Posts Tagged 'Interview'

January 15, 2016

Vuukle: Helping Publishers Manage Comments and Match Readers with Content

I recently had a conversation with Ravi Mittal, the founder of a company called Vuukle. Vuukle is based in New Delhi and has just graduated from our Catalyst startup program.

Vuukle actually started out in Silicon Valley—Ravi launched his first product iteration with the goal of trying to source public opinion on the Web. Key to his initial offering was a proprietary algorithm he developed to sort comments in order of credibility—a highly valuable aspect of the product, but something he quickly learnt wasn’t enough value to encompass a product.

Through experiments with Vuukle’s early customers (including the Santa Clara Weekly), a major problem emerged which appeared to pervade the online publishing industry: reader engagement wasn’t sticky enough to compel them to post (and reply to) comments. In order to solve this meta-problem, Vuukle pivoted into a new type of comment publishing system, which helps publishers see engagement through custom analytics.

The major problem Vuukle faces is not unique to just the publishers they service. It’s a pretty large scale global problem, extending beyond news publishers and into all content-based publishing online—so you can imagine how much competition is out there around the globe in this space. When I asked Ravi how he differentiates Vuukle from recently dominant players like Livefyre and Disqus, he offered, "Most customers aren’t using those other services; they have their own commenting systems. If anything, we were pitted against Facebook commenting. In the few cases where Disqus is being used, we’ve seen problems with load times, throttling limits and so on."

In order to set Vuukle in a class of its own, Ravi and his team—which is globally dispersed, with people in Egypt, the Ukraine, U.S.A., and India—have architected an infrastructure for super-fast load times that work at amazing scale, employing SoftLayer servers in our Singapore and India data centers, as well as working with a third party, ScaleDB, to handle database queries and traffic. Of course, that alone doesn’t give them a unique value proposition; Vuukle truly sets itself apart by dropping publisher costs upfront to a minimal platform access fee and offering a 50/50 revenue share model. Vuukle not only is set up to handle high traffic websites with commenting, but it also promotes user engagement with comments by integrating with actual publishing systems. Vuukle passes traffic between posts and offers editors insights into how readers are commenting, in addition to creating a new revenue stream through comments—from which it sources the majority of its own income.

Interestingly, Ravi’s move from the Valley to India came because of family reasons and ended up being a blessing to the business. Early after his move, he realized that there was a ton of opportunity for Vuukle with the major Indian newspapers that had cobbled together their own infrastructure to power websites. Just a couple years in, Vuukle is powering comments on The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, and Indian Express, three of the most highly trafficked news websites in the country. To help global adoption amongst all sorts of publishers, Vuukle also offers a free WordPress plugin.

Vuukle seems to have gained traction through Ravi’s hard work chasing customers at home, and he’s proud to be finding success despite being bootstrapped. When questioned about the local startup scene, Ravi said, “Nothing much is unique in the Indian startup ecosystem. [It's] kind of like a gold rush in India, where founders are hunting for investment before they have a clear market path and products that are market-ready. A lot of copycat businesses [are] launching that are focused on Indian markets (taking models from the States and elsewhere.) Not many patents are being filed in India—not much actual innovation, indicative of a proliferation of large seed round raises (around $1 million) and a lot of startups spend funding on staff they don’t need.”

The future seems bright for Vuukle. Its growth beyond India’s borders will happen soon and will be financed through revenue rather than venture capital rounds, of which Ravi seems quite wary. Now that Vuukle has graduated from Catalyst, I was keen to hear whether the company would still keep the majority of their infrastructure with IBM—it turns out prospective Vuukle customers love hearing that their infrastructure is hosted on our cloud and that a core aspect of Vuukle’s value proposition is the scale and reliability we offer their solution.

I really think this company is an exciting one to watch. I look forward to seeing greater success for Vuukle as they grow with our ever-expanding footprint of data centers in the Asian region and globally.

-Qasim

Based in Toronto, Qasim Virjee manages the Catalyst Startup Program in Canada and can be reached on twitter (@qasim) or via his personal website.

December 11, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Customers and customs make global HPC sales leader Jerry Gutierrez’s job enjoyable

Happy holidays! We can’t believe the year is already winding down. Under the Infrastructure has been so caught up in sharing our SLayer stories with you that the days have just flown by.

Speaking of flying, we’re excited to introduce you to one of our world voyagers, Jerry Gutierrez. He’s a global high performance computing (HPC) sales leader (say that one five times fast!) based in our Dallas headquarters—but you’d be hard-pressed to find him there these days. From South America to Asia, his busy schedule has him in meetings all over the map—and enjoying every minute of it.

Last month, Gutierrez celebrated his three-year mark with us. You ready to meet him?

SOFTLAYER: How would you explain your job to a layperson?

