Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

11/19/2019

Managing Up

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

“Managing up” has to be one of my least favorite business buzzword phrases, and the most condescending.

I’m grateful I don’t hear this phrase as much as I used to earlier in my career. The last time I heard someone use it, they were commenting on how little they thought about their direct supervisor’s ability. When you think about it, the phrase, and the idea behind it, is pretty insulting. The implication is that I know better than the person above me in the company organization chart and, essentially, have to do their job for them because they’re incapable of managing me. For one thing, it starts from a false premise, though one that a lot of technical people seem to buy into, namely that my work requires knowledge and abilities beyond the management layer above me. I’ve never found that to be actually true.
I prefer the term “managing expectations”. It’s more accurate and applicable to all levels of the org chart. It’s also something I do regularly. For instance, if I’m working on a project for someone, I want to make sure they know what’s involved and the kind of time that might take so they have some idea why I’ve set a delivery date. Or, more importantly, why the delivery date the stakeholder might expect is unreasonable. There are times, of course, that I find myself able to deliver well within the expected time, but, unfortunately, that’s much more unusual.
The other way I manage expectations is in what can be delivered at all. I will grant that to many the computer systems I work with on a regular basis are a bit like magic. Black boxes of mysterious abilities that miraculously produce information and reports when working correctly. Or, evil, possessed infernal machines that are blamed for keeping some other department from producing results when they aren’t working well. Obviously, my goal is to make sure the technology in my care is always working well, but that’s not always possible. And, when I’m asked by someone to produce something new, I want to give them an accurate idea of what precisely I’ll be able to deliver to them on whatever timetable is likely. Of course, like most technical people, I follow the lead of Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer of the starship Enterprise and do my best to set expectations low so that when I am able to exceed them I seem like a miracle worker. Like the time I told someone I’d “do my best” to recover some of the more than three terabytes of engineering drawings that the previous IT person had lost to a cryptolocker virus, then found a decryption tool after everyone else had left early for a long holiday weekend that restored all the lost data.
Yes, I worked what seemed like a miracle, but before I did, I set the expectation that the data was going to be lost because the last tech hadn’t tested the backups. So, rather than “managing up”, manage expectations of what kind of results, and when those results, can be delivered. Everyone, not just your managers, will appreciate it more.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

11/15/2019

Talking Dog

Filed under: Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Hey, that dog can talk!

Okay, so not literally, but pretty close.
I have a friend who has this idea he calls “the talking dog theory”. It goes like this. Dog lovers talk to their dogs as if they’re people who might answer back. And, what if those dogs could talk back? Would we care what the dog said? Or would we be so amazed to get a response that we’d sit with rapt fascination, thinking, “How incredible! This animal can talk!” So, what if we applied that to people in a meeting that were annoying us with the banalities? Instead of getting annoyed with them, maybe we should simply be amazed that that animal can talk!
Well, amusing anecdotes aside, what I have for you this week is an actual talking dog, sort of. I’ve seen this multiple places, but I’m sharing the link from BestLife, about Stella the “talking” dog. Stella’s owner is Christina Hunger who is a speech pathologist. She made Stella a “sound board” with some common words that her darling doggie might want to know, like “out” and “ball” and “play”. Then she set about teaching Stella what the buttons all met. Now, Stella uses the sound board to “talk” to her owner and tell Ms. Hunger what she wants. The video is pretty remarkable.

Honestly, though, I don’t think I want to give my two dogs any more encouragement to try and tell me what they want. Lily would always be hitting the buttons for “hungry – feed – me” and Penny would be always asking for “out – squirrel” or “rub – tummy”. And I know what they want already.
In any case, great videos and fun, even if you’re not a dog lover! Though if you’re not a dog lover, I’m not sure I’d care for your opinion anyway.

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

Tags: , , ,

11/8/2019

Like The First Time

Filed under: Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

When was that word first used?

