Congrats you are Field CTO… now what?

I had the good fortune of being an early adopter of the title Field CTO which is a wonderful thing except thats not the last job I want to have so what is my career progression. I didn’t even think about that 5 years ago when I took the position and as I have seen other friends and colleagues move into the role they are in the same position.

Let’s first look at what a Field CTO is. It’s a great title that encompasses the combination of technical prowess and people skills. The challenge is that that is very broad and every company seems to define it differently, even to the level of where the position lies in the organization. I reported up through the product management side, I know others that have reported to sales and others to marketing. I know some that have their own teams and some that are solo acts. It seems very company dependent. The skill set being asked for also varies from a very technical CTO style to a super SE and even at times to just a marketing evangelist.

With all the different types of jobs and roles the next question is how does one end up in this role? I believe there are 2 ways, the first is that the person has been in house and has knowledge across so many areas of the business that you don’t want to lose them and the title is a stepping stone. The second is someone who comes into a company specifically to fill that senior technical field role when a natural CTO is not as presentable to customers. What both of these have in common is that rarely does a company have a growth plan in place before filling the position.

Once you are a Field CTO what is the next role? During my interview process when changing jobs I found this to be a harder topic than I realized. My position being in Product Management seemed to worry people that I would not be able to be as outward focused as they wanted. Then I had the concern about any position I was talking to would be a step down career wise so they assumed I would not take it. I even had one company that thought because I had field experience I must not be technical at all and I was just a marketer.

I decided that I would just have to look at the title and determine on my own if I was interviewing someone would it look like a step down, when I said no then the title was fine. I never really cared about the title except for that anyway. Then I had to hope my years of experience came through during the interview process to show I had both technical chops and personality. For me I think I will end up back in a people manager/mentor type role while still having my hands on some tech to know the product, but for now I choose a role that lets me use my outbound and technical skills. Who knows maybe the next one will be a CEO or a CTO or a position I have never heard of yet.

I don’t claim to know what the next position is but I truly hope that those in the position now are able to talk to their management teams and figure it out since this won’t be your last job.

Onward and Upward

“I have to believe in the tech before I ever consider a startup”

That was what I said just over 7 years ago when I got asked to join Nexenta. I saw a product that was looking to change an industry and a new and exciting opportunity. Over the last 7 years I have not been disappointed at all but there comes a time for change and today is that day.

After working at resellers, Nexenta was the first vendor I decided join and I started as a Sales Engineer before moving into a Director role and then only a year in to a role working in Product Marketing. I had less than zero knowledge outside my schooling and outside experience on marketing but management gave me a chance. After another short year and some company changes I got shifted into Product Management and day to day work with development and engineering teams. I never expected it to be a good move and I dreaded it at the time, I would have to leave the field. Much to my surprise, I found this new role to be exciting and challenging and I had to learn an entirely new side of IT. The next move was probably the most exciting for my career when I was asked to partially return to my roots and go back out into the field as the Field CTO. This meant I got to work with our largest customers and prospects and now knowing the product management side I was also able to translate all the customer needs and wants into engineering requirements. Overall the career progression at Nexenta was amazing but that pales in comparison to the people I have met. I can not thank them enough, even the ones that have left and asked me why I stayed so long.

And on that note, I stayed because I was waiting for the right position with the right company and today I start in what I believe will be that position. Today marks day one with Cohesity as a Principal Technologist (More later on the challenges of going from Field CTO to anything) . I will be joining a team of amazingly talented people that are well known in each of their respective communities, Chris Colotti, Jon Hildebrand and Teresa Miller. The four of us make up the TAG or Technical Advocacy Group and are focused on the outbound technical messaging. This time around I didn’t just look for great tech, which I do believe Cohesity has, but also a great company that is growing and dynamic. I am excited to hit the ground running for a new challenge!

Let’s Hear it for the Boys!

Over the past couple weeks leading up to Super Bowl 53, there have been numerous articles, although many with the same copied content, published that proclaim that the two men on the LA Ram’s Cheerleading team are the first male cheerleaders to perform at the Super Bowl. While these two men being able to join their teammates on the field for the Super Bowl is a great accomplishment, they are actually closer to the 26th or 27th male cheerleaders to perform at the Super Bowl.

