Tag Archives: Interview

Interview – Matthew Steiner – Cloud Technologist and Author

Matthew is currently working at VMware as a cloud management technologist, spending the majority of his time visiting customers and discussing their cloud journey. 2020 will mark a milestone, with it being his tenth year at VMware.

Since personally joining VMware in 2018, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Matthew on a common customer, which has led us to sharing a number of trips together. During this time, I’ve learnt a lot from Matt and his insights about the industry, also from Matt as a person. This interview post is brought to you from a number of those chats.

You can find Matt online at the below locations, and no doubt presenting at a VMware or VMUG event near you!

Was technology your first calling?

I’ve always been around tech from the very beginning whilst in school, joining the computer club so I could use the Sinclair ZX81 Spectrum. Like most computer clubs, spending time writing code, and was lucky enough to have it published in a computer magazine at the time.

After leaving school, a move to a Chemical manufacturer lead to learning Cobol programming for their CRM system, client software, and configuring a lot of modems. Unfortunately, I was made redundant from one role, and this is where I moved into the contracting world, working for a large European bank. From here I stayed on and moved my way up through the various roles from entry level technician keeping the lights on, to leading the teams keeping the lights on.

Can you recall the moment where you found yourself thinking “I can move beyond day-to-day operations, work with customers in a more strategic capacity?”

There was not an immediate moment of this happening, it was all part of the journey of during my career. In the latter days working for the European bank, as I’d moved up the ladder, I spent time thinking and articulating the effects of the technology and its effects on the business, especially the positive effects.

In 2000, I moved away from the technical administration roles and joined Compaq as a pre-sales consultant. This solidified the move away from break-fix and I got to see the other side of “the fence” so to speak. Certainly, joining a sales organisation and being part of that sales focus was a shock to the system.

But this was also the start of working with a range of customers from a more strategic position and taking my experiences of the positive impacts of technology on a business out to a wider audience.

Sales Kick off in New York with Compaq, they still meet up each year, the IT space in Scotland is a small world!
Featuring (L-R); Matthew Steiner, Brett Wells, Brian Duffy and Andy Hughes

How would you summarise/guide a person, start focusing on the business before tech? Continue reading Interview – Matthew Steiner – Cloud Technologist and Author

Interview – Ian Sanderson talks community and career growth

The last interview I wrote up was back in 2017, although I’ve made efforts to kick off a continuation of this series, I stalled. I recently went over some of the past interviews and its amazing how in 18 month or so, people’s careers and focuses have changed, never mind the IT industry.

So kicking off the first interview of 2019, I reached out to my friend Ian Sanderson. Ian has 15 years of IT experience under his belt, taking the usual route into the IT industry, “I cut my teeth in the virtualisation world with Hyper-V in 2008, but my focus has been VMware since 2010”, he tells me as we kick off discussing “Ian in his own words.”

Ian and myself became friends and comrades with similar interests due to our activity in the IT community, interactions on twitter soon turned into bumping into one another at events, and catching up over coffee, and late night drinks at vendor community programs.

I ask Ian to define what the IT community means to him, “Community to me is like having an extended family of people who you can bounce ideas off, or call upon for help with other things” he says, “It is not a one way street though. I try my best to give back to people in any way I can help out. It’s really about comradery & helping each other achieve their end goals.”

“The wealth of collective knowledge in the vCommunity honestly amazes me. There is always someone, somewhere who has the solution to a problem you may have.”

So where did it all start for Ian? “My first real interactions with the community kicked off when I became a Veeam Vanguard in 2016. Prior to that I had the odd interaction on twitter and an outdated blog but nothing really significant. Being virtually air dropped into a group of like-minded people who love Veeam really sparked my passion for getting more involved in community events.”

I’m not shocked to find this answer pretty much echos similar answers to others in the IT community. Small steps into twitter; invites to slack groups; and a sense of needing to give back to the community we have all taken so much from. (We’ve all googled for an answer, and ended up at someones personal blog post, finding they have fixed the same issue).

Career progression

It’s no secret that a lot of ambitious IT folk have gone on to do very well in their perspective areas boosted by their work/activity in the IT community. There’s no secret group or handshakes, just purely hard work, a love of technology, and mostly a friendly atmosphere, as Ian equates earlier “Its really about comradery and helping each other achieve their end goals.” Continue reading Interview – Ian Sanderson talks community and career growth

Interview – Chris Wahl – Author, Blogger, IT Consultant

My fourth blog posts is with one of my favourite online personalities, Chris Wahl, a person whom I’ve followed the blog of for a long time. I won’t add too much preface to this, and dive straight in.

1. So Chris, you’ve are known in the community for two main subject area’s, networking and scripting, as well as technical author, but can you give me a quick run down of yourself for those whom are not completely familiar of your work?

