Posts Tagged 'Interview'

November 20, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Catalyst manager Brendan Yell makes startup dreams come true Down Under

We know, we know. We were only back in Texas for a week, but Under the Infrastructure gets restless being at home too long. This week, we went way down south to catch up with someone that does almost as much globetrotting as we do!

Meet Brendan Yell, our Catalyst Startup Program manager for Australia and New Zealand. He’s been a SLayer for a little over a year, and after you get to know him, you’re probably going to want to steal his job.

But he’ll tell you about it himself.

SOFTLAYER: Describe your role at SoftLayer as if the President of the United States asked what you do for work.

BRENDAN YELL: My role is to work with startups and help them succeed. A big part of this is giving them great cloud servers, but it is a lot more than that. I mentor over 50 startups, and a great deal of the time I am not refining their business model or changing their product. Mostly, I connect them to people who can help them out. This can be in the form of investors, customers, and strategic partners.

SL: The Catalyst crew always looks like it’s having the best time. What makes the Catalyst team different?

YELL: I won’t lie; we do have a pretty good time traveling around the world attending cool parties and events. However, this can be pretty exhausting as well. What makes the Catalyst team different is that even though we are scattered around the globe, we are all great friends that are happy to help each other. Recently I had a startup travel to New York, and our person there, Jen Litorja, met with them and made some invaluable introductions for them. This helps the startup and makes us look great to the startup. Jen had no real benefit from spending her time with this startup other than helping them, and helping me.

SL: What’s the most gratifying thing about your job?

YELL: What I love is when a quick two-minute email to someone in my network can literally change the fortunes of a struggling young startup. Having done startups myself (like most in the Catalyst team), I understand how hard it is to give up a lucrative job to go start a company. I also understand that money is not the only motivator for this; people want to create something, be their own boss, and make a difference.

SL: What’s the funniest, silliest, or strangest thing that’s happened to you on the job?

YELL: I recently had an idea pitched to me in the queue of the supermarket. But the pitch did not come from someone in the queue; it was from the cashier. How cool is that?

SL: What’s your favorite place in the whole world and why?

YELL: While I love San Francisco and New York, when you travel up to 40 weeks of the year, it has to be home. We are lucky to live on a lake about 90 mins north of Sydney. It’s so quiet and peaceful there, unlike the hustle of the startup world. Without it, I would be burned out.

Got a spare room for us down there, Brendan?


November 13, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Software engineer Greg Hellings proves that humans are the key to a successful career in tech

After a few wonderful weeks overseas, Under the Infrastructure has triumphantly returned home to our headquarters in Texas (where we left our heart anyway). This time around, we’re talking with Greg Hellings, a software engineer specializing in development automation on the platform services side. He’s been with us in Dallas for three years and we’re confident he’ll smash all your stereotypes when it comes to this job field.

But we’ll let him tell you himself.

“That’s Greg in the air.”

SOFTLAYER: Explain to us what a software engineer focusing on development automation in platform services does.

GREG HELLINGS: We are responsible for the tooling surrounding building and deploying our software. This covers not only the building of our custom, internal software, but also identifying, installing, and configuring any third-party pieces of software that are required for our infrastructure to run. More so than many software engineers, my team needs to communicate with the network engineering teams, the hardware infrastructure teams, the information systems teams, and so forth.

A typical day could see me discussing web server and load balancer configurations with our IS team, discussing our build and testing process for our internal packages with the QA team, and assisting the application developers in tracking down problems with their code.

Automation is our mainstay. Our eventual goal is to write software that envelops the software other engineers in the company write so that software can be translated directly from our internal development systems, through QA testing, and into our production servers. For those steps of the process where a human is required to interact with our system—such as QA executing manual testing of a release—our goal is to simplify the process so that moving the process into or out of the step requires nothing more than the click of a single button.

SL: What do you do to keep your skill set current and cutting edge?

HELLINGS: If the mind is a weapon, it pays to keep it sharp. And as iron sharpens iron, so one mind sharpens another. My team here is a small group of top-notch engineers, and each of us trades knowledge and tips and tricks with one another. Some of us come from a systems engineering background and others come from a more traditional software engineering background. When we work and play together on our multitude of projects, we generally all have lots to teach one another.

