Tag Archives: career

Looking back, looking forward

As I close in on my first year anniversary joining the Cloud Foundry team, we’ve passed the New Year marker and some things are in the process of changing, so I thought it was high time for a blog post – now there’s a thing!

Last year was one full of changes for me, not all of which are things I’ve posted about online – those who know me well know that I had an “interesting” year! Like many folks, I’ve just gone through the corporate annual review cycle, and that was a good chance to think over what I got up to in 2012.

Looking back

I’m not going to quote word for word from what I submitted in my review, but pick out some of my personal highlights:

  • I’ve had a blast in the Cloud Foundry team, and particularly feel at home with my Developer Advocate colleagues. I was able to co-present sessions with Monica at MongoDB UK (she’s now moved on to more awesomeness), and Raja at our Cloud Foundry Open Tour event in London… I co-wrote a Cloud Foundry and Spring article for JAX with the legendary Josh… and in the past few weeks I’ve been working more with Raja and others on some new content that is coming soon. Teamwork and collaboration FTW 🙂
  • I built a few simple samples for Cloud Foundry – not quite the uber-app that I had planned, that’s still in my head – and learned a bunch of new (to me) languages and technologies in a short period of time.
  • I’m very pleased with my “reach” in terms of audiences, talks, and the numbers of people referring to videos, screencasts and slidecasts I built in the past 12 months. Always room to improve!
  • I had an excellent time working with our Cloud Foundry ecosystem partners and friends in 2012, getting to know Diane, Adron, the Uhuru team, AppFog, etc. For me, the partners and community around Cloud Foundry are what make my role a real pleasure.

Beyond the day job, I did a bunch of other things last year, too:

  • Visited San Francisco for the first time… which sounds weird given my IT background and the tech concentration there. I love that city! Next time I might actually get to do the tourist thing, but I really enjoyed being over there with my colleagues.
  • Saw IBM’s MQTT code move into the Eclipse Paho project, where I became a Committer. I was able to represent the project at EclipseCon in the US and in Europe and at the Eclipse Day in Toulouse organised by my good friend Benjamin. There was some big growth in the MQTT community last year – lots of new software implementations, another significant use of the protocol in Facebook’s updated mobile apps, and increasing numbers of folks discovering the protocol.
  • Attended both of the Redmonk Brew events – the Monkigras and the Monktoberfest. Hands-down the best technology events that I’ve been too. Can’t wait for the Monkigras 2013 next week. Sell your own arm to buy a ticket. A leg too, if necessary.
  • Took part in the London Green Hackathon, the Field Studies Council Hackday, the IDEO Make-a-thon (gutted that I cannot go to the event this year), spoke at Digital Bristol, attended Horizons and the Raspberry Jam in London…
  • Was on the crew at OggCamp, Hack to the Future, the Brighton Mini Maker Faire…
  • Rediscovered my love of LEGO.

Looking forward

So that was last year, and it’s late January already – way past time to think about how 2013 will shape up. Despite my good buddy James Governor not doing New Year’s Resolutions, I made myself a short list of things I want to focus on this year – and ignoring some of what he says, I am actually going to try to follow through…

