Posts Tagged 'Slayer'

August 28, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: It’s all about personality with server build technician Yoan-Aleksandar Spasov

Are you ready, folks? It’s time, once again, to lift our cloud high and put some SLayer sparkle into your sky. Last week, we went Under the Infrastructure to introduce you to Mathijs Dubbe, a sales engineer in Amsterdam. This week, we’re staying abroad in The Netherlands so you can meet Yoan-Aleksandar Spasov, a server build technician who’s been with us just shy of a year.

SoftLayer: Tell us about a day in the life of a server build technician.

Yoan-Aleksandar Spasov: It’s very different in Europe, because we rotate between three shifts depending on which month it is (as far as I know in the states, you get a permanent shift, so you only stay on that shift). We start in the mornings, evenings, or nights. You begin by picking up what’s left over from the shift before, so hopefully it’s not too big of a hand-off. We have a task list that lists the primaries and secondaries for each person on shift. Of course, there will be people who are better at transactions, hardware, or maintenance. So you get to do what you are good at, and you get to working. If you’ve been with Softlayer for a while, you’ll end up being good with everything.

SL: What shift are you on right now?

Spasov: I’m on the evening shift, so I start at 2 p.m. and I work until 11 p.m. Each shift is very different. During the day shift, you have management available to you so that you can do more projects. The evening shift is more customer-oriented because the states are just waking up, and we’re getting all those orders; there are a lot of builds and servers that need attention. The night shift is quiet and it’s mainly maintenance, so you have upgrades and things like that.

SL: We didn’t even think about that. That does make it pretty different.

Spasov: Yup.

SL: What’s the coolest thing about your job?

Spasov: There are so many things, to be honest. For me, it’s been awesome because I’m very young and I just started, so this is one of my first real real jobs. I had no real data center knowledge before I started. I started from scratch, and the whole team taught me. That’s one of the coolest parts of my job – you get awesome training. The other thing is that you get to work with amazing people and amazing teams. Everything else is hardware. We have awesome gear that you don’t get to see everywhere. It’s awesome. It’s amazing. It’s a privilege to work with that many components and that volume of components.

SL: How’d you get into this role? Since you didn’t have any prior data center experience, what’s your background?

Spasov: I had some hardware experience. I built PCs. I’ve always liked computers and electronics, and then I got into servers, and I’m learning something new every day.

SL: This piggybacks a bit on what we just talked about, but what does it take to become a server build technician? What kind of training, experience, or natural curiosities do you need?

Spasov: You must have amazing attention to detail; that’s very important. You have to follow protocols, which are there for a reason. You have to learn a lot. It’s not only just basic knowledge that you need to know, but it’s also the ability to find the knowledge and research it in the moment, whenever you have issues to deal with or any problems. You have to be able to reach out to other people and be able to look into documentation so we can learn from previous occurrences.

SL: Did you need a specific degree? We get this question a lot on our YouTube channel, and people are always asking, “How did you get that job? What kind of training do you need for that job? Where do you start for that kind of job? Do you have to go to school for this?”

Spasov: Having a technical degree or technical knowledge is good; that’s a definite plus. But even if you start without any hardware knowledge, you can build on the training from the company. It’s very specific with SoftLayer because we have our one-of-a-kind internal management system. You can’t learn about it anywhere else besides our company. If you knew other systems, you might try to draw parallels between the two, and that’s not going to work. It’s completely different. And that’s what makes SoftLayer so unique.

SL: Tell me something that you think nobody knows about being a server build technician.

Spasov: I have a feeling that a lot of customers think that there isn’t a person on the other side and that it’s all automated. But there’s a personality behind every update. There’s someone thinking about it and what to write and how to communicate with the customer to make them feel better, more secure, and to show that they’re in good hands.

SL: That’s a really good point. We’ll bet a lot don’t realize how many people go into making SoftLayer “SoftLayer.” It’s not just processes.

Spasov: That’s right.

SL: Do you have a plan in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

Spasov: I’m going to hide in the data center because I’m sure we’ll have the supplies. Our office manager stocks food for us, so I’m sure we’ll last a while.

SL: [laughing] That’s a good plan.

