Pulled into a New Challenge with Jeff Eberhard (2/2)

Welcome to episode 116 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical 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 share part 2 of our interview with Jeff Eberhard, recounting Jeff’s job change that started as a noninterest but turned into something he could not pass up and the implications of going through this change during the pandemic.

Original Recording Date: 04-01-2021

Jeff Eberhard is a Sales and Solution Engineering Leader at Oracle focused on Oracle Cloud VMware Solution. Catch part 1 of our interview with him in Episode 115.

Topics – Pulled into a New Challenge, Changing Jobs During the Pandemic, Learning a New Organization

2:09 – An Opportunity Arises

  • Nick asks to dig into a talk Jeff gave back in February at the Dallas / Fort Worth SpiceCorps meeting.
  • What were Jeff’s motivations for making a change even when he originally did not think it was needed?
    • Jeff was a huge fan of a former boss at VMware, and his goal was to eventually take his boss’ job when he retired.
    • While still working as part of the VMware Cloud on AWS team, he was asked to come back to the organization in the company where he had previously managed a team before making that move (and was able to be under a boss that he loved).
    • Things were going well for Jeff, and then he received a LinkedIn message from someone at Oracle asking if he wanted to learn about what VMware and Oracle were doing together.
      • Jeff said no, but the person was persistent and asked Jeff to take a 15-minute phone call.`
      • Jeff felt there was no harm in taking the call to understand what Oracle was doing. It might even help him to know it in his current role at VMware.
      • The job sounded like what Jeff wanted to have after his current boss was to retire.
      • After having the conversation with the person from Oracle, Jeff called his boss and spoke to him about it.
        • Caution – having a personal relationship with your boss is important in this situation. Many may fear being fired for telling your boss something like this. This is not recommended unless you know you are in a good spot.
        • Jeff’s boss encouraged him to stick it out for a while in his current role.
    • Jeff decided to go through the interview process, which was completely over Zoom.
      • As the process continued, he got more and more excited about the opportunity and the team.
      • At the end of the process, Jeff received an offer (a very good one).
      • He had been keeping his boss updated on the process.
      • A boss generally knows how much they can offer an employee to stay. Jeff was pretty certain his boss could not match or exceed the offer made to him (and he was right).
      • This was an opportunity to build a business and a team around it, taking on something well outside his comfort zone.
      • The team Jeff was running at VMware was comprised of very smart people who didn’t need him as much as a new team might.
      • Jeff feels like his boss understood his need to continue the process and eventually take the new job with Oracle despite earlier encouragement to stick it out. Jeff felt like his boss truly wanted what was going to be best for him in the long run.

9:00 – Negotiating to Stay or Leave

  • When employees leave
    • Jeff shares a story of an Academy team member who got a job elsewhere. He knew it better fit what she wanted.
    • His goal is never to trap someone.
    • He’s also had conversations with the high flyers on his team who shared that they were interviewing elsewhere. In those cases, he will provide advice and help so the employee can get the new job.
    • Jeff shares some stories from his experience.
      • If the new job is offered to the person with a different company, Jeff is happy for that person and now has a friend at another company.
      • If the employee gets an offer and shows it to him, he can try to get the employee more money to stay. If he can compensate someone better and have a happy employee, all the better.
      • Jeff also shares situations where people he can’t afford to lose plan to leave.
  • What about when employees who were going to leave end up staying?
    • If you have a good relationship with your boss and it is open like Jeff mentioned, there will be no target on your back. It’s a business negotiation.
    • When it’s completely out of left field, it can sound spiteful and that you’re saying you will go do something if you don’t get what you want.
      • In this case, go take the other job. Listen to the inside scoop from Jeff on how a manager can be made to look very bad if an employee leaving comes out of the blue and they have to ask to get you more money.

