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Michael Stanclift
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  • 04/30/18--17:00: VMware TAM
  • I have accepted a job with VMware, as a Technical Account Manager (TAM).

    To say I’m excited about this would be a gross understatement. VMware has been the company I’ve spent the majority of my technical focus on up to this point, and since announcing this change on Twitter last week I’ve been thrilled with the replies like “I’ve been here 4 years and it’s an amazing place to work.” During the interview process, one of the current TAM’s told me point blank: “This is the best job I’ve had in my career.” All of this has maintained a level of anticipation about this career change that I’ve not had for any other.

    It’s not as if this is a surprise because I interact with so many great people on a regular basis who work for VMware, who seem to genuinely love the work they’re doing. But it’s been refreshing to get the same messages from people I’d never even met before.

    The last year has been a rebuilding year, for me. In early 2017, I left my role as an data center engineer at a Value Added Reseller, to go back into a customer role. I had been working as a consultant for nearly six years, but prior to that I spent seven years on the customer side. So now I was back working 9-5, at the same desk. It was tough because I loved consulting, and I literally couldn’t wait to get back, but for various reasons I needed the transition. The role I took was intentionally outside my comfort zone, to force myself to do something different and pickup new skills. It was challenging in ways both expected and unexpected. The team I was working on has some great people, and it has been a fun to work with them, even if all the while I knew this wasn’t the place I wanted to stay at for very long.

    This year in transition was a change that I needed, being a customer was a place to lay low, reset, and figure out my future and my priorities. There was no travel and no on-call, not even an expectation to even have email on my phone, let alone respond after hours to it.

    But now I’m back, and ready to get to work doing what I love, for the company that I’ve spent the last decade focusing on, in the company of all the great people who’ve helped me get to this point.


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  • 07/26/18--17:00: Certified Expert
  • vmware-certified-implementation-expert-6-5-data-center-virtualization

    I’m pleased to announce that yesterday I passed the VCAP6.5-DCD exam, thus earning the VMware Certified Implementation Engineer – Data Center Virtulization “milestone” after elevating the VCAP5-DCA exam that I earned back in 2014.

    The DCD exam has been on my list of things to do since not long after I did the DCA. My first attempt was during the beta cycle for the 6.0 exam. The results for that exam took so long to be returned, and after shifting in job roles since then, I’d not had an oppertunity to sit for it until now. The 6.5 version of the exam differs from the 6.0 in that there are no longer the “Visio” style questions, which I think were problematic for the exam from the beginning. There are 60 questions consisting of multiple-choice, drag-n-drop, and multi-select questions, with 140 minutes to complete the exam. I was able to complete the exam in just under 90 minutes, and I didn’t feel like I was rushing.

    In terms of advice I can pass on to others who are interested in taking this exam, make sure that you understand:

    • AMPRS (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security)
    • RCAR (Requirement, Constraint, Assumption and Risk)
    • The difference between Functional and Non-Functional requirements

    If you are hands on with vSphere 6.5, especially working with vCenter HA, PSC/SSO and cluster design, you should have all of the bases covered. I have been removed from much of that in the day-to-day for the last year or two, so that was probably the more challenging part of the exam for me. I think if I’d done more to read up on differences between 5.x/6.0 and 6.5, I’d have come back with a better score. But, pass is pass.


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  • 12/11/18--06:50: Revisting ​​Essential
  • Back in July 2017, I wrote about my 10 essential iOS applications. I thought now that we’re reaching the end of 2018, it might be a good time to revisit that list.

    As I mentioned at the time:

    I find it helpful to mix things up from time to time, even going as far as doing a reset of my app icon layouts periodically to reshuffle the deck chairs and throw out any old cruft hiding in corners. One of my favorite activities is to delete apps that don’t get used anymore, or used enough to take up my attention. This time I took the approach of installing only the apps that I know I need on a daily basis, and then filling in the rest as the need for them arise.

    A few weeks ago, I took a similar approach but this time with a far more aggressive regimen. I uninstalled nearly every third-party application from my phone. Then I started to analyze the feature/function of every app and determine if the app itself provided something more than just a wrapper around an already functional mobile website.

    I find that having fewer things installed on my devices brings me some joy.

    Shopping, banking, social media, travel, news, food, weather, shipping. Almost app categories were fair game. About the only group that was mostly safe were apps that controlled the various smart devices around my house: Nest, Hue, eero, Rachio, Lutron, myQ, etc.

    From there, it was about finding the apps that were the truly essential apps in my workflow:

    • I recently switched to Outlook as my primary email/calendar application. This means I can displace the stock Mail and Calendar apps, as well as remove Fantastical, which was on my 2017 list. Currently, though, I’ve been experimenting with having only my work email in Outlook, and my personal email in the stock app, just for workload isolation. I can’t decide if there is more of less mental friction in keeping them together or keeping them separated.
    • I also have been using Microsoft To-Do as a reminders replacement, mostly because of the Tasks integrations with Outlook on Mac. (However, I’ve been bad recently *at actually doing *the things in here.) I’ve been comingling work and personal tasks in here. This has replaced Things for the time being.
    • 1Password is simply irreplaceable. You’ll pry it from my cold, dead hands.
    • Then there is Overcast for podcasts. I’ve experimented with alternatives in the last few months from the stock Podcasts app, Pocket Casts, and Castro, and always come home to Overcast for the basic reason that podcasts just sound better in there.
    • And of course, Tweetbot for Twitter. I just can’t quit you.
    • Shortcuts has replaced Workflow after Apple bought them and built much of it into iOS 12.
    • I keep the ads and other trackers away in Safari with Better.
    • I have Parcel setup to automatically track Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and USPS shipments, of which there are many this time of year. (Seriously, the entrance of my house looks like a loading dock right now.)
    • Zoom is a requirement for work.
    • As is Slack.
    • I’d be locked out of both of those without my RSA soft-token.
    • And I love the ability to upload receipts with Concur.
    • While authenticating through Workspace One.
    • AT&T Call Protect has become my new junk filter for phone calls. This replaced Nomorobo from the 2017 list, which is still a fantastic app, but AT&T’s app is network integrated.
    • Finally, despite my new love for Nespresso, I still have a requirement for Starbucks on the go and like to have my order ready as I walk in the door.

