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Nerd Journey Podcast
37 minutes | 7 days 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 | 14 days 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 | 22 days 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 | a month 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 | a month 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 | 2 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.
62 minutes | 2 months ago
One Year as a Google Cloud Engineer Part 2 with John White
Welcome to episode 99 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 part 2 of a discussion we had where Nick asks John to reflect on his first year as a Google Cloud Engineer. Original Recording Date: 11-01-2020 Topics – Google Cloud 1-Year Check-in, Part 2 1:24 – Career in the Cloud This is part 2 of John’s 1-year check-in at Google Cloud. Go back and listen to part 1 if you missed it to get an idea of what John has learned during that time. What are the different advancement levels within the Customer Engineering role at Google Cloud? At Google there are levels. Usually entry level is L3. The levels go up to L7 as individual contributor roles. John thinks the promotion from L4 to L5 is the last one a manager can have sole discretion on, but there is heavier scrutiny for the higher level promotions. This is mostly speculative as John has not been through a promotion cycle just yet. Technical background and complexity of work you are capable of doing consistently continue to raise as one moves up through the levels. There are no specific descriptions for L3 through L7 except Customer Engineer. John mentioned a new role called Enterprise Cloud Architect (a role closely aligned with the Customer Engineer role), and most of those folks are L6 / L7. The job description is different from Customer Engineer, and the engagement model is also different. They just happen to report to the same managers as Customer Engineers. Keep in mind there are options at large companies to progress as an individual contributor which may not be there at smaller companies. It doesn’t have to be Pre-Sales either. What is John’s take on being tied more to cloud services than before? At VMware before John left there were a number of subscription services. Over time, that seems to be happening more and more. One of his favorite products was Wavefront (now named Tanzu Observability by Wavefront). It is a high volume time-series database that can really only be done in the cloud. When you buy something as a service (whether in your own datacenter or elsewhere), the service is owned and operated by a different party but provided to you for consumption. There is this bleeding edge perception of cloud services, but John’s thinking on it has evolved. Cloud services are not inherently bleeding edge / cutting edge. Listen to the examples he gives of services that are useful but aren’t super exciting (O365 / hosted e-mail). Some of the services Google has are a bit earlier in the hype cycle but may require more knowledge to handle. VMware is in this business as well (i.e. services around Kubernetes). Another example would be machine learning. The more these services become commodity, they become more like infrastructure and a bit less glamorous. Cloud companies of all types are focusing on products a little earlier in the maturity cycle. 13:07 – Many people go work for a vendor because they are passionate about the technology. Has John achieved a passion for the technology as a result of his experience after not having used much of the technology coming into Google Cloud? Before working for VMware, John was excited about bringing the technology he wished he could have used as a customer to his customers. Coming into Google Cloud, things like key differentiators of the services offered were not as clear to him. These were things he asked about in the interview process. Once on the inside, John came to better understand. Things like artificial intelligence and machine learning were somewhat "hand wavy" and felt like buzz words. Now John understands what machine learning is, what infrastructure needs to be in place for it to work, why we would want to use machine learning, etc. It was similar for data analytics, data pipelines, etc. These are all valuable when you have the right problem to solve, but one must understand the problem well. John mentioned streaming data analytics and how Wavefront from VMware helps solve this. John and his peers are able to leverage lab environments to learn about the products (how he learns best). Listen to his story about using Google products to create a COVID-19 data tracker. 21:53 – Cultural Changes in the Move to Google The in-office culture required some adjusting, and John came to value it greatly. While he does not miss the commute, he does miss seeing colleagues in person, picking brains, going to lunch with extended team members, etc. When you are new to an organization, this is such a valuable experience. John isn’t sure how he did it at VMware without this. John was able to shadow people and listen in on calls to help him learn and ramp. Over time you start to exercise the right muscles and get better and better. The Sales process was different. It was brand new to John to be assisting a Salesperson in efforts to drive business and to follow through afterward to help drive consumption. If customers do not use a service, everyone is unhappy at the end of a subscription term. There is an element of customer success to the role. Finding additional use cases within an organization for a technology already in use helps with the