Being the 'new guy' in any situation has its ups and downs. However, being the new guy at a dedicated host provider was a challenge that I embraced with open arms. My expertise is certainly wide-ranging but somewhat random so I expected quite a learning curve to supporting an environment of thousands of servers. The next 6 months would prove to be a trial by fire movie script with the best supporting cast I've ever seen.
While a jack of all trades is great when you're an Administrator/Consultant for a number of companies across a wide geographical area, it does not necessarily offer a quick route to success. I had been searching for an upgraded position with more opportunity to learn and progress. That opportunnity came on Christmas weekend in the form of an e-mail from SoftLayer Technologies.
Who are these guys? I had not been active in the dedicated host provider market, as I had always run my own servers in the past. Upon visiting the website, I soon realized that I was not dealing with a newcomer or underbudgeted attempt at market domination. The site is well organized and aesthetically pleasing, while retaining a playful obedience. I decided to take the opportunity to see what this place was all about.
Upon my arrival, I realized that the culture and policy was remarkably similar to the key aspects I had learned in my less-than-10-year IT career. Offer an industry-leading twist on a product while focusing on the customer experience. Provide every possible service and never skimp on the important things like STAFF. I found a company that had learned how to do the above, while maintaining a well-organized (almost to the point of OCD), clean (OCD reference here) and documented datacenter that I have ever visited (I've seen a few.)
The culture is one of "clock-punchers need not apply" and nerds will rule the world. The atmosphere is almost like we all own the company. Employees take personal interest in support issues and customer satisfaction. The level of knowledge around here is far-reaching and as varied as the personalities they share. I have to mention that this is the first company I have visited which values its employees enough to pay them adequately, too. They appear to hate turnover and spend a lot of time to choose the correct individuals and train them with the skills necessary to provide the best service - time and time again. I knew many of these market-dominating aspects before, but have had a snowball's chance of convincing upper management of it in the past (I won't mention company names). But with SoftLayer, they already had it all in place after a couple of years! Upper level management keeps in contact with employees on a regular basis. You can call the CEO right now and ask him what the temperature is in SR04 in Dallas, if the trash is full in SR03, or how many new racks were built in SR02 in Seattle and he could tell you. How many CEO's do you know that could tell you what is going on in 'the trenches'? That's why this company is so amazing to me.
I've been here 6 months to date, and my experience continues to expand. I share my nights (yes, I am graveyard shift) with some of the most friendly, determined, and knowledgeable people in the business and I know it. I'm just glad I was lucky enough that they found my resume, and not some other kid with a thirst for IT knowledge. Thanks SL!