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.
This past week, I presented for the first time in a public forum. It was a technical conference run by a large partner of EMC’s, Varrow. Varrow is regional and based in the Carolinas and has a ton of talent and visibility within the industry. I was honored to be asked but more than a little nervous. For many of my peers, speaking to the general public is a well practiced and seasoned art. For me, however, this was a first. I spent a long time on the presentation and got help from a large number of folks (thank you all!) I was confident in the material but was still nervous going into it. There is something about speaking to total strangers that intimidates me. I have spoken to all levels of internal audiences in large corporations – from executives on down. But there is something “safe” about that. You know your audience is pulling in the same direction, you’re employed by the same company. External audiences are different. There is an element of the unknown that is tough for me. You don’t know what types of questions you’ll get or the level of detail that will be needed. There’s no hint as to who will be attending or how engaged they’ll be. All you know is that they picked your session to come to based on a 50 word abstract and now you can hopefully make it worth their while.
My presentation answered the question I get from acquaintances / family / friends – “What do you do at work?” It aimed to cover not only what but more importantly “why” and “how”. It is a topic I live every day and am excited about. The deck was well received by the conference hosts and some folks internal to EMC who were familiar with vLab but not in our direct organization. Bottom line – I should have been less nervous than I was. I got into the room and it was blazing hot – so much so that we had to keep the doors open. After that my USB slide advancer wouldn’t work well and kept disconnected. When I was finally ready to go, I was off balance to say the least. But then a funny thing happened. The passion for what I do and preparation with the material took over. It was odd and almost immediately I found myself mentally facepalming for worrying about it. I cruised through the presentation and while the audience wasn’t overly engaged, I considered it a success. I was between them and happy hour and the heat was really unbearable – I’m sure it wasn’t the material! 🙂 Long story short – this was good for me to do and stretched my comfort zone a bit. I hope to do more of it. vLab is a fantastic story to tell. We have grown tremendously all while using modern and eloquent solutions to deliver business value. It is something I get quite excited about because we are a functioning private cloud use case. It is a great dialogue for EMC to have with customers but it is also personally fulfilling. I have a great deal of pride in my team and the work they have done to help bring vLab to life. I’ve included the slides I used below – if you have questions, please hit me up on twitter or in the comments below. Happy to discuss!