vTesseract is my personal presence for my thoughts, musings, and technical write-ups involving PowerShell, datacenter virtualization and other technologies I come across daily. The opinions and thoughts on this site are my own and are not endorsed or affiliated by my employer or anyone else. This is done on my own free time and all work is limited based on my time and available resources. Your comments, thoughts, opinions are welcome. Thanks for reading!
I’m officially 2 months into the my new gig as a vArchitect at VCE. After a decade of being on the operations support side I’m no longer trying to solve one organization’s problems. I’m now spending my days (and nights) on the road and in meetings helping various organizations solve their infrastructure woes with Vblock.
Making the transition to the other side of the table was not something I took lightly. I knew it would be extremely valuable for my career advancement but with potential side effects. I’ve talked with several people since the move who have expressed interest in doing something similar so I thought I’d share some of my suggestions based on my recent experience.
Passion - Product and Vision
It should go without saying that if you wake up in the morning and excited about the work you do then it’s not always work. I kept this thought in mind when considering a new opportunity at VCE. One of the things that really excited me about VCE was the Vblock product itself. The value of the converged infrastructure to an operations and automation guy was a huge dangling carrot that left me thinking “I want to go to there”.
I truly believe when talking with customers now that Vblock is a superior product that can help them provide valuable services to their business. I get a small charge when I see the lightbulb go off in a meeting when someone starts to realize how their world might change for the better when implementing Vblock and I’m looking forward to those “Thank You” cards in the future. This sound silly? Perhaps it is but I truly believe in the product that I’m designing with.
If you’re considering a move to a company as a consultant, especially product pre-sales, you should make sure you believe in what the company is offering. After all, if you DON’T believe in it…why should your customer? This does not mean you have to go on the deep end and get a corporate tattoo or change your Twitter handle or persona. It simply means that you stand behind the product and want to see customers happy and successful with that product in their environment. My goal more than anything else is to make my customer’s lives just a little bit easier with Vblock.
On the same thread make sure you ask about the company’s vision. This vision should involve the vision of the product but also for the company as a whole. I was specifically interested in a company with a startup nature because I wanted to be somewhere where I thought I could make considerable contributions in a short period of time. I’ve mentioned before that I’m lazy but that isn’t completely accurate. I just like getting the most bang for my energy buck. :)
Family - Strain and Absence
Working all night trying to recover from an outage. Sucks.
Planning meetings for change windows where you work all weekend to perform updates. Sucks
On Call. Really Sucks
Each of these items are staples to an operations person and have an impact on your family and social life. You get accustomed to missing events, working weekends, and working all hours of the day.
On the other side of the table?
Traveling all day to a customer location to have the meeting cancelled last minute. Sucks.
Being away from your own bed 3+ days in a row. Sucks.
Seeing your kids remotely through Facetime and photos. Sucks but I’m so glad those technologies exist.
Each of these items are staples to a pre-sales architect/engineer on the road with customer meetings and have an impact on your family and social life. You get accustomed to missing things during the week though the weekends have been much more available,
Don’t kid yourself if taking a role that involves travel. Travel can suck if you don’t have the right mindset. I personally use it as an opportunity for me to be more productive. The bits of time where I’d normally spend with my family I then spend working on my job or my various other activities. I do this so that when I am home I can dedicate my time to them. Yes, I still work on the weekend but I find that generally my Sat/Sun time is my own. Make sure you communicate with your family about the change and LISTEN carefully to what your spouse and children are saying when they talk to you. I’m trying to be very aware of these things so that I don’t let my absence be a negative. I’m doing this to provide them a better life after all.
Team - Account Manager and Peers
If you’re going into pre-sales you had better pre-screen the account manager(s) that you’ll be working along side. You’ll be spending a great deal of time with this person and they have considerable influence on your time and energy. Make sure that you get along and are mostly on the same page. Understand what they’re being measured on and what your roles truly are in that relationship. One of the major deciding points for me in taking this role is that I knew the account manager previously and felt confident that we’d get along quite well. After a couple of meetings I definitely felt we were going to be in lock step most of the time. So far we have been and it’s working out well.
Also make sure that you have an opportunity to meet your peers. This is important since you’ll be depending on many of these people throughout your time there. They have a wealth of experience in the role that they can share with you. Make sure that your relationship is one where they’ll feel open to sharing that information with you. Essentially determine early on if you think you can truly be a part of that team.
Knowledge - Know it All or Know Enough
I often feel that folks give me more credit then I deserve on my knowledge. I’ve worked hard to feel that I know quite a bit and try to take strides to be one step ahead of the customer. Moving into this role meant that I needed to be much more knowledgeable about storage and networking then I’ve needed to be in the past. Many of my previous experiences have been extremely valuable but there have still been gaps.
