Tuesday, June 26, 2012

More hiring thoughts and stories

It's funny when I tweeted about how I wanted candidates with a social footprint a subset of the comments jumped to "that's discrimination" and sort of missed the intent of my post. Now I'm not an attorney and don't even play one on TV but I'm confident that I'm not going to get sued for it.

But it did get me thinking about some of the people I've hired through the years, that turned out to be great hires, but that I almost missed out on.

The first one was a guy named Russ. He was somehow related to the town manager, who was my day to day boss at the time. Technically I reported to the Board of Selectmen but that was more on paper than in practice. Anyway he was highly recommended by the town manager so I interviewed him. He had a library science major, not computer science. Of course being much younger then my first thought was "Great he can alphabetize really quick."

He was very articulate, smart and though not trained in computers, understood them. But I was nervous about his relationship with my manager. "What if I do something and he runs to my boss every time we disagree?" was the thought running through my head... I ended up coming to the conclusion that I didn't care. If I can't defend my decision and be comfortable it is the right one it was an issue. So I hired him and he was one of the best hires I ever made. Last I knew he was in Atlanta running a consulting company and doing very well.

The second one was more recent. I had an opening for a co-op/intern/part time helpdesk role. I asked some of my peers if they knew anyone and a good friend suggested someone he knew that worked at Starbucks. He talked to her everyday and it turns out she was looking to get into IT and had just started her senior year. No experience but great customer service skills, likable and culturally a good fit.

Now somehow between HR, her and me we got the times mixed and she missed her interview completely. Absolute no show. Normally I would have passed and not giving it a second thought, I mean I probably had 100 resumes for this one role, but since she had a personal reference and my friend was confident she would be a good fit I went against my initial judgement and rescheduled.

As it turns out I didn't hire her. The reason is 5 minutes into the interview I realized she would be a much better fit for a web developer position we had so I grabbed the manager of web development and had him talk to her and he hired her.

So the point of my long winded story is this. Personal references are super important. I would put social networking second  because it gives the hiring manager more insight into you as a person and your technical skills. If you want to compete on just your resume, go for it. You can get jobs this way, just like you can become a millionaire playing the lottery. The odds are probably closer than you want to think.

IMHO of course....

Friday, June 22, 2012

Why IT needs a social footprint

So I tweeted yesterday about a candidate that I interviewed, but she had no social footprint that I could find. I was a little (very little actually) surprised at the amount of "What are you crazy" tweets I got back, basically saying IT doesn't need to be social they need to be technical. In fact it morphed into a good thread on G+

Now 140 characters is a little hard to explain so I figured I would elaborate a bit more.

Enterasys is a very social, collaborative, company with a focus on teamwork, transparency and knowledge sharing.  Now I know a lot of companies say this, but for us we really do it. Our Chief Customer Officer was just in Forbes magazine talking about it, Our CIO, who was just recognized as one of Boston's most innovative CIO's had been pushing social for years and we even build social into our products.

One of our key requirements in IT is what we call "IT Rocks". At it's simplest it is the one metric we use to measure how we are doing. If anyone in our company gets asked about IT, we want to hear "IT Rocks".  ROCKS also stands for

Respectful - I want them to be able to respectfully discuss different opinions.

Open - I want people that will openly share success and failures so we all learn from it.

Collaborative - I want people that engage and work with others, not just in IT but in the rest of the company, and the rest of the world.

Knowledgeable  - Clearly they need to have the knowledge to do the job

Social - This doesn't just mean they can retweet, but I want people that can interact with other people and be comfortable engaging with others.

When we look for people we want them to have these qualities. We have a support model in our IT department where we visit in person when possible, even if we can remotely fix something. The idea is, If people know IT they generally like IT. If people like IT they support IT and life is much better. 

We want people who collaborate and don't try to hoard knowledge. If only one person knows how to do something, I want them to share it so we all get better as a team. 

Can people be a great fit without having a linkedin profile, or tweeting or blogging. Sure, probably. There are other ways to be social than online. Not all creativity needs to be shared via twitter, in fact we many times will not share something because we are working on a patent filing before openly discussing it. 

Will I miss out on some good candidates by requiring social? Yup. But I'm not looking for good candidates, I want the top 1%. If I get one great candidate I'm OK missing out on 10 good ones.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Compliance and cloud

Many times when I mention we are a "Cloud first" shop people ask if we are worried about security. The answer is no.

If security is not the first question, than it is about compliance. Actually I'll admit, I was a little nervous about compliance but not anymore.

We had our kick off call with out audit company (one of the big 3, 5, ?) and one of our key financial reporting systems changed from an old in house system to a nice shiny new cloud vendor. During our call we discussed any changes and I was sure that there would be a lot of discussion around this new system.

There wasn't.

They asked if the cloud vendor was SAS70 certified (which is actually now superseded by SSAE16). I said yes and they said "Well as long as they have that and it covers the controls we are testing, that's all we need".  Well and that they would want to see our project documentation and testing, but that's normal for any new system.

