Friday, November 11, 2016

Reflection - A Call To Action...

Looking through my blog archive, I thought I would share what I wrote exactly 8 years ago about the outcomes of THAT election. In the past days, I have been called a sexist, a misogynist, white privileged, and there was the indirect implication that I am a racist.

I get that people are raw from the outcome of the election. I get that they think the world is going to end. I get that they believe that Trump is a personal attack on everything they believe. 

I really do get it. 

This is how I felt when we elected a socialist TWICE from the Chicago south-side. This is how I felt when the Democrats unilaterally passed Obamacare. This is how I felt when he declared that we are no longer a great nation or a super power.

So yes - I really do get it...

No doubt that the last seven days have been difficult for you: a failed election, Democrat gains in the House and Senate, the virtual cartwheels of the left leaning media celebrating the election of their hand selected candidate and his perceived elevation to god like status, the joyous news articles about the first 100 days of Camelot 2 (the sequel), the disappointment among the cast at Saturday Night Live who now have nobody to make fun of, and the media coverage of Sarah Palin forced to return her campaign wardrobe. Recounts in Minnesota, the landscape littered with failed ballot initiatives and the announcement of trials for our enemies locked away in the soon to be closed Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The fact is: you should be angry. You should be upset. You should be confused and distraught and fearful.

And the fear comes, in part, when you see those that we would probably classify as our enemies, dancing in the street. Not because Obama or the Democrats are going to usher a new era of peace and prosperity for the world, but because they now know that America will be far less likely to take direct action against them while they move unabated across the globe. Osama bin Laden endorsed Obama, not because he expects peace with our country but because he believes it will be easier to destroy the Great Satan with the Democrats in control.

The Republican Party took a punch in the gut, and you probably hand the wind knocked out of you.

And worse: the change is coming. The change you fought against. The change that will march forward unchallenged through the House and through the Senate and through the media. The change that represents the greatest threat to conservative values in the past thirty years. Greater than Carter. Even greater than the Clintons. The people have spoken, and the change is coming. Like a tidal wave.

Is moving to Canada the answer? Hardly. Though it certainly will be easier to go back and forth between our northern and southern neighbors. Congressional liberals will blow bazooka-sized holes in an already struggling immigration policy, inviting them to join their party of “inclusion”, as the various labor unions wait with open arms to add them to their rosters. This will be easy, as they will be able to unionize businesses through the card check method, discarding the secret ballot for a more “democratic” process. And these newly energized and cash laden unions will be sponsoring election day "vote-as-many-times-as-you-can" bus tours for their left leaning members now that we will have same day voter registration in all 50 states. Your vote will now have to directly compete with the voting dead of Cook County political machine, or the ACORN registered Dallas Cowboys offensive line (they only get to vote 47 times, so no big deal there).

We currently live in a constitutional republic with some democratic leanings, but that is changing as well. Those democratic leanings are inching their way to become the standard, a standard of mob rule with little concern of the checks and balances that our Founders created to save us from ourselves. Our liberties are more at risk as we move towards democracy. The progression has been slow to this point, but high speed communications have changed the average person’s view of democratic processes, and most believe republican processes are slow and ineffective. That darn Electoral College has stood in the way for far too long, and our more liberal friends are not going to allow something like one of the foundations of our republic type of government and most brilliant compromises of the Constitutional Convention stand in the way of the new Democrat, “you don’t need to see my identification” super voter base.

Not that it matters, as you will probably not have to hear about it. If Nancy Pelosi has her way, the "fairness doctrine" will wipe out the minute media opposition to liberal policies, putting conservative talk radio and any other conservative media outlet out of business, possibly including my blog (sorry folks!).

But all is not lost.

There is a twinkle of starlight on the blanket of darkness that has enveloped the conservative universe. We may have taken the punch in the gut, but we can recover.

While this election saw a general rout of elected officials with conservative ideals, the election was not a complete loss. There was pre-election speculation that the Democrats might pick up enough seats to hold a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, and this did not happen. Several conservative ballot initiatives passed in Colorado, proving that the voting public has not completely migrated to the left. Several states, including California, affirmed conservative values and confirmed the widely held belief that marriage is an institution that should be between a man and a woman. This, despite the millions of dollars spent by Hollywood and gay organizations that tried to use their influence (not only in monetary resources, but in star power and in the scripts of the very television shows that they honor year after year) to defeat the measure.

For certain, this election hurts really more than any other election in recent history, as we now have a left leaning unified government with a very left leaning President. We have discussed the kinds of policies this kind of government will enact, now that they have their chance to govern.

These kinds of polices scare me. But more than anything else, it motivates me. It motivates me to get involved. It motivates me to embrace my values. It motivates me to make certain that it doesn’t happen again.

We have two years of a unified Congress to deal with. That’s 730 days. We have four years of a leftist President. That's 1460 days.

The GOP will have to get serious now about the Congressional mid-terms and in about 1000 days for the next Presidential election. Now is the time to really start identifying what the platform is going to be, who we want as our next party leaders, and who we want to be the next President.

Very soon, we will know the impacts of a Democrat unified Congress. We will know the impacts of a rubber stamp executive. We will know the damage to the court system, to the small businesses that have been taxed out of existence, to our wallets and checking accounts. We will know first hand of the failures of Obama/Pelosi/Reid’s social policies, and we will have to develop plans to minimize the damage as quickly as possible.