    From there I started a review with the assumption that I could avoid anything else. Despite quitting Facebook a couple years ago, I’m still on Instagram for close friends and family. I tried for weeks to limit myself to using the web app, in an effort to avoid another app install, but also having it try to entice me to spend more time in it with a dedicated shortcut on my home screen. After trying to limit my usage, I gave in and reinstalled it because it was just too damn hard not to.

    I had a similar experience with LinkedIn. The issue there was more around the usability of the website on a mobile device. It was pretty terrible. I’d like to keep this uninstalled but I occasionally end up dropping it back on and then off again. I’ve uninstalled it again recently.

    My primary bank has mobile check deposit, and I have family members who for some reason continue to write me checks despite showing the multitude of better ways to transfer money around. So it was a given for reinstall because the only thing worse than writing a check is having to physically go into a bank. So 2007.

    I had Microsoft OneDrive installed for accessing work files from my phone, but realized I never used it outside of the native integration of the Outlook app. So, I deleted it. This may return if I find some other reason I was using it.

    Target came back, despite my original wipe of shopping applications because of its store card being integrated with the app. The only thing I like more than being able to delete an application from my phone is taking a physical card out of my wallet.

    IMG_2276

    A few other apps that were considered essential in 2017, I’ve since abandoned. Carrot Weather is great, and probably one of the best third-party weather apps on iOS, but I find the stock app to be good enough most of the time. Pcalc is another great app, but I don’t find myself needing to calculate anything so complicated at the stock app can’t get the job done. Cloak was on the list last time and has since been sold and rebranded as encrypt.me. Like many things that get sold, it just doesn’t feel like it has the same level of love and care as the original owners, and so it’s been cut.


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  • 01/22/19--08:44: Excess Battery
  • I recently picked up an iPhone XS Smart Battery Case, for my iPhone X. I’ve previously owned the 6S battery case for my iPhone 6, and the iPhone 7 case. Let me first say that even though Apple has designed the case for the XS, it worked on the X running iOS 12.2.2 without any effort.

    MRXK2_AV3_GEO_US

    The two cosmetic issues of not being designed specifically for the X is that because the camera housing on the XS is slightly taller than the X, the cutout on the back of the case leaves a little extra space that wouldn’t be seen when using an XS. This is … fine, I know it’s there, but unless you make a habit of putting your camera six inches away from your target, no one else would ever see it.

    The other issue is that the speaker grills on the XS are not symmetrical, but it is on the X, so the XS case doesn’t have cutouts that match that at the bottom. However, from what I understand, the additional holes on the X grill serve no purpose. They’re just there for aesthetics, so there is no loss of functionality. On the XS there is an antenna line on the exterior of the case, so Apple did away with the faux-holes entirely.

    Comparing the new case to previous iterations, they’re functionally very similar. Some reviews have mentioned that there is no passive antenna array on the new cases, as there was with the 6S and 7 version. I did not rip the silicone off to verify this. According to Rene Riche, the XS case runs at a higher voltage that yields a total of 10.1 Wh of energy compared to 7.13 Wh for the iPhone 6/6s case and 8.98 Wh for the iPhone 7 case. Otherwise, it features the same Lightning pass-through that allows you to charge both the phone and the case, or hook up to a car stereo or iTunes without any issues. When using a “fast charging” setup such as an 18W charging adapter and USB-C to Lightning cable, the case and phone are able to leverage the additional power delivery.

    MN012_AV1_SILVER

    I have mixed feelings about the new design of the bottom of the case, compared to previous battery cases. I really like that there isn’t a chin that extends off the phone anymore, although on the previous designs this provided a channel to redirect the sound to the front of the phone, which was great for watching videos and not having to cup the end of the phone with your hand to “boost” the sound towards your head. The more obvious solution to this is use headphones and not expose your audio with the world like an animal, but sometimes you just want to share.

    The chin on previous versions houses the charging circuitry and controller for the battery. The lack of chin means these electronics have relocated to the back of the case. I think the new design looks better than just having a straight up hump in the middle of the case, although it means it’s not as easy to hold one-handed from the bottom. The hump in previous designs gave you a place to rest your pinky. (Yes, I do the pinky support the bottom grip thing which I’m sure is bad for my hand.) It’s harder for me to single hand type with the case on, but that could be like any form factor change, requiring some time to adapt.

    Back in my day, the 4″ iPhone 5 felt “huge,” and now we have people palming the iPhone XS Max like it’s no big deal.

    Usually, I’m caseless or use the Apple Leather Case which doesn’t have any coverage of the bottom of the phone. Because of this, I’m aggressive with my swipe gestures up from the bottom of the phone, but that is annoying with the addition of a case lip. If I actively adjust my swipe it works and doesn’t catch, so I have to train myself to do that.

    MTET2_AV2_GEO_US

    Unlike previous iterations of the Smart Battery Case, this one has Qi charging integrated, and it is fantastic. I have about nine Qi chargers in my house now, so if Qi weren’t a supported option, I wouldn’t have even bothered to test the case. The Qi charging target seems smaller for the battery case than on the X without the case. I’ve become pretty accustomed to throwing my phone on a charger and getting it placed where it would juice up without much effort.

    Many times I placed the case’d phone on a wireless charger it required adjustment to get it in the exact right spot. The Qi target is at the top of the battery bulge, so it ends up being the middle of the phone, but based on the layout one could expect it to be in the middle of the bulge.

    The case came out of the box with a minimal charge, and I didn’t focus on giving a dedicated charge to the case that day (it can be charged wired or wireless, independent of the phone) so I think it was at around 7% when I went to bed. When I woke up 7 hours later, the phone and case were at 100% charge on both. After a morning banging away on it, I was at 87% on the case, 100% on the phone. As for heat while charging or in usage, I’ve not noticed anything hotter than I would on a naked phone.

    IMG_2827

    One thing I would like to see is some more “Smart” around when the battery is engaged in the iOS battery status. Using the case means always being at 100% for the phone until the case is depleted, and it would be nice to see some statistics around the charge status of the case in this view.

