Posts Tagged 'Seattle'

February 12, 2013

From the Startup Trenches to the Catalyst War Room

Before joining SoftLayer, I was locked in a dark, cold room for two years. Sustained by a diet of sugar and caffeine and basking in the glow of a 27" iMac, I was tasked with making servers dance to the tune of Ruby. The first few months were the toughest. The hours were long, and we worked through holidays. And I loved it.

If that work environment seems like torture, you probably haven't been on the front lines of a development team. I was a member of a band of brothers at war with poorly documented vendor APIs, trying to emerge victorious from the Battle of Version 1.0. We operated (and suffered) like a startup in its early stages, so I've had firsthand experience with the ups and downs of creating and innovating in technology. Little did I know that those long hours and challenges were actually preparing me to help hundreds of other developers facing similar circumstances ... I was training to be a Catalyst SLayer:

Catalyst Team

You probably know a lot about Catalyst by now, but one of the perks of the program that often gets overshadowed by "free hosting" is the mentorship and feedback the SoftLayer team provides every Catalyst participant. Entrepreneurs bounce ideas off of guys like Paul Ford and George Karidis to benefit from the years of experience and success we've experienced, and the more technical folks can enlist our help in figuring out more efficient ways to tie their platforms to their infrastructure.

When I was forging through the startup waters, I was fortunate to have been supported by financially reinforced walls and the skilled engineers of a well-established hosting company in Tokyo. Unfortunately, that kind of support is relatively uncommon. That's where Catalyst swoops in. SoftLayer's roots were planted in the founders' living rooms and garages, so we're particularly fond of other companies who are bootstrapping, learning from failure and doing whatever it takes to succeed. In my role with Catalyst, I've effectively become a resource for hundreds of startups around the world ... and that feels good.

Five days before my official start date, I receive a call from Josh telling me that we'd be spending my first official week on the job in Seattle with Surf Incubator and Portland with Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE). While the trip did not involve carving waves or stuffing our faces with baked goods (bummer), we did get to hear passionate people explain what keeps them up at night. We got to share a little bit about SoftLayer and how we can help them sleep better (or fuel them with more energy when they're up at night ... depending on which they preferred), and as I headed back to Los Angeles, I knew I made the right choice to become a SLayer. I'm surrounded by energy, creativity, passion, innovation and collaboration on a daily basis. It's intoxicating.

TL;DR: I love my job.

-@andy_mui

July 13, 2012

When Opportunity Knocks

I've been working in the web hosting industry for nearly five years now, and as is the case with many of the professionals of my generation, I grew up side by side with the capital-I Internet. Over those five years, the World Wide Web has evolved significantly, and it's become a need. People need the Internet to communicate, store information, enable societal connectivity and entertain. And they need it 24 hours per day, seven days a week. To affirm that observation, you just need to look at an excerpt from a motion submitted to the Human Rights Council and recently passed by the United Nations General Assembly:

The General Session ... calls upon all States to promote and facilitate access to the Internet and international cooperation aimed at the development of media and information and communications facilities in all countries.

After a platform like the Internet revolutionizes the way we see the world, it's culturally impossible to move backward. Its success actually inspires us to look forward for the next world-changing innovation. Even the most non-technical citizen of the Internet has come to expect those kinds of innovations as the Internet and its underlying architecture have matured and seem to be growing like Moore's Law: Getting faster, better, and bigger all the time. The fact that SoftLayer is able to keep up with that growth (and even continue innovating in the process) is one of the things I admire most about the company.

I love that our very business model relies on our ability to enable our customers' success. Just look at how unbelievably successful companies like Tumblr and HostGator have become, and you start to grasp how big of a deal it is that we can help their businesses. We're talking billions of pageviews per month and hundreds of thousands of businesses that rely on SoftLayer through our customers. And that's just through two customers. Because we're on the cutting edge, and we provide unparalleled access and functionality, we get to see a lot of the up-and-coming kickstarts that are soon to hit it big, and we get to help them keep up with their own success.