I landed in a job where I get to use far more technology than I ever would have on my own. Working for a cloud provider as large and diverse as SoftLayer gives me the opportunity to operate and craft at a scale at which very few engineers ever get to work, and certainly goes far beyond my own means to own and support. As the world moves towards scale and size, keeping skills sharp requires working on increasingly larger scale and tackling the pitfalls that come with global networks. Most people only get to talk or joke about “cloud scale” applications, but working in the cloud itself, I am afforded chance after chance to work tasks at the scale of the cloud itself.

SL: Why did you become a software engineer?

HELLINGS: It was not by intention! I got my first taste of writing software at the age of seven, when my brother bought an old, used RadioShack TRS-80 and a pair of programming books alongside it. Since we didn’t have any software for the device, I had to start writing my own. From there, it would be another six or seven years before I sat down to write software again, picking up classes at my local community college to supplement my high school curriculum in introductory level programming. But my eyes were set on becoming an astronaut, so I eventually went off to college to study astrophysics. I quickly became disinterested in that avenue and completed a liberal arts undergraduate education, which spanned theology, Koine Greek, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and music.

But the summer before my senior year of college, I landed an internship working in the field of software engineering and returned to college to work in the IT department as a help desk technician, phone system administrator, and eventually an assistant network administrator. By the time I graduated, it was clear that—through all my detours—the one constant remained my focus on technology, and software in particular. No matter what field I was working in, I always came back to software usage and automation. So when an opportunity for graduate school came up and I was given the opportunity to get a degree in computer science, my choice was clear.

SL: What’s one thing people don’t know about being a software engineer?

HELLINGS: Software engineering is far removed from classroom computer science education. Computer science education makes the issues very complex and addresses a very abstract set of knowledge. But the human aspects of working together in a collaborative team atmosphere comprise being a software engineer even more. The software that actually gets written on a day-to-day basis—especially in the automation sphere—is generally very straightforward and simple. Thus, human collaboration, when we’re talking about software engineering and not just hacking, is one of the most important talents in the field.

SL: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?

HELLINGS: Software engineering! But most of my time is spent working around the house and taking care of my family. AcroYoga also entered my repertoire last year and has opened me up to a whole new world of play and enjoyment outside the computer.

You now have our permission to dismiss all previously held notions of a software engineer.


November 6, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Server build tech Christos Panoudis confirms whether or not Spider-Man hides in our server racks

Shhh, don’t tell Texas, but we’re never going back to the States! Not just yet, anyway. We’re not finished meeting the amazing folks in our offices and data centers across the pond.

This week, Under the Infrastructure takes a short jaunt south from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, where we’re chatting with server build technician shift lead Christos Panoudis. He’s been with us for a bit under a year (which makes sense, considering our Frankfurt data center just opened in December 2014!), and he’s been integral to getting one of our newer data centers up and running.

Say hello.

SOFTLAYER: Why did you decide to become a server build technician?

CHRISTOS PANOUDIS: Having many years of IT experience, I was looking for a job that it would be interesting and would teach me something. I was also interested in working in the Internet sector—I find it pretty exciting, and being raised in the so-called “Internet generation,” it has certainly affected me. What could be more exciting than working in a data center, where you can work with unique equipment and learn new things? Building a PC doesn’t have a high grade of difficulty, but building a server via complex procedures and being faced with obstacles until you deliver it to the customer? That is what I call a challenge. Networking, software installation, collaboration across departments, and socializing with colleagues are all components of the position that I enjoy.

SL: Tell us more about how your love of technology began.

PANOUDIS: Everyone tells me that I took an interest in technology when I was a little kid by repairing my grandpa’s watches. But they’re wrong; my dream then was to become a pilot [laughs].

I believe my true love of technology stems from two events. The first one was when my father took me to a Greek computer (PC) exhibition in 1994. Observing the new technology, I was in awe. The second event was when my uncle’s computer got a virus, and we made a deal that he would let me on his PC if I successfully removed it. He thought that I couldn’t do it, but after three hours, I did. I was so proud. But I never got to play with his computer, because I had just reformatted his hard drive [laughs]! After that, I caught the computer engineering bug and began to study computers.

A big part of the decision to become an IT professional was the fact that IRC and online gaming were making huge strides in the market. I was spending lots and lots of hours in front of a PC—I had my own IRC server and website—and I was working with other users to troubleshoot connection issues.

