culture

December 11, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Customers and customs make global HPC sales leader Jerry Gutierrez’s job enjoyable

Happy holidays! We can’t believe the year is already winding down. Under the Infrastructure has been so caught up in sharing our SLayer stories with you that the days have just flown by.

Speaking of flying, we’re excited to introduce you to one of our world voyagers, Jerry Gutierrez. He’s a global high performance computing (HPC) sales leader (say that one five times fast!) based in our Dallas headquarters—but you’d be hard-pressed to find him there these days. From South America to Asia, his busy schedule has him in meetings all over the map—and enjoying every minute of it.

Last month, Gutierrez celebrated his three-year mark with us. You ready to meet him?

SOFTLAYER: How would you explain your job to a layperson?

JERRY GUTIERREZ: I help sales teams globally identify and close HPC or accelerated computing-related sales opportunities. I also work with our product and marketing teams by way of customer feedback, marketing initiatives, and go-to market strategies around our HPC and accelerated computing products.

SL: Tell us about a day in the life of doing your job.

GUTIERREZ: I’ll give you an example. I was in Brazil this past week, in Sao Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro. I met with the sales teams there and gave them my insight into our GPU products from NVIDIA, along with some roadmap information. We then showed a really nice NVIDIA GRID demo for the customers and ran a small workshop around GPU-accelerated virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. We aim to run these sessions with a small audience of technical influencers and we keep them interactive and hands-on. We traveled to one of the customer’s offices and showed a live demo to a full house—running their software on a virtual GPU-enabled workstation that was running from SoftLayer’s Sao Paulo data center.

After that, we took a flight to Rio, where we had additional meetings with the internal sales group and a workshop-style presentation with customers. I have a technical background, so I talked to them about the technology, showed the demo, and answered questions. I think this strategy is very effective and much more powerful than just doing a PowerPoint presentation and showing slides with the bits and bytes of the products we offer.

Following that, I met with a large local university and a couple of startups to discuss our Catalyst program. Because I’ve been with SoftLayer for quite a while as a former senior sales engineer and now in my current role, I’m comfortable speaking to everyone from large enterprise C-level execs to the fast moving startup groups.

Wherever I go, I’m excited to talk about SoftLayer. I enjoy that part of the job.

SL: People always wonder, “How does that apply to me?” when you’re showing them something new. You demonstrate how the platform can work for them.

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. We find it very powerful. Customers get engaged. They sit up in their chairs. They ask questions. That’s very powerful to me. We almost take the sales part right out of it and we’re talking on a technical level: what are your challenges, what have you done so far, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked? In Brazil, the goal was to show, on a technical level, the capabilities of SoftLayer with NVIDIA technology running applications that they use in-house but deployed in the SoftLayer cloud—all with the same experience that they’re used to, with the added benefits of better security and scalability.

SL: So your position isn’t as much exclusively sales as it is possibilities.

GUTIERREZ: Right. Part of what I do is business development around accelerated computing (including GPUs) because I have a technical background, and I’m very passionate about it. (I actually manage the relationship overall between SoftLayer and NVIDIA). It’s very exciting see what our customers have created using our platform, especially with GPU technology.

SL: Your position is very global. What have you learned in dealing with customers around the world?

GUTIERREZ: Understanding the different cultures and what it means to do business in different cultures was a huge plus for me. For instance, in Japan, it’s very formal during business hours. But afterwards, you go to happy hour and people loosen up a little bit. I had several calls with our Japan team before I visited, and I felt there were some awkward silences. I didn’t know what the pauses meant because I wasn’t seeing their faces. I was wondering if I said something wrong or off. When I went to visit, I got to know their personalities. They want to ingest what you just said, so there’s a pause before they answer you. You can’t get a feel for personalities or body language over the phone, and video chat isn’t the same.

SL: If someone was interested in doing what you’re doing, what advice would you have?

