Posts Tagged 'Alpha'

February 7, 2011

That Which We Call a Conference Room ...

As I was walking through the halls of our Dallas office, I happened to pass an door that seemed like an open portal into another dimension. Where you'd expect to finding boxes of cables and keyboards on metal racks, there were a few old wooden trunks lining the walls of the dimly lit space. Naturally, I had to investigate.

As I carefully opened the trunks, to my amazement, I came across loads of books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Among the apothecary books and alchemy texts, I made an amazing discovery: a few pages of Shakespearean literature that seem to have been written anachronistically about SoftLayer Alpha headquarters:

'Tis but thy name that is my mystery;
Thou art thyself, though not a meeting room.
What's a meeting room? It is not hand nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a conference room
By any other name would be as productive;
So Sharkbyte would, were it not called Sharkbyte call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which it owes
Without that title. Sharkbyte, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Host productive meetings.

Now I'm not suggesting that Bill Shakespeare set out to write an epic play about our facility that just wound up being Romeo and Juliet, but since the date in the corner of one of the pages was "1593," I wouldn't be surprised. In a flash of clairvoyance, he saw into the future and puzzled over the curious names outside each of our conference rooms ... Only to come to the conclusion that while the names didn't define the rooms, those rooms would still be phenomenally productive.

Switch a few words in that original text, and you've got yourself one of the most famous scenes in Romeo and Juliet. No big deal.

What were these curious names? See for yourself:

SLayer, SLacker, Unicorn, 3 Bars, 204A, Funky Truck ... The narrative wasn't clear to him at the time, but they all have a special meaning and fit into a bigger plan. Here is a full list of the Alpha conference room names:

  • SLales
  • CBNO
  • Geneous
  • Unicorn
  • Automation
  • Innovation
  • 204A
  • SLacker
  • Pink
  • 3 Bars
  • SLayer
  • Funky Truck
  • 05-05-05
  • Muenster
  • Midway
  • Sharkbyte

Flex your own ESP muscles and post a comment with what you think each of the names means.

We'll reward the most creative responses (and the most accurate responses) with SoftLayer swag of your choice, and in a few days, SKinman will post the real reasons behind all of the names.


December 8, 2010

Cultural Leanings

Culture is important. It is important to individuals, to countries and to companies. Sometimes a culture is nuanced and difficult to get your arms around; sometimes it is in your face leaving you no doubt. Think of Joni Mitchell and Slayer. Nuance versus a ball peen hammer to the forebrain.

Over the past 18 years, I have worked for a number of companies in a number of geographies. I have spent time in smaller, ego-driven companies and time in large organizations that have years of cultural baggage to weigh them down. I have worked in Japan, the UK, France, Spain, and Germany where country specific nuance has a great impact on company culture. In all of that time, across all of those geographies, I have not come across a corporate culture as strong as SoftLayer’s.

When newly minted SoftLayer employees arrived at the Alpha facility, it was a curious thing to observe because (being relatively new, myself) I could not tell the difference between old and new employees. Everyone was decked out in the unofficial SoftLayer uniform – a black SoftLayer shirt and jeans. On the official move in day, a tattoo artist was on site to ink people. In the two days he was there 15 people were tattooed, including a couple of people who did not work at SL, but were married to someone who did.

The proviso was that each tattoo had to be SoftLayer related. I am still awed by this – I have never seen this before. I cannot remember anyone from anyplace else that I worked making the suggestion, never mind actually going through with it. And if I think about it for a second, no one would have done it even though we all professed pride in the company and what it represented. Either we BELIEVE in where SoftLayer is going, and are proud to be a part of it, or we are all a little off-center, crazy even.

Think of it in terms of chickens and pigs – a chicken is involved in the breakfast process. The pig is committed. We are committed to making SoftLayer succeed.

The guy who applied the ink is now the official SoftLayer tattoo artist. He will be back and I suspect that he will have a line up as long as he had previously; perhaps longer given we now have 13 souls who wear the battle scars resultant from conversations with wives and girlfriends to explain what was done. Those who sit in the chair next will have the benefit of lessons learned from those conversations – they would be better prepared to successfully navigate them.


