Introductions Posts

September 22, 2014

Becoming a SLayer in Hong Kong

When I came on board at SoftLayer, the company was at the beginning of a growth period. IBM had just invested $1.2 billion to build 15 new data centers all over the world including one in Hong Kong—I was excited to get to work there!

Before I joined the Hong Kong data center’s Go Live Team as a server build tech, I went through a lengthy interview process. At the time, I was working for a multinational bank. But after the Chinese New Year, something inside me said it was time to take on a new challenge. Many people in Chinese cities look for new opportunities around the New Year; they believe it will give them luck and fortune.

After much anticipation (and interviews and paperwork), my first day was finally here. When I arrived at the SoftLayer data center, I walked through glass security doors and was met by Jesse Arnold, SoftLayer’s Hong Kong site manager; Russell Mcguire, SoftLayer’s Go Live Team leader whom I met during my interview process; and Shahzad, my colleague who was also starting work that day.

Shahzad and I felt very welcomed and were excited to be joining the team. During our first-day tour, I took a deep breath and said to myself, “You can do this Ying! This is transition, and we never stop learning new things in life.” Learning new things can be challenging. It involves mental, physical, and emotional strength.

Inside the Data Center: Building Racks!

When our team began to build racks and work with cables it was uncharted, but not totally unfamiliar territory for me. For a time, I worked as a seafarer cadet electrician on a container ship. I have worked with cables, electric motors, and generators before—it was just in the middle of the ocean. So, needless to say I know cables, but SFP cables were new. With the help of my colleagues and the power of the Internet, I was on my way and cabling the data center in no time.

When we build a server, we check everything: the motherboard, processors, RAM, hard drives, and most importantly, OS compatibility. After learning those basics, I started to look at it like a big puzzle that I needed to solve.

Inside the Data Center: Strong Communication!

That wasn’t the only challenge. In order to do my job successfully and adhere to data center build procedures, I had to learn the best way to communicate with my colleagues.

In the data center, our team must relay messages precisely and provide all the details to ensure every step in the build-out process is done correctly. Jesse constantly reminds us what is important: communication, communication, communication. He always repeats it three times to emphasize it as a golden rule. To me, this is one sign of a successful leader. I’m glad Jesse has put a focus on communication because it is helping me learn what makes a good leader and SLayer.

Inside the Data Center: Job Satisfaction!

I am so happy to be working at SoftLayer. All the new challenges I’ve been faced with remind me of Nike’s slogan: Just Do It! And our young team is doing just that. We work six days a week for 14 hours a day. And for all of that time, I use my mental and physical strength to tackle my new job.

I’ve learned so much and am excited to expand the knowledge base I already have, so I can be a stronger asset to the SoftLayer team.

I consider myself a SLayer that is still-in-training because there is more to being a SLayer than just building racks. SLayers are the dedicated people that work at SoftLayer, and they’re my colleagues. As my training continues, I look forward to learning more and to continue gaining more skills. I don't want to get old without learning new things!

For all our readers in Asia below you will find the blog in Mandarin translation!

在我刚刚来到SoftLayer的时候,它正处于发展的初级阶段。那时候,IBM公司正投资了120万在世界各地建立数据中心,其中一个在香港。我非常荣幸我可以在这里工作!

在我加入香港数据中心——Go Live Team,成为一个服务器构建技术员以前,我经历了一个很长的面试过程。当时,我正在为一家跨国银行工作。然而,中国农历新年以后,我的内心告诉我,是时候要迎接新的挑战了。很多中国人在新年的时候寻求新的工作机会,他们相信,这会给他们带来好运和财富。

经过一番前期工作(还有采访和文书工作),我终于迎来了新的第一天。当我来到SoftLayer数据中心的时候,我穿过玻璃安全门,见到了SoftLayer香港站的经理——Jesse Arnold,我曾经采访时遇到的SoftLayer里Go Live Team的组长——Russell Mcguire,还有Shahzad,和我一样第一天开始工作的同事。

Shahzad和我都觉得非常的开心和兴奋能够加入这个组。在我们第一天工作的时候,我深深地吸了一口气,对自己说:你可以做到!这是一个进步的过程。我们从不会停止学习新的东西。学习新的东西是很有挑战性的,它包含了心理、身体和精神的力量。

