Episode 179 – Be Open-minded and Willing to Collaborate to Take Your Career to the Next Level with Anthony Bartolo
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Anthony Bartolo. He has been working in the tech industry for just over two decades. Initially, he worked within the communications sector as an IT manager and a general manager. Later, he became an Applications Specialist, Partner Engagement Manager and B2B Sales Manager for an electronic learning provider.
In 2013, he re-joined Microsoft in the role of VP, Business Developer. Within 3 months he became a Sr. Technology Evangelist. Today, he is a Sr. Cloud Advocate for Microsoft.
Anthony is a Data & AI, IoT and Identity & Security specialist with a thirst for knowledge. For 4 years running, he was a recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award. Over the years, he has spoken at numerous conferences and has been involved in many significant projects.
(1.10) – Can you give us a bit of an understanding of what your role as a senior cloud advocate is? Around 70% of the role is listening to those who are adopting Microsoft technology. The other 30% is sharing what is going on. What the advocate learns while listening to users is relayed back to the engineering team.
Hackathons are a great way to learn how people are using the tools and what issues they have as well as what they would like. Anthony learns how it’s being governed, implemented and secure. As well as how the resources are being made available. Often, they also share ARM templates and best practices through GitHub.
(2.11) – Presumably, that involves subsequently talking about the hackathons and the results you’re obtaining. Anthony confirms that is the case. He explains that the resources that have been created via hack quests are also frequently shared. He disseminates a lot of new information during public speaking engagements and via all kinds of tech forums.
(2.41) – Prior to Microsoft, what were you doing? Before working for Microsoft, Anthony worked for Canada’s largest telecommunications company – Rogers Communications.
Later, he worked helping customers to adopt the first iteration of smartphones into their tech infrastructure. At the time, those smartphones ran on Windows Mobile and they were using Server 2003 Service Pack Two. He was heavily involved in improving security for these devices. Prior to that, he was involved in doing something similar for PocketPC devices and Blackberry.
(3.45) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Anthony’s advice to IT professionals is to make sure that they are part of the business. They need to have a seat at the table with the decision makers.
This ensures that you understand the direction the business is moving in and have a say in what happens next. When you do that you become proactive instead of reactive.
If someone proposes something you can weigh-in and help those who are around the table to understand how viable it is from a tech point of view. You can point out the pitfalls, come up with ways to move things forward and manage expectations. Instead of having to find a duct tape solution to implement something that was decided upon without your input you can come up with an elegant one and build that instead.
(5.57) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. In the days of Server 2003, the company Anthony worked for ran into an issue because someone had found a way to store MP3’s on their server. Somehow they had managed to stash thousands of them away in the bin file. Naturally, the end result was that the server ran out of space. When that happened, nobody got their emails.
At the time, everyone had access to everything. Surprisingly, there was only a single universal admin key which the whole team used. Eventually, using a traceroute they were able to find how the individual was getting access and close them down. But, it was a complete mess and very stressful.
It starkly demonstrated just how vulnerable the systems were. Within 90 days they had come up with a security plan and had started to implement it.
They were very lucky to have discovered the vulnerability the way they did. It could have been a lot worse. Someone could have easily gone in and stolen all kinds of information.
Now, nothing like that would be possible. Security is a priority, although there is still room for improvement. For example, it is not uncommon for people in an IT department to share an admin key. This is the IT equivalent of leaving a key under the mat.
Anthony goes on to talk about password management as an example. He explains that there should always be a proper audit trail in place for this process. Someone who wants to access that system should have to get a token from their manager. That token should only allow them into that part of the system and only for a limited amount of time, say 30 minutes. Putting this sort of system in place greatly improves security. He also points out that IT professionals have to be careful to follow the law when it comes to data security. Particularly when dealing with personal data.
A lot of today’s security best practice came from the early days of mobile devices. Examples include the use of tokens to ID people and multi-factor authentication. Something that Anthony was involved in developing, at the time
(11.33) – What was your best career moment? Anthony’s greatest hackathon success is designed to help with the problem of child exploitation and children going missing.
One of the teams worked out a way to harness the power of Azure Functions to find missing kids. It includes the ability for a child to use the #hfm hashtag to immediately alert their parents and other carers that they are in trouble.
Once triggered their whereabouts is captured and sent to those who can help them. Data that the police or parents may find helpful in seeing what is going on is also captured. Information like a recent photo, relevant social media data and location history are all instantly available to be shared with the police.
If a child goes missing and cannot send the signal at a touch of a button the parent can also trigger this data aggregation and give it to the police. The technology was developed with the input of the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC). They work with the parents of the 45,000 children who go missing in Canada, every year. As well as assisting the authorities.
The technology the hackathon team developed is very powerful. This is because, currently, 80% of the abductions that take place are initiated using social chat and messages. So, picking up and following the breadcrumbs that have been left on social platforms is a powerful way to narrow down what has happened and find the children quickly.
Anthony and Pierre Roman were able to provide the knowledge to make the system secure and access to the infrastructure needed to run it. Working collaboratively with the developers, end customer and law enforcement provided a superb solution that ticked all of the boxes.
It worked and importantly complied with all of the relevant privacy and security regulations. As a result, it was a solution that could actually be implemented.