consumption element and provides more value to the customer. This seems to allow for flexing a different kind of muscle. Many of John’s customers are greenfield customers (i.e. no significant spend with Google Cloud). Only recently has he been involved in the monitoring of consumption. Being involved in hiring interviews is not something he did while at VMware. At Google Cloud, none of the interviewing is done by hiring managers as a general rule. All initial screening and interviews to qualify to get hired at Google is not an area in which hiring managers are involved. Managers get involved later in the process, however. In these initial screenings, interviewers are looking for things like role-related knowledge, general cognitive ability, leadership, and Googlyness. In the role-related knowledge interviews, it is usually two people (front line Customer Engineers) interviewing a prospective Customer Engineer. In cognitive ability interviews, a front-line Customer Engineer is trying to understand a candidate’s thinking and problem solving capabilities. Generally leadership and Googlyness screenings are done by a front-line employee. That’s 4 individual contributors which get involved in the interview process for an incoming Customer Engineer. John says there was a great deal of training internally on this which finally helped him understand what the documents he had read from careers.google.com had indicated (seemed a bit opaque at first). John has coached a number of people through this process. To be clear, John has participated in interviewing candidates who were going only for a Customer Engineer role or the Cloud Architect role (both report to his management chain). If you are looking to change jobs (even if not specifically targeting Google), look at the careers.google.com "How We Hire" section. It matches a number of things we have previously discussed on the show and describes the entire hiring process. Being a part of the interview process and coaching others through it has made John much more equipped to go through hiring processes in the future. The performance review process is very different than he had in previous roles. John does not remember ever preparing specific material for reviews at other companies. He did receive performance feedback from previous managers, but this is very different than Google. Google has a twice yearly formal review process which requires deep introspection. This is something you want to be preparing for on a weekly basis along the way. Asking for peer reviews was extremely helpful. The first time John had to do this, it was extremely intimidating. He was not sure what they were asking him for. Despite his manager explaining it clearly, John still had challenges with the process the first time through. At that point he had only successfully gone through training. It was challenging to describe an impact and accomplishments. This process is not routine (at least for John) an may require he go through it a few more times to get to that point. John has a weekly task on Fridays reminding him to pull information out of meetings during the previous week which would be useful for performance review purposes as well as a reminder of exactly what he needs to target. John was delivered a performance review yearly before VMware but little more than that. Nick shares his experiences with performance reviews (nothing compared to what John has been through at Google). John mentioned the official feedback after everything he prepared came at a later time with categories and ratings. This seemed to be extremely burdensome on management with the need to provide feedback and justifications for ratings to employees. In order to get promoted, John recommends preparing a promotion package which shows you are exceeding the metrics for success in multiple areas. At Google, the feedback ratings are calibrated and standardized across the entire organization (regardless of role, etc.). 41:50 – John’s Professional Development The job description at each level is very clear. On a weekly basis you want to describe how you are meeting or exceeding those job descriptions (i.e. strongly outperforming a specific metric, etc.). Recording things once per week was definitely not something John had previously done but is absolutely the best way to keep your accomplishments top of mind. This is near impossible to do well just before review time. John has learned to document the things he is doing even better now (account plans, customer overviews, etc.). In the past these types of documents had an ever changing format. John chose to create a narrative of his customers with engagement history. Listen to how he describes it and what gets tracked. When reflecting back on it, John isn’t sure why he didn’t do this before. This type of document is also helpful if an account changes hands to another team. Staying organized like this has done wonders to help John keep up with tasks. John has created a documentation web for each customer that he can share with extended team members to get them up to speed easily. Does John see himself moving to a different role within Google at some point? It’s too early to tell. He feels he needs to think of himself as an "Exceeds Expectations" person in a number of areas before considering a move. He has potential to be useful in a management position if company growth would allow for it, but again, he wants to first further sharpen his experience and level of excellence as a Customer Engineer (i.e. history of being a strong performer, influence on specific products, etc.). No specific product / product line has jumped out as an area in which he would like to at some point specialize. But, you never know. See also our Specialist vs. Generalist discussion from episode 26. Is the move to Google what John thought it would be? He didn’t really know what to expect. It is normally traumatic to move from a familiar place to something new. You’re walking away from all of the contacts, internal knowledge, and reflexes for navigating an organization. It has taken a year for John to understand enough about the organization to be effective. It had been long enough since joining VMware that he didn’t remember how traumatic it was to have zero institutional knowledge. John created a document to help others navigate the organization (getting a customer support that is in proof of concept, for example). 