Posts Tagged 'Learning'

March 20, 2013

Learntrail: Tech Partner Spotlight

We invite each of our featured SoftLayer Tech Marketplace Partners to contribute a guest post to the SoftLayer Blog, and this week, we're happy to welcome Daniel Hamilton, CTO of Learntrail. Learntrail is a learning management system for creating, assigning, and tracking e-learning programs. It helps you train your employees and develop a more effective workforce.

The Power of Great People

In 1995, Peter Drucker, one of the founding fathers of modern-day management, shared a profoundly simple idea: "People are our greatest asset." Today, almost two decades later, that quote is reiterated in one form or another by the top executives at the largest companies in the world. You can have the best product, a stellar marketing plan and the perfect vision, but without a great team of people to execute with those tools, your company isn't going anywhere.

In an online world now driven by innovation, it's easy to want to substitute "technology" for "people" as a business's greatest asset, but I'd argue that Peter Drucker's quote is as true now as it was in 1995. Think about it in terms of keeping your webiste online. Your server's hardware — a powerful CPU, ample storage space, tons of RAM and a fast network connection — might dictate how your website runs when everything is going smoothly, but when your traffic spikes over the holidays or an article on your blog goes viral, your ability to respond quickly to keep your website operational will be dictated by the quality of your server admins and support staff.

While good companies focus on improving their products, great companies focus on improving their people. In 2010, Google approached the challenge of improving its people by creating GoogleEDU — a program designed to formalize the process of educating employees in new skills, strategies and perspectives. Beyond building a stronger team of smarter individuals, Google is clearly investing in its employees, and that investment goes a long way to engender loyalty and job satisfaction.

What if your business doesn't happen to have Google's resources or a $269 billion market cap? That's the problem Learntrail set out to solve. Our platform was designed to make it easy for businesses to create stunning, full-featured multimedia courses that can be monitored and tracked in detail with a few clicks.

Learntrail Chalkboard

You can bring your new-hire orientation program online, centralize training documents for new products, or create simple lessons about company-specific procedures through a sleek, easy-to-use portal. You’ll also get real-time reports about your team’s progress, so you'll know exactly how your training is being used by your employees. To prove how confident we are that Learntrail will meet your needs, we have a risk-free, no credit card required 14-day trial that lets you kick the tires and get a feel for how Learntrail can work for your business.

Your people are your greatest asset.

-Daniel Hamilton, Learntrail

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
December 13, 2011

Do Your Homework!

As far back as I can remember, I hated homework. Homework was cutting into MY time as a kid, then teenager, then young adult ... and since I am still a "young adult," that's where I have to stop my list. One of the unfortunate realizations that I've come to in my "young adult" life is that homework can be a good thing. I know that sounds crazy, so I've come prepared with a couple of examples:

The Growing Small Business Example
You run a small Internet business, and you've been slowly growing over the years until suddenly you get your product/service mix just right and a wave of customers are beating down the door ... or in your case, they're beating down your website. The excitement of the surge in business is quickly replaced by panic, and you find yourself searching for cheap web servers that can be provisioned quickly. You find one that looks legit and you buy a dozen new dedicated servers and some cloud storage.

You alert your customers of the maintenance window and spend the weekend migrating and your now-valuable site to the new infrastructure. On Monday, you get the new site tuned and ready, and you hit the "go" button. Your customers are back, flocking to the site again, and all is golden. As the site gains more traffic over the next couple of weeks, you start to see some network lag and some interesting issues with hardware. You see a thread or two in the social media world about your new shiny site becoming slow and cumbersome, and you look at the network graphs where you notice there are some capacity issues with your provider.

Frustrated, you do a little "homework," and you find out that the cheap service provider you chose has a sketchy history and many complaints about the quality of their network. As a result, you go on a new search for a hosting provider with good reviews, and you have to hang another maintenance sign while you do all the hard work behind the scenes once again. Not doing your homework before making the switch in this case probably cost you a good amount of sleep, some valuable business, and the quality of service you wanted to provide your customers.