    One other concern: I did perceive a minor drop in signal strength when using the phone, for both LTE and Wi-fi. Putting the phone in Field Test Mode, I was able to see changes to “RSRP” and “SINR” values on cellular, with the case on and off in nearly identical conditions. I didn’t do this testing extensively or average out across different sites and times. I also didn’t test this with an XS, so while it is possible this is due to the case not being designed for the X, it could also just be expected for this case. I’m also not a wireless engineer, so I don’t truly understand what all the values mean and what all the variables are.

    Wi-fi signal indicators also could be decreased when the case was on, in a corporate environment. I did not test throughput or any other values. I don’t want to speculate or say that my results are typical, so I’ll let someone who understands this more dig into it.

    Overall, I think it’s a solid product, but it’s not for me. Sadly this is the same conclusion that I’ve come with previous iterations. I just don’t like a lot of extra bulk on my phone. My wife has gotten way more mileage out of me owning those previous case iterations than I ever did, using them 24/7 for many months during the release cycles. The extra battery helps offset a Facebook app that sucks it up like a Dyson does dirt on my floor. However she recently switched to an iPhone XR, and the battery life has been pretty stellar, to where the case may not be necessary.

    With the aforementioned abundance of Qi chargers in my home, a general dislike of all iPhone cases, and an Anker battery with 72.36 Wh, featuring USB-C PD in my daily bag, I don’t think it’s worth it for me to have the extra bulk on the phone all the time.


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  • 04/19/19--14:00: Kernel Panic
  • I’ve been thinking for over two years about how to talk about this, how to talk about the day I couldn’t process anymore. The day where my bullshit buffers overflowed. The day of my internal kernel panic. When starved for resources, my brain finally threw up a PSOD, and quit.

    vmstan 1.0 build 11091983  
    PCPU 0 locked up. Failed to ack.  
    frame=4C lbs=E1 age=21  
    VMK uptime: 9:15:33:45.014  
    No coredump target configured
    

    If there were some predictive analytics running on me back then, it would have been evident that this was coming for a long time. Unbeknownst to anyone else, I knew that I couldn’t keep up and that I couldn’t go on forever in my degraded state. The warning signs were all there, but no one was reading the logs.

    The root cause analysis would tell you: lousy code embedded on possibly flawed hardware. No permanent fix, but mitigations are available.

    I have depression.

    My crash that day was in part because I was pretending there wasn’t a problem. For years I would think to myself “I should go to a therapist,” but you’d never catch me say the words out loud, to anyone. It was the result of repressing emotions for years, the consequence of not wanting to admit to anyone else that I could have a problem.

    I was an anxious child. Even as far back as eight years old, I remember spending a lot of time in a state of worry. Thinking about if my family had enough money or fearing what would happen at school. It was around this time that I started to get bullied — teased continuously about how skinny I was, or about how I didn’t have an issue hanging out with girls on the playground. I had a “friend” who lived up the street, who’d do things like sucker-punch me in the stomach. I was, from an early age, an attractive target for people who wanted to make themselves feel better at my expense.

    Spock

    Getting to junior high school, around age 12, was a chance to reset. While the peer bullies didn’t completely disappear, I found a group of like-minded friends with a common interest. I immediately got involved with our school’s nascent computer club, and we did at the time what seemed crazy for a bunch of 12-year-olds in 1996 — we made a website for our school that won a grant from Microsoft for $20,000.

    The grant enabled our club to purchase a 16-system Windows NT lab for our school. The members of the club built and ran the lab, and for nearly three years this was the real focus of my school day. The librarians would pull me out of class anytime there was an issue, of which there were many.

    I was 13 and trying to manage NT security policies without any training, without Google to fall back on. What could go wrong?

    My final year there, the advisors put an incredible amount of stress on me to keep the lab running. One of them was working on getting more technology-related grants for the school and district. They had to show off our lab, my lab, as a way they were using the new technology to benefit the educational process in the school. Their efforts were complicated when the lab didn’t work.

    If I couldn’t do the job, they were going to let someone else handle it, or worse, give it to the school district IT department to manage. I took an immense amount of personal pride in this project, and while in hindsight I shouldn’t have been the only one responsible, at the time I felt a lot of ownership for it.

    It all came to a head when I walked into a club meeting, to a sign posted by the adult sponsor that said: “fix the lab, or else.” — In front of the entire club I went on an angry tirade, but not in front of the sponsors who were, in that moment, hiding somewhere far away. Whatever the issues with the lab were, whatever their reasoning, it didn’t necessitate the behavior that was targeted at me by an adult. The damage to my psyche was there. Soon after my mother finally found out what was going on, and went all Momma Grizzly on them, they backed off.

    I’d had my first moment of IT burnout.

    I spent my high school years in the jazz and marching bands. I became the editor of my high school newspaper. Instead of the club, I’d organize LAN parties for my friends, and I had a side project that involved running a dedicated server for web hosting, with around 30 clients.

    After working in retail while sporadically attending college, I landed my first real IT role working as a network analyst for a private university. I had supportive management who in hindsight let me do all kinds of crazy things. We didn’t have the money to hire professional services, so we implemented our own ESX clusters in 2007. Storage, backups, security, data center networking, campus wireless, we did it all.

    I got to touch everything in the environment, and sometimes do things that would blow it up.

    Kirk

    It was there that I would spearhead a virtual desktop project that ended up gaining notoriety, with case studies and awards. I was busy but incredibly proud of the work that I was doing. I found my job stressful but very satisfying. There were some personalities, like any place, but it was fulfilling. When I have dreams about going back to work at an old employer, this is the place. However, the pay was lacking and I was newly married and planning on starting a family.

    In 2010, I started working for a software company which at the time was “the company” to work for in the area … and I was pretty miserable for the first few months.

    In almost every way, the new company was a great place to be with more money and better benefits. It was a goal of mine to work for them for a long time. I intentionally bought my first house in proximity to their building and within a year had a job there as a systems administrator. The company had a lot of great people working for them, and it was a very relaxed workplace with lots of new technology coming in the door every month. We even had a regulation-sized dodgeball court down the hall from the datacenter. There was a slide between floors. And yet, I was uncomfortable.