53:42 – Closing Remarks John doesn’t want every interaction with his previous teammates to hinge upon how great Google is. John tries to keep in touch with folks every 6 months or so, but it is not officially tracked in a document. Keeping in touch with others can be a challenge when entering a whole new world (new company). John suggests we all get organized early on and begin writing the narrative for your review process. Make it a habit as John wishes he had. Begin tracking your work against requirements in the job description for your role on a consistent basis. Even if there is no formal review process, it would be extremely powerful to give your manager a packet of information you have written. The weekly reflection process may seem like a whip, but get in the habit. Nick wishes he did it more as well. If this is not something you are doing, don’t complain when you do not accomplish what you want. This is something you can control relevant to your performance. If you do it and get nowhere, you have room to complain. If you chose not to do something to make it easier for your manager to help you get that next raise or promotion, it’s on you. If you do in fact get nowhere, there is still a benefit! This process has written / improved your resume for you. Getting hired is like a very structured performance review process. Episode 100 is coming soon! We should do something special for it.
53 minutes | 3 months ago
One Year as a Google Cloud Engineer Part 1 with John White
Welcome to episode 98 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 check in on John’s lessons learned after one year as a Customer Engineer at Google Cloud. Original Recording Date: 10-24-2020 Topics – Google Cloud 1 Year Check-in 1:48 – John’s Role at Google Cloud John is Customer Engineer at Google Cloud (the public cloud provider part of Google), which is a Pre-Sales Technical Engineering role. This type of role can be called different things at different companies – Pre-Sales Engineer, Sales Engineer, etc. Sometimes this is called a Solution Architect (depends on how the company defines it). John acts as the technical front line of the Google Cloud portfolio for a couple of salespeople. He helps with customer conversations about the technology and with territory management. This is similar to the role he had at VMware but has its differences. John supports two salespeople (account reps they are sometimes called) as a stateful technical resource. As for his customer base, he has about 15 ranging in size from startups born in the cloud to extremely large healthcare customers. All of these are in what Google classifies as the Enterprise space (again, may be defined differently than at other vendors). 4:34 – Potential Career Paths and Differences from VMware As John progressed at VMware he focused on excellence in Solution Engineering, but he did not take steps to setup for a career in Technical Marketing, People Management, Product Management, etc. When the opportunity came along to pursue a different role, it made sense to stay on the same path. The customer mix, the organization, and the products are different even though the role itself is quite similar (i.e. difference in the execution of similar tasks). Differences from VMware The Customer Engineers under John’s manager operate in a pooled model. Each person has strengths and weaknesses, and teammates can provide additional support to their peers with some additional freedom to take primary responsibilities when it makes sense. The set of specialists overlays (product specialists) available to engage for help is roughly the same but are specific to Google Cloud products. John gives examples of overlay teams for specific products such as AI, a Security Center of Excellence, G Suite, and others (recent acquisitions like Apigee). John has assimilated to G Suite after initially being hesitant about a move away from Office 365. He does, however, miss Visio. In roles like this, an Engineer is assigned from a compensation standpoint to the quota of a territory which is the same as one or more account representatives. The Engineer is there to act as a technical resource without regard to Sales attainment (compensated differently from a Sales rep). John shares some minor differences in percentages of variable compensation. Quotas at Google Cloud are very different. John’s quota is aligned with his manager’s quota (as are all members of the team), which means there is no disincentive to helping someone else on the team (no variable compensation misalignment among team members). This model promotes collaboration, and it made John feel freer to ask for help. John mentioned in some models, a manager’s compensation could be aligned with an Engineer helping a teammate, but that is not the case for the specific Engineer. The VMware portfolio was always growing and seemed to have expanded to over what someone could expect