Over the past 18 years of being employed in the technology sector, I’d boil it down to spending a lot of time problem solving as either a customer or consultant in various environments. I’m most proud of having published Networking for VMware Administrators with my friend Steve Pantol, achieving the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification, and publishing over 70 episodes of the Datanauts Podcast with my co-host Ethan Banks. I use the words “snazzy” and “groovy” frequently while also borrowing quotes and images from my hero, SpongeBob, while focusing on the wonderful world of Startup Life at Rubrik as the Chief Technical Evangelist.

2. What is the biggest challenge you have in your job day-to-day at the moment.

Imagine a formula one racecar zooming down the motorway. It’s really fast, right? Now, imagine that Ellon Musk strapped a pair of SpaceX rockets to the sides. That’s a bit what it’s like to work at a startup – very fast paced. My biggest challenge is keeping up to date with engineering, product, sales, marketing, and support while traveling the world to spend time and attention on customers, their needs, and how they can be met by the team. Every job I’ve ever held has eventually become boring, but I think I’ve finally met my match for finding something that is as interesting as it is challenging.

3. If you’re hiring, what are you looking for in the candidate?

Finding people with the ability to be self-sufficient and take the initiative is my biggest focus. I prefer to set a goal and let someone figure out the best way to achieve it while being available for assistance of guidance when required. My experience has taught me that most everything else will fall into place if someone has the will and energy to get their work done when they know that I’m not watching their every move.

4. How do you expect the IT landscape to change over the next 5 years, and how do you expect this to affect your role?

I think it’s really all about the various applications that we build and maintain, and the evolution in how we build and maintain them. All of the change we’re going through is really focused on those two things. In five years, I would expect a lot more of the world to operate in a Kubernetes type model – build pools, assign units of work, execute in the pools, and store data where a policy engine dictates.

Those that can help organizations with this process will prosper, which is one of my main focuses at Rubrik – both in term of our software, but also how I approach engaging with other IT professionals. Embracing the concepts required to build and maintain the next generation of applications – such as building automation tasks using an API and planting those into an orchestration engine – are the future. How much of this future applies to any one individual is variable, but the overall model makes a lot of sense and is the only real way to construct applications for the needs of 2020 and beyond.

5. What’s the costliest mistake you’ve made in your career?

I once pushed a script into production that accidentally wiped the system32 directory from any Active Directory attached computer object that pulled down a gpupdate. Even though I caught the mistake quickly, it required my team and me to stream new OS images to over 100 PCs over the course of a day. It may not have been the most expensive from a dollars perspective, but it taught me the lesson of testing and not being too avant-garde with automation. It took me a while to bounce back from this mistake and feel confident in my abilities as a systems administrator.

6. What have been the successes and failures of your blog site so far?

I’ve never really thought of my blog in those terms. Based on the comments, I think people are able to read the content and learn a thing or two, which is the fuel that keeps me going. I certainly have looked things up on my blog on more than one occasion. Beyond that, it continues to be a place where I can explore my own thoughts and keep from forgetting the things that I’ve learned. I’m happy that the virtualization community has been kind enough to vote for the site in a handful of ranking systems – such as Eric Siebert’s Top vBlog survey – but am not particularly motivated on a day-by-day basis for such things.

My worst failure is anytime I get something wrong on the site. It makes me feel nauseous thinking that I misinformed anyone. Fortunately, most readers are quite lovely people who offer constructive feedback and I try to fix any mistakes promptly.

7. What tips can you provide to anyone blogging or thinking about starting?

Some ideas off the top off my head:

  • Don’t worry about creating content about a topic that others have written about.
  • Offer your opinions – the why of something is almost always more interesting than the what of something.
  • Be honest about why you are writing something.
  • Be nice.
  • If you can’t think of a topic, visit Reddit / VMTN forum / Slack / Twitter and see what sorts of questions are being asked. I used the VMTN forums for years to answer questions in long-form on the blog. People seemed to like that.
8. Any tips for people getting started in IT, or looking for a focus/direction?

Technology is a vast and multi-faceted environment. Try to find something that resonates with you personally. I started as a developer writing COBOL and hated it (although the COBOL probably had more to do with it than anything else). I switched majors and became a network engineer because it was so much fun to me! Now, I’m enjoying a little bit of both worlds. There’s also a bazillion free learning sites, and some really inexpensive non-free learning sites (Pluralsight), which really kill off any excuses to get started in just about any area of technology.

9. Powershell is definitely a skill that future engineers need to know, what were you’re first steps into coding?

Hah. Well, I’d certainly like to think that PowerShell is a definite skill to learn, but I think it’s one of many great frameworks out there to choose from. But, if you do decide to go down the PowerShell route, I’d say that starting backwards helps. My first bits of code in PowerShell were to solve existing problems, such as building Active Directory accounts or starting a Windows service. It’s hard to learn a language without a focus. Start with those little tasks and use them to build your knowledge of the syntax and commands. From there, the rest of the journey is all about structure, formatting, and efficient ways to create code.

