Posts Tagged 'Dallas'

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.

-Nalin

January 13, 2012

The Challenge of Conveying Culture

Last week, Cracked.com ran an article about "9 Quirky Things Every 'Cool' Workplace Is Required to Have." The post points out several seemingly trite characteristics of "trendy" and "fun" companies, and SoftLayer was one of the companies the author used to illustrate her point about quirky conference room names. The "obscure inside jokes" we chose as the naming convention for our conference rooms in our Dallas headquarters inspired this fantastic analogy:

I'm sure visiting vendors and consultants enjoy as much as adults enjoy hearing a gaggle of teenage girls joke about which one of them is the craaaziest.

The post's mock homage to "fun company culture" as seen by outsiders got me thinking ... Why do I think SoftLayer is such a cool place to work, and how could I talk about that in a way that didn't seem hokey or insincere? Given the cynicism of the Internet in general, it may be impossible to execute, so I realize that all I can do is give my honest take on why I enjoy coming to work every day:

SoftLayer's culture is defined authentically and organically by our people, traditions and stories.

I agree that red walls, orange couches and scooters in an office do not create a cool workplace, and I don't think our "obscure inside joke" conference room names make us cool either. When we moved to our new headquarters in Dallas, every employee at the company was encouraged to submit ideas for what we should name the rooms, and after voting on dozens of great ideas, the "inside joke" submission from SoftLayer General Council Suzy Fulton ended up winning (and Suzy was awarded an iPad for submitting the winning idea). The reason her naming convention won is what makes SoftLayer a great place to work: Each name gives a different piece of the overall story that explains, "This is who we are, what we do and where we come from."

Take our conference room named Muenster for example. Muenster is a small town in Texas where the annual GermanFest is held. The 3 Bars BBQ team breaks out their secret recipes to compete with other BBQ teams from around the state, and the coworkers that don't don aprons get to kick back and eat some awesome BBQ, enjoy a drink (or two... or three...) and have a great time. The event has been such a fun tradition that we wanted to incorporate it into our new office for the days we're not eating brisket fresh off the grill. It means something to SoftLayer as a company, and if vendors/consultants coming into the office don't appreciate it in the same way, we're pretty sure we'll survive. Naming conference rooms to the least common denominator would sure be functional, but in practice, it would be (ironically) "outside the box" for SoftLayer.

We're just group of people (with a few inside jokes) working together to create the best hosting experience in the business. We value both customers and employees. We like startups (because we were a startup a few short years ago), innovation, automation and BBQ. We have fun together, and as a result, we have plenty of stories to tell (and more obscure inside jokes to use for our next conference rooms).

Oh, and we're also "guilty" of having a few red accent walls, employees riding around on scooters (and Segways), Nerf guns, foam rockets, and foosball tables in our offices. If that means getting mentioned in the same (mocking) breath as Facebook, Yahoo!, Zappos and Twitter, we're in a pretty good spot.

-Summer

December 25, 2011

SoftLayer's 12 Days of Christmas

If you're just joining us, you may have missed our remixes of "SoftLayer is Coming to Town" and "Go Tell it on the Mountain" ... Both of which would be flying off the shelves these days (if our blog had shelves). In an effort to fill up some more space on a SoftLayer-only Christmas CD (and of course help rocket ourselves to a Bieber-level of fame), we've re-written the lyrics to The Twelve Days of Christmas and added a touch of SL style.

Given the festiveness of the season, we couldn't just post the lyrics for this song, so I walked around our Dallas office to capture a few SLayers delivering each one of the lines. When you click the play button, keep an eye/ear out to pinpoint which of our very own SLayers is a trained opera singer.

As our present to you, please enjoy SoftLayer's 12 Days of Christmas:

If you want to sing along, we have the lyrics below for each day ... If you know the format of the song, it can be pretty repetitive, so I'll just give you the list from the twelfth day and you can read from the bottom as the video is playing:

SoftLayer's 12 Days of Christmas (Twelfth Day)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, SoftLayer gave to me:
Twelve sticks of RAM,
Eleven CCIs,
Ten Gig connections,
Nine feet of cable,
Eight IP addresses,
Seven extra hard drives,
Six disk partitions,
Five-minute cloud provisioning,
Four hypervisor options,
Three network layers,
Two SSDs,
And a server chassis customized for me!

