How did you get into IT?
I started my “real” IT career in the early 90′s at a point of sale (POS) company doing everything from building registers, programming e-proms, running cable and setting up a back end system that was Unix based. This required a lot of travel all over the country but learned more about system level components there that I could have anywhere else in that short timeframe. I then moved into the system build space and was a manager of production and service for a company that custom built desktops and servers for companies of all sizes. This was during the switch to the Intel Pentium series processors and Pentium Pro’s, AMD and Cyrix (IBM CPU) which made for an interesting build process. After that, I joined a local VAR where I spent the remainder of the decade servicing many customers within the Twin Cities supporting everything under the sun, from Windows 3.11 (Windows for workgroups), Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT Workstations connecting to everything from Novell 3.x/4.x (With the Novell NetWare client) or Windows NT 3.x/4.x Servers. The VAR was also a small ISP offering dial-up service for their customers via a dual channel 3com 56k router/modem that we managed via NetBSD and a USRobotics modem bank that was really fun to work with and maintain. The clients had just about everything you can think of that they were still using. I remember working on Twinax cabling to line-feed printers, tolken ring networks, thinnnet networks, lots of Novell to Windows migrations, email implementations (via Exchange 4.0/5.0), printer issues off all sorts, backup systems (ArcServe, BackupExec, etc) and on top of all this, doing pre and post sales work. There were four engineers in total there, myself and one other guy were the MCSE Windows engineers and the other two were CNE Novell guys.
After I left the VAR world, I took a position at a local ISP just before the decade closed out that was one of the biggest in the upper midwest at the time and things really started to cook at that point. I did a lot of managed, colocation and web services for the organization for many fortune 500 companies. Engineered and implemented a new MS Exchange mail system for the entire company as well as provided automation for 1000′s of websites that were hosted there. I also took over the core networking for the colocation part of the business and managed all the 6509′s and all 2900 series Cisco switches in the datacenter. Did a lot of Solaris work at the time as well since there were many workstations there that were sparc based. This is where is really got my feet wet with datacenter management through the expansion of the current facilities as well as a few datacenter moves that occurred during my service there. The ISP also provided ISDN, DSL, T1, T3, DS3, OC3 circuits to various customers and assisted in the implementation of quite a few terminations in our datacenter for collocation customers. As part of our service, we assisted many of these customers with all kinds of equipment that they would install. So, I needed to become very versatile in the various networking gear that they would show up with. You name it, I probably configured it at some point there. Some that I remember are the ever popular Adtran, USRobotics, Astrocom, Cisco routers of all models, load balancers with ArrowPoint (who Cisco bought) and all kinds of operating systems – many Linux derivatives, Windows, BSD, Solaris, aarggh – too many to list here! The most interesting part of being there, was the fact that they were one of the pioneers of IP Telephony and I remember having a Cisco IP phone on my desk in 2003!
After 5 years I decided to shift gears a bit and enter the financial market in 2004 by working for a very large bank / brokerage company. This environment was a total culture shock for me and I needed to adapt rather quickly to the financial world. I started in the messaging group engineering and administering a very large multi-node, multi-site Exchange cluster as well as administering a custom built anti-spam solution for the entire organization. Another area that I was able to dive into was the SAN storage here and worked closely with the storage group on a number of projects. I was also doing a lot of Microsoft AD and ISA work until I decided to start working on the company’s VMware implementation. The virtual infrastructure didn’t have a large footprint, but it was growing fast and our “POC” became a production environment very quickly. These were the days of GSX and VMware Virtual Center had just been released not too long ago allowing our original island type of virtual infrastructure to become more “enterprise” worthy with vMotion and Virtual SMP availability. I continued to work on this environment with a good friend of mine there until I left in January of 2006.
At this point, I needed to leap head first into the Virtualization world and decided to leave the financial world for the education sector. Wow, what a gear shift! The culture shock alone was enough to make my head spin (let alone the transformation of IT duties). The company was growing extremely fast and over the next 6 years I watched our IT engineering group grow from roughly 10 people to a whole office floor! Anyway, I started out there assisting with the Active Directory and Exchange infrastructure and quickly moved into the SAN space. Within 6 months I implemented a new EMC Clariion array with a Celerra NAS configuration for many of the critical SQL, Exchange and file server needs as well as Cisco MDS9000 series FC switches. This SAN solution was also designed to house the organizations first VMware environment that consisted of three nodes of quad-socket, rack-mount machines that I was able to consolidate many physical systems into this environment and achieve a tremendous consolidation ratio with all the legacy systems throughout the datacenter. The VMware environment grew rather quickly and within 5 years time, there were 6 VMware clusters that were deployed. VMware Server, GSX, ESX/ESxi 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.1 were many of installs that I did during this time. VMware Lab Manager was also implemented and ran a lot of the labs for undergraduate and well as graduate level classes. Switching from EMC to NetApp storage arrays also was a big part of my role there, and I implemented / administered FAS2000 and 3000 series filers for all VMware and Windows environments there.
Still, I felt the need to get laser focused and I switched roles to my current position at a financial analytics company concentrating on VMware technology since the product line was getting quite lengthy and staying sharp on the vast array of products was becoming difficult. My current position is the Lead VMware Architect for the organization and I am neck deep in architecting, administering and supporting many VMware products including (but not limited to), vSphere 5 (with VMware Auto Deploy), Capacity IQ (CapIQ), vCenter Operations Manager (vC Ops), VMware View, vCloud Director (vCD), Site Recovery Manager (SRM), Workstation 7 & 8, vShield (suite) as well as many child products. I couldn’t imagine a better position to be in right now.
How did you get into working with VMware and becoming a 2012 vExpert?
Feeling the need to do more, I decided to take over the VMware User Group in Minneapolis (VMUG) last fall, which is a good size group that meets in the twin cities every quarter.
I also decided to start up a new VMUG in Rochester MN this year since there wasn’t a VMware presence in that area and felt that it needed a quarterly group to get caught up on VMware.
I was recently named a vExpert from VMware as well and am very honored to be selected for this prestigious award. Each year they select a number of individuals in the VMware community that go above and beyond their normal jobs to provide content to the community about the technology.
What would you tell someone who wanted to get a job in IT?
I would tell anyone that is considering going into the IT industry to be laser focused on learning new technology everyday. This industry moves extremely fast and you need to constantly keep your skills up to date to move your organization forward.