Those saucy SLayers get us every time.

We’re feelin’ it. Are you feelin’ it? (You know you are.) Then come back next week for the latest and greatest Under the Infrastructure, where we’re peeling back the cloud layer like it’s going out of style.

-Fayza

August 21, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Get International with Sales Engineer Mathijs Dubbe

Did you have oh-so-much fun meeting client services rep Neil Thomas last week? We sure hope so.

The fun continues because now you’re in for another sweet SLayer treat. This week in Under the Infrastructure, peek into the world of sales engineer Mathijs Dubbe. He’s based in Amsterdam and has been holding down the fort there since April 2015.

SoftLayer: How’d you end up at SoftLayer, Mathijs?

Mathijs Dubbe: I was an infrastructure and data services consultant at a data center and cloud hosting provider in the Netherlands, so [the sales engineer opportunity at SoftLayer] was pretty similar to what I was already doing. I’d known [about SoftLayer] for quite a while already. I’d seen it before and checked out what they were doing, and it sounded like fun. I’d seen the YouTube videos, with truck days and setting up pods, and that appealed to me. It was innovative.

SL: What does a typical day look like at SoftLayer in your shoes?

Dubbe: When I get to the office, I look at the tickets that remain from the last shift and clean them up. I’ll start my day by checking my email and seeing what my colleagues in Amsterdam are up to. During the day, there will be conference calls and meetings, things like that.

SL: How many black SoftLayer shirts do you own?

Dubbe: Three.

SL: That’s pretty good. Your collection is getting started! At this point, you’re still wearing other clothes to work besides SoftLayer shirts? Because there are some people who only wear SoftLayer gear.

Dubbe: When I have enough shirts, I’ll probably do that [laughs]. I’m currently in the IBM building, so I like to show off the brand.

SL: You’ve gotta represent, right?

Dubbe: Yeah.

SL: What have you learned working at SoftLayer?

Dubbe: A lot of stuff, actually. Related to international business, my former employer was fairly regional, but at SoftLayer, there are many international customers and that’s quite fun. I’ve learned about different kinds of people with different languages and accents; people working in Israel on Sundays. In a technical sense, it’s similar to what I did, but the technical stuff is always architected in a different way. I’ve learned quite a bit since I got here.

SL: We agree with your point about the international scale. You’re dealing with an office in Singapore and an office in Amsterdam and dealing with different languages and everyone in between, so it’s pretty dynamic.

Dubbe: I like that, too.

SL: What was the last costume that you wore?

Dubbe: [laughs] Costume? I dressed up like a road worker once.

SL: You did? For what?

Dubbe: For Carnival in February. I’m not usually the kind of guy that goes [to those sorts of things], but sometimes it’s fun. It’s not like anything they have in Brazil, though.

SL: That sounds like a really good time.

Aren’t SLayers the greatest? (We know you’re nodding.) That’s why you’ll want to stay tuned for our next installment of Under the Infrastructure, where we’ll wade waist-deep into the SLayer cloud.

-Fayza

August 14, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Nerding out with Client Services Rep Neil Thomas

Sure, we know SoftLayer is your most favorite cloud provider under the sun. (And we totally heart you back.) But how well do you know us—the individual brains and brawn beneath our cloud? Yeah, we had a feeling you’d give us that blank look. Luckily for you, we’re going to fix that snafu. Starting right now.

Today we're launching a series that’ll introduce us to you, one SLayer at a time. Enter ”Under the Infrastructure.” We SLayers are a diverse, fascinating, and storied bunch. So come on in, kick off your shoes, and get to know the gang.

To kick things off, you’re going to meet Neil Thomas, a client services representative who has been stationed at our global headquarters in Dallas (DAL11, for those keeping score at home) for six months.



“That’s Liam. He’s a chunk, and outside of work, he’s my whole world.”

SoftLayer: So, Neil, tell us about a day in the life of a client services representative.

Neil Thomas: The client services team is responsible for many things. The most important one being, in my opinion, customer education. We are tasked with contacting new customers at set intervals (five days, 30 days, and 90 days from account creation) and making sure they stay informed on the platform's offerings and capabilities. I come in each day, log into all my tools and websites, and start calling new customers—anywhere from 30 to 80 customers a day. We also help identify new sales leads and handle some customer complaints, as long as they don't require a representative from accounting or support.

