This is a story about my journey into Presales. It’s a rather long story describing how I’ve gotten to this point in my career. The intent isn’t to gloat, but rather paint a picture for those who are also looking to get into Presales. In my opinion, Presales is the pinnacle of IT Careers. This is a rather long read, but a story I believe is worth telling. Throughout my career in IT, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing individuals, as well as great organizations who really cared for their employees. This process has been a journey to say the least.
Beginnings of IT
When I first started working within the field of IT, I was just a sophomore in high school. The whole reason I got into IT was by chance. During those years, I was responsible for running the High School’s PA system for football games and pep rallies. I learned of an opportunity at one of the area MSPs. I actually didn’t even have a car yet; however, I took the job as a part time PC Tech/Runner since I was thankful for the opportunity. High School was located just down the street from school, and I had friends who would drop me off since it was on their way. It was with this job that I saved up enough money to get my very on car. This new part time job at this particular MSP provided me the basic skills needed within the field in IT. The majority of the work was PC work (virus removal, PC repair, OS reloads, etc). I always remembered to clean each computer as well with compressed air. Sometimes I would be surrounded by 5 computers running windows updates, going between them on a KVM (scroll lock scroll lock up). Other times I would be tasked with putting together external hard drives and setting them up for backups. Often I was running errands, delivering computers, going to the post office, etc. I also went to client sites and did PC installs, etc. Additional duties included swapping backup tapes (Backup Exec Anyone?) It was during this time I obtained the foundation for how businesses operated, but also how to conduct business. I quickly learned the basics with PC repairs. Over the years I continued to grow and work part time. During this time I completed high school and college. This was a great opportunity that taught me a lot about the business world in general, and how the “real world” operated. I couldn’t have asked for a better “first” job. It paid well and taught me a lot of valuable information. This carried over to my personal life, where I enjoyed burning CDs, building computers, and helping friends and family.
Upon College graduation I worked full time at another MSP doing more of the same. Then after about a year I started my first corporate job at a local Bank. I worked at the Help Desk, which taught me a lot about corporate life. I quickly rose the ranks, being put over the Bank’s Instant Issue Debit card machines. It was shortly after this someone within the Network Department left giving me the opportunity to “move downstairs” with the servers. It was during this time my first real enterprise environment experience came from. At the time I thought it was a huge environment, but in hindsight it wasn’t too bad when you only had five ESXi hosts along with a few hundred Virtual Machines. My first real duties consisted of an upgrade of an FTP server, management and upgrade of an email encryption appliance and storage/backups. I also built VMs from scratch by booting them off the Windows Server ISOs. I learned a lot about VMware, storage and enterprise software in general. It was during this time I worked with a product called VEEAM. It was with VEEAM that by knowledge of virtualization really grew. It grew through troubleshooting failed backup jobs. I really enjoyed using this technology and learning how to resolve failed backup jobs. I couldn’t learn enough about CBT, VSS writers, duplication and compression. I used it as an opportunity to obtain my first Industry Certification titled “VEEAM Certified Engineer” aka VMCE in 2014. This certification provided me an opportunity at a local healthcare provider, which I took.
This local Healthcare Provider had REAL enterprise grade equipment. Cisco UCS, Dell EMC and IBM storage arrays. My knowledge of backups really took off with the exposure to Avamar and Data Domain. During this time I was like a sponge soaking up everything I could regarding backups and storage. I loved learning about the different technologies, especially duplication. It was during this time that I really started to work with Presales engineers along with their respective sales teams. Looking back, I always enjoyed and looked forward to the days that I had a meeting with a Presales Engineer/Vendor. Passion comes in many different forms, and I can honestly say I had a passion for these meetings. The things I were most passionate about included:
1) Getting out of the office to grab lunch\network.
2) Meet new account reps.
3) Talk about the problems I experienced and how to solve them with technology solutions.
4) Seeing a project through from start to finish.
5) Implement the solution and seeing the satisfaction in the completed process.
