My vResume – Where I’ve Been and Where I’d Like to Be
In my current career search, I was advised that it may not be a bad idea to publish my resume in a blog post, but just slapping my resume online and saying “hey, look at me! I’m available!” just didn’t feel right. Instead I opted for a different approach in which to share my experiences in a way which could potentially generate more interest and discussion beyond just me personally.
I’ll start by talking through a few specific work experience history and get to the “good stuff” in the later sections where I’ll expand on some specific experiences – sometimes with a cloud focus – and delve into some broader topics, including education, certification, skill sets, how I see the IT market and what I’d like to be doing.
It may take some time to get through the experience, but I think relating to some of these specific experiences will come in more useful later on.
EXPERIENCE – the 90’s
In 1992 I graduated from college with a B.A. double-major in Business Administration and Political Science, with minors in economics and pre-law. You’re probably wondering “where’s the tech?” There is none except a FORTRAN class I took in my freshman year. I did have experience with computers (BASIC on a Commodore 64, etc.) and technology but up to this point it was never my primary focus.
Companies were simply not hiring college grads in ’92 so I took some odd jobs until I found an opportunity. A software company just miles from where I lived at the time had developed the first 32-bit TCP/IP stack for Windows and also the first 32-bit VXD (386 Enhanced Mode driver) implementation of a TCP/IP stack on Windows 3.1. I provided technical support on the TCP/IP Suite and also participated in business development which included running trade show booths with our sales manager in both NYC and LA (in fact the LA trip was right after the ’94 Northridge quake – we got to see crumbled freeways and feel some aftershocks).
It’s also interesting to think back about what TCP/IP was at this time. It was mostly text and utilities and NCSA Mosaic was just released during my tenure there, which was one of the first graphical web browsers and a precursor to Netscape.
Over the next several years I took a variety of in-house and consulting positions which included designing and deploying directories (Netware NDS / Microsoft Active Directory), designing and deploying new mail environments and performing mail migrations, deploying Citrix and other Windows server technologies (clusters, SQL, web) and storage solutions in many different capacities.
I never had any formal training (nor experience initially) in NetWare, Windows or any of these things, but I was hungry and I taught myself by watching, asking, reading and doing wherever possible. Some of the companies that I either worked or consulted for included well-known brands such as Kohler, Miller Brewing, Harley Davidson, Lands’ End, Milwaukee Public Schools, a large international insurance company, and Wisconsin’s largest hospital. I also participated in the Windows 2000 product launch by presenting a break-out session on Active Directory and security in Milwaukee.
Perhaps the biggest impact from this phase of my career (besides self-teaching myself NetWare) was the opportunity to work with Active Directory. I had the opportunity to begin working on a large AD project while Windows 2000 was still in beta. Armed with nothing but a book and my NDS (NetWare Directory Services) experience I sat out to teach myself Active Directory and design a migration for a large customer while working with a beta version of Windows 2000 and Active Directory. I could have been intimidated by accepting a responsibility for something I’d never done before, but no one else had done it either!
After this project I would never again be intimidated by working on something in which I didn’t have strong experience. I knew that given a modest amount of time and resources I could self-teach myself anything and without formal training – and I did exactly that. New technology would never intimidate me and I welcomed each the opportunity to jump outside of my comfort zone to learn more and build on my strengths.
EXPERIENCE – 00’s
In early 2001 my employer had suddenly gone bankrupt after merging with a large web development firm, and I quickly found an opportunity with Dell. At Dell I would consult on Active Directory and Exchange designs for organizations including Harvard University (and other schools), The District of Columbia, The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) and a large multi-national.
The District of Columbia was especially interesting as there were 69 different “NT kingdoms” for each of the agencies (Transportation, Health and Human Services, etc.). Now consider that each of these agencies had been accustomed to having complete autonomy and some had data privacy requirements including HIPPA and more. We had to come up with an Active Directory design that would address everyone’s concerns regarding a shared environment and “sell” it to these agencies and the CIO. This was a very fascinating and very rewarding project – learning to understand the personal and cultural objections to a paradigm shift and addressing both the political and technical issues.
For one large multinational, we ended up literally traveling around the world to understand the different business units and perform a discovery on how they were organized as well as the process work flows. This would be critical to providing a design foundation that would enable technology and policy to effectively map to each business unit (more on this later).
The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet I was told was the largest Active Directory deployment at that time with over 100,000 security principals in a very strict and secure environment. I spent almost a year on this fascinating project ranging from supporting Dell-EMC storage to AD/Exchange services and more.
