Culture Posts

June 14, 2012

My First Week as a SLayer in San Jose

As I write this post, I'm finishing my first week as an employee with SoftLayer. It might seem premature, but I think it's safe to say that it's the best job I've ever had. My friend Marcos gave me a great reference to get my foot in the door at SoftLayer in San Jose (SJC01) as a Server Build Technician (SBT), and I owe him a LOT for that help. Because first impressions are usually pretty significant, I thought I'd take a few minutes share my short experience with the company to provide a bit of perspective to anyone interested in "what it's really like" to work at SoftLayer.

To give you the best picture of what it's like to work at SoftLayer, I have to start with the other SLayers I've met. So far, my coworkers and supervisors have been easy to get along with, and they clearly know their stuff. SoftLayer's "Challenging, but not Overwhelming" motto isn't just for show ... I've got a long way to go to catch up with my peers when it comes to knowledge about the data center, but everyone around me has been so supportive that it doesn't feel too intimidating. The work environment is very casual, and while the tasks at hand are all serious, my coworkers are always telling jokes and fostering a friendly and welcoming work environment.

The second aspect of the job I should focus on is the day-to-day responsibilities I'm learning how to perform. In the data center, we're responsible for building and performing hardware maintenance on all of our customer servers, and a lot of our customer interaction is done via tickets. When a ticket is added to our data center queue, it's pretty wild to see an SBT claim it quickly and immediately spring into action. If a customer orders a new server in our facility, and that server configuration isn't readily available, we get notified, and we have to move quickly to make a hardware change so the server can get provisioned in under four hours. That's been my favorite part of the job so far.

I've always enjoyed putting computers together, so being able to do it on such a large scale (and having the chance to do it a few times per day) is a thrill for me. Even though I've built more than my share of computers in my lifetime, I still find myself learning a lot from the processes and procedures Softlayer has in place. It's pretty cool to see the inventory of high-power server hardware we have in our spare parts room, too.

Being new to a job usually involves a span of time where you feel like a "new guy," but that hasn't been the case at SoftLayer. The crew here at SJC01 has made me feel at home quickly, and they've been patient and helpful when I've had any questions. In fact, as I'm thinking about it, I can't say anything negative about my experience so far with Softlayer.

I'm excited about integrating into the team, and given how much my coworkers hang out during lunch, breaks and after work, I'm sure that'll happen quickly. I want to put on a big office potluck where I can bring down my barbecue grill and cook for them some afternoon ... And given SoftLayer's love of BBQ, I'd imagine that would be a big hit.

Man, all this talk of food is making me hungry.


June 8, 2012

Fundraising Success = Pink Hair

Last Saturday, June 2, SoftLayer participated in the Pink Soles in Motion BBQ Cook-Off. The infamous 3Bars BBQ crew loaded up the grills and set out for Harley Davison of North Texas in Carrollton to raise money and support for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Because SoftLayer was the BBQ cook-off's presenting sponsor, the pressure was on for our BBQ team to have a great showing, and their brisket didn't let us down:

SoftLayer + Pink Soles in Motion

If you didn't catch my last blog post about the event, Pink Soles in Motion is a Dallas-based team that has set out to raise $200,000 this year for the Susan G. Komen foundation. For the past two years, they've been the top fundraising team in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and we want to help them make get a threepeat. In addition to participating in the BBQ cook-off, we set an internal goal to raise $5,000 to fund breast cancer education, research, treatment and awareness.

Because we only had two weeks to raise the money, we thought we'd have to throw in an extra incentive to help inspire donations to meet our goal: If we raised $5,000, the 3Bars BBQ team would have to professionally dye their hair pink.

When the dust settled and all the numbers were counted ... We had to make a trip to the salon:

SoftLayer + Pink Soles in Motion

We reached our goal of $5,000, and Technology Support matched our contributions. To sweeten the pot even further, SoftLayer donated an additional $4,000, amounting to $14,000 in donations to the Susan G. Komen foundation via the Pink Soles in Motion team! I should send a shout out to 'Sparky,' 'Skinman,' John, Don and Raleigh for following through with their end of the bargain ... And I should probably apologize in advance for giving that picture a permanent residence on the SoftLayer Blog.\

If you live in Texas, you're probably familiar with the saying, "Go big or go home." Our SLayers went big. Given the fact that the SoftLayer community came through with so much support, an avant-garde 3Bars logo even made it into one of the hairstyles:

SoftLayer + Pink Soles in Motion

The SoftLayer 3Bars BBQ flag was displayed proudly (with a little bit of its own pink flair), and we couldn't have been happier with how well the event turned out ... And it should certainly put a dent in Pink Soles in Motion's $200K fundraising goal this year.