to know at a 200 level across the board. At Google Cloud it may be larger than that already. To be able to demo every product in the portfolio is probably expecting too much. John gives the examples of Machine Learning, Data Analytics, Data Lakes, and Data Warehousing as areas that were pretty new to him. There are 8 different database engines to understand (type of storage, use case, etc.). It’s tough to compare. The depth of knowledge required to gain proficiency / excellence in each area is a steeper climb at Google Cloud. When he first started at Google Cloud, John had moved from a 100% field role at VMware to working in an office each day. Previously, he had the luxury of visiting the VMware office here and there (maybe once per week), but at Google his commute became 40-50 minutes daily. The benefits were getting face to face with colleagues, which encouraged camaraderie and collaboration. With the need to work completely from home for now, John misses these benefits (especially eating meals together and just talking with others). 24:19 – Industry Experience without Organizational Knowledge The ramp time to really understanding the Google Cloud organization and its processes took longer than John thought. Structures and roles It was difficult to learn which teams do what and when to call them in. It takes time to understand. The Solution Architect role, for example, is more code driven and usually has some kind of product overlay focus (working on product integration, much like a Product Manager at VMware). Google has an Enterprise Cloud Architect role with a very subtle difference from a Customer Engineer. The need to be humble was extremely important as John had to repeatedly ask for guidance from others. He’s documented the rules of engagement to provide for others joining the Google Cloud organization to help them ramp quicker. With enough iterative work here, maybe this document could be something presented to people during orientation. New types of positions within the company are constantly being created (a Solution Manager, for example), adding to the list of things to know. A different customer base There seem to be many more cloud native customers in the Google customer mix. It’s quite different from what John saw at VMware. Some of these companies were born in the cloud (i.e. never bought physical servers, etc.). Many customers are greenfield (not current Google Cloud customers). At VMware, John worked with existing customers throughout his tenure and managing their growth. Some customers may have existing relationships with Amazon or Microsoft as it relates to cloud technologies, but Google Ads may be the only relationship the customer has today with Google. John has to help his customers understand Google’s capabilities and that they are more than just a search company or a company that develops Android. This working with greenfield customers is a muscle that someone in Pre-Sales should practice exercising (i.e. talking to customers about a new line of business your company has is along the same lines). The segment of healthcare At VMware this was a specific vertical segment for healthcare. John is sort of working in the vertical but not in the actual vertical. John’s manager does not focus only on managing Engineers in the healthcare and life science space, for example. The learnings from the healthcare and life science vertical can still be applied as a help in this customer set. Learning the healthcare industry, buying patterns, motivations, etc. was very new for John. With 80% of his customers being in this industry, he is required to bring an opinionated stance on how to use Google’s technology in the space. This is a tremendous growth opportunity. A new product portfolio John was nervous about this at first. It has taken a year to get his head around it. It was extremely important to remain humble. In the first 12 weeks, an architecture certification was required, but John was given focused time to train for it. Each product has a certain depth of complexity. See Episode 23 from John’s 3-year check-in at VMware. He mentioned it took a year to get competent in the job, and then he had to work to get proficient. It took the same amount of time at Google with the same methodology. John had to be ok with being humble and unafraid of asking questions in front of peers. He offers new hires the opportunity to ask him questions as they ramp in a safe space. Can someone get a job at a technology company without knowing the portfolio? John thinks the best bet is either 1) deep domain knowledge of the technology (implement, sell, or maintain the products) or 2) deep domain knowledge of the role (technical sales, product management, etc.). In the Pre-Sales field, there is a talent shortage. Many companies will look to recruit from colleges and train graduates to become technical sales professionals. This helps build the talent pool. John’s father was in technical sales at Eastman Kodak many years ago. Even then, John did not know the role existed or exactly what it was. If there is another way we left out, please let us know! We want to hear the story. 49:47 – Some Parting Career Tips For those trying to break into Pre-Sales… Identify what you want to do early on. Be open to nontraditional roles. Listen to podcasts on pre-Sales technical engineering. We had Ramzi Marjaba on as a guest in Episode 27. Get educated on the different jobs out there. Look on company websites for different technical roles (analyst role, systems administrator, database admin, project management, etc.). Spoiler alert…there is a part 2 coming! Contact us if you need help on the journey.