GUTIERREZ: First, I would advise them to get a mentor. At SoftLayer, it’s extremely helpful for us to both have a mentor (and I would say a plus would be an IBMer that’s been with the company a while) and be a mentor—it’s actually highly encouraged at IBM, because that relationship can provide so many insights and help us along our career paths. Secondly, do what you love. If you love to be in front of customers and enjoy working with people and talking about technology like I do, pursue it. In my role, you’d want to have a technical background and a sales background as well. That’s really the mix for this role, since it’s very customer-facing—you’re doing presentations, thinking on the fly, and you need to be able to answer technical questions. Lastly, I would encourage them to pick a product, process, etc., to be the lead on or to champion and work to drive it and improve it. I found it very refreshing when I came to SoftLayer that it was not only open to this but that the company encouraged it—even though it was well out of my original job description. IBM is the same. Score!

SL: What’s the best places you’ve traveled and why?

GUTIERREZ: Tokyo and Rio. Tokyo is a very unique city. Tokyo is very clean, people are thoughtful and friendly. I’m a technical person and they have all the coolest technology. That’s the geek side of me talking! The food is fantastic, too. Rio is a totally different experience: beautiful beaches, beautiful weather, beautiful sights. The music, the food, it’s just phenomenal. And of course, the people. The people are extremely friendly.

SL: Those are pretty good favorites, we’d say.

Oh, and hey, if you’ve got any room in your suitcase, we wouldn’t mind hitching a ride around the world with you.

-Fayza

December 9, 2015

Startups should embrace both diversity and inclusion

During the NewCo Boulder festival, web development agency Quick Left gave a talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The panelists shared stories of their experiences around diversity—good and bad—and gave advice on what can be done to make workplaces more inclusive. It was one of the best talks I heard all year.

After much discussion, both philosophical and tactical, an audience member expressed concern about counter-discrimination. Would the time come when he would be overlooked for a job because he was not a diversity candidate?

This is not the first time this has been brought up in diversity discussions, and he was expressing what many (perhaps too many) straight white males think when diversity is discussed. To the credit of Gerry Valentine, one of the panelists, he did not chastise the audience member, and instead commended him for his bravery. The man who asked the question gave voice to a common concern that is often thought, but rarely brought up. The panelists at NewCo Boulder handled it very well, pointing out that no one wants a job just based on their gender, skin color, sexual preference, or anything other than their ability to execute on the job. And, collectively, we want to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to compete for jobs on equal ground.

I was truly moved by the entire session, but found myself upset that even at the close of 2015 we are still answering questions about counter-discrimination. When Gerry commended the question for its bravery, I first wondered if he was being glib. But knowing Gerry, I was certain he was serious about his comment. Upon further reflection, I realized what's interesting about this "pale and male" pushback is that it comes from a place of fear. A fear of discrimination is at the root of the question when someone asks, "As a white male, am I going to get passed over for a job because this company wants to hire for diversity?"

Following Gerry's example, it's OK to acknowledge that fear. It’s OK to point out that white men don’t want to live in a world where they are discriminated against, even subtly. While that is a valid fear, for the straight white male candidate, it is only a fear of a potential future. If they can imagine potential discrimination, can they acknowledge that the reality of our world today: anyone who isn’t a straight white male does experience this as real fear. Imagine walking into a job interview having to first overcome the things about you that you cannot control (gender, skin color, sexual orientation, physical handicap, economic background, country of origin, etc.) just to get to a level playing field with the other candidates. If you don't want this for yourself, you certainly wouldn't want it for anyone else.

In startups, we love to talk about unfair advantage, but when it comes to hiring, the only unfair advantages should be skills and experience. What the movement for inclusion and diversity is about—and what we should be striving for—is a world where we all compete equally. If it is a brave thing to express your fear publicly, it is braver still to acknowledge the reality of the situation and work to rectify it.

One of the things I love about the startup community is that once we identify a problem, we move forward to solve it in as many ways possible. The path to inclusion in the workplace doesn't have to be a pendulum that oscillates between two extremes—discrimination and counter-discrimination—before settling down in the middle. Pendulums are a relic of the industrial era. In the digital era, we can choose our target, set our standards, and move forward as a community to achieve them. As you build your startup, build inclusion in your workplace from day one.