在数据中心里面:建筑架!
当我们的团队开始构建建筑架和电缆的时候,它们都是新的东西。但不是完全不熟悉它们。以前,我的工作是在集装箱船的海员电工。那时候我的工作和电缆、发动机、发电机打交道,虽然它们都只是在海里,但是,我很确定我了解电缆,我很容易的上手了数据中心的工作。

当我们建立一个服务器的时候,我们得检查每一样东西:主板、处理器、内存、硬盘,还有最重要的,操作系统的兼容性。了解了这些基本的东西以后,我把它当做一个摆在面前的难题,认真地对待。

在数据中心里面:很强的沟通能力!
这并不是唯一的挑战。为了成功地做好我的工作,在建立数据中心的过程中,我必须学会用最佳方式和我的同事沟通。

在数据中心,我们的的团队必须精确地传送信息,并提供所有的细节,以确保扩建过程中每一个步骤正确地完成。Jesse不断地提醒我们,沟通交流是非常重要的。他强调沟通是黄金规则。对我来说,这是一个成功领导者的标志之一。我很高兴Jesse已经把重点放在沟通作为重点,因为它帮助我学习,什么是一名优秀的领导者。

在数据中心里面:工作满意度!
我很高兴可以在SoftLayer工作。面对所以新的挑战,我都度自己说:放手去做!我们年轻的团队都在努力。我们每周工作六天,每天14小时。那段时间内,我把我所有的精力都投入到了我的新工作中。

我从我的经历中学到了很多,增长了很多知识。所以我可以说,我给SoftLayer团队带来了价值。

我把自己当做一个让在学习进步的技术员,因为一个技术员不仅仅要会构架。精英是在SoftLayer执着工作的人们,他们是我的同事。由于我正处于训练学习阶段,我期待学习更多知识和技能。活到老,学到老!

- Ying

April 15, 2013

The Heart of SoftLayer: People

When I started working for SoftLayer as a software engineer intern, I was skeptical about the company's culture. I read many of the culture posts on the blog, and while they seemed genuine, I was still a little worried about what the work atmosphere would be for a lowly summer intern. Fast-forward almost a year, and I look back on my early concerns and laugh ... I learned quickly that the real heart of SoftLayer is its employees, and the day-to-day operations I observed in the office consistently reinforced that principle.

It's easy to think about SoftLayer as a pure technology company. We provide infrastructure as a service capabilities for businesses with on-demand provisioning and short-term contracts. Our data centers, portal, network and APIs get the spotlight, but those differentiators wouldn't exist without the teams of employees that keep improving them on a daily basis. By focusing on the company culture and making sure employees are being challenged (but not overwhelmed), SoftLayer was indirectly improving the infrastructure we provide to customers.

When I walked into the office for my first day of work, I imagined that I'd be working in a cramped, dimly lit room in the back of the building where I'd be using hand-me-down hardware. When I was led to a good-sized, well-lit room and given a Core i3 laptop with two large monitors and a full suite of software, I started realizing how silly my worries were. I had access to the fully stocked break room, and within about a week, I felt like part of a community rather than a stale workplace.

My coworkers not only made me feel welcome but would frequently go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable and have the resources I needed to succeed. While the sheer amount of new information and existing code was daunting, managers assigned projects that were possible to complete and educational. I was doing useful work building and improving a complex production system rather than the busy work offered by many other employers' internship programs. I learned several new techniques and solidified my understanding of software engineering theory through practice. The open-door policy and friendly people around me not only created a strong sense of community but also allowed more efficient problem solving.

You may have noticed early in this post that I joined the company on a summer internship and that I also told you it's been about a year since I started. While summers in Texas feel long, they don't actually last a full year ... After my internship, I was offered a part-time position as a software engineer, and I'm going to be full-time when I graduate in May.

It's next to impossible to find a company that realizes the importance of its employees and wants to provide an environment for employees to succeed. The undeniable runaway success of the company is proof that SoftLayer's approach to taking care of employees is working.

-John

February 12, 2013

From the Startup Trenches to the Catalyst War Room

Before joining SoftLayer, I was locked in a dark, cold room for two years. Sustained by a diet of sugar and caffeine and basking in the glow of a 27" iMac, I was tasked with making servers dance to the tune of Ruby. The first few months were the toughest. The hours were long, and we worked through holidays. And I loved it.

If that work environment seems like torture, you probably haven't been on the front lines of a development team. I was a member of a band of brothers at war with poorly documented vendor APIs, trying to emerge victorious from the Battle of Version 1.0. We operated (and suffered) like a startup in its early stages, so I've had firsthand experience with the ups and downs of creating and innovating in technology. Little did I know that those long hours and challenges were actually preparing me to help hundreds of other developers facing similar circumstances ... I was training to be a Catalyst SLayer:

Catalyst Team

You probably know a lot about Catalyst by now, but one of the perks of the program that often gets overshadowed by "free hosting" is the mentorship and feedback the SoftLayer team provides every Catalyst participant. Entrepreneurs bounce ideas off of guys like Paul Ford and George Karidis to benefit from the years of experience and success we've experienced, and the more technical folks can enlist our help in figuring out more efficient ways to tie their platforms to their infrastructure.

When I was forging through the startup waters, I was fortunate to have been supported by financially reinforced walls and the skilled engineers of a well-established hosting company in Tokyo. Unfortunately, that kind of support is relatively uncommon. That's where Catalyst swoops in. SoftLayer's roots were planted in the founders' living rooms and garages, so we're particularly fond of other companies who are bootstrapping, learning from failure and doing whatever it takes to succeed. In my role with Catalyst, I've effectively become a resource for hundreds of startups around the world ... and that feels good.

Five days before my official start date, I receive a call from Josh telling me that we'd be spending my first official week on the job in Seattle with Surf Incubator and Portland with Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE). While the trip did not involve carving waves or stuffing our faces with baked goods (bummer), we did get to hear passionate people explain what keeps them up at night. We got to share a little bit about SoftLayer and how we can help them sleep better (or fuel them with more energy when they're up at night ... depending on which they preferred), and as I headed back to Los Angeles, I knew I made the right choice to become a SLayer. I'm surrounded by energy, creativity, passion, innovation and collaboration on a daily basis. It's intoxicating.

TL;DR: I love my job.

-@andy_mui

November 20, 2012

Community Development: Catalysing European Startups

SoftLayer works hard and plays hard. A few weeks ago, I traveled to Dallas for the first "Global Catalyst Summit"* where the community development teams in Europe, Asia and the United States all came together under one roof to learn, strategize and bond. What that really means is that we all experienced a week of hardcore information flow and brutal fun.

The onboarding process to become a part of the SoftLayer's Community Development (Catalyst) team is pretty rigorous, and traveling to Dallas from Amsterdam for the training made it even more intense. In short order, I learned about the roots of the Catalyst program and why SoftLayer is so interested in investing in helping startups succeed. I got the low-down on the hundreds of companies that are taking advantage of the program right now, and I was inspired by the six incredible people who focus exclusively on the Catalyst program at SoftLayer ... And Big Tex:

SoftLayer Community Development Team and Big Tex

When the whirlwind week of orientation and training came to an end, I came to a solid conclusion: I am working at SoftLayer for a reason. I believe SoftLayer has the most kick-ass global on-demand technology platform out there, and our focus on innovation and automation is reflected in everything we do. On top of that, we give that platform to startups to help springboard their success. I get to work with a community of world-changers. Needless to say, that's an amazing conclusion to come to.

As a member of the Catalyst team in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), I can provide signficant resources to entrepreneurs who are building awesome new applications and technologies that are making a difference locally, regionally and globally. Anna Bofill Bert and I work out of SoftLayer's Amsterdam office, and we are fully dedicated to helping startup and developer communities in our region.

As a review exercise and a way to educate the audience that may be unfamiliar with Catalyst, I thought I'd bullet out a few of the main ideas:

What is Catalyst?

The SoftLayer Catalyst Startup Program provides:

  • A generous monthly hosting credit toward dedicated, cloud or hybrid compute environments for a FULL YEAR (Ideal for dev-ops/next generation startup compute applications who want high performance from the start).
  • Direct connection to highest level programming team at SoftLayer — Our Innovation Team. Participating companies get help and advice from the people that are writing the book on highly scalable, global infrastructure environments.
  • Connection to the SoftLayer Marketing and PR Team for help getting spreading the word around the world about all the cool stuff participating startups are doing.