The Compliance-Focused Example
I still live, eat, and breathe compliance for SoftLayer, and we had an eye-opening experience when sorting through the many compliance differences. As you probably recall (Skinson 1634AR15), I feel like everyone should agree to an all-inclusive compliance model and stick to just that one, but that feeling hasn't caught on anywhere outside of our office.

In 2011, SoftLayer ramped up some of our compliance efforts and started planning for 2012. With all the differences in how compliance processes for things like FISMA, HIPAA, PCI Level 1 - 4, SSAE16, SOC 1 and SOC2 are measured, it was tough to work on one without affecting another. We were working with a few different vendors, if we flipped "Switch A," Auditor #1 was happy. When we told Auditor #2 that we flipped "Switch A," they hated it so much they almost started crying. It started to become the good ol' "our way is not just the better way, it's the only way" scenario.

So what did we do? Homework! We spent the last six months looking at all the compliances and mapping them against each other. Surprisingly enough, we started noticing a lot of similarities. From there, we started interviewing auditing and compliance firms and finally found one that was ahead of us in the similarity game and already had a matrix of similarities and best practices that affect most (if not all) of the compliances we wanted to focus on.

Not only did a little homework save us a ton of cash in the long run, it saved the small trees and bushes under the offices of our compliance department from the bodies that would inevitably crash down on them when we all scampered away from the chaos and confusion seemingly inherent in pursuing multiple difference compliances at the same time.

The moral of the story: Kiddos, do your homework. It really is good for something, we promise.

-@Skinman454

October 21, 2011

Why Don't You Work Here Yet?

I started my career with SoftLayer in March 2011 as a Server Build Technician, and after a few short months, I can safely say that coming here was one of the best moves I have ever made in my life. I have worked in a number of different jobs ranging from retail to shipping, but in my heart, I always knew I wanted a career in computer technology. SoftLayer made that dream come true.

When I started, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information I had to learn all at once. That feeling quickly subsided during the first week as I realized how the work environment and culture is built on employees who take great pride both what they do and the knowledge they are able to pass on to newcomers. I knew I was in good hands. I felt like I was a part of an elite group of intelligent, inspiring, funny, energetic and down to earth people.

Through the interactions I've had with my direct coworkers, my knowledge has grown tremendously, and I feel more confident in meeting and exceeding the expectations and responsibilities in front of me. The original SoftLayer culture is alive and well thanks to the efforts and example of the management team, and it doesn't take long to notice that this company has a passion for customer service, and we strive to be the very best we can be. Because of the encouragement and optimism I have been given, I see a bright future for me here.

As our operations expand, I can't help but get excited for the success in store for the business, our team and our customers. We're ready to embrace new challenges, and though the tasks seem daunting, I know our team can handle them easily. I take great pride in my work, and I'm quick to tell the SoftLayer story to anyone who will listen. The company motto is, "Innovate or Die," and every employee – from Dallas to Amsterdam to San Jose to Singapore – lives and breathes that motto daily. We're pushing the limits of what a "hosting company" can do, and we're having a lot of fun doing it.

I feel honored to say that I am a part of the SoftLayer family, and if you're in the market for a new job for an awesome employer, you should head to SoftLayer Careers to find which of the 50+ positions you'd fit so you can join us in Dallas, Houston, San Jose, Seattle, Singapore, Amsterdam or Washington, D.C.

We are SoftLayer!

-Anthony

September 25, 2011

Learning the Language of Hosting

It's been a little over a month since I started at SoftLayer ... And what a difference a month makes. In the course of applying for the Social Media Coordinator position I now hold, I was asked to write a few sample blogs. One was supposed to be about what SoftLayer does, and I answered it to the best of my abilities at the time. Looking back on my answer, I must admit I had no idea what I was getting into.