I was interested in every gadget and new technology that emerged in the market, while at the same time, I was increasing my technical skills in both software and hardware.

SL: Describe a server build technician’s workstation to us.

PANOUDIS: Chaos. That’s the word that someone would use to describe it if he took a look at a server build technician’s (STB) computer monitor. Multiple browser windows, terminals, remote desktops, server status flows, customer tickets, emails. Of course, it’s chaos to someone who isn’t specialized. But for a STB, this is a daily routine and a habit—or I should say a need? He must be ready to start building servers for a new order, to reply to customer tickets (which could be just a simple upgrade or a complicated maintenance issue), or anything in between. It is necessary for us for that “chaos” exists—so we can consistently do our jobs.

At my workstation, I have three monitors. Two are used for information sequences and the third one is for working. On one screen, I keep track of the incoming tickets and email. On another screen, I monitor server statuses and internal chat. On the central screen, I monitor the terminals that I need to connect to the customer's server and to perform whatever maintenance needed. There are also multiple browser windows to access our internal management system.

SL: What’s it like working for SoftLayer in Frankfurt?

PANOUDIS: Frankfurt’s data center is one of the newer Softlayer data centers in Europe, with modern equipment and high levels of security. Seeing all those cameras and the high walls with barbed wires on my first day of work, I was a bit surprised. Until then, I’d never thought that a tech building would have such security.

In Frankfurt, we work in three shifts. Each shift has a “shift leader” and five technicians. As a shift leader, the most important thing for me is to make sure that everything works like a well-oiled machine, since tasks flow continuously and there must be perfect communication so we won't miss deadlines. That’s why, at the end of each shift, the shift leaders have “hands-off reports,” where task delivery takes place.

The beginning of each shift starts an hour before the previous shift ends. During that time, tasks and on-going maintenance are assigned.
Of course, nothing would be possible without the fantastic people that we work with. It is truly amazing how people with different nationalities, cultures, and ways of thinking come together as one entity to complete tasks.

SL: People on Twitter think Spider-Man lives in our server racks. For once and for all, does he?

PANOUDIS: I dare him to come and live in such an environment: cold and with more than 90 decibels of continuous sound (jet turbine-like). The network cables are structured this way for organizational purposes and to make it easier for personnel to work among such a high volume of wires.

Each color represents a network. For example, red cables are for public networks, blue cables are for private networks, and green are for management.

Even if Spider-Man were able to cope with the sound, he would not be able to live in our data center, since he wouldn’t be able to get past security [laughs]. So, no, we definitely don't have Spider-Man here—not even small spiders.


October 30, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Event marketing manager Naveen Haroon makes her home on the road in the EMEA region

We might be based in Texas, but we love us some Amsterdam. This week, Under the Infrastructure finds itself waking up in the capital of The Netherlands (yes, again!) to get to know Naveen Haroon, our EMEA event marketing manager. She’s been with us just over a year, but she brings a world of experiences to our team.

Let’s meet her.

SOFTLAYER: What kinds of events do you manage for SoftLayer in the EMEA region?

NAVEEN HAROON: Trade shows. I’m here to change the myth that trade shows are about a bunch of sales guys giving away freebies at a booth. Trade shows are about clever branding, market positioning, innovative keynotes, and auxiliary events like C-level roundtables, panels, customer dinners, networking platforms, and press meets.

SL: Generally describe what you do at these events.

NAVEEN: My job is to identify key, relevant events in EMEA for SoftLayer and see them through from A to Z. I have to think about questions like: Who is the target audience? What are they looking for? Do they know SoftLayer already? Should we have a speaker at this event? If so, who and what should they be talking about? I am fortunate to collaborate with some brilliant minds.

I also have to make sure every event generates quality leads to justify the investment. Resource planning is another one for which I work closely with core SoftLayer and IBM colleagues to build strong teams that will represent us at trade shows.

Pre- and post-event marketing campaigns are as integral to an event as the event itself, so thinking about email campaigns and social media promotion around an event is always on the agenda. You will often see LinkedIn updates from me from the show floor.

Anyone who knows events knows that an event cannot exist without the logistics behind it. I never thought I’d have such a close relationship with TNT!