On a personal level, I love that SoftLayer provides opportunities for employees. Almost every department has a career track you can follow as you learn more about the business and get a little more experience, and you're even able to transition into another department if you're drawn to a new passion. I recently move to the misty northwest (Seattle) when given the opportunity by SoftLayer, and after working in the data center, I decided to pursue a role as a systems administrator. It took a lot of hard work, but I made the move. Hard work is recognized, and every opportunity I've taken advantage of has been fulfilled. You probably think I'm biased because I've done well in the organization, and that might be a fair observation, but in reality, the opportunities don't just end with me.

One of my favorite stories to share about SoftLayer is the career path of my best friend, Goran. I knew he was a hard worker, so I referred him to the company a few years ago, and he immediately excelled as an Operations Tech. He proved himself on the Go-Live Crew in Amsterdam by playing a big role in the construction of AMS01, and he was promoted to a management position in that facility. He had been missing Europe for the better part of a decade, SoftLayer gave him a way to go back home while doing what he loves (and what he's good at).

If that Goran's story isn't enough for you, I could tell you about Robert. He started at SoftLayer as a data center tech, and he worked hard to become a systems administrator, then he was named a site manager, then he was promoted to senior operations manager, and now he's the Director of Operations. You'll recognize him as the guy with all of the shirts in Lance's "Earn Your Bars" blog post from December. He took every rung on the ladder hand-over-hand because no challenge could overwhelm him. He sought out what needed to be done without being asked, and he was proactive about make SoftLayer even better.

I could tell you about dozens of others in the company that have the same kinds of success stories because they approached the opportunities SoftLayer provided them with a passion and positive attitude that can't be faked. If being successful in an organization makes you biased, we're all biased. We love this environment. We're presented with opportunities and surrounded by people encouraging us to take advantage of those opportunities, and as a result, we can challenge ourselves and reach our potential. No good idea is ignored, and no hard work goes unrecognized.

I'm struggling to suppress the countless "opportunity" stories I've seen in my tenure at SoftLayer, but I think the three stories above provide a great cross-section of what it looks like to work for SoftLayer. If you like being challenged (and being rewarded for your hard work), you might want to take this opportunity to see which SoftLayer Career could be waiting for you.

When opportunity knocks, let it in.

-Hilary

Categories: 
January 30, 2012

Three Bars for Life

Working at SoftLayer has its perks, and one of my favorite perks to enjoy over the last three years is the ability to use a week and a half of my vacation time to travel over to Hawaii. I normally visit the Lahaina area on Maui, as I have family over there that operate Lahaina Family Farms. This year, I was able to help them plant hundreds of vetevir plants for irrigation control ... And I also found myself getting a new tattoo.

Before I go any further, I should probably back up and talk about how unique the SoftLayer culture is. In 2010, a few of the SLayers in Dallas got SoftLayer-sponsored tattoos from an artist that visited our headquarters. We have a Facebook album of SoftLayer tattoos that features some of that ink.

I work in SoftLayer's Seattle facility, so I wasn't able to join in on the fun in the Dallas office, but Lance extended the offer to anyone in the company that wanted to get a tattoo. As one of the few guys in Washington that has any ink on my body, I said that if the unofficial SoftLayer tattoo artist would come to Seattle for us, I'd get it done. There wasn't enough demand to justify a trip from Texas, but Lance said I could expense it if I wanted to join the club ... The only requirement was that the tattoo had to incorporate SoftLayer in some way.

I had a few ideas, but nothing struck me as a perfect design for SoftLayer Seattle. When I was in Lahaina, I stopped by and visited Tony, a tattoo artist at Skin Deep Tattoo who did a cover up for me a few years ago. He asked me how work was going, and I started telling him about how much I loved SoftLayer's culture and how the company has grown so substantially in just a few short years ... And he was impressed that we've added eleven more data centers on three different continents in the four years since we expanded from Dallas into Seattle.

I told him about Lance's tattoo offer, and we came up with this amazing SoftLayer Seattle design:

Sehmel Tattoo

I know it's a little crazy to get a work-inspired tattoo, but there aren't many places where you hear people saying things like "Three Bars for Life!" as you walk through the office ... I've just taken "Three Bars for Life" a little more literally in the form of a permanent tattoo. I've had a wonderful last four years, and can't wait for the many more to come.

3BFL!

-Bill

P.S. If you don't love the company you work for this much, you can always join the SoftLayer team. We're growing like crazy, and we're looking to add a lot of SLayers to the crew.

