Architect your Career
If you’ve ever watched the TV show Grand Designs you’ll know that one of the mantras of the host Kevin McCloud is that the builder should not be the architect or the project manager. Every time there’s a self-build project and the couple take on more than their capabilities his first piece of advice is to get a dedicated architect or project manager. And he’s normally right.
Well, why don’t we take the same principle to our careers. We are essentially all self-builders. We’re the people digging the foundation, laying the blocks, installing the plumbing and electrics. All while learning on the fly. Exactly like a career. Sometimes when we’re caught up in the minutiae of the day to day things it’s hard to step back and take a 10000 feet view of where things are at and where they can go. As solution architects this is exactly what we have to do. Look at the vision, the requirements, the constraints, the capabilities and what interfaces need to be taken into account.
Where this this all start?
Towards the middle of last year the company I worked with underwent a major organisational restructure within the IT department. The reasons for the change were I believe justified, as the company grew through acquisition they needed to be able to ensure 24 x 7 global support and have the ability for the regional teams to be in constant communication and collaboration. The goal was to drive standardisation across all sites and in turn drive down costs to deliver IT services. Prior to this each primary site, a total of 9 globally, worked in their own silos with their own budgets. The vision was needed but as with all restructures there are some casualties. Some are desired and others are just unintentional fallout. Following the acceptance by senior executives there were some immediate resignations at the mid-management level which were expected. The delivery of the new restructure dragged on however and led to a number of senior engineers leaving too. Including me.
Once again the Melbourne VMUG UserCon was a massive success and had some great speakers and sessions. Given that there were such IT heavy hitters as Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe), Chris Wahl (@chriswahl) and Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor) as well as a number of local IT stars such as Frank Fan (@frankfan7), Anthony Burke (@pandom_), Anthony Spiteri (@anthonyspiteri) and Craig Waters (@cswaters1) it’s not surprising that it was a great event
One of my goals for the day was to attend a number of the community sessions. I found the vBrownBag sessions conducted by Alastair Cooke (@demitassenz) to be the most informative and entertaining sessions of the day, along with those of Chris Wahl. The award for the funniest session of the day went to Simon Sharwood (@ssharwood) from the Register as part of the vBrownBag session. It wasn’t just entertaining but a great insight into how content is derived for the site.
I missed one of the sessions I had intended on getting to but here’s a break down of the sessions I did attend.
Scott Lowe, who is a well know IT contributor, recently released a post about his 2016 Projects. While I don’t have any intention of writing a book this year his post did get me thinking about what I’d like to work on this year and what goals I want to aim for. Truth be told it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about since the Xmas period but I’ve been having a bit of a writers block for the past month so I’ve only gotten around to this now.
So here they are, the goals I’m making myself accountable to for the next 11 months.
1. Blog more
Last year was my first real attempt to blog regularly and I have to admit that it was sometimes hard to find the time to write down all the blog ideas I have in my head. In total I published 56 blog posts on virtualnotions which is actually more than I had expected at roughly 1 a week. This year I want to build on the foundation of last year and work at releasing more content. One thing I really want to ensure is the quality remains high. I was a bit surprised by the buzz I got from posting some new content and seeing the readership rise for various posts. The site traffic jumped around March of last year and steadily grew for the remainder of the year. The number of visitors isn’t going to break any blog records but it’s been satisfying watch it grow and has provided encouragement to keep going.
2. Get back on the certification trail
During the past couple of years I’ve let this aspect of my career drop a bit. This is largely down to motivation and starting a family. Having kids, as I’m sure many are well aware, really destroys the free time that existed before kids. Now that they are growing and most importantly healthy, I want to put some focus back on certifications. I know for many certifications are seen to be unnecessary but I’m using them as learning tools. I’ve expanded my knowledge over the past few years into different technology and the key certs I will work on will be to further expand and solidify my knowledge in those areas. The ones I’ll be working towards are CCNA DC, NetApp NCDA and re-certify for VMware VCP. I want to also start working towards VMware VCAP-6 which I want to complete next year. All of these certs are big undertakings but once I get into the study zone it should hopefully make it easier to complete a few of them in succession.
3. Community participation Read More
Early this year I decided to up the ante a bit on my level of blogging. While I had really started to take it a bit more seriously the year before I wanted to make a concerted effort this year. During the months running up to the end of 2014 the traffic on the blog had grown quite significantly from what it had previously been. This was at a point when I wasn’t putting out any content all that regularly so it came as a surprise and encouraged me to think about creating more content. Anthony Burke over at NetworkInferno, a great blog if you get some downtime to have a flick through, wrote an article earlier this year which completely summed up my reasons for doing a blog. It’s called VMUG, Community and you (me). In that post Anthony talks about his VMUG contribution, his blog, career and how other skills have developed. All thanks to taking an active part in the community.
For me, I basically use the blog as a means to share my thoughts and experiences and probably most importantly as a way to cure professional isolation, similar to Anthony. I also see it as a way to provide assistance to someone else who may face similar challenges. I’ve been lucky enough to have been dug out of some holes thanks to someone else taking the time to write up their experiences and fixes to problems and I feel it’s only right that I reciprocate. Maintaining a blog and setting myself challenges to produce x number of blog posts does not come naturally to me. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s something I’ve struggled with but I’ve found that writing blog posts has been a great way of forcing me to be more concise. Another upside, and this is invaluable really, is that it has helped me formulate my opinions and understanding of technology. Through researching topics to ensure that what I’m writing is accurate I’ve gained a far more in-depth understanding of the core concepts of a number of technologies and this has without doubt made me a better employee.