  • Be as awesome as possible in my role on the Cloud Foundry team. I work with great people and they deserve the best I can offer. Looking forward to seeing where the Pivotal Initiative takes us, and there are some great things happening!
  • Attend fewer events in one week / month. A couple of times last year, I definitely pushed myself too hard. In the London tech scene you can pretty much choose from 2 or 3 good developer meetups on any evening of the week, and I over-committed on several occasions. I’m also going to be more picky about exactly how I get involved in them… I loved all of the events I crewed for last year, but I scheduled things poorly and need to cut back.
  • Blog more frequently. Yes, this is the obvious one… but I really do want to, and have intended to for a long time. I have moments where I compose whole blog entries in my head while I sit on the train, and I wish they could just be transcribed in the moment. I do regret having let other social sites take over my online presence, particularly when it comes to the end of a year with the chance to look back. I should have been able to link every “big event” in the lists above, back to a blog post about what happened. So, I’m committing myself to writing more again this year.
  • Improve my Ruby and Javascript skills. I’ve started out well on this with a couple of projects I’ve been tinkering with lately.
  • Make cool things. LEGO things. Raspberry Pi things. Arduino things. I want to learn, hack, and make more. I talk about Maker culture, and I want to remind myself that I’m part of it.
  • Focus on improving my public speaking habits. I know I sometimes talk too quickly, get sidetracked, etc… every time I listen back or watch a talk I gave, I spot another thing I want to adjust. I think this is one of those lifetime improvement resolutions more than it is something I can “fix” in a 12 month period, but it’s certainly an area I want to look at.
  • Take. Proper. Holidays. I nearly managed to entirely detach from Twitter over the Christmas period, and definitely didn’t keep checking my work email, for the first time in many years. It felt good. I want to do that more often from now on.

Seven simple (?!) thoughts. I guess the only one that will easily be measurable by watching my blog will be the one about writing more, and this is my start on that one!

Happy 2013, friends – hope to see you soon!

My next steps – joining the Cloud Foundry team

I’m very excited to announce that, from April 10th, I will be joining the Developer Relations team for Cloud Foundry at VMware.

This is a thrilling opportunity for me for a number of reasons.

  • from a technology perspective: Cloud Foundry is very, very, very cool. In my opinion, it really comes from a different set of thought processes than the other Platform-as-a-Service offerings out there, which make it unique and compelling.
    • the operating system stuff gets out of the way (why should it matter?), but multiple language runtimes and backend resources are available for easy scaling. Seriously, the first time I walked through the command-line tutorial and scaled a Ruby app to 6 load balanced instances with a single command, I was instantly impressed.
    • it is Open Source. The code is on Github. You can run your own cloud if you like. You can add support for your own languages and frameworks, much as AppFog have done for PHP, Tier 3 and Uhuru have done with .NET in Iron Foundry, and so on. This provides a huge amount of flexibility. Oh, and of course mobile and cloud go hand-in-hand, so last week’s announcement of FeedHenry providing tools to develop HTML5 apps to deploy on Cloud Foundry was really significant, too.
    • you can take your cloud with you using Micro Cloud Foundry – so the development and deployment model remains the same whether you are online or offline. I love this idea.
  • for me, personally: it’s a natural evolution of much of the work I’ve been doing over the past few years – focusing on developer communities and promoting technology adoption, as much as top-down solution selling. As my good friend James Governor is fond of saying and as his colleague Steve O’Grady wrote, developers are the new kingmakers – and with trends like mobile, cloud, and devops, nurturing those communities is more important than ever. You don’t impose technology on a community – you explain it and earn your place and reputation.
  • I’m looking forward to more speaking, more writing, more mentoring, and more online community building. These are things I’ve grown to enjoy (and in the case of the latter, appear to do naturally).
  • I’ve followed Patrick Chanezon, the Senior Director of the team, since he was setting up the developer advocacy programme back at Google – I have a lot of respect for what he’s achieved and the way he operates, so I’m delighted to have the chance to work closely with him. I’m excited to join everyone in the team, of course – I have spoken with most of the group already and I’m really looking forward to learning from their diverse range of experiences and backgrounds.

Between now and April 10th, I have a few things planned including a vacation (!), heading to EclipseCon to talk about MQTT and M2M topics, and some other speaking engagements. After I start the new role, I expect I’ll join in on the Cloud Foundry Open Tour and start to meet folks. I’ll also be on the team for the GOTO conference in Aarhus in October – exciting times ahead!

When “end of an era” doesn’t cover it

This week, I tendered my resignation at IBM, after 10 years and 4 months, to a manager who has been my team leader and friend for the past 3 years. I can honestly say that it was a really hard moment; but also the right moment to make this particular transition.