Thank you to everyone who donated to help us reach our goal, and Technology Support, you guys rock for matching our contributions! We hope you keep some of the pink-hair pictures close at hand for the next time you see any of these SLayers. I'm sure they'd love to autograph a copy just for you. :-)


May 22, 2012

Real Men Wear Pink ... In Their Hair

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a Dallas-based charitable foundation that raises millions of dollars for breast cancer education, research, treatment and awareness every year, and given SoftLayer's commitment to charitable giving, it was a no-brainer for us to get involved. Events in cities around the country are hosted throughout the year, the most recognizable being the Race for the Cure and the 3-Day for the Cure 60-mile walk. One of the Dallas area teams participating in this year's 3-Day for the Cure walk in November is Pink Soles in Motion, and SoftLayer is a proud sponsor of their efforts.

Pink Soles in Motion

Over the past six years this team has raised approximately $700,000 for the Susan G. Komen foundation, and for the past two years, they've been the top fundraising team in the Dallas/Fort Worth area! One of the many fundraising events the team puts on every year is a BBQ Cook-off, and when we were given the opportunity to sponsor the event, we jumped on it ... If there's one thing the SoftLayer team loves as much as hosting, it's barbeque.

On June 2, we'll be loading up the infamous 3 Bars BBQ grills with the SoftLayer crew's legendary BBQ and selling it to help raise money for Pink Soles in Motion. I have to tell you, if you haven't tried 3 Bars BBQ yet, you don't want to miss your chance.

Beyond the event sponsorship and our BBQ team's participation, we wanted to go a little further, so we pledged to raise an additional $5,000 with the help of our SLayers and SoftLayer fanatics to help Pink Soles in Motion get back to the top fundraising spot in DFW. While the cause is certainly worth a tax-deductible donation by itself, we came up with a unique idea to inspire contributions: If we reach our $5,000 fundraising goal, a few of your favorite SoftLayer employees will dye their hair pink. And we don't mean temporary spray-in dye. They will get a professionally dyed pink hairdo.

Anyone can wear a pink shirt ... We're making our SLayers step it up a notch.

SoftLayer Challenge

As we started organizing this little fundraiser, we told a few of our friends at Technology Support about the goal (and the incentive), and they immediately jumped on board to help sweeten the deal even more ... They'll match every dollar we raise in support of Pink Soles in Motion and the Susan G. Komen foundation. We also heard that they're looking forward to taking as many pictures as possible of our pink-haired employees.

If you want to see a few SoftLayer employees with pink hair, DONATE and help us reach our goal! Every little bit counts, and donations are tax deductible, so give generously to help Susan G. Komen for the Cure in their quest to eradicate breast cancer.

Oh, and if you're in the DFW area and would like to see the 'results' in person, bring your appetite (and your camera) out to Harley-Davidson of North Texas at 1845 N. I-35E in Carrollton.


May 18, 2012

The Weekly Breakdown - Behind the Scenes at SoftLayer

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned scholar in the field of psychology, said, "In large organizations the dilution of information as it passes up and down the hierarchy, and horizontally across departments, can undermine the effort to focus on common goals." That's one of the biggest reasons SoftLayer shares a weekly internal newsletter with SLayers in all departments and in all locations. Keeping coworkers informed of corporate activities (and "common goals") may not be very high on everyone's to-do list, but it's certainly at the top of mine ... literally. As Marketing Coordinator, I'm responsible for sending out a weekly update to ALL SoftLayer staff.

If you have a growing or geographically diverse team, rallying the troops around a shared message is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. If you're not sure where to start with your own internal newsletter, I'd be happy to dissect what goes into our "Weekly Breakdown" as an example you might build from.