Starting in 1998 the Baltimore Ravens have had a Cheerleading team that consists of 2 groups, a dance team and a stunt team. Both groups perform choreographed routines together for every home game and have twice performed as a group at the Super Bowl.

2001 Super Bowl Baltimore Ravens Male Cheerleaders

During Super Bowl 35 I had the great honor of being one of those male cheerleaders and was part of the true first group of male cheerleaders to perform at the Super Bowl. At the time being the first group was not really a concern to any of us, it was amazing to be on the sideline and on the field and in the endzone with my teammates. The greatest part for me was at a practice in Baltimore just after the AFC Championship when were told by David Modell that after almost no thought, the organization was taking the entire Baltimore Ravens Cheerleading Team to the game and as an added bonus we could bring someone to watch. I called my dad, being able to ask him to go see the super bowl made up for much of the ridicule and pettiness that was directed at male cheerleaders prior to the last few years.

2001 Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders during the Super Bowl

Some people have said that they are making the distinction that the LA Rams men are the first cheerleaders because they are dancing in the same routines. Is that to say that the women that were stunting with the men on the Ravens team are not cheerleaders because they do different parts in a routine? The male cheerleaders I know are proud to be called cheerleaders, we are not stuntmen as one article put it, we don’t just run flags, we are part of a program and part of a family and occasionally even dance in the routines. In fact there is even an interesting fact posted by CBS in 2016 about the only male cheerleaders in the NFL

Baltimore Ravens Male Cheerleaders Dancing In an EndZone Routine

In no way do I want to take away from the excitement and achievements of Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies, going to the Super Bowl is a great achievement and one they should be very proud of. In this age of accessibility, I hope that some news outlets look a little deeper, maybe talk to some of my teammates, both the men and women, or some of the members of the 2013 Ravens team that also took an entire group of male cheerleaders to the Super Bowl.

Creating Bulk Users and Groups in AD via Powershell

I often get tasked with finding out where some of the limits of our products might be and one of them that has come up is the ability to work with larger Active Directory configurations.  Running a lab I obviously don’t have thousands of users so I wanted a way to quickly create and remove users and groups.  In comes the powershell scripts that I have below.  I created this is multiple parts but have since made each part a function and put a nice menu around it.  The final BulkAdd.ps1 is the total script that you are free to download and use for your environment.  You can follow the flow in the diagram below.

You can get the full script Bulk-Menu_v2 but I will list all the parts below. All of the scripts start the same way and I have some centralized variables at the top of the main script.

You can see the script in action

 100 Groups and 200 Users Created and Removed in 2 Min Continue reading “Creating Bulk Users and Groups in AD via Powershell”

Is the real future for VMware in one of its quietest releases?

VMworld 2018 once again proved to be one of the biggest technology events of the year, yes you can point out Dreamforce and OracleWorld and Microsoft Ignite as potentially larger but VMworld is still a ~20K person conference and ranks as one fo the larger ones around.  Its also no surprise that VMware takes the time to make major product announcements during the show to make it exciting and get the user base hyped for another year.  This year I heard alot about how the release of Amazon RDS Services natively in a private datacenter and connected as a custom region in AWS was the biggest news.  While I I do believe this is a great thing for many enterprises and specifically cloud first companies, I don’t think it will be the release that has the largest impact on the future of VMware.

Welcome vSphere on ARM! Yes ARM, that little processor you hear about for cell phones and IoT devices.  This was touched on in one of the keynotes and I think alot of people just thought it was a gimmick and since there is no firm release date, thats reasonable but lets for a moment take a look at a few places that vSphere on ARM could have a huge impact.

Continue reading “Is the real future for VMware in one of its quietest releases?”

Cutting the Cord : From Infant to Teenager

Over the past few years I have heard about so many people that have cut the cord and got rid of traditional cable TV, this seemed like a great way to save money but could my wife and I really do it and not get annoyed? Also would it really save us alot of money? Spoiler : We save about $115 a month but it could be more.

