Journey 2:46 – The Career Journey Brad Christian is a Solution Engineering Manager in the Networking and Security Business Unit at VMware. His team is responsible for products such as NSX, Avi Networks (software load balancer solution), and VeloCloud (SD-WAN). Brad is from El Paso, TX. He started building computers for gaming in college and fell into a job as a webmaster and really enjoyed the work. After learning programming languages like Perl getting into Linux, he needed to get out of El Paso and moved to Dallas. Brad slept on a cot in his brother’s apartment for a month or so while job hunting. He landed a job at a Marketing company around 2000 and was the only heterosexual in the company. This taught him many lessons on how to get along with different types of people. Brad learned a lot about not losing one’s temper and slowing down to listen to others’ points of view. He got fired after later working at the Dallas Stars. As part of a very thin team, he was short with users and greatly humbled by this experience. Brad mentioned he would not be where he is today without that ego-crushing experience of getting fired. It doesn’t matter that you’re smart if you’re a jerk. Brad was furious for weeks but eventually got over it, understanding the company did this for a reason. What a company does affects the way they use people. Brad worked every home game that season. After this Brad did some contract work (short term projects) and eventually landed on a job at Dallas County. Counties are much larger than cities from a datacenter perspective. The county has the sheriff, court, judges, and the jail. Listen as Brad shares an interesting story of employees at the jail finding a workaround to the web filter. Brad worked here for about 4 years, and this is where he got exposure to SANs (storage area networks) and a large rack mount server farm (about 30 racks). He learned a ton at this employer. Brad had to learn how to work with consultants. He initially did not think much of consultants. Brad learned there was more to IT than working for a brick and mortar company. Consultant is one thing, but a short term contractor did not give Brad a sense of ownership with what he was doing. Being at Dallas County gave him that sense of ownership he wanted. Nick mentions the humbling aspect of working with consultants. Brad learned how much he could learn from consultants and that he needed to just listen to what the consultants shared with him based on their experience. John learned there are things he did not want to be an expert at, and having a consultant own that part of the project was something which allowed him to focus in other areas. Brad hit a decision point where he needed to choose between focusing on storage or moving toward virtualization with VMware, and he realized he needed to let go of storage to pursue something else. Brad shares a story about a datacenter flood toward the end of his career at Dallas County in the middle of summer. People could not get out of jail because systems were down. They had to bring systems up manually to let people out of prison on time for a month to avoid civil rights issues. This taught Brad a TON about disaster recovery, but the county would not approve a disaster recovery site and later had budget shortages. 19:19 – A Glimmer of Leadership Potential and Learning VDI Brad had started attending VMware User Group (VMUG) meetings in Dallas. He changed jobs and moved to CBRE (a great place to work). While Brad was at CBRE, the leader of the VMUG in Dallas stepped down (around 2010). Brad found himself raising his hand to take over running the group, which was a huge learning experience. Brad knew he needed to get better at public speaking, to be more calm and rational, and knew it would be a great way to network with other locals. CBRE was Brad’s first chance to see a very large enterprise do things right at scale. No matter how good the IT department is, there is a cycle of creative destruction. People will leave, and you have to go through a rebuilding phase. There were over 2000 developers / contractors working on software (H1B Visa). Instead of provisioning laptops, they decided to move to VDI (an early version of Horizon). At first Brad didn’t want to do it, but it turned out he was very good at it. He thought the highest expression of skill in being an IT guy is VDI (so much skill involved). Dealing with the users and keeping them happy takes a whole other level of skill. Listen to Brad’s story about a phone call after coming out of hip surgery to fix a VDI issue. He knew at this point it was time to go. Brad then worked for a company that made a product called Wallstreet Online. They used a product called Lab Manager that was awesome. 25:05 – The Value of Practice The job was too easy, too slow, and Brad went to work for a VAR (Value Added Reseller) called Sigma Solutions. Here Brad finally learned how to master the art of administration. It comes down to practice. An aggregation of skills from previous jobs like bartending helped him excel in consulting. Brad recommends reading a book called Mastery by Robert Green. It includes stories of people in history who became masters at what they do. The book explains how these people became masters of what they do. The value of practice really stuck with Brad. It’s great to figure things out and think quickly, but practice is important. This tracks with other book recommendations we have mentioned like The Talent Code and Outliers. There is a huge different between the skill level of someone who worked their way up in IT and became a SE versus someone who went into being a SE straight out of school. Brad encourages anyone straight out of school to take a break / fix job for 6 months to help your career and give you some experience. John mentioned we lack the apprentice / journeyman model in IT. The closest thing we have is certifications, and that’s not a great measure at times. Employers have to take a chance on people that don’t have the experience. Brad mentions not enough people talk about pay. There was a law passed in 1935 to create the National Labor Relations Board. You can discuss how much you make at your company with the people you work with. We as Americans have been conditioned not to talk about how much we make, but that only helps your employer. Talking about it with others gives you an idea how much to ask for when you ask for a raise. John gives an example of something done at Google to allow employees to share how much they make so others can analyze it and get an idea of how they are doing, what is fair, etc. See also Glassdoor.com. It’s an American thing. We’re suckers. Brad mentioned fighting for raises when switching jobs. Getting the VCP or VMware Certified Professional was enough to bump his pay by about $20,000. It’s tough to choose a certification. Getting a certification is only part of the story because you still need to be able to do the thing. Don’t get too caught up in what is happening in tech right now (might be too late). Think about what is happening in 3-5 years and build your network based on that. This reminded Nick of Manny Sidhu’s stance on choosing a certification or technology focus area. Check out Episode 80 to get the full story. Nick shares his own certification story and how it was impacted by being at VMUG. 39:58 – The VCDX Journey While working at Sigma, Brad had met a number of VCDXs who were some of the smartest people he had ever met. These folks were not only gifted technologists but also excellent communicators with a wide variety of platforms. Brad wanted to get to that level of expertise. It seemed like a mountain to climb to make himself get better. Brad had to fly out to Palo Alto to defend his VCDX VDI design in front of Simon Long (someone he greatly admired). Brad’s wife was so relieved when he passed. To prepare, Brad met some great people, sitting on conference calls a few nights each week for months to do mock defenses. He learned humility throughout this process, finally discovering how much he did not know. Brad always wanted to be the guy with the answers, but he found it is ok to say you don’t know. It took about 3.5 years between the decision to pursue the certification and passing. The first time Brad did a defense he failed. He didn’t understand the process, the rubric, or know anyone who had gone through it to point out his mistakes. The rigor was not there. He kept at it and continued learning enterprise architecture. Enterprise Architecture is not discussed enough – opex and capex, design qualities, conceptual and logical design concepts, etc. The VCDX design is hundreds of pages that includes a network and security design, user acceptance testing, etc. Brad got better at his job by going through the process. John adds to the point that Enterprise Architecture is not emphasized enough. Brad mentions Enterprise Architecture is about managing complexity, which is not easy. Nothing is easy if you don’t walk into it with your eyes open. Look into TOGAF for free certification resources that can help you be a better Enterprise Architect. The test is $125. This will make you learn the basics of Enterprise Architecture. This is really about tying the tech back to the business. Without that you aren’t extremely valuable to anyone. You have to be willing to accept change. Many folks have a career that is a weighted blanket. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone. If you feel stupid a couple of times per day, you’re learning. Brad is hitting the Nerd Journey bingo spots. Something else about certification to know… There are people who work at VARs who hold certifications so the VAR gets a deeper discount with the manufacturer. If you are a customer that users a VAR, make sure the person who shows up knows more than you do. Watch out for "paper tigers" in any area. John gives additional insight into these partner programs and the idea behind them. There are bad actors in the process. Using a manufacturer’s professional services can be helpful, but it may come at a premium. These folks to have had the practice. What happened with the call from Sean Howard? It will have to be something we cover next time! Contact us if you need help on the journey.
60 minutes | 2 months ago
Pregnancy During a Technical Career with Caitlyn Bryan (2/2)
Welcome to episode 112 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss a personal experience with pregnancy during a tech career in the second half of our conversation with Caitlyn Bryan. Original Recording Date: 02-08-2021 Topics – Pregnancy During a Technical Career Caitlyn Bryan is an Enterprise Client Executive at VMware based in Dallas. Catch the first half of our conversation with her in Episode 111. 02:36 – Forced Leave and Unplugging It’s a good idea to check out a company’s benefits before joining. Caitlyn’s current employer (VMware) gives 18 weeks paid maternity / paternity leave. This also goes for adoption. Caitlyn’s son was born premature by 2 months, so her day-to-day came to a screeching halt. She ended up with pre-eclampsia and was forced to be on bed rest for 3 weeks. When she called her boss to tell him the issue, he said she was to stop working and focus on her health and her baby’s health (very supportive). The 18 weeks did not start until after Caitlyn’s son was out of the NICU. She was on leave for a total of 6 months. The culture of Caitlyn’s employer supports focusing on family first, and the support of her management chain helped force her to keep that focus during this time. In Sales, you are always on and need to be there to support your customers. For Caitlyn, turning everything off so suddenly was a real challenge. She had to take e-mail off her phone to help here. Listen to the fun anecdote from one of Caitlyn’s customers on this. From a maternity leave standpoint she was completely taken care of. It was great to completely power down, and once her son arrived, it was not a problem. When you’re used to being in charge or being "the warrior," you wonder how everything else can still be ok without you. It’s kind of a humble yourself moment. Caitlyn was thankful she took the entire leave. She has seen so many people who only took a certain chunk, and they never could find an exit moment to take the rest. Caitlyn’s husband only got 2 weeks of leave and had to go back to work soon after their son came home. Their family lives in another state. Amazon Prime came to the rescue. Check in on your maternity leave from a personal perspective, and don’t be afraid to take it. Caitlyn was afraid of her pregnancy being perceived as weakness. Was there anxiety when asking to take the maternity leave early? Caitlyn had fought so hard to get to this point in her career, and part of her did not want to give up on the projects in flight and the customers depending on her. She didn’t want to skip a beat and wanted to be able to jump right back in where she left off. She had some reservations about revealing she was pregnant. At one point she went to club based on her great performance. Not long after this, she learned she was pregnant. The first trimester was many weeks of being extremely tired and craving sugar. The VMworld conference was coming up soon, and she had over 30 customers to host. In addition to this, Caitlyn had volunteered to help train some new hires. She thinks it was pure momentum that kept her going. There was a certain level of fear about taking a step back at this point. Maybe this is a sign of where gaps are in female representation. Luckily she built in a couple of days between the conference and training the new hires to relax with her sister. Caitlyn is so glad she did go because it allowed her to connect with customers and peers, especially other women in technology across the globe. How long to really be disconnected? Caitlyn had to forcefully make herself take e-mail off her phone. Listen to her story about working while she was on vacation in Venice. It probably took about 3 months to really unplug. She realized that 6 months away in the tech world is an eternity. Her employer had acquired multiple companies, and there were thousands of e-mails waiting on her. Caitlyn hid her laptop to remove temptation. She repositioned her office to make it look less enticing. Once her son had gained weight and was sleeping through the night she felt like it was time to go back to work. Before this experience, she really only knew one person who had pre-eclampsia. 25:35 – Coming Back Many times the fear is coming back in a different position. Are there other fears? When Caitlyn made the first call to her boss, she had the #1 performing territory. There was a feeling that she might be letting the team back. Her boss was very reassuring and addressed the concerns. A peer of hers covered the customer base in her absence. Caitlyn had decided a 5 year goal was progressing to Enterprise Field Rep. She went from 2 different inside Sales roles to a field role in the Commercial segment. But an opportunity in Enterprise came up just before she returned from leave. She had to call her current boss and tell him about the opening that came up in the Dallas area. Caitlyn was trying to figure out when she could interview between nursing, naps, and the dog barking. The irrational fear of being replaced was substituted for another challenge – moving to an entirely new set of customers and a new role. "Just because you are on maternity leave does not mean you are benched." – Caitlyn Bryan Being on maternity leave can be a good time to evaluate career and make sure it is in line with your goals. Look for internal transfers, for example. Caitlyn has been back since August 2020, and her son is about to turn 1. Before the maternity leave, she was way off balance. She recently joined a book club and is making a conscious effort to spend time in other areas. To get over the anxiety of learning new operational tools implemented while she was away and all of the acquisitions her company made, she really had to lean on others for support. There was no more heavy driving or hopping on planes to visit customers because of the pandemic. The new role will require less travel and supports Caitlyn’s family life better than her previous role. Caring for a small child is a challenge in and of itself as a new parent. Caitlyn mentioned as a new mom it is important to communicate your needs. Raise your hand if you need something or need a break. As a woman, needing a break from something may appear as a sign of weakness. Learn to ask, and learn to delegate. Figure out how to take moments for you. Some of the issues with our feeling of "busy" may be cultural and not gender specific. 