Lately I’ve been trying to get on top of all the things I have going on in life to give myself a little bit of perspective and find a bit more joy in life. Just like anybody else with young kids I find it hard to juggle home and work responsibilities. On top of this I have a number of other things I’d like to personally achieve throughout the year. I wrote a blog post called what’s another year which details all the things I’d like to do this year. It’s a long list and all are time consuming in their own right. What I’ve found though is that I’ve been failing to meet most if not all of these objectives and to be completely honest it’s been getting me down.
I’ve completed some of the list already which is great but I’ve found that we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year and I’m behind on a lot of them. I regularly frequent a cycling site called Cyclingtips and if you’re at all into cycling I’d highly recommend spending a few hours reviewing the content there. As I reviewed some of the old content I came across two posts which struck a chord. The first was around parenthood and cycling. One of my main goals for the year is to get cycling fit and to build cycling into my routine. In the past three weeks I’ve struggled with this and I was looking to see what others have done to make it work for them.
This lead me to another post on CyclingTips called the two and a quarter rule. It’s a brief post but I found it so bang on. We have the capacity to handle two and a quarter things at any one time. For most people this is normally broken down as 1 being given up to work, 1 being given up to family and the last one quarter being yours to do as you wish. But it’s a finite resource. If you allocate too much to the quarter it will mean you will overflow and impact the other two areas of your life and that will have it’s own consequences. As soon as I read this article it dawned on me that my problem was that I was squeezing too much into the quarter and not getting as much as I wanted done. This is partly why I haven’t been able to keep on top of cycling in the past few weeks, there were other focuses. This is still going to be the case but I’ve decided that the quarter is flexible and I’m going to use it on a day to day basis. So one day the focus will be on getting out for a bike ride, another it’ll be to create a blog post such as this, another day it’ll focus on reading a book or studying for an exam. This way I will be able to get the majority of what I’d like to complete this year finished off and not impact either my family or work commitments. Or at least minimise the impact.
I’d highly recommend spending a bit of time to see if the two and a quarter rule works for you or even fits what you have going on in life. For me personally it fits, but I’d be interested in hearing what others find.
Two things recently appeared on my radar which got me thinking about the IT Hero culture. One came through the vExpert slack feed and later followed up by a blog post and the other was through a conversation with my sister. In both instances the people suffered health issues due to undertaking too many hours at work in a condensed time period. Following this I began thinking about the issues IT employees face when it comes to time management and finding a balance between keeping systems online 24×7 and actually having a fulfilling life outside of work. The whole IT Hero culture has been an issue for me for a long time, particularly since I suffered from it a number of times myself. I ended up sacrificing family time to work on numerous occasions and only in hindsight did I really see it as being a problem. Before proceeding however I’d like to point out that I don’t have an issue with someone putting in extra time to learn something new, provide shift work support or ensure life-saving services remain online. Or in the rare case that there’s a critical issue that needs to be resolved quickly. There’s also people that want to operate their lives putting more emphasis on work than home life and that’s fine too. My particular problem is more around the perception that you cannot be replaced and that you have to be seen to do extra work all the time in order to show value in your position.
There’s a real problem in IT where employers expect more and more of an employees personal time in order to keep systems up and running or to complete projects. Usually this aligns to work cultures where anyone seeing to leave at a regular time every day is judged to not be part of the ‘team’ despite completing their workload within the allotted time. It is particularly noticeable at smaller consultancy firms but the big ones are just as guilty. But the truth is that it’s not all down to employers. As the employee you really need to set the boundaries and expectations with your employer and more importantly advocate for yourself and your needs. However that contradicts the predominant IT culture of employees that put themselves on a pedestal as the saviour of the day. The combination of lack of boundaries, employee advocacy and embedded perception of self-importance leads to what I think is a negative work-life balance. Read More
Last week was the annual pilgrimage to Cisco Live in Melbourne. Well, normally it is. This year however I was unable to secure a free pass because let’s be honest here, the price of a full pass is extortionate. While the value of the event cannot be disputed the cost to get there can. Cisco Live is the best networking conference in Melbourne for those working in enterprise IT. I also mean networking in both senses of the word, networking technology and people networking. This year there were 7200 attendees and it promised to be an absolute cracker. But I was not going to be there.
I find conferences such as Cisco Live a great way to recharge the batteries and get re-inspired at work. You hear about all the latest and greatest and being out of your normal habitat changes how you approach solutions. Having the opportunity to meet experts and those that have literally wrote the book on a subject is invaluable. I’ve been to the past three Cisco Live events in Melbourne and I had hoped to keep that run going but unfortunately this year I was unable to secure a pass and it was too much of an expense to fund myself.
It wasn’t so bad though. We run our Cisco Data Center User Group (DCUG) on a monthly basis and it falls on the first Tuesday of Cisco Live so we had organised to have two international speakers for that. This would at least give me my fix. We were extremely fortunate to have Lukas Krattiger and David Jansen both extend their schedule to fit in the DCUG and provide a thoroughly enthralling session.
