Posts Tagged 'Development Team'

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.


May 6, 2010

Listen to your people!

One of the defining traits of a good organization is one that listens to its people, and acts on feedback, input, compliments, and concerns. Organizations that trod along thinking everything is ‘just fine’ are doomed for failure. Imagine how you would react if everything you tried to raise up, whether it be new innovations, specific concerns, or just small tweaks fell upon deaf ears. I’m assuming that at some point you’d just give up, sputter out, and lose your motivation to do your best.

One of the great things about SoftLayer is that many ideas come from the trenches. The support team, both SysAdmins and Hardware Engineers, work with our systems daily. We know the ins and outs, and use those to quickly resolve customer concerns, handle requests, and provide the best possible support to ensure that we provide the best customer experience. Knowing our portal so well also allows us to identify shortcomings (yes, even the amazing SoftLayer portal can be improved, believe it or not). When we see an issue, or a possible improvement, we are able to bring those up through our managers to our development team. By doing so, we streamline the process to allow us to perform our jobs more efficiently. It goes without saying that by improving our internal processes, we can reduce customer downtime, and enhance the speed in which we provide upgrades, allowing our customers’ businesses to be more successful.

I have to provide a specific tip of the hat to our development team. They’re consistently bombarded with requests from the NOC, and are working tirelessly to ensure that those requests are fulfilled to the best degree possible. It is not uncommon for a developer to work all day, and then handle specific requests after hours. I wouldn’t be surprised to know that some members of our development team (I’m looking at you, Kelly…) survive on only a few hours of sleep, only to come back in during the daytime to continue crunching code (something I personally have no desire to do), and enriching our administrative, and customer experiences.

When it comes to listening to the people in the trenches, no one is too high up on the totem pole. Our COO and CEO have been known to get plenty of face time in the NOC and the datacenters. It’s not uncommon to get a quick ping from one of the managers to let us know that one of our requests have been escalated to our developers for improvement. It’s nice to look at that little piece of the portal, and know that it’s there because you addressed it. It is my humble opinion that a company is owned not solely by the investors or others with a stake in it, but by those who come in daily to ensure the continuing success of the organization. It is my belief that is what makes SoftLayer so successful – because the staff speaks, and the company listens.

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