Back From My Career Break

One of the hardest things I have ever done in my career is handing in my resignation to DellEMC.  I didn’t leave for another position but rather to hike the Appalachian Trail.  I departed work on April 6, 2018 to pursue an item on my bucket list.  I left behind a team that I adored.  They were vibrant, smart, motivated, and kind – best of all, they put up with me!  Saying goodbye on that team call was very emotional and heartfelt.  But, truly, I would do it all again.

I have been working for nearly 20 years in IT and have held positions with only two different companies.  I suppose it is four if you count being acquired – Genzyme by Sanofi and EMC by Dell.  In my experience, staying for long periods of time within organizations is rare in the technology industry.  Folks seem to move around a lot.  I stay put because I like to cultivate relationships.  The bonds of a team don’t form in a year or two and I believe that as a leader, you need to be in it for the long haul.  These relationships are what made leaving so difficult.  But it was something I needed to do.  I felt burnt out, stressed, and wasn’t able to give my best to the job anymore.  For a lot of reasons, a simple vacation wasn’t the answer.  I had tried that and couldn’t get the fire back.  I owed better to my team.  A change was needed and a drastic one at that.  I needed to take a break from working, a break without worrying about returning to a job.  I tried to get a Leave of Absence / Sabbatical but that didn’t work out.  At that point, I decided to resign.  For why I chose to hike the AT, you can check out this post on  Suffice to say, for the first time in my professional life, I was unemployed.

And now I am back.  I cut my hike short because being away from my family proved to be more painful than the joy hiking brought me.  I hiked the southern half of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to the West Virginia / Maryland border.  I learned a lot about myself in those 1000+ miles.  I believe I have returned a better father, husband, and person.  Being free from the responsibilities of daily life, focusing only on one foot in front of the other, was amazing.  It is easy to get caught up in the frenetic energy that surrounds us – be it work, home, or whatever.  We are generally busy people and slowing down brings that chaos into focus.  It allowed me to put everything aside for 10 weeks and just walk.  All I had to worry about was food, water, and where I was going to pitch my tent that night.  I certainly found a lot of other things to worry about, but the simple essentials were what centered me.  I also learned to be grateful for what I had, for others lending me a hand, and for my family and friends for their support.  I didn’t realize the network of care that surrounded me until I had to rely completely upon it.  I learned to be extremely thankful.  All of this has made me more intentional about the balance in my life.

As I return to the workforce, I would like a role working toward an end that I believe in – helping people, solving problems, making a difference in a true and meaningful way.  A company churning out generic widgets to make a buck isn’t for me.  I need an employer that values a balance between work and home.  My family is hugely important to me and I am a devoted father.  I am also a loyal and passionate team member.  I want to bring my rediscovered energy back into my work.  I will run through walls for my team.  I’m hoping to find a role leading a smart group of people doing exciting work in technology.  I am confident in my abilities and know that I will make a positive impact on any organization that I join.  If you believe I might be a fit for a role you have, I would love to speak with you.

– Chris

Presenting at UConn – Solving Business Problems with the Cloud

Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to present to a group of engineering students at the University of Connecticut.  It was great to be back on a college campus after quite a number of years away.  The energy and curiosity in the room was wonderful to experience.  I was excited and more than a little bit nervous about speaking.  No matter how many times I present to groups, I have pre-game jitters.  Regardless, it was a topic I knew well and once we got rolling, the discussion was engaging and free flowing.  The topic for discussion was “Solving Business Problems with the Cloud”.  I framed the discussion in terms of the needs of the business rather than the technical intricacies of the cloud itself (I’m hardly qualified to do that anyway).  I did so by walking through use cases from my personal experience.  My hope was to provide my audience with some real-world insight into the technical concepts they were learning in class.

The first use case I went through was vLab, cloud success story from early in my career at EMC.  I worked within the team that created and evangelized a cloud platform for virtual sales demos.  We took the corporation from sales engineers developing demos on laptops to a centralized platform that provides fully functioning, virtualized content to the tune of almost 100,000 demos per year.  The content is co-developed with the product business units and aligns with sales campaigns.  vLab is a perfect example of the value of an internal, private cloud.

The second use case I described was the application of cloud based services to enable the engineering teams that deliver EMC’s products.  I introduced the concept of a Product Delivery Platform (PDP) which is essentially a combination of tools and resources designed to be a workspace for engineers across EMC.  It is certainly a challenge to standardize and extend services such as source code control, build, and test / QA to engineers across diverse teams.  Having acquired over 75 companies in the last decade, you can imagine the diverse processes and tools that exist within EMC.  We’re well on our way but there is a lot of work left to do.

If you’re interested, here’s the deck I used:

Solving Business Problems using the Cloud

TED Talk on Leadership

This video was left by a colleague (thanks Sudhir!) as a comment on my last post.  I love this line from it, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”  A great talk by Simon Sinek on leaders that inspire – please take a look.

Continued proof that there are a lot smarter people than I discussing the topic of leadership.  Even so, I’ve still got lots to add to the conversation.