40 minutes | 3 months ago
Building Your Own Business From Idea to Operations with Ashley Connell
Welcome to episode 97 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 the journey that Ashley Connell, the founder of Prowess Project, took to get from idea to fully operational. Original Recording Date: 09-30-2020 Topics – Building Your Own Business From Idea to Operations 2:20 – The Start of Something New The morning just before A10 lost their biggest client, Ashley had a great idea for a new business. She had recently read Built to Sell by John Warrillow in a single sitting. The book is a business fable about an entrepreneur who wanted to sell a company that wasn’t worth anything and his journey to change things. Ashley read the book, wrote a list of things she thought she was good at, and the next morning picked one. This was the birth of Prowess. It started with an idea about meetings. Often times meeting wrap ups with action items and notes are not handled properly. What if they could do a sort of Uber for meetings and have people pay for a meeting facilitator? Ashley had lunch with a friend from middle school who was running an accelerator program. Ashley applied the next day and was accepted to Founder Institute, which takes you from idea to Incorporated in 4 months. The program is very challenging and is the best thing she has ever done. An accelerator program is typically for scaling an existing business. Founder Institute was more of an incubator (idea to reality). Regarding the list Ashley made, it was about 9 things she felt were her strengths. This was right after the A10 breakup. The number one thing on the list was note taking. She is very good at making sure things get accomplished at work. As Ashley later learned, meeting facilitation in small snippets is more of a discomfort and not a pain. People pay to get rid of pain and not discomfort. In addition, her heart was with women returning to work. She was, at the time, in her early 30s and married but did not yet have children. Throughout her career, she had an ongoing anxiety about how having children would affect her career progression. According to Harvard Business Review, if a woman is out of the workforce to raise children for 3 years, she loses 30% of her potential compensation that can never be made up. Ashley became obsessed with this statistic. How could women not have both? The meeting facilitation idea would allow training women to do this wherever they were located. However, the two real things people needed were additional project management and more empathy. Prowess helps the women who took time off from the workforce. They get training that leads to a certification. Half the curriculum includes confidence, goal setting, emotional intelligence, and communication. The other half is on working remotely, business trends, technology training, and project management. At the end, a candidate takes a test to be counted in or out of the Prowess job pool. During the process, the Prowess team gathers 52 different work style indicators on the candidates and their work. Getting to this point was all about responded to feedback. Ashley’s experience was as a hiring manager, someone who would use a member of the Prowess community to help their business. This was key in not getting overly passionate about the mission and not concentrate too much on talent development. Initially Ashley went and spoke to hundreds of women returning to the workforce. About 43% of women leave the workforce to raise children at some point. There was not a clear path for these women to return (no step-by-step process), making them feel overwhelmed and intimidated. The mix of mentorship, training, and community seems to be the secret sauce. All of the lessons Ashley learned from Spiceworks are being applied to her current company. 17:13 – Being CEO of Prowess and Finding Her Why They have been around for less than 2 years and have about 7 employees and 40 customers. The pool of talent is about 250 women. It was important to balance the talent with the opportunities for Prowess. They make money through placements and matching companies with talent. They can be more selective. There is an application process for candidates. Certain requirements apply to join the community. The certifications mentioned are a requirement as well. During COVID, Prowess created a pay it forward program so that once a candidate gets a job, they pay for another person to go through the program. This is fostering an ambassador program as well. 21:20 – Thinking Like CEO The way to get there is talking to your team. Truly understand their desires, dreams, what their family is like, and their personal goals. Ashley runs the business not for herself but for her employees. She surrounds herself