-Rich

December 7, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 22

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

IBM grows Direct Link services.
IBM is speeding up hybrid cloud adoption by expanding Direct Link services with the help of Verizon and Equinix. An article from eWeek highlights the key points and the aspects of the new services. The new services include colocation capabilities, which will allow companies to “house their own infrastructure in a secure cabinet within an IBM Cloud data center while connecting directly into the IBM Cloud network from 13 global data center locations.”

Jack Beech, VP of business development at SoftLayer, says, "With help from providers such as Verizon, Equinix and Digital Realty, we're giving clients more options for connecting to our cloud platform. Users can connect directly into our Infrastructure as a Service from their global data centers or offices using Direct Link, benefiting from a faster, more reliable and more secure connection than is typical through the public Internet."

Read more about how the new services will increase the life of existing IT investments here.

Let’s play rock-paper-scissors.
Channel your inner child and get ready to play Rock-Paper-Scissors against IBM Analytics for Apache Spark service.

So how did they build the game? The Cloud Data Services Developer Advocacy team used “the data and analytics power of Apache® Spark™. We set out to create a pattern-recognition engine that could browse a large collection of interactions to determine what would most likely be the winning move.”

With only two months to complete the application, they reached out to the IBM Design team for assistance in “how design thinking could produce very exciting results.”

Want to know what went into the architecture, player experience design, implementation with Node.js, and more? Get the details here.

What’s cooking, Watson?
Watson can do more than win Jeopardy. Turn to IBM Watson to help you plan the menu for your next meal.

Enter Chef Watson. The cognitive cooking app will assist you in creating new recipes in just a couple of clicks.

Want to try it? Start here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
December 4, 2015

New Currency Payment Options Now Available Through PayPal

We are committed to providing SoftLayer customers with the most visibility into and control over their invoice payments. So, to make it even easier for customers to make payments in their preferred non-USD currency, SoftLayer is now accepting more currencies from customers who pay their invoices via PayPal.

By using PayPal, customers can pay their SoftLayer invoices in their preferred currency and only pay the foreign currency exchange rate charged through PayPal, which is often less than direct debit/credit card charges. Customers will see the USD invoice amount and the foreign exchange rate prior to completing the transaction. (Customers who do not have a PayPal account will need to create one.* For help with this, view our PayPal Foreign Currency Acceptance Training Guide.)

SoftLayer now accepts the following 26 currencies for payment via PayPal:

  • Argentine Peso (ARS)
  • Australian Dollar (AUD)
  • Brazilian Real (BRL)
  • Canadian Dollar (CAD)
  • Czech Koruna (CZK)
  • Danish Krone (DKK)
  • European Union Euro (EUR)
  • Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)
  • Hungarian Forint (HUF)
  • Israeli Shekel (ILS)
  • Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
  • Mexican Peso (MXN)
  • New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
  • Norwegian Krone (NOK)
  • Philippine Peso (PHP)
  • Polish Zloty (PLN)
  • Russian Ruble (RUB)
  • Singapore Dollar (SGD)
  • Swedish Krona (SEK)
  • Swiss Franc (CHE)
  • Taiwan New Dollar (TWD)
  • Thai Baht (THB)
  • Turkish Lira (TRY)
  • U.K. Pounds Sterling (GBP)
  • U.S. Dollar (USD)

And for our customers who like to “set it and forget it,” we’ve got auto-pay functionality through PayPal in the works. Stay tuned for updates.

Have questions or need help setting up your SoftLayer account to pay with PayPal? We’ve got answers. Contact a member of our sales team.

-Sarah

*A credit card is required in the SoftLayer account for initial orders for new customers. The payment method can be changed to PayPal prior to the due date of the first invoice.

December 2, 2015

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast, Episode 2

Remember that one time we put three chatty cloud guys in a tiny room without windows (where no one can hear you scream) to talk cloud way back in September? Yeah, we do, too. Those were the days. In the second episode of our official, esteemed podcast—Cloud, Interrupted, "Cloud security and Daylight Saving Time drive us insane." for those of you following along at home—we have reasons! Reasons why this is only our second episode! Reasons that make sense! Because we owe it to you, our most loyal listeners. Join Kevin Hazard, director of digital content, Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist, and Teddy Vandenberg, manager of network provisioning, as they wreak havoc interrupting the world of cloud. Again.