    As strange as this sounds, I missed my VDI environment.

    Eventually, I started finding fulfillment in the new projects that I was assigned. I needed to show my new coworkers that I was worthy of sitting alongside them. I’m probably always harder on myself than others are of me, in this respect.

    Very quickly, I started building some great relationships with my coworkers there, but my time in the role would be short-lived. The company was acquired, and it became apparent that the new owners were not interested in being in the IT business. Outsourcing firms did the hands-on administration in their corporate environment, and as a result, all our jobs were now in jeopardy.

    Nothing bonds a small group of coworkers together like knowing upper management is out to get you. My direct manager did his best to shield us from this, and to set us up in positions that wouldn’t be as impacted, but he could only do so much and in the end, for his sanity, left to take an architecture role with a VAR. He was a big part of that team being successful, and we all wanted to follow him, and continue working with each other, so by the end of 2011, one-by-one we all got engineering roles at the same VAR.

    “Value Added Reseller”

    Now, if you’ve never worked for a VAR, I would suggest listening to the Datanauts podcast from April of last year, to help get an understanding of what VAR-life is. Being a post-sales engineer, you’re an essential part of the “value” the customer is purchasing. Initially, it took a lot of work to adjust to this life. At first, I thought it was because I missed having ownership of my infrastructure. For the first couple of years before walking into a client I’d never dealt with before, I’d sit in my car in a state of severe anxiety. Mostly afraid that customer would be the one to unmask me as a massive fraud. After repeatedly not being discovered, I decided my secret was safe.

    Batman

    But in hindsight I was never happy. I might have acted that way to customers and coworkers that I interacted with on projects, but inside there was something else growing.

    I never felt like I belonged as an employee of the company. Other than the people I’d come into the job with from the previous employer, in many ways I felt out of place among my coworkers. I worked there, but I didn’t feel like I belonged there. Not to say I despised every one I worked with, far from it. I was friendly with most everyone I worked with and spent my 4 o’clock hour on the phone daily with a couple of them to commiserate on the events of the day. But, not to dwell on the details, sometimes standards for professionalism and etiquette were not always in lock step with the rest of the organization.

    After a few years of toiling through grunt work, there were a few key technologies that I had worked myself up to “expert” status on, so customers, sales teams, and project managers would want me to work those implementations regardless of where in the midwest they were located. I started traveling too much, but in some ways, it was the intended result of my goal to become so relied on that I was the best or only choice, for my job security. So, I didn’t complain.

    I rarely complained to management about anything there; I was more adept at just doing the work. I was making pretty good money and concerned that I couldn’t do better anywhere else, but most of all, I was subject to a restrictive non-compete agreement. I was already getting a lot of flak from my family for changing jobs as often as I did, despite knowing that it was pretty standard for people in this industry.

    My father, in contrast, has had two jobs in 40 years, and if he wasn’t laid off from the first in the early 1990s, he might still be there.

    After three years, I thought about leaving. After four, I looked around but got turned down in the final round for what at the time would have been my “dream job” — Even after a few months from being turned down, when that company got acquired, and it was apparent that the “dream” would have been a nightmare, I still felt resentment. I’d never been turned down after making it through that many interviews, and I didn’t want to do it again. So, I turned down multiple opportunities to interview for positions with VMware shortly after that.

    My customers were continually satisfied with my work, and I enjoyed the challenges presented in doing it. My boss put me in for substantial raises and bonuses each year, and so I collected an ever-increasing paycheck. I kept thinking it’d all get better soon. Despite all that, while I was still miserable, I stayed silent.

    I thrived in darkness.

    Meanwhile, the state of the world seems to be mirroring the darkness that I was feeling inside. By the fall of 2016, I’m a secretly broken person floating from day to day, hoping I’d wake up and eventually all the crap inside will go away and feel “normal” again … but it never does; it only gets worse. I’m now spending too much time on social media being angry at everything, and like swimming in the pink slime in Ghostbusters, I’m just feeding off the negative energy of everyone else.

    Ghostbusters

    I began feeling paranoid about the world around me. It would start the moment that I woke up in the morning, and last until the night came as I sat in my children’s bedrooms, worried that someone was going to break into the house, and take them away. I always thought about all the terrible things that could happen to my family or me. I’d think about the danger lurking behind every corner, about all the terrible people in the world. When I would be out of town for work, as I was frequently, I’d be mostly unable to sleep.

    I’m thankful that I’ve never really had much of a taste for alcohol, but I’d eat terrible meals while traveling and continue to gain weight. My back hurt and I’d have headaches all the time, something that I’ve had to deal with ever since I was a teenager.

    But of course, I told this to no one. I’d have my yearly physical and during the mental health screening, lie-lie-lie through the whole thing. I knew what the doctor wanted to hear because I’d been telling the same lies my entire life. If the doctor couldn’t find it, I wasn’t going to volunteer the information.

    It’s not as if I thought that by being honest in my answers, they’d send me away to an asylum. It was that everyone would discover my weakness. It was something else that someone could direct against me, or maybe worse when everyone else found out they’d feel sorry for me: “Poor Michael, he’s not tough enough.”

    I’d be in the system as having a problem. It didn’t matter that these doctors were the same people who would prescribe me antibiotics for my chronic sinus infections, and that never seemed to bother me — now we’re talking about being marked as having a mental health issue.

    Then at age 33, I was bullied, again.

    I knew it was going to be a problem almost as soon as it started, and I remember the moment it began. Sitting in a Zaxby’s restaurant in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, just checking Twitter — as I all too frequently do — I’d just flown in on a Sunday afternoon for a week-long project. I’d never been to Zaxby’s before, so I was looking forward to trying something new, but instead, this was the lunch when everything went from bad to awful. Now the harassment started, and later that night is when my Twitter impersonator first appeared.

    When you’re worried about people in the world coming after you, it doesn’t help matters when they do.