with smart people and enables them to use their talents to move the company forward. Is she still in the Built to Sell Mindset? No. She has a 10-year plan for the company. Ashley built an organization to solve her future problem (being a woman who wanted to have children someday). Interviews, sourcing, and feedback take an amazing amount of time. Prowess can help cut down this time commitment for organizations because of their rigorous process. Ashley gives an example of how a prospective employer could get help from Prowess and get candidate recommendations for a specific role quickly. How do you progress the people? Ashley wants to build out more resources to bring emotional intelligence into the workforce. This is where many people shine, but this is dulled down or absent in a typical hiring process until you talk to them. Hiring is moving to the next step, and Ashley wants Prowess to be at the forefront. To own your own business, you must be obsessed with whatever it is you are doing. That was one of Ashley’s problems with A10 (was not obsessed with Marketing). With Prowess, Ashley has found her why. Entrepreneurship is extremely hard, perhaps even more than being in Sales. Obsession with solving the problem is the only way to keep going. The process is tiring yet rewarding. Finding balance Ashley has her employees write down what they want and what they don’t want. It is often easier to write down what you don’t want to paint the picture backward. After painting the picture, it’s important someone hold you accountable. Taking time off is certainly important here. The conversation may be over for now, but we certainly want to have Ashley back at some point! Contact us if you need help on the journey.
54 minutes | 3 months ago
Sponsorship, Dreams, and the Path to Entrepreneurship with Ashley Connell
Welcome to episode 96 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 sponsorship, dreams, and the path to entrepreneurship with Ashley Connell of Prowess. Original Recording Date: 09-30-2020 Topics – Sponsorship, Dreams, and the Path to Entrepreneurship 02:20 – Meet Our Guest, Ashley Connell Ashley Connell is the CEO and Founder of Prowess, an organization that helps companies find expert talent by vetting and certifying talented women who took time off from the work force in some way and want to get back into it. The candidates could be caretakers, a leader who wants to take a step back, or someone who is after a career pivot. Prowess has built a job matching platform that matches not only skills and expertise to roles but also communication style, behavior style, personality style with the team the person would be joining. This produces a better candidate fit to the role. 3:28 – Finding Spiceworks and A Fairy Godmother She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in public relations but had no intention of pursuing a career in it. Ashley started looking for internships in Marketing and stumbled across a small company in Austin called Spiceworks. She knew nothing about technology at the time but saw they had an opening in entry-level Marketing. Listen to Ashley’s story about the interview with her would-be manager and how it didn’t go exactly as she thought it might. In any case, Ashley became Jen Slaski’s first Marketing hire. She became a guinea pig for different Marketing projects. Once she tested them and got them off the ground they could be handed off to someone else. Ashley worked in the Austin office for about 4 years and then moved to London for a couple of years and helped open an office overseas, which helped her see Marketing from a global perspective. John and Nick originally met through the Spiceworks community. In much the same way, Nick met Ashley when she worked for Spiceworks at some local meetups in Austin. Nick digs into Ashley’s interview with Jen Slaski a little deeper. She was slightly overdressed for the interview and the culture at Spiceworks. Ashley was comfortable with asking questions and not knowing things. When talking to IT Professionals in the community, she made her role clear (helping to amplify the Spiceworks brand and connecting Marketers to IT Professionals). It wasn’t to know everything about technology. At the end of the day, Ashley’s knowledge of technology didn’t matter. People were more focused on building community than on their differences. 