Categories: 
November 18, 2011

Four Years of SLaying in Seattle

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

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

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

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

-Bill

October 29, 2011

Coworkers and Divisional Rivals: Football at SoftLayer

Cheering for the hometown team has always been interesting at SoftLayer. With U.S. data centers in Dallas, Houston, Washington DC, Seattle and San Jose, the "home team" varies throughout the organization. It's always fun to talk about games with fans when I'm not invested in the outcome of a game outside my favorite team's division ... And when it comes to the NBA (which no longer has a team in Seattle), it's easy to cheer for the teams that other SLayers are cheering for. When the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championships, our Dallas techs were going crazy, and their enthusiasm was pretty contagious.

When it comes to NFL football, things are a little different. Prior to the launch of our San Jose facility, supporting each data center's home NFL team with some playful banter was normal. When San Jose came into the mix, that meant we'd have a lot of new employees (Yay!) who are probably going to be fans of my Seahawks' divisional rivals, the San Francisco 49ers (Booo! :-)). Now cheering for games gets a little trickier since we don't want a football-related civil war between offices.

In reality, I'm sure it'll never be an issue, since SLayers are like a big, diverse family ... That being said, I'm glad I wasn't in the office on the Monday after the Seahawks' opening game loss against the 49ers. My California peers would have probably been quick to chat about the game, and I probably wouldn't have wanted to talk about it. It's different for me to have coworkers who are die-hard fans of a rival team due to their geography (and not just because they are a bandwagon fan), and as we keep growing, I'm sure the football support between offices is going to keep getting more and more diverse ... My vote is that we avoid adding a data center in another NFC West rival's market, though.

The interoffice atmosphere is just another reason why I love working for SoftLayer. Our team is so different, but we're united by the common goal of making SoftLayer the best company in the world (for our customers and for our employees). For right now, I'm glad that there aren't as many soccer fans in our halls ... You don't want to see me in my soccer hooligan mode.

-Robert

July 13, 2009

What a View!

I can easily define myself as the crazy one up in the Seattle Datacenter. I like to ride dirt bikes, street bikes, go fast on the water, ride in small airplanes, I could go on and on how my co-workers (and friends/family) may think I am crazy when it comes to Adventures.

What can I say, I like a challenging experience.

One of those challenging experiences is working at SoftLayer, always preparing to be ahead of the rest in this industry, we're constantly learning new technologies and taking leaps and bounds. That is the reason why I love my job so much, we're always working with the latest and greatest, learning new stuff. Speaking of leaps and bounds, I finally did something the other day I have always wanted too. I signed up for an Advance Free Fall Skydive class and jumped out of a Cessna at 13,000 feet. Free falling at terminal speeds towards the earth, At 12,000 feet I mock pulled my parachute 3 times, so the instructors who where both holding onto me by their hands only could see I learned what to do. 6000 ft came, I locked onto my altimeter, 5500 I waived hands off to the instructors and they deployed below me, and I pulled my rip cord. That all happened in about 50 seconds after leaping out of the plane. For the next 8 minutes I saw the best view in Western Washington I have ever seen. One of the thoughts that came to my mind is the only thing to relate to how I have ever thought something was this nice, was the first time I walked into a SoftLayer Datacenter and admired how well thought out and nice it was.

I'm glad to say 19 months into this job and being part of the Operations team in Seattle, I walk in each day to the datacenter and can say the same thing day in and day out. Let's hope I can say the same thing about my second jump in a few weeks.

June 6, 2008

VFB For Seattle

So it's been about 4 months now since Seattle went live. We have approximately 2000 servers active already! (That’s more than the last DC I worked at has and they’ve been selling servers in Seattle since August of 2005). Server room 1 has lots of cool servers with lots of blinky lights and we’ve been working hard on deploying Server room two around the clock to keep up with the demands of sales around here.

With the “Go-Live Team” back in Dallas loading up the truck to head out to Chantilly, everything is running smoothly up in the great northwest. We no longer have to hear about {insert random person from the Dallas Go-Live team} complain about not having a What-A-Burger for dinner. That’s fine because we have world famous Hot Dogs right up on the corner at Matt’s Famous Chilidogs to cure the hunger that strikes us in the middle of our shift.