Know going in that if a company is seriously considering you for a role then it’s likely they anticipate that there will be a learning curve and a time to get ramped up. It’s valuable to get higher on that curve as soon as possible but don’t feel like you have to learn it all over night. I don’t think anyone does. Make sure you ask and learn WHO to ask and WHERE to look. You’ll learn as you go along so be a sponge and don’t stress about having every answer all of the time.
Growth - Listen and Learn and Share
I took this role because I wanted an opportunity to be customer facing on a product that I felt passionate about. I wanted to put my interpersonal skills to the test and see if I can excel in an entirely new environment. The meetings and language on the sales side are completely different then operations. The concerns are different. I’ve made a point to listen very carefully to what is being said and what people expect. I can’t say honestly that I’m always executing on these things each time, but I do know that I’m learning to align more and more each day.
I’d say the most important thing a consultant can do is listen more and talk less. The more I get the customer to talk about their environment, their challenges, and their goals the better I can align Vblock to these things. Demonstrating that you are listening and understanding what was shared makes everyone’s life easier. I’ve learned a great deal from exchanges with customers and I gladly share things with my team. Not only does this provide the team with potentially valuable information, but it also informs them of the things that I’m experiencing. It may be something they could leverage me for in future opportunities. We’re a team with a common goal after all.
I could really go on and on about things that I’ve learned over the last two months. It really comes down to being honest with yourself and setting reasonable expectations. Happiness in life is all about managing expectations. I feel that my family and I went into this change with eyes wide open and since we had a fair expectation any deviations have been minor ordeals.
Make no mistake that a move from operations to sales/consulting can be a dramatic one. I feel like I’ve literally had to re-gear my brain on a day-to-day basis. The learning is non-stop and the sales cycle can be ruthless. Work hard but keep a level head and don’t neglect yourself or your family. A new job is always easier than a new you or a new family.
Please remember to be very honest when self-evaluating against the list above. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that things will be different then what your gut tells you. If you think you’re ready for the move then I know VCE is always looking for talented individuals and I’ll be happy to pass on your name and resume. I’m always happy to chat and answer questions. It’s an exciting change…if you’re ready!
I’m honored and excited to report that I’ll be presenting the afternoon keynote at the upcoming Seattle VMUG Users Conference on May 13th! No surprise I’ll be talking automation with PowerCLI and vCenter Orchestrator! I may even start talking about some vCAC!
I’m planning to try to bring some copies of some books as well as some great discount codes for various cool stuff.
I hope to see you there! Find more details and register for the event at:
If you’re reading this blog then it’s probably safe to say that you have been a miracle worker at some point or another. The scenario probably played out something like this:
- You receive an call from a department head or the boss with an outlandish request
- “We need XXX setup in 2 days for XXX application because XXX or else it’s going to cost us XXX. “
- Your immediate thought is “…that work usually takes 1-2 weeks. There’s no way I can drop everything and get that done.”
- You mull it over because “No” is not an option. You identify the resources you need and you get to work.
- After 2 excruciatingly long days and probably no sleep that night you get it done!
- You inform the requester that you’ve completed the work
- “Wow. Great work. Good news is that we got rescheduled, but that’s great that we don’t have to worry about that now!”
- You suppress your rage at not being informed and probably go back to your desk/office to complete your day. Resist the urge to send a flaming email.
What has just happened here? You have become a miracle worker, but at your own peril. This is not to say that you should tell the clients you serve “No”. I think the exact opposite. In fact, the goal is to make your clients more enabled. More Agile. Able to accomplish their needs in tight timelines. Our datacenters and applications are getting more complex and coincidentally so will the requests. You should, however, always remember one very important fact:
Today’s Miracles are Tomorrow’s Expectations.
I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
What happened in this scenario is that you were positioned with a critical need for the business which had costly consequences. Someone concluded that the costs were too much and failure was not an option. You performed a miracle, but in the end you weren’t the hero despite your efforts. Client demands are continuing to grow in scope, complexity, and urgency. How do you address this without driving yourself crazy?
You too must grow in scope and complexity. Clearly you can’t clone yourself or go bionic. The trick is to prepare yourself by being armed with tools and resources that can minimize the impact on you, while simultaneously making the work you do more consistent. This is where free automation tools like PowerCLI and vCenter Orchestrator can save the day. These two tools have considerable capability already built in the product and by community folks. This provides a strong framework that you can build and modify for your particular use case.
My suggestion, especially if you’re just getting started, is to identify those common tasks you do on a regular basis that consume your day unnecessarily. This could be for general maintenance or delivering VMs. These common tasks are typically foundational for the requests you receive from your clients/users. Automating them early allows you to address the needs of your consumers faster and with less stress, error, and time. In fact products like vCloud Director are purpose built for delivering value to your consumers. Building on top of this platform can provide even more value.
Process automation makes those demands easier to consume and sets the stage by providing foundations for future requests of even higher complexity. The best part is that your requestors may not even know that you’re not having to work nearly as hard on this 2nd request. That should be the point.