    I fought back the harassment by effectively doing nothing, hoping they’d give up by not getting a reaction out of me, but there it was every time I’d open Twitter. I’d see some shitty comment about me or something about my wife. Maybe something about the things that I was passionate about or someone from the community being targeted, with my name and likeness. When I thought it would help, I’d play whack-a-mole with Twitter to get accounts closed for impersonation or abuse, but they’d just come back.

    The harassment went on for a little over a month, and then finally, around 3 pm on a Friday, I’d come home from a particularly complicated customer site and opened Twitter to find another shitty comment. Another fucking tweet. At that moment, I crashed.

    Angry

    I make analogies to a server crashing, because in hindsight that’s what felt like was happening. I couldn’t think, I just started crying, and I nearly threw up. My stomach had been in knots for weeks up to this point, but it felt like everything was coming undone. My body was still moving, but for some time I wasn’t in control. I remember very clearly everything that day leading up to that moment, but very little during the event. What wasn’t de-staged from the cache when the controller died, is gone.

    I didn’t have to tell my wife. It was impossible for her not to know; she was there when the crash happened and immediately went into action to get me help. I knew something like this was coming, so I’d been trying to reach out to a therapist in the days prior, but could never get our schedules synchronized. By chance, the therapist called me that afternoon in the middle of my panic, and I let it all go to her over the phone, having never met with her previously. She could tell just by the tone of my voice, my breathing, that I needed immediate care. Off to the emergency room, I went.

    For the first night in a long while, I felt a little better.

    I got sent home with a temporary prescription for Xanax, and a directive to talk to my doctor. The strange thing is that while I felt better because I finally let my secret out, I spent the weekend an absolute wreck. The flood gates of emotion had opened, and I had a backlog of questions to address. I also knew that there was no going back and that I would be forced to tackle even more issues and make some significant changes in my life.

    For a while, what transpired in the aftermath of that night, left me feeling betrayed by some people that I thought I could trust, and feeling helpless. Like so many times in life before, I was told by those who had the power to stop what was going on, that there was nothing they were willing to do, that this was my problem, and that I was to blame. My pain was always my fault. It’s never the responsibility of the people who were inflicting it.

    I don’t know what exactly motivates people to be so cruel to others. It’s unfortunate, but in the end, we are all flawed individuals. Even the bullies are coping. It doesn’t matter if they’re a kid in school or adults who act like children. It could be a teacher who is supposed to be looking out for the kids, and not their self-serving interests. I might cope with my issues by becoming withdrawn from others. They might deal by lashing out, by letting the demons inside them come out and feed the beast hiding in others.

    I quickly began looking for a new job, far away from the life I was leading. No travel. Regular hours. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to stay in the same realm of IT. These events are why I spent a year at a customer in a role that I was utterly dispassionate about; it was a place to hide and regroup. Even though I was physically in a different situation, I was still a mess of a human being inside. If you worked with me there, you don’t even know the real me. It was a period of my life where I’m not even sure I knew who the real me was. I’d wonder that every day, and it still crosses my mind. I told almost no one there about what had happened — no one on my team, or my boss. Truthfully, I was ashamed.

    My brain needed to heal.

    I now take medication for something I acknowledge is both an internal and an environmental condition. Every one of us is a collection of biology and experiences that got us to this point in our lives. Great athletes can be physically superior to others, but neglect the gray-matter between their ears, too.

    Since that fateful day:

    • I have gone to therapy to discuss my issues with bullies, and other factors that contribute to my anxiety and depression.
    • I try to listen to my body and recognize both the internal and the external factors that get me worked up, and avoid them to get centered and calm my brain.
    • I have more routines that help me regulate how I keep myself organized.
    • When I go to the doctor, I tell her what is wrong.

    The awareness that I have now about my self makes this much more manageable. But this is a daily, sometimes hourly, practice. Even in doing all of these things though, this isn’t something you just beat; you can have things under control and still have struggles.

    Even in moments of achievement, I can be prone to feeling depressed. I don’t have to have a bully or be in a bad situation. Brains are funny like that. When VMware hired me in April of last year, I felt as if I’d reached a highpoint in my career and celebrated the realization of a decade long goal. Almost instantly after signing my offer, I started to worry.

    Imposter syndrome began to kick in.

    What would happen to me if this didn’t go well? How soon would it be before everyone I’d respected up to this point found out that I was a massive fraud? Where would I work, what would I do, how would I feed my family!? I was having heartburn, trouble sleeping, and always worried that it would all come crashing down. The dark side of my brain was back, trying to sabotage me again.

    Hulk

    But you know what helped this? Doing the work, having a positive and supportive management team, but mostly just talking to my teammates and others about their struggles. To quit being afraid of “getting caught” and freely admit what I know and what I don’t. Realizing that this is the most fabulous job I’ve ever had, in the company of some of the smartest and kindest people I’ve ever met. A year later I wake up and get dressed and wonder how this happened. Sharing my thoughts, and opening up to let them do the same. We all had the same fears. We were not alone.

    Every single person you meet is dealing with their devil inside. You don’t have to be to the point where you’re contemplating the end of your life. Your best friend can appear to you to have things rightly figured out, yet be suffering in total silence, never showing any outward sign of the struggles they’re going through. Nothing can be “wrong,” and yet they can be in pain. The jerk in line at the coffee shop may always be a jerk, or you possibly caught them on a bad day. Your coworker can be fighting to keep his kids while his ex-wife tries to move them across the country, and every extra hour at work is just a distraction to keep his mind off the fight.

    This story has sat in my drafts folder for over a year. What started as a rambling journal that was never planned to see the light of day, has been evolving as I get more perspective on my recovery from that life. As I’ve contemplated my journey, I noticed something else happening. People I knew and respected were now becoming vocal about their similar issues. Whereas previously I felt as if I was the only one, I now see where I am one of many.

    Eric Lee, who I’d known both as a co-worker, client and community leader for many years, posted his story. The parallels were striking, especially in the overlap of where we’d worked and what we’d done in our careers. The next day I took him out to lunch and shared my story. I would watch his presentations about what he calls “IT Burnout” at VMUG and other settings. I’d contemplate how I needed to tell my story, but I was still scared.