13:52 – Plunging into Oracle

  • Jeff’s wife has been with Oracle for a number of years.
    • The company is divided into two sides of the business, one managed by Larry Ellison that his wife works under, and one managed by someone else whom Jeff works under.
    • Other than his wife, Jeff didn’t know anyone who works for Oracle.
  • The relationship between Oracle and VMware has traditionally not been great.
    • Jeff knew who to go to at VMware for things after being there for many years, but at Oracle he would need to learn the organization.
    • He was provided a Sherpa at Oracle (someone who is now a manager of a team in Jeff’s organization) who was invested in his success and would help him learn the organization and make contacts within the company. Jeff’s boss has also provided helpful guidance and support.
    • Jeff’s stress level was high when he first started but has decreased significantly through the support he’s received from his management chain and reports.
  • Jeff is about to move from 17 direct reports to 4. This change will allow him to focus on strategy rather than the day-to-day tactical issues.
    • There is some fear when you go from being in charge of something to someone else being in charge of it and you are just getting reports on it.
    • You have to learn to delegate and rely on others. Jeff read a good CIO.com article called [Delegation IS Leadership Development](Delegation IS leadership development) on this topic.
    • Giving employees the chance to own a project or a task helps everyone.
      • The first one may not be what you wanted or may turn out different than you wanted. But it creates a chance to have a conversation about it to understand how things were done or if you set incorrect expectations as a manager.
    • The managers under Jeff can do much of the daily tasks that Jeff was doing so he can focus in other areas. His job now is to teach the managers how to pass along what was great about them as individual contributors to their direct reports.
      • This allows bidirectional growth for these managers and for Jeff (so he can learn from them).

21:40 – Team Details

  • When Jeff joined the company, he had 8 folks working for him. The team is about to be 26 people.
    • This spans the globe – India, Europe, North America, etc. (across many time zones).
    • The hardest thing is that most folks have never met each other in person.
    • Jeff has managed remote teams in the past, and they would usually get together a couple of times per quarter with some baked in team building activities.
    • Listen to Jeff’s story about the Slack channel he created to promote team interaction.
    • Team cohesion would likely be better if they could meet in person, but they are doing their best.
    • Teams are geographically disperse, have not met each other in person, and are new to the company makes for a unique challenge for onboarding new employees.
      • Reach out to Jeff if you have ideas on how to promote engagement!
      • Many people are changing jobs right now. How do we bring people on and get them excited about working for a new company?
  • A best practice for interviewing from both the hiring manager and employee perspective, an in-person interview is ideal.
    • Everyone Jeff has hired at Oracle had remote hiring processes.
    • At VMware it was probably 50/50. It did not always make sense for the candidate to travel to Austin to interview with Jeff or for him to travel to their location.
    • If you can, rely on referrals and others who know the candidate. A boss may not care about meeting the person outside of a video call if the referral comes from a trusted source.
  • What is Jeff’s process like for hiring?
    • Jeff usually does all of the first screens.
    • Then 3 members of the team will interview the candidate.
    • The final interview is a bar raiser.
      • This is someone who is not part of Jeff’s organization that looks for whether the person will make the company better and the longevity of the person’s career at Oracle (i.e. make sure that person would have a job if Jeff’s team’s function went away).
    • Jeff likes doing a customer scenario and will look at a candidate’s ability to think and adapt quickly.
    • Getting told no may mean the manager had your best interest at heart.
    • The goal is to never hire someone that won’t work out.
    • Jeff likes to be honest with candidates by giving feedback quickly. It’s important to give that honest feedback to someone, even if it is in the interview or right after it.
    • Go back and listen to Keiran Shelden’s story about feedback after an interview in Episode 46.

33:25 – Parting Thoughts

  • If looking to change jobs during the pandemic run toward something super exciting and not away from a current situation. It’s hard enough to get a job normally but has been more challenging for many during the pandemic.
  • If you are looking to get into leadership, say it early. With the manager Jeff recently hired, he brought up his desire to go into leadership in the first conversation he and Jeff had.
    • This makes you top of mind when an opportunity comes up that is interesting.
    • Jeff shares how he was able to stair step this candidate into leadership.
    • The first time your boss hears about your interest should not be when a requisition opens.
    • For external candidates looking for manager roles, ask in the first screening call if you are going up against a bunch of internal people. Be prepped for it and understand the situation as it could be way harder up against internal candidates.
  • Reach out to Jeff on LinkedIn.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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