42:19 – Transitioning to a New Team Caitlyn’s Engineer helped her understand that no one expected her to be completely plugged in for several weeks. He worked to build her up. Be open with others about being new and being a new parent. Most are open to giving advice. Caitlyn leveraged her teams to get up to speed and was extremely honest about what she knew. She leveraged a lot of internal training to help. The first week back was challenging. She met a bunch of new customers and was trying to capture all of the important items. Remember to pick a company that will embrace a little bit of change. The week before Caitlyn came back to work, she wanted some "me" time. She got a haircut, took some walks with the dog, etc. She wanted to set her own schedule for a week to get acclimated to going back to work. Do you have everything you need just to feel like yourself again? Her Inbox was full of thousands of e-mails to go through. She wanted to check in on how old projects turned out. Lots of customers didn’t know about the maternity leave and her transition to a new role. It was weird but good. How likely is Caitlyn to take more vacation in the future? It’s time to put up more walls and ask for coverage while she’s away. She and her husband have an unnatural tendency to want to help their customers, peers, and bosses. Once per quarter they used to take a week to get downtime but eventually found themselves cheating and work. Knowing the world will continue, taking a couple of days, and coming back with fresh eyes is something we all need. You definitely have to take time out to reset and put your best self forward. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
48 minutes | 2 months ago
A Career in Technical Sales with Caitlyn Bryan Part 1/2
Welcome to episode 111 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss Technical Sales career progression with Caitlyn Bryan. Original Recording Date: 02-08-2021 Topics – Breaking In, Progressing to the Field, and Reflecting on Women in Tech 03:35 – Getting into the Tech Industry Caitlyn Bryan is an Enterprise Client Executive at VMware based in Dallas. In college, Caitlyn struggled to understand technology and wanted to take a course. She ended up pursuing a track that included coding and SAP software, which she found fascinating. But, she enjoyed the social aspect most of all. With a Marketing major and minor in Computer Information Systems, she wasn’t sure where to go next. Her sister’s friend worked for a vendor and shared an opportunity with a vendor in a Sales role. Caitlyn really enjoyed it and didn’t previously realize this industry existed. Just a few years later she started at VMware (where she has been for 6 years now). She enjoys the travel aspect of her role and getting to meet different people. Caitlyn stumbled into the tech industry and is always interested in hearing how others found their way into it as well. There may not be a typical path to become a Technology Sales Professional that is field facing. Caitlyn spent the first few years working on the inside (customer contact made via phone) learning the role. Inside sales allows you to gain some much needed experience, supports career growth out to the field, and allows you to benefit from working in an office (pre-COVID, at least) environment that supports collaboration with like-minded peers. Being a part of the inside Sales team allowed Caitlyn to gain additional insight into the culture at VMware. There were birthday celebrations, quarter kickoffs, visits from executives and Marketing, etc. There are operational learning advantages to starting on the inside. Imagine being able to lean over to someone more experienced in the next cube and ask for help, feedback, or insight. Caitlyn had the chance to be a coach for newly hired inside Sales personnel and was energized by the talent coming into the company. 11:25 – Progressing to Field Sales What makes someone want to progress from an inside role to a field facing role? Some people may not have field aspirations or really enjoy the inside role. Caitlyn was passionate about deals and taking the lead role. She liked the personal aspect of sitting with customers in person and building camaraderie with them. There is a compensation difference in moving to the field versus the inside. Field roles are usually specific to a geographic region and may require you to relocate. Some people may prefer to stay on the inside and not have to relocate. John gives an illustration of how challenging getting a field role in a specific area can be. In Austin, for example, there are many tech companies with a presence in the area and thus creates some natural competition among internal employees looking to progress and anyone outside the company looking to move into a field role. Caitlyn mentioned it is very difficult to make the jump from inside to the field. It’s likely easier to transfer inside the same company. Caitlyn was able to gain some experience making field visits while still working on the inside. This was helpful to her resume for consideration when she did move to the field. One of her former managers created a formal progression program to help personnel progress from inside to field. Before VMware Caitlyn was looking for a culture of building up talent. These are the types of programs to consider when you’re evaluating a new company. No one really leaves tech unless they want a drastic change. There is so much knowledge and not a lot of brand new talent coming into the field. We need to progress our people but at the same time bring in new blood. Nurturing opportunities is very important (getting mentors and network building). John gives the example of Oracle’s system and it being very much like a master / apprentice (i.e. learning by doing and by seeing someone model it for you). Listen as Caitlyn shares an example of letting new employees ride along with her in Dallas / Fort Worth (part of VMware’s Academy program for Salespeople, Solution Engineers, and others). This is a great opportunity for the new person to learn and for the seasoned employee to learn too. 26:11 – Reflecting on Women in Technology Women in technology are extremely underrepresented. Some benefits are: It’s easy to find a female mentor. There are no lines to wait for the bathroom at technology conferences. Getting more girls interested in STEM could help, but many people don’t even know the opportunities exist. Be willing to coach up our children and community to create awareness. You feel like you need to have a tough exterior in order to become the alpha and not seem like you are leading from an emotional / irrational state. Most people in Caitlyn’s experience have been wonderful to work with, but there are some who might think you are there to deliver the coffee. Listen to Caitlyn’s story from early in her career about getting asked to go pick up coffee. "I’m not there to be the waitress." It’s a strange delineation when you’re one of the few / the only female in the room. Listen to Nick’s story about someone shadowing him who volunteered to go get lunch. As a woman, you want to take care of people and make them comfortable. You think about things like timing for lunch, for example. Caitlyn had to draw an extreme line in the sand on this. Listen to John’s story about a similar uncomfortable situation. In Caitlyn’s story about the coffee, a senior leader from the customer made one of his employees go and get coffee, mentioning Caitlyn was the host only. In Sales, you want to take care of your customers. You’re probably an extrovert. Being a woman and wanting to continuously provide value means you don’t want to be put in a weird role. John mentions the host of an event does not deliver drinks to people (i.e. not a service person). What about other issues for women in technology? There is always a need for more female speakers. If you don’t see someone like you in sessions at conferences, you may not believe you can follow a similar path. Caitlyn gave an example of a weeklong internal conference in which not a single woman was a presenter. She called it out to her leadership as a major gap. This stood out to her so clearly and was mind blowing that this could happen in the last 10 years. The next conference she attended, there were more female representatives. Speaking out for diversity is critical. We have some work to do. John mentions a good way to judge an organization is their response to feedback. It’s more difficult to take a step back and consider a blind spot. No one wants to call their baby ugly, but we need to be vocal about how we fix these things. Right now Caitlyn has another female on her team after being the only one. Women can help support and find qualified candidates by evangelizing and spreading the word about the tech industry. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
62 minutes | 2 months ago
Grief, Support, and Healing with Mike Burkhart (part 2/2)
Welcome to episode 110 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we present the second half of our conversation with Mike Burkhart’s journey, dealing with personal grief. Original Recording Date: 01-28-2021 Topics – Grief, Support, and Healing This is the second part of our conversation with Mike. The first part is episode 109. 3:30 – Revisiting the Needs of Those in Grief Did Mike want people to stop walking on eggshells and treat him normally at some point? In truth people do not know how to respond. As a grieving person, be courageous to address your own emotions. Go there. It may take a counselor, a therapist, a close friend, or a support group. You must work at it. The process at times felt like work to Mike. To help someone experiencing grief, you also need to be brave enough to say "it’s not about me or how awkward I feel." It is about serving someone else. Mike likes John’s thought on giving people a menu of options. Listen to Mike’s story about some ministers who came to visit him at the hospital right after his son was declared deceased. They offered to sit in silence with him. Mike also shared the story of a nurse who tried to comfort him, but it was not what he needed at the time despite her genuine manner. He could not accept this from her at the time and needed someone to come and sit in silence with him like the ministers did. Offering to sit in silence while someone cries can really help, even if it is weird for you. 12:12 – Changing Family Dynamics and External Support A stillborn child changes the dynamic of a marriage. Mike’s wife had just given birth at home, and he was at the hospital filling out all the necessary paperwork while she recovered. He had time to think about it and was afraid he might lose his wife. You tend to think the worst because the worst just happens. Mike’s wife was wheeled into the hospital to get the official news. Acceptance is crucial during grief. People will do and say many things during this time. Mike and his wife had nothing but acceptance and understanding with each other. It was ok to be angry. Apologize and get past it. Everyone is experiencing grief from their own viewpoint. A pregnant woman’s experience is unique to her as an individual that will be different than the experience of the father. Not having a baby to hold and nurse caused his wife great pain. Mike feels lucky to be a parent to still have one living child. He had to focus his efforts on the things they have. Happiness is gratitude. Gratitude is acknowledging the things in your life and the joy they bring. Mike didn’t want to talk to anyone and was a bit of a hermit, but he did send a message out on Twitter. He never could have imagined the outpouring of contact from people and would like to thank the community. People offered to bring food, babysit, etc. People sent DMs saying they had been through the same experience and that they were there to support Mike when he needed it. Sharing human experiences in life helps others. This podcast is Mike’s way of reaching back. In times of extreme grief you may not feel like showering (kind of like having depression), and other self-care items fall away. After suffering loss like this you don’t know how to take care of yourself. It was challenging to keep up a constant bedtime routine. Mike’s son would tell him it was time to put him to bed. 29:44 – Getting Back to Work Mike is a Cloud Solutions Architect at Elevate Technology Partners out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The owner of the company was a friend of a mutual friend of Mike’s (Jenifer Slabaugh). Jen had previously approached Mike about this company starting at one point. The company owner (Josh) reached out to Mike about working a project for Elevate near the end of 2020. Josh would check in with Mike daily because he knew Mike was struggling. This guy was basically a stranger who was kind enough to go the distance in supporting Mike, even praying for him. Josh sent Mike a song about not losing hope when all else is lost that was extremely helpful. It is imperative to be open to the fact that things can get better / less hard. You learn to get up, take a shower, and that you even enjoy taking the dog outside. For an employer (Josh) to reach out and "be real" in offering a helping hand to someone in Mike’s situation was amazing. Josh allowed Mike to make the call about how much he could handle and when he could handle it. At first Mike was hesitant to start work because of his state of mind, but Josh kept asking. Mike wishes the same experience or better for anyone else out there. Listen to Mike’s explanation of both sides of "I don’t deserve this." Have the humility to accept goodness in your life in whatever form that takes. If overwhelmed by emotion and experience, it’s ok. Being given the lifeline and being told to just keep going helped. Mike started writing throughout this process, and it has been therapeutic. There is not a lot of material out there for fathers going through a similar experience. Was the return to work a refreshing sense of normalcy? Mike even enjoyed going on Sales calls after going back to work. He’s still having fun with it. The mantra is "do good work." Mike has been enabled to be an advisor and advocate for what the customer actually needs. Solving difficult problems can be an organizational change (a process, etc.) and does not always align to a product. Distractions are welcome. Mike reconnected with his identity as a worker and provider with a very gentle onramp at his own pace. Mike was able to dictate his own pace. Adding the working routine in too early can be detrimental to your healing process. It certainly didn’t work for Mike. Many folks say in a situation like Mike’s there has to be a break from who you were entirely in certain areas. Find where your experience fits again. You find something to live for and pursue it. Mike is grateful for what the loss opened his eyes up to, realizing the importance giving back. We’re happy to hear Mike is in a better place. Nick was initially hesitant to approach Mike about this episode but so glad he did. Mike agreed the topic needed to be discussed. It is always valuable to share experiences. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