9:09 – What about the gender imbalance in the Spiceworks community and greater technology industry? The hard part about being a female is you do not know someone’s intention. You want to assume the best, but when people want to take you to coffee for career advice, for example, it may or may not be what they are bringing to the table. Spiceworks was a safe spot, but there were comments here and there that were inappropriate. Sometimes she had to pretend she didn’t hear them, which is horrible. If she could go back and change something, she would have said something. John makes the point that it is difficult early in your career to stand up to yourself in front of peers. Ashley talked to some women younger than her about these situations later. She had originally thought staying in those situations / being considered one of the guys was a good thing or a way to progress her career. "You should not have to be a part of the boys club to get to the next level." John says this is like a tacit allowance of harassment. It should be a constant 0 on the scale rather than getting to even a 1. Spiceworks was good at spotting this and calling it out, but at places later in Ashley’s career, the organizations weren’t so good about it. Even for males, why be considered one of the boys if that means allowing harassment? Many women in the tech industry leave their roles because of sexual harassment. For our male listeners, if you see something, say something. Ashley was involved in building Spiceworld, the annual Spiceworks conference which began in 2008. Listen to her story of when the conference was hosted at the Alamo Draft House in Austin. Putting on a conference like this makes you think through a number of backup plans for failure scenarios. When people pay for a 3-day experience, there is a lot of pressure to make things work. The Spiceworks community was great at giving feedback, whether good, bad, or ugly. It came from a genuine desire to improve things. There seemed to be a secret sauce behind Spiceworks and their community. There was empathy among IT Professionals, with Tech Marketers, and with Spiceworks employees. 19:19 – That’s What Dreams Are Made of When Ashley got to move to London, it was her dream. She studied abroad in college and really enjoyed it. During her interview with Jen Slaski, Ashley mentioned wanting to go back to Europe as a career goal. As it turns out, Jen orchestrated a way for Ashley to reach that goal by helping to open the European Spiceworks office. Ashley refers to Jen as her "real life fairy godmother." Finding mentors, champions, and sponsors early in your career is incredibly key to get to the next level. Sometimes we stumble upon these folks, and other times we have to seek them out diligently. In every stage of your career you need coaching. John gives the example of Tiger Woods at the top of his game still needing a coach. Great quote – "Managers talk to you. Mentors talk with you. Sponsors talk about you." This is part of that internal marketing we all need to do so people know who we are and what we are doing to make the organization more valuable. Great managers find a way to help their employees meet career goals and can help retain talent while promoting growth. 24:16 – Life at The Big Corporation Ashley left Spiceworks and worked for a small startup after coming back to Austin. She quickly realized she was doing all the same things she had done while at Spiceworks. A superstar is always wanting the next opportunity. A rock star wants to be steady and be an expert in one thing. Each of these personas has different types of motivations. Ashley is a superstar. She was recruited by SanDisk next, which was her first big corporate company. It was critical to her understanding of how big companies work. 25:16 – The role required a great deal of travel (50% of the time she was away in the Bay Area). She was able to get to know people higher up in the company, and they were able to get to know her. As in the past, the line was crossed a bit in some of these activities, which caused discomfort. There were a bunch of 1s that happened at this company. Ashley was eventually laid off. In fact, she was offered to either interview for her current position at 30% less pay or take a severance package. She chose to take the package (an easy decision). This caused no emotional downturn. Being an entrepreneur at heart, Ashley was ready for her next pursuit. Working for big companies with a very structured promotion plan does not work well for Ashley. It may not suit her ambition or progression goals. She realized this just was not for her. This is a lesson in finding out what a growth trajectory within the company is like. John mentions knowing to ask about this in interviews. When you bring in a spouse / partner, it is not just your decision in these types of situations. Sometimes there must be trade offs on who takes the career risk. 31:54 – The Entrepreneur Bug At this point, Ashley had the entrepreneur bug and started a Marketing consulting firm with some folks from SanDisk (A10 Partners). She made so many mistakes during this experience. It does not feel like failing when you’re in it. The entrepreneur