If you TL;DR-ed that intro, here’s the meat and potatoes of our latest podcast. Dig in:

  • [00:00:01] WE NOW HAVE THE BLEEP BLOOPS.
  • [00:01:21] The real reason our second podcast is fashionably late.
  • [00:03:16] It’s not that we’re insane when it comes to Internet security; it’s that no one understands us.
  • [00:06:14] Stay out of our bowels, Kevin!
  • [00:07:19] When you move to the cloud, you’re making all the same security mistakes you always make—multiplied by 10.
  • [00:10:30] What are cloud providers obligated to do in terms of security for their customers?
  • [00:13:00] Yes, we interrupted our cloud conversation (insert groan here). We now hate ourselves for it.
  • [00:13:23] Phil attended a tech conference on a ranch in Ireland (Web Summit), where he experienced Segway-less Segway envy and encountered zombies with attached earlobes. (Learn more about Artomatix: Artomatix Customer Story)
  • [00:20:08] You’re the bleep bloop master, Phil.
  • [00:20:48] Teddy rants (and rants) about Daylight Saving Time while we cower in the corner.
  • [00:24:07] If we do Daylight Saving Time in Unix, are we not taking Teddy seriously?
  • [00:25:27] Conclusion: Teddy hates time. (Yes, still ranting.)
  • [00:25:59] It’s over for everyone—not just Kevin.
  • [00:27:01] Oh, and one more thing, Teddy…

And that’s all she wrote, folks. -Fayza

November 23, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 21

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

And the winner is
We are super speedy, but don’t take our word for it. Let us point you to the results of the sponsored cloud benchmark test courtesy of VoltDB. The YCSB benchmark, executed by ACME Benchmarks, was used to compare SoftLayer, an IBM Company, with AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

So what was the key takeaway? According to John Hugg, “Comparing the SoftLayer bare metal performance and price/performance to the virtualized platforms is interesting. Perhaps it’s not surprising that bare metal does well, but the difference for this benchmark was significant: 50% better absolute performance and 40% more operations per dollar. ”

Hugg also explained the reasoning behind choosing the four aforementioned platforms. In doing so, he noted, “SoftLayer is the odd one here, but it’s really interesting because it offers bare metal hosting on an hourly basis. It’s clear from the results it has performance and price/performance advantages.”

Find out more about results and the YCSB here.

IBM to deliver the ultimate fan experience
Last week, IBM launched the Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium, “which was created to design, build and deliver the ultimate fan experience.” They also presented the new Sports, Entertainment and Fan Experience consulting practice, which will be “led by Jim Rushton, who joins IBM after serving as Chief Revenue Officer of the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.”

What will the Consortium do? The press release stated that “The consortium brings together IBM's world leading information technology and recognized leaders in such areas as, construction and design, network infrastructure, wireless, and telecommunications.”

Rushton emphasized that “Sports enterprises and venues need to look at ways to get to know their loyal fans as individuals, and convert that fan loyalty into new revenue streams—not just on game days but 365 days a year.” The practice Rushton will head up plans to “deploy more than 100 global specialists in experience design, mobility, marketing and data analytics supported by a global network of 20 digital design studios.”

Wonder how this will convert into the ultimate fan experience? On a personal note, does that mean people will get cell service while at a game? Looking for that one area you get service means less time watching the game, and that is never a good thing. 😃

Read the entire press release here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
November 20, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Catalyst manager Brendan Yell makes startup dreams come true Down Under

We know, we know. We were only back in Texas for a week, but Under the Infrastructure gets restless being at home too long. This week, we went way down south to catch up with someone that does almost as much globetrotting as we do!

Meet Brendan Yell, our Catalyst Startup Program manager for Australia and New Zealand. He’s been a SLayer for a little over a year, and after you get to know him, you’re probably going to want to steal his job.