61 minutes | 3 months ago
Dealing with Personal Loss and Grief with Mike Burkhart
Welcome to episode 109 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss dealing with grief and loss with Mike Burkhart. Original Recording Date: 01-28-2021 Most book links are Amazon affiliate links. If you’re going to purchase one of these to read along with us, please consider purchasing through the link to support the podcast! Topics – Personal Grief and Loss 03:39 – A Different Conversation with Mike Mike Burkhart is back as our first repeat guest! If you remember, both previous interviews with Mike made our top 10 most downloaded episodes when we ran the stats during Episode 100. This discussion with Mike is very different from our previous episodes with him. 6:18 – The Event That Triggered a Career Change In our previous discussions with Mike, he had just taken a role at Nutanix as a Solution Architect in the Education space building content and improving lab delivery. Many other certifications were created during his time there. Mike misses his former co-workers at Nutanix greatly. In June of 2020, Mike and his wife lost a child at childbirth. The pregnancy was normal, and so was the birth. Thier son was born dead. Many people experience loss of people they love, but loss of a child is confusing. It’s loss of potential, loss of possibility. You never factor in the possible death of your child as you go through a pregnancy. It’s really strange to know the company policy for paternity leave but have to go back to your boss and ask for bereavement leave instead. Paternity leave is 1 month, and bereavement leave was only a few days. Likely no amount of time will be enough to allow us to grieve. Mike’s boss have him a month off and offered to do whatever was needed to support Mike and his family. After this happened, Mike cried from the minute he woke up, during eating, while watching his 4-year-old son, and while taking his dog out. To know that depth of loss is eye opening. Mike realized if he could feel completely helpless, anyone else could too. While his wife felt anger, he felt only sorrow and sadness. Everyone at Nutanix was sending e-mails, texts, making calls, and doing what they could to help. If you are suffering from grief over loss, reach out to others to get the support you need. Here’s a pro tip for friends experiencing grief: Ask how you can help. At the time, Mike didn’t really know how to ask for help. He was never suicidal but had to work through the grief. At the end of the month of time off, Mike had the option to take more time (but unpaid). If you need that time, take it. Grief is complicated because life does not stop. You still need to shower, you still need to eat, and you still need to take your dog out. Mike has a 4-year-old who didn’t fully understand what had happened, often times asking "Dad, why are you so sad?" At a certain point, you may need to seek therapy. Even after the month off, Mike wasn’t functional enough to be effective at work. The hours were long upon Mike’s return to work (sometimes 16 hour days to make ends meet and complete projects). Listen to the story about a specific night Mike was in charge of putting his son to bed despite needing to meet a work deadline. This caused Mike to tender his resignation that night. He had a financial planner that had helped ensure the family was in a place where Mike could quit his job. This was an emergency that needed immediate attention. Mike was ineffective and not happy with his outcomes. Work does not stop, and he could not take the stress. There is no getting over grief but only working through it. There is no "unlosing" of something. Focus on the healing and the integration with your grief. In an emergency, it is all about survival. Reach out to your anchors (people, places, etc.) that root you to your humanity. These are the things that ground you and balance you. Mike gives a great analogy about a spinning top with a weight on it. We talk about being proactive vs. reactive all the time. John mentions we cannot judge ourselves for our emotional reactions. We hope we put emotional funds in the bank to get through hard times, but it does not necessarily. Mike wanted to be strong as the man of the house. This goes back to our conversations of toxic masculinity. It’s tough to step aside from your own feelings and really analyze what is happening. Nick makes the point that Mike had to help his 4-year-old through this tough time while he was also experiencing it. Listen to the story of how Mike’s 4-year-old acted expressed the situation while playing. The natural state before learning about cultural norms is to talk things out / or play them out. 33:41 – Experiencing Stages of Grief Stages of grief were very strange for Mike. After quitting his job, Mike started to see a grief counselor. "Life does not get easier. It gets less hard." – Mike Burkhart There were days where he could not get out of bed. Days when Mike did not feel awful made him feel guilt over not feeling worse. In the United States, 1 out of 160 children die in childbirth, which means there are 25,000 – 40,000 parents grieving the loss of a child each year. This is not a risk we want to consider, but it does happen. When this even happened to Mike and people would express their condolences, he didn’t care. It was, more than anything, because he felt others did not understand what he was experiencing. He still isn’t sure why. There are communities formed around the loss of a child to help those suffering. This feeling of grief is like nothing Mike has experienced, and his grief counselor is one of his favorite people. Mike needed to know that someone else has felt the same as him. Being in the state he was in was like being in molasses. Birth is a hectic, nerve wracking process. Add death to that mix, and it’s like someone unhitched a train which ran into a mountain with no tunnel. It’s possible for people to recognize you are in pain without being empathetic. John makes the point it is challenging to ask for a Sherpa to help get through the process. In Western culture death is taboo. We tend to say we are sorry for someone’s loss, but if we have a moment with the person, ask that person to tell you about the person they lost. To reach out to someone who is grieving, to really be helpful, give the person what they need or ask for and not necessarily what you think they want. It is important to set boundaries with others when you are grieving. Say no to things not helpful. This is part of the reason Mike wanted to be able to speak to others who have experienced the same loss as his family did. Mike shares some things not to say to people experiencing this time of grief. Is asking someone what they need like giving the person homework? See Bonus EP 10 for more on this. "I need you to come up with a way for me to support you" can be a homework assignment. Sometimes the person just needs you to go away. You are giving the gift of solitude or space. Mike didn’t know how to respond to this type of question. Think about the basic needs of others during grief (food, Kleenex, etc.). Many times this depends on your relationship with the person suffering. Mike mentions The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman as helpful resource on understanding how others give and receive love. Keep in mind multiple love languages apply to people. One of the things Mike appreciated most during his struggles was when people would bring food. Mike and family had a doula committed to working with them who helped with laundry, childcare, and even gave massages. This level of grief takes a toll on the body. Consider the most basic level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when trying to help others. Another taboo of death is a hesitation to be around others who are grieving. There are many models which can be leveraged to offer help, but many people use avoidance (the worst option). Contact us if you need help on the journey.
64 minutes | 3 months ago
2021 Book Goals from Nick and John
Welcome to episode 108 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss book goals for 2021. Original Recording Date: 01-22-2021 Topics – Book Goals for 2021 Most book links are Amazon affiliate links. If you’re going to purchase one of these to read along with us, please consider purchasing through the link to support the podcast! 0:56 – Dreaming Big about Reading Books for Growth John sets the stage for this episode. We’re going to share our reading goals for the year, how we think about them, and how they can help us grow in some way. 1:55 – John’s Goals Based on Category General Learning and Career Growth Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt John has read this book before but not in a while. He mentioned in as a book that has shaped his thinking in Bonus Episode 8 from late 2019. Other than some fundamental principles he remembers from it, he feels he needs to read it again to refresh his memory. John enjoys re-reading books. The Ideal Team Player – How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni We reviewed another book by Lencioni in Episode 87 called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team that was also quite good. John wants to hear Lencioni’s thoughts on the team player concept. The style of Lencioni’s writings are usually business fable and easy to consume. John plans to put this one early in his list to get a quick win. Two Recommendations from Steven Murawski: Our trilogy of interviews with Steven began with Episode 107. Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management by Johanna Rothman, Esther Derby Steven mentioned in his interview "the patterns we build to work with and interact with software are not so different from those familiar models built to work with people" in reference to this book. We have to manage tasks and groups of peers even if we do not want to pursue management. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams John is a little hesitant on this one as the author doesn’t sound like a great person in real life. But the title remains intriguing. John will check it out and report back. Success is in Your Sphere: Leverage the Power of Relationships to Achieve Your Business Goals by Zvi Band This one sounded intriguing based on the title. Strategic Relationships at Work: Creating Your Circle of Mentors, Sponsors, and Peers for Success in Business and Life by Wendy Murphy, Kathy Kram This choice was inspired by our interviews with Ashley Connell that began in Episode 96. Ashley shared the difference between a mentor and a sponsor, and John would like to grow his circle of good sponsors and mentors. Any other books in this area / thought leadership is welcome advice to us. Feedback That Works: How to Build and Deliver Your Message by Center for Creative Leadership In his role at Google, John is involved in a lot of peer feedback and review. He’d like to improve in this area. Please send recommendations for providing good feedback John’s way! The Art of Being Indispensable at Work by Bruce Tulgan This is a title that seemed interesting to John as he definitely wants to be indispensable at work. If he is able to read it he can report back. Empathy at Work by Sharon Steed John likes to lead relationships with empathy. If there is a book with a good model for doing this, he would really like to hear about it. If you have read something covering this genre of empathy at work, DM us! Python John has a technical goal for the year to formally adopt a programming language. He chose Python because it seemed to fit the skills he wants to adopt in data engineering, analytics, big data, and machine learning. Learn Python 3 the Hard Way by Zed A. Shaw The author has covered a number of different languages. The "hard way" is typing in the code rather than just doing a copy paste. It allows you to experience the debugging process and better learn syntax as well as understand what commands do. As we record this, John is a couple weeks into it. Clean Code in Python by Mariano Anaya The idea of clean code is writing it in a way that is understandable. John wants to be knowledgeable to be empathetic to customers doing development work. One philosophy is document what you are doing extremely well with good comments. An alternative philosophy is to write the code so it is very clear what you are trying to do and only write comments when something complex needs to be referenced outside the code. The stretch for John is learn Python and conceptually understand clean code. Computational Thinking Computational Thinking – A beginner’s guide to problem-solving and programming by Karl Beecher Programming can be broken down into language syntax, what commands do, data structures, logic, etc. Then there is the problem solving part. Computational thinking is more focused on problem solving abstracted away from the languages (i.e. algorithmic way of solving problems). John has not had any formal training in this area. His goal is not to become a programmer but to gain a general skill to be empathetic to those who write code in their day jobs. It would also be nice to solve problems he comes across on a daily basis with this type of thinking. *Applied Computational Thinking with Python by Sphia De Jesus and Dayrene Martinez John does not know anything about the book but would love to hear from anyone who has walked this path. This choice and the previous seemed logical based on what John wanted to learn. Data Science Data Science on the Google Cloud Platform by Valliappa Lakshmana John is making a technology bet based on what he is hearing from his customers. He would love to hear about any recommendations that might be abstracted from a specific platform, especially if it is better than what he has chosen above. Consumption Format – How will John Consume These? John thinks the only book he can do in audio form is the Lencioni book (could be both audio and PDF format and use WhisperSync). Maybe the Scott Adams book falls into this same category. Most of the technical reads will probably be consumed in digital format. John keeps a few physical books but not many these days. He thinks 90% digital with 10% possibly audio. Lots of these reads sound really interesting to Nick. Maybe they can compare notes on progress in each list separate and apart from the show. Maybe John could start blogging about those technical reads? Nick would love to read some articles written by John on computational thinking. 