    Madmen

    More and more people would start to tell their stories, and I’d privately share mine with more people. Aaron Buley started sharing his struggles on his YouTube channel. He posted a video called “All Humans Struggle – Depression” which calls it for what it is. Cody De Arkland talks about carrying baggage, Erik Shanks talks about the dark side of stress, and Al Rasheed quoted Paul Simon. Even the CTO of Citrix has a story to tell.

    I call them out as examples from the Greater Virtualization Community, but it’s not just them. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has talked about his struggles. Jon “Mad Man” Hamm has as well. Here are two people who play tough guys on TV, yet struggle in real life. We see these people and realize they’re actors playing a part, but it’s not far off from the persona that we share with the public and the one inside of each of us.

    Then there are “real people” like Jason Kander. Someone who has served in Missouri state office then ran for the U.S. Senate and later led a nationwide voting rights organization. He was in the process of running for mayor of Kansas City when he abruptly brought his campaign to a halt to declare that, he too, was broken — struggling with depression as a result of PTSD from his time as an Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan.

    It is in those moments that I remember; we all have struggles.

    And I’m done being quiet about mine.

    Picard

    ♥️


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  • 05/08/19--09:17: Gigacast Appearance
  • I was recently a guest on Gigacast, along with Cody de Cody De Arkland and Al Rasheed, to discuss mental health and my recent Kernel Panic post.

    You can watch it on YouTube in the video embedded below, or listen on the go in Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Castro, or wherever else fine podcasts are found.


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  • 05/28/19--11:42: Feeling Helpless
  • For a while, what transpired in the aftermath of that night, left me feeling betrayed by some people that I thought I could trust, and feeling helpless. Like so many times in life before, I was told by those who had the power to stop what was going on, that there was nothing they were willing to do, that this was my problem, and that I was to blame. My pain was always my fault. It’s never the responsibility of the people who were inflicting it.

    Kernel Panic

    I sat there motionless, unable to speak.

    I could have said something, anything, but I didn’t know what to say. It was the mental equivalent to getting the wind knocked out of me. Instead, I just sat there and focused all my attention at the water bottle sitting in front of me.

    It was a dimly lit room, where I sat at the end of a long narrow conference room table, with the window behind me and the door at the opposite end of the room. To my left was my direct manager, who almost six years prior had been the one to call and offer me the job, but less than a month before this day had told me that she didn’t believe me. “Delete your account,” was her advice.

    On my right was the human resources director, who’d been in that role the entire time I had worked there, and who had pleasantly reminded me shortly before the meeting, that “sometimes life is hard.” Towards the end of the table was the CEO, who’d just been hired from outside the firm at the end of the previous year.

    “If you can’t handle working here, you have technical skills that you can take somewhere else.”

    Those were the words from a man I barely knew, but up until that point seemed like he would have been a force for change in an organization that desperately needed it, words that left me hollowed-out inside. I like to think he didn’t mean it to be a cruel statement, but in that moment it sucked the life out of me.

    Six years of service ignored, my state of mind, ignored.

    The meeting on this Monday afternoon had started with an apology, from me. Hours before the start of the weekend, in a trance fueled by a dump of adrenaline, I’d called and left my manager a voicemail that I would come to regret, where I demanded that the company help me, but said the magic words that would suddenly make me a threat. Now, here we were three days later, sitting in silence.

    Other words were said, but I don’t remember the details. I asked to leave the room, went into the stairwell of our building, and broke down. I stumbled out of the building and out to the van where my wife was had been waiting with our children in the car. The next time I’d ever set foot in that office would be the last time.

    It was in the front seat that the rage escaped my body; I screamed and repeatedly punched the dashboard of the vehicle. My wife pulled the car out of the parking lost and drove me to my already scheduled doctor’s appointment.

    My blood pressure baseline is generally 118/79; that afternoon, the reading was 130/92.


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  • 01/01/20--14:52: Resolution Delusion
  • I'm not one for making new years resolutions. They always get broken, and then you're disappointed in yourself. However, Brent Simmons posted something on Inessential which I think is a good goal for anyone this year:

    My resolution is to try harder to get angry only when it’s actually worth it. I can be angry at cruelty, angry at the forces destroying democracy for their own corrupt power, angry at the malevolences driving our climate crisis. ... But I need to not get angry just because Instruments won’t profile my app, or I get a robocall, or someone on Twitter completely missed the point of something I wrote.

    If I did have a resolution, it would be this coupled with the idea of acting with intentionality. Beyond any specific philosophical meaning to that word, I would use it to mean acting with intention, moving with a purpose, being present in the moment, and focusing in getting things done.

    Maybe I do have a resolution.


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  • 01/02/20--13:05: Thirty Eight K
  • I've historically been pretty terrible at two things: negotiating salaries, and promoting to my own skills. As someone who freely admits the movie of his life story could very well be titled The Imposter Syndrome, when it came time to discuss with a recruiter or hiring manager what I was worth, I've been a slow learner.

    The question that prompted this blog post.

    In 2010, I worked for a private university making roughly $38k a year. Technically, it was $19.21 an hour, as my position wasn't considered elegible for salary, and they considered 38 hours a week to be full time. At this point in time I had a bit of experience running infrastructure/systems under my belt, but absolutely no concept of my true worth in terms of the industry. I had completed a project that gained a lot of notoriety and praise, case studies and awards, but I had no certifications and no college degree.

    I started at the university doing desktop support in 2006, and moved up to a "network analyst" position a year after. My primary responsibilies included managing the dorm network, campus anti-virus system, backups and creating the images that would be deployed to new desktop systems. We adopted VMware virtualization at ESX 3.0 shortly after my promotion so I quickly picked up storage and networking, then databases, messaging, and all the rest as we were a very small team supporting 4,000 users. We couldn't afford to specialize too much, and in education everything is discounted, including the people.

    Recently married, and thinking of having kids, I knew I could be doing better but had no solid concept of what I was worth. This was in the infancy of Twitter and the vCommunity, there wasn't the level of openness there is now around softskills, and pay. The only thing I knew is that wanted to specifically get a job with a software company based in the town where my wife and I had recently bought a home. One frustrating day at work I went to go check their careers page, found a listing for a System Administrator, and applied, then started a Staycation.