Over the next few paragraphs, I will take you through my journey from all in with xFinity to only paying them for internet and using multiple services and pieces of hardware but having a rather good experience.

Over the next few post I will break down the cord cutting into a few areas that you may only need a few pieces of so to help it will be in a few articles.

Overall our experience has been smooth but took alot of time and research to make it fit for us.  We are still learning as we go but for over $100 a month worth of savings

Cutting the Cord : Switching to Internet Only

This part is two fold. First its the experience of actually telling Xfinity that I was done.  This wasn’t too bad but just stick to your guns.  I could not do it online and had to call them and she tried to figure out what other packages I could use, even acting shocked when I said we had never picked up the land line we used to have but only had it because it was cheaper with a triple play than with a double play.  Once we got past the part where I constantly turned down the extra offers we got to the point of figuring out what internet only plan I wanted.  My current plan was for 200 mbps, which for most people was probably fine but was going to be about $80 a month anyway.  I asked what they had better, after I had already researched online but I gave her a shot.  She claimed she could only do a 400 mbps or a 600 mbps.  I politely inquired about a gigabit service I had heard about, “oh well we could do that but you would need a new cable modem/router” Since I spend the $10 fee every month to rent the router from Xfinity this seemed like something that should not have been an issue.  I spoke with her a little longer and found out that gigabit to my house was $115 a month.  Since I have all my smart home components plus we planned to only stream this seemed like a no brainer. It did require them to come install it which was more so they could configure it to the house but that was actually handy because I could turn in all my old cable boxes to the technician and didnt have to ship them.

Everything was going well with the install but after a day or two of testing I found my Ubiquiti AC-LR access points could just not handle the speed well for me and needed an upgrade.  I have been a big fan of the Ubiquiti gear but it is expensive, this was when i found the Google Wifi mesh network.  For $249 for a 3 pack on Amazon I figured I would try them and worse case return them.  I was very happy with them.  The install took less than 15 minutes and they are tucked away and hardly noticeable.

I did add the CloverTale outlet wall mount that was $10 just to make things easy. I will say that this is engineered very well The cable coils completely behind the mount and it hands from my outlet without any problem at all.  I expected this since I have similar for my Amazon Echo Dots .

Overall I have been very happy with the google wifi.  I switched the Xfinity wireless off and am running all my devices through the Google Wifi, it makes them very easy to manage, including port forwarding, DHCP, DHCP reservations, custom DNS and all from an easy app.  I did find that the range was good for my house (1200 sq ft.) however I did end up adding 2 more access points to extend the range for our deck and for our outdoor cameras.

Cutting the Cord: Streaming Service Selection

Probably the most important part of making this decision was making sure we could still watch the things we wanted.  I did trials with Sling, PSVue and DirectTVNow.  While each of them had rather decent interfaces and some channels, I had a few criteria that needed to be met:

  • Provide access to major networks (Be warned that no one had CBS yet)
  • Good Interface on Amazon FireStick, Apple TV and Mobile
  • Game Show Network (We watch a lot fo Family Feud when just sitting around)
  • DVR Functionality – O later determined I didn’t need this but more on that to come.

All seems pretty simple except PSVue didnt have GSN, Sling had it but it was an extra plan.  In the end I ended up with DirectTVNow for everything except the DVR function which Sling didnt have either.  What DirectTVNow did have was a free Apple TV 4K if you paid for 4 months upfront.  I had to use one of the old gmail tricks for this however.  My account is not my basic email but rather I used a + in my email since gmail ignores that.  I normally would not need to do this but the free AppleTV was for new subscribers only and if you have done the trial it wont work.  I didnt have to have the new AppleTV but one of mine was a version 3 and could not get apps so this seemed like a good reason.  More on the AppleTV in the next blog.

Cutting the Cord: Whats on the TVs Now?