It’s a bit strange writing about podcasts. Up until about three years about I didn’t really listen to podcasts. I started listening to one with my wife in the car and that led to finding some decent tech related podcasts. I spend about an hour and a half on public transport for my commute and it’s an easy way to consume podcasts without too much hassle. And that’s the beauty of podcasts, simplicity. Personally the best thing about podcast is digesting information easily and using what would otherwise be dead time to learn something new.
So what’s on my podcast list? The short answer is loads. I know this blog is tech focused but it’s important to branch outside your career so in my case there’s a few cycling podcasts as well as some that are related to hobbies and general entertainment.
||This is the go-to Tech podcast for me. Ethan Banks and Chris Wahl have a great dynamic. The format is spot on with reflection on the discussion throughout the podcast. It covers enterprise tech, cloud tech and bits in between with emerging tech. If you only listen to one tech podcast make it this one.
||Datanauts – iTunes
|Tech OnTap Podcast
||This is focused on NetApp technology but it’s a great resource for understanding the storage industry in general and where it’s going. If you work with NetApp technology at all then I’d highly recommend giving it a listen.
||TechOnTap – iTunes
|The On-Premise IT Roundtable
||The is run by Gestalt IT and it’s excellent. A bunch of industry heavy-weights that attend the Field Day events hosted by GestaltIT sit around and discuss topics relevant to the future landscape of IT, taking in a business perspective and the impacts also. A truly informative listen.
||On-Premise IT – iTunes)
|Tech Village Podcast
||This is a new podcast but so far I love the format. It’s run by Yadin and Lauren and takes over the mantle of The Geek Whisperers in relation to IT career development. It has a very slick production quality and they interview those from the community and looks at distributed mentorship as a way to advance your career.
||Tech VIllage – iTunes
|Virtually Speaking Podcast
||This is the VMware podcast hosted by Pete Flecha and John Nicholson. Pete used to be on the Tech OnTap podcast and the NetApp communities podcast prior to that with Nick Howell. This is a slick podcast with great guests and looks at not just the technology but also the use cases around it. The podcast is largely, albeit unsurprisingly, based on VMware technology but also deals with community engagement and interaction as well as blogging tips. It’s got some great intro music as well.
||Virtually Speaking – iTunes
|The Geek Whisperers
||This was one my favourite podcasts. It focused on career development and the journeys that people take. It was hosted by John Troyer, Matt Broberg and Amy Lewis. I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough. Sadly, it is no more after the trio decided to stop producing new content back in August 2017. The content they produced though could be considered timeless for the most part so make sure to check out all the back catalog. If you liked the Geek Whisperers then definitely check out the Tech Village podcast.
||Geek Whisperers – iTunes
Last year I presented at the local Cisco DCUG to a warm and receptive audience about Cisco UCS Director being deployed on a global scale. At the time I was working for a global pharmaceutical company and following some organisational changes the requirements of the business and in turn IT changed to match. A key part of the changes focused on global standardisation of IT infrastructure to ensure 24 x 7 operational support. The best way to achieve that goal was to look at automation and orchestration. Cisco UCS Director was the tool chosen at the time. UCS Director is an absolute beast of a product and it reflects badly on Cisco as to how they have marketed and managed the product. It has potential to be the one stop shop for infrastructure management.
Create a global platform to enable physical and virtual automation based on standardised templates and processes.
- Drive standardisation across 14 global sites, reduce management overheads and complexities
- Put the company in a position to leverage follow the sun support for infrastructure to minimise out of hours support at each local site
- Provide a secure platform that could easily meet strict auditing guidelines
- Deliver a mechanism to allow end-users to quickly and easily request new virtual machines
- Streamline the request for infrastructure processes and remove existing bottlenecks
- Drive the business towards a Private Cloud architecture rather than individual silos
- Reduce licensing costs across the business for multiple existing automation and orchestration platforms.
- The ability to provide a cost model and service catalog and quickly inform projects on the estimated potential costs of their projects.
- Integration into the existing service management tool
- Integration into HP Quality Control for auditing and quality control purposes. This allowed for installation verification scripts to be completed.
It’s at this time of year that most people begin to review all that was completed in 2017 and attempt to set some new goals for 2018. A lot of people I respect in the industry have presented their goals for 2018 and I noticed that I hadn’t done a post for last year to say what my goals were. This year however I want to have it documented for both posterity and for accountability.
So, where do I start with goals for 2018. I don’t really buy into just having new years resolutions as these are usually something like “I need to go to the gym more” and then you handover half your years wages for the privilege of sitting on your couch. For me the goals for the coming year need to be something tangible, relevant and achievable. Some of them are stretch goals so there a bit more challenging to reach but that’s part of the joy really. In order to figure out what goals I wanted to set I took a look back at what was achieved last year and what I didn’t get around to doing. If anything was still relevant it could be carried over to the new year.
