Daniel Breston

#TechEthicist on great practices in the Cloud

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Age is no obstacle

I will be 65 shortly, 47 years and a few months of which I have spent in IT, mostly in operations (also called application support or ITSM).

I have:

  • been part of the building and subsequent management of 13 data centers,
  • had three hurricanes, a flood, a CIO hitting the EPO switch while touring a data center, a snowstorm and an unmentionable event causing me to go to disaster recovery,
  • turned off the trading system for a Wall Street firm during the day,
  • wiped out all of quarter-end processing for a large Texas bank,
  • annoyed lord knows how many managers (in good and bad ways),
  • hired 3,000 people or so and managed many more in the US, UK, EU and Far East,
  • spoken at conferences or in webinars and written many blogs,
  • acquired enough certificates to wallpaper a couple of rooms in the house,
  • built a small reputation in DevOps, SIAM®, VeriSM®, LeanIT and ITSM communities,
  • met many amazing people that want to learn and share their knowledge, especially here at Virtual Clarity.

Imagine all the changes I have seen in my career! COBOL, DOS, mainframes to AS/400 (swoon), distributed technology, portable phones, virtual, cloud, laptops, internet, Alexa, ITSM to DevOps, new ways to lead and more. I also recall many things that thankfully are no longer tolerated. Finally, I remember the loss of friends due to stress, alcohol, drugs or severe illness. I have seen how our industry impacts family lives because of long hours, poorly run projects or the normalization of an ‘always on’ attitude.

I love this industry, where age (or really anything else), is not an obstacle. I thrive on learning and changing, not only because I enjoy working in IT making it is necessary to maintain my skills, but also because the people in my industry want to share, and generally don’t get too upset, when you make a genuine mistake. I could have been fired for some of the events detailed above, but instead my managers let me grow. Learning is improving.

As an example, whilst at Virtual Clarity, my friend and mentor of almost 20 years asked me to join a team of specialist security and program management experts. My role was to help them create a service-oriented model for the security function, introducing digital identity using our recommended practices. The team didn’t really need me, but it soon became apparent this was a learning exercise.

The organization we were helping needed to think differently and stop saying “we don’t do it that way here”. We had to get them to move towards agile and DevOps ways of working to be truly digital - so I actually did have relevant experience I could contribute. However, for me it was predominantly the Virtual Clarity Team teaching me security - MFA, biometrics, OAuth, various products, fraud and protection, FIDO and more - all while learning from someone who loved creating service and operations models where multiple vendors were involved. Win Win!

This is what is wonderful about Virtual Clarity. Yes, we create new ways of doing things on an almost daily basis, but, if you are willing to try, then Virtual Clarity will let you acquire and practice new skills, whilst working alongside experienced individuals and delivering fantastic results for our clients. I have worked in many IT organizations and, while there are some days when life is not perfect, I am constantly thankful to be here. We are so fortunate that Virtual Clarity has created a culture that helps its staff, has kudos from clients, and is constantly sharing time with a charity. As our CEO says, “We give a damn”!

Age is not an obstacle to learning and being excited about what technology can bring. Find someplace that wants to learn from you as much as it wants you to learn from it. Learning organizations do exist. Remember that technology is all about people. Look out for the people who are creating better and safer ways of doing things. Most importantly, look out for the people that are helping you and give them encouragement or when needed, even serious assistance (HumanOPS).

So, here is a resolution for you for 2020 - employ people who are happy continually learning and ensure that you have a culture that fosters this mindset. By not letting age be a barrier to development, you can achieve amazing things with your workforce.

Happy New Year!