During any given week, meetings with vendors and contractors are non-stop, but building and sustaining partnerships is also the beauty of trade shows.

Quite often, I live out of a suitcase, overseeing single or numerous events in parallel across geographies. Yes, it’s possible. And yes, you learn to sleep really well in hotel rooms.

SL: How did you end up working in this field?

NAVEEN: As I child I aspired to become a journalist, writing stories about women’s struggles around the world and empowering them. Then I had the coolest teacher during business studies at the International School in The Netherlands, and I convinced myself I was meant for the corporate world. After five years as a general marketer in London, I decided to move my passion for marketing and being unnecessarily organized under one umbrella: the mad and fast-paced world of events. I worked in various sectors in London, one of which was technology. ISO 27001, ISO 20000, and the Cookie Law were common terminologies at the office. After hosting several webinars on information security standards, I decided it was time to dive deeper into the tech world. SoftLayer presented the perfect opportunity and my first year has flown by faster than nail polish dries under a UV lamp.

SL: How many SoftLayer shirts do you own?

NAVEEN: I own a t-shirt, a shirt, and two sweaters, which I have worn at trade shows. I also have a stretchy polo dress which lives in my wardrobe as it’s for motivational purposes only. All girls have at least one item of motivational clothing in their wardrobe, don’t they?

SL: If you were handed a check for US$100,000 , what would you do with it?

NAVEEN: I think about this often, though in this particular fantasy, the check runs in the millions. I would get my sister the best nannies in the world for her four amazing children (one nanny per child, naturally), so she can multitask as she does but without giving herself a coronary every day. After that, I would treat myself to a luxurious holiday with a worthy plus-one. Of course, I want to do my bit for the world, too. I think I’d like to give something back to my roots by supporting some of the homeless children and uneducated women in Pakistan.


October 23, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Global salesman Valentine Che is amazed by his interactions with “characters of the world”

It seems we just couldn’t stay away from Amsterdam. This week, Under the Infrastructure is going back to the Venice of the North to introduce you to yet another one of our incredible SLayers.

Say hello to Valentine Che, a global sales representative for new accounts. He’s been with us for three years, and if you’ve ever digitally reached out to us about what we offer in Europe and the Middle East, you might’ve had a conversation with Valentine.

Let’s meet him.

SOFTLAYER: What’s a day in the life like for a new account representative in global sales?

VALENTINE CHE: New account reps principally target new business coming in via online chat, email, and phone calls—it varies from day to day. I am the digital face of SoftLayer. From the guy in the development world who saw an ad for $500 off a cloud server and jumps into chat hoping to get a check to the IT executive who is seriously contemplating a move to the cloud and wants to configure his cloud infrastructure on the SoftLayer platform, I interface with these vastly differing characters and represent the brand.

While manning the online chat and answering incoming calls, I also work tickets created by existing customers and seek avenues to solve an issue a customer is facing.

SL: What does it take to be successful in a global sales position?

CHE: When you interface with dozens of people with different personalities through various communication tools over the course of a day, it is easy to get bogged down. The ability to discern a sales opportunity from this maze is a vital attribute. It is conventionally said that seasoned salespeople can sell ice to Eskimos, while some cannot sell a life jacket to a drowning person.

In all honesty, the SoftLayer value prop already sells itself. Global sales mostly does what we call “telling.” In “telling” why a customer needs to be on the SoftLayer platform, reps need to be digitally polite and enthusiastic. Obviously, it will be difficult to communicate enthusiastically and exude confidence if you do not know the product or service you are selling and cannot show a customer how it solves his or her problems better than the competition. Hence, product knowledge is crucial.

SL: What’s your travel schedule like?

CHE: I travel to trade shows within Europe and the Middle East with the events team about three times per quarter. During these events, I have the opportunity to meet prospects and existing customers face-to-face. I like these face-to-face meetings because you can read the body language of the person you are talking to and the person cannot just disappear (as is often the case with online chats). Also, I carry an iPad and can demonstrate the modularity of the SoftLayer offering. I show prospects how to customize their server to meet their particular needs. It is a fun experience.

SL: What do you like the most about your job?

CHE: The interactions with “characters of the world” are interesting. In a three-year period, I have had a conversation with someone from at least two-thirds of the nations of the world. I pick up cultural cues from these interactions that truly amaze me.