On the plus side, comparing what I know now with what I thought I knew then shows how much a person with zero background in hosting can learn in a short period of time. To give you an idea of where I came from, let's look at a few theoretical conversations:

Pre-SoftLayer

Friend: What does SoftLayer do?
Rachel: They are a hosting provider.
Friend: What is a hosting provider?
Rachel: It's sort of like an Internet landlord that rents data space to clients ... I think.

Present Day

Friend: What is it you do?
Rachel: I'm the Social Media Coordinator for SoftLayer Technologies.
Friend: What does SoftLayer do?
Rachel: SoftLayer is a hosting provider, however that is a generalization. We have data centers around the country and are expanding worldwide. The company offers dedicated, cloud and hybrid environments that allow us to handle companies outsourced IT. We are infrastructure experts.

That would be a little bit of a cookie cutter explanation, but it gives a lot more context to the business, and it would probably soar above the head of my non-technical inquisitive friend.

During my first week on the job, I visited one of SoftLayer's data centers ... And that "data center" term turned out to be a little tricky for me to remember. For some reason, I always wanted to call the data center a "database center." It got to the point where Kevin challenged me to a piggy bank deal.

SoftLayer is raising money for the American Heart Association, and everyone has a little piggy bank at their desk. One of the piggy banks essentially became a "swear jar" ... except not for swearing. Every time I said "database center," I had to put a dollar in the piggy bank. The deal was extended when I was trying to remember that 1 byte (big B) = 8 bits (little b):

AHA Piggy Bank

With money on the line, I'm happy to say that I haven't confused "database centers" or bits and bytes again ... And the piggy bank on the left-hand side of the picture above proves it!

Back to the DC (data center!) tour: I learned about how CRAC units are used to pull air underneath the floor and cool the "cold aisles" in the DC. I learned about the racks and how our network architecture provides private, public, and out–of–band management networks on the back end to customers in a way unique to SoftLayer. Most importantly, I learned the difference between managed, dedicated, cloud and hosting environments that incorporate all of those different kinds of hosting. This is a far cry from focusing on getting the terminology correct.

I'm still not an expert on all things SoftLayer, and I'm pretty sure I'll end up with my very own acronym dictionary, but I must admit that I absorbed more information in the past month than I thought possible. I have to thank my ninja sensei, Kevin, for taking the time to answer my questions. It felt like school again ... especially since there was a whiteboard in use!

Kevin, enjoy your empty piggy bank!

-Rachel

August 31, 2010

An excerpt from the Diary of a N00b

I must admit coming to work for SoftLayer made me a little nervous. I was hired as a receptionist and I assumed my computer skills, or lack thereof, would get me through just fine. I am not one of those people that you would consider computer savvy. Sure, I can use a computer to look up directions or make a PowerPoint but I knew I was rather limited for the times.

Before working here I thought the only kind of cookies out there were the kind you could bake with chocolate chips. I thought clouds only were up in the sky and was impressed when I heard someone mention they were customizable. When people said “I’m headed to the NOC” I just assumed they were going to knock on someone’s office door or maybe it was a hip new restaurant.

My first day I received calls about phishing and honeypots, I was beyond confused. I was sure Winnie the Pooh did not work here and these guys didn’t seem like the fishermen type. I decided it was time for me to get a little more current on the times. Everyone at SoftLayer has been accommodating and so generous with their time. I have been so impressed with everyone’s team work. I have learned so much in these first few weeks.

The SoftLayer Team has been so helpful showing me around the new building. It is absolutely stunning, it is a bit of a maze though. I’m afraid if I didn’t have someone walking me through, I might have to leave bread crumbs to find my way back.

In closing, I am glad to learn there are more cookie options but I still prefer the chocolate chip kind.