    One early morning the next week my phone rang, it was a recruiter with said company. I was sleeping in because this was two years before my first child was born and I was on vacation, not expecting any life altering phone calls. "Is this a good time to talk?" Well, not really, but half-asleep I started answering pre-screen interview questions, when the dreaded one finally came: “How much are you looking to make?” I'd only thought briefly about it to this point.

    “Fifty thousand a year.”

    Now when you’re making $38K, this is a big jump. My wife, who was working at the time, had a masters degree in accounting and a CPA license – and even she wasn’t even doing that well. What I was asking for seemed like a lot of money, in my mind.

    Over the next couple weeks I went through a few interviews. Finally one day as I was walking into lunch, the recruiter calls to offer me the job. The salary: $50,000.

    I didn’t negotiate at all. I wasn't sure that I was in a position to even try. I wanted to work for this company as much or more than they wanted to employ me and when you don’t know your value it’s hard to think you can convince anyone else of it. In the moment, I was pretty excited, but as I was eating lunch I started to also wonder if I should be worried by how quickly they came back with exactly my original number? Should I have asked for more? Could I have got more?

    What I didn’t realize at the time, is that I’d just helped sink the hopes of some folks in my new department looking for raises. What I’d asked for was indeed the going rate for admins there, perhaps even a little bit lower, so HR was happy to oblige my request. The other folks I'd soon sit next to had hoped it would take more to bring in someone with the relevant skill set, to justify them getting their own salaries adjusted. The topic of pay would come up frequently among members of my new team.

    The software company was privately held, but during my interview process they announced they were being acquired. I decided to accept the offer reguardless, and a few weeks into the new role we officially became a subsidiary of Lexmark. Yes, that Lexmark, the purveyors of those fine ink jet printers you remember so fondly from 1999.

    After a few months of mostly nothing changing, people from Lexington, Kentucky who were our peers started to show up and try to learn about our operations. After getting to know them a bit and discovering they're not all evil, we wanted to know pretty much one thing ... what their pay scale was.

    Folks in our roles there made around $85k. That was maybe the first time I truly realized how off balance my own valuation was.

    My previous boss had once encouraged me not to leave the university for anything less than $85k — more than double what I made at the time — and I honestly couldn’t tell if he was serious of full of shit. My pay inequity there had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with the nature of the university. If I’d pressed for more money there, I might have got some more, but nothing close to that number. Everyone there was (and probably still is) grossly underpaid.

    Around this time our manager at the software company decided to leave, and one by one those of us on our team started getting interviews and offers to join him. By this point the pretense of not discussing salary has dropped between us, and so when the first offer letter anyone received came in we all reviewed it. To our surprise and excitement, this kicked off a bidding war between the two companies, with our current employer being the winner. My team lead got the next offer though, $80k with a $5k bump after certification. He was out.

    Then came my turn, and after the interviews, the hiring manager calls to give me an offer of ... $67k.

    Wait, what? This couldn't be right, why was I getting so much less? My wife straight up didn’t want me to take it, and I was about 50/50, but thought "well if the last guy went into a bidding war, now is my chance to use this as leverage to get my own counter offer." I didn't want to leave, so much as I just wanted what was starting to seem like a fair deal.

    Apparently HR decided that I wasn’t worth it, there would be no counter offer. In hindsight there's really not a reason to blame them. I'd only been there a year and didn't do a lot of highlight myself or make it seem like I was so valuable that there was a cost associated with me leaving. They got me for the price they did not more than 12 months earlier, why would I be worth so much more now, just because I realized it? And in reality, I couldn't even get the market to pay it.

    So, I left, for just a slightly larger bump than I got to come there.

    The company I landed at did end up promoting me and steadily providing healthy salary increases over the six years I was there. I would finally hit the magic $85k target, in 2013.


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  • 01/03/20--17:18: Nonsense Awareness
  • Jessica Joy Kerr in her blog post titled “Open your eyes to the nonsense” has a great anecdote from a friend, about the software development process at a utility company:

    “We make power, not sense.”

    But she goes on to make a wider point about evaluating the existing culture and processes of institutions.

    Culture doesn’t make sense, to anyone from outside. Culture is common sense, to anyone embedded in it. To understand and work with a large organization, let go of trying to make sense of it. Observe it and see what’s there. After that, logic might help in finding ways to work skillfully inside it, maybe even to change it.

    This applies to organizations of any size and in every industry, although the nonsense obviously increases in complexity as they scale, as all things do.

    Far too often people expect consultants or an "expert" to come in and tell them  how to make things perfect. In the past I'd only work with customers in a very narrow window, typically to implement one or maybe a handful of technologies. Best case I'd get repeat customers and learn more about their business requirements, and how they operate as an organization and how they make decisions. But more often than not I'd offer recommendations based on general experience and hope that there aren’t unforeseen consequences in the environment.

    I’m also more interested in seeing what everyone in the room has to say about their requirements before I offer what could be an otherwise ignorant or unconsidered opinion. It's not that I'm necessarly afraid of being wrong, but different people from different backgrounds in different departments with different goals often see things... differently.

    One of the things I particularly enjoy about my role as a VMware TAM, is that I get the runway to have these conversations and collect information with the customer, to advise over the long term as opposed to some two day "best practice review" and then run off to the next project.

    Once in a while, companies can adopt technologies in greenfield environments where you can take everything about the vendor’s best practice and apply them. But more often than not, you have to find a way of blending the two. The trick, I suppose, is knowing how much of the old ideas and processes are actually still required and why. You rarely get that in an hourlong conversation. In order to do that you need to understand more than just the business and the technical requirements.

    You have to understand the culture in which it will operate.


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  • 01/04/20--13:23: Outlook Overload
  • For the last couple weeks I’ve been confused why Microsoft Outlook on my Mac would start consuming over 100% CPU while sitting idle, spinning up my fans, and generating a bunch of disk write activity.

    At first I assumed it was because I am running the Fast Ring in order to run the new macOS design. However, the same build on my wife’s Mac, also running Catalina, never came anywhere near that even during what could be described only as “aggressive emailing.”