SoftLayer Weekly Breakdown

The Weekly Breakdown kicks off with employee birthdays. We want to make sure all 700+ SLayers know when one of their coworkers is getting a year "better," and every month, huge birthday cakes are brought to every office to recognize the SLayers celebrating their birthdays. We haven't written a SoftLayer version of a cheesy-restaurant rendition of the classic "Happy Birthday" song, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.


John Doe 05/17
Jane Smith 05/17
Bill Scurvy 05/18
Kermit the Frog 05/18
Miss Piggy 05/19

In addition to employee birthdays, we'll also call out important days (like SoftLayer's birthday: May 5!) in the birthday section.

The next section in the Breakdown is similar to the "Birthdays" section, but it's a little more relevant to our business: "Anniversaries This Month." When you're hired at SoftLayer, you basically get a SoftLayer birthday, and we want to recognize how long you've been a SLayer:


10 Years!!!!!!!!!!

  • John Doe

8 Years!!!!!!!!

  • Jane Smith
  • Bill Scurvy

5 Years!!!!!

  • Kermit the Frog

1 Year!

  • Miss Piggy

After we recognize the SoftLayer anniversaries, we have a section devoted to keeping employees informed of various activities going on at SoftLayer. That might be a recent press release, an update on holidays or an upcoming company event. This section is the go-to place for employees to know what's new with SoftLayer.


Did you know that SoftLayer employees can get a discount on dedicated servers and CCIs? Talk to any of our sales reps to get started. You will receive a [secret] discount off any dedicated server or a [secret] discount off any CCI!

The next few sections list available SL Job Openings, New Hires from the previous week, and Organizational Changes. Given that SoftLayer is still growing like crazy, we want to make sure all of our employees see the available positions in the organization so they can share with their network of friends or so they can see any opportunities they feel might better suit their talents and passions. It's always nice to know who is helping SoftLayer grow (new employees) and how they are growing with SoftLayer, whether vertically or horizontally (organizational changes).

The next two sections are dedicated to employees "personal" lives: Classifieds and Fundraising Events. These sections let employees list anything they are selling or giving away along with any fundraising activities or events that they, their kids, their neighbor or their dog are involved in. We've had classified items like car wheels, stereos and animal adoptions, and you can bet that employees were voraciously reading the "Fundraising" section when Girl Scout Cookie orders were being taken.

We wrap up the Weekly Breakdown with my favorite section: SoftLayer Praise. There are so many reasons why the section gives me joy. It's amazing how many wonderful comments our customers have about SoftLayer on a weekly basis, and it's a "pat on the back" for teams that may not interact directly with customers on a daily basis. Sharing all of the praise is great for morale, and those little compliments here and there go a long way to making our team continue working hard ... even if just to hear those comments again and again! Here are some of my favorite comments from the past few weeks:

SL Praise

As our business expands we look forward to working with SoftLayer on our projects for many years to come.

My server was down and did not want to come back online without an FSCK. Called support and got a real person on the phone within seconds who was knowledgeable - excellent! He was unable to get the FSCK to run so escalated it. Server Was back online within 10-15 minutes of calling. Thank you. Keep up the great service.

We have been a Customer since 2004 (since the days of servermatrix) and would like to thank you for the wonderful support that we have received over the years. Thank you for an outstanding customer experience!

Great customer services. On numerous occasions was pleasantly surprised.

You people are great!!! I am very Happy with your service. Since 1 year I never face a single server down issue.

Softlayer is the best hosting company I know of, which is why we are hosting with you. You are doing a great job.

I Love SL!

I definitely refer all my colleagues to SoftLayer. Service and quality are amazing!

@SoftLayer always has the coolest stuff at trade shows. I have a shirt from them that is cool enough for me to wear in public!!

SoftLayer it's been wonderful. We been having softlayer rocket battles ... #SENDREINFORCEMENTS

Those kinds of comments can put a smile on any SLayers face! :-)

If you have any wonderful comments to say about SoftLayer or an individual employee, don't be scared to tell us ... Your comment might just be featured in our next "Weekly Breakdown." Comment on this blog, use SoftLayer's "Get Satisfaction" page, tweet @SoftLayer or post to our Facebook page. We love to hearing from you and working hard to remain the "best hosting company [you] know of!"

As you can see, the Weekly Breakdown covers a lot of SoftLayer goodness in a given week. It takes a little work to keep a 700-SLayer organization on the same page, but that work pays off exponentially when the team is able to share accomplishments, praise and goals. I'd highly recommend you trying your own weekly internal newsletter ... Now leave us some SL praise!


May 15, 2012

Addicted to SoftLayer ... And SoftLayer Customers

Chris Gardner (of The Pursuit of Happyness fame) said, "Find something that you love. Something that gets you so excited you can't wait to get out of bed in the morning. Forget about money. Be happy." Now I can't honestly tell you I'm able to "forget about money" or that I'm much of a morning person, but I'm quick to tell people that I love what I do. If you click through a few of the "Culture" posts on this blog, you'll read that I'm not alone. This week, I realized how many non-work interests SoftLayer plays a role in.

Beyond my closet-full of black and red shirts (many of which are visible in Tech Partner Spotlight video interviews on YouTube), even when I'm out of the office I find myself "checking on customers' servers" quite a bit ... I use quotes in there because that the justification I give myself for spending time (that I'd probably spend anyway) on platforms that leverage SoftLayer's infrastructure.

Because SoftLayer operates with an "Innovate or Die" mentality, we tend to attract customers that innovate in their own businesses. Whether that trend is intentional or not, it makes sense: Why would a fast-moving platform or application with massive growth and scaling needs be hosted with a provider taking "enterprise" time to provision a solution that ends up being "enterprise" only in name? "Enterprise Class" is not the same as "Internet Scale," and that distinction is pretty significant when a business might have one visitor on Monday and a million visitors on Tuesday. Platforms and applications that grow like that usually operate with a high level of what I like to call "awesomeness," so when they choose SoftLayer as a hosting provider, I feel like I need to investigate their awesomeness personally ... And that's how I've become a die-hard user of many of SoftLayer's customers.

One of my favorite customers to "check on" is Tumblr. If you aren't familiar with Tumblr, I recommend that you go to their site right now and immerse yourself in their community. I actually remember the day Tumblr signed on as a customer; I was genuinely excited that they'd be hosting on our platform. Even if that excitement was because I could justify having my Tumblr dashboard open in the background at work. I don't think anyone could have expected the platform to grow so phenomenally in a few years, but Tumblr's numbers are pretty staggering these days: 16.7 billion (yes, with a "B") monthly pageviews of 55.7 million blogs with 23.1 billion posts. I wasn't one of the first accounts on Tumblr, but I tell myself I have some kind of Tumblr cred ... And I use my "limited-edition" black background and Japanese dashboard logo to prove it:

Tumblr Dashboard

Another SoftLayer customer who's gotten a lot of press over the past month or two is OMGPOP. OMGPOP scaled "Draw Something" to tens of millions of users on SoftLayer's infrastructure (which you probably know), but what you probably didn't know is that as "Draw Something" started growing in the market, it was also spreading virally in our office. You'd be amazed at how many SLayers caught the bug. Here's one of Steve Kinman's works of art from a recent game:

Draw Something

While Tumblr and OMGPOP manage to snag a good amount of my free time, my most recent obsession has been playing NomNom Combo from Eastside Game Studios. I had a chance to meet a few of the guys from Eastside Games at GDC this year, and George Karidis told me that I should download NomNom Combo to check it out before I went to the launch party we sponsored for them in San Francisco. As it turns out, he created a monster ... By the time the party rolled around, I had to tear myself away from strategizing the best way to move up the game's all-time "Top Score" leader board. Two months later, I can say that all of my efforts have been validated:

Draw Something

I guess if I had to make a long story short, if you have an addictive app or game that you want to move to the SoftLayer platform, it would be brilliant move from a growth and scaling perspective. One request I'd have is that you warn me, though. I want to have time to bury my head in the sand so I don't get hooked on more SoftLayer-powered goodness ... I'm running out of "free time."


May 7, 2012

Syncing (Not Sinking) with SoftLayer

I've been with SoftLayer for two months now, but somehow I still find myself in the "honeymoon phase" of company pride and spirit. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to compete in the 12th Annual Texas Dragon Boat Race with many of my coworkers, and I learned that teamwork is more than just "working well together."

Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Racing is a lot more brutal than it looks. While a good team will look like they're effortlessly and rhythmically gliding through the water, they're still pushing their bodies to the limit ... Just watch some of our SLayers try to hobble around the office today, and you'll see that the competition wore us out. The experience was more than just a good time (and a reason many of us are still sore); it reinforced to several of us — especially newer employees like me — that SoftLayer is more than just a "company" or an "employer."

SoftLayer's founders wanted to create a an environment — a culture — unlike any other, and from my perspective, they were phenomenally successful. You don't have to take my word for it, though. SoftLayer is a regular on those "Best Companies to Work For" lists, specifically because the company encourages employees to get smarter, get healthier, have fun and and enjoy coming to work. Now that I think about it, I need to get the management team to provide some free Bengay the next time we get out in the dragon boats!

The dragon boat races provided me an opportunity to meet and get to know some of the SLayers I hadn't met yet, and it was wild to see how quickly we shared a sense of camaraderie and pride to be SLayers as we raced down Buffalo Bayou in Houston.

Beyond the fun and physical exertion of the weekend, one valuable lesson I think we all took away from this experience is that staying "in sync" can prove to be difficult at times. Once we learn to anticipate each others strokes, we became a stronger team ... The obvious parallels to our day-to-day responsibilities at SoftLayer should speak for themselves.

I'm proud to be a SLayer and thankful that SoftLayer creates both an extraordinary place to grow our careers and an awesome environment to make great friends. I hear we might be planning to continue this tradition, and if so, SoftLayer can count on us to be there to support our coworkers. If you're interested in joining us, we have positions for all sorts of skill sets (and I'm proposing we give additional brownie points to applicants with rowing experience)!

- Cassandra

May 4, 2012

From "Computer Guy" to SoftLayer Server Build Technician

As I sat down to brainstorm ideas for this blog, I began to think about where I was when I started a few years ago and where I am now. When I was hired, I knew next to nothing about the inner-workings of data center IT. I was just your average computer nerd, or "the computer guy" as I became known around the house and to my friends. I had plenty of experience with hardware, but I had no clue just how deep the IT rabbit hole went ... I jumped in anyway.

Before I give you an example of one of the challenges I had to tackle early on, I should back up and explain a pretty important observation I had about SoftLayer: Despite how cheesy it may sound, SoftLayer is a family. If you are willing to learn and have a good work ethic, SoftLayer will to take you under its wing, and the sky is the limit. I was willing to learn, and I'd like to think I have a good work ethic, so I took on a pretty ambitious task: Learn Linux.

As a Server Build Technician — the physical "hands and eyes" in a data center — you can't get by without an intimate knowledge of Linux. As it turns out, trying to learn everything there is to know about Linux is sort of like saying "Get to the end of the Internet." Even after a few years of working with Linux, I still learn new things almost daily, and I'm sure that I'll continue to learn as long as I'm surrounded by Linux servers and other brilliant technicians who can share their Linux expertise. I could probably write a whole series of blog posts about all of the crazy things I've seen Linux servers do, but I'll focus on this "intro" blog first. Since starting with SoftLayer, my tenuous grasp of Linux was strengthened and eventually validated by my Linux+ certification!

That's only one little example of the kind of environment SoftLayer creates, and I could share dozens more.

When SLayers are treated like individuals rather than "employees," the culture is different. Managers and supervisors LISTEN to your problems/frustrations and are quick to offer their help and advice. I can feel comfortable to express personal issues with anyone in management, and I've had a handful of heartfelt talks with higher-ups that I would never dreamed of having at previous jobs. As a result, I'm excited when I walk into work because I feel like I get to hang out and work with friends for eight hours every day.

My coworkers and I can joke around one minute, and the next minute, we can have a serious and thoughtful conversation about how we could improve our processes or serve customers better better. Not only does that experience make for a comfortable working environment, it also creates a net of trust among coworkers. You know without a doubt that you can rely on your coworkers for anything.

I know it sounds like I'm stretching the truth (and the blog word count), but to be honest, there isn't enough room on this page to describe exactly how awesome I think the people at SoftLayer are. I've made many, many friends and roughly zero enemies. That's a pretty good ratio if you ask me. If you are even a TINY bit interested in IT, there's no better place to get your career started (or continued) than SoftLayer. There are positions for every skill set and level, and it doesn't stop there ... You aren't locked into one position or department if you find yourself more passionately drawn to another area of the business. SoftLayer encourages you to branch out and explore your career options, and if you want to move up, you're encouraged and supported by management to put forth the effort.

TL;DR If you're interested in getting into anything IT related, SoftLayer has a place for you, and as a very happy employee, I'd highly recommend taking advantage of that opportunity.


May 2, 2012

Social Media and the SoftLayer Server Challenge

I've been working at SoftLayer for almost ten months now, in my relatively short tenure, I've written hundreds (if not thousands) of tweets covering a broad range of topics and events ... As a Social Media Coordinator, it's an integral part of my job. Given what I've learned about hosting in the past year, I'm constantly surprised by how second-nature this intimidatingly technical industry has become. I guess that's what happens when you're immersed in a technology-focused company like SoftLayer.

Beyond sharing technical news and content about what's happening in the world of cloud computing, I'm also responsible for keeping our customers in the loop about all of our trade shows, conferences and events. If you've been to a technology trade show in the past year, you probably saw SoftLayer. We sponsor, attend or exhibit at more than sixty events every year, and it feels like I have been to them all. I know the ins and outs of every event on our schedule well before it begins, regardless of whether that event's down the street or in an exotic location like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Amsterdam or London (Interesting fact: In the past week, we had events in all of those locations).

Social media is one of the ways our customers and followers can keep a pulse on SoftLayer's activity and growth. We travel the world to share how we help customers Build the Future, and as a part of the social media team, I get to help introduce that conversation. Let's use Internet World as an example.

Last week, a group of SLayers traveled to London to attend Internet World. To prepare for Internet World, I tried to schedule and share as much relevant content about SoftLayer with the #iwexpo audience to generate awareness and drive traffic to our booth. At larger shows like Internet World, we typically have a conference session or speaking engagement, and on the expo hall floor, you'll usually see a crowd like this one milling around our booth:

Internet World 2012

The Server Challenge generates its own social media — from word-of-mouth "you've gotta try this" conversations at the show to the typical "social media" channels like Twitter and Facebook. The gamifiction of rebuilding a miniature SoftLayer server rack is one of those interesting, entertaining and innovative ideas that seems to be unique to the mad scientists at SoftLayer. Invariably, the competition "ain't over 'til the fat lady sings," and at Internet World, we had the most dramatic competition conclusion ever ... But we'll get back to that in a minute.

From a social media perspective, the folks who stop by SoftLayer's booth want to watch the leader board as the show progresses. The expo hall may be open for several days, so it might be tough to keep an eye on the Server Challenge leader board ... Attendees then trust us to keep them informed via social media. Every day, we post the latest times to beat, and when we look at our analytics, it's wild to see the number of people clicking through to see the current top ten times. It doesn't seem like much, but a few hundred people at Internet World wanted to know what this table looked like throughout the whole show:

Internet World 2012

The top two times you see on the final leader board caused the late-show dramatics. Joseph Waite clocked a fantastic 1:03.68 to secure the top spot on the board in the middle of Day 3 at the show, and Rob McEwen stepped up to the challenge for his Day 3 attempts about 10 minutes prior to the scheduled close of the expo hall. With about 25 onlookers, Rob stopped the clock on his second attempt with a time of 1:02.14 ... Good enough for first place.

The problem: One of the drive trays was not installed all the way.

Because we want to make sure the winner has everything installed correctly in the fastest time, we had to add 5 seconds to his time for the mistake, and we gave him one more chance to complete the challenge to be fair to him. Unfortunately, the final attempt didn't beat Joseph's 1:03.68, so the new iPad was destined for Joseph. While Rob was a little bummed, he understood the reasoning for the decision, and he committed to stopping by our booth next year to win his iPad outright.

I was a few thousand miles away from all of this activity, but I felt like a major part of it given my social media involvement in tracking and sharing the latest updates. The best part of my job is when I get to interact with our customers, whether it be face to face or virtually. I want the messages you see on @SoftLayer and to be entertaining, interesting and helpful. We want you to feel connected to what's happening at SoftLayer and what we're all about.