Traditionally you either just plug the TV right into the cable or most likely a cable box, but since I dont have any of those, I needed to determine how we would watch TV.  I have five places I needed to worry about this, Living Room, Master Bedroom, Spare Room, my office and when I am traveling (since I can get local channels now) I am going to detail each one because they each had their own challenges although they have all been overcome now

Living Room

I have a Samsung Smart TV in the living room, I assumed this would be the easiest but the DirectTVNow app isn’t on it so I needed to add some other device.  Since I had the new AppleTV 4K this was the logical place for it.  I wanted to be able to control it all just like I had in the past so i hooked everything up and reprogrammed my Logitech Harmony Hub.  This let me turn everything on from my Amazon Echo as well since the Harmony Hub is configurable to it. I did have to factory reset the hub however but that could have been the combination of changing Wifi and lots of configuration changes.  It really was pretty simple and lets us use the Apple TV or the Smart TV although its pretty much always on the Apple Now.

Master Bedrooom

This one should also have been simple, I have a newer generation Vizio however I do not have a Harmony Hub in here and had been using an older Logitech Harmony non IR remote.  This meant that I could not control the Apple TV 4th Gen that I moved in there.  I found out thanks to my friend Nick over at DatacenterDude.com   that he was able to turn his TV on and off from sleep mode with his Apple TV remote.  I looked into this a bit and it just requires you to turn on CEC on the TV and find the device.  Keep in mind that most TV have this but many of you went a little cheaper have it disabled and you cant use it.  I was lucky and it works great. I simply hold down the TV icon on the remote and it puts everything to sleep and when I click on the touchpad it wakes up again.

Spare Bedroom

I expected this to be the hardest since its a small, old and cheap TV but it had an HDMI port and I had a Amazon FireStick I could hook to it.  This worked great to access the apps and watch things but I ran into the problem that I did not have CEC.  After a little searching I found a universal remote that clips on as a replacement to the back of the FireStick remote, it was on Amazon (of course) This did the trick, now I was down to a single remote in the spare room and it was easy for guests to navigate.

Office/Traveling

I am combining these two because I only need one at a time and the requirements seemed close.  In the office it was easy, I would just connect my laptop to my larger monitor, I can login to the DirectTVNow website and I can view TV.  The extra challenge was when i was traveling.  I have tried things like taking an AppleTV but they didnt work at hotels that required a website login.  This is where the new FireStick is amazing.  Anytime you are at a hotel you simply connect to their wifi and if you need the website login, then it will pop up and allow you to enter your required info, then you are online.  It is small as well and will power off the USB on the back of the TV.

Cutting the Cord: Can I stream my movies and what if I travel for my Ipad?

This one was the part I didnt think my wife would love but she doesnt seem to mind at all.  After talking with numerous people I found that running my own internal Plex server was the answer to my problems.  Now I know that not everyone has a machine just sitting around but I had a microserver I used for testing but it is only in heavy use a few times a year.  I decided this box would be perfect to use a Plex Media Server (PMS).  For those of you who are not familiar, the Plex Media Server catalogs your movies and TV shows and even music and home movies and presents them via a webpage or app to allow them to be streamed either internally only or over the internet if you so choose.  Since I already had most of my movies digital, this meant nothing more than installing the software on Windows (it is available for Linux and Mac as well).  Once it was installed I created a library from my movies folder and I was off and running.  You can also set things like TV Shows, these are even sorted by season and episodes.  there are lots of software packages out there that will help you get access to all the movies and shows you want but I am going to decline to go into those.

I then made sure the Plex app was installed on all my devices around the house and I am ready to go, I have access.  What I didnt realize when I started this was that I would need to go get the Plex Pass paid version, for a few reasons, the first was the ability to have household users.  I have a user created for myself and my wife so that we can be watching different things. Without this, anytime you connect and try to watch something and another person is watching something else on another device, you will kick them off.  This clearly was not going to be a solution and the paid version of Plex gave me user capability.  If you have kids this can be very useful also since you can limit what folders they have access to.

Another bid benefit for me of the full paid version was offline sync capability.  I can not connect my ipad and download shows and movies from my server for when I am offline, for instance when I am traveling.

One more benefit of plex is that I can share things like my Christmas movie collection with my family without ever having to get on a a plane or in a car and I can simply add them as friends and give them access to my library.

This paid version is $40 a year or $119 for lifetime, I opted for the $40 a year only because I like to give some constant support to companies that are writing software I use.