As I’ve repeatedly written over the past few years – IBM has been a company I always aspired to work for, and once I had the chance, one that I’ve been immensely proud to represent. It’s a company that has endured over a century, and one that I was able to spend time with for a tenth of its existence – it was really the age of both WebSphere and the rise of IBM Software Group, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been there.

I have brilliant memories of the past decade. IBM is an amazing company and I will always value the chance to be a part of it, particularly in a wonderful location like the Hursley Lab. The people I’ve worked with, and with whom I’ve formed what I believe will be enduring friendships, have been simply outstanding. There were so many opportunities to do great things, not only in “the day job” but also as a BlueIQ Ambassador and social collaboration advocate, with IBM developer communities, in the universities programme representing IBM at careers fairs and as a guest lecturer in degree programmes, and the schools and community programme as a BlueFusion volunteer and mentor to kids at schools in deprived areas. I’ve also loved the chances to learn from others formally and informally, and to act as a mentor to others.

This will sound like a total paean, but it’s very true that there are amazing talents around IBM. In 7 years in IBM Software Services, and more than 3 years representing the development, strategy and product management teams in the lab back out to the field, I amassed a list of friends and colleagues from across continents, business units, and brands. It’s amazing to think of the broad reach of my network and I can’t help but be grateful for that.

My next steps are still forming; but I’m looking forward to spending more time with Open Source communities, with developers, with new technology, with connected systems and the Internet of Things, and as a speaker and writer. I’m also grateful to a range of friends for their support, particularly in taking over initiatives like eightbar, and in enabling me to remain involved in strands like Eclipse and MQTT.

Thanks for following me, reading my blog, sharing my thoughts, and joining the journey. I hope what comes next will be a continuation of the path I’ve been on; and an exciting next step in developing the direction I’ve been headed in.

Job titles are irrelevant – what is your brand?

Increasingly, I’m convinced that corporate job titles are obsolete. Let’s face it – in many cases an individual can label themselves with any title, and it may or may not have any meaning either within the context of the organisation, or in comparison to similar companies. The head of a major corporation can be described as CEO, but Joe Normal can be CEO of his own one or two-man band company too. It’s perfectly valid. Many organisations have champions, evangelists… job titles are morphing (conversation architect? social media marketer?)

I’m frequently asked what I do, as if a title can cover and explain my role in a couple of words. The first answer is that I work for IBM. OK, but that’s a very wide field, if you know anything about the company – it could be something in hardware, software, consulting services, research, management. So I was then able to narrow it down by using the word “Consultant” – one of those titles so broad that it covers all kinds of activities. So then I’d say I’m a software consultant working with WebSphere Integration products for IBM in the UK. But, of course, that wasn’t everything I did, if you factored in my social software and virtual worlds “hats” and additional interests. Recently my formal job title has become even less useful in describing what I do to people outside the organisation.

IBM also has a formal professional development careers path linked to The Open Group and British Computer Society – in that, I’ve moved from being a Senior to a Consulting IT Specialist. Unless you know the structure of the profession, you may not know the difference between Senior and Consulting levels, or what an IT Specialist does in comparison to an IT Architect or Software Engineer or whatever else. “Consulting IT Specialist” is a reasonably useful label, but still doesn’t go far enough.

So if job titles are dead – what now? I’m finding that my personal brand as social bridgebuilder | photographer | techie is as useful a label or as a starting point for a discussion as anything. I recently updated my About page and moved my technical background further down the bio. As organisational structures shift and morph to new models (you should take a look at Gary Hamel’s excellent book The Future of Management to read more on this) it is becoming more important to maintain a personal brand – linked to a corporate identity – and to be able to explain what you do and can offer in a concise manner.

Storytelling. Visual CVs. Skills. The rise of the real-world avatar. Non-traditional ways of presenting oneself through tag clouds and visualisations. All of these things are replacing the job title. Don’t tell me your corporate title. Tell me who you are, and what you do.

