Author Archive: Fabrienne Curtis

August 31, 2012

The Dragon SLayers

It's been a couple weeks since we last posted blog post featuring what SLayers are doing outside the office, so I thought I'd share my experience from a couple months ago when SoftLayer competed in the 2012 Annual DFW Dragon Boat Festival. As you may remember, Cassandra posted about SoftLayer's participation in the Houston-area Dragon Boat Festival, so I'm taking it upon myself to share the Dallas experience.

Let me start off by admitting to you that I'm no expert when it comes to dragon boat racing. In fact, when I was asked to join the team, I was reluctant ... I'd never done anything like a dragon boat competition before, and I didn't want to make a fool of myself. It took a bit of convincing from my coworkers, but I ended up signing on to represent SoftLayer as one of the twenty people in our boat.

As it turns out, I wasn't the only rookie. In fact, this was the first year we've had a boat full of newbies, so we all learned the ropes (or oars) of dragon boat racing together. We had practice on Home Depot buckets in the hallway for about two weeks before we actually hit the water, and by the time our on-the-water practice came, we already had a good feel for the basics of the race. Until then, I had no idea how small the boat was and how soaked we'd get while we were paddling. What had I gotten myself into?

My son was home from college over the race weekend, so I managed to get him signed him up as a backup rower. When we got to the lake, the SLayers were all very noticeable ... Our team was sporting the "Dragon SLayer" shirts, and the SoftLayer tent was abuzz with activity. There were other big companies there like AT&T, Sprint, the Dallas SWAT team, Penny's and Samsung, but we weren't intimidated — even when the other teams started talking smack when we broke out our Home Depot buckets to get some last-minute practice.

When we set sail — er... paddle — we were nervous. The gun sounded, and in a flurry of synchronized rowing, we found ourselves at the finish before everyone else in our heat. First race, first place. Obviously, we were excited by that outcome, so we were probably even more antsy when it came time to run the second race. We piled into the boat, made our way to the starting line, and after another flurry of activity, we won the second race! We were in the finals.

You can probably guess what happened next:

We won it all!

In the video, you can see that we started out slow but came from behind to take the victory (The video gets better at the end of the race). The eagle eyes in the audience will probably also notice that we rowed so hard that the dragon head came off of the boat.

Our practice on the Home Depot cans turned out to be pretty effective. My son Jeremy wound up playing a key role on the boat — the drummer — and he headed back to college with quite a story to tell his friends. All of the SLayers stuck around to accept our trophy, and we made sure to snap a few pictures:

I am proud to call myself a SLayer (and a Dragon SLayer)!

-Fabrienne

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April 2, 2012

On Cloud Nine: My First Two Months at SoftLayer

I'm on cloud nine at Softlayer. I know "cloud" is probably the most confusing term I can use about how happy I am to be a SLayer because I'm not talking about public cloud, private cloud, or bare metal cloud, but it seemed like the expression that best fit my mood. Beyond the "cloud" products we make available to our customers, there's a less obvious "cloud" at SoftLayer: What I've come to call "The Employee Cloud Nine."

I joined SoftLayer in January of this year, having worked for my previous employer for around ten years. In my 2+ month tenure, the treatment I've received has been astounding, and I don't need to look beyond my workspace to notice some immediate differences. At my previous job, I had three computers running 2007-version software, one Mac-bell scanner and a printer. At SoftLayer, I feel like I'm in a different world: Two widescreen monitors connected to a super-powerful computer running (gasp) current software. It's like I can say "goodbye" to the old days and hello to the twenty-first century!

Beyond the my immediate workplace surroundings, one of the most important distinctions between SoftLayer and every other place I've worked before is how accepting and friendly the team has been. On my first day, my team (and HR) welcomed me with open arms, and I didn't once feel like "the new employee." It reinforced how joining the team mirrors becoming a part of a family, and I think a lot of that culture has to come from the top of the company. It's clear that SoftLayer values us as employees, and because we feel valued, we're excited to come to work. Employees that are excited to come to work are happier, and happy people interact a lot differently than unhappy people that just go to a job because they have to. It also doesn't hurt that SoftLayer literally invests in every employee when it comes to benefits and insurance.

In this economy, it's hard to find companies that are still dedicated to their employees, so it's even crazier to see how SoftLayer takes "dedicated to their employees" to the extreme: Break areas with all your daily needs such as tea, water, juice, snacks and Sonic Ice. On my second day of employment, the company catered a lunch for the office. Recently, there was a tank/helicopter war ... Where else does that kind of thing happen?

I work in the Accounts Payable department. When I started, the team was beginning a pretty massive system conversion. It ended up going live without a hitch (after a few weeks of long hours). Our entire team (led by our fearless manager, Amanda Bell) celebrated the success of the project, and as a little bonus, our VP of accounting, Robert Burns, gave us a big surprise for all of our hard work (and while I know mentioning that begs the question, "What was it?" I was sworn to secrecy). Upon receiving my surprise, I saw a few of the folks from our executive management team in the hallway, and they mentioned that the smile I had on my face was the one they like seeing on every employee's face. :-)

By that point, I knew I wanted to share my initial experience as a SLayer in the form of a blog, but little did I know I'd have one more piece I'd need to include to paint an even fuller picture of my first two months at SoftLayer. I attended a training session where I learned about the company's history, got a better understanding of our products and services, and heard about even more of the benefits I get for being a SoftLayer employee. And I took a data center tour.

As an AP Administrator, I'm not well versed in the technical side of what SoftLayer does, but when I walked through the data center, I immediately recognized many of the products from vendors I pay on a daily basis. It was nice to be able to match up the name of the products I see on an invoice to an actual device to better understand what the checks are paying for ... That context really reinforced to me how I contribute to SoftLayer's growth and success, so it was a fantastic realization.

What I didn't expect from the training session was a chance to participate in the Server Challenge. While I didn't set any records, I was proud of my 2:42 finishing time, and I gained a whole new level of respect for all the effort that goes into racking and maintaining our servers ... And I'm even more impressed with all of the conference attendees that are able to finish the challenge twice as fast as I did.

I'm two months into my tenure at SoftLayer, and I'm still on cloud nine. If my experience is typical (which I'm sure it is), you'll see SoftLayer at the top of every "Best Places to Work" list for years to come!

-Fabrienne

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