We reach startups by listening to them and meeting needs that all of them express. We are telling the SoftLayer story, networking, making friends, drinking too much and travelling like mad. In the course of a month, we went to Lean Start Up Machine in Rotterdam, Structure Europe in Amsterdam, Pioneers Festival in Vienna, HowToWeb in Bucharest and we managed to complete a quick tour of startup communities in Spain.

Like our peers on the US team, we partner with incubators and accelerators to make sure that when startups look for help getting started, they also find SoftLayer. We're already working with partners like Springboard, Seedcamp, GameFounders, Startup Sauna, the INLEA Foundation and Tetuan Valley, and the list of supported communities seems to grow daily. When the portfolio companies in each of these organizations are given access to the Catalyst program, that means SoftLayer's Catalyst customer base is growing pretty phenomenally as well.

What I actually like most about how we help startups is the mentorship and office hours we provide participating companies as well. SoftLayer was founded by ten guys in a living room in 2005, and we've got hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue as of 2012. That success is what the SoftLayer team is excited to share insights about.

Hustling is a major part of startup culture, so it's only fitting that I feel like I had to hustle through this blog to get all of my thoughts down. Given that SoftLayer EMEA is a bit of a startup itself, I'm happy to be practicing what we preach. If you'd like more information about Catalyst or you want to apply, please feel free to hit me up: esampson@softlayer.com

We want to be part of your company's success story.

-@EmilyBlitz

*Note: As an homage to Big Tex after the fire, we referred to our meeting as the "Global Catalyst Summit with Big Tex" at the Texas State Fair. We hope to see you back in action in 2013, Big Tex!

July 19, 2012

The Human Element of SoftLayer - DAL05 DC Operations

One of the founding principles of SoftLayer is automation. Automation has enabled this company to provide our customers with a world class experience, and it enables employees to provide excellent service. It allows us to quickly deploy a variety of solutions at the click of a button, and it guarantees consistency in the products that we deliver. Automation isn't the whole story, though. The human element plays a huge role in SoftLayer's success.

As a Site Manager for the corporate facility, I thought I could share a unique perspective when it comes to what that human element looks like, specifically through the lens of the Server Build Team's responsibilities. You recently heard how my colleague, Broc Chalker, became an SBT, and so I wanted take it a step further by providing a high-level breakdown of how the Server Build Team enables SoftLayer to keep up with the operational demands of a rapidly growing, global infrastructure provider.

The Server Build Team is responsible for filling all of the beautiful data center environments you see in pictures and videos of SoftLayer facilities. Every day, they are in the DC, building out new rows for inventory. It sounds pretty simple, but it's actually a pretty involved process. When it comes to prepping new rows, our primary focus is redundancy (for power, cooling and network). Each rack is powered by dual power sources, four switches in a stacked configuration (two public network, two private network), and an additional switch that provides KVM access to the server. To make it possible to fill the rack with servers, we also have to make sure it's organized well, and that takes a lot of time. Just watch the video of the Go Live Crew cabling a server rack in SJC01, and you can see how time- and labor-intensive the process is. And if there are any mistakes or if the cables don't look clean, we'll cut all the ties and start over again.



 

In addition to preparing servers for new orders, SBTs also handle hardware-related requests. This can involve anything from changing out components for a build, performing upgrades / maintenance on active servers, or even troubleshooting servers. Any one of these requests has to be treated with significant urgency and detail.



 

The responsibilities do not end there. Server Build Technicians also perform a walk of the facility twice per shift. During this walk, technicians check for visual alerts on the servers and do a general facility check of all SoftLayer pods. Note: Each data center facility features one or more pods or "server rooms," each built to the same specifications to support up to 5,000 servers.



 

The DAL05 facility has a total of four pods, and at the end of the build-out, we should be running 18,000-20,000 servers in this facility alone. Over the past year, we completed the build out of SR02 and SR03 (pod 2 and 3, respectively), and we're finishing the final pod (SR04) right now. We've spent countless hours building servers and monitoring operating system provisions when new orders roll in, and as our server count increases, our team has grown to continue providing the support our existing customers expect and deserve when it comes to upgrade requests and hardware-related support tickets.



 

To be successful, we have to stay ahead of the game from an operations perspective. The DAL05 crew is working hard to build out this facility's last pod (SR04), but for the sake of this blog post, I pulled everyone together for a quick photo op to introduce you to the team.

DAL05 Day / Evening Team and SBT Interns (with the remaining racks to build out in DAL05):
DAL05 DC Ops

DAL05 Overnight Server Build Technician Team:
DAL05 DC Ops

Let us know if there's ever anything we can do to help you!

-Joshua

July 6, 2012

My Advice to Myself (A New Server Build Technician)

When I started at SoftLayer, I had no idea what to expect. As I walked from the parking lot to the front doors at SJC01, I started to get nervous ... I felt was like I was stepping onto a stage, and I was worried about making a mistake. I took a deep breath and walked in.

Now that I look back on my first day (which was about a month ago), I have to laugh at my nervousness. I'm not sure what I expected to encounter, but the environment I entered was probably the most welcoming and friendly I've ever seen. Two of my coworkers, Cuong and Jonathan, recently shared their experiences as SBTs in San Jose, but because I have some recent first-hand experience that's still fresh in my mind, I thought I'd share my own perspective.

If I were able to talk to myself as I nervously approached the San Jose data center on my first day, this is what I'd say:

As you'd expect from any new job, your first day at work involves a lot of learning (and paperwork). You're probably chomping at the bit to get out into the data center to start building servers, but you need to crawl before you walk. The first thing you need to do is get the lay of the land ... You get a guided tour of the office, the data center and your workspace. Even if you've worked in a data center before, you're going to be surprised and impressed with how everything is set up. Once all of your paperwork is in order, you start learning about SoftLayer's business and how you contribute to the customer experience. Once you understand the big picture, you can get into the details.

You're given a training guide that goes over many of the processes and procedures that are followed on a day-to-day basis in the data center, and you're shown all of the components you'll be working with as you build, upgrade and manage server hardware. You might not be performing much work on hardware in production in your first few days, but you're going to learn a lot and have plenty of time to ask questions. While you're learning how to perform your work tasks, you're building friendships with your coworkers, and you're officially becoming part of the SoftLayer family. Your fellow SLayers support you and help you make sure SoftLayer's customers are getting the service they expect.

You're taught everything you need to know, from staying organized and focused to best practices around working with servers. You have nothing to be nervous about.

I've only been with SoftLayer for a short period of time, but I can confidently say that working here is remarkable. I don't feel like an "employee;" I feel like a team player. I feel like everyone is on the same page about what needs to be done in the data center, and whenever questions come up, answers are given quickly.

I'm excited to come to work every day. I would have never dreamed I'd feel this way because I was always told jobs are long and drag-out boring, but my experience has been the polar opposite. Now, When any of my friends complain about getting up and going to work, I recommend they visit http://www.softlayer.com/about/careers.

-Jackie

June 19, 2012

Proud to be a SLayer

Changing a career can be a challenge, especially when it feels like you are starting from scratch. I know that feeling well. I'd always been interested in networking, IT and cloud computing, but it wasn't until I joined SoftLayer that had an opportunity to start building a career on top of those interests. I know you might've already read a few introductions and SoftLayer culture posts in the past, but I wanted to share my experience in joining the hardware tech team to give my own unique perspective on what it was like becoming a SLayer.

Like Jonathan, I joined SoftLayer in San Jose (SJC01), and despite my interest in the technology SoftLayer manages for customers on a day-to-day basis, I didn't have many of the skills I'd need in the data center. That's where the training program came into play ... I can't tell you how valuable it was to learn how SoftLayer approaches cloud and data center operations. My previous jobs were in manufacturing, so I was accustomed to working with hardware and machines, so after a bit of a learning curve, I started to feel comfortable with the instruction and hands-on challenges that were put in front of me during the training program.

Once I was able to start applying what I learned in training, I started feeling "at home" when I got to the data center. I'm one of the many people responsible for supporting data center operations, and while I'm more of a "hands on" person, I don't forget the "big picture" of the significance of that responsibility. SoftLayer servers are the lifeblood of businesses around the world, and I owe it to those customers to provide the best service I can when it comes to managing their hardware. If that starts feeling daunting, I can look to my peers and ask questions about any problem, and I know I'll get a quick, helpful answer. I know SoftLayer is built on innovation and automation, but the unstated "education" piece is what has appealed to me the most as an employee.