If I did not become a salesman, I would have been either a lawyer or a preacher (mum says I love the sound of my own voice).

SL: Would you rather have a dinosaur or a dragon for a pet? Why?

CHE: I do not believe in pets. In my world, animals should stay in the wild. If all the money spent on pets was diverted toward helping humans, there would not be a hungry soul on the face of the earth.

Did we mention our SLayers have heart, too?


October 16, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Provisioning support technician Robert Molidor brings kindness to computers

After a few weeks in Amsterdam, Under the Infrastructure is bringing it on home to Texas. This week, we’re chatting up provisioning support technician Robert Molidor. He’s stationed in our DAL07 data center in Plano, where he’s been a SLayer for a little over two years.

Ready to meet him?

SoftLayer: What does “provisioning support” mean?

Robert Molidor: The provisioning support team provides level one support to technicians working in our data centers globally. Essentially, we support the provisioning process from build to final boot. If there is something we cannot handle, it gets escalated to other departments.

In addition to providing internal support, our team is also responsible for training new and old server build technicians. We have a group that does onboarding training and a group that does continuing education. All of our training is done remotely, so we don’t actually travel. Instead, we use webcams, chat, and email to connect with the people we’re teaching.

SL: How did you end up in this particular field in the wide world of tech jobs?

Molidor: I came across this position by chance. I had been experiencing a serious lull in employment opportunities and had been working in food service for almost 10 years. My education was doing nothing to help. After two years at Starbucks, I was fed up and shot a message out on Facebook. A buddy of mine responded, “What do you know about computers?” Little did he know I had been an enthusiast my entire life. We met up to discuss the position and a couple months later, I started at SoftLayer as a server build technician.

About a year went by, and I had been told many times to check out provisioning support because I would fit in well. I was hesitant, but decided to go for it. After speaking with the manager of the team and the regional manager that supervised my data center, it was agreed that I would make the move. At the beginning of the year, I was sitting at my new desk.

This job has taught me a ton and I am now with a team of people running continuing education courses. We help other techs gain the skills they need to lead their teams. It’s a lot of fun. My peers and I get to talk to people all over the world and hopefully leave them with a deeper understanding of how to better troubleshoot and respond to situations in their daily routines.

I really enjoy working on my current team, and the position really does suit me well.

SL: What special skills do you need to be successful as a member of a provisioning support team?

Molidor: I wouldn’t say any special skills are needed; it’s more general skills. It’s important to have an understanding of a wide range of possible situations and the ability to find solutions. That said, experience with internal management systems (IMS) and working in the server rooms is a huge advantage.

Our department requires that you’re a self-starter. Our boss isn’t telling us specifically what to do all day, so one needs to be on top of his or her own game and be ready to produce results in his or her own way. Some of us do support, some of us do onboard training, the rest of us do support and continuing education. This department relies on your interests and specific abilities to compliment the team as a whole as long as it’s within the scope of our function. At least that’s how I see it.

One characteristic of people that do well on our team is the ability (or perhaps tendency) to be kind to people. We deal with technicians all day that don’t quite have all the information they need, so it’s our job to help them solve whatever problems they are having and teach them how to fix it on their own the next time. This can really try a person's patience and the ones that enjoy it here have that patience to give. It can be a very rewarding yet challenging job.

SL: How many SoftLayer shirts do you own?

Molidor: I think I have three? Wearing SoftLayer swag is cool, but I’d much rather earn shirts by volunteering or attending events and seminars.

SL: Where would you go in a time machine?

Molidor: This topic could get pretty deep so I’ll leave it with this: I would go forward in time about 50 years to get a feel for how technology has developed. With that information, I would come back here and try to innovate change in an effort to be an integral part of what’s to come.

A technologist for the ages. We pick ‘em well.


October 2, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Growth account manager Matthew Miller is a problem solver

We’re creeping up on two months into the series, and Under the Infrastructure has introduced you to seven SLayers. We’re a pretty diverse and interesting bunch—if we do say so ourselves.

This week, we’re staying in amazing Amsterdam and chatting with growth account manager Matthew Miller. Fast approaching his six-year mark at SoftLayer, Miller is a born and bred Texan who moved to Amsterdam almost four years ago. He’s not a fan of the weather, but, well, this Dallas-based company wishes the whole world could be Texas.