SL: So your inbox is definitely not at zero.

Thomas: Correct! It's busy, but it's satisfying being able to help customers with what they need.

SL: What's your favorite thing about being a SLayer, half a year in?

Thomas: Everyone here seems die-hard dedicated to what they do, and that seems to bring the whole team closer together. I love that for such a large company, everyone seems so close-knit. Coming from a 50-employee MSP, I didn't think I would find that here.

SL: That is definitely the SoftLayer way!

Thomas: And everyone seems to actually care about what the customer is going through and what the customer needs. Most companies tout that they are about that, when in reality, it's all bottom line.

SL: What have you learned since working at SoftLayer?

Thomas: I come from a technical background, having been a systems administrator and working a ticket queue. While I was comfortable talking on the phone and handling customer service needs, I've really had to develop my interpersonal skills to engage the customer and get them to open up. The SoftLayer employee atmosphere has helped me do just that. I didn't have much sales experience, and the guys in the sales department have really helped me understand what it's like to have a good conversation with a customer.

SL: Was it difficult for you?

Thomas: It was difficult at first, but it gets easier every day. There's a tremendous amount of support from my teammates and leadership to help me grow in the ways that I need to grow.

SL: Describe your work space for us.

Thomas: I'm a nerd. Always have been, always will be. My cube has a plush Tux (the Linux mascot), a remote controlled Ferrari Enzo, and a few collectors' edition PEZ dispenser sets. The cubes are low enough to socialize with employees or pop up for a quick question, but not tall enough to make you feel isolated from the rest of the world, like a normal cube farm would be.

SL: If we weren't all nerds, we wouldn't work at SoftLayer, right? Nerds are the best.

Thomas: I wholeheartedly agree.

SL: What would you do if you were the lone survivor in a plane crash?

Thomas: Everyone says that you should buy a lottery ticket in situations like that. I think it should be the opposite, because if you've survived a plane crash, then obviously that's sucked up most of your luck.

SL: Good point.

Thomas: Assuming I'd crashed in a place that was an easy rescue, or had been randomly happened upon were it to crash on a deserted island, I'd more than likely take a long time off and spend it with my wife and my son, Liam. I'm a workaholic, though, so even if I got a book or movie deal, I'd still keep my day job and work the rest of my life.

SL: Would you make up a Lost-type story or would it be strictly factual?

Thomas: It would probably end up being a mix of both. The systems admin in me would want to stick to the facts, while the sci-fi nerd in me would want to embellish. I'd probably throw a mix together and let people’s imaginations run wild.

SL: You gotta take creative license when the situation permits.

Thomas: Definitely.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Join us for our next segment of Under the Infrastructure, where we’ll keep diving into the deepest depths of the cloud, SLayer by SLayer.

-Fayza

June 10, 2015

Work Life of a Customer Support Technician

My day as a customer support technician begins very early. I leave home at 6 a.m. to start my shift at 7 a.m., relieving the overnight shift. Customers start calling, opening tickets, and chat sessions almost immediately after I log into one of our systems, either LivePerson Agent Console, Cisco Phone Agent, or SoftLayer’s ticket management system, which is dependent on employee scheduling, specialty, or customer traffic.

Should our customers ever need help, we are prepared and up-to-date as possible on what’s going on with our internal systems. Every morning I check for any notices received via email from different internal teams about updates to the network, server upgrades, or emergency maintenances that could be relevant to the tickets and questions of the day. Besides current update notifications we use to address customer questions and concerns, we also use our external wikis (also known as the KnowledgeLayer) for existing information should we need it. As customer support technicians, we also have unprecedented access to troubleshooting, managing, and restoring customers’ various services to the peak of their performance.

Thank you for calling SoftLayer. How can I help you?
At the beginning of the week, the phone starts ringing around 7:30 a.m., and then it starts to pick up—Monday’s are usually the busiest.

