People have asked me what it is like to work at a vendor and in particular as an pre-sales SE. It has been a good ride thus far. I have learned so much about vendor and customer interactions, product development, product improvement, sales cycles, and how to learn new tech voraciously.
As a Systems Engineer you can be as technical as you like or stay salesy. This is allows a wide spectrum of people to fit the role and also probably tarnishes many technical SE’s with a sales brush. I talked about that here with regards to myself wearing a tie. I get to present what is possible with a customer, work with them on their problems, and hopefully solve them with good solutions. It is a great role.
What I have learned.
Exposure to so much cool technology, strategies and learnings. My gosh. Over the last year my knowledge of NSX has gone from customer level to very high. That would be expected considering that it is my job to know it, right? Also how to speak in public, convey a message, articulate problems, describe bugs, resolve problems, design solutions, eco-system integration, manage people and process, deal with negotiations, and provide constructive feedback. I have also discovered many tips with regards to travel. Both domestic and international. I have gone from nothing to Platinum with my local carrier within 11 months. I know the nuances of plane travel, luggage packing, where to eat, stay, how to get around, coffee and food shops in many capital cities and countries abroad. Life-skills!
I managed to knock off the VCP-NV exam for NSX too! That was a bonus.
One could not ask for a more awesome group of people to work with. My primary domain is Networking, secondary would be management and operations and tertiary would be automation and x86 virtualization. When you work in a diverse skill set team you can draw upon the pool of knowledge very easily. People give information freely. The collective knowledge of the vendor borg cube is astonishing. A simple question to Dmitri has led to multi-hour whiteboard sessions on numerous occasions. People are more than happy to share and it is great. So many rooms, so many people and never do you feel like you are the smartest person in it. I am sure many vendors as like this. It is pretty important you have a good management structure and peers as you travel with them a whole heap. They are like a second family and this is great. At times it makes the travel a little more bearable.
I have done over 30 public facing presentations at events. This has increased from a VMware User Group presentation to Technical presentations in front of 500 people at vForum. It has been great to create content myself, deliver solutions and usable information to a variety of people. My favorite presentation of 2014 was co-created with Andrew Babakian and centered around a Kill-chain, how a phishing attack compromised a network we were both familiar with and how to defend against it. This subsequently turned into a blog post by Matt Berry and myself.
I also did a Keynote presentation. Now this was very interesting. The idea of is a keynote is to present a concept, an idea or theory to get people to think. Challenge the norm. What was cool was a massive gear-shift from the other presentations I do. I was on stage with introduction music, I had my name on a fancy video and there was smoke and strobes. That was pretty rock star. Whilst I initially perceived this as “markety” it ended up being a massive learning experience. What I took away from working on a keynote was that it is a bit like the movie Inception. You need to seed the idea in its most basic, rawest form for it to stick. It was good to have follow-up technical conversations with the people who had this stick.
Pecha-Kucha is the idea of telling a story in 6 minutes with 20 seconds per slide/image. At our technical summit which saw 1000 VMware staff from the region get together in Macau, our MD/VP challenged people to deliver an impromptu deck. Roman and I got up on stage and role-played a buzz-word happy CIO and a VMware staff member. It was great to retell the VMware story with Meme’s and cliche-busters. (Roman : After all, it is awesome that Jimmy, the network architect, got network deployment times down from one year to 10 months! ;)) The big takeaway here was adapting and doing. We were given the opportunity and it was there for the taking.
Well that was 2015. My 2015 plans are in place and I want to do a whole lot more. OpenStack, PaaS, application creation and CI are all part of what I want to learn. I also want to keep working on my log management and event alerting skill set. Whilst I will keep supplementing and learning in my primary domain, I am going to back up and reinforce learnings in my secondary and tertiary domains. Here’s to 2015 and what new things it will bring.