The Mechanic

Early last week my commuter car suffered a catastrophic failure in its ability to cool itself properly. This led to a bit of smoke coming out of the back of the car and left me stranded on the side of the road. As cool as it was to experience smoke coming out of the back of the car, I wasn’t driving the Bat Mobile trying to escape from the Joker. As I reached for my Bat-Phone (woops sorry…iPhone) I quickly turned to my USAA App and a tow truck was dispatched.

As I was waiting for the tow truck I was thinking to myself, “Self, how could I have prevented this?” One I could have listened to my wife when she said, “Hey the car was sounding weird, why don’t you take it to the mechanic before you start driving it?” but of course being a warm blooded male of the human race, I kindly dismissed the idea and kept driving…until I ended up in the current situation I was in.As the tow truck driver arrived to snatch me away from being defeated by the evil Joker, I advised him that I would like to be towed to my local mechanic. See, I trust this mechanic. He’s not out to make a quick dollar, or to turn around and tell me I’ve got something major going on, buy that car and then sell it again to make a quick profit (this has happened to a couple of my friends). You need to trust the people you are working with, make sure they have the qualifications and continue to use them and support them.
So what the heck does this have to do with Storage or IT for that matter? Well a lot more than you can imagine. Here are a few examples.

• Certifications and Qualifications – Both in mechanics and in IT you really should know what you are talking about. Yah, you might be the best person on the block fixing Microsoft SQL clusters or installing EMC VMAX arrays but if you don’t have certifications or the qualifications, how does one know that you are qualified to do the job they are paying you to do? Yes a long and comprehensive curriculum vitae will help in this scenario, but industry standard certifications such as ASE’s comprehensive lists for mechanics or EMC, Cisco and VMware certifications give a standard of which can be met and/or exceeded. Combine both certifications and qualifications and now you are someone I want to do business with.
• Continuing Education – Be a master of your trade but become diverse in other things. Invest in yourself and your ‘Brand’. Find a company that provides awesome training videos such as Trainsignal. Also take time to learn something different! It’s amazing to me that more people don’t branch out from their normal everyday routines and learn something new. Stuff like just learning Java for fun, or picking up a new book on how to deal with difficult people can be extremely beneficial. So if you’re a UNIX / Storage guy like me, maybe it’s time to put away the UNIX books and pick up a book on public speaking for example. You are your greatest promoter and brand. Invest in yourself for long term success.
• Ongoing Maintenance – If I had listened to my wife and been a little more pro-active with the maintenance on my vehicle I would have probably not had to pay the tow truck driver (although I did enjoy my back country ride with the tow-truck driver…perhaps another blog posting is in order on that one). As Varrow, we provide ongoing vCheck services for our clients which tell them what they should and shouldn’t do with their VMware, EMC, Backup and networking environments. If they choose to ignore our advice, that is fine but they need to understand the implications of putting off a specific vendor patch, not tuning a storage array properly or not adhering to best practices. When you buy a new car, you change the oil in your car right? Let’s start there and continue having that mentality in our IT Datacenters. If you have to take a downtime then let’s get it scheduled! Planned and expected downtime is always better than getting that page at 3am on a Saturday morning…during a holiday weekend.
• Trust – Build a level of trust with whoever is working with you. Be it your local mechanic for your car or the ongoing relationship with a VAR that actually provides value. Are we always 100% right all the time? No. But that is what the relationship is for. You know in a time of need we will be there and if it is wrong, we will try to make it right.

In conclusion, things like certifications, qualifications, education, maintenance and trust are all important for overall IT strategy. I’m sure there is a ton more but this is what I was thinking about when I broke down on the highway last week. I guess you could say I’m a mechanic of storage. …and yes I should have listened to my wife. @sangeek

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