SoftLayer: You’re a growth account manager. What does it mean to be a growth account manager?

Matthew Miller: We are responsible for worldwide growth account activities, which include revenue generation, long-term customer relationship management, retention, and business development with Internet-centric and tech-savvy companies. Our daily activities include vetting current Softlayer accounts and proactively engaging the accounts with the use of different communication methods to identify new sales opportunities and grow existing portfolios.

SL: You’re pretty much a relationship builder.

Miller: Correct.

SL: So what particular skills and talents, do you think, make a successful growth account manager?

Miller: Great communicator, problem solver, and trust. Most of the customers we deal with have so many problems, they don’t know where to start. You need to be able to communicate. But I don’t mean that as in just talking [laugh]. I’m talking about being able to explain things within the customer’s range. There are customers we deal with on a daily basis that have different levels of knowledge when it comes to technology and our business as a whole. So being able to understand your customers needs, while being able to explain it to them on their level, really helps build trust and confidence.

SL: So you kinda have to be, like, a technology whisperer. You have to understand what they’re looking for and interpret it.

Miller: To a degree, yes.

SL: What do you think is the coolest thing about your job?

Miller: Every day comes with its own little challenges. Not every day is the same; that’s the excitement of being in this position. You’re not going to have the same day yesterday as you do today. One day it could be super busy, the next day you’re selling, the next day you’re dealing with problems—there are always different day-to-day operations.

SL: Diversity in work responsibilities definitely makes life more interesting. Sort of on the flip side, what do you think is the most challenging thing about your job?

Miller: Customers [laughs]. We deal with customers all day, and that requires me to take the good with the bad. That’s the beauty of the job. One day you’ll be helping out a customer and they’re happy with our service, while you have another customer who’s struggling and is not happy. It’s part of the challenges we deal with daily.

SL: If you woke up and you had 2,000 unread emails and you could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?

Miller: I’d start from the top and go down.

SL: You would? There wouldn’t be any sort of filtering in looking for specific names or companies or subject lines? You’d just start at the top?

Miller: Well, yeah, because if I can only do 300, it’s first come, first served.

SL: OK. In case anyone ever needs to get your attention and this 300 rule is implemented, they’d better email you a lot.

Miller: I hope I don’t wake up with 2,000 emails [laughs].

We think 2,000 of you should email Matthew right. this. second.


September 25, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Fueled by chocolate, EMEA senior marketing manager Michalina Kiera lives on a diet of planning, monitoring, and executing regional tech strategies

Sure, we’re the cloud that’s built to perform. Yes, our network of networks is fast, resilient, and seamless around the globe. But our machines are nothing without human energy—because our teams are second to none. And you’d better believe that we’re going to brag, brag, and brag some more about the folks that comprise them in the latest edition of Under the Infrastructure.

This week, you’re meeting Michalina Kiera, another gem in our Amsterdam office. She’s been going strong with SoftLayer for over three-and-a-half years, and leads strategic marketing efforts in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

SoftLayer: Describe your role at SoftLayer in 140 characters or less (the length of a tweet).

Michalina Kiera: Oh gosh, that’s why I’m not on Twitter—text length limitations make me twitch. I’m going to try, let’s see. I’m a transmitter and receiver in one, with cognitive thinking being part of the process. I stay tuned to what the EMEA technology market needs today and tomorrow, match it with what SoftLayer has to offer, and translate it into a compelling story with a goal to get people to the edge of their seats if they are not using SoftLayer yet.

SL: You’re a bit over the character limit, but that’s good enough for us. Tell us about a day in the life of a senior marketing manager in the EMEA region.

Kiera: If I’m not traveling or attending or speaking at some conference, then I’m at our Amsterdam office. I start in the morning with some tea (no coffee for me, thank you; I live on chocolate instead). Then I’m reading and writing tons of emails. Participating in tons of meetings online, on the phone, and face-to-face. All those are internal and external: with my colleagues, customers, partners, contractors, etc. Once a week, I’m going through reports on campaigns we’re running in the region, the number of servers humming in our European data centers, and the customers from the region that are deploying the servers around the world.