Thank you to all of the SLayers who participated in this video and we hope you had as many laughs watching this as we did filming. :-)

Merry Christmas!

-Summer

Categories: 
November 18, 2011

Four Years of SLaying in Seattle

How are we already in mid-November? Did 2011 just fly by us or what? As we approach 2012, I will be celebrating my fourth anniversary with SoftLayer in our Seattle data center. Seattle was SoftLayer's first data center outside of the Dallas area when it opened four years ago, and since then, I've seen the launch of Washington D.C., the Dallas HQ + DAL05, San Jose, Singapore and Amsterdam ... while adding a few data centers in Houston and Dallas after the merger with The Planet last year. We've gone from ~15,000 servers when I started to around 100,000 servers in 13 data centers with 16 network PoPs on three different continents around the world. It's safe to say we've grown.

In the four years since our Seattle facility launched, over 60% of our original team – the folks our Dallas team trained – are still here. Being part of such a huge team and watching the SoftLayer roll out data centers around the world is exciting, and seeing our customers grow with us is even better. In the midst of all of that growth, our team is always trying to figure out new technologies and techniques to share with customers to help them meet their ever-evolving needs. The goal: Give our customers total control.

One great example of this focus was our recent launch of QuantaStor Storage Servers. We teamed up with industry leader OS Nexus to bring our customers a production-ready mass storage appliance with a combined SAN and NAS storage system built into the Ubuntu Server and provides a number of system features such as snapshots, compression, remote replication and thin provisioning. A customer could use this in a number of environments from virtualized systems to video production to web and application servers, or as a backup based server. If you're looking for a mass storage system, I highly recommend it.

If we've grown this much in my first four years, I can only imagine what the business will look like four years from now. A SoftLayer data center on every corner? Maybe we can get PHIL to figure out how we can put a SoftLayer pod in the space normally occupied by a coffee shop ... making sure to keep as much coffee as possible, obviously.

-Bill

October 23, 2011

The Importance of a First Impression

How many times have you heard that making a good first impression is everything? This is so true in many circumstances – from a blind date to a job interview to meeting the future in-laws. The first few moments are critical. There are a few things that help when making that first contact:

  • Smile
  • Present yourself honestly and openly
  • Be positive, confident and courteous.

I remember when I applied to SoftLayer back in April of 2010. I was working for one of SoftLayer's competitors at the time, and one of my previous coworkers moved over to SoftLayer. He made mention of what a great company SoftLayer was and that I should think about applying. After submitting my resume, I received a call from the data center manager to come in for an interview at the DAL01 location. I prepared myself to make the best first impression I could. I heeded the words of my father saying, "A firm hand-shake goes a long way." After my initial interview, I was given a tour of the one of the server rooms:

Servers
Servers

I was completely blown away by the organization and structure of the server room. I was overly impressed with how organized the work benches were, how the crash carts all had their place, how everything was labeled, how all the cables were bound up neatly, and how the automation system was in place to do the everyday, menial tasks. Here I was trying to impress the DC Manager with my skills and but I can honestly say I was more impressed with SoftLayer. It left a definite first impression on me.

I drove home after the interview thinking I would LOVE to work for this company. When checking my email a short time later, I found an offer letter from the HR department! I started for SoftLayer a few weeks later as a Customer Support Administrator. My next "first impression" of the company came when I walked into the break room and noticed all of the amazing snacks provided to employees. I opened up the refrigerator to place my lunch bag and realized that SoftLayer provides soft drinks and energy drinks to keep their SLayers hydrated. I joked with the DC manager that "SoftLayer should put this information in the job description as a company benefit."

Although making a good first impression is important, making a lasting impression can set you apart from your competition. SoftLayer is a cut above the rest from the other hosting providers out there. Whether you are a new customer or a long-time customer, you have to agree that SoftLayer makes fantastic first and lasting impressions. And just like this blog post, you can't help but tell other people about the SoftLayer difference.

-Greg

October 21, 2011

SoftLayer, The Texas Rangers & The World Series

At the beginning of the baseball season, we gave away tickets for a lucky customer to see a Texas Rangers game, and as a result of that generosity, the Rangers thought it fitting to make it to the World Series. Well ... our little giveaway may not have had anything to do with their success, but we like to think our support helped a little.

Understanding that we have customers and employees who are die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fans, I don't want to turn anyone off with this blog post, but with all of the buzz in the air about the World Series coming back to Arlington this year, I started thinking about the Top 10 Ways SoftLayer is Like the Texas Rangers:

  1. Secret handshakes / fist bumps.
  2. Have a no "I" in "Team" mentality ... In fact, there are no I's in "Texas Rangers" or "SoftLayer."
  3. Teams' leaders (i.e. coach and the CEO) are ... um ... charismatic (to say the least).
  4. Come ready to play on any day that ends in "y."
  5. Strong lineups all the way through.
  6. Texas is home, but both teams do amazing jobs "on the road."
  7. Both have Michaels who like pink.*
  8. Both have Louisville Slugger bats ... The Rangers' bats do great things, while SoftLayer's bats are given to recognize employees that have done great things.
  9. Support is awesome from the customers (fans) to the back office to the team on the field making plays.
  10. Champions of the World, baby!!**

* Apologies to Michael Young, as this statement may not be true as applied to him. Each of my blogs to date has a veiled (or obvious) reference to our CFO, and it was very difficult to think of how to incorporate this reference in a blog dealing with the Texas Rangers, so I may have taken undue liberties for which I apologize.

** The aspirations associated with that last comparison may have strayed me from an unbiased comparison. :-)

-@badvizsla

October 6, 2011

Raising Funds and Awareness - American Heart

SoftLayer is having a contest between all departments to see who can raise the most money for the American Heart Association. Each department (some departments were combined depending on the amount of employees in the group) was asked to think of a fundraiser, event or just some way the team could raise money for a great cause. Whoever raises the most money wins the grand prize of bragging rights around the office.

The Teams

  • Accounting/Finance
  • Marketing/Strategy
  • Administration/HR/Legal
  • Networking
  • CSA/Managed Services
  • Sales
  • CST
  • SBT/Infrastructure/Implementation
  • Executives (Officers and SVP’ s)
  • Systems – Windows/Linux
  • Facilities
  • Technology
  • Inventory

Most departments have done very well, but given my affiliation with the Marketing team, I want to talk about how amazingly we performed. The Marketing and Strategy team kicked off our fundraising efforts with a BBQ event that consisted of ribs, brisket and potato salad, an auction with some great prizes like Rangers tickets, Calloway Golf polo shirts and FC Dallas Tickets, and T-shirts for sale that read, "DEDICATED and we don’t just mean our servers" sponsored by SuperMicro:

AHA Fundraiser

AHA Fundraiser

And here are a few snapshots from the BBQ Event:

AHA Fundraiser

AHA Fundraiser

AHA Fundraiser

It's pretty clear that 3 Bars BBQ is a pretty big draw in the SoftLayer office.

Needless to say this event was a great success! The Marketing team didn't stop there, though. We had FOUR more auctions ... And we pulled out the big guns (two 600GB SSD hard drives and two 16GB iPad 2s). In my biased opinion, the Marketing team worked the hardest for our donations with sweat and tears ... mainly sweat – you know how hot it is outside in the middle of June in Texas.

To date, our team has raised a little over $7,500 in donations for the American Heart Association. You may say, “Wow that’s a lot of cash!” but one of the coolest ways we were able to raise so much money was that we didn't need to take cash: we got a mobile credit card device so the "I don't have cash on me" excuse was rendered useless! Yeah I know ... we are the smartest team ALIVE! After a few events, every department asked us to use our device for their fundraising efforts.

I am so proud of all the work the Marketing and Strategy teams have put into this fundraiser, and I'm especially proud to be a part of an organization that goes to such lengths to help out a charity.

Go Team SoftLayer!

-Natalie :-)

Categories: 
October 2, 2011

SoftLayer is Coming to Town

As many of you know SoftLayer is going global. Our Singapore DC goes live TOMORROW, and Amsterdam will follow suit shortly, so we put together a little "jingle" that I think you might know. It might be September, but if the stores are already putting out holiday items, Christmas songs should be fair game in October ... And since we are entering that last stretch of work before those great end-of-the-year national holidays that give us a few days off, we can use a classic tune to help us power through.