Keep your chin up. Remember your values. Stay true to your beliefs. I sincerely believe that the country made a mistake a week ago, and we will have 4 years to learn from than mistake. Pay attention, and get involved at the local level. We lost this election, in part, because people in the 40 and under crowd voted for Obama. We need to even the playing field the next time around.

And remember that conservatism is not dead - we are just taking a breather to rebuild!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Guest Post - What Can I Do...

Philip Marshall, a friend and co-worker, shared his thoughts on the election outcomes yesterday. I am honored to share them with you here.

I’ve been trying to think what it’s like today to be a Muslim, disabled, Hispanic, woman or other person with a nationality, religious beliefs, origin or background to whom Donald Trump has been disingenuous. I can hardly imagine.

What I can imagine is making sure that I make eye contact, smile, acknowledge and engage every person who may undoubtedly feel uncomfortable in their own skin. I can and should do this anyway. I want them to feel, with every interaction, that they are welcome and just as much a part of my America as I am. They might be a surgeon, attorney, coffee barrister or someone I meet at an event, in a store or at work.

What I believe is that most people want to do good, want to contribute and want to make me feel connected to them in at least some small way. We’re all in this together and my belief is that it’s a very small world. Someone I hold a door for today may very well save my life down the road. Wouldn’t it be great if when they’re helping me that they remember that I was the nice guy who smiled, took a minute to connect and left them feeling a part of my world as opposed to feeling shunned by it.

Unless you’re of Native American descent, it’s likely that your parents, grandparents, or some distant relative journeyed here. Perhaps their reason for coming was that they were persecuted in a foreign land. They likely braved a long trip by ship or endured horrendous conditions on barely passable roads. And when they arrived, they may not have been treated well. It wasn’t easy. Don’t you think they’d be pleased to see you reach out to strangers, many of whom are petrified of this new land and its diverse people?

Now more than ever it’s time to embrace people who seem unlike ourselves rather than be predetermined to hate. This world can become a better place, not by building walls, but by tearing them down. As Isaac Newton said, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” So I’m going to smile, hold out my hand, look a stranger in the eye, and envision a world in which with each persons’ contributions, we all thrive. In the words of the great American poet Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want them to feel like they’re home.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Do I Tell My Kids? A Suggestion...


Just. Stop.

Stop emoting and let your right brain take a breather for a moment.

Better? Now read on…

Yes, the election is a shocker. You were misled by ALL of the polls. No one (apart from the Simpsons 16 years ago) could have predicted this to happen. Yet it did.

No, the world is not going to come to an end, though it may feel that way for some of you. There were even reports of the Canadian immigration site crashing as the election results were coming in.

Every four year, we have a new election for the President of the United States. Sometimes, it goes your way. Sometimes it doesn’t. And yet – every time the country has survived. You may not like the person, or the system, or the results. But the country survived (and if you are the anarchist type that was hoping to overthrow the government or something, maybe you *SHOULD* consider Canada. Or Libya. Or Iran. Or North Korea – I hear they have a great golf tournament there).

I saw that #WhatDoITellMyKids is trending on Twitter at the moment, and I thought I would share some things that you can share with your kids about this election and the American political system, without delving too deeply into more political rants and discourse:
  • There will be a woman President someday. She will be a person with honor, integrity, character and values. She will love our country, and do everything in her power to make it better. Hillary Clinton may not have won this election cycle, but she has proven that major parties can nominate and compete with a woman on the top of the ticket. Trailblazers such as Clinton (and Condoleezza Rice and others) have craved a path through a male dominated world for our daughters to follow and excel.
  • The powers of the Presidency are limited. Simply, there are limits to what the President can do, and those limits are a good thing. Many think that they get in the way of positive action, but just as often, they prevent totalitarianism. Yes, the President will be able to select his Cabinet, and he will oversee the bureaucracy. But those positions will still be held by those that know how to make the government run, and many will be those that were hired by the former President.
  • Congress acts a check and balance. One of the more bizarre consequences of this election is that few (if any) of those elected or reelected to Congress achieved this by riding the President-elect’s coat tails. Trump may have a unified Congress for the first couple of years, but none of these congressional leaders are beholden to him. Quite the contrary – there is probably more animosity between a President and the congressional leaders of his party than at any time in history. Point being – don’t think that Trump has a rubber stamp for any of his programs or ideas. Far from it.
  • Trump the TV personality vs. Trump the businessman. I don’t know how else to explain this other than like this: I believe (as do MANY others) that the Donald Trump that we have seen on the campaign trail is Donald Trump the TV celebrity, and that Donald Trump the businessman is a VERY different person. I can’t speak to whether this is true, and maybe the businessman is not really any better than the celebrity. Time will tell. But if you think that this campaign felt like one long reality TV show, maybe it is because it was. And Trump played a part specifically designed and molded for him by the public and the media. He played it so well that he won. Sure, it isn’t the Emmy that he wanted so badly for his TV show, but the perks for winning this contest are not too bad…
  • Trump was elected for a reason. Certainly, it was not because he was a stalwart Republican. Certainly it was not because of his great hair. I have read by many that it wasn’t that Trump won, but that Hillary did everