I am an IT Operations manager focusing on DevOps practices in the New York City metropolitan area.
I started working in IT in...1995? I honestly can't remember anymore. I worked for Jefferson County Schools in Colorado while still attending high school in JeffCo as a Novell Netware administrator as well as assisting with the maintenance of the network and eventual rollout of Windows 95 PCs for student computer labs.
In 1997, my family and I moved from Colorado to Mississippi and I pretty quickly acquired the same position with DeSoto County Schools in Mississippi. My "interview" was teaching the county Netware administrator that the reason why the school administration for the school I was attending couldn't submit grades in the morning was because the software would time-lock and they had set their Netware server to the wrong timezone.
After high school, I got a job at CompUSA where I started in sales, moved to marketing, then eventually the tech shop. While working at CompUSA, I started attending the University of Mississippi where I also worked for the Mississippi Center for Supercomputer Research. This is where, circa 2000, I started doing what we now call the DevOps.
At MCSR, myself and a few other student employees were tasked with testing, benchmarking, and tweaking a new Compaq Beowulf cluster against the Cray and SGI Origin supercomputers that the university already had. As we were doing configuration tweaks to 8...12? (it's been so long...) Linux systems and then firing off a test that would require an hour or so to complete and had 4 people working on the system, I was the individual who pushed for the team to commit configuration files to CVS in order to track changes and who made which change.
CVS was a gigantic pain in the ass and no one liked my idea...until they saw that it took me 5 minutes to pull together my weekly change to results report. This report typically took an hour or two to complete, because you would have to have consistently named your
.bak config files to help track your changes as well as
diff-ing each version to see what you changed. Lots of manual work which I had offloaded to a version control system because I didn't want to do it.
I ended up enjoying college a little too much and dropped out. As a college dropout, CompUSA gave me the opportunity to work as the full-time contractor on a government contract out of Memphis. The Defense Contract Audit Agency job was a great opportunity and really let me feel the pain that a gigantic bureaucratic machine could bring to a young, hungry, IT nerd who wanted to automate everything so that they could work on more interesting stuff. That said, I did make a lot of positive changes for our office and the entire agency. DCAA also showed me that if I really wanted to take my life in new and better directions, I would have to finish my degree.
So, after a year and a half as a college dropout, I returned to Ole Miss - initially taking night classes and then back to full time - in order to finish my degree in English. Focusing on poetry and literary theory and criticism. Yep. I'm another "technology though leader" who doesn't have a degree in an engineering field. (Well, that's not completely fair. I started as an Engineering Computer Science major, but couldn't pass the math classes as a result of having dyscalculia, but did graduate with a School of Arts minor in Computer Science.)
After college, I went to work for an off-site backup company. I started on the helpdesk, but quickly shifted from support into helping architect, deploy, and maintain their second generation backup product as I was the only person on-staff that knew Linux and PostgreSQL which were the foundations for the backup software. After a few years, I also assisted in helping build white-box storage appliances based off of SuperMicro chassis and FreeBSD to take advantage of ZFS.
I was working there when the 2007-2008 financial collapse occurred. When that happened, the company was no longer able to get CapEx loans, but was able to get [OpEx]https://www.investopedia.com/terms/o/operatingratio.asp) loans. Conveniently, a handful of months prior, Amazon had launched AWS EC2 and we were able to consolidate hardware by moving our second-site from an on-premise data center into EC2 and keep the business afloat.
Once I'd started learning Cloud Computing, though, I was hooked. I left the backup company, moved cross-country, and started working for a Managed Service Provider on a team building their own Infrastructure as a Service offering. After several years and successfully launching IaaS in 6 cities in 3 countries (including personally racking and cabling all the servers and storage in Iceland), I left the MSP for new opportunities.
My new gig was for an online video streaming startup. There, the promise was being a cloud-native application and an opportunity to finally move away from dealing with server hardware after a decade or so of dealing almost exclusively with hardware. At the video streaming company, I learned a lot about video, dove head-first into Serverless and Docker and even started digging into container orchestration with Rancher Cattle and scraped the surface of Kubernetes.
I didn't choose to leave the video-streaming gig, but after having a strong difference of opinion with the CEO, had my department downsized...but every "tragedy" brings new opportunities. After a bit of time looking around for a good fit for me, I came on as one of the first dozen employees of the Intelligent Retail Lab by Walmart and after a few months was promoted to DevOps manager.
I'm still with the IRL group and leading an amazing team of bad-ass engineers who are building the bleeding edge of distributed GPU computing, production-izing AI, and having a major impact on the future of the world's largest company.
Not too bad for a nerd who started fixing PCs and flashing EEPROMs, eh?