I’m busy coming up with new ideas to deliver on strategic goals, bouncing those off the team, and planning, monitoring, readjusting, and planning. In between, I always go through my daily pill of the news from the technology and marketing world—I rely on Google Alerts and religiously check LinkedIn Pulse, as it intelligently curates content for me from many sources that I used to check individually and adds the featured articles, blogs, and channels from people and organizations I either respect or need to stay tuned to.

Lunchtime is almost always in front of my screen, typing with one hand, eating with the other. It sounds sadder than it actually is—I enjoy the pace and the busy-ness! If the system overloads, I unwind watching a TED Talk.

It usually gets even busier in the afternoon, as the U.S. team comes to the office. And then my husband calls to tell me that it’s time to close the shop and come home—which I do with pleasure, as I love my little family to the extreme.

SL: How many black SoftLayer shirts do you own?

Kiera: Fourteen. Three cardigans. One dress. And one hoodie.

SL: What’s your best Server Challenge time?

Kiera: I’m more a fan of games in 11000001000101110010. With that in mind, I’ve brought in an idea that is currently in production; it should see the daylight soon, but shhhh—for now.

SL: What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old?

Kiera: I had volleyball training five hours a day (I was on a professional team), rollerblading (usually over the weekend, after the volleyball game). I hung around with my friends from the neighborhood. I sang along with Michael Jackson holding a hairbrush for a microphone. (Don’t judge me.)

I was hooked on Nintendo—the good ol’ cartridge-fed machines—playing Super Mario Bros., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Adventure Island and Mortal Kombat. I also played PC games, from Phantasmagoria to MDK to Jack Jazz Rabbit—although I think when I was 10, it was the era of DOOM and Duke Nukem. My nerd-self expressed itself by going through math riddles for fun.

I have no idea how I found the time to do all of that. I prefer to think the days were simply longer.

Yes, all of our employees are just as ambitious and multitalented as Michalina. You’ll just have to stay tuned to the Under the Infrastructure series to keep up with them.


September 18, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: EMEA regional sales director Jonathan Wisler champions putting the customer first and the return of Disco Fridays

It’s time for the latest and greatest Under the Infrastructure! We’ll be honest: introducing you to our crew always gets us exclamation-point excited. (Sorry we’re not sorry.)

Up next is a chat with Jonathan Wisler, EMEA regional sales director in our (bursting at the seams) Amsterdam office. He’s originally from California, but he’s been in the Netherlands for about 10 years—and with SoftLayer for about four of those. He’s grown our Amsterdam location from an empty space to a bustling place.

But we’ll let him tell you the story himself.

SoftLayer: What was it like being SoftLayer’s first European employee?

Jonathan Wisler: After I interviewed, I went to Dallas for training, and it was all very exciting. I found out this was a great group of people doing fantastic things. Then I got back to Amsterdam and sat down in an empty office with an empty data center. I had mixed feelings: part of me was super excited—“OK, we’re part of a movement; I can get started!”—and the other part of me said, “What did I sign up for?” So it was both exciting and intimidating at the same time.

And now, the first [Amsterdam] data center is nearly full and we have a total of six data centers in Europe. The office is overflowing, so we’re expanding into the IBM offices, and we’re opening up some space in the coming days. It was a very exciting journey and it’s also very exciting to see the growth.

I have to admit: the first day I got back from Dallas and sat down in Amsterdam in an empty office, with an empty data center—it was a bit intimidating [laughs].

SL: How has SoftLayer changed or stayed the same since you started with the company?

Wisler: It’s certainly been an evolution. It’s evolved significantly, and you see the scaling in action. When I first started, we were the second international launch, only one month behind Singapore—so it went from a U.S.-based company to an international company virtually overnight.

Now, in Europe alone, we have five different locations, global teams, and we’ve integrated into IBM. The SoftLayer kernel is now scaling exponentially—not only inside SoftLayer as an organization, but we’re building and scaling inside IBM as well. It’s fantastic to see that it’s mushroomed and virtually exploded in terms of growth.

So naturally, what comes with that is that you see all different types of personalities and different types of cultures, all working together and getting the SoftLayer buzz, so to speak. They’re feeling the growth and developing the cloud movement.

SL: We’ve had monumental, volcanic change. Has anything stayed the same?