November 13, 2009

Buenos Dias

Growing up I would consider myself an average kid. I played football and basketball outside with my brothers; we’d come home every day from school and turn on cartoons. Depending on the day it may have been power rangers or the animaniacs, rarely would we ever dare tune into PBS for entertainment. I started thinking about this as my son of 17 months is beginning to use single words and overall starting to communicate more with me, and consequently starting to want to repeat everything he hears. We were watching cartoons last Saturday morning and I noticed something strange, every cartoon appeared to be teaching him way more then I remember the cartoons of my time teaching me.

Sure there were a few of the ones I expected, but the vast majority had a lot of learning. Even the commercials had learning games and exercises mixed in. With the amount of information younger generations have these days it makes me wonder just how much my son is picking up. Is it crazy to think by four or five he will know at least one hundred words of Chinese (Ni Hao, Kai Lan), and one hundred words of Spanish (Dora the Explorer), at this rate I don’t think that’s too crazy an accomplishment as he’s learning all of this while having fun in his eyes.

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if your child came up to you and spoke a sentence in Chinese, and you had to tell him to hold on while you “googled” what he was trying to say. Before I had a child I always said, “I am not letting my child watch cartoons, that stuff will just make him less likely to enjoy learning and other activities.” Now I not only love the idea, but it’s fun and exciting for me too since I get to learn as well. My dad was always breaking and building computers when I was a kid so naturally I picked up on that and made it into what I do today. I’m not sure what effect if any these educational shows will have on him career or otherwise but I think overall shows today are making great progress in spurring children’s hunger to learn , which is great as I will be trying to teach him his ABC’s in the coming months. I just hope he doesn’t expect me to wear a funny hat and dance with stuffed animals in the process.

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August 3, 2009

Education

Attending College Classes can be a daunting task. The hours of homework and studying (and the obligatory time spent actually in the classroom) can noticeably eat away at one’s free time (and at times, their sanity). While it can be painful to take on college, attending classes and working on top of it can be exponentially more difficult. Balancing your studies with your responsibilities at work can be tricky, even for those who are experts in time management. When all is said and done, though, the investment is well worth it. As I’ve stated before, Knowledge is power (yes, I know, shameless self promotion), and learning can occur at any opportunity.

I recently realized that with the exception for while sleeping (some days I can count the hours on one hand), I am always learning new things. While my progressing college education keeps me thinking, SoftLayer has taught me more than I ever thought I would learn in such a short amount of time. New operating systems (at least to me), and continual changes and improvements are synonymous with life at SL. Learning occurs at every customer request, every server build, and every operating system install. Certainly, employment here is not for the faint of heart. More so, no one can say that they didn’t leave their shift just a bit smarter than when they arrived.

Knowledge is important in this industry, as knowing the correct process to solve a problem can mean the difference between five hours and five minutes of downtime. While everyone has their strengths, the team that we have here supersedes any possible weaknesses, leading to one of the brightest group of individuals anyone could have the privilege of working with. I spend my shifts perpetually challenged, but never overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of issues (read: learning opportunities) that present themselves every day. While I will concede that classes such as precalculus and humanities may not directly sharpen my troubleshooting skills, being able to think logically and follow procedures will certainly pay off in the long run.

May 4, 2009

Paradigm Shift

From the beginning of my coming of age in the IT industry, It’s been one thing – Windows. As a system administrator in a highly mobile Windows environment, you learn a thing or two to make things tick, and to make them keep ticking. I had become quite proficient with the Active Directory environment, and was able to keep a domain going. While windows is a useful enterprise-grade server solution, it’s certainly not the only solution. Unfortunately when I made my departure from that particular environment, I hadn’t had much exposure to the plethora of options available to an administrator.

Then Along comes SoftLayer, and opens my eyes to an array of new (well, at least to me) operating systems. Now, I had begun my ‘new’ IT life, with exposure to the latest and greatest, to include Windows, as well as virtualization software such as Xen and Virtuozzo, and great open source operating systems such as CentOS, and FreeBSD. With the new exposure to all these high-speed technologies, I felt that maybe it was time for me to let the de-facto home operating system take a break, and kick the tires on a new installation.