With Server room two going live this last week we had another Seattle truck day (this was the first truck day that we completed with 100% staff from Seattle). We didn’t need those experts from Dallas to baby us through. No Brad Lewis’s to answer questions when we have them. :-)

I must say that everything this last week went great and to continue a new SoftLayer tradition, everyone in Seattle deserves a VFB!

So here is MY Seattle VFB to everyone!

- III!

Something cool is the guys from Operations decided to drop by late last Friday. They were more than pleased and impressed with everyone and the performance that we showed them with our preparation of SR02 this last week.

We’ve set sail guys, and are doing a great job, and we like being noticed by the guys down in Dallas and from what our customers have to say. We will keep up the great work.

It really rocks! I must say that we have it good at SL, but that must be because we got the best C.E.O. ever! (Wonder’s if I’ll see a extra $50 now.. hey Little Jones got it right!?! )

- III! to the guys in Seattle..

-Bill

March 11, 2008

How I Got to SoftLayer as Fast as I Could

When I was 14 I got my first tech job as a tech support guy for a local "mom and pop" internet service provider, from there on out I have been in many data centers in the North West working with multiple companies of all caliber. From National Dial-up Internet Service Providers to small webhosting companies that have had their stuff collocated in many of the area's datacenters.

When I was about 20 I decided I was burnt out on the internet and wanted to try Central Office build outs for a national telecommunications company installing their fiber and DSL network in Washington and Oregon. The one thing that I learned in the Telco industry is to do nice and neat work. Work that you could trace a single cable in a bundle and follow it from point A to point B.

After a few years of doing the same thing over and over, I figured it was time for me to get back into the Internet as it was way more challenging for my ever-thinking mind.

So I took my nice and neat skills and worked on a contract for Microsoft building out a data center in a top secret location in the Puget Sound. This was by far one of the nicest and cleanest datacenters I had ever seen. After that I went to work for some other area datacenters doing systems administration work. I helped them do a migration of two datacenters into one. I helped build out a datacenter, and I helped by trying to make the datacenter as nice as Microsoft's along with as neat as the Telephone companies COs.

During this time I really noticed SoftLayer Technologies was Ahead of the Rest when it came to the internet utility hosting Industry. I quickly wanted to learn everything about this company, and being the nerd that I am, figured I should buy a server from this company. I Bought one and went to lunch thinking I might have a call or e-mail saying that my server will be done here within the day. Wow! 45 minutes later? "These guys are on top of it", I thought.

Then one day I was browsing Webhostingtalk.com (this is my equivalent to your teenager's myspace.com addiction) and noticed that SoftLayer just released a P.R. about signing a deal with InterNAP for a 10,000 server datacenter in Tukwila so I figured this company's features are so freaking amazing and cool. "I just need to try to get a job at this location with this really cool company", I said to myself. I sent off a Resume and a little info about myself. I did not hear back from them for a while. I figured my quick-witted humor may have rubbed the HR department the wrong way, or maybe I wasn't qualified, or too qualified.

SoftLayer finally called me back. I was as happy as a 10 year old getting a dirt bike for his birthday -- they wanted an interview.

So I go in and tour the facility and do my interview with the interviewing committee, I have to say it was one of the most intense interviews I have ever had with the technical questions that was asked along with just a hard interview process, though I left that day knowing I would be getting a call from SoftLayer as I felt I sold myself to them on my skillset.

I have to say it is really relaxing and challenging working for a world-class company in a world-class datacenter. There is a great deal of stress that comes with our job in this industry, and when the datacenter and management have everything in order from the get go and it hasn't been patched together it makes your job as a Systems Administrator a little less stressful. I do my daily walks of the datacenter in Seattle looking at thousands and thousands of racked servers that are set to standards which is weird when I've worked for places that use motorcycle tie-downs and zip ties to secure your rack to make them ‘Earthquake' ready.

I now sleep at night knowing if there is an earthquake we will be prepared and your data and machines will be safe in SoftLayer's Seattle N+1 datacenter. We have a wonderful team of build engineers and systems administrators that work around the clock to keep your virtual datacenter up and running. I wouldn't want to be at any other place for 40+ hours a week!