In general 2017 was a personally outstanding year. I know a lot of people are glad to see the back of it but it provided some great achievements and memories for both me and my family. On Australia Day I was sworn in as an Australian citizen which was an emotional experience and a great way to kickstart the year. I took stock of my career over the previous Christmas holiday period and looked at the opportunities within my role, where the company was going and what my role was morphing into following some heavy organisational restructuring. I had a realisation that I was struggling to achieve a good work-family balance and that something had to change. Due to significant out-of-hours work requirements, as it was a global role, I wasn’t really present for family events or moments and when I was I was just tired and general a curmudgeonly old bastard. While I was enjoying my job I wasn’t enjoying my family time so I pulled the pin and moved into a locally based role rather than a global one and took the opportunity to move into a Solutions Architecture position. I have to say that it’s been an immense change and my own mental health is much better for it.
CCNA Exam Giveaway
Neil Anderson from Flackbox.com is currently running a fantastic giveaway for the start of the new year and I thought it would be good to share this opportunity with others. If you aren’t aware of Flackbox then sadly you’ve been missing out. Neil has been creating video training content for Cisco and Netapp as well as branching into Cloud Computing over the past couple of years and has now built up an extensive training catalogue. Neil himself is an instructor by profession and holds a number of top-end industry certifications such as CCIE, NCDE etc. so he’s well placed to create training content.
Enough of the fluff, so what do I win in the giveaway I hear you say. The short answer is loads. As part of the giveaway winners will get:
- Payment for their Cisco CCNA exam
- Access to the highest review rated CCNA course online
- Weekly coaching calls with Neil
- Full access to AlphaPrep test engine CCNA exam bank
- 400 pages of configuration lab exercises with setup instructions to run on your laptop for free
- An additional 150 pages of bonus troubleshooting labs
- Private Facebook study group
To enter go to Cisco CCNA Giveaway over on Flackbox. The giveaway closes on January 13th so get in there quickly.
As a disclaimer I would like to make note that I recently won a competition to get access to Neil’s CCNA training via Udemy and I can personally vouch for the quality of the training and would highly recommend anyone looking to completing their CCNA as part of their 2018 goals to enter and take advantage of such a great giveaway.
All the best and I wish you luck!
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.
We’ve all heard stories of hoarders. That one guy in the neighbourhood that has two cars, a lawnmower, a boat, two dog sheds, an engine from a vintage car, a second rusted engine from a vintage car, some bales of hay and what looks to be a Salvador Dali custom one of a kind sculpture in their front garden. There’s even TV shows about these guys. I honestly believe some of the most under-represented hoarders are those that work in IT. In some cases they should actually be museum pieces. Everyone I know has battle scars of having to deal with ancient relics from a bygone era that is hosting the most critical application for the entire company and hasn’t been patched in 20 years because Jim that installed it but has since retired and no one else is will to risk it. What if it never comes back up? It’s not under a support contract. How is it that IT systems are still being bound with baling twine (probably taken from your neighbourhood hoarders hay bales) and refurbished, bought from e-bay, hard disks? Any worst of all, it’s generally accepted as standard practice in some places. I’ll never forget being ask by the finance director if we could just buy a new EMC Clariion from ‘the internet’ rather than go through a proper procurement process with EMC directly. “Shur isn’t the internet cheap.” Yes boss it is but…..
So to understand this mentality of not wanting to change and hoarding old equipment in data centers in a large part to justify their existance I have take a look at what a hoarder is and also what it is not.
What a hoarder is not:
A hoarder is not a collector. A collector has a sense of pride about their possessions and take pleasure in showing and talking about their possessions. Collectors tend to keep their possessions organised. A hoarder on the other hand will generally experience embarassment about their possessions and feel uncomfortable when others see them. Their possessions take over the functional living space and they often incur great debt to satisfy their hoarding needs.
Cisco Live Melbourne has come and gone for another year and this year was without a doubt the best of all the years I’ve attended so far. This was my 3rd year at CLMEL (#CLMEL) and it was an action packed week. At previous events I’ve been primarily going to the breakout sessions and giving myself a migraine from the amount of information I tried to chug through. This year I went in community mode. Being a Cisco Champion I was lucky to be able to partake in some special events, get some nice perk treatment such as prime seats for the keynote and also to interact with the other Cisco Champions. The number of Cisco Champions for Australia in 2017 has seen a significant increase and it’s heavily loaded towards Melbourne so CLMEL provided the ideal opportunity to meet new people.
Last year there were no real events so it was great to see some special Cisco Champions events organised and allow the Champions to meet up. This year Veritas, the events organisers, were on hand to assist with the Cisco Champion events throughout the week. A massive thank you to Freya for keeping things in check throughout the few days. A huge thank you also goes to Brandon Prebynski and Lauren Friedman of the Cisco Champions program for getting everything organised on the back end. The value added to the program during Cisco Live this year cannot be underestimated.
The first order of business on Day 1, Tuesday, was the Data Centre Innovation Day. This session provided an inside look at the upcoming technology roadmap for data centre tech. The Data Centre Innovation Day is by invite only and was organised for me by Lauren Friendman (massive thanks for that). I found the information on the upcoming roadmaps for UCS Compute, UCS Central and UCS Director platforms. I can’t divulge anything as it was under NDA but I can say some of it is pretty cool. One thing they did discuss which I can mention is the new interoperability matrix tool which has been updated to make it easier to search compatibility requirements. I haven’t played around with it yet but will most likely be using it for my next planned upgrade. Read More