Wisler: The core definitely has. We were on a call last night to resolve some customer issues. We’re working across time zones, we’re working across regions, and we’re working across IBM and SoftLayer. But the fantastic thing is the glue that is our customer-first attitude. The first thing we said was, “OK, we need to solve the problem for the customer, we need to do it within hours, not days, and we’ll work out the internal things later.” That kind of core value has not changed, and I think that’s the key to our success. It’s awesome and it’s refreshing.

SL: What’s the best thing that you’ve learned over the course of your time at SoftLayer?

Wisler: Be flexible. If you look at where I started with Softlayer about four years ago—myself and an empty data center—at that time, we weren’t yet a part of IBM, one of the largest technology companies in the world. With where we were then and where we are today in terms of scale, focus, and what we need to do to close deals and fill up data centers, I’ve had to be flexible. Stay flexible, stay fast. And be adaptable, because you have different customer cultures and different internal cultures. SoftLayer has a very strong culture. So you need to be able to work across those.

SL: What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled on a fellow SLayer?

Wisler: We started small and scaled fast, so pranks were luxurious. We’ve played some jokes on each other and we’ve had a lot of fun, but I don’t know if they’re pranks that would go in a blog [laughs].

SL: You don’t want your coworkers to anticipate your next move. We get that.

Wisler: Exactly. But it’s actually a good idea. When we first started in the SoftLayer office, we had Disco Fridays, which were always quite good. We’d have a sound system there, and the music would go on. As we got more crowded, that was harder to do. But we’re setting up some new office space in the IBM office, so I’m going to invest in a bigger sound system. And lights. Disco Fridays are back on again.

But now you’ve got me thinking about what kind of prank to pull.

SL: Why do tennis balls have fuzz?

Wisler: So when you smack them, they make a funny sound; that “oomph” sound. I don’t know. Is this a prank I should be expecting?

SL: [Laughing] It would be a little difficult to organize an international prank of…tennis balls.

Wisler: If I get a package in the post from you, I’m going to be a little leery.

SL: You should be.

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to make a quick trip to Academy for, uh, not tennis balls. Definitely not tennis balls.


September 11, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Customer support technician Steve Nolin is on your side

There are over 1,500 employees at SoftLayer. Can you believe it? That’s over 1,500 brains, 3,000 eyeballs, and over 6,000 workstations, devices, and gadgets all working toward a common goal: doing our best by our clients. (That’s you.)

Customer support technician Steve Nolin knows a thing or two about prioritizing the most important part of our business. He’s been at SoftLayer for about a year, and he’s based in our Houston office.

Let’s meet him.

SoftLayer: Tell us something no one knows about being a customer support technician at what some would argue is the most awesome cloud company ever.

Steve Nolin: We don't know everything you are doing on your server, but we will see if we can point you in the right direction. Given the range of services and different hardware and software combinations we offer that interact with each other, it can be a challenge to make sure everything communicates properly. With computers, you can do things in various ways with varying degrees of success or failure.

SL: How has SoftLayer changed (or stayed the same) since you began working here?

Nolin: I have only been here a year, so it hasn't changed that much, other than offering some new products like endurance storage. We have had some changes with how back-end issues are addressed by the developer and information systems teams. This helps get issues resolved faster and makes it more integrated with the ticketing system. That is always a good thing.

SL: What’s your favorite thing about being a SLayer?

Nolin: Although it would make things a lot easier to only have to deal with one platform, we support various software and hardware, so there is always something new to learn. I also like the IBM Think Academy and other learning tools offered so I can increase my skill set.

SL: What’s the best prank you ever pulled on a fellow SLayer?

Nolin: I usually try to stay busy working the phones, chat, or tickets, so I don't really do pranks. But we do have NERF wars when it is slow. I had to throw the darts by hand when I first started, but my Secret Santa gave me a gift card, so I have my own NERF gun to do battle with now.

SL: What did you have for breakfast?

Nolin: Since the doctor said I had to watch my blood sugar and get more exercise, I had to cut out my #22 from Whataburger. I have found the sausage and pancake on a stick along with a banana, 2 percent milk, and coffee to be a good alternative. Other days I will have bacon, egg, and cheese Toaster Scrambles instead of the sausage and pancake on a stick.

Now you know the real secret to our smashing success: a hearty breakfast to start the morning. So what’ll you uncover in next week’s Under the Infrastructure? You’ll have to tune it right here to find out.


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