To those of you who love the song, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," you may not want to play the video below. To those who want to rubberneck at our goofiness and join us in a little fun ... play away:

If you want to sing along at home (because who wouldn't?), here are the lyrics for your karaoke pleasure:

SoftLayer is Coming to Town

You better watch out!
Competitors cry!
They're gonna pout
I'm telling you why,
SoftLayer is comin' to town

We're setting up racks
and hiring staff
We're gonna open up our Singapore branch
SoftLayer is comin to town

We're not only in Asia
We'll be in Europe too
We know that you've been waiting for this
So don't miss our big debut.

You better watch out!
Competitors cry!
They're gonna pout
I'm telling you why,
SoftLayer is comin' to town.

With two data centers and two network PoPs
Shiny new servers and cables wired up
SoftLayer is comin' to town.

DC CRAC Units that condition and cool,
Power and network in the SoftLayer Pods too.
SoftLayer is comin' to town.

The SLayers and our clients
will have to celebrate.
We're expanding SoftLayer's footprint,
Far beyond the United States.

You better watch out!
Competitors cry!
They're gonna pout,
I'm telling you why,
SoftLayer is coming to town.

Shout-outs go to all the SLayers who indulged us in this little song. We hope it's less embarrassing than you expected ... And if it's more embarrassing, we hope it's as terrible and catchy as "Friday."

Tip: If the song is stuck in your head now, one great way to distract yourself from it is to go and order a server in Singapore!

-@SKinman454

June 2, 2011

3 Bars | 3 Questions: SoftLayer Culture

In the first 7 episodes of the 3 Bars | 3 Questions series, you've had the chance to meet some interesting people who work for SoftLayer. In the last installment, Paul Ford chose "The Mitch" as the next participant, and that's a bit of a curve ball. "The Mitch" isn't exactly a SoftLayer employee, but he is a character born out of the Softlayer culture, so he qualifies for an interview:

Given our company culture and the time our team spends together in the office, these kinds of jokes are pretty common, and works is a lot more fun as a result. If you want to join the "tens" of fans referenced in the video, find "The Mitch" on Facebook and "Like" accordingly.

If you want to get your very own (extremely rare and valuable) personalized copy of "The Mitch," mail your head shot to "The Mitch" c/o SoftLayer Technologies, 4849 Alpha Road, Dallas, TX 75244. And yes, employees who haven't been lucky enough to receive a print are eligible to participate as well.

-@toddmitchell

EDIT: "The Mitch" is in high demand at the cPanel office: http://sftlyr.com/a9. They might need a limited-edition cPanel-specific run.

May 17, 2011

Row, Row, Row Your Dragon Boat

Following a long-time tradition inherited from The Planet, SoftLayer proudly participated this past weekend in the 2011 Dragon Boat, Kite and Lantern Festival in Irving, Texas. The festival, filled with colorful lanterns and kites, cultural performances, and great food, is centered on a water sport that originated in China over 2,000 years ago: Dragon boat racing.

Dragon Boat

Every year, organizations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area compete against each other by filling a boat with 20 rowers and one "drummer" to propel a 35-foot dragon boat for 250 meters across Lake Carolyn in Las Colinas.

Dragon Boat

Having this event in our own backyard, we thought it'd be a fantastic opportunity for SoftLayer's "3 Bars BBQ" to show off its legendary culinary artistry. In addition to our group of private tents for employees to chill in by the lake, we set up a booth in the food vendor area with tons of delicious brisket, ribs, baked beans and potato salad. And since we're pretty well known for our swag, some free cups and frisbees made their way to the event and ended up sprinkling SoftLayer's logo all over the festival.

Dragon Boat

Under the "DragonSLayers" name, SoftLayer fielded two rowing teams that competed passionately to the chant of "Row, Row, Row!" Watching the races was a lot of fun, and it almost made me question my decision to stay ashore holding a four-pound camera. But hey, there would be no pictures if I hadn't!

With a blazing fast best time of 1:15.7, the DragonSLayers took second place in the corporate division!

Dragon Boat

Counting families and pets, we had over 200 SLayers come out to support our paddlers and enjoy an afternoon filled with fun performances, great food, friendly competition … and lots of dragons.

We look forward to seeing you out there next year! Until then, we'll be meeting in secret to train and hone our dragon boat paddling skills.

-Nick

P.S. If you want to see a few more pictures from the event, head over to our Flickr album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/softlayer/

Categories: 
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