But he’ll tell you about it himself.

SOFTLAYER: Describe your role at SoftLayer as if the President of the United States asked what you do for work.

BRENDAN YELL: My role is to work with startups and help them succeed. A big part of this is giving them great cloud servers, but it is a lot more than that. I mentor over 50 startups, and a great deal of the time I am not refining their business model or changing their product. Mostly, I connect them to people who can help them out. This can be in the form of investors, customers, and strategic partners.

SL: The Catalyst crew always looks like it’s having the best time. What makes the Catalyst team different?

YELL: I won’t lie; we do have a pretty good time traveling around the world attending cool parties and events. However, this can be pretty exhausting as well. What makes the Catalyst team different is that even though we are scattered around the globe, we are all great friends that are happy to help each other. Recently I had a startup travel to New York, and our person there, Jen Litorja, met with them and made some invaluable introductions for them. This helps the startup and makes us look great to the startup. Jen had no real benefit from spending her time with this startup other than helping them, and helping me.

SL: What’s the most gratifying thing about your job?

YELL: What I love is when a quick two-minute email to someone in my network can literally change the fortunes of a struggling young startup. Having done startups myself (like most in the Catalyst team), I understand how hard it is to give up a lucrative job to go start a company. I also understand that money is not the only motivator for this; people want to create something, be their own boss, and make a difference.

SL: What’s the funniest, silliest, or strangest thing that’s happened to you on the job?

YELL: I recently had an idea pitched to me in the queue of the supermarket. But the pitch did not come from someone in the queue; it was from the cashier. How cool is that?

SL: What’s your favorite place in the whole world and why?

YELL: While I love San Francisco and New York, when you travel up to 40 weeks of the year, it has to be home. We are lucky to live on a lake about 90 mins north of Sydney. It’s so quiet and peaceful there, unlike the hustle of the startup world. Without it, I would be burned out.

Got a spare room for us down there, Brendan?

-Fayza

November 19, 2015

SoftLayer and Koding join forces to power a Global Virtual Hackathon


This guest blog post is written by Cole Fox, director of partnerships at Koding.

Koding is excited to partner with SoftLayer on its upcoming Global Virtual Hackathon, happening December 12–13, 2015. The event builds on last year’s Hackathon, where more than 60,000 developers participated from all over the world. The winners took home over $35,000 in prizes! This year, we’ve upped the ante to make the event even larger than the last time: the winner will take home a $100,000 grand prize.

“We are working with Koding for this virtual hackathon as part of our commitment to promote open source technology and support the talented community of developers who are dispersed all over the globe,” said Sandy Carter, general manager of Cloud Ecosystem and Developers at IBM. “Cloud-based open source development platforms like Koding make it easier to get software projects started, and hackathons are a great place to show how these kinds of platforms make software development easier and more fun.”


Why a virtual hackathon?
Hackathons are awesome. They allow developers to solve problems in a very short amount of time. The challenge with traditional hackathons is that they require you to be physically present in a room. With more and more of our lives moving online, why be tied to a physical location to solve problems? Virtual hackathons allow talented individuals from all over the world to participate, collaborate, and showcase their skills, regardless of their physical location. Our Global Virtual Hackathon levels the playing field.

Who won last year?
Educational games, especially those that teach programming, were popular to build—and a few actually won! Want to see what the winners built? Click here to check out a fun yet effective game teaching students to program. Learn more about the team of developers and see their code here. Last year, nine winners across three categories took home a prize. To see a list of last year’s winners, see the blog post here.

Tips to be successful and win this year
Here’s some motivation for you: the grand prize is $100,000. (That’s seed capital for your startup idea!)

So how do you win? First and foremost, apply now! Then talk to some friends and maybe even team up. You can also use Koding to find teammates once you’re accepted. Teammates aren’t a requirement but can definitely make for a fun experience and improve your chances of making something amazing.

Once you’re in, get excited! And be sure to start thinking about what you want to build around this year’s themes.

