Monday, October 30, 2017

NonStop – a time to mentor!

At times of change you can be helped by the advice from a mentor. As we’re headed to Boot Camp, let’s take stock of what more we might like to do with NonStop!

This summer we have used our company command center – our home away from home – to attend many of the NonStop user events not to mention to host the many impromptu meetings with colleagues – the RV though was not the only vehicle that needed tender loving care. Our SUV had to get new tires all round and now, the CHECK ENGINE light appeared on our around-town Mini, together with the BRAKE light so yes, new tires have been put on the SUV and rear rotors and brake pads have just been ordered for the Mini. Things just wear out and only this morning, barely three months since we moved into our new home, the handle on the door leading to the master bedroom simply fell off. These days I find myself worrying a little too much about what next will disrupt our routine. From the picture above, however, taken last year and with a pile of chips in my hand, worrying about anything at all wasn’t on my mind.  

Yes, if the door handle is made of metal and is subject to movement it will fail oftentimes leaving you in a predicament that has you worrying about what to do next. No worries, YouTube to the rescue and we managed to fix it even as we lost a couple of hours because we weren’t familiar with the its internals. But here’s the thing with worry: in a post to LinkedIn (or was it on Facebook), someone stated how “Worry is a bully; it takes and never gives!” How true and for the NonStop community, in the midst of everything that is happening inside the data center, have we become immune to worry these days? Or conversely, are we worrying all the time about the future of NonStop? More importantly perhaps – are we helping those who may be worried?

As a young man, as I was just starting out in what was called EDP back in the day – yes, Electronic Data Processing – there were no online networks per se nor were there any CRT terminals. We had readers for punch tape that arrived by courier and were considered part of our online system and we had keyboards too that were wired directly into the mainframe and would only accept numbers but all the while, my family worried about when I was going to chuck it all in and return to university. “There is no future in EDP – it’s just another clerical role that will prove to be poorly compensated,” I recall my mother telling me. But no, I never worried about the choice in careers that I had made back then in the Australian summer of ’69!

Networking, and the importance networking plays in our business lives, can never be discounted and while we only mention it in passing, with the 2017 NonStop Technical Boot Camp (Boot Camp, or TBC) almost upon us, networking is an important aspect of why we head to such evets. However, networking is only part of the story as it is the opportunity to seek out coaches and to foster a mentoring relationship that is particularly important for everyone, no matter how old we are. As I take calls from colleagues and friends, there is clearly a very thin line between those telling me success stories and those who just cannot figure out why they have to leave their chosen careers to pursue something different. That’s the beauty of change – it’s happening all the time and without someone by our side, it can prove to be an extremely anxious time.

What separates these two groups is their willingness and indeed enthusiasm to embrace change. We all have heard the stories – if only I had learnt Java, or OSI protocols and services. If only I had left Tandem Computers and joined Cisco - a couple of my colleagues did exactly that and would you believe, never looked back! And yes, if only Tandem Computers had bought Apple Computers in the early 90s’ when the asking price for Apple was only slightly more that $300million but, at the time, a price the board of Tandem Computers thought was a tad too high as I recall.

All of us encounter mentors throughout our careers and during my own career there were a couple of standouts. John Fox, Managing Director of Computer Resources, a third-party mainframe leasing company was one such individual. As was Dieter Monch, Managing Director of Nixdorf Computers (Australia). Later in life, it was in the years before we were married and at a time when she was briefly my manager, that Margo helped steer my career to where today, I am doing exactly what I love doing – writing about tech, whether it is NonStop or payments or even networking.

Within the NonStop community there is clearly a thriving Under 40 SIG that has come together at times of the major events in Europe and the US and TBC always includes some enticement for the next generation to gather to talk and in general, provide each other encouragement. Wouldn’t it be good if the next step was a mentoring program for individuals within the Under 40 SIG – or has this already started and I am just behind the times?

As for me I just happened to be appointed Managing Director of a US software company, The Computer Software Company (TCSC) out of Richmond Virginia and, at the time of my appointment, I happened to be the youngest Managing Director of a US software company in Australia. I also happened to be the only person in the company. And yes, I needed help – a circumstance recognized by my management back in Richmond. So a young “hot shoe,” Brian Fitzgibbon, arrived, lived in my house and coached me – yes, I knew data base and I knew TP monitors but, the operating system? And how about hiring a team!

Again, fortune smiled on me as my first hire, Kevin McCormack, worked with Fitzgibbon and between them helped me through the transition from simply being a techie to being a manger and both remain good friends to this day (and I hope still read my blog posts)! As with everything in life, we need to be open to coaches that may be anywhere in the organization chart – we just have to open up to those willing to provide us with sound advice, both technical and business.

In a June 29, 2017, post
CTO Mentoring: A swipe right for first-time tech leaders to CTO Craft, coach Andy Skipper wrote of how, “The mentor / mentee relationship is a powerful one and something that arguably no one in the tech world should be without. The reality however, can be quite differentespecially for first-time tech leaders and those in executive-level positions.” Skipper then went on to say how, “First time CTOs and tech leaders face new challenges: some can be addressed through common sense and transferable skills; others can’t. Management, strategic and hiring decisions will fall to them and, without the firsthand knowledge and experience to deal with them mistakes can be made.”

In wrapping up the post, Skipper then closed with the remark and indeed an implied admonishment to all of us, “So, if you haven’t already, consider mentorship, just imagine where Mark Zuckerberg would be today if Steve Jobs hadn’t taken him under his wing.” However, for the NonStop community it’s a little more complicated and by this, I mean we are all witnessing a sea change with NonStop and it has more than a few of us becoming worried yet again.

However, we are being presented with opportunities unlike at any time in the past – want to keep running NonStop on traditional systems? How about looking at running NonStop on virtual machines? Want to move NonStop SQL/MX to the cloud and offer access on the basis of DBaaS? Is it time for a career change – do we want to become more involved in the technology itself? Want to try your hand at selling software? Why not?  Prefer to try your hand with selling solutions rather than middleware? Of course!

Want to get into AI and Machine Learning – well, you had better hurry as everyone wants to do that and as for becoming a data scientist already the shine is fading from that role. In a matter of days, we will begin the big event for everyone associated with NonStop –TBC. On hand will be some of the most experienced and indeed highly skilled individuals – is the time right to sit down and have a chat? Find a coach? Find a mentor? We talk about the opportunities to network on occasions like this but they are also a great place to find just the mentor you may have been looking for to guide you to what you do next.

Walking among your peers at TBC, as we all will do at some point, take a moment to look around. Then ask yourself, do you want to continue with NonStop and if the response is a resounding yes, a tad worried or not, explore your options. And here is the thing with mentoring – the relationships we develop may wax and wane in importance but over the long run, they will not wear out. And no, don’t worry, there will be no bullying as best as I can tell at TBC, only opportunities and for that, we really do have NonStop to thank – see you in Burlingame and let’s have a great event as we close out the year!  

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