Category: non-technical

A year at Rubrik, moving to marketing; et tu, Brute?

A year at Rubrik, moving to marketing; et tu, Brute?

I wasn’t really planning on writing a post on this initially but since I’m moving to a (technical) marketing role it seemed only fitting on¬†second thought.
Switching from an SE role to technical marketing seems to typically bring about the “I’m moving to the dark side and betraying my technical roots” blog posts so here goes ūüėČ

Actually I think my previous role as an SE for the EMEA region already had quite some tech marketing aspects to it. I traveled to a bunch of countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa spreading the Rubrik gospel, was a speaker at countless events, presented numerous webinars, and very occasionally wrote about some Rubrik related stuff on my personal blog. So when my bosses asked me what I wanted to do next I immediately blurted out “tech evangelism!”.

My role as an EMEA SE mainly revolved around covering the countries where we did not have a local presence yet (did you know EMEA consists of 128 countries? me neither!, but hello frequent flyer status) and I had a blast doing that, but since the company is growing like crazy, i.e. hiring local sales teams everywhere, I naturally started thinking about what could be next as well. I feel extremely lucky, and very humbled, to be joining the amazing Rubrik Tech Marketing team (Chris Wahl, Andrew Miller, Rebecca Fitzhugh) and only hope I can live up to their standard.

…googles “imposter syndrome”…

Andrew Miller already did a great job describing what the tech marketing function is/can be all about here. Or as Matthew Broberg jokingly (but not really though) described it in episode 94 of The Geek Whisperers

It’s this weird unicorn position that seems to fit in the middle of a Venn diagram between sales, marketing, engineering, and some other stuff that we can’t quite put our finger on.

June also marked my 1 year anniversary at Rubrik and with the risk of sounding insincere, it has been an amazing ride so far. The company has more than doubled in size since I joined, seen massive customer adoption, went through multiple successful funding rounds and delivered very significant features release after release.

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 15.37.59

To infinity and beyond!

 

Having worked at large incumbent companies before I find it quite amazing what you can achieve if you’re not bogged down by big company inertia and office politics. Sticking with the rocket ship analogy imagine building one at a start-up vs. building one at a big established company.

 

On the left you have the potential result after 6 months of trying to build a rocket ship at a large established company, at the right the potential result at a start-up (oops, time to iterate baby!)

 

After 1 year… you get the idea…

All very tongue-in-cheek of course, both have their merits and drawbacks, in the end it’s about finding where you fit best I think, and I certainly feel I’ve done that.

So in light of the new function, expect me to show up at more events, deliver more content, and be a bit more vocal on social media (but always trying hard to maintain technical integrity).

On job-hopping and naivety

On job-hopping and naivety

If you’re only interested in my technical posts feel free to skip this one, this is the second in a series of Sunday posts where I try to take a step¬†back and structure¬†my thoughts on work and career.

When you look at my linkedin profile, it certainly looks like I like to change jobs on a regular basis, but in fact I hate that, I think of myself as a very committed and loyal employee and I (enjoy?) work(ing) long and crazy hours in service of my company.

I subscribe to the (naive?) notion of building out a long-term career that is mutually beneficial to myself and the¬†company and at the same time¬†I also¬†strive for authenticity, sometimes those objectives¬†collide…

I always start a new job fully committed, if I¬†can’t get¬†excited about the prospect of working at company XYZ I will not even think about signing on, no matter how good the head-hunter, no matter how big the carrot. I believe¬†herein, at least partly,¬†lies the problem, high expectations and an external view of the company rarely prove realistic, and then disillusionment can creep¬†in.¬†A company is not some abstract concept, what you perceive on the outside are it’s products, it’s spokespeople, it’s community participation, etc. this leads you to form a picture in your own mind. Looking from the inside out is of course very different than looking from the outside in, every company has it’s warts and blind spots they are usually just at different places in the organisation.

funny-the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side-because-01

So where then does the train start to go off the track?

Like I said, and this can surely also be construed as naivety or refusal¬†to see reality on my part, I’m always very much committed¬†to do my best work when I start someplace new, I did my research on the products and solutions and something got me exited enough to start believing, very much like being¬†committed¬†to a cause.

As¬†Horace Mann’s injunction states;

Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die. –Horace Mann

Not everyone is motivated by the same things, not everyone feels they need to invest¬†a disproportionate part of their life into their career, and that is totally ok. I just can’t help feel a little disappointed by it and then I feel I need to get moving, look¬†for other likeminded people, driven by a bigger sense of purpose, naive as it may sound.

I really like what Dan Pink has said about what motivates us in his TED talk “The puzzle of motivation.”

Autonomy, mastery and purpose are indeed the driving concepts behind my career and I would gamble this is true for a lot¬†of us, maybe I would add a fourth one, sticking to one’s principles. When I say “one’s principles” that also implies¬†the principles of the company, oftentimes it feels like being on the outskirts (I live in Europe) of a multinational corporation somewhat dilutes the core beliefs of the company, like a game of Chinese whispers, if not that, at least it feels like having less believers and more cynics around.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. –¬†Edmund Burke

This is usually the one that gets me in trouble and ultimately makes me vote with my feet, if this translates to the outside world as giving up too easily and being a job-hopper¬†that’s unfortunate, to me it translates to standing up for your beliefs.