And the 2015 themes are…
Ready to build something and take home $100,000? Here are this year’s themes:

  • Data Visualization
    Data is everywhere, but how can we make sense of it? Infographics and analytics can bring important information to light that wasn’t previously accessible when stuck in a spreadsheet or database. We challenge you to use some of the tools out there to help articulate some insights.
  • Enterprise Productivity
    The workplace can always be improved and companies are willing to pay a lot of money for great solutions. Build an application that helps employees do their jobs better and you could win big.
  • Educational Games
    Last year’s winning team, WunderBruders, created an educational game. But games aren’t just for children. Studies have shown that games not only improve motor skills, but they are also a great way to learn something new.

Wait a second. What is Koding anyway?
In short, Koding is a developer environment as a service. The Koding platform provides you with what you need to move your software development to the cloud. Koding’s cloud-based software development service provides businesses with the ability to formulate the most productive, collaborative, and efficient development workflows. Businesses, both small and large, face three common challenges: on-boarding new team members, workflow efficiency, and knowledge retention. These pain points impact companies across all industries, but for companies involved in software development, these are often the most expensive and critical problems that continue to remain unresolved. Koding was built to tackle these inefficiencies head on. Learn more about Koding for Teams.

Can I use my SoftLayer virtual servers with Koding?
Koding’s technical architecture is very flexible. If you have a SoftLayer virtual server, you can easily connect it to your Koding account. The feature is described in detail here.

Think you can hack it? APPLY NOW!

-Cole Fox

November 17, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 20

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

More to know about big data
Our tech evangelist Justin Halsall sat down with Dataconomy to discuss our Big Data Academy, its benefits, and our partnership with Basho. When asked about the motivations behind BDA, he said, “We decided to create a platform that would address professionals from the big data space that are close to the infrastructure and develops that side of the business—taking them on a journey from beginners, through to enthusiast, and finally a practitioner level when it comes to deploying and implementing big data workloads on cloud.”

How can our Big Data Academy help you? Halsall explains that although everyone agrees using big data is necessary in the digital economy, the question of “How?” still lingers. “Our masterclasses, for example, are for those who seek an answer to how can I take advantage of the vast amount of data my organization aggregates? How to optimize that on the technological level? Why computational infrastructure is so important in turning the unstructured data into accurate decisions?”

Read the rest of Justin’s interview here.

Announcing developerWorks Premium
Last week, IBM introduced a new developerWorks subscription program that gives “an all-access pass to cloud-based offerings and services from IBM, allowing developers to go from prototype to production in minutes.” Another benefit of the new program is that it offers “member-only curated tools and resources for IBM Cloud.”

Why would you be interested in the offering? Sandy Carter, general manager of cloud ecosystem and developers at IBM, explained, “We have created a roadmap of premium resources for developers of all levels to grow their skills, build next-gen apps, and connect with the IBM ecosystem. We want to encourage developers and innovation at IBM.”

Find out what’s included in the offering and more here.

Ready? Set? IBM Relay 2015
At IBM Relay 2015, Forrester introduced new research about the growth of customer-centric workloads and the increase of private enterprise clouds. According to Forrester’s findings, “An average of 88 percent of organizations plan to increase the number of applications and systems in which they build or migrate to cloud platforms over the next two years, with customer-focused technology such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems and asset management services as the key drivers.”

John Rymer, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester said, “Technology and products aren't the problem. Culture, organizational structure, and managing that platform are now the biggest limitations." That is where IBM and Bluemix come in, with a goal “to initiate culture change and cloud migration for businesses, and then help companies manage the hybrid cloud architecture once it's there.”

Last week at IBM Relay, two new Bluemix services, Active Deploy and Event Hub, were announced. “The services also comprise parts of Relay, IBM's mechanism for connecting to cloud systems for pushing upgrades and monitoring applications across public, private, and hybrid clouds as well as middleware, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.”

