Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Open Love Letter to Geekshow

Dear Geekshow Panelists,

Where to start ... there are so many thoughts and feelings being barely contained within my head, that it is hard to marshall or make sense of them all, but I will try.

Let me start with this. Thank you. Thank you for helping me accept that being a "nerd". "geek", "weirdo" or any other epithet applied to people who act, think, or behave in a manner that is counter to social norms, is something to celebrate and not be ashamed of. This one change of perspective has had an enormous impact on me, and how I view myself.

This last year has been a year of discovery for me. I discovered that there are many more of us then I ever thought possible through my attendance of Comic Con. I discovered that there is a whole subculture of geekdom that I never knew existed. but most importantly, I discovered Geekshow and you fine gentlemen.

It is that last point that I want to dwell on for a moment if I may. 

We have never met. I have attended a couple of the GS live events and had “brushes” with many of you in those random passing moments one has when living in proximity to each other, but we don't know each other.

Even though we have never met, I feel like I know each of you … at least parts of you. They are the parts that you allow us, the listeners of Geekshow, to know and connect with. It is what keeps Geekshow from being “just another podcast” and turns it into a weekly gathering of the kindred. 

This was indeed the case for me during these last few weeks with the build up to the release of Star Wars, during any discussion about the virtues of the Star Trek universe, or when Jeff passed.

Man, that was hard to write, and I am sure hard for you to read. I did not know Jeff, so I will not pretend that I did … I will just say that I can empathize with the emotions that you all shared so rawly during your mourning.

I mourned with you guys, I think we all did. (quick side note to Kerry: damn you man!! you made me lose it on I-15 when during your fireside when you gave a shout out to Jeff). 

This brings me to my main point … you have allowed us inside, and in a very selfless act, made yourselves vulnerable to people, some of whom you will never meet. Do you understand how noble and amazing that is? I hope you do, because in a world of disconnection and disaffection, you have provided respite and opportunity for those of us who often feel on the periphery to feel like we belong to something bigger than ourselves. 

Geekshow is comfort … it is acceptance … it is friendship.

So again gentlemen, thank you for opening yourselves up, inviting us in, and accepting us as we are.


Q. Wade Billings, a fellow geek.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All blocked up...

I have written this post three times, and each time I have tried using a different topic. Nothing seems to fit as nothing in my life seems is of such great import as to warrant a full scale blog posting.

This is not to say that good things are not occurring in my life, to the contrary, I am happier today than I was yesterday, and I expect tomorrow will be better than today.

Things just don't seem to be blog worthy.

That is the funny thing, somewhere along the line writing a blog became less about the free sharing of thoughts and ideas, and more about making an impact.

Maybe that is why we love FaceBook and Twitter so much. They allow us to express our often times incoherent or incomplete musings without feeling guilty about the rubbish we just posted. I mean why would someone take the time to blog about the BLT they just ate, or the fact that the guy sitting next to them smells of unwashed feet?

Instead, I sit down wanting to write something thought provoking or inspiring, but all I can come up with is inane drivel about the last Spotify find I made, or something along those lines.


I wonder, have you ever sat down and just let the comfort of life just settle on you? That is what I am doing right now... feeling very comfortable and I think that may be a problem.

Tony Robbins says that we are at our best when we are uncomfortable. I think that there is insight and wisdom in that concept. At work I constantly challenge people around me to move outside of their comfort zones and get uncomfortable.

I wonder why I have a hard time taking my own challenge....

Asking that question out-loud makes me uncomfortable... 


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New year, new beginnings

As 2011 comes to a close, I find myself reflective and grateful for the year that was. This time last year, I was working for Kynetx and we were planning for a stellar 2011 as we took over the World.

What a difference a year makes....

Over the course of the year I switched jobs, companies and focus. I became a grandfather to the most handsome and awesome grandson ever (just a little biased here). There were highs, lows and doldrums to experience and work through.

Overall 2011, was a good year.

As 2012 approaches, I find myself once again sanguine that it will be a year of continued growth and transcendence. There are a number of threads developing that could prove to be game changers for me and my family, and at this time I favor all of them.

