Episode 96 – Challenging Yourself and Learning to Work Collaboratively to Succeed with Chris Wahl
The guest on today’s show is Chris Wahl who has been working in the IT industry for over two decades. He is the host of the Datanauts podcast and the author of the Wahl Network Blog, both of which have won awards. His focus is on using his experience to give others the expertise they need to create the data centers of the future. Chris specializes in workflow automation and building operational excellence and the successful adoption and integration of new technology.
(1.07) – So Chris, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Chris said that he spent most of his career rising through the ranks. Three years ago, he set up Rubrik, which is already a market leader in Cloud Data Management. He now runs a fairly large team. The change from individual contributor to a full-time kind of manager has been a blast.
(1.45) – Did you make the decision to change in terms of moving more into a management role? Chris said, yes, kind of. But, he tends to gravitate towards new things that push him to learn. For him, it is an effective way of managing the “imposter syndrome” that most of us experience. He also realized that if he continued to work as an individual how much he could achieve would be limited. On your own you can only get so much done. With a team you can build in more capacity to get things done, move the technology forwards and complete large projects. Chris has found that creating a team has enabled him to pursue some passion projects.
(2.34) – Phil asks Chris for a unique IT career tip. Chris explains that it is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It ensures you continue to learn to keep up with the fast pace of technology. Chris has what he calls a “fear compass”. When he finds something that makes him go wow and take a step back initially, he usually dives in instead of backing away. You cannot afford to become stagnant or stale.
(4.18) – Chris is asked to share his worst career moment. For Chris that happened early on. He was working for an IT shop that had a call center type of operation to assist customers and keep the business running. One day Chris did an update and rolled it out without thoroughly testing it. Unfortunately, he had accidentally put a wild card in the script which nuked everyone’s system 32 folders. Leading to the operating system failing. On that day, 200 terminals went down. Chris could have tried to sweep his mistake under the carpet. But, he didn’t. Instead he was transparent, which enabled him and his team to get things back up and running as normal, very quickly. He felt really guilty about it. But, since then he has never broken the “test first” rule, which has helped him to deliver excellent solutions and propel his career forwards.
(7.95) – Phil asks Chris what his best career moment was. Chris says that moment goes in tandem with his worst IT experience. On another job, a client asks him to do an upgrade at 11 am on a Wednesday. One of the busiest times of the week, so he warns them this is not a good idea and documents the fact. Yet, they insist he does it and everything goes down. Immediately, Chris was surrounded by the whole team, very upset and all panicking. Despite the pressure Chris was able to remain cool and quickly solve the problem. His worst career moment had helped him to understand the importance of remaining calm at moments of crisis and give him the chance to practice that skill. So, he was ready and able to deliver his best career moment.
(9.26) – Phil wants to know what excites Chris about the future of the IT industry. Chris says the fact that the way we deal with IT is changing to a more collaborative way of working is exciting and important. Chris calls it the DevOps blend. He also likes the fact that everything is becoming more workflow and process driven. It is also good to see automation being utilized more.
(11.19) – Phil asks Chris what drew you to a career in IT. Chris was only about 3 or 4 when he started playing computer games. He was programming by the time he was 8. He said that IT chose him rather than him choosing it.
(12.18) – What is the best career advice you have been given? Surround yourself with the right people and success will follow. Positive people who challenge you and are great to work with will always drive you forwards.
(13.04) – Phil asks Chris if he has ever been involved in Masterminds. Chris says not exactly. But, whether he is working on a project, attending a conference or something else he always seeks out the experts. Often, he ends up working collaboratively with them.
(13.47) – If you were to start your IT career again, what would you do? Chris jokes that he would have invested heavily in Apple stock. Refreshingly, Chris does not think he would change much in the way he approaches his career decisions.
(14.30) – Phil asks Chris what he is currently focusing on in his career. Chris is no longer getting heavily involved in the engineering aspect of IT. Instead, he is now focusing more on what the greater architecture of IT looks like. He is working to understand how to make this technology more accessible, so normal people can deliver this stuff. So, recently, he has been attending a lot of Gartner events and analyst conferences.
(16.22) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill, Chris? Writing, the ability to take something that is complicated and make it simple enough for most people to understand is a great skill. Communication is key. There is no point in producing something fantastic, if you unable to share it with others.
(17.19) – Phil asks Chris to share a few final words of IT career advice. Don’t focus too much on the details, if you do you will just spin your wheels. Stop fixating on which cloud to learn, get your feet wet, learn and pivot later if you need to.
(3.41) CHRIS – “Standing still means you’re just gonna be brought down. You have to constantly keep moving and finding that fear factor.”
(3.47) PHIL – “It’s a case of challenging yourself to be able to grow and move forward”
(10.21) CHRIS – “I really liked that we’re blending those two worlds and gathering a lot of the great practices that the dev world has done and applying that to ops.”
(12.25) CHRIS – “Surround yourself with great people, and successfully follow.”
(16.31) CHRIS – “As I’ve grown my career, I’ve realized that everything boils down to communication.”
(17.11) CHRIS – “Learning how to extract ideas from your head and put it into a consumable format is such a huge skill”
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