Side thought: as I write this, and some of my other recent entries on paper, I ponder – am I a “writer”? a blogger, a writer of prose, an architect of ideas, or what?

Update #1: I realised, thanks to Paul’s rather brilliant point in the comments about context, that I should probably explain where this post came from. A couple of inspirations, really. Firstly, a couple of months ago I was talking to a colleague at work and he said “so what is it you do all day, social bridgebuilder or something?” and I had to explain that no, my day job is something specific and related to WebSphere software. Secondly, last week I was introduced on a conference call as having a “really cool job title” and again, I noted that it was James Governor who gave me the label / reputation as social bridgebuilder as a result of what I do, rather than it being a formal title.

Update #2: I’m interested in a couple of the related posts links that WordPress has put in for me. The first, Your Personal Brand IS NOT a Job Title, kind of makes the same point… I suppose… I suppose it is saying that job titles still have a relevance within the context of an organisation. The second, A Rose By Any Other Name, also has relevance here – I particularly liked the line When your staff are asked, outside work, what they do how easily can they simply quote their job title? which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. Nice work on the automatic links I think!

Time to make a change

It’s time to move on. Maybe there’s something in the air, since Roo left recently, and Dale has just written about his switch to new things.

A seven-year itch?

Almost exactly seven years ago, I was offered my current job with IBM. I left what used to be the Post Office IT Services, took a month off (during which I was supposed to visit New York and Washington… never happened, sadly), and then started consulting on WebSphere for what used to be IBM Software Group’s London Solutions Practice. When I joined the group I was young, single, and figured I could “do the consulting thing”. Looking back, I was a good techie but fairly green as a consultant… I think I’ve matured and improved! 🙂

I’m still in the same role today. Working in IBM Software Services for WebSphere (ISSW) has been an absolute blast. I’ve had the opportunity to develop my industry experience across a whole range of sectors: finance, media, manufacturing, retail, public sector; deepened and broadened my technical skills; mentored newcomers to our team; and watched the group – and indeed, IBM’s WebSphere brand and Software Group – develop and grow.

I’ve also had the pleasure and privilege of working with the most talented individuals I’ve ever come across. IBM Software Services is a truly great group. Some of the ideas that my colleagues have come up with have been completely mind-blowing (hint: the simple ones are always the best), and influence software architectures I’m seeing everywhere today. Maybe it isn’t all rocket science, but several people in my team actually could be rocket scientists, and in my opinion are simply geniuses. Thank you, everyone – it’s been an honour.

I’ve spent a total of eight or nine years learning IBM’s messaging products (particularly WebSphere MQ and Message Broker) in detail and they really are fantastic pieces of technology. I’m not going to be leaving those alone any time soon.

If you follow my blog or other online presences at all you’ll know that my interests go way beyond WebSphere, connectivity, transactions, integration and messaging systems – essentially, I’m into that stuff, but my passion extends out to the bleeding edge of technology, the frontiers of the enterprise and more fundamentally, how those in the real world – users – want to use and interact with technology and new concepts.

What’s next?

So, to borrow a phrase from Roo, what’s next? Well, I have a new role – still at IBM, and starting full-time next month.

I’ve built up a lot of experience in how our products are used, and I now have the opportunity to take that back to our Development labs. I’ll be providing a direct link between product development and customers… feeding back what is out there, what our customers want, and influencing future products. Refining product usability based on real experiences, and acting as a “customer champion”. It’s a role with worldwide scope, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it.

One thing I don’t expect to change is my wider interests – Web 2.0, virtual worlds, and communities. I’ll still be engaging with folks in all kinds of places – part of what I do as a “social bridgebuilder” (props yet again to James Governor for that description). It’s in my online DNA, I guess.

I’m not going far from my roots, but this is a significant change for me.