27:14 – Nick’s Goals Based on Category The General Philosophy This is a stream of consciousness progression. Nick went back and categorized the books he had read over the past couple of years and categorized them into several different areas. It seemed to span a wide range of topics. Deliberate Practice Nick fell into this topic after reading Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer in late 2020. This is practice with a focused intensity, repeating the doing, with fast feedback to develop mental representations. Nick then read Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool followed by The Art of Learning by Joshua Waitzkin. Waitzkin made it to elite levels in multiple fields, and it was extremely interesting to hear how he was able to learn as a beginner and how he continually raised his expertise level. Once Nick reads a really good book in a specific area he likes to read other books in that same area to get another viewpoint. Nick found this list of recommendations written by James Clear. There are 3 other books that Nick wants to read as a result. The Talent Code by Dan Coyle Deep Work by Cal Newport The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner Mentoring / Career Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris There was a podcast at the end of the Audible version of Josh Waitzkin’s book where Tim Ferris interviewed Josh. This book is a collection of advice from a number of highly successful people in a number of industries. John kind of wishes he had picked a Tim Ferris book and a Seth Godin book based on the discussion here. A Game Plan for Life by John Wooden, Don Yaeger, and John Maxwell Don Yaeger was on a team call at VMware and spoke about how he met Michael Jordan. As a result of this call, Nick ended up getting to pick a book by Yeager and decided on the one about John Wooden. John calls out that John Wooden’s coaching methodology is heavily referenced in The Talent Code. Biographies Nick really enjoys this genre and likes to learn about people’s lives whether a sports figure, thought leader, successful person in business / technology, etc. He read Ed Catmull’s book Creativity, Inc. at the end of 2020 and loved it (highlighted as Nick’s favorite book of 2020). Ed was one of the founders of Pixar and had a dream to create a digitally animated film. This led Nick to a book on Steve Jobs (who acquired Pixar) called Becoming Steve Jobs. It was a story of how Jobs grew and changed as a leader from the time when he founded Apple to leaving Apple and starting Next to acquiring Pixar, helping it become successful, selling it to Disney, and eventually returning to Apple to make it a success. Nick just finished this one (highly recommend). You can learn from people’s mistakes / successes from reading their story. George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones Nick is a big Star Wars fan, and this also has a connection to Pixar. The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger Iger was responsible for the launch of Shanghai Disney and shares lessons learned in his career up to being the Disney CEO. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination This may have come from Nick watching The Imagineering Story on Disney Plus. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson This is supposed to be a historical account of the people who influenced the creation of the computer and the internet and seemed interesting. After reading Andre Agassi’s biography last year, it seems natural to at some point read A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis. Michael Jordan: The Life Nick watched a lot of Bulls basketball as a kid. Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre by Jeff Pearlman This could have been a product of Audible social engineering. Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly This supposed to be some of the untold story of what Bruce Lee was like. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight This was a recommendation from Paul Green. Our interviews with Paul start in Episode 93. Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright Thinking Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows This has been referenced in a number of different books Nick has read as has the next choice. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnerman Creativity Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley, David Kelley Exercise and Health After reading Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Nick is choosing The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage by Kelly McGonigal Parenting Some of the authors here were cited in other parenting books Nick has read in the last year. The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child by Daniel Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson Are My Kids on Track?: The 12 Emotional, Social, and Spiritual Milestones Your Child Needs to Reach by Sissy Goff Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by John Gottman Emotional Intelligence Nick has not read a book on this yet. Emotional Intelligence Blueprint: Mastery Bible, Practical Guide on Becoming a Social Skills Chameleon, Able to Dominate Any Room with Charisma and Influencing Leadership Skills by Mark Page Emotional Intelligence for Sales Leadership: The Secret to Building High-Performance Sales Teams by Colleen Stanley The focus on leadership was interesting from the standpoint of understanding how leaders need to be emotionally intelligent. Technical Nick did not have a specific technical read. More of the things he has read about haven’t been super focused on specific technologies. Nick would love a technical recommendation on serverless technologies or software development processes from the greater community. Consumption These will likely be Audible except for those which are extremely technical. We are aiming high. Not every book we read will be on these lists, and not every book on these lists will be something we read this year. 49:17 – Ideas on Places to Find Book Recommendations Friends, family, colleagues Nick is interested in why people read specific books and why it was interesting to them. Understanding people’s influences can help you understand them better. Follow LinkedIn Book Club, and tag your posts with #linkedinbookclub John pulls up the link live and finds a potential good read immediately. Reddit Reddit Book Club – all genres Book Suggestions – a place to ask for recommendations but not genre specific General Books Reddit Nonfiction Book Club The book club forums seemed to have weekly recommendations, asking for people to share their favorite book in the last year. Twitter is an option also John likes to read books that are cited as a source In a book he’s reading. Friends / family members have also made some very good book recommendations to John based on his interests. 55:33 – The Importance of Books If you are not reading books you may be missing out on some good content. Nick did not do this when he was in IT Operations due to a feeling of no spare time. He never really read books separate and apart from articles, training, blog posts, etc. John likes things that challenge his mental models of the world / how things work or present a model he has not previously considered. One of the things that is most enjoyable is having an assumption he has taken apart and analyzed. His nonfiction reading has been science focused in the past as a result. The learning genre we’ve discussed is in this area. John has been a lifelong book worm and recently switched over to audio books (easier to consume while driving, etc.). He still loves reading both fiction and nonfiction. Go back and listen to the episodes covering books that have shaped our thinking: John – Bonus Episode 8 Nick – Bonus Episode 9 John is a little judgy about not reading. Nick was a decent reader as a kid but really never found something interesting until someone gave him the first Harry Potter book, which led him to really enjoy fantasy fiction. As we learn more, we will make connections across fiction and nonfiction works that can help us in other areas. John has a back burner project to create a list of books he read at each age which led him to be who he is today. Nick and John give some book recommendations for people who enjoyed Harry Potter. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
47 minutes | 3 months ago
Applying the Beginner Mindset in Major Job Transitions – Steven Murawski Part 3
Welcome to episode 107 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we have the third and final part of our conversation with Steven Murawski, where we discuss how Steven applied his expert beginner skills in major job transitions. Original Recording Date: 11-17-2020 Topics – Applying the Beginner Mindset in Major Job Transitions 2:41 – Progressing from Stack Overflow to Chef to Microsoft After being at Stack Overflow for 2 years and spending 6 months working on infrastructure as code with PowerShell Desired State Configuration (one of the first to have done this), he did a number of talks that allowed him to meet people outside of the Windows community. He seemed to keep bumping into people from Chef, and they were curious about what Steven was doing. Stack Overflow was a Puppet shop, but they didn’t seem to care much about Windows. Eventually the folks at Chef suggested Steven come work with them. He had left Edgenet for Stack Overflow because it was Stack Overflow. To be one of the Windows Engineers helping run one of the most popular Windows communities on the planet was really exciting (think 6 million page views per day). All the admins at Stack Overflow knew at least one scripting language and one compiled language. They built tools to help manage the environment better. The opportunity at Chef came from a lot of time spent on configuration management (including speaking internationally). He was offered a role as Technical Community Manager. They wanted him to come onboard and talk about PowerShell and testing, etc. He openly admitted throughout the interview process that he knew nothing about Chef. They hired him to talk about PowerShell. Many of the concepts he knew were required to have a successful configuration management experience. After 5 months, Chef re-organized. Steven then became a developer on the community engineering team responsible for helping shepherd open source projects, new contributions, and being a good open source citizen. He had used some source control back at the police department which continued at his other employers (but in different forms). His knowledge of PowerShell translated well to learning Ruby. He was reading a lot of books and trying a lot of things (failing at times too). But the improvement came quickly because he was not starting from zero knowledge of programming. This was really getting into the product development space. While he was an expert in many other areas, he did not have strong knowledge in Ruby, debugging, design patterns, and a number of other things. There were a number of colleagues that helped him learn while they were able to leverage his experience with Windows. Steven still gave talks, maintained customer connections through work with Pre-Sales Engineers, and did a lot of outbound communication. He then met Donovan Brown, who at the time was a Technical Sales Professional at Microsoft. Microsoft was planning a product integration with Chef, and Steven worked with Donovan to build a demo that was later presented at an internal Microsoft conference. Months later Donovan contacted Steven about being on a DevOps focused Advocacy team at Microsoft. Leaving both Stack Overflow and Chef were opportunities for Steven to take his advocacy to the next level. He went from configuration management as a side project to it becoming his full time focus to talking about DevOps, SRE, and all the things that could make someone’s IT experience better as his day job. This was all about increasing the scope of contribution and scope of impact. The clarity of this goal came while Steven was at Stack Overflow and evaluating the opportunity at Chef. This context helped him make the decision about the role at Microsoft. At Chef, he had just finished work on Habitat and had spent a year developing in Rust as well as Ruby. The opportunity to go to Microsoft seemed to come at a perfect transition point. If timing was not flexible and he had been in the middle of a deliverable, he may not have made the move, or that would at least have made the decision harder. The purpose matched what Steven felt was important to making a change in job. Steven had opportunity to look at different roles at Microsoft in the past but never took one. This would be the largest company he had ever joined (which made him a little nervous). Listen to Steven’s take on organization size, visibility into other organizations, and communication efficiencies and tools. He was not sure that the flexibility he enjoyed at smaller organizations would follow a move to Microsoft. There were some fan boy feelings about the people he would work with at Microsoft (i.e. Jeffrey Snover). Steven told himself if it did not work out at Microsoft, he would be ok. He was active in the community and had built a good network of people who knew his skill level and quality of work. This existed because of the time Steven spent building it over the years. 24:27 – Progression after Joining Microsoft Steven has been with Microsoft for about 3 years now, starting as a Senior Cloud Advocate. This year he was promoted to Principal (which is a band jump). This takes time because you need people higher in the organization to advocate for you. Opportunity at Microsoft is what you make of it. Most organizations within are like a bunch of small shops. There might be a product team with 10-15 engineers and a Product Manager. Think of these as small, composed units. For example, after Steven’s first year they created a Developer Advocacy program. There was a division between MSDN and TechNet. At the time, Steven used documentation from both areas. This was fixed with docs.microsoft.com. In today’s world, having the two repositories did not make sense. Putting all the technical documentation in one spot made a ton of sense. Whatever your role was, all of the documentation existed in one place. A similar approach was taken with advocacy groups (i.e. all Developer Advocates, for example, were in a group to service the entirety of the community / customer base). Steven got to help build the plan and shape the program for Operations Advocacy. Steven speaks to a re-organization shortly after the Operations Advocacy program was formed. These programs were originally separated by community areas. The re-organization was separated based on audiences / types of customers (a bit more cross functional). There was another re-organization about 5 months later. The skills they hired people for were relevant across areas. Steven is now a part of an organization called Methods and Practices. This includes DevOps, SRE, Enterprise Systems and Tools, and Modern Infrastructure. The broader team focus is helping customers adopt new operational practices through tools and online resources (documentation, videos, Microsoft Learn) without necessarily needing to reach out to someone at Microsoft. Deciding what is next is something Steven wrestles with. There are a number of immediate challenges in his current role, for example, that will create great sources for new content. He has worked with his manager on key objectives and results and refining them for the team so they match the mission for the team, the organization as a whole, and the organizations above that. The team recently took over the Azure DevOps blog and helps shepherd other content from inside Microsoft. This was done in service of ensuring content was dispersed correctly and properly to the greater community. There are a number of good opportunities internally and externally sitting right in front of Steven. He has a number of things on his plate that will keep him busy for a while, but overall he is not sure. Steven thinks an Engineering role sounds interesting and has an interest in getting back to shipping some software or maybe running a service. We would love to come back and dig into some of these nuggets Steven has shared! Steven would love to learn more about our stories because that is how he learns. John mentioned some of our previous check-in episodes. Maybe we can add a navel gazing tag to our past episodes. You can connect with Steven on LinkedIn or reach out to him on Twitter if you would like to follow up! Contact us if you need help on the journey.