When I was in High School, I remember being fascinated by the idea that James Hilton’s book Lost Horizon was so popular that his invented paradise, Shangra La, entered into the public consciousness and common usage. That may have been the first time I realized the power that an author may wield. And, here’s the thing, that happens more than we realize. I think we’re taught that English is this monolithic thing that is static and fixed, but it’s not. It’s not at all. New words are being added to our cultural vocabulary all the time. Eventually, they get added to the dictionary, mostly as a recognition of language that’s already in use. Sometimes, though, we can know who coined a term, and when they did it, like “cyberspace”. That was first used by William Gibson in a short story titled “Burning Chrome”, published in Omni Magazine in 1982. That story, along with Frank Herbert’s Dune are what made me want to be a writer, before paying bills drowned that creative impulse almost completely.
But, all that aside, my point is, every year, writers add to our English vocabulary. Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler can tell you what new words were added in what year. Go, look. Even if you don’t find it as inspiring as I do, it is occasionally fascinating to know how long some common words have been in use. For some it’s longer than we realize, but for others, it’s not as long as you might suppose!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/6/2019

Project Success

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Clear goals make for more successful projects.

There is no way to guarantee a successful project, but I can sure tell you the best way to make one fail; don’t set a clear goal.
When I was in Boy Scouts, I earned my Eagle Scout award. That was a long time ago, and I know some things have changed since then, but one requirement that hasn’t changed is running a successful service project. At the time, the bar for success was set pretty low, and, of course, I had lots of help from Scoutmasters and advisers on how to set up and run my service project. What I learned in Scouting, I carried forward into my working life and still use to this day. The single best way to stack the odds in your favor of success is having clearly defined goals that include a deadline. My goals, whether personal or professional, need to be so crystal clear that I can express them to someone not involved in the project in thirty seconds or less. If I can’t do that, I need to rethink whatever project I’m gearing up.
For instance, as a technical specialist focused on IT infrastructure, when I’m getting ready to refresh datacenter hardware, I should be able to tell my CIO or CFO what servers and drive arrays are being replaced, how the data will transfer from the old hardware to the new equipment, what the time involved will be and what my fall-back plan is in case of catastrophic failure at some level. Simple, clear and direct. And, I should be able to state that in a non-technical way for non-technical staff who might need to know. If I’m upgrading a wide-area network from a series of point-to-point connections in the old-fashioned spoke-and-star configuration with a software-defined WAN configured with a mesh of redundant connections, I need to be able to clearly describe that end result, with the advantages and disadvantages and any potential risks, to non-technical executive staff.
I need to be able to do all that not only so they can hold me and my department accountable for our success or failure, but also so that I can keep everyone on the project focused in the right direction. This is the lesson I learned so many years ago working on my Eagle Scout service project. A clear, concise goal is easier to explain and share with outsiders, but it’s also essential for project participants, to keep everyone focused on the same goal and headed the same direction. No one can lead a team, whether on a short project or on a larger team, without clear, shared goals and deadlines. A project without a clear, shared goal is doomed to failure because no one will be working together on the same shared goal, except by accident.
Success should never be an accident. It should always be a plan.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

11/1/2019

What makes a safer knife?

Filed under: Fun,Personal Care,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

A sharp knife is a safe knife.

I know that doesn’t seem to follow, but, trust me, it’s true. When I was in Boy Scouts, one of the many things I learned is that a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife. A sharp knife is less likely to snag and jump when you make a cut, and therefore, less likely to get out of your control when using it. Also, a sharp knife takes less effort to use, which also makes it easier to control. But, if you should mess up and have an accident, a sharp knife makes a cleaner cut. Trust me on this; clean cuts heal faster and better than messy, jagged cuts. I have plenty of both kinds to know the truth of that!
I bring this up because two of the holidays most focused around food and, therefore, the kitchen are just around the corner; Thanksgiving and Christmas. I fully expect that most of my readers, few of you as there may be, will find themselves in the kitchen carving a turkey, a goose, a ham or some other delicious and festive meat product. That means, gentle readers, that there will be knives. And, if you’re like most people that means a carving knife that you likely haven’t used since last year at least. So, before you grab for that dull, under-used blade, now would be a great time to sharpen it. Not sure how? Well, thanks to our friends at Boing Boing, I have a link to a video on the basics of knife sharpening. It’s about 30 minutes, which is probably a bit longer than is strictly necessary, but it covers pretty much everything. They even have links there for whetstones of progressing fineness of grit to really get a good edge on that carving knife. The one criticism I have from my time in Boy Scouts is that the video shows him drawing the blade toward his body and in short strokes. I was taught it should *always* be sharpened *away* from the body and I was also taught to use the longer strokes he uses for the last phase of sharpening. But, I will say, his technique of using a sharpie to see where you’ve sharpened is pretty smart. Though, I’d have use the acetone over the sink, not my whetstones. And, after going through all the trouble of sharpening the knife and all, when you wash the acetone off, do it by hand. Dishwashers tend to dull knives because of all the banging around that happens.
So, you’ve got plenty of time and few excuses! Go sharpen up before it’s time to carve the turkey!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/25/2019