There’s always talk about finding a work-life balance. I think in some Utopian life that may exist but for the vast majority of us that’s not the case. Everyday life can be stressful. Work can be stressful. Supporting your family can be stressful. And depending on how things are faring out in home or work areas the scales are tipped decidedly in one direction or the other. Usually it’s never balanced. Travel is one of the best ways to re-evaluate what’s important in life and to re-assess how to best find that balance, are at least get it as close to what matters within your life. I was lucky enough to take a substantial break from work to travel with my family recently and introduce my parents to another grandchild.
I’ve been guilty in the past of putting my work in front of my home life, to the detriment of family relationships. Once we started to have children things changed but work still took preference. My ambition to succeed in my career was put ahead of most other aspects of my life. I had an issue of not wanting to let anyone down and not being able to say no and be assertive to ensure my family needs and that of my employer could both be fulfilled. I had put myself into that position by largely starting out eager to prove my worth and then getting caught out as a power-dynamic then existed that I was unable to get out of. The lesson was learnt the hard way. I’m happy to say that now I’m in a role where the correct power-dynamic exists and I have managed to hit the nice work/life balance which is something I truly believed didn’t exist before.
Recently I attended the local Melbourne VMUG UserConn. This is a once a year, full-day event hosted by the local VMUG group and boy do they put on a show. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend last year but thankfully I had to chance to attend for a second time this year. The agenda was packed full of both great global and local leaders from the IT community and as with all great events you can’t see everything so there’s a few sessions which I had to miss out on as it clashed with something else. MVMUG has however uploaded many of the sessions to Youtube. Craig Waters (@cswaters1) has created a Youtube playlist so you can catch up whenever you have some free time.
Before the event I was really looking forward to hearing the keynote speakers and having a chat to the guys at the PernixData stand. I had my day planned out on the VMUG iPhone app which was an excellent way to track my time for the day and it also provided a method to give feedback on the sessions. If you’re going to a VMUG I’d definitely recommend using the app. The speakers for the Keynote sessions included John Troyer (@jtroyer), Chad Sakac (@sakacc) and Vaughan Stewart (@vstewed). These guys are heavyweights in the IT-influencer arena and if you’re on twitter definitely give them a follow.
Over the past few months, and despite my infrequency with posts, the blog has grown in traffic and general interest. Originally the title of the blog referenced my Irish background and cloud technology. However, the name was very hard for most people that have never learned Irish to pronounce. Also, I feel that just talking about cloud technologies is not solely what I want to cover via this blog. I want to expand it to cover data center technology which is the foundation of cloud technology as well. Hopefully the blog will continue to organically grow and I have a number of posts in the pipeline which should assist with that. To those that have taken the time to read anything on this blog I say thank you.
As with all careers there comes a point when you make a decision about what’s really important to you. This decision involves looking at what’s important to you from a work perspective and also, and I’d argue more importantly, from a home/life perspective. Today we are seeing a shift from the 9 to 5 worker to the always on/work from anywhere worker. While this is great for flexibility, it does mean that your work and home life intermix quite a lot. As a father to a young daughter and another one on the way I have decided to prioritize my family time over my work time. This may change in the future but right now it’s the right decision for me. I have worked as a client-facing consultant for small consultancy firms for the past 3 years and this has involved a large commitment of my personal time into being able to perform the role to the best of my ability and to provide our customers with the service levels they both expect and require. It has been an amazing learning experience to see how different consultancy firms work out their place in the market and how they also deal with the challenges of growing the companies. As an IT person there’s a requirement, and shall I add enjoyment, to keep on top of what’s currently available on the market, who the competitors are and how these products fit it with or compete with your product portfolio or product strategies. This means that IT is part of my life and I love what I do but my family life and time was suffering due to work expectations. And so my decision has been to leave a consultancy role and join the dark-side as a permanent staff member.
I’ve recently started in a new role for a large pharmaceutical company as a Senior Systems Engineer. Within the role my primary focus will be on VMware, Cisco UCS, Netapp MetroCluster and also driving the data center and application/desktop virtualization strategy and roadmaps. I’ve worked with Flexpod for the past 9 months with two very large clients, one of which was using Flexpod as their platform to deliver a public cloud offering wrapped up in a Rackspace style managed service. Flexpod is a complex system. There are a number of other IT systems on the market which are far easier to use and deploy but they don’t provide the same level of knowledge of storage, networking, compute and virtualization. To work with Flexpod you need to understand all components within the Pod and this leads to a better understanding of technology as a whole. In my new role I’ll be working with UCS Director for automation to improve the efficiency of the infrastructure deployment and also focus on chargeback components to help convert the IT department into a cost center that can make departments responsible for their own IT spend.
My new role is a step up from my previous position and I’m looking forward to the challenge and responsibility. As with all new roles it takes a bit of time to find your feet and make your mark. I’m looking forward to getting to grips with all the systems that need to be supported and figuring out how to improve processes and technology to drive innovation within the IT department. All while enjoying time with my family and getting to see my daughter and soon to exist child grow and develop. I’m excited about the possibilities over the coming years and my role within those.
For anyone that has been on this blog in the past you will know that I’m not the most prolific blogger. Over the next while I do intend to keep the blog up to date a bit more and try to develop at least one decent blog post a month. At the moment I don’t have a strategy in place for what I want this blog to be other than a placeholder for some work I’ve carried out, issues I’ve faced and managed to resolve, or just general chat about technology that is coming out. Maybe down the road it will become a bit more specific. Hopefully with a bit of extra time that I now have I can blog a bit more 🙂