bug started piece by piece with her experience at Spiceworks and then SanDisk. The biggest mistake at this consulting firm was having a "whale" client. Ashley worked with 2 other partners with much more experience than her. As a result, she hid her voice within A10 for a long time because of her perceived low rank. Ashley went along with ideas she wasn’t sure about as a result. She did not feel safe enough to expose weakness. She realized much later that not taking a more active role in activities like brainstorming was a missed opportunity. The culture was not one in which they could afford to have anything less than great ideas. The A10 client base was large tech companies, and these companies relied on the A10 team to be polished experts who always had the right answer. John makes a great point about this having to do with career inexperience, which can affect all of us. John references the TV show House, M.D. and relates it to Ashley’s predicament at A10. This dove tails nicely into diversity. You need a number of different views to get the best product in the end. Make sure your teams come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. Ashley shares her thoughts on culture fit vs. culture add. The latter makes the team better. John makes a reference to a county fair competition in which laymen guessed weight more accurately than experts. The Wisdom of Crowds This is about diverse points of view Nick points this back to Range by David Epstein and continues to buy into the idea of late specialization and varying experience. Go back and listen to Paul Green’s description of a team very much like this. Start around 33:16. 46:55 – Culture in small teams A10 dissolved because they lost their "whale client." After this kind of thing happens, it is difficult to think about what’s next. They decided to stop operation shortly thereafter but remained friends. Entering into a business partnership means having a plan for when the partnership dissolved. Don’t think about your marriage like this. Contact us if you need help on the journey.
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Reddit Question Roundup – 2020 Week 37
Welcome to episode 92 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 some Reddit threads from the IT Career Questions forum. Original Recording Date: 09-11-2020 Topics – Popular IT Career Questions from Reddit 1:05 – We’re Testing A New Format! * We’re trying a new format this week. It’s a round up of career advice threads from the Reddit forum IT Career Questions. * We’ll be taking some of the top posts from the past week and will give a brief synopsis of the threads, categorize the post, and share our reactions. 1:47 – Keep not getting entry level jobs due to "lack of experience" * Synopsis * The poster claims little to no experience and that he / she keeps getting turned down in interviews due to lack of experience. They have an A+ certification, 6 months of IT experience, and want to change the experience. * Categories * Resume writing * Interviewing * Reactions * Nick points out that commenters on this thread draw out the fact that the poster had an internship in addition to their 6 months experience. This speaks to the fact that we need to be mindful of what can be used as experience when writing a resume and interviewing. * For example, a home lab is experience you can use! Listen to this episode with Cody de Arkland’s tips for leveraging experience with home labs on your resume / in an interview. * John says we need to ensure we talk about everything that is relevant. Go into the interview with some goals (solid idea of what you have accomplished, how you measured it, make sure you are able to work in main talking points, etc.). * The resume is an attention getter. It is a springboard for further dialogue in an interview to give more detail. 5:35 – Landed a job with no degree and experience * Synopsis * The poster landed an IT job without experience (only troubleshooting knowledge from home) and also without an IT related degree. They currently work as a junior engineer fixing computers and laptops. This poster was previously rejected for other jobs due to not meeting the requirements. * John drops a reference to the Geek Squad. Nick shares a fun anecdote. * Categories * Encouragement * Advice * Reactions * This post shows what someone did to achieve success and is sort of the opposite of the first post we mentioned. * John harasses Nick for buying a new desktop PC. * We’re truly happy for the poster. It’s nice to see someone achieving their goal after struggling. * If all jobs require experience, how do you get hired with no experience? * Building PCs as a hobby is practical experience that can be leveraged in ...
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