52 minutes | 4 months ago
Exploring the Beginner Mindset with Steven Murawski, Part 2
Welcome to episode 106 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. Today’s episode is the second in our three-episode discussion with Steven Murawski, Principal Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. We dive deep into a discussion of Steven’s philosophy and experience with learning new things by embracing being a beginner. Original Recording Date: 11-17-2020 Topics – The Beginner Mindset, Theory and Applied 2:46 – The Birth of the Beginner’s Mindset and Its Effects Despite Steven’s role today, he continues to embrace this beginner mindset. One of his current projects at Microsoft is to build up a DevSecOps open hack. DevSecOps is an area where he is very much a beginner. Code scanning and penetration testing are new experiences, but this is opportunity for him to learn which is adjacent to other skills and experiences he has already built. A willingness to be a beginner and ask the dumb questions has been an enabler for finding and moving forward in his career. Being a beginner does not necessarily force someone into an entry level role. You’re bringing experience with you. The totality of the experience and knowledge brought in by the individual can enable quick learning and the ability to integrate into a broader set of scenarios than if someone had started learning only one specific field with no additional experiences / skills. There’s a fear of being a beginner. Hopefully a future employer and manager can see the total package brought to a new role that is the summation of past skills and experience. Over time and looking over a broader scope, it could be changing companies, working from a different place, etc. Look at and be willing to explore other options. Steven has been fortunate that his wife has been extremely supportive of his extracurricular activities. For example, he self-funded conference passes and travel to teach a class / give a talk. He knew it was working toward something. It’s easy to have an honest conversation about risk vs. reward and whether he should pursue it with his wife. There is a difference between spending 30 years on 1 thing and spending 30 years doing 1 year worth of work on something. Diving in deep in an area enables exposure to adjacencies and pick places to spread out. If you haven’t spent time branching out, you will have more difficulty. Listen to Steven’s examples. There are very few things that have in return in terms of looking at that next thing / next skillset. At the end of the day, there is not a lot of difference in the types of jobs Steven has had. There are levels of things, but he still leverages things he learned back at the police department. Nick makes the connection between this conversation and the premise of Range by David Epstein. Be careful ascribing motive to situations where we can only see behaviors (i.e. someone in the same field for many years). 10:45 It’s harder to make a change after doing something for 31 years than if you did it for 30 years. It’s never too late to start! It is tough to argue against the current state. We do not often evaluate the risk of staying where we are. This is a challenge in having a DevOps conversation as well. When exactly will the tipping point be for an organization? John has heard the phrase that we underestimate our ability to see 6 months in the future and overestimate our ability to see 5 years into the future. There will always be factors external to our organization’s control. Ask yourself what you are doing to put yourself in the best place for tomorrow. A thought from Pat McNamara If you were cloned today, could you tomorrow kick your clone’s butt? That is what you train for. From a career standpoint, will you be more skilled and capable tomorrow than your clone from today? Steven doesn’t have to beat John or Nick out for a role or get more skilled than Kelsey Hightower or Donovan Brown. But he does need to be better today than he was yesterday. Joseph Griffiths had mentioned one hour per day can help you accomplish just this. There are no shortcuts. Consider systems over goals. Setup a system – a little code today, a little tomorrow, etc. Setting a goal to accomplish something in 6 months could lead to procrastination (i.e. a goal to write a C# program). Listen to Steven’s take on this, and consider "what’s good enough for today to make progress." "It’s not that I need to be perfect tomorrow. I need to be a little bit better than I was today." – Steven Murawski John says Steven gets the full Nerd Journey bingo for his mantra of Process over Outcomes Steven reads and listens to many sources. It is eerie how similar they are. Steven mentioned Manager Tools, which of course made John happy. Much of the stuff they say tracks well with what others in radically different areas. The terms may be different, but it is still similar. Steven makes some additional book recommendations here. Pragmatic Thinking and Learning. Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management The patterns we build to work with and interact with software are not so different from those familiar models built to work with people. There are relationships between all these fields of study. Not everything maps to manufacturing, but much of it does. "There is nothing new under the sun." – Ecclesiastes 1:9 When we look at things in a different way, it feels new. John remembers hearing "do something every day" from a Jerry Seinfeld documentary. Stand up comedians take a systematic approach to getting better as well. Analogies are not great for convincing people. It’s more of a tool to help you learn. The job of a sales rep is to build relationships, which Steven sees as hard. He would much rather do a random list of difficult tasks than make cold calls. "It’s not the tool. It’s the system. I’ve tried all the tools. But I have to stick with a system." – Steven Murawski Steven likes the mantra behind Getting Things Done, but you have to do the work to make the system work. None of the systems will fix you. This is the idea behind changing patterns. Sometimes we have to not care as much about a particular thing. The thing about systems is you do not have to succeed every day, but you do get better and more effective over time. 36:30 – A Podcaster and Community Manager When Steven got into IT, he consumed all possible resources. One of the podcasts he found early on was called A Couple of Admins Podcasting. He remembers giving the hosts (Keith and Rich) some feedback at one point and was invited to be a guest on the show for an episode. Steven was invited to be a regular host. With 3 hosts, the name no longer truly fit, so after running a podcast, they ended up with Mind of Root. Steven used the podcast as a venue for talking to numerous people across the industry. For example, they got Tom Limoncelli on the show at one point to talk about one of his books. Due to job changes for some of the hosts, the podcast fizzled out. The show was about different technologies. The need to have something to talk about on the show gave Steven a reason to dig into "what’s next." A lot of Steven’s career is a result of what he has gained from the tech community. He feels it part of his responsibility to keep putting things back to help others build skills, learn new things, and find the next job that makes them happy. John mentioned giving back to the community is what we wanted to do with Nerd Journey. It’s a little selfish in that we do it to conserve our own thoughts and ideas. But the giving back part is the sharing of lessons / missteps. Steven was also manager of a PowerShell community around the same time of getting into podcasting. He had been active in the PowerShell community since it was in beta. There was the .NET community, some SysAdmin user groups (though sporadic), some programming language-specific communities; they wanted to provide a centralized area for people looking for PowerShell blog posts, forum content, and related podcasts. Don Jones (a fellow PowerShell MVP) was one of the drivers behind the creation of this community (and the formation of powershell.org). After a while, the community fizzled, and powershell.org came along to help steward a sense of community and organize various events, etc. Steven was kind of thrown into the community by some well meaning friends. He learned a lot about what works and what does not from a community standpoint. Steven spent time in several different communities in practice starting with the PowerShell community. This got him speaking opportunities, chances to talk to product teams, chances to do training, etc. The stuff for LOPSA got him exposed to a number of in-person conferences at which he would do PowerShell trainings. This is where he got to know the folks at Stack Overflow, which then led to a job down the road. One of the folks there took his training class. The connections built at these events built awareness and his network at the same time. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
37 minutes | 4 months ago
A Career Journey Through the Microsoft Ecosystem with Steven Murawski, Part 1
Welcome to episode 105 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we talk to Steven Murawski’s career journey through the Microsoft ecosystem. Original Recording Date: 11-17-2020 Topics – Steven Murawski of Microsoft 02:32 – Meet Steven Murawski Steven is a Principal Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. The Cloud Advocate team’s mission is to help people out in the community be successful with Azure – regardless of tooling, company size, or person’s role. Steven focuses more on DevOps type tasks with Microsoft. His background is split between development and operations and tries to bridge between the product teams at Microsoft and the greater community. This enables him to give feedback and be a voice of community members to influence products. This is not confined to Azure DevOps specifically. It’s anything Azure and anything in the DevOps space related to it. We’re talking about anything involved in going from business idea to business value from initial story and product ideas throughout the process. Steven’s journey into IT set him up well to journey into DevOps. This (IT) is his 3rd career. That previous experience set him up well to do what he does today. This involves working with folks in Marketing, Product Management, and other areas. If we don’t all work together, our organization will not be as successful and functional as it could be. 08:01 – Steven’s Journey He owned a garden center / flower shop for 8 years and then went back to school to become a police officer. At the police department Steven worked as a clerk, a dispatcher, an auxiliary officer, and his boss eventually found out he knew something about computers. When he was a business owner, it was mainly Quickbooks and Excel. At the police department he was able to dip his toe into a number of different areas. DevOps wasn’t something super popular in the 2005 – 2006 time frame. Ultimately Steven’s goal was to become a police officer. He worked as a clerk at the police department and other jobs while going to school. Steven talked about seeing the flow of paperwork through courts, observing prisoner transports and exchanges with other police departments, and he was able to see the flow of work through the entire organization. All of this business process flow observation and knowledge made him so much more effective when transitioning to work as an IT person for the police department. Some of the knowledge and the idea of learning how technology enables the business transferred easily to other roles. Steven mentions reading The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt, which made all of this "click." There’s another audiobook called Beyond The Goal in which Goldratt talks about organizations adopting technology to diminish some limitation, but they rarely go back to evaluate the business process that exists to deal with that limitation. Steven mentions the police department adopting a computer aided dispatch and record management and having to analyze every single process (why they were doing it, whether the software allowed them to change it, if they needed new software capabilities, etc.). This is the missing key we get in DevOps. If we don’t change processes adopted to deal with the fact that the technology did not exist previously, we cannot realize the true benefits that DevOps / scripting / whatever capability we’re trying to adopt. At the public safety software company where Steven later worked, his title (Director of Research and Development) did not indicate all of his responsibilities. Steven did Pre-Sales, Post-Sales, training, etc. He spoke both geek and cop and was able to do translating. He helped customers analyze processes to see what could be improved. As he would do this, he got a real appreciation of the role of a Pre-Sales Engineer. Even as he went on into other roles at Chef and Microsoft, he really enjoyed being a part of these conversations to see how the end state changed. Many times companies were not realizing the value / outcomes that other organizations were talking about. This gave him a very good appreciation of what customers were going through and ways to provide better direction. Listen to Steven’s story about when he was at Chef but had someone call him regarding PowerShell Desired State Configuration for advice. He was able to speak frankly about what someone would learn from going down the PowerShell route, when they would run into challenges, and how it would set them up to adopt other tools. If Steven had not been through analyzing changes in organizations with technology adoption, he would not have earned as much credibility in the next discussions. Steven worked for a data services company (Edgenet) because they had the ability to implement and work with cool stuff because it was cool. If there was a pre-production build from Microsoft, they were running it in production well before the release dates and working with Microsoft to test and give feedback on it. In this case, there was not an immediate tie back to business capabilities. He was, however, able to work with people in a number of different departments. This allowed him to build strong relationships and get IT Operations into the conversation much sooner. He started by attending developer meetings (in listen only mode first) and eventually began talking to the developers about some of the platforms and capabilities they (IT) had. Opening the dialogue enabled developers to be more collaborative. They pointed fingers less after this experience. Steven’s desire to be in the developer meetings were fairly well received. He knew a number of them from the .NET user community. 26:06 – A Late Start and The Need to Catch Up Steven realized he had many years to catch up on when he got into IT (starting around the age of 30). He read everything he could. For example, one of his favorite books was The Practice of Systems and Network Administration by Tom Limoncelli. Interestingly enough, Steven got to work with Tom and recruited him to Stack Overflow. Steven was also listening to a number of podcasts. He pointed out one of the first podcasts he came across on Systems Administration. He also looked for local user groups to join. There happened to be .NET User Group, a LOPSA (League of Professional Systems Administrators) Chapter, and not much else. Being into PowerShell, Steven enjoyed the .NET User Group. He would often learn new things and eventually started doing talks at these groups. In entering the IT field late, Steven wanted to do something to distinguish himself from others in the field. Giving presentations seems to be a willingness many people do not have. Steven leaned on previous experience in drama to help him get over the fear of public speaking. Steven observed that many people believe they do not know enough about a topic to give a presentation to peers. This leads to impostor syndrome. Steven references a book by Scott Adams – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. In the book there is the idea of talent stacks. Steven was technically competent, relatively well-known in communities, and a willingness to try new things. He never really had a fear of change. It was always "go learn this or that" because he felt he was behind. No knowledge was off the table with so many things to learn out there. Steven built a base that allowed distinguishing him from others. He was able to transition from the role at the public safety software company to his Systems Administration role at Edgenet (a senior role that allowed him to work on a series of different projects). He wasn’t afraid to just jump in and learn new things because he felt had to in order to catch up.