I also look forward to watching my awesome grandson grow and develop. I have truly enjoyed watching him explore his surroundings and relish the opportunity to teach him the ropes. There is little that is more enjoyable than watching a child interact with his environment. It makes you realize how amazing the human brain is in coping with an ever changing environment.

I also look forward to continuing my engagement with AtTask. This is a great company, full of great people with great ideas. I could not be more thankful to the leadership of AtTask for their leadership, guidance and friendship. Over the last year I have been honored to be able to build a team that I would put up against any IT operations team out there.

Lots of good stuff happening and I can't wait to see it come to fruition.

So 2011, I will remember you fondly.... and 2012, bring it on...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana

I did not realize how long it has been since I wrote something for this blog. To say that the last four weeks have been busy would be the understatement of the year.

For those of you keeping score, I started a new job at a company call AtTask about a month ago. This job has been all things insane over the last month and I am just getting a chance to catch my breath.

As I have become more acclimated to my new surroundings and team mates, I have discovered a few things about myself:

1) I am getting old
2) I let my technological edge dull a little over the last two years
3) I love leading a team
4) There are a lot of smart people here and I feel stupid sometimes

AtTask is a company on the move and they have amassed an impressive team to power their journey. Where Kynetx is driven by passion, heart and raw brilliance, AtTask is driven by dogged tenacity, intellect and clear market vision. Neither one is better than the other, they are just appropriate for the evolutionary stage each organization is at.

Coming to work every day is a interesting experience because I truly have no idea what the day has in store for me. I thought that I would have some time to "ease" into the role, but life had a different plan for me and instead threw me into the deep end, handed me an anchor and released the sharks.

Good thing I know how to swim....

I am finding that muscles I have not used for a couple of years are starting to regain their strength. Concepts and thoughts that I had put on the shelf are becoming relevant again and regions of my brain that went dormant are awakening. All in all, it has been a pretty good ride so far and I am hopeful that it will remain on that trajectory.

Oh, if you know someone who is a Linux Systems Administrator and is in need of a new adventure, send them my way as I have a couple of seats on the bus available.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lessons learned from Dodgeball

What a difference a week makes. Last week this time I was nervously awaiting the start of my next adventure at @Task. This week, I am wondering if someone got the license plate of the trunk that ran me over (being metaphorical here...).

I think that the most apt analogy for what working at @Task in the IT Operations team is like is the game of dodgeball that I participated in last Monday. It was the tenth birthday of @Task, and what does one do on their tenth birthday? Yes, you are correct, you throw inflatable balls at one another.

As the week moved on, I realized that I would be well served to remember the lessons learned in the dodgeball game:

1 - The best defense is a good offense
2 - Do not take your eye off the ball
3 - There are those who will try to deceive you into thinking that they are not armed. Be ready for anything.
4 - Your team is the most important asset you have. Put your trust in them to protect your blind spots.

The first week at a new company is always stressful and surreal. You are an outsider, and everyone you meet has the same "who the Hell are you" look when first introduced. You also have this strange halo effect which causes people to think that you are smarter than you really are. Actually, this halo effect has a half life of about six weeks, but starts to decay after about four.

Adding to the first week bizarreness, my boss was out for the last couple of days, so I had to jump into the deep end of the pool, grab an anchor and start swimming. I actually would not have it any other way, but it is still unsettling to take that leap.

I am still getting my bearings and will be gathering copious amounts of data over the upcoming weeks, but the good news here is that I have been here before and know these waters well. In fact, this opportunity fits perfectly within my sweet spot and I will be able to use all the clubs in my bag.

I am very glad that this weekend was relatively tranquil as I needed it to decompress and gird myself for the upcoming week.

I find myself thinking more and about the lessons learned from Dodgeball and I am nervously awaiting the whistle blow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What is it with QA these days?

Here is a sad fact for you; the last time I worked for a company with a strong, independent and respected QA dept was over six years ago. That company was LowerMyBills, and they had a killer QA department which contributed greatly to the overall success of the product and company.