The Horror of Corporate Life

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Literally, horror rooted in corporate life.

On a bad day or week, the endless, repetitive drudgery of corporate life can seem like an endless horror story. I mean, we’ve all felt that from time to time, right? And, for those of us who seem to work harder and harder for less and less return, it can sometimes feel like there’s some hidden class of people, a separate breed in a way, that get ahead regardless of their work ethic. When we’re faced with the occasionally terrifying idea that the eldritch horror of our jobs may be something that no one else understands, well, it’s easy to think the corporate world may be some kind of cthonian conspiracy.
At least, this short film Corporate Monster seems to agree. And, it’s a fantastic way to celebrate both Halloween and your corporate servitude.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/22/2019

Everything Is Sales

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I work in IT because I didn’t want to do sales.

The only problem is, everything is sales.
Even though my degree is in Marketing and my very early career included a commission sales job that was so profitable for me I was able to write a check for my first used car, I prefer to work with technology. In college, I actually took classes in sales and salesmanship. My father, who was an inveterate salesman by both nature and trade, always used to tell me that everyone sells and everything is sales. I decided to follow a different career path, though, when I saw what a good salesperson had to do on a daily basis. I’m pretty self-directed, but even the best salesperson deals with more rejection in a day than I probably handle in more than a month. But, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t, ultimately, embraced the reality that everything is sales and I’m selling, one way or another, every day of my life. The thing is, so is everyone reading this, whether they realize it or not.
Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.
Any time in the past month, have you had to convince anyone that your plan for whatever you’re working on at the office is better than someone else’s? Maybe you’ve tried to convince someone that your restaurant choice is better than theirs? Those are both selling. The thing that people who haven’t done it don’t understand about sales is that you don’t sell products. You sell the idea that your product is the right product for the customer. Or, in my line of work, I sell the whatever idea I have about how things should work in an IT Department, or how IT can solve a business problem and how I’m the right person to implement that idea. Am I successful every time? Of course not, but I am selling every time I step up to pitch a project or procedure to my direct supervisor, my peers or other stakeholders in my company. And, the better I am at selling my ideas, the more work I get to do and the more interesting that work is to me. After all, given the choice, I’d much rather work on things that I think matter, are important or that teach me something new. Before I can do that, though, I have to sell my manager on the idea.
The other thing to keep in mind about selling, though, is that high-pressure sales doesn’t really work. There are still dedicated salespeople who will try those techniques, but that time, thankfully, has passed. All my training and experience has taught me that the single best way to sell, whether insurance or technology or patio furniture, is to sell the customer, or manager, on how I can solve their problem, whatever that may be. That, of course, means I have to talk to the person I’m selling to and find out what their needs are so I can show them how whatever I have will help. And, on the rare occasion that I don’t have something to sell them to fix their problem, I have to be smart and honest enough to acknowledge that and move on, or point them toward someone who can solve their problem, if I can.
Selling is one of the most challenging activities in my work day. In retrospect, even though I work in IT Infrastructure, I’m glad I have the experience and training of a salesperson. It turns out that my Dad was right after all; everything is sales!

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

10/18/2019

AI Art Generator

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Surrealism at its most tech?