47 minutes | 4 months ago
Nick’s 3-year check-in as a VMware Solution Engineer Part 2
Welcome to episode 104 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we have the second half of our discussion with Nick on his 3 years at VMware. Original Recording Date: 12-18-2020 Topics – Nick’s 3-Year Check-in at VMware, Part 2 1:10 – Let the Grilling Begin Last week we heard Nick’s reflection on 3 years at VMware. This week is John’s chance to grill him! What has made Nick stay for 3 years? He still loves the company, what it does, and the technology it makes. He still appreciates the time using VMware technologies as a customer and has enjoyed seeing the growth of the company since that time and since he joined. There are many career opportunities inside the company not available to Nick when he worked as a customer. The work is dynamic, which Nick loves. The people he works with appreciate what he does, are helpful, and the managers have been very encouraging and supportive. 3:19 – A Follow up on Feedback from the One-Year Check-In See Episode 21 and Episode 22 for Nick’s first year reflection. What about the adjustment from going to an office and working from home? What has this adjustment been like for Nick and his family? Nick’s daughter did not like when he had to travel for several days. She now appreciates that he does not have to leave town very much. Nick tries to communicate his schedule in advance (even during the times he only traveled locally to visit customers / go into the office) to ensure there’s no conflict with family schedules or that things can be adjusted accordingly. What about the daily routine? Now it is all work from home. In the early days there were full days at home, partial days at home, entire days traveling (locally or in another state). Just before the pandemic there was less travel out of state and more within driving distance. There is still an element of catch up when you’re out visiting customers and traveling. Now that he is 100% work from home, we plan accordingly to engage customers as needed. How has Nick adjusted to the career strategy? He was so focused at getting into VMware in the beginning that he lost sight of what was next. Nick has had conversations with each of his managers to get feedback on his strengths / where they think he should go. Some of the advice was don’t specialize too early. Become very good at what you do not, and take that specialty into something more technical. See also Episode 26 on the differences between being a generalist and a specialist. Nick has also thought about Technical Marketing since he enjoys blogging and presenting. But he also likes meeting with customers. He likes mentoring others. Nick says his wife thinks he would be a great manager, but he is not sure that is what he wants (not sure if it is his Area of Destiny). Each manager has told Nick he could certainly do management if he desired with the proper training. Right now, he is riding the track of staying on the generalist SE (Solution Engineer) path. Nick is focused on deliberate practice in this SE role but also taking a step back to figure out how he can broaden knowledge about tech in general but also get deeper in certain areas of the portfolio. Perhaps certifications would be a good help here. John says it sounds like Nick has a good philosophical basis for his career. The tactical next things to shoot for maybe are not as important. The concrete next step / short term goal of progressing up the SE ladder sounds like the way to go. Nick likes the idea of staying fluid in future plans (allowing himself to fall into something new if it is the right way to go) but focus on getting better every day. What did Nick have to learn about the hard way? Some technical and business leader personas were very new to Nick. There were times when he got very nervous (and felt a lot of pressure) about having conversations with these folks. He eventually decided not to be afraid to mess up and make mistakes because he knows it will happen. Too much pressure before one of these conversations doesn’t help. Nick wants to define success in terms of something he can control rather than the outcomes. John mentioned having to do research on what C-level folks care about and how important it was to know this going into the conversation. It’s not really products. Seeking to understand is a great approach. What has it been like to experience the growth and change at VMware over these years? Some products are now SaaS and on-premises. Despite the same features, they have different license models. You have to know which one will be better for the customer. Each product is a wealth of information. The experience of getting educated in each area is like spinning plates. It can be challenging to stay up to date in all areas. Nick has probably studied up more than needed in certain cases. John mentioned finding the right level of depth is difficult. Some of the learning came from finding the answers to questions from customers (out of necessity). These can also be good opportunities to learn a customer’s business better. What about the philosophy of training and balancing the internal skills training with external interests? Nick points this out as an opportunity for improvement. There is still a quarterly week of enablement. There are live trainings and recorded trainings, some optional and some required. Customer facing activities are the priority. The balance is hard to keep. What about interaction with the larger account team? Think of Nick as the technical quarterback of the account. He works with other internal groups and pulls them in at the right time and for the right purpose. This requires some kind of synchronization meeting with the specialist teams. You try to make the right call for engaging these specialists. Nick thinks of it like this… Do the right thing for the customer. Be helpful to internal teammates. One way to do that is getting them involved to help when valuable to the customer, the account team, and the specialists themselves. Many customers don’t often realize how big their account team is. How has the business of technology influence been for Nick? Some of it comes from exploring the VMware tech and using it himself. Nick has, for example, shared his explorations with Azure Functions and Tanzu Observability with customers. Having a body of work to support what you’re talking about helps provide credibility. Influence can also come from pushing people forward in their career. This can come from helping others build skills and encouraging them to share with the greater community. Nick initially had some discomfort in being perceived as being in a Sales role as opposed to being looked at as a technologist. How has that gone? Nick tries to operate with integrity in all circumstances. As John has stated previously, the Solution Engineering organization does sit within a greater Sales organization but is separate. Nick has to be concerned about whether the technology will solve the problem the customer has, if it will work, if the right version and licenses were selected, etc. Part of this is a due diligence to the company and the customer. Being a truth teller is important. 28:50 – Culture Check-In How has the change in teams, managers, and segments helped Nick’s career? He likes to learn how others do the job, how they interact with their customers, how they interact with others internally, etc. Aggregating the bright spots / what is working for others can be adapted to your own style so you’re still you. These changes have helped build a support network of peers who are willing to help. Big time collaborations have often get kicked off by sharing with teammates and getting to know one another on a personal level. Nick shares the story of a teammate who vetted an idea he had for VMworld that was eventually accepted. What about manager changes specifically? It’s good to get those different perspective from leaders and hear what they believe is important. The coaching methodology has remained the same from management. You just have to get used to the manager’s style, the metrics they want to collect, how involved they want to be, etc. Adapting to someone else helps you grow. 32:51 – Reflections from before VMware Nick wishes he would have been able to describe the benefits of his projects to the company. He’s not sure he was as attentive to what leadership cared about as he should have been. Nick was not reading a lot of books outside of work at that time. He wishes he had done more reading and been less consumed by tactical things. He participated in the Spiceworks community, but he’s become better after job changes at connecting in the vExpert community, on Twitter, and in other communities. Nick wishes he would have spun up a home lab back then, but he never seemed to have the time (or the resources for that matter). How could Nick have made it to VMware faster? Nick was not sure how much he was going to like IT when he first fell into it and definitely was not mindful of all the options available in the field. The folks that Nick started connecting with outside of work most of the time did the same job as him. He didn’t have the kind of exposure to the types of roles that existed and should have spent time asking people about the career opportunities available. He got so busy that he never really wondered if he was on the right path / if the job at the time was what he wanted to be doing. Advice for the would be SE? Talk to people who do the job at different companies because it does not mean the same thing everywhere. Know the full scope of what it is. Make sure you are comfortable with the technical depth. You need to believe in the products / services your employer provides. You should like working with people. The SE job isn’t for you if you don’t like interacting with people. Reach out to Nick or John if you need help / advice! The life of a SE is hard to describe. No one can be told what the matrix is. For anyone out there, take some time to step out of the day-to-day and spend time in reflection about what you do, what you like about it, where you work, etc. John cites how important it is to have a written job description for the role you have. These are all things we probably just didn’t take time to think about. The best time to plant a tree is 15 years ago, and the next best time is today. It’s never too late to start. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
32 minutes | 4 months ago
Nick’s 3-year check-in as a VMware Solution Engineer Part 1
Welcome to episode 103 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss Nick’s 3-Year Check-in at VMware, part 1. Original Recording Date: 12-18-2020 Topics – Nick’s 3-Year Check-in at VMware, Part 1 1:05 – Revisiting Nick’s Journey at VMware We’re picking up a topic we started back in Episode 1. That episode covered Nick’s first week at VMware. This episode marks 3 years for him at VMware. Nick wrote this blog post describing how his career at VMware started in late 2017. 2:32 – Still Living the Dream Nick started in December 2017 in the commercial segment at VMware as a Systems Engineer (or Solution Engineer as it later became), supporting 3 salespeople as their pre-Sales technical counterpart. Each of the salespeople had territories containing hundreds of customers across North Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Nick would travel to Oklahoma probably once per month. The frequent trips out of town were relatively new. Even when in meetings all day while on the road, e-mails continued to come in that needed to be addressed. Separating urgent from important was a requirement for keeping up and getting enough rest. When not visiting customers, Nick would work from home. The team of SE peers Nick joined was made of people scattered across the south central United States. The team was extremely welcoming. Nick felt comfortable calling other team members when he needed help navigating the VMware organization. Much like teaching math and working the help desk, Nick loved the dynamic aspect of SE life in this segment. We might not talk to the same customer very many times (maybe only the very top tier). There may not be a lot of time to do research on the customers before meetings. Many times Nick would meet with people who had a similar background to his as a customer (not always but much of the time). This made it easy to relate to what these customers did every day. Work-life balance was off for a little while. This took some figuring out with travel, the need to be responsive to customers, and the need to support other teammates. Nick also had to learn when to utilize internal specialists in customer conversations. 