This Health Care Provider gave me an amazing opportunity and ability to work with Presales Engineers. Up until that point, I had never experienced anything like it. However, this wasn’t my job. My job was to administer the environment. I really pushed myself and learned a lot during this time, which included everything from Cisco UCS, EMC Isilon, Data Domain and Data Center Technologies as a whole. Numerous upgrades, forklift replacements and tickets passed as did the years. The technology changed, but the process of projects and upgrades didn’t. I enjoyed my work, but I was starting to get a bit burned out. It was around this time I knew I wanted to get into Presales, but I didn’t know how. Additionally, there were two major factors which limited my options:
1) Location/job market.
2) Lack of experience.
During this time the healthcare organization I was working for announced they were merging with another healthcare organization. With an unknown future ahead, I decided to take an opportunity at a Solutions Provider doing more of the same scope of work.
Data Center IT
This chapter of my career consisted of VMware administration and Backup Administration; however, this time I would be working within the setting of a Data Center. My rationalization was that things would be much improved and that I would experience the latest and greatest technologies. I told myself that I wouldn’t have to worry about the stresses of 24/7 Health Care operations; however, the reality was that things were exactly the same, if not worse. I had a perception of one thing, but the reality was much different.
I realized my environments were changing, but my variables within the environment weren’t. Problems with the technology and the co-workers who let me down remained the same. The VMs were constantly out of date, the VMware Tools and Hardware always needed upgrading. The OS’s were always nearing the end of life. The products were no longer under support contracts and the resources weren’t enough. I came to the realization that most organizations operated this way (most didn’t want to operate this way, but had to due to circumstances beyond their control). This doesn’t even take into account the after hours calls, after hours upgrades and being on call. This can lead to burnout over time, especially if you care about the quality of work that you do. Regardless of all of this, I still learned a lot within the DataCenter IT setting, which has been very beneficial.
If I wasn’t at work physically, I was mentally. It was as if my life was passing me by when I looked at others who appeared fully disconnected outside of work. I yearned to have a life with good work balance. Granted some of this was brought on by myself in caring too much about things instead of letting things go. I just couldn’t let the fear of being seen as a failure release it’s grip on me. Ironically, this has gotten much better as I’ve gotten older. It was at this point that I realized in order to be truly satisfied in my career I needed to get into the field Presales engineering.
The goal was to stay within the field of technology, but get out of the day to day life of a normal System Administrator. It was at this point I became super focused on achieving my goal. Although I was unsuccessful in getting a job within Presales at this particular solutions provider, I didn’t give up.
Thankfully I had a lot of people who helped me along the way and wanted to see me succeed. I started out by creating this blog as step one. Additionally I became a local VMUG leader. I also started becoming involved with the VMware community by applying for vExpert. I continued to network and look at those who were successful in the field. Finally, networking and staying connected with industry peers was essential. However, the process wasn’t easy. Many of my emails went unreturned. Not having any previous experience really hurt, since most companies wanted at least 5 to 7 years of real world experience. I also believe others didn’t want me to see my achieve my goal for whatever reason. Regardless of these obstacles I didn’t give up. I knew that to an extent, I had indirect experience throughout my career through presenting to upper management a certain solutions, to working with customers to ensure a particular product would work within their environment. Finally, I continued to learn and grow by getting industry certifications. The main thing was that I didn’t give up. If you knew me when I was younger, you would see someone who always had to work twice as hard as the others to obtain the same result. I’ve never been a teachers favorite or been recognized for achievements. I’ve always been a behind the scenes type personality. A lot of people counted me out. Most importantly, I haven’t been given anything in life (that goes for just about everyone). One things that has remained constant were my hard work ethic and ability to adapt and get along with others. Those two qualities can go a long way. However, with that said I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the help of numerous family, friends and industry peers.
In closing, I am happy to say that I have obtained a role of Presales Engineer at BCI, which is a local business within my community. I am not only thankful, but excited about the future career within the field of IT. I will forever be thankful to BCI for being given an opportunity to follow my passion of Presales Engineering. The challenges going forward will be getting up to speed in the world of Presales, learning a little about a multitude of products, and understanding all of the aspects included within the field of Presales Engineering. I will forever be thankful for those who believed in me. There are too many to list, but here are a few.
- My wife Traci and numerous other friends for always encouraging me.
- Chestin Hay for always believing in me.
- Douglas Harris for mentoring and opening my eyes to the world of Presales.
- Brandon Willmott for giving me practical and beneficial action items in order to set myself out from the rest.