So if you are worried about compliance the best advice is get to the cloud sooner rather than later. Then compliance becomes someone else's concern.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cloudslam 12

I just got back from a conference in San Francisco called Cloudslam12. It was my first time to the bay area and the first time I got to speak about how we chose cloud providers so pretty exciting.

Since it was my first time to San Francisco I wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised by a few things. The first was that it was colder in California than Maine. Apparently if I had gone inland 10 miles it was a lot warmer, but in the Bay Area it was low 60s versus the low 70s I left in Maine. Somehow that seemed wrong.

I got to spend a few hours at Fisherman's Wharf which I'm told is a requirement for tourists to that area. It was nice and I have to admit they make excellent clam chowder. I feel bad admitting that....

The conference had quite a few vendors that I probably should have, but hadn't heard about. There were companies like orangescape and durgacloud that act sort of like a middleman between your code and cloud providers, so you can write once and run in Amazon EC2, Google Apps or Microsoft Azure. Unfortunately no one seems to take native force.com apps and makes it easy to transport them. Interesting enough Orangescape will let you take Lotus Domino apps to Google apps.

There were actually a few companies that do cloud based log file management. One called Sumologic that gave out squishy sumo wrestlers. Another called loggly. The log files I deal with aren't that big that I need to send them to the cloud for analysis but interesting nonetheless.

Most of the conference was around PAAS or IAAS but one SAAS vendor integrates google mail with salesforce.com. I was pretty excited thinking I found a neat salesforce.com tool before my peers, only to find out not only did they know about Cirrus Insight, but we were actively testing it.

I even got to talk to a few grad students working on an appliance that lets you bring google apps environment into the enterprise. So if you are paranoid about cloud, but want to leverage some of the 500k applications written in the google marketplace, you can. Or more accurately will be able to. They are still in school but talking to VC firms to kick off this summer.

There were actually a lot of discussions like that, in fact over lunch I think we collectively had 3 new start-up ideas. I got to meet Jeff Nessen who is the CEO of Progentus  They make tools that allow a sales department to create service statements of work documents in minutes, instead of hours or days. They also make other SAAS tools that make it easier to sell.  He had a great talk on helping your sales team sell cloud.

We had Google talk about Google apps for the enterprise. Intel talked about what they see for trends in cloud service providers.

I was truly amazed at the vibe there though. Getting to hear about companies that were going to start, sharing ideas on new companies we want to see, (I'd love to see an app that takes a video and cloudtags it based on the audio to help it easier to find videos) and just the brainstorming that goes on when you get a bunch of smart people around the table (and they don't mind me sitting there listening. :) )

All in all a great trip and amazing experience.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The power of collaborative network management

When we created ISAAC last year we knew it had potential to be a game changing technology. No one before had combined social, cloud and mobile in with network management and we were right. We just didn't know how right.

The first few months we talked about how easy it was to localize to different languages using aliases. Suddenly there was a network management tool that worked in 80 native languages and could be customized to use vertical specific terminology.

We talked about how it allowed better work and life balance by letting network managers remediate issues via any mobile device, and from any location. For example if you are at dinner and a user is having a network problem, no more did you have to go to your car, boot up your laptop, connect to the cell network, fire up VPN and then start figuring out who was using the bandwidth in Tokyo. You could do it from the dinner table on your iphone.

Soon we realized it was a great way to customize the network management framework and allow users to create alarms, notifications, actions and new commands. Life was great but even with all this I think we missed the most important pieces.

Earlier this year we realized that by using salesforce chatter we could automatically create new tickets based on alerts and, for example, have a power supply already on the way to get fixed and waiting for us in the morning. In fact we had this happen the other day.

We also learned that our support team could perform remote diagnostics and troubleshooting without needing to have a VPN or remote control software In fact multiple support engineers could work using the deep collaboration toolset chatter gives us. to make sure that we aren't duplicating efforts, and best leveraging the expertise in our entire organization.

Even better we were recording our troubleshooting steps so junior engineers could learn and leverage the experience of the entire team. This reduced training time and organically grew our knowledgebase. Plus we were recording our steps so reviewing the order of changes was easy.

Now we are taking this even a step further by using the power of crowdsourcing, or as I like to call it Cloudsourcing. We can connect a community of customers together and they can share commands, knowledge and expertise with each other and with Enterasys engineers.

We are already seeing huge benefits to some of our pilot customers and to us. We can create new functionality in near realtime and with an iterative design approach to make sure that we are building things, not just for the customers, but with the customers.

Imagine a vendor that develops new functionality to support it's customers needs in real time, collaboratively with everyone that can use it. It ensures that what is built is useful and implemented and takes the best ideas and creates them with almost unlimited resources.

Now stop imagining it and start using it. That future is here today at Enterasys with Isaac,and it's just the start of the new generation of network management, brought about by the power of collaborative network management.