I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed on the UK Cloud Pro Journal as part of their “Spotlight On” features, a series of interviews which “highlight someone interesting in the UK tech community. We ask them to share their career journey, tell us what they do and how they got here, what key industry insights do they have and leave us with some actionable insights.”
I’ve added a transcript of the interview below, and I really recommend you check out the site, aside from the Spotlight On series, there’s some great content on there, and I just want to say thanks again to Stevie Chambers for having me on.
What do you do, Ed, and how did you get here?
I’m a senior presales pro with a focus on convergence especially through FlexPod. My recent history is all partner/channel companies, working with customers on solutions around converged architectures and private/hybrid cloud deployments.
Away from the customer I’m partial to a bit of coding and automation and that’s where my passion lies. I’ve worked on automating a Flexpod builds and I’m interested in moving to work more with “cloud native” applications and architectures, as I believe that’s where the market is going to shift to, either sooner or later. I didn’t start my career in IT though…
I started out in the music and performing arts world and tried to avoid a real job for as long as possible. Then one day I became entangled in an Exchange issue at a company where I was doing some low level HTML/ASP development by putting my hand up and offering to fix it…which I did (my Google-fu has always been strong)… so I started paying the bills with a bit of IT consultancy and then…
…I joined the Army, specifically the UK Parachute Regiment! After an accident I moved from front-line to doing a range of tech work in the services. I worked with big government contractors like HP and Fujitsu, doing some 3rd Line Support work, travelling around UK military installations sorting IT things out.
I guess I’m a can-do tech pro who works more with business people today than military people, but I have an eye on what’s happening next in tech and I’m particularly interested in ‘cloud native’ and what it might mean for people like me in the industry.
What insights can you share with us?
Like most people I hate buzzwords and overloaded, useless and misleading terms. Cloud Native is one of those terms, but I think there’s something very real about it.
As well as all the online hullabaloo about cloud native, from folks like Pivotal, and the people leading the line on Serverless, I’m starting to see customers from multiple industry verticals look to investigate how these new architectures and deployment patterns can aid their business. It’s very easy to just live within a Twitter echo chamber and think that everything you hear in there is correct, but in this instance I can say there’s also a real buzz around Docker and the like with actual customers. Not many I’ve had conversations with yet are quite ready to go all in, but I’m reminded of the buzz from back in the early 2000s just before VMware really took off.
The insight I have is that I can’t see a simple transition from things like Flexpod to Cloud Native. Someone might say, “You can run cloud native apps on a Flexpod” but that’s missing my point: for customers to adopt cloud native they think fundamentally differently. For customer-facing pros like me it means I have to shift thinking too, but how? It’s like there’s a chasm to cross.
I can’t be an expert on “legacy” infrastructures AND an expert on cloud native. But if cloud native is the future, how do I move to that? The work I do now on converged infrastructure and more traditional applications isn’t going away soon, it pays the bills, but will that be the case in two, three or five years?
My insight is that people like me, front line tech pros, need to find a way to move with the times so that they are still employed and paying bills but they are also investing in their future and finding opportunities to do new things and cross that chasm.
Given those insights, what advice do you have?
I’m on this journey myself so I’ve put a framework together that I’m trying to follow.
- Challenge mindset. I could easily stay comfortable, just be the presales guy bumbling along but I need to challenge myself by learning about new things and accepting change. As General Eric Shinseki said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”..
- Soft skills are important. It’s easy to go all-in on tech and really geek out, but this industry is still driven by people buying from people and soft skills are valuable, just as much as tech skills.
- Understand role change. I’m not sure the presales process will change that much, though what we sell might. People will still need help understanding complexities of cloud just like they do with complex infrastructure.
- Channel change. The kind of companies I’ve worked for are excellent at providing solutions based on infrastructure: are they recognized as excellent at doing cloud native? If not today, how do they move to that. There’s no point having one cloud native guy in a company, there needs to be investment and change at the company level.
- Learn and share. I have learned more from other peers than I have from courses. I pay it back by blogging about what I know, it feels like the right thing to do. When people see you sharing they see you as community friendly and will help you when you need it. It’s like communities have Whuffie Credit 🙂
- Generation shift. It does feel like cloud is a generational mindshift. I feel like a member of the previous generation, but I’m prepared to disrupt myself to be of the same thinking as this generation.
- Challenge cloud first. I think there are sometimes better alternatives to just blindly going cloud. On-premises can be the right choice for some customers today, given their capabilities and requirements. I’m not a fan of dogma like “cloud for cloud’s sake”.
Ed, thank you for sharing your insights as a front line tech pro. I especially like your tattoo which is a Joker! I remember reading somewhere that people should study the arts before they do technology, to be a more rounded person. You’ve done arts, military and technology so well done for cramming it all in, all the best on your future 🙂