Cloud, DevOps, Evangelism

Next Generation SE | why we all sell tylenol

Preface: I'm not an executive at EMC, nor in a place to make decisions around what I'm talking about below...its just musing.  I wrote this about 10 months ago in response to a question our fearless leader asked: "what does the next EMC SE in 2017 look like?"

Here's my (slightly edited response)...I think its worth discussing.

The Why

UnknownEMC (and most other vendors) sell Tylenol/Paracetamol...or its equivalent.  Everything we do is about reducing pain and improving the life for a customer.  Have pain around managing storage?  We've got a pill for that (ViPR).  Have pain around backups?  Avamar+DataDomain can help with that!

The ability to convince a customer about how we solve that pain point for that is by being able to commiserate.  I've been there with you, Mr. Sysadmin....I know how to help you solve it.

However, to have that discussion in a real way, we have to have felt that pain..for real...not from a training book.  Thats why so many of our best SEs came from customers - they felt the pain.  I think that in order to have the next set of discussions around app development, devops, social coding, deployment etc, we need our SEs to have felt the application development pain...its the best way to have instant value to the customer.

Unknown-2What we really want to do for the future is sell vitamins.  We want to sell the customer the prevention of having a problem in the first place.  Now, it can be more difficult to show value here

So we need a new job description...



Job Description:
  • 3-5+ years in IT
  • experience with managing multiple parts of the stack (at least 2)
  • experience with virtualization
  • > 200 line script/application in any language
  • your github link
  • able to produce evidence of a design which involved storage, network, compute and application.  (think of this like an ultra mini VCDX application)



The Method 

How do we get there?  Here's my idea(s):
  • Keep hiring who we hire for account SEs - they work hard and are really smart.  But guarentee them (and this could be tough) at least 10% of their time for side projects, alá Google.  Make it utterly inviolable by the sales execs, district managers, area managers, etc.  Force them to use it to build something cool.  Ask for evidence of it as part of annual compensation review.  Give them shared vCloud Air or Pivotal Web Services accounts to run it.  Enourage them to put it on GitHub.  I strongly believe that if we do this, we can take account SEs who aren't the full stack people and turn them into fullstack people.
  • Figure out a way to reward SEs more proactively for contributing to the community.  RnR's (EMC's spot bonus system) could be a decent way to do it, but make it public as possible so others see the benefit.
  • Significantly expand the OCTO (office of the CTO).  All the 'science project' work that Clint, Nick and I used to do as vSpecialists (and continue to do in our new roles) is work that really generally would come out of an organization like John Roese's.  It just didn't due to historical reasons.  Put 30+ people in a team under his organization (or maybe a different group) and tell them to spend half their time doing OCTO-style forward looking stuff, and half their time partnering, mentoring some subset of the account SEs from above.  Get them to literally join projects these guys are doing and build something awesome.  These people are the ones who are existing DevOps/Fullstack engineers, and they would be willing to come over and work for the Evil Machine Corporation because its a chance to do the things they like, move the needle but avoid much of the drudgery they otherwise would turn down a SE job over.
  • Require some of engineering (VPs, etc) to live in Dallas or RTP or Silicon Valley for 6 months.  One of the biggest liabilities we have as a company attracting talent is that the East Coast control of upper management leads to things like thinking the office in, say, Santa Clara is 'nice' because it has a fresh coat of beige paint.  Have them experience the culture of a true startup and hang out in the VMware campus or Greenplum or Isilon or Pivotal.  They will (hopefully) begin to understand whats different about a startup culture (that attracts the kind of engineers you are talking about) and our culture.
  • Where do you find people for the above?  User Groups & GitHub & Twitter.  You find them there because they are social people as much as they are engineers, which is a great combo for an SE.  Don't go sending people trolling for resumes on Dice for this person - its a waste of time.  Find a person who knows NOTHING about storage, is a Ruby god or Pythonista that knows Rails and Flask and Redis and memcache, etc.  Offer them the above job, and be able to back it up with a solid package.
  • What about the existing 3000+ SEs we have?  We can't simply leave them behind.  I believe that if we encourage the same things (community involvement, 10% time, etc) this can be transformative for them as well.
  • I truly honestly believe that doing the above few things would turn an existing 'traditional' SE workforce into a 'newschool' one in 3 years.

I think this would be a great way forward...but its all above my pay grade.

(thanks to Jase McCarty, Fred Nix & Jonas Rosland for review - but any idiocy in this article is mine, not theirs)