Speaking of giving you insight into "what we're all about," I can't wrap up this blog about Internet World without sharing a little "insider" information about the SLayers at the booth: They're pretty competitive. They ran their own internal Server Challenge:

Internet World 2012

And if anyone is curious about the fastest time we've ever had in the Server Challenge, you can see it right there at the top of the list. Though to be fair, Kevin's probably done it a few thousand times.


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!


March 30, 2012

Very Casual Fridays

One of the best things about working at SoftLayer is that we get awesome freebies. In the last year, I have seen a servers given away to authors of the best SoftLayer-themed Haikus, employees have won Apple iPads, solid state drives, extra vacation days, Napa Valley wine tasting trips and finely aged booze in fundraisers for the American Heart Association. On any given day, you'll see people handing out swag, snacks, beverages and catered meals. SLayers can get tickets to Rangers and Cowboys games, we have some great Happy Hour events, and our company parties are legendary. I thought I'd seen it all, but I was given something I never would have expected:

Chris (co-worker): "They gave you a tank?"
Me: "It's not a tank, it's a 1/24th scale REMOTE CONTROLLED BATTLE TANK TYPE 90, and it fires real missiles! I also got a coffee mug with a submerged octopus inside"
Chris: "But why would they gave you a tank?"
Me: "..."

Chris's incredulous tone was not surprising. I'm fairly certain the answer to his last question was not supposed to be, "So I'd bring it into corporate headquarters the next day, break it out around 5:00pm, and explore the (quite impressive) range of the 6mm missiles and their (again, quite impressive) ability to welt my colleagues."

Fast forward a few days, and in the midst of a celebration for the SoftLayer Engineering Team's completion of a recent project roll-out, a 1/24th scale battle erupted. As 20-30 members of the development team looked on (alongside our CTO and a few vice presidents who supplied "refreshments"), a convoy of RC Helicopters and my tank are in an all-out war. The battle tank misfires into a swarm of developers who scatter in chaos, and Chris peers over my cube wall ... "I can't believe they gave you a tank."

In light of those "unanticipated team-building exercises," I decided to jot down a few optimistic suggestions for Lance and the management that came to mind for how we could continue building SoftLayer's culture. Being comfortable and having a fun work environment improves employee productivity and reinforces the investment SoftLayer is making in its people, so we should totally be able to justify these! Here are a few ideas that came to mind (that probably won't cause anyone to loose an eye):

  • Omelet Chef and Bacon Buffet

    It's not just an old wives tale; numerous sources say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What better breakfast than all-you-can-eat crisp bacon and a Denver omelet cooked to order by a professional wearing a toque blanche and masterfully flipping frying pans?

  • Bring your Dog to Work Day Mandatory Policy

    Running home at lunch and/or after work to let out "Diesel" or "Delilah" cuts into employee availability. What's more, dogs in the office raise employee morale, subsequently improving productivity.

  • 3 Bars Logo Bow Ties

    Classier swag ... for the discerning gentleman.

  • Air Hockey, Table Tennis and Foosball Tournaments

    We have a lot of nerds 'round here, and exercise intended to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome can easily look like playing Foosball in slow motion. I propose we re-purpose the SLacker conference room and retrofit it with an arcade in the interest of improving employee health.

  • More Cake

    Forget Wheaties. Cake for breakfast a few days a week would provide a suitable alternative to the aforementioned bacon + omelet combo, and it would help soak up the all the free Frappacinos we drink.

  • Preemptively Remove Brown M&M's from DAL05

    "Welcome to SoftLayer. You're here because you're a rock star." - Lance Crosby, Employee Handbook, Page 1.

    When Van Halen added a blurb about brown M&M's to their tour rider, it wasn't (entirely) to show how awesome they knew they were; it was to quickly ascertain if a venue had read through the contract details ... If there were brown M&M's in the bowl, who knew whether their equipment would have been treated the way it was explained in the contract. Selectively banning certain colors of M&M's would be a great way to show visiting customers and vendors the attention to detail that goes on behind the scenes.

  • SoftLayer-Branded Shirts that Read, "I am a battle tank shooting survivor."

    I'm going to need about three of these ... stat.

If you want to join our team, we're hiring a ton of people right now: SoftLayer Careers ... Given the fact that there are 18 open positions for new SLayers in Dallas, it might be good to stock up on a few extra "Survivor" shirts.


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