    After messing around with adding and deleting accounts, hoping another beta update would fix it ... I finally got the idea to just drag Outlook to the Trash, and let Hazel detect this and offer to dump all of the associated files (cache, settings, etc) with it.

    After I put Outlook back in Applications, and effectively set it up as new, everything is back to normal. 0.4% CPU


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  • 01/06/20--15:03: Skip Day
  • It turns out that finding something to write about every day is really hard. Shocking, I know. You may have noticed (or, maybe not) that January 1-4 there was a new post here every day. I skipped yesterday, but I blame my participation with this tweet from Jehad.

    Not really, I knew I wasn’t going to keep up posting every day. I had a lot of free time on my hands, especially after New Years Day. Today was the first day back to work after being off since December 20. The first half of this time was spent participating in, and in preparation of, the various holiday celebrations our family was invited to.

    Not having work things rolling around in my brain, having ample downtime, gives me a chance to reflect on life. Which in turn prompted me to write them down. Lucky you. Going forward I hope to get at least a couple of posts done every week, for my benefit if anything. Three would probably be a stretch goal.

    On Privilege

    I take this time period off every year, or at least try to. When I worked for the university starting, in 2006, we just had this time period off as the campus was completed closed. Students didn't come back until around MLK Day, so even after returning to campus it was eerily quite, but gave us a couple weeks to catch up and finish any small projects and prepare for the spring semester.

    Even the VAR that I worked for, it was expected that only a skeleton crew would be staffing the company the week of Christmas, and it was built into our company PTO schedule that we be off week. It sort of set a trend that with the exception of a couple years before my children were born, I’ve tried to keep.

    I realize that I’m in a very fortunate position because of the type of work that I do, who I’ve worked for, and especially who I currently work for, that I’m not someone working on Christmas Eve, and rushing back to the office on December 26. The same thing on Thanksgiving.

    I’m incredibly privileged, even living and working among “classically privileged” individuals. Hearing friends and family over the holiday struggle with things like managing vacation days, lack of maternity leave, losing benefits, pay issues, etc, I often bite my tongue and don’t allow myself to reiterate how generous VMware is in many of these areas, for fear of being seen as a braggart.

    Sometimes I even check myself when it comes to internal conversations about these topics, and remind myself that even the most generous and well intentioned efforts are usually faulted when you’re forced to deal with the US medical system.

    My aunt did ask me on Christmas Day if I had to use PTO in order to be off for so long, and I was forced to explain that VMware doesn’t track PTO time. Also, that my manager doesn’t have intimate knowledge of my daily or weekly routine.

    All of this combined usually blows people’s mind, but I try to stay grounded about it, while pretending it will last forever.


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  • 01/07/20--10:04: Delicious Strategy
  • I don't know who Peter Drucker is, but Matt's quote attributed to him, is sound:

    Apparently Peter is a kind of a big deal, at least according to Wikipedia:

    Peter Ferdinand Drucker (/ˈdrʌkər/; German: [ˈdʀʊkɐ]; November 19, 1909 – November 11, 2005) was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation. He was also a leader in the development of management education, he invented the concept known as management by objectives and self-control, and he has been described as "the founder of modern management".

    Even the best ideas will fall flat if the culture of the orginization refuses to adapt to service them. As I said last week:

    The trick, I suppose, is knowing how much of the old ideas and processes are actually still required and why. ... In order to do that you need to understand more than just the business and the technical requirements. ... You have to understand the culture in which it will operate.

    Idea: move everything to the cloud!
    Culture: we must control every aspect of the infrastructure.

    🤔


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  • 01/09/20--08:25: Veeam Team
  • The first time I used Veeam's backup software was in 2010. Up to that point I'd had experience with Symantec Backup Exec, Microsoft Data Protection Manager, and Commvault Simpana. The first time I used VBR to backup my vSphere infrastructure it was like the proverbial iced water to a man in hell.

    As a consultant I'd deployed VBR for customers more times than I can count. Bringing iced water to the hot masses.

    Today's news has me worried for their future:

    Insight Partners is acquiring Veeam Software Group GmbH, a cloud-focused backup and disaster recovery services provider, in a deal valued at about $5 billion—one of the largest ever for the firm.

    Veeam—first backed by Insight in 2013 with a minority investment—will move its headquarters to the U.S. from Baar, Switzerland, as a result of the acquisition. The deal is intended to help increase the company’s share of the American market.

    Hopefully my worry is for nothing, but Insight Partners is a private equity firm. What does that mean, exactly, remains to be seen. But generally speaking:

    • It restructures the acquired firm and attempts to resell at a higher value.
    • Private equity makes extensive use of debt financing to purchase companies.

    Also, as noted by Blocks & Files:

    Co-founders Andrei Baronov and Ratmir Timashev will step down from the board. Baranov and Timashev founded Veeam in 2006 and took in no outside funding until the Insight $500m injection in January 2019.

    I sincerely hope that I'm wrong in my gut reaction here, but wish the best of luck to all my friends at Veeam.


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  • 01/13/20--08:24: Resume Deletions
  • There are some things that just aren’t worth putting on your resume. This was the reminder that came to mind during replies to Owen Williams on the tweet machine.

    For a very short time I worked for a small family business that sold woodworking tools. Everything from glue and chisels to large computer controlled "put wood in this side and get a cabinet out the other side" machines. I was recommended to the position by a friend who was leaving to work for an ISP. The job I had at the time was part-IT/part-retail for a small grocery store chain, and I wanted to go all in on IT.

    But on what I remember to be my first (or maybe second) day I was asked by the President of the company to disable the accounts of two of his brothers who were VPs (the four boys ran it) — A few hours later one of them shows up at my desk trying to figure out why his email is locked, and doesn’t have a clue who I am.

    This guy looked like he killed wild animals barehanded for fun, and at maybe 21 years old I’m a much scrawnier version of my current self at maybe 160lbs. What a joy it was to tell him to go talk to his brother and then have him return and demand that I reactivate it.

    I left a couple of months later once I found something that was slightly more stable. The company is no longer in business.


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