One of my favorite resources to consult on a daily basis is the SoftLayer wiki — SLiki. If I ever forget any technical specifications or get confused about how to configure a specific type of hardware, I fire up my browser and hit the SLiki. If I'm not sure how to troubleshoot a given transaction or want to learn a little more about a topic like cloud computing or object storage, I can search the SLiki and get the answer in no time.

When friends and family have asked me what it's like to work at SoftLayer, I tell them that I'm constantly amazed and impressed impressed by my coworkers. It's hard to explain in a way that doesn't sound corny, but everyone I work with seems to enjoy supporting customers, interacting with other SLayers and making the SJC01 data center run like a top.

Pretty recently, I had my first Truck Day, and it made me love working for SoftLayer even more. It was pretty awe-inspiring to see SLayers from every department in our office joining the SBTs at the loading dock to unpack, sort and rack a huge shipment of SuperMicro servers. Everyone was sweaty, and I'm sure a few people were pretty sore the next day, but after all was said and done, we all felt like we'd accomplished something significant for our customers.

I'm proud to be a SLayer.

-Cuong

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.

-Jonathan

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.

-Broc

April 6, 2012

Of Cage Nuts and Customer Service

Sometimes it's the little hardships and annoyances that really mold you. How do you react? Do you manage to work through them, or do you let them eat away at you to the point that you're more paralyzed by them than you are a bigger problem?

As a new hire, I was required to take part in a Truck Day — an experience that helps everyone in the company understand (at a base level) what is involved with the actual products and services we sell. If you've ever had the fortune of working on one, there are certain activities that can leave you feeling weary. For me, that weariness-inducing activity was working with cage nuts.

For those of you unfamiliar with cage nuts, they're small pieces of metal that accommodate screw-in server rails on a rack meant for slide-in server rails. Installing them is one of the most frustrating things ever ... They have two little clips that fit inside the rack, and you have to bend them to get them in. Here's a great illustration of how they work from an Oracle Sun Rack user's guide:

Cage Nuts

I'd installed them before, but never more than eight or so at a time. After Truck Day, I now have nothing but the greatest respect for the amazing people working in the data centers who have to do them in massive volumes. I don't think I've ever received as many tiny cuts on my hand as I did in the few hours I spent installing the relatively small number I managed to complete.

As a Customer Support Administrator (CSA), I spend the majority of my time sitting at a computer, helping customers with their servers and doing my best to resolve issues as they are encountered. Physically installing cage nuts isn't part of my day-to-day responsibilities (until the next Truck Day), but I realized that my job has its own "cage nuts."

A customer wanting to lease a server from us isn't particularly worried about the fact that cage nuts have to be meticulously installed in the rack, and they also aren't paying any mind to the fact I might have worked with a dozen customers in my shift already — And, certainly, they shouldn't. They're paying for a great customer experience and helpful, friendly service, so they don't need to take into account the context of our operations when they're simply asking for us to help them with a server reboot to finish the installation of an OS patch upgrade.

SoftLayer, as a company, has amazed me in that everyone I've met is not only willing to deal with their "cage nuts," but they will also do so without losing the smile from their face (even if there's some good-natured grumbling every now and then). In many of the places I've worked, this sort of task would be met with protest, foot dragging and a tired resignation to doing the work. That simply isn't the case here.

I'm definitely a newbie around here, and I'm still getting a feel for the culture, catching up on the inside jokes, and learning the ins and outs of the company (and the people in it). The one thing that was abundantly clear to me from the very first night, though: SLayers are truly dedicated to what they do, and the resulting work environment is one that fosters and rewards that dedication.

So in my estimation, how have the little annoyances — the cage nuts of our lives — molded SoftLayer and the people who work here? I'd say that not only do we work through them, we do so enthusiastically in the company of friends, proud of the fact that these seemingly small things are part of what has made this all possible.

I hope all of you work in environments that enable you to deal with the small things you see every day without cursing under your breath and feeling stressed. If you don't, maybe you should look into finding a place that does. I hear we're hiring.

-Gregory

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