So what is it with QA these days and why are good QA people so hard to find and retain?

Some thoughts are that once a company has found a QA tester worth his/her salt, they hide them away and keep them captive with "golden handcuffs" so they will not be tempted to seek out greener pastures.

Another thought is that QA is often used as the incubator from which development is fed so you have a perpetual cycle of brain drain. Still another theory is that QA testers are not born, they are developed and that takes both time and effort, both of which are in often times in short supply in a fast moving company.

Regardless of what is truth and what is fiction, one thing is for certain, when you have a strong, independent and respected QA department within your organization, your company is able to accomplish amazing things. Without out one, your organization will be in perpetual firefighting mode as defects leak out into production and your clients unknowingly become your beta testers.

As a leader of an Operations team, I am repeatedly reminded of the pricelessness of a QA team who are not beholden to engineering or operations, and are free to be an unbiased proving ground for your product. The sad truth is that often organizations place QA under the direction of engineering, which frankly is just incestuous, or under the direction of operations, which is almost as bad.

What is worse, I have often times observed QA being hobbled either by misalignment within the organization, poor staffing or insufficient experience, pillaging from other departments and/or an unclear mandate regarding the importance of quality within the organization.

In my opinion (and the opinion of many others I have spoken with) QA must be free and independent and should report directly to a "C" level executive like a COO or CIO (not CTO) and should be held to stringent standards. Additionally, they should be given the ability to "pull the cord" and halt production in the event egregious quality issues are identified. Without these qualities, your QA department is at best little more than a rubber stamp and at worst, a scapegoat for all of your organization's ills.

I am interested to hear what others have experienced and what they have done to help solve this problem. I am also interested to hear your thoughts about how we, as IT professionals, can help guide young people into becoming QA tester and engineers instead of code jockeys.

In the end, QA may not be the sexiest job in IT, but I think you will agree that it is arguably the most important link in the chain and should be celebrated as such.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

It is official, you are reading the blog of the new Senior Manager, IT Operations at @Task. To say that I am excited about this new opportunity would be the understatement of the year.

As I begin this new exciting adventure, as the title of this posting says, it also means that my last adventure officially comes to an end. I would be lying if I did not say that this is more than a little bittersweet for me. My time at Kynetx was nothing less than amazing and I will remember it very fondly. I also want to thank Steve, Phil and the entire Kynetx team for their love and support as I embark on this new chapter of my career.

One of the things that attracted me to @Task was the fact that I would be working with three gentlemen from my past, namely Nate, Otto and Jeff. I first encountered these fine individuals when I was at Excite@Home (hmm, something about the "@" sign...). When that company imploded, we all went our separate ways, they stayed in Utah county and I went to CA.

Nate started @Task as a founder and currently holds the position of CTO. Otto and Jeff went to other companies and continued to work at their crafts and sharpen their skills to the point of mastery. They eventually found their way to @Task and have taken up postions that align perfectly with their skills.

When things changed at Kynetx Jeff and Nate reached out to me and expressed interest in bringing me in for a "sit down." This first meeting kicked of a series of meetings, phone calls and emails as we worked through the details of getting me on the bus. As we continued to talk, I was not quite sure where it was going to end up, but I always believed that we would come to a decision point in short order. That decision point ended up manifesting itself in the form of a employment offer.

So starting Monday, I will be traveling the I-15 corridor Southbound to building K on the old WordPerfect campus to start my new adventure leading an amazing team of IT professionals. This team is responsible for the care and feeding of the production computing platforms which serve clients like GE, Apple and Toyota just to name a few. We have our work cut out for us as @Task embarks on its own adventure of growth and market leadership.

I fully expect that this new beginning will test and stretch my abilities as a leader and technologist, but if it didn't, then it wouldn't be fun or interesting now would it.

In closing I would like to thank Nate, Jeff and Otto for their generosity and consideration. I would also like to thank the team I am about to assume the leadership of. They are really good guys and I impressed with their ability to metabolize change, even change of this magnitude. I know that it is not easy to welcome a new member, but they have done an admirable job of making me feel welcome.

So onward and upward I go.