JERRY GUTIERREZ: I help sales teams globally identify and close HPC or accelerated computing-related sales opportunities. I also work with our product and marketing teams by way of customer feedback, marketing initiatives, and go-to market strategies around our HPC and accelerated computing products.

SL: Tell us about a day in the life of doing your job.

GUTIERREZ: I’ll give you an example. I was in Brazil this past week, in Sao Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro. I met with the sales teams there and gave them my insight into our GPU products from NVIDIA, along with some roadmap information. We then showed a really nice NVIDIA GRID demo for the customers and ran a small workshop around GPU-accelerated virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. We aim to run these sessions with a small audience of technical influencers and we keep them interactive and hands-on. We traveled to one of the customer’s offices and showed a live demo to a full house—running their software on a virtual GPU-enabled workstation that was running from SoftLayer’s Sao Paulo data center.

After that, we took a flight to Rio, where we had additional meetings with the internal sales group and a workshop-style presentation with customers. I have a technical background, so I talked to them about the technology, showed the demo, and answered questions. I think this strategy is very effective and much more powerful than just doing a PowerPoint presentation and showing slides with the bits and bytes of the products we offer.

Following that, I met with a large local university and a couple of startups to discuss our Catalyst program. Because I’ve been with SoftLayer for quite a while as a former senior sales engineer and now in my current role, I’m comfortable speaking to everyone from large enterprise C-level execs to the fast moving startup groups.

Wherever I go, I’m excited to talk about SoftLayer. I enjoy that part of the job.

SL: People always wonder, “How does that apply to me?” when you’re showing them something new. You demonstrate how the platform can work for them.

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. We find it very powerful. Customers get engaged. They sit up in their chairs. They ask questions. That’s very powerful to me. We almost take the sales part right out of it and we’re talking on a technical level: what are your challenges, what have you done so far, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked? In Brazil, the goal was to show, on a technical level, the capabilities of SoftLayer with NVIDIA technology running applications that they use in-house but deployed in the SoftLayer cloud—all with the same experience that they’re used to, with the added benefits of better security and scalability.

SL: So your position isn’t as much exclusively sales as it is possibilities.

GUTIERREZ: Right. Part of what I do is business development around accelerated computing (including GPUs) because I have a technical background, and I’m very passionate about it. (I actually manage the relationship overall between SoftLayer and NVIDIA). It’s very exciting see what our customers have created using our platform, especially with GPU technology.

SL: Your position is very global. What have you learned in dealing with customers around the world?

GUTIERREZ: Understanding the different cultures and what it means to do business in different cultures was a huge plus for me. For instance, in Japan, it’s very formal during business hours. But afterwards, you go to happy hour and people loosen up a little bit. I had several calls with our Japan team before I visited, and I felt there were some awkward silences. I didn’t know what the pauses meant because I wasn’t seeing their faces. I was wondering if I said something wrong or off. When I went to visit, I got to know their personalities. They want to ingest what you just said, so there’s a pause before they answer you. You can’t get a feel for personalities or body language over the phone, and video chat isn’t the same.

SL: If someone was interested in doing what you’re doing, what advice would you have?

GUTIERREZ: First, I would advise them to get a mentor. At SoftLayer, it’s extremely helpful for us to both have a mentor (and I would say a plus would be an IBMer that’s been with the company a while) and be a mentor—it’s actually highly encouraged at IBM, because that relationship can provide so many insights and help us along our career paths. Secondly, do what you love. If you love to be in front of customers and enjoy working with people and talking about technology like I do, pursue it. In my role, you’d want to have a technical background and a sales background as well. That’s really the mix for this role, since it’s very customer-facing—you’re doing presentations, thinking on the fly, and you need to be able to answer technical questions. Lastly, I would encourage them to pick a product, process, etc., to be the lead on or to champion and work to drive it and improve it. I found it very refreshing when I came to SoftLayer that it was not only open to this but that the company encouraged it—even though it was well out of my original job description. IBM is the same. Score!

SL: What’s the best places you’ve traveled and why?

GUTIERREZ: Tokyo and Rio. Tokyo is a very unique city. Tokyo is very clean, people are thoughtful and friendly. I’m a technical person and they have all the coolest technology. That’s the geek side of me talking! The food is fantastic, too. Rio is a totally different experience: beautiful beaches, beautiful weather, beautiful sights. The music, the food, it’s just phenomenal. And of course, the people. The people are extremely friendly.

SL: Those are pretty good favorites, we’d say.

Oh, and hey, if you’ve got any room in your suitcase, we wouldn’t mind hitching a ride around the world with you.

-Fayza

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?

-Fayza

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.

-Fayza

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.

-Fayza

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.

-Fayza

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?

-Fayza

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.

-Fayza

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.

-Fayza

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.

-Fayza

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