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Unemployeed after 18 Years

It’s a Monday morning, and I am sitting on the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin with my wife and daughter, on the way home from a lovely vacation.

What makes this trip different however is that today I am returning home in the knowledge that my last day being employed has just passed last Friday, August 5th (1 day after celebrating 19 years of marriage.)

End of an Era

After what could be considered a life time, 18.5 years, I have made the decision that the time is right to stop, and refocus on the things which I feel rewarding, motivating, and reignite my passion; helping me to grow personally, while also providing a platform to help others grow as well.

This sadly was the primary sentiment which made my job so exciting, however over the last 4 years something broke and we have fallen into a rut, reinventing the wheel and making a decreasing amount of progress, quarter after quarter. Now don’t get me wrong, some amazing objectives have been accomplished in that time, many which I am quite proud of, but we could have achieved a lot more, and without all the cost was losing some really good talent (and friends) to new opportunities. Despite many failed attempts to reinvigorate and address the issues directly, the time finally felt right to address with a different approach.

With over 2 years in deliberation, this decision was not one which could be, or was taken lightly as I have gained a lot of fantastic contacts, unmeasurable experience, and both good friends and work colleagues during my tenure.

Looking back…

My Career has been varied and interesting, joining as the IT manager for a new office which was yet to be even built! Once completed, just 2 years later I was relocating with my wife to sunny California, overseeing the move of the organisations testing service headquarters and assuming the role of World Wide IT Manager for the VeriTest division.

Working in this role for a number of years I was lucky to have had many opportunities to travel around most of the globe and meet so many members of the business and IT teams in the organisation, building lasting relationships as we worked together to create solutions which not only benefited the respective locations, but also sharing and implementing these technologies with the cooperation and support of the teams in each of the other locations. We grew and shared as a cohesive and technologically driven group, always focused on delivering the business objectives with lean and streamlined efficiency.

As time passed, and Lionbridge completed many acquisitions, I gained a vast amount of exposure to the semantics of evolving business objectives, expansion and consolidation of teams.

Circa 2003/4 we begun the challenge which was to become the platform which excelled my destiny for the following decade.

The path begun with the ominous challenge of normalising the IT platform of the complete organisation, consolidating 100’s of domains, multiple messaging and intranet platforms to ultimately extend the fabric of VeriTest globally; while also centralising services to our first true Data Center.

The following years were hard and fast as we delivered many more centralised services for various aspects of the business, spanning operations to finance, but the biggest change was the replacement of a terrible leased line WAN service with an Internet hosted VPN mesh build in Cisco’s DMVPN solution. The Investment dwarfed the return in both financial and level of service in under a year, and amazingly is still forms the core of the backbone still running today!

Holding the post of Global IT Manager, we had the opportunity to bring all 100 or so IT staff from across the globe to Boston for our first summit, focused on team building and crafting a road map for the following years. This event still holds many fond memories even despite all the challenges we experienced due to a terrible orchestra of snoring, as we quickly learned while sharing rooms.

Focus changed in 2007 as I was again challenged to find even more opportunities for the business to save on capital expenditure while continuing to optimise on efficiency. This begun with the first steps in virtualisation and centralised Remote Desktop services, which paved the road to my first experiences with the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program (TAP).

The enabling project we identified for this challenge I still fondly remember as a testing project for Microsoft which was been executed in multiple offices around the globe, each location normally requiring vast amounts of hardware to be leased and configured just to provision the platform upon which the works would be executed at no small expense. We of course experienced large variances with the cohesiveness and standard implementation of the platform between locations, often resulting in unnecessary rework.

Leveraging a sibling technology code names Viridian (now commonly known as Hyper-V) and a yet unknown product, which was to become Virtual Machine Manager, we worked vigorously with the product groups to deliver an extremely cost effective platform and a rudimentary self-service experience with VCR type controls which was release as the VMM Self Service Portal.

The learnings and experience form this project provided the foundation for our first endeavour into Private Cloud, and highlighted clearly why NIST defines 7 components to a true private cloud solution. The largest challenges I remember from that first postmortem was elasticity and automation; for what are now very obvious reasons, but we had to learn some way!!

My first MVP award, as a result of the work with the product groups, and public speaking engagements related to our experiences arrived in 2011. It did not take long to realise that there was so much more to learn, and of course share. Being part of the TAP enabled the opportunity to help so many more people as the products became Generally available.

Before long, My very good friend Aidan Finn then done the unthinkable and before I knew it, I was head deep in authoring content for my first ever book (I think I still have scar’s from that experience). This exercise proved to be the first of what currently stands at 3 books (one of which had its own second revision to add to the count).

In the most recent years, while holding the position of Infrastructure Architect, the number of active projects grew exponentially, and I found myself building Proof Of Concept solutions, before pairing up with different team members to mentor and guide them as we implemented and deployed services ranging from ITSM, to Messaging, to Automation.

Building a cohesive relationship with the development and quality assurance teams, we focused on the refactoring many of the line of business applications to deliver federated identity support and single sign on; spending much time training, mentoring and building sample applications to interact with solutions including ADFS, AzureAD and their associated protocols and API’s. With a large measure of MS Identity Manager to synchronise repositories with the applications which required much larger investment to refactor.

With cloud all the rage, and stateless the way forward, architecting applications around micro services, queue solutions like RabbitMQ , and NoSQL databases, I was once more focused and training on technologies which were far more at home on the Linux platform, returning to some of my roots from 10 years earlier. Lots of fun was had with Kickstart and Samba as we made this platform just part of the ecosystem, going as far as implementing the OMI stack to deliver monitoring, management and declarative configuration trough PowerShell.

With the development teams all adhering to agile practices, I spent many hours evangelising the benefits of DevOps, infrastructure as code, hybrid computing, service fabric and so many more enabling technologies and processes. Building from basic test automation, to release managed azure automation templates.

What did I feel had broken?

The largest hurdles to conquer turned out to be the technology group management focus and direction; this has been badly segmented, and as its stated in the fantastic book “The Phoenix Project”; everyone on the team MUST trust each other unequivocally. Additionally, the IT Ops groups whom ultimately had the most to gain were lease prepared or ready to embrace change, as its cost was proving to be too large, the cost of re-skilling.

Combined with no clear road map, all the different technology teams working very hard to deliver their respective objectives, but with everyone following different routes to their destination, and most of whom blissfully unaware of processes and tooling available to assist in both streamlining and simplifying their efforts along their respective paths.

“DevOps” was really just a tiny portion of “Dev”, and the “Ops” had emerged as a shadow IT. Team morale had been diminished, primarily due to some really bad mistakes, lots of secret management meetings, and an unsustainable unfocused, unplanned, workload of reinventing the wheel; driven by prioritisations which no longer made any logical sense; the time for management action was very clear; and yet sadly not happening; or at least in a productive manner.

What Next…

Well for the first time in 25 years, I am officially unemployed - But, just for 10 days.

I begin the next chapter on the 18th of August; and I am super excited to start that story… In the interim if you are heading to “System Centre Europe” in Berlin, please do keep an eye for me, and pop over to say hello; and if you are really brave, please be sure to check out some the three sessions I will be presenting; I have a LOT of amazing content to share… Its I bright future ahead.

Stay tuned and I will share it with you…

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