2013 In Review–Lessons Learned

Right up front, I promise: no predictions!  Ain’t nobody got time for that…  2013 was an interesting year for me, and looking back at it, there’s a lot to learn from it.  There were highs and lows, but every situation brings with it a lesson.  Here are the ones I learned, or am in the process of learning.

Size Matters

I often looked at the “business unit” model of companies like VMware, Dell and other large companies and wondered why they existed.  Now I know.  When a group, or a company, gets too big too fast, it’s like getting too far out over your skis: nothing good can come of it.  Interestingly, having a group that is too small can be just as problematic as having one that’s too big.  My 2014 resolution is to better understand how team structure and it’s relationship to the company as a whole affects things, both real and perceived.

Culture is Hard…and Important

Culture is a fickle thing; it can’t be forced, and you can’t always predict what will happen to it as a company grows. Even when wildly successful from a financial standpoint, the continual, relentless change in the workforce of a company can fundamentally change that culture.  At some point, there has to be a concerted effort to nurture a healthy culture, in every aspect, or it tips over and becomes a liability.  My 2014 resolution is to work hard to be a positive part of the culture in everything I do, personally and professionally.

Learning Isn’t Optional

Someone used the phrase “PowerPoint Lobotomy” at some point, and it’s a far truer description of my previous three years than I’d care to admit.  Some of you out there, have very, very tactical jobs where you do the same things over and over and over.  Either way, learning new things and continually being exposed to different parts of the business or different technologies isn’t an optional part of my life.  It’s something I need to work hard to make happen.  My 2014 resolution is to recognize that all PowerPoint and no hands-on makes Jeramiah a dull, stagnant boy.  There’s too much good, interesting tech out there, I just have to make playing with it a priority.

There’s Always An Equal Sign

Every job has an equal sign in the middle of the equation.  On one side is what you get out of the job, personally and professionally.  On the other is what the job demands of you.  My 2014 resolution is to be more aware of this balance, especially since I’m not the only person affected when I let the balance tip too far one way or the other, which is something I learned up close in 2013.  Jay Cuthrell, to his credit, tried over and over to tell me that “days on the road” wasn’t my key metric, but I felt like that was how I could best help the team.  In the end, I can’t get those days with my family back, and it didn’t affect how my employer looked at me.  Lesson learned.

Infrastructure Is Still Boring

One of the things I was most proud of at VCE was that we made it okay to admit that hardware was boring.  Sure, the Vblock may have been v0.1 along the path of making that a reality, but there are lots and lots of enterprise customers who were looking for the first step along the way, and VCE has sold an awful lot of incrementally more boring hardware to them.  (Congrats to all my friends over there, by the way.  That number you just hit is no joke, and I know how much work went into it.  Enjoy those bonuses!) But, it’s time to do more in making this a reality.  Converged, hyper-converged, SDDC, IaaS are all steps along the path, but none of them are the end goal.  My 2014 resolution is to embrace cloud services as a default for running every workload.  There are many quality, maturing cloud vendors out there, and the time has come for hardware not just to be boring, but unnecessary.

Community is Everything

We all profess to believe in the community, and we all try hard to contribute, but on a day-to-day basis it’s hard to always see the return on that investment.  For better or for worse, not having a job to wake up to for the first time in 15+ years was pretty hard, and I was really hoping that all of the plowing and planting I’d done with the community would bear fruit.  Holy cow, did it ever.  I was completely blown away by the response, and by the number and kinds of opportunities those responses led to.  You all even impressed my wife, and let me tell you that’s not easy.

I’ll never doubt the power of the community again, and I’d encourage you to really look at the amount you are investing and participating. I hope everyone gets to have the same level of support I did.  Sure, there are always going to be haters, and I certainly saw some, but the community as a whole was right there for me when I needed them.  My next task, wherever I end up, is to pay that kindness forward.

Interviewing Is Hard

The last few weeks have been jammed full with interviews.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect going in, since it’s been a long, long time since I was in full-on interview mode.  When I moved from MedCath to Peak 10 in 2004, and when I moved from Peak 10 to VCE in 2010, both of those were situations where I knew what I wanted the end-game to look like.  There were a small handful of phone calls, and then a handshake, and that was that.  My relationship was with a specific person, Pat O’Brien in the case of Peak 10, and Jonathan Donaldson at VCE, and going to work for them was part of the attraction.

This time, it’s been completely, categorically different.  For one, the number of opportunities is greater than I thought, and it seems like every one involves a completely different skillset.  Want to sell things?  Plenty of opportunities for that.  Want to jump into a startup?  Lots of those, if you have the temperament. Want to write for a living?  Work with new technologies?  Help small companies get bigger?  Help big companies build community?  Work in marketing or product management or program management?  It’s amazing how many cool companies out there are looking for people to help them grow.  And that doesn’t even take into account the hardware companies out there, each defending their turf and looking to grow market share.  It’s a great time to be in this industry.

That said, the process makes my head hurt.  It feels too much like trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  Besides that, finding the one opportunity that you are interested in means having to say no to all of the rest, and I’m terrible at saying no.  Hopefully there will be something to announce here in the next couple weeks about what my next stop will be, but as I continue to work through the process I’m amazed by the kind, brilliant and insightful people I’ve gotten to work with.  No matter what I end up choosing, the entire process has been eye-opening.  A huge thank you to everyone who has reached out, I’m humbled and grateful.

Onward and Upward

2014 is going to be a great year, and I’m excited to see how it plays out.  Personally and professionally, there are many opportunities ahead, and as the last of the optimists, I’m looking forward to it.  I’m also incredibly happy to have each and every one of you along with me for the ride.  2013 wasn’t perfect, and there are certainly decisions I wish I could have to do over again, but everything is a learning experience.

I am on a great adventure.