Plus, they were able to share it via GitHub. So, it is now being picked up and used throughout the world.
Being involved in a successful project that is making such a huge difference is definitely a career highlight. It clearly demonstrates the power of collaborative working and the cloud.
(14.51) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that the skills of IT professionals are so transferable is exciting. The Cloud is enabling us to accomplish so much more.
Cloud technology makes everything possible. Organizations of all sizes now have the power to deploy their solutions globally. When it comes to tech the sky is the limit.
It is amazing to see how quickly IT pros adapt to new technology. Take IoT security as an example. Not so long ago a consumer could buy a smart light bulb that could change color. It sounds great, but initially, if they installed that bulb into a fixture in an organization’s workplace that created a security risk. There was no meaningful security built into that device. Shadow IT was a huge issue.
Today, people like Anthony are using the knowledge they built up to secure physical hardware to change that. Importantly, IT professionals are immediately picking up those solutions and running with them.
(17.00) – What drew you to a career in IT? Anthony blames the movie Back to the Future for giving him the tech bug. He was 13 when Doc Brown inspired him to come up with something new.
From that point on he started to strip things down. He was forever imbedding motors in lego cars. Fairly, quickly that evolved into an interest in IT.
(18.01) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Don’t be a know it all, be a learn it all. There is no way you can ever know it all. When you attend events, make friends with others and learn from them.
Anthony loves sharing what he knows at conferences. He always comes home having learned so much. Keeping an open mind and being interested in what others are doing is a great way to learn.
Taking this approach is a great way to grow your IT career quickly.
(19.08) – Conversely, what is the worst career advice you’ve ever received? Someone once told Anthony that end users don’t count. They thought that IT professionals always knew best. The emergence of smart mobiles made it clear that way of working would never be viable. They gave the power back to the consumer.
(19.55) – If you were to begin your IT career again, in today’s world, what would you do? When Anthony first started his career he just focused on learning about the products and tech. He had no interest in what the company was trying to accomplish. Anthony focused on learning about the products and the infrastructure, not the client’s needs. What they were trying to achieve.
Now, he turns everything on its head. His initial focus is on the client’s and the end-users’ endgame. He sees everything far more holistically.
(21.17) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Anthony’s current focus is on engaging with IT professional audiences. He wants to know where their pain points are, what is working for them and what is not.
One of his aims is to smooth the transition from physical architecture to the cloud. He and his team disseminate solutions for the issues that are discussed with them in many different ways. Including posting on ITOpsTalk.com and fielding questions at conferences.
Understandably, the team can’t answer every question. But, that is not a negative thing because it gives them something meaningful to dig into and research.
By taking this approach Anthony and his colleagues have learned loads. It is a great way to find out what IT professionals are thinking.
All of that information is shared with engineering too. It helps them to understand and take account of the issues their end-customers are experiencing. This approach has changed things radically. Now everything is much easier to deploy.
(22.56) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Before working in IT, Anthony was a car mechanic. Even today, the skills he learned doing that work stand him in good stead.
It is where he picked up his problem-solving skills and first learned to take a methodical, logical approach to things.
He was working as a mechanic when the first ECUs were introduced. Plugging the car into a laptop to work out what was wrong was a fascinating experience for him. He was able to fully appreciate what a big leap forward it was.
(24.14) – What do you do to keep your own IT career energized? Constantly learning about new things is something that Anthony finds energizing. He loves to dabble. At the moment it is IoT that he is enjoying the most.
Recently he had the privilege of working on a project with the Canadian Coast Guard. Together they worked out how to get drones to spot lifejackets in the water when a ship is in distress.
It is a difficult thing to achieve when the drone is a long way offshore with no connectivity. The drone has to be self-aware. It has to spot the life jacket then carry out a heat or iris scan. That data is then crunched to work out how close the individual is to hyperthermia, so the rescuers can prioritize their rescue efforts. All this needs to be done using tech that is small enough to fit on the device, the equivalent of a Raspberry Pi.
(26.03) – What do you do in your spare time away from technology? Anthony is a keen quarter-mile competitor (drag racer). He regularly competes at the Cayuga track in Ontario. Recently, he has also taken up mountain biking, which he is really enjoying.
Whenever he can he visits Huntington Beach in California. He loves surfing there.
(26.38) – Phil asks Anthony to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Anthony’s advice is to never think that you should not be part of the conversation.
For too long, IT departments have been seen only as a cost center. You need to grab your seat at the table, get involved and have a voice.
It is vital that you understand the organization you are working for, as a whole. If you do not know where the business is going you will never come up with effective solutions.
At the end of the day, you want to be an enabler of technology. Not just a one and a zero. You are not just a cost centre. Your work should be actively moving the business forward.
(1.22) ANTHONY – “As a senior cloud advocate, my responsibility is 70% listening and 30% sharing.”
(4.48) ANTHONY – “Make sure you’re part of the business. Get a seat at the table with the business decision makers.”
(17.49) ANTHONY – “If you can think it you can create it.”
(18.11) ANTHONY – “Don’t be a know it all. Be a learn it all.”
(20.32) ANTHONY – “Learn more about the why. Understand why you are implementing that type of tech.”
(26.53) ANTHONY – “Never think that you shouldn’t be part of the conversation.”