9:44 – A Change in Segment In February 2019, Nick transitioned into the Enterprise segment. He moved from supporting 3 salespeople to 1 and from supporting almost 1000 customers to supporting 3. These customers were different. We’re talking global companies with technology teams in different locations and business units who might not talk to one another. It’s almost like many customers in one. This involved a number of transitions. Nick supported a (new to him) salesperson, team of SE peers, set of customers, a new manager. If you follow the podcast you probably got a clue as to when this happened (since we have done shows on some of these topics). Nick didn’t understand how he could possibly stay busy with just 3 customers but found out quickly they were plenty to keep him very busy! In this segment, Nick did not have to travel as much out of state. Most customer visits were within driving distance. One customer would require out of state travel every now and then. There were still days when Nick would be gone all day (out visiting customers). He had to plan gaps in the day and stops for meals and was very intentional about it. See EP 102 for some tips on how to make better decisions at restaurants. Nick’s new team of SE peers were all local to Dallas / Fort Worth except one who lived in Austin and visited Dallas pretty often. Nick’s manager was in Dallas rather than completely remote (the case during the Commercial days) and liked to come in to the VMware office a few days per week. Nick began coming into the office as well to get face time with the boss and teammates. The extended team of specialists would come to the office as well. On occasion, there were customer meetings at the VMware office. In Enterprise, the number of resources (i.e. specialists) at Nick’s disposal went up exponentially. He had to learn how to use these resources wisely. This segment seemed to bring with it increased pressure. There were meetings with high ranking technical officials who shape the overall strategy. If you’re not used to communicating with these types of people, it can be a challenge. Check out the episodes with Brad Tompkins for more on this challenge: Journey to Executive Leadership with Brad Tompkins of VMUG Board and Executive Relationships with Brad Tompkins of VMUG Larger organizations had Enterprise Architecture teams, Technology Review Boards, VPs of SaaS and other red tape that was not present in the commercial segment. The challenges and mindsets of these teams was pretty new and not as relatable. 19:37 – Reflecting on Other Changes VMware continues to grow as does its portfolio, whether via organic growth or acquisition. That means more to learn as a generalist! As for extracurricular activities, Nick has continued as co-leader of the Dallas / Fort Worth SpiceCorps but ended up missing squeezing in a meeting for Q4. Nick has been more involved in VMUG this year. In fact, he and John did a career session for the VMUG December Virtual Event. This year Nick co-presented with Mark Foley at VMworld. You can watch the recording of that session here. Nick has been trying to write one blog per month but doesn’t always hit that mark. He did start up a blog series on Azure Functions and Tanzu Observability to learn something new and its ties into a VMware product. This involved writing code, learning Azure DevOps, and CI / CD. It is important to get outside the vendor bubble. Nick continues to remind himself of this. Nick also joined the DFW Azure Meetup group. He was recently accepted into the CTO Ambassador program at VMware. This opens a number of new doors within the company. Nick will have to report back on the types of projects in which he is involved. This will require better time management. The changes in segment and change in customer base has helped Nick develop a very wide network both inside VMware and beyond. When Nick talks to customers, he tries to encourage them to be a part of online communities and do presentations. Nick has been thinking a lot about mentoring. When he started at VMware, he was given a dedicated mentor (a peer you can ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking your boss). In wanting to provide this help to others, Nick has worked with the Academy SE program to provide mentorship to folks learning how to become Solution Engineers. It’s extremely rewarding. John has some questions for Nick, but you’ll have to wait until next time to hear the answers! Contact us if you need help on the journey.
59 minutes | 5 months ago
Food, Life, and Work with Randall Cook
Welcome to episode 102 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss our relationships with food, life, and work in the second half of our conversation with Randall Cook. Original Recording Date: 10-29-2020 Topics – Food, Life, and Work 04:07 – It’s All Part of the Practice Randall is a coach. He does not treat people but rather coaches them (and helps people help themselves). It starts with gaining clarity on what people want out of engaging with Randall. Many want to lose 10 pounds, for example. While this is a goal, it is not the destination. There is usually something behind that people want. Goals should align with your vision for the life you want. Staying focused on a goal can make you obsessed with reaching it to the point where you forget why you are chasing it. John shares a good illustration of the difference between a goal and a metric used to represent a goal. Is your goal just a metric? Randall has some detailed questionnaires which allow for objective assessment of where a person is. As an example, one of the questions is "how often do you buy your food?" Buying less often while good for budgets may not be so good for nutrients. After going through the assessment together with a client, Randall works with the person to determine 1-3 things to change (no more than 3). When trying to make changes to your life and your habits, it can get overwhelming very quickly. Changing too many things at once may cause you to hit a trigger you did not realize existed. 46:20 – Food is a big trigger for people. Also, food can be very emotional. Randall gives the example of a professor who wakes up thinking about making coffee. John shares a story about a specific kind of tea reminding him of his mother. For some people turkey could remind them of fights around the Thanksgiving table, while it may remind others of being at home. Without an acknowledgement of food associations, people cannot successfully change their eating habits. Randall mentions his struggles with soda. 16:46 – Food Choices Aren’t Right or Wrong One of the biggest things for Randall was realizing his food choices are not right or wrong. But, think about whether that choice will help achieve the goal you want. You can get trapped in a cycle of feeling remorse after eating something you feel you shouldn’t and unconsciously seek out ways to make yourself feel bad. Get clear on what you want out of your life, and then understand what the food you eat will do to you. When Randall got sick, there were days where he would sit at work and accomplish nothing because his brain just was not working / he could not think straight. The afternoon slump is real, but with the wrong choice you can push it to all day. Think about what you want from your food. Randall does not believe there are wrong choices. He shares the example of using donuts and coffee to cope with high stress near the end of his time at the architecture firm and paying the price as a result. John mentions using conscious choice rather than operating on autopilot. If you want your food to provide energy or help you perform optimally, you must become aware of what it does to you. Millions of chemical reactions happen inside our bodies at any given second, and the way they affect us is different for everyone. One way to gain insight here is to keep a food journal – what you eat and when you eat it, what you drink and when you drink it, how you feel during the day (i.e. document energy slumps with specific time of day, other side effects like a cough or an itch). When someone starts working with Randall, he asks them to fill out a 10 day diet log, the kind of exercise they did, how they slept, how bowel movements have been, etc. Part of what Randall looks at is the variety of foods. The average person may only eat about 10 different foods on a regular basis. Looking at this data should present a pattern that can be manipulated carefully. 58:53 – Randall had to go to a holistic doctor at one point. This person identified 5 foods causing him problems – egg yolks, beans, casein, gluten, and solanine (compound found in nightshades). It’s really hard to find food without one of these in it. For example, at Chipotle Randall could have lettuce, rice, and the pork. Limiting foods like this is mentally taxing, and Randall needed support from his wife to stay vigilant. To a large degree, Randall still avoids those foods. He shares different ways he has been able to adapt food choices to eat as cleanly as possible. 29:09 – Foods to Avoid, Tactics to Embrace? Milk in the US is pasteurized (all enzymes killed that would help with digestion) and homogenized (put through tiny filter that slices up all fat cells). Organic food is better for many reasons. You are only as healthy as the food you eat, which is only as healthy as the food it eats. Cattle in the US are typically fed very poor diets to fatten. The amount of fat you need in a diet depends on you (genetic heritage, health, digestion). Fat has two purposes – storing energy and isolating toxins the body cannot dispose of Our choices of what to buy at the supermarket can create a gap in dietary needs. 1:07:49 – Things We Can Do and Eat to Sharpen Mental Acuity There is how much food you eat and what you eat. Too much food means the body has to devote more resources toward digestion. You are trying to manage blood sugar level (insulin). When under a lot of stress, the body converts protein into sugars and spikes insulin. Healthy fats are helpful if you are not under stress. Randall shares a hack with coffee and MCT oil which allows the body to help digest the coffee and boost brain function at the same time. John and Randall talk about the idea of Bulletproof Coffee. 36:59 – Taking Control Getting control of your health starts with awareness…awareness of the choices you’re making and the effect they have on your life. Until you have this, you are basically throwing darts at the wall. John mentioned that this reminds him of the Quantified Self methodology. As you change your diet, eating habits, and sleeping patterns the body will change. And its needs will change. If you’re eating the same way in a few years as you are tomorrow, you probably aren’t helping yourself as much as you might think. Randall mentioned when he saw the holistic doctor he relied on that doctor to "fix it." He was not given the tools to fix it on his own. Randall’s goal as a coach is to give people the tools they need to take control of their lives so they don’t need him any longer. You can do this on your own, but it’s challenging to do without the power of outside eyes. This reminds Nick of the episode on Inner Game of Stress from several weeks ago. 40:51 – Easing Decisions about Food and Closing Thoughts Do your research on restaurants. You cannot wait until you pull up to a drive through to start the research. Most companies have ingredients listed to avoid food allergies which can be found online. Panda Express, for example, has gluten in just about every dish. The teriyaki chicken sauce is made with flour, but you can order it without the sauce. Many people do not want to modify their order. Randall was a picky eater as a kid and did not like to modify his order even then, which still affects him when placing an order today. Put in the work to research restaurants in the area you are likely to visit and what you can eat from them so you don’t have to decide when you drive up / walk in. Optimal grocery shopping would be twice per week for produce. Randall says it’s important to keep grocery shopping a low stress endeavor. If needing to make a second trip in a week would add stress, the return likely is not worth it. When you start getting stressed, you stop digesting food. Don’t watch something stressful before you eat. Don’t watch something too exciting before eating (i.e. something that spikes adrenaline). Digestion starts in the brain with the mental acknowledgement that you are about to take in food. If you are busy watching something, reading something, etc. you may not even taste your food. You may not as a result be producing all the enzymes needed for digestion. The more focused you can be with eating the better. It all starts with becoming aware that there is a problem and then wanting to change it – whether it is career or health. This cannot be forced. Feel free to contact Randall via his Facebook page, on Instagram, or on his website. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
45 minutes | 5 months ago
Big Career Changes and Reluctant Entrepreneurship with Randall Cook