In 2003 I began a new adventure at the US headquarters for a Global 500 company. When I started, the organization was running mostly NetWare and there was a desire to move towards both Active Directory and moving file shares to clustered Windows servers. Over time, I would get heavily involved in just about everything from enterprise backup/DR, security, SQL, and building an enterprise monitoring solution with HP OpenView. I also played a lead role in administering our SAN and switches along with researching a variety of storage technologies (dedupe, block auto-tiering, caching and more).
By 2004 I was well aware of VMware Workstation, but had not had the opportunity to work with it yet. I began working with VMware GSX shortly thereafter which proved remarkably useful for test/dev and sandbox environments. I spent much of the next year and more making my case, including unsolicited ROI presentations and more, to begin looking at ESX. Finally an opportunity arose, and the hardware was available to begin building an ESX 3 cluster. Over the course of the next year we would have about 150 virtual machines, including several mission-critical servers. The rate of adoption was slow as there was much resistance from various groups to this “new virtualization thing” but slowly we made steady gains and proved that the environment could suit mission critical workloads.
Following an acquisition and management change, I would be assigned to lead a team to figure out how to move 95% of our x86 environment to a datacenter in a different region of the country. We would end up P2V-ing around 250 physical servers, and then replicating and re-IPing (changing the IP address) each of the ~400 servers to a new ESX 3.5 cluster we designed and built in the new data center. We used Quest vReplicator for the replication (SRM was not an option for us) and the technology was the easy part in this project. The hard part? Changing each IP address (I had inquired on stretched VLANS — if only VXLAN had been available then 🙂 ) and working with the application owners on doing a proper discovery and change logistics.
Often times we’d meet with an application owner and ask them if they could predict what would happen to their application if the server IP had changed. Crickets were usually the first response. We’d end up digging into code and looking for server-side includes, firewall rules and much more.
Another application consisted of a mix of Netware 5 servers, NT4 domain controllers and Windows NT4 Terminal Server with Citrix. And this all connected back to both mainframe and HP-UX components. No one in the org believed that’d we’d be able to virtualize the Netware and NT servers, change the IP’s and still have everything work, but somehow they allowed me to try. Hearing that lack of faith was all the motivation I needed, and I successfully virtualized all the x86 components of this application (about a dozen servers) and would later re-IP each of them.
In fact, no manager believed that these 400+ servers could be effectively be virtualized and relocated, but we did exactly that (including designing and building a new vSphere infrastructure) all within about 9 months.
Later our environment would grow to well over 500 VMs and I would lead projects to upgrade to vSphere 4 and ESXi. I became fascinated with the IaaS (Infrastructure As a Service) concept and looked for more ways to leverage our virtualization foundation with things like VDI, SRM, vCloud Director (vCD), Service Catalog and more to provide even more value and agility benefits to the organization. As I’ve posted in detail in my blog over the past year, I feel that there is a huge transformation taking place in IT, as well as new opportunities to provide agility and value.
In 2005 a corporate tuition plan became available to me and I decided to take advantage of it. At that time, I saw little value in renewing my MCSE, and VMware certifications hadn’t been introduced yet. I was always interested in the business aspect of this so why not pursue a Masters’ in Business Administration (MBA)?
At this point in my career I probably would have been better off pursuing VMware VCDX certification (had it been available back then) as far as career marketability goes, but I still think an MBA is incredibly important and useful – especially as a cloud computing model becomes more common place.
What’s so great about an MBA in a technical field? Quite a bit in my opinion. For starters just having that foundation of business principles and case studies will serve as a great reference and foundation to help you have better insights regarding with what the business may be trying to accomplish, and what their challenges, concerns and motivations may be (marketing, competition, process improvement, regulation, etc). How many of us in IT have had to do budgets, ROI justifications, and/or solve and (then present) a complex array of variables and probabilities? Well an MBA can help develop those skills too.
And now what about cloud computing? As I’ve said before (as have others) the biggest obstacles are often not the technology, but the people, processes and culture. How do you change these things? How do you get your server, storage, networking and application SME’s (subject matter experts) out of the comfort zone of their silos and take responsibility within a new technology paradigm where complex problems now span multiple silos, layers and managerial boundaries? How do you construct your organizational chart and change your formal and informal culture to facilitate this new paradigm? And if the goal is to empower the business with agility, how do you align your IT efforts and process to the business in order to accomplish this effectively? Those who haven’t pursued an MBA or haven’t had similar experiences or like-minded reading may be at a disadvantage in dealing with such questions. In my MBA I chose a Leadership elective path — which focuses on changing an organization’s culture, as well as general leadership.