I didn’t have many resources to pull from when I first started to learn PowerShell, but now days there are a plethora of books and online courses to view. My advice to my younger self would be to learn more about the structure of writing good code as early as possible – such as building functions and modules with comments, limiting a function to a single set of inputs and outputs, and keeping the logic statements to a minimum for code re-use.

10. The majority of the traditional infrastructure stack can be configured and managed through the likes of PowerShell these days, but what caveats should people be looking for, or aware of?

The major one is the expectation of stability. Try to write your code as if nothing can be taken for granted. Especially not the inputs given to you from others (people or systems). Sanitize everything, test everything, and make sure that what parameters you are requesting are always the ones you expect. If you limit the hazards available from user error, it makes life easier for everyone.

Also, never hard code anything in your scripts or functions. I tend to abstract those into parameters or some sort of external configuration file. This keeps you from having to edit the code for when your infrastructure changes or the environmental configuration changes. This was a lesson I learned over time, and I still wince when I see some of my old functions from the past 8 years.

11. What’s next for Chris Wahl in 2017, what personal and work goals have you set yourself?

My main goals at work are to grow my team by several more people, scale-out the work that is being done to cover the massive global demand, and branch out to new communities across events covering cloud providers, technology stacks, and developer groups.

I plan to attend Microsoft Ignite; DevOps Enterprise Summit; and AWS re:Invent for the first time ever. while still attending as many of the VMware events (VMUG UserCons and VMworld) as I can. However, I also want to send my team to cover a lot of these events to build their brands and relationships in those communities.

My personal goals remain fairly simple – spend as much time with friends and family as possible, cross off more Bourbons and Scotches from my “try it” list, and continue to keep personal fitness as a top priority. The groovy thing about Austin is that it aligns nicely with all three of these goals, and allows me to attend a lot of snazzy tech events – such as OpenStack Summit and Tech Field Days – while also getting to check out SXSW and ACL for some great music.

Chris is a keen blogger, and is how we connected online and in person. Having followed Chris’ blog for a long time as our areas of interest were very similar, networking and virtualisation. A few years ago I attended the UK VMUG, and managed to meet Chris in person, I found him to be just as likeable and helpful in person as he is online via twitter. This is seen further in his interview responses, who else would admit to accidentally wiping the system32 folder of their companies machines.

Chris has found his place working for the vendor Rubrik. Focusing his efforts on the IT community and automation has his subject matter, I think it speaks volumes that Rubrik took Chris on; who are in the world of backups, and Chris a highly experienced engineer in various areas.

He might not have been the obvious choice to go and work for a company in the backup industry. But when you dig below the surface, when you are an agile company ripping up the rule book, Chris is certainly one of the experts you want on your team. 
Regards
Dean


Interview – Dave Kawula – MVP, Consultant, Author

2017 is kicking off with my third interview blog post, this time focusing on Dave Kawula, MVP and author focusing on Microsoft Technologies. Let’s kick off straight into the interview itself, Dave likes to type! Longest interview yet, but its a great read.

(Dave is the one on the left, little known fact, but there is more pictures of Dave and Clint Wyckoff together on twitter than Dave and his wife 🙂 )

The interview is split into three area’s of discussion;

  • Life and Worklife
  • Thoughts on the industry
  • Thoughts for those working in IT, and those wanting to work in IT
Lets kick off with a brief introduction of yourself

I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with over 20 years of experience in the IT industry. My background includes data communications networks within multi-server environments, led architecture teams for virtualization, System Center, Exchange, Active Directory, and Internet gateways. Very active within the Microsoft technical and consulting teams, providing deep-dive technical knowledge and subject matter expertise on various System Center and operating system topics. Continue reading Interview – Dave Kawula – MVP, Consultant, Author

Interview – Matt Crape – Community Blogger & IT Manager

In the second interview, Matt Crape of 42u.ca a blog around everything IT, is the person answering the questions. I’d personally been following Matt after his website went live and had the fortune of spending some time with him in London as part of the Veeam Vanguard program.

(Matt is the guy on the right, seen here undertaking a vBrownbag Meet the Expert chat)

So Matt, you’ve made a big impact on the community in a short time, congrats, but tell us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for that compliment 🙂 I’m an IT Manager by day at an SMB in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, in Canada. I do all the typical managerial stuff like budgets, handling vendor contracts, personnel, etc. But, I also try to stay somewhat technical. I still find myself routinely tinkering around in vSphere, maybe some networking, or just looking at things from a higher level (e.g. reviewing backup and disaster recovery plans).
Outside of my day job, I’m also a first-time vExpert for 2016, a Veeam Vanguard, and I run my own local Veeam User Group. I’m somewhat active on Twitter (@MattThatITGuy), and when 140 characters aren’t enough, you can find a selection of my ramblings at 42u.ca.
What is the biggest challenge you have in your job day to day at the moment?

Continue reading Interview – Matt Crape – Community Blogger & IT Manager