When¬†you¬†stand for¬†nothing,¬†you¬†fall for everything –Alexander Hamilton

In terms of people I think the late Randy Pauch states it beautifully;

Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress. When you’re pissed off at someone and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they almost always will impress you. –Randy Pauch

I want to believe that…

People who know me socially and on Facebook (see what I did there?) will corroborate that I like to joke around, regularly get on my high horse, and pick on stuff, people, and companies. But that is just poking fun, I don’t really think a specific¬†company¬†is stupid and can do no right, one of my favourites to pick on is Microsoft;

Hyper-V, virtualization brought to you by the same geniuses who invented Internet Explorer

In reality I think Microsoft is a fine company, with lot’s of great people like Mark Russinovich, Scott Hanselman,¬†Scott Guthrie, and many others that I respect. I rarely prescribe¬†to a Technology Religion just for the sake of religion. This translates to my employers as well, I’m perfectly capable of seeing the bigger picture, I understand the reason things sometimes are the way the are, I get why a certain decision makes sense at a certain point in time even if it goes against core principles and values, but that does not mean I have to blindly accept¬†it.

Another example¬†that perfectly describes my sentiment of what usually happens when the idea of working somewhere has little in common¬†with reality¬†is a scene from the episode “And it’s surely to their credit” from the acclaimed TV-series The West Wing in which republican Ainsley Hayes takes¬†a job working in a Democrat led Whitehouse out of respect for the institution and ends up, temporarily at least, feeling let down:

Sam Seaborn: See, I was told you were just going to be working in the Majority Counsel’s office, which I wasn’t wild about to begin with, but it’s my understanding I’d be talking to Brookline and Joyce, seeing as how they work for me.
Ainsley Hayes: I was taking initiative.
Sam Seaborn: Well, wasn’t that spunky of you.
Ainsley Hayes: Sam, do you think there’s any chance that you could be rude to me tomorrow? Tomorrow is Saturday. I will be here. You can call me and be rude by phone or you can stop by and do it in person. ‘Cause I think if I have to endure another disappointment today from this place that I have worshipped, I am gonna lose it. So if you could wait until tomorrow, I would appreciate it.

Looking back I think I can come to the conclusion that I feel more at home in a “start-uppy” environment, this can be a real start-up or a specific division inside a bigger company that is going against the norm and trying to disrupt established doctrine. I like taking the road less travelled, I like pulling threads to see where¬†they lead. I hate “this is not how it works here”, “we’ve always done it like this”, and “just give it a couple of months, you’ll see”.

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. – George Bernard Shaw

So next time you throw away a resume because the person applying has had too many jobs in the past, you could very well be denying yourself of your most committed and motivated employees, if only you could figure out how to better enable them.

On working for a vendor and being a trusted advisor

On working for a vendor and being a trusted advisor

For the last 7 years or so I’ve been working for a number of different vendors in the IT industry¬†as a systems engineer. If you’re working for a vendor, systems engineer usually translates to pre-sales (not always obvious¬†to customers in Europe, but that’s another story, for another time) which means, as the second part of the title indicates, you have a sales quota, and succes is partly measured by how much you are able to sell.

Obviously there are different types of people in every profession, including sales/pre-sales, some will act like stereotypical sales guys/gals (think Glengarry Glen Ross) others will be more balanced.

Assuming if¬†you are in pre-sales and you’d want to act as a trusted advisor (it’s in most job descriptions for pre-sales engineers right?) towards¬†your customers, what does that look like?

When you are working for a vendor you have specific technology, products, or solutions, to sell. You might get indoctrinated with a specific world view, if you are not careful you start to drown out other valid opinions and critical thinking and might get hooked on your organizations’ dogma, or at least your view might start to narrow. A bit like¬†only watching FOX News if you live in the United States.

fox-global-warming-4eb996d-introOn the other hand there is a¬†more noble goal (and the only way I, and lot’s of my colleagues, would be able to look ourselves in the mirror in the morning) of trying to do¬†what is in the best interest of the customer, working towards being a trusted advisor. In my view this means defending your organisation/product with vigour, but also knowing intimately what your solutions can and cannot do. If you don’t have a valid offering you might want to work with the customer to find the best alternative solution going forward, building the relationship, not necessarily¬†building your next¬†commission cheque. Your honest opinion, if you are seen as a trusted advisor, ofter carriers great weight.

“Every man is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts!”

I’ll give just one example from when I was at my previous employer Riverbed Technology, I was called out of the blue by a former customer (not a Riverbed customer yet), he had done some research online and was convinced our products would be¬†the perfect fit for his needs. I could see my sales guys face¬†light up when he witnessed the call, and then turn into contempt when I advised¬†that maybe Talari Networks*, not Riverbed, would be the way to go. I knew the customer, I knew the environment, I understood the problem he was trying to fix and I knew we couldn’t do it at the time (the required features have since been integrated into Riverbed’s products). I can still walk in the door at this customer today and have a chat about his projects, he knows I won’t twist the facts¬†to turn things into a fit for my company, and he calls me when he thinks there is even the slightest chance I do have something for him.

So like the excellent TV series “The Newsroom” (it should come as no surprise that if I dislike Fox I like something Aaron Sorkin has written :rolleyes) asks itself when trying to shed the yoke of biased newscasts before it:
1) Is this information we need in the voting booth?
2) Is this the best possible form of the argument?
3) Is the story in historical context?

7501752278_fb40f8c2edI think we can do a better job by holding ourselves to higher ideals and dispense more facts and less fiction. The customer is smart, the road from products to sale is long and fraught with dangers (a quote I hear more and more is that 50 to 75% of the sales process takes place before the vendor is even involved by going online to find information, talking to peers, and talking to partners whom are more traditionally seen in the trusted advisor role) so we should, and can do better.

* In all honesty my mind quickly went to Talari Networks, and not for instance to Ipanema Technologies, also because of competitive threats of one versus the other, if we would have the features on the roadmap I would have worked towards that, etc. It is never just black or white.