When a phone call comes in, I verify the caller and then try to get a grasp on the nature of the situation. Sometimes, for example, it’s a customer needing help troubleshooting an eVault backup solution. In most situations, I ask if they have checked the official tutorials posted by SoftLayer on how to set up eVault (or other topic at hand). Whether they have or not, I then walk the customer through the steps. Some topics can be a little confusing, and depending on the level of technical difficulty and the customer’s knowledge, I sometimes take care of the job for them. Some issues can be difficult, but that’s why we’re here. In regards to the eVault solution, thankfully, it comes with a help file containing screenshots to help customers of any technical level grasp the configuration process.

We also receive calls that aren’t one-on-one, but rather from an entire IT department of a company. In one particular instance, I received a call asking for help to change the boot order on a couple of production servers. Rebooting without permission can have catastrophic effects on any live data being written to servers. We need permission first. After receiving approval via ticket, I worked with the IT team as they turned off applications safely on their respective servers so that I could in turn reboot one-by-one and change the boot order from the BIOS as needed. (SoftLayer's customer support technicians change the boot order because the BIOS on servers are protected to prevent manual tampering with server hardware.)

One last example—hard-pressed system administrators working against the clock to deploy their load balancers need VIPs set up as soon as possible, so they can handle the traffic to their blooming social media website. In this case, depending on the type of load balancer, I first check with sales on the pricing. Then I open a ticket to get customer approval for the costs of the IPs. If it’s a Netscaler VPX load balancer, we inform the customer to order portable IPs within the same VLAN as their load balancer. Once confirmed, I get to work. Thankfully, Citrix Netscaler has a very easy to use interface that allows migrating portable IPs for use plus they take effect almost immediately.

No matter the customer or the situation, we always practice working in a professional demeanor to make sure we efficiently address the problem. Once I finish helping a customer, I follow up with a summary of what had been done and then make sure everything is working as needed. A summary of my actions is also posted on the ticket for customer future reference.

Opening a Ticket
We aim to give an initial response within 15 minutes of each ticket being opened. Tickets not only provide a great way to follow up with a customer, but they also provide a platform for directly sending the customer helpful guides, steps, screenshots, and explanations that would have not have sufficed over the phone call.

Tickets allow customers to specify the queue and title of the ticket, which narrows the issue to the department they feel would best answer their question. For example, if a customer opens a ticket saying they can't see all their devices in their device list with a title “devices not listed,” it gives us clues about the nature of the problem. By opening a ticket with the support group, instead of, say, the sales group, we know that this isn't an issue with ordering servers or ordered servers.

To troubleshoot the devices-not-listed above, I would check if the user who opened the ticket is a master user for the account. If not, then it is without a doubt a permissions issue or limited permissions set by the master user. To resolve an issue like this, the master user on the account would need to update permissions.

But that’s not always the case. If it’s not a permissions issue, then as customer support technician I'd be limited in the support I can offer. The issue for the devices not being listed could potentially be an internal bug, which is a job for SoftLayer’s development team. Once escalated to them, they would oversee the problem. During the escalation, the customer support team keeps the customer informed. We also work as the “go-to" between SoftLayer’s internal teams and customer.

Once the devices-not-listed issue has been resolved, SoftLayer’s development team would mark the escalation resolved. My team would then follow up with the customer to verify that the issue is resolved. This multi-step, inter-department interaction (depending on the severity of the problem) can take as little as a couple of hours to sometimes days. Regardless of the length of time, the customer is always kept in the loop of any changes or updates.

After ensuring the issue is resolved, we inform the customer that if there are no more replies within four days, the ticket automatically closes. This provides ample time for the customer to review the conversation and join in later if need be.

Quitting Time
As a customer support technician, I never know what question or concern might arise, but we try our best to always help the customer as best we can.

My shift begins to wind down around 3 p.m. when the next shift takes over. Our customer support technicians work late into the night and into the morning, 24x7x365.

-Stanley

March 16, 2012

SLayer 101: A Whirlwind First Week

Having been client in the past, I already had some idea of how amazing the SoftLayer team was. Every interaction I had with the company was fantastic, and though I've worked with hundreds of service providers in different industries, I can wholeheartedly say that the service I received at Softlayer was better than any I'd ever experienced. As you can imagine, that left a pretty phenomenal impression on me.