Get more details on IBM Relay and Forrester’s new research here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
November 13, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Software engineer Greg Hellings proves that humans are the key to a successful career in tech

After a few wonderful weeks overseas, Under the Infrastructure has triumphantly returned home to our headquarters in Texas (where we left our heart anyway). This time around, we’re talking with Greg Hellings, a software engineer specializing in development automation on the platform services side. He’s been with us in Dallas for three years and we’re confident he’ll smash all your stereotypes when it comes to this job field.

But we’ll let him tell you himself.



“That’s Greg in the air.”

SOFTLAYER: Explain to us what a software engineer focusing on development automation in platform services does.

GREG HELLINGS: We are responsible for the tooling surrounding building and deploying our software. This covers not only the building of our custom, internal software, but also identifying, installing, and configuring any third-party pieces of software that are required for our infrastructure to run. More so than many software engineers, my team needs to communicate with the network engineering teams, the hardware infrastructure teams, the information systems teams, and so forth.

A typical day could see me discussing web server and load balancer configurations with our IS team, discussing our build and testing process for our internal packages with the QA team, and assisting the application developers in tracking down problems with their code.

Automation is our mainstay. Our eventual goal is to write software that envelops the software other engineers in the company write so that software can be translated directly from our internal development systems, through QA testing, and into our production servers. For those steps of the process where a human is required to interact with our system—such as QA executing manual testing of a release—our goal is to simplify the process so that moving the process into or out of the step requires nothing more than the click of a single button.

SL: What do you do to keep your skill set current and cutting edge?

HELLINGS: If the mind is a weapon, it pays to keep it sharp. And as iron sharpens iron, so one mind sharpens another. My team here is a small group of top-notch engineers, and each of us trades knowledge and tips and tricks with one another. Some of us come from a systems engineering background and others come from a more traditional software engineering background. When we work and play together on our multitude of projects, we generally all have lots to teach one another.

I landed in a job where I get to use far more technology than I ever would have on my own. Working for a cloud provider as large and diverse as SoftLayer gives me the opportunity to operate and craft at a scale at which very few engineers ever get to work, and certainly goes far beyond my own means to own and support. As the world moves towards scale and size, keeping skills sharp requires working on increasingly larger scale and tackling the pitfalls that come with global networks. Most people only get to talk or joke about “cloud scale” applications, but working in the cloud itself, I am afforded chance after chance to work tasks at the scale of the cloud itself.

SL: Why did you become a software engineer?

HELLINGS: It was not by intention! I got my first taste of writing software at the age of seven, when my brother bought an old, used RadioShack TRS-80 and a pair of programming books alongside it. Since we didn’t have any software for the device, I had to start writing my own. From there, it would be another six or seven years before I sat down to write software again, picking up classes at my local community college to supplement my high school curriculum in introductory level programming. But my eyes were set on becoming an astronaut, so I eventually went off to college to study astrophysics. I quickly became disinterested in that avenue and completed a liberal arts undergraduate education, which spanned theology, Koine Greek, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and music.

But the summer before my senior year of college, I landed an internship working in the field of software engineering and returned to college to work in the IT department as a help desk technician, phone system administrator, and eventually an assistant network administrator. By the time I graduated, it was clear that—through all my detours—the one constant remained my focus on technology, and software in particular. No matter what field I was working in, I always came back to software usage and automation. So when an opportunity for graduate school came up and I was given the opportunity to get a degree in computer science, my choice was clear.

SL: What’s one thing people don’t know about being a software engineer?

HELLINGS: Software engineering is far removed from classroom computer science education. Computer science education makes the issues very complex and addresses a very abstract set of knowledge. But the human aspects of working together in a collaborative team atmosphere comprise being a software engineer even more. The software that actually gets written on a day-to-day basis—especially in the automation sphere—is generally very straightforward and simple. Thus, human collaboration, when we’re talking about software engineering and not just hacking, is one of the most important talents in the field.

SL: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?

HELLINGS: Software engineering! But most of my time is spent working around the house and taking care of my family. AcroYoga also entered my repertoire last year and has opened me up to a whole new world of play and enjoyment outside the computer.

You now have our permission to dismiss all previously held notions of a software engineer.

-Fayza

Pages

Subscribe to culture