Maybe.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days, especially the newish “generative adversarial network” variety. Generative adversarial networks, or “GANs”, really came to public attention, and mine, with the This Person Does Not Exist website that generates uncomfortably believable portraits based on machine learning through observation of other photos. It’s fascinating, but also a little disturbing.
Now, with the same technology, you can make art that is unique and based on computer generated output from a GAN at Artbreeder. Artbreeder makes more than portraits and can generate landscapes, creatures, albums covers and, yes, portraits. It can be totally random, or you can combine things from a list of photos or, for some options, change settings to effect the outcomes. It is free, but you’ll have to make an account that’s connected to an email address. And, you’re restricted to 25 downloads. The landscapes and portraits are the best, though, if you’re wanting to make a kind of abstract monster, that comes out well, too. You can see some of the things I’ve created at my profile page, but I definitely encourage you to set up a free account and play with it yourself.
It’s a fun, if surreal, way to waste a little time on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/11/2019

Paint Simulation

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I love free, weird, art-related stuff on the internet.

As you might have guessed since I share it here incessantly. Maybe it’s got to do with the fact that I was always encouraged to be practical as a kid. Or maybe it’s that I somehow ended up befriended by the world-renown artist, Mark Flood, who constantly encourages my crazier and more creative impulses. Either way, I’m always on the lookout for an art-related time-waster for a Friday afternoon when I should be working.
So, this week, before I share my artistic distraction, let me remind you that I was never a painter and am an absolute clumsy oaf. But, I never let that stand in the way of having fun with art, and neither should you. So, thanks to Boing Boing and David Li, I share with you “paint”. It’s a pretty incredible paint simulator that really gets a good, wet, well, painterly look to it. I felt like the brushes were hard to control and the overlapping paint was a bit of a mess, but that makes it the perfect thing to kill time without getting too serious about an end product. And, to me, an absolutely fun way to spend a few minutes on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, where I share the most original content I write.

10/9/2019

Value vs Expense

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Sometimes, the raw numbers don’t really tell us how expensive something is.

One of the regular struggles we have in IT is that we are an expense. The bottom line is that, for most businesses, we don’t generate revenue and are strictly a cost center. And, unfortunately, in my experience, because we’re a cost center, spending on technology is resented almost as much as paying the electric bill or paying taxes; a necessary evil. What gets lost, I think, is the value provided by technology. To start with, much like electricity, business generally doesn’t work at all without IT. Technology runs the point-of-sale systems and the Accounting systems that even make it possible to collect and track money. Without it, business would simply halt. But, beyond that, the cost of the actual technology often overshadows the value provided.
Not too long ago, I had this same argument with a fellow IT professional who was mired in the numbers. To their credit, they were examining a potential equipment purchase from a strictly financial point of view. Since the Accounting Department or CFO are often the final decision-makers on technology purchases, seeing this process through their eyes can be beneficial. The problem is that the full potential value of upgraded equipment can easily be forgotten in the drive to spend the absolute least dollar amount possible. Don’t get me wrong! Technology costs absolutely have to be kept under control or IT people will focus only on getting the newest toys to play without considering the cost to the organization. But, the actual spending has to be appropriately balanced with the value provided by the purchase. As technology professionals, it’s part of our job to present not only the minimum and best options available, but what advantages there may be to making a particular purchase. Sometimes, the value of upgraded technology goes well beyond the dollar value.
Take, for instance, the opportunity to upgrade from a standard two server, one storage area network system, that was new technology fifteen years ago, to a hyperconverged system that spreads computing and storage capacity across four servers or hosts. It’s absolutely valid to look at the raw cost of the two solutions. And, you will absolutely see that buying two classic servers is less expensive than buying four modern hyperconverged nodes. But, if you stop there, you don’t see the added value of less downtime due to a hardware outage that can be avoided by upgrading to a newer, redundant technology. Or, the increased speed and efficiency gained by upgrading to a modern system purpose-built to run in a cutting-edge datacenter. Maybe there will be more opportunity to add capacity to the new system as the company grows. Or maybe there are business continuity advantages to a hyperconverged system beyond additional, redundant hardware. Though, to be honest, I think that’s reason enough!
Regardless, my point is that as technology professionals, we need to clearly communicate all the risks and benefits, expenses and added values, of our purchases. As subject matter experts, it’s in everyone’s best interests for us to educate decision-makers beyond the dollars-and-cents bottom line, to give them a true understanding of the value to be gained beyond the simple expense of a purchase.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress
Any links to sites selling any reviewed item, including but not limited to Amazon, may be affiliate links which will pay me some tiny bit of money if used to purchase the item, but this site does no paid reviews and all opinions are my own.