3 bars for life!

-Bill

March 4, 2008

What’s it like to work at Seattle Softlayer?

I am one of the new guys in the Seattle datacenter. Since I started, people often ask me that question or some variation of it. The short answer: It's wonderful, I love it.

The long answer is...well, long.

First some background! I'm a recent addition to the IT industry. Since I joined the workforce, I've worked in fast food, security, retail, and even a call center. After my call center job, I decided to take my computer hobby and turn it into a career. I received my associates degree and found that I really needed employment. Luckily, my school helped me search.

For almost three months, I received calls from IT recruiters. I interviewed with 4 companies. I finally had a position lined up that was very promising.

Then my Career Services recruiter called, asking if I wanted to come in for an on-site interview, as SoftLayer was interested in recruiting students. I was hesitant, as I already had a position lined up. She convinced me to interview anyway. The day before the interview, she sent me tons of information about SoftLayer. After poking around, I found the InnerLayer. (Has this come full circle or what?)

After reading a few blogs, I realized that SoftLayer had the perfect corporate culture for me.

The next day I interviewed. Joshua Rushe, VP of Operations conducted the interview. He was warm, friendly, and very down to earth. In some ways it was the strangest interview I've ever had. Josh appeared to be more interested in me as a person, than my qualifications. (Of course, he had already seen my résumé.) I was more than a little shocked when he ignored my prepared portfolio. We spent most of the interview time talking about the work, what SoftLayer expected out of an employee, and SoftLayer's corporate culture.

Here I am, 2.5 months later, and I love my position.

So enough of background! What's it like to work at SoftLayer?

We work hard, and we play hard. In the few moments between working hard, when we have the time, we joke around and have fun. SoftLayer recently flew myself and a co-worker down to Dallas to work alongside the great people down there. I learned a great deal. For instance, I learned at the cable labeling party in Dallas that we can work hard and have fun at the same time!

The people are helpful and friendly. The work is challenging and rewarding. It's nice to know at the end of the day that I've done my part to help the internet grow.

Categories: 
February 21, 2008

What It's Like to be a Data Center Technician

As you may have guessed SoftLayer isn't just sales team members, data center managers and development team members. There is also a pretty important group of people who hideaway in their cubicles and can be seen running around our state of the art server rooms from time to time. I am of course talking about us DC Techs; you might know us from our ticket signature "SoftLayer CSA."

I had a question brought up for the first time while on a phone call with a customer, his question was,

"What is it like to be a data center technician?"

I could only laugh just a little bit as I looked around the office and saw several of my co-workers engaging in the organized chaos we call Datacenter Operations. You see, with datacenter operations there is no "daily routine" to follow, there isn't a "what to expect" sheet posted somewhere to prepare us for the day. We have to rely on experience and each other to keep our beloved customers happy. So would you like to know my answer to this customer?

"It depends on the ticket I'm working!"

I say that because this particular customer was calling about a networking issue. In this instance I was his "network engineer", helping him resolve an issue with secondary IP addresses. As I said before, not every issue is the same from one minute to the next so it keeps us on top of our game. One second I am a networking engineer, the next a hardware technician, the next a Systems Administrator. On some occasions we DC techs can be all three at once! It's because of this fact that I enjoy coming to work each and every day. I never know what problem will arise or what I will learn in the coming hours.

I decided to write this after a very long shift, because I think a lot of our customers and people who read this blog would like to know what exactly it's like. Of course there are good days and bad days, sometimes we make mistakes or take a little longer to reply to a ticket than we should. But for the vast majority of the time, our phone calls are ending with "Thanks so much!", and our tickets are ending with "Great Job, You guys are awesome!", and our customers are going to sleep knowing their server is in good hands.

Now what question do all of us DC Techs have? That's simple:

What is it like being a SoftLayer customer?

Judging by everything I have seen recently, with our company expanding to Seattle, building new datacenters, and shattering several of our own sales records, I think we're doing a pretty good job of putting everything you want from a dedicated hosting provider at your fingertips. There is always work to be done, and I speak for everyone here in the office when I say the most important thing to a DC Tech and the company as a whole are our bosses, and we currently have around 4,500 of you around the world and growing!

I’ll see you in the tickets soon!

-Romeo

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