When the opportunity came up a couple of months ago to interview with Paul Ford and the Community Development team, my response was almost instinctual: I jumped at the chance. Having met him and several members of the team in San Francisco in the past (picture below), I knew the kinds of individuals he surrounded himself with — incredibly smart, talented, hard-working, and just downright COOL people. That's right ... Seldom do you find a team in a corporate environment where you can actually say the people are all awesome — people you would want to hang out with even if you didn't work with them.

Josh and Paul

After going through the interview process, I hopped on a plane to Dallas to visit the Alpha headquarters. In the whirlwind of introductions and training sessions, I was surprised how productive the trip ended up being. I met most of the folks I'll be working with on a regular basis, and I had the opportunity to learn more and more about what Community Development is doing. And I was blown away at how much of that work was being done for other companies. The impression I get is that the impact Community Development is having on the business community is real, it's measurable and it's making a difference. It's impactful. From mentorship to event sponsorship to expert recommendations about infrastructure and architecture, nowhere in the industry can you find a company that works so hard for its customers. Trust me. I looked. Nowhere.

When I returned to San Francisco (where I live and will be based), I happened upon the Game Developers Conference where SoftLayer was present in a big way. I grabbed lunch with an existing client, I could tell their interaction with our team was no different from mine when I was a customer: Both sides clearly work together to find a solution that works for everyone. The interaction seemed to transcend the traditional "client-vendor" relationship, and it was clear that the Softlayer team was deeply committed to the client's mission and product offering.

Learning all of the different ways Softlayer is helping them (beyond providing server and hosting solutions) was would have been astounding ... If I didn't already kind of expect it from my experience. I couldn't help but be ecstatic about what's to come.

I met with the team at the GDC booth and got some more first-hand perspective about how we're embraced by the community. Walking the show floor and coming back to our almost-always-crowded booth (after seeing so many other booths quiet and empty) reinforced my feeling that I joined one of the most exciting companies in the industry. Our Server Challenge kept the booth BUSY for the entire time I was at the show — both days.

GDC Server Challenge

Observing how our team engaged the visitors drove home a point I touched on earlier: That SoftLayer employees CARE about every client and prospect. They asked questions about the attendee's business, what the business's needs were, and (most impressively to me) held back on "the hard sell." And that's pretty unique in itself.

As I embark on week number two of my employment (and beyond), I can't wait to learn more and more so I can become an integral part of the team. If you're ever on the West Coast and want to talk SoftLayer, hit me up!

-Joshua

February 7, 2011

That Which We Call a Conference Room ...

As I was walking through the halls of our Dallas office, I happened to pass an door that seemed like an open portal into another dimension. Where you'd expect to finding boxes of cables and keyboards on metal racks, there were a few old wooden trunks lining the walls of the dimly lit space. Naturally, I had to investigate.

As I carefully opened the trunks, to my amazement, I came across loads of books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Among the apothecary books and alchemy texts, I made an amazing discovery: a few pages of Shakespearean literature that seem to have been written anachronistically about SoftLayer Alpha headquarters:

'Tis but thy name that is my mystery;
Thou art thyself, though not a meeting room.
What's a meeting room? It is not hand nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a conference room
By any other name would be as productive;
So Sharkbyte would, were it not called Sharkbyte call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which it owes
Without that title. Sharkbyte, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Host productive meetings.

Now I'm not suggesting that Bill Shakespeare set out to write an epic play about our facility that just wound up being Romeo and Juliet, but since the date in the corner of one of the pages was "1593," I wouldn't be surprised. In a flash of clairvoyance, he saw into the future and puzzled over the curious names outside each of our conference rooms ... Only to come to the conclusion that while the names didn't define the rooms, those rooms would still be phenomenally productive.

Switch a few words in that original text, and you've got yourself one of the most famous scenes in Romeo and Juliet. No big deal.