August 2, 2010


So here I am at the new “SoftLayer Global HQ” on Alpha Road in Dallas that we moved into last Monday, July 12th. We had a very warm welcome; our landlords catered bagels, pastries, and fruit for breakfast that day, and they also provided Maggiano’s for lunch (I’m still in need of lasagna detox).

Another thing that was (and still is, and will unfortunately be for a while) warm is the weather outside. Blisteringly hot, actually. Also, our new office space is huge compared to the one we just moved from. Being the only residents in our building, we have lots of room for growth (and we will definitely grow). As a result, most of the departments that were nestled right in next to each other at the “horseshoe” location in Plano are now isolated from each other and separated by light-years of deep space (the ridiculously huge spaces between galaxies) in the name of room for future growth. If I were a scientist, I would probably now make up some cool, true analogy derived from real data for someone to understand how vast deep space is, (you know, like saying the Earth and the Sun’s relative sizes are like a pea and a soccer ball or something like that), but I’m not a scientist; I’m a summer intern who classifies transactions all day, so I’ll just read Wikipedia and then say that it’s just huge and that there’s nothing there except random bits of energy and this theoretical weird stuff called “dark” matter and “dark” energy. Stuff like that is what’s separating the Accounting department from certain amenities such as the front door, the main café…oh, and our CFO and VP. But who cares about them, because it’s not like we work for them or anything.

Trivia question! What is uncomfortable about deep space? It’s really, really, really, incredibly cold. You pretty much don’t want to go there, at all, ever. I don’t care how cold the DC and Seattle guys say it is where they live compared to Dallas; compared to deep space, even Siberia would feel like Death Valley. What’s the temperature? Infinitesimally close to absolute zero. What is absolute zero? It’s the lowest temperature theorized to exist, and while no one has ever measured something with this temperature because it’s nearly impossible to do so, it’s highly likely that this theory is true. What is the scientific definition of temperature? Temperature is just the measurement of the effect of thermal energy (heat) on the movement of matter. Heat gives things kinetic energy (which makes them move), and we measure the average kinetic energy of a set of particles and call that the temperature. Imagine particles of matter as zillions of microscopic foam balls in a large pot. If the pot is held still or nearly still (a low temperature), it appears as a solid. As more heat is present, the pot shakes more and more, and if there were zillions of microscopic balls, at a certain temperature it would appear to you that there was a liquid in the pot rather than a solid because the heat was giving the particles more kinetic energy to the point where they were moving so much they began to flow like a liquid (melting). And if it shook so much that the balls flew out of the pot, it would appear as a gas. Absolute zero is the theoretical temperature where there is a complete absence of thermal energy (a completely still pot). Well, you know about the Celsius scale, right? Water freezes at zero and boils at one hundred degrees Celsius. In 1848 a scientist named William Thomson, however better known as Lord Kelvin, got lazy (or innovative, who knows) and made up a new scale where absolute zero, was, in fact, zero. Absolute zero is located at about negative 273 degrees Celsius, or zero Kelvins. So deep space is cold and dark.

Now that I’m done rambling, what do deep space (which as established above, is cold and dark) and SoftLayer have in common? Both! Apparently the warm temperatures outside were slightly winning in the battle against the air conditioners on Monday (just a simple calibration issue), so a few people in my sector of the galaxy politely requested a slight temperature adjustment to cool down the office just a tiny bit. The result was an Antarctic chill of biblical proportions that plummeted the office temperature close to that of absolute zero. I’m not kidding. I’m now sitting in my cube typing this blog extremely slowly, because as I explained earlier, you can’t exactly move very well at deep space temperatures. I’m dreaming of a pair of astronaut gloves while wearing a sweater I found in my car that I had during the winter. So that’s the cold part. Well, for the dark part, among other slight issues that can be expected upon a new office location that is still not completely finished, we encountered one that prevented Bryan Chamberlain (my boss) from having lights in his office. Apparently the motion sensor that turns them on is not communicating with the power grid, and so a new part has to be ordered and replaced during off-hours. Congratulations, Bryan, you now have two things in common with interstellar space. However the moral of the story is, cold places are great for housing heat-producing servers.

And Wikipedia makes me sound really smart.

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