Instead of pulling out your hair and losing sleep; sit back, drink a cup of coffee, let the automation work while you catch up on the latest blog post on vTesseract.com!
This post was based on part of my VMworld session “Become a Rock Star with PowerCLI and vCenter Orchestrator” You can see this presentation at the upcoming South Florida VMUG Users Conference on April 3, 2013. In future posts I’ll talk more about how to identify meaningful areas for automation in your organization that will make your users love you. [Or at least like you even more for making their lives easier] Yes, this will eventually lead to more conversations about Cloud, SDDC, ITaaS and more.
A Few Notes on Community code/resources
- Find something useful? Let the author know.
- Having troubles with the community code? Ask for help.
- If you didn’t write it, give credit where credit is due.
- Keep your expectations of the community reasonable. We’re here to help, but you know…miracles and all. :)
- Build something new? Share it with the community!
See the Scripting section of 3rd Column
Exciting news everyone. Scott Lowe and Forbes Guthrie have joined forces again for the vSphere Design Book, 2nd Edition! It’s available to order!
Forbes mentions on his blog vreference.com that Maish Saidel-Keesing was not able to be a part of the update though his 1st Edition work is still evident. Disappointing as that may be it is great to see that they have included a new chapter on design considerations for vCloud Director. This section, written by fellow VCE employee Kendrick Coleman, should provide instruction for those interested in designing their vSphere environment to include vCloud components.
The book releases this coming week and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it. Even though I’ve achieved VCAP-DCD I’m past due for an upgrade to v5. I anticipate this book to be a valuable resource for the exam just as the first edition was for VCAP4-DCD. You can order the book on Amazon
I mentioned briefly about the welcome addition of the vCloud chapter. I hope that in the near future the publisher can convince Kendrick or someone to put together an equally excellent resource specifically for the vCloud Suite as a value add for designing these environments and preparation for the VCAP-CID exam.http://blog.scottlowe.org/2013/04/01/vsphere-design-guide-giveaway/
I have an admission to make. I don’t spend nearly enough time with AutoLab. That’s changing as I’m setting it up on my new work laptop. My Homelab has regularly been set up where Autolab wasn’t as much of an advantage. My previous laptop simply didn’t have the horsepower so I’m excited to start using it again.
Wait, what’s that? You don’t know what AutoLab is? Well my vBrownBag brothers Alastair Cook, Nick Marshall, and Damian Karlson put together this amazing project that automates the buildout of a VMware vSphere homelab. All you need is approximately 100GB of disk space, 8GB+ machine (laptop/desktop), and the trial installation disks for various components.
You can find the entire project download at http://www.labguides.com/autolab Check out that site for more details about the project. Note: They have done excellent work and even have vCloud Director!
Mike Laverick recently posted an excellent outline on his blog of getting his AutoLab instance installed in the cloud with a service called BareMetalCloud. I admit, my knowledge of BareMetalCloud is sparse. In short BareMetalCloud provides a physical server as a service. Not only that but they have coordinated with the AuotLab crew and have AutoLab as an install option right there in the service! You can read Mike’s experience deploying AutoLab through BareMetalCloud’s existing offering at:
I won’t repeat Mike’s post but I highly suggest you check it out. No longer are you even limited to the resources of your hardware. You can homelab in the cloud! Use the code MAGICMIKE100 to get started, assuming you’re one of the first 100 readers to do so!
Interested in hearing more about automation in vSphere and AutoLab? Check out my keynote at the South Florida VMUG Users Conference on April 3. More details at:
Keep on homelab’ing and thanks for reading!
I often take for granted the amazing people in the virtualization community. The passion and dedication people have almost feel like a natural extension to my own. Conferences and community forums like VMUG and the vBrownBag provide me with the exhiliration of this shared passion. I never knew that I would find that outside of our immediate community.
Tonight I had a chance meeting with a man from the northeast who was here in Texas for a conference for a unrelated industry. After some changes after school he began pursuing a different area outside of IT/Tech. Once I informed him of what I did boy was I in for a surprise. We immediately began talking VMware, the new features available for VDI, and how he’s been taking self initiative to help improve the company he works for through virtualization.
Needless to say I was super stoked to talk shop with him and hear the cool things he was doing at work, and even in his HOMELAB! That’s right. This guy’s been spending time on his own learning, playing, hacking.
I can’t tell you how proud and excited I was to be able to tell him what a wonderful community that VMware has built. I introduced him to the vBrownBag podcast, vCommunity Trust, and William Lam’s virtuallyghetto blog.
It was so awesome meeting someone out of the blue who is working to better himself, learn a new skill, and find ways to improve his value to his employer through VMware virtualization technologies. Needless to say I invited him to join the community, learn, and share his experiences.
i hope everyone has an opportunity to meet someone like this. It’s rejuvenating. Always keep in mind that people are working at different starting points, different experiences, different needs. We all have one thing in common; a passion for this powerful technology. Thanks for reading!