Welcome to episode 101 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss making big career changes and reluctant entrepreneurship. Original Recording Date: 10-29-2020 Topics – The Architect Who Built Something New 4:22 – Introductions Our guest this week is Randall Cook, owner and founder of ShieldWolf Wellness. Randall is a recovering Architect who has transitioned to Integrated Wellness Coach. Randall worked as an Architect (the building / construction type) mainly focused in the healthcare space (hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics, etc.). 6:14 – Some Background Randall studied for 7 years in college to be an Architect. After working the job he landed for 2-3 years, he had some health issues. On top of this, his wife also had some health issues. Despite enjoying the company and the work, it was extremely demanding. In the first few years, when Randall took vacation, he made it up after the fact in time needed to get caught up on work while away. The company was very lean on manpower so they could keep the workforce even in times of a lull in business. This was a highly stressful situation for Randall. Randall noticed if he wanted to progress in his career (which he did), it would take a great deal more time away from his family. As such, he began looking for something else. He initially looked into Security (doing surveys of buildings, etc.). For 6 months, Randall tried networking to find a way in but had little luck. After hearing this new line of work could require heavy travel, he realized it was not want he wanted (different field, same problems). Once again he began searching for something else. Randall calls himself a reluctant entrepreneur. Three years ago he never would have expected to be where he is now. Randall never really wanted to be his own boss but eventually found the flexibility he desired was only possible via this path. Because of the severe health trouble, Randall visited a number of doctors without a real solution / understanding of what was happening. He did not want a quick fix but was looking for a real fix. After devouring as much information as possible through podcasts and other sources, an opportunity with [C.H.E.K. Institute](INSERT LINK) presented itself. After prayer and thoughtful consideration, this seemed like a good way to get a foothold into a new industry that fit with Randall’s passions. CHEK stands for Collective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology, which integrates movement and lifestyle. 8:28 – Randall’s interest in this did not peak until he got sick. Though never really considering himself in bad shape before this, he recounts how he kept going until it became a crisis. 13:35 – Walking away from Investment in Architecture It was a complicated decision. Architecture was never a passion of Randall’s, and he even though about quitting part of the way through due to the intensity of the program. To really enjoy it he would have needed to throw himself in at the expense of his family, which was the big decider. He spent his entire career (7.5 years) at the same company with much of the same management and co-workers. The company had a reputation of being a great place to learn architecture but a terrible place to be an architect (very high stress environment). The company ran lean to ensure people were not laid off. It seemed like they took on a lot of small projects that were not needed but which cost them the ability to produce some larger projects. After spending so much time there, Randall could not see himself moving elsewhere and stepping back in intensity while feeling like he was doing the right job. John speaks to staffing levels being an issue in an area outside of technology (something we have not really heard on the show until now). Randall said there was a lot of turnover at the company, which is a reflection of company culture. At one point the company was acquired. 18:49 – Looking into Other Options By the time he had left his job as an Architect, Randall had been doing studies with the CHEK Institute for about 16 months and had two certifications under his belt (holistic lifestyle coach and integrated movement science, each level 1). This took a great deal of extra effort on his own time, and it was tough trying to accomplish this without taking away from family time. In March / April of 2019, Randall’s employer allowed him to work 4 days per week instead of 5 (cut back to 32 hours). This allowed more time for study and focus on starting his business. Randall mentions the ramp time in the Architecture field can really take time when someone new joins the company. Short projects might take 9 months from start to end of construction (which is an accelerated timeline), and processes may be different at different firms. John references his own ramp time as a result of the move to Google Cloud despite having previous industry expertise. Check out this episode for more details. 22:42 – A Reluctant Entrepreneur The transition has been a struggle, especially in 2020. Randall had a number of history blocks which needed to be overcome (ideas about his own abilities and capabilities). Getting started was a challenge. When you’re telling yourself a story you’re not even aware of that "you can’t do this," then you don’t even start. Nick referenced a recent video on mindset he watched from the Shieldwolf Wellness page. Randall said one of the reasons he likes the CHEK school of thought is that it starts with mindset (what you want to do and why). Keep in mind how badly you want something, and continue to tell yourself failure is not bad. This is especially challenging for the self-defeating perfectionist, and Randall shares his struggles here. He eventually had to adopt a MacGyver mindset. "What do I have and what can I do with it?" Randall’s biggest enemy as an architect was his perception of his own competence in the field (despite others saying he was very good). Things didn’t seem to turn out the way he had pictured they would in his mind. He felt he was often only a step away from disaster. It took some expensive mistakes to break this cycle. After the mistakes were made, he was still looked at as a competent architect by his employer. John shares his theory about employers who budget for employee mistakes (i.e. error budgets). Randall mentioned even the owners at the architecture firm provided encouragement after some costly mistakes. 34:20 – Telling the Family Randall said he got a good job right out of school (at the architecture firm) and was given a raise every year without needing to ask for it. It was high stress and long hours. Some nights it might only be a few hours of sleep near the end of a project to ensure it was completed on time. With his wife’s poor health, the two wanted something more for their family. Randall mentioned his kids crying every day when he would go to work and thinking "this can’t be right. This can’t be the way life is supposed to be." Randall’s wife was 100% supportive of his desire to make a change. In many ways being at that job (with the architecture firm) was slowly killing him (emotionally and physically). Something in the office where Randall worked seemed to aggravate his allergies. For a period of about a year, he had to fly to Colorado every other week. It was challenging to stay hydrated, and the schedule was very tight. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
53 minutes | 5 months ago
One-Hundredth Episode – Reflections on Career Podcasting
Welcome to episode 100 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss making it to 100 episodes. Original Recording Date: 12-06-2020 Topics – Episode 100 1:02 – Reflecting on The Beginning John pitched Nick on the idea to start a podcast right before he began working for VMware (November / December 2017). The original thesis was following Nick through the transition from IT Operations to a Technical Pre-Sales role at a vendor. Thinking back, this was probably just a couple of podcast topics and not an entire podcast thesis. John had been the co-host of the VMware Communities Roundtable Podcast for a while and had thought about ways to improve his VMware social footprint. He had maintained a blog and frequented the Spiceworks community with some measure of success. Nick’s transition to VMware reminded John of his transition from IT Practitioner to Pre-Sales and made him think of those in IT who might need some guidance on where they could take their career. In a roundabout way, this eventually helped form our mantra to give people the career advice we wish we had been given earlier in our careers. Some of our first topics were going to be SE tools Tech opinions and news (VMware and other industry news) If you’re thinking about expanding your sphere of influence, starting a podcast is a great way to do it! Being part of this podcast has allowed John and Nick to meet and learn from people they otherwise likely would not have. Doing this together has also strengthened their friendship. John started attending a podcasting meetup and heard about the concept of pod fade. 10:41 – Fun with Statistics Without knowing the stats before we recorded the show, can John guess the top 10 episodes by download? John’s Guesses Something from the Management Series / Leadership Charlie Nichol Brad Pinkston Brad Tompkins Paul Green Specific Guests Mike Burkhart Josh Fidel Cody de Arkland Yadin Porter de Leon Al Rasheed Top 10 by the Numbers 10 (191 downloads) – Episode 85: Impostor Syndrome, Anxiety, and Effective Listening with Cody de Arkland 8 (192 downloads) – Episode 69: Effective Remote Work Practices 8 (192 downloads) – Episode 42: Ethan Banks and the Journey to Career Self-Awareness 7 (194 downloads) – Episode 63: Managing Online Communities and Career Path Pt. 2 with Nic Tolstoshev 6 (201 downloads) – Episode 65: Your Position Has Been Eliminated with Mike Burkhart Part 2 5 (210 downloads) – Episode 45: Nerd Journey 045: Career Conversations With Your Manager 4 (216 downloads) – Episode 67: Three-Month Check-In as a Google Cloud Customer Engineer with John White, Part 2 3 (220 downloads) – Episode 64: Your Position Has Been Eliminated with Mike Burkhart 2 (225 downloads) – Episode 68: When Life Disrupts Your Work-Life Balance 1 (272 downloads) – Episode 66: Three-Month Check-In as a Google Cloud Customer Engineer with John White, Part 1 Earliest episode in the top 15 (coming in at # 12) was Episode 1: Nerd Journey 001: Career Advancement and Nick’s First Week at VMware The only episode number that had part A and part B (Episode 18 – each part with guest Joseph Griffiths). Before this episode, we had released 111 episodes with 16,470 downloads total and an average of 148 downloads per episode. The episode with the lowest number of downloads (92) was Bonus 2. Underrated Episodes John’s list Segments on burnout Keiran Shelden Episode 82 on Mental Health Episode 68 on Work-Life Balance Episode 90 – Inner Game of Stress Episode 91 – Career Stress and the Health Mind Platter Episode 78 – Burnout and Recovery with Josh Fidel Episodes 37 and 38 with John Hildebrand Episode 27 with Ramzi Marjaba Episode 57 – Personal Finance Career check-ins Episode 1 – Nick’s First Week at VMware Episode 10 – Nick’s 7 month check-in Episodes 21 and 22 – Nick’s 1-year check-in at VMware Episodes 23 and 24 – John’s 3-year check-in at VMware Episodes 66 and 67 – John’s 3-month check-in at Google Cloud Episode 98 and 99 – John’s 1-year check-in at Google Cloud Kelly Schroeder – Episodes 58 and 59 Nick’s list The Amy Hervey episodes (Episode 60 and 61) The Unexpected Career Opportunities series that began with Episode 53 and went through Episode 57 Episode 19 – Dreaming in Bands Episode 20 – Area of Destiny The Jimmy Tassin episodes – 34 and 35 John’s favorites are somewhat biased toward some of our most recent episodes because they are easier to remember. But every single conversation has been helpful to our careers. The only guest to appear on 3 episodes was Josh Fidel. 26:24 – Lessons Learned from 100 Episodes Set a dedicated time each week to do planning and recording. We can sometimes put content together independently, but we often need to collaborate and finalize. The launch comes back to John’s mind. It took us a long time to launch…probably much longer than we wanted. Many of our practice episodes were WAY too long and had to be chopped up into small pieces. Some of our "segments" didn’t fit the topic we landed on for the podcast. We learned that 90 minutes is way too long. We probably still skew a little on the long side (kissing an hour regularly and should probably be 30-45 minutes). The barrier to launch became a mental block for John. He knew editing wouldn’t be too bad, but the technology platform selection turned into a rabbit hole. None of that stuff really mattered to the podcast. We really needed to own the domain and the RSS feed. John’s podcast meetup group talked through the editing process and different ideas on that. Some encouraged not editing at all. John didn’t want editing to be a 40 hour per week job. We still struggle with not using filler / weak words during our dialogues. We wanted to sound more energetic and decided on less scripting for the show. Most people starting a podcast ask about the technology platforms, microphones, etc. We use some pretty inexpensive ATR-2100 microphones that are good enough. We use Squadcast.fm for recording our shows and Audacity for editing after the fact. We publish to WordPress with the Blubrry plugin. Our issue has been more process than technology. Will we ever run out of ideas? No way! Do you have an idea for a guest whose point of view we need on the show? Please tell us. 40:55 – The Next 100 Episodes It’s all about the stats…not! Are we being helpful to our listeners? That is the ultimate measure. Nick really likes recruiting people to be on the show and listening to their stories, their perspectives, and their reasons for changes in career. We need more diversity on the podcast (need more female guests – only 3 so far but more in the can). We want to ensure we have enough quality episodes in the can to hit weekly releases. If you have an idea for an episode or a guest, please let us know! John has noticed there are some podcasts in a similar / related genre that might be nice to revisit. IT Reality Podcast The Pre-Sales Collective Follow up with Ramzi Marjaba IT Career Energizer There are many people out there who don’t know they have a story to tell. If you’ve changed jobs a few times, you know something that can help the rest of us. Don’t be shy! John’s favorite show formats… He’s always interesting in learning other perspectives (speaking with guests about their journeys). Discussing books with Nick and our different perspectives, even discussing articles We have not done a career click bait article lately. Maybe it’s time to reboot that! Nick’s all time favorite episode is Episode 9 where John goes into a rant on how to dress for an interview. Nick wishes we had tracked episodes with stingers. Check out the stinger tag search for the full list. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
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