As long as I’m on the topic of skills and marketability a few more points. In the past, one could become an expert within a given silo (i.e. networking, storage, etc.) and that might be good enough. But now we have infrastructure and applications which often transcends all of these layers with complex interactions. In the near future we will likely see more advanced APIs in the OS and application stack that will enable more direct interactions with everything from the hypervisor to networking hardware. The most valuable IT employees in my opinion, will be the ones who may not have the most knowledge within any one silo, but have a good background in each of the silos (network, storage, compute, application) that they can design, interact, and troubleshoot across all of these layers. This is exactly where I’ve tried to position myself – with a core focus on virtualization but also gaining a deep understanding and experience in the periphery technologies like storage, networking, and the application disciplines. And of course those that can do this with a strong sense of business/leadership principles and awareness will be some of the most valuable employees in my opinion (but hey I’m biased 🙂 )
When I was doing AD designs I would advise clients that the OU (organizational unit) design had to take into consideration not just the logical org chart, but that it must also consider work flows, processes and worker roles, in order to provide the most usable foundation for policy (GPO) on computers, groups and users. In much the same way, I think it is critical to take this information into consideration for “cloud” elements as well, ranging from elements like SaaS to your virtualization stack and the building blocks on top of that stack, ranging from VDI to vCD to service catalogs and even DR. Performing a discovery to build an understanding of how work gets done in an organization (and especially what they want to accomplish) is essential in my opinion for such designs.
By the way I should probably mention that I haven’t quite completed my MBA yet. While I completed all of the core courses with a 4.0 GPA, I’ve only completed one of the three Leadership electives and have two more to go. I hope to have the opportunity to complete this program should I be fortunate to obtain tuition assistance in the future.
Over a decade ago I achieved MCSE certification (as well as a few others). After I had some major AD and Exchange accomplishments under my belt I was faced with a situation where I would have to spend time and money to maintain my certification. By 2004 when I was up for renewal, I felt that my experience spoke far more loudly than any multiple-choice test could, so I chose to spend my time focusing on work projects instead and allowed this certification to lapse.
Today I would be very interested in VMware certification but the cost in terms of both money and time is a bit out of reach at the moment. You are required to purchase a week-long class as well as the exam which sums up to a considerable monetary investment. Given circumstances and means, once again I felt that my experience with VMware spoke more loudly than any multiple-choice test and as a result, I’ve not pursued any VMware certifications at this time. However, partly as a result of this blog, I was awarded VMware vExpert designation from VMware earlier this year — and I am very proud that VMware chose to recognize my contributions with this award and designation.
My long-term certification goal however, would be to pursue VCDX (VMware Certified Design Expert) certification which I hope to have the opportunity to pursue at some point.
WHAT DO I WANT TO DO?
My perfect job – if there were such a thing, would likely include the ability to design, implement and evangelize solutions. Design is essential in any solution and I love the challenges it presents. Implementation because I like to get my hands on the technology when I can and build things. Evangelism because often a little salesmanship is needed before the optimal solution can be provided.
But what kind of solutions would we provide? Not only am I fascinated with storage, infrastructure and the vSphere virtualization platform, but I’m also very interested in complementary technologies ranging from VDI, SRM, vCloud Director, vShield, storage/networking technologies and much more. One thing that has been lacking for me recently is access to technology and the ability to work on some of the latest storage tech, and/or work with several of these solutions in a lab (a bit more capable than my single spindle PC).
That’s my “perfect” job of course. At the end of the day what I really want to do is tackle complex problems, and work with passionate teams, to design/build/engineer solutions that provide value – and possibly a transformative value in the form of agility.
AND BY THE WAY…I’M AVAILABLE!
I’ll be making more posts here in the near future including at least one video post. Recently, I did a presentation on converged infrastructure and I’m really excited about building a more detailed presentation based off of that, and also a second one that discusses going beyond mere virtualization, and presenting some cloud concepts in ways I haven’t seen addressed before.
I hope to get some of thost posts/videos/presentations made over the next few weeks. In the event that you’re a recruiter or hiring manager and you’d like to contact me about a potential opportunity that you may be aware of, you just need to combine “blueshiftblog” with gmail.com (I try to avoid typing the actual address to stop various spambots).
Thanks for taking the time to read my “vResume” and I hoped it provided some valuable discussion points beyond just talking about “me”. Thanks!