What were these curious names? See for yourself:

SLayer, SLacker, Unicorn, 3 Bars, 204A, Funky Truck ... The narrative wasn't clear to him at the time, but they all have a special meaning and fit into a bigger plan. Here is a full list of the Alpha conference room names:

  • SLales
  • CBNO
  • Geneous
  • Unicorn
  • Automation
  • Innovation
  • 204A
  • SLacker
  • Pink
  • 3 Bars
  • SLayer
  • Funky Truck
  • 05-05-05
  • Muenster
  • Midway
  • Sharkbyte

Flex your own ESP muscles and post a comment with what you think each of the names means.

We'll reward the most creative responses (and the most accurate responses) with SoftLayer swag of your choice, and in a few days, SKinman will post the real reasons behind all of the names.

-@khazard

September 21, 2010

A Transition from Humdrum to Dynamic

Having said greetings to exactly five people just like every other morning before this one, the employee made the final turn in the maze of cubicles to arrive at the mountain of papers and folders in his personal work area. Sitting down, he checked the agenda for that day, though that was unnecessary for he knew all too well what to expect. The agenda basically read:

  1. Extract data from a particular account
  2. Manipulate data to arrive at a comprehensible format
  3. Organize data into charts and graphs
  4. Perform variance analysis
  5. Document findings and submit for review
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5

The above scenario, although quite simplified, is a high level summary of my career for the past 10 years before working as a Server Build Engineer at SoftLayer. With this mindset that my daily work in the field of Finance and Accounting could be simply listed as a series of routine steps, I made the difficult decision to set out for a major career change. Due to previous yet limited professional experience with programming and pc troubleshooting, I was not unfamiliar with the field of Information Technology I had in mind. As a hobby, I also enjoyed tinkering with computers so this choice was a no brainer for me. For web hosting, those who are serious about a website would need to make a jump from having a static ip address to one that is dynamic but for my life, I was looking to go in the opposite direction from static to dynamic. Through a friend who at the time worked at SoftLayer and often spoke highly of it, I was informed of a great opportunity to re-enter the IT field.

It is now 6 months since the first day I started at SoftLayer and I must say there is no looking back but only forward. The number of people I greet at the start of each work shift is still a set number, but other than that, so much has changed in a positive way. I am no longer bound to redundant procedures on a daily basis since I typically cannot predict ahead of time what challenges face me that day at work, since our customers’ needs will vary on a day-to-day basis. It is this variety in tasks that make me realize I have found what I was looking for and in the past, I have always worked behind the scenes and never clearly seen the fruits of my labor. Deadlines for reports and what not would be met, but no clear realization of what impact I could make on others. On the contrary, at SoftLayer, we are able to deal with customers directly and through that there is satisfaction in knowing that my efforts help make a real person happy, which can be crucial since there are times that a business’s success will depend on how we handle requests. All in all, I am very thrilled with this recent major decision I have made and here’s hoping to a bright future with SoftLayer!

November 4, 2009

Exposure

Imagine this… You’ve decided to move to a new location, experience a new culture, and try new things. Let’s pretend for this particular instance that you’ve decided to take a trip to Magrathea to get away from it all. After a few weeks you start picking up a few local phrases, learn the native idiosyncrasies, and assimilate yourself into the culture of the Magratheans. Later you notice that you’ve assimilated quite well, and what used to be weird, different, and sort of scary has become second nature to you. You then can talk the talk and walk the walk.

Such is a similar case here at SL. You start, and regardless of the knowledge level coming in (I hadn’t been exposed to the web hosting industry before my tenure began here at SL), you feel a bit overwhelmed. The people, the culture and even the SLanguage is slightly different from the rest of the world. We move faster, work harder, and laugh more than the average technician. While at first glance life here at SL seems overwhelming, soon one realizes that they’re starting to get it together. Soon the pieces start to come together, and it only snowballs from there.

I’ll never forget my training. The new hardware, the IPMI, the automated provisions… it all seemed so unreal, confusing, and at times crazy. After working in depth for some time, I began to get the hang of things, and then I was able to solve more and more complex problems, and eventually teach the trainees the ways of the SLayer, and the cycle would continue. I’ve since taken on new responsibilities, and continue to learn new things every day – all through exposure. I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that regardless of how well you think you know something, nothing teaches like exposure and immersion into a particular topic.

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