I can say that while switching to open source was a bit nerve racking, it ended up being quick and painless, and I’m not looking back. I’ve lost a few hours of sleep here and there trying to dive in and learn a thing or two about the new operating system, as well as making some tweaks to get it just like I like it. The process was certainly a learning experience, and I’ve become much more familiar with an operating system that, at first, can seem rather intimidating. I went through a few different distributions till I settled on one that’s perfect for what I do (like reading the InnerLayer, and finishing the multitude of college papers).

The only problem with always reloading a PC is you have to sit there and watch it. It doesn’t hurt to have a TV and an MP3 player sitting around while you configure everything and get the reload going, but you still have to be around to make sure everything goes as planned. Imagine this… You click a button, and check back in a few. Sound Familiar? Yep, it would have been nice to have an automated reload system much like we have here at SoftLayer. Not to mention, if something goes awry, there’s the assurance that someone will be there to investigate and correct the issue. That way, I can open a cold one, and watch the game, or attend to other matters more important than telling my computer my time zone.

April 29, 2008

SoftLayer University

WOW…Am I the only one that has noticed the sky-rocketing cost of formal education these days? Or, what about the exorbitant amounts charged for Internet educational programs? (Hello, RH! *I am a student in an online RH course…yes, I paid a ton!)

I truly enjoy learning. I must always have something that I am actively involved in learning. And, I am always looking for something new to learn. Hmmm….maybe that’s why I am in IT…

We all know there is always something more to learn in the world of IT. As a CSA, I can learn more in a day from investigating, researching, and resolving customer issues than most university students learn about a specific subject in an entire semester. I know because I was a university student at one time. The range of issues that we CSA’s face on a daily basis is truly amazing. It makes sense when you look at the vast array of businesses/business models, and therefore applications for their servers, that our customers enjoy. I believe there is another blog in here somewhere in which one of my colleagues outlines some of the hats that we as CSA’s wear on a daily basis. All this is to say that, in the relatively short time that SoftLayer has been around, there has been a massive amount of information that has been learned, communicated, AND SAVED FOR YOUR EDUCATIONAL BENEFIT AND PLEASURE!!!

That’s right! For an unlimited time (as long as you are a SoftLayer customer), you too can benefit from the wealth of information that numerous techs have struggled with, fought for, and, at times, felt like dying for! Volumes of knowledge have been painstakingly documented as a resource for our very own SoftLayer technicians, AND, this same information has been made available to our customers! This amazing resource is available for the bargain basement price of $0.00. Think of all the money you could spend at a university taking classes at inconvenient times of the day. Think of the mounds of cash you could spend for an online course or weekend crash course just to teach you the much needed information found very conveniently in SoftLayer’s very own “KnowledgeLayer”!

You might say, “What if I need a tutor?” Think of the cash you could spend on a personal tutor. No need to spend cash on a tutor when you are a customer of SoftLayer! The SoftLayer forums are filled with tutors ready, willing, and excited to answer your questions, share in your accomplishments, and bask in the glow of your success! There are industry “experts” in there to help advise you when you need to make a decision regarding the next step for your growing business. Did I mention the SoftLayer “tutorials”, which can be found in the SoftLayer portal under the Support tab? Yes, we have our very own customized video tutorials in the portal! SoftLayer is almost a “one-stop-shop” for all your server-related educational needs.

But, wait, there is more! If, after learning from the KnowledgeLayer and being tutored in the forums, you still feel that you need more personalized attention in order to truly understand an issue that you are studying, you can always open a ticket with Support, and a CSA will personally work with you to teach you everything that you need to know regarding that specific issue!

So, in summary, when purchasing a server with SoftLayer, you have not only made an investment in the success of your business by choosing the industries’ best on-demand datacenter provider, you have also enrolled in SoftLayer University!

What courses of study would you like to pursue?

-David

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