Nerd Journey 031: Scaling for a New Endeavor

Welcome to episode 31 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two VMware Solution Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss scaling for a new endeavor.

Original Recording Date: 04-06-2019

  • This episode is a natural extension of Episode 30 on adapting to a new team.

Topics – Scaling for a New Endeavor

2:11 Examples of Differences in Scale When Moving up / Moving on

  • Moving from a team of 4 to a team of 40
  • A few remote offices to support vs. 20-30
  • 2 Datacenters to 10
  • 50 users to 5000
  • Jack of all trades at a previous company but hired for new role as a specialist
    • Smaller companies might not have more opportunities for the highly skilled individual contributor.

5:04 Intellectual / Technical Challenges

  • The level of knowledge is about the same, but the scale is different.
    • Examples – web server farm, DR plan per geographic location, geographically dispersed user base, large scale line of business applications, increase in applications to support, internal software development
  • Prepare ahead of time
    • How would the systems you’re building scale to support future growth?
    • Thinking about the challenges / changes that scaling presents will expose gaps in knowledge.
    • Test environments / formalized test plans may be hard to come by in the SMB.
  • You may be joining a larger team.
    • This is an opportunity for collaboration since you may not be the sole owner of an application or area.
    • Peers may have some overlap in skills and responsibility for cross training purposes.
    • Change management may not be something present in smaller environments. The approval chains for changes are important and could cause delays in implementing changes.
  • Large organizations have to think about risk differently.
    • The guardrails (like change management) exist for a reason. Try not to get frustrated.
    • Mistakes can cost more money in larger organizations.
    • Web-scale organizations think about risk differently than large enterprises.
    • If you have an error budget and are under budget, it means you are not breaking things often enough.
      • Tom Limoncelli said "if a process or procedure seems risky, do it often."
      • Nick gives an example of a system upgrade related to this.
      • Downtime has to be negotiated with the service or application owner.
      • This goes along with a different style of application design. John gives a nice example from Netflix and speaks to the blue green deployment methodologies.

22:46 Emotional Challenges

  • These can pop up when you move from a smaller organization to a larger one.
  • The small fish in a big pond feeling is real.
    • A general feeling of discomfort can rattle people, but expect it to be there.
    • Things may be somewhat familiar but will also be new (new processes, political barriers, etc.).
    • The stakes of making mistakes are perceived to be higher.
  • Impostor syndrome can happen when you make this kind of change.
    • You may not be confident if you have not done this previously.
    • People are fearful of failure.
  • Expect to feel these emotions. Knowing these may / will happen will help you prepare.

Advice to Push Past Challenges

  • 26:27 Overcoming intellectual and technical challenges
    • You already landed the job. Someone believes in your ability to succeed based on existing skills or skills they can teach you.
    • Train yourself to think at scale.
      • See also Episode 14 of the ExploreVM Podcast and making the move to enterprise for some advice from AJ Kuftic and Paul Woodward Jr.
        • We should have Paul and AJ on our show to do a follow up on this!
      • Read through reference architectures for different technologies. Take VMware Validated Designs as an example. Reading these types of resources helps you understand design methodologies.
        • John finds these types of documents enthralling. Do you?
        • Don’t be afraid to contact the creator of the reference architecture if you have questions.
        • Reading through these can help with blind spots.
      • Remember to consider the people an implementation or major change impacts. Include this considerations in a design.
  • 34:57 Overcoming emotional challenges
    • You got the job. You deserve to be here.
      • Don’t misrepresent yourself in the hiring process to set yourself up for success before taking the new role. We assume you as our listener already knew this.
    • Acknowledge your feelings. They are not wrong or bad. They just are.
      • This was actual advice John gave Nick at one point.
    • "I know I’m ok. I just don’t feel ok."
    • It takes time for the convergence of being ok and feeling ok.
      • There is a separation of intellectual reality and emotional reality. Knowing you can do the job may not stop the emotions from happening.
    • You are not alone in feeling this way.
      • Talk to people you trust about this (trusted friend or peer).
        • John recommends speaking with someone outside the organization. It could make other people uncomfortable with you if they know you feel uncomfortable and are also new.
      • Having someone listen to what you have to say and echo it back can help you realize something you previously missed.
      • Professional networking is important to develop a support network for times like this (i.e. mentors).

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

2 Replies to “Nerd Journey 031: Scaling for a New Endeavor”

  1. This episode applied to me so much. Went from a team of four but the only server admin, to a very large team. One rack with four nodes to millions of £ of hardware across two data centers.

    It felt like the parts about your doubts you can do the job applied to me but through the VMUG community here in Scotland (who found me the job!) and feedback from my new manager it’s really left me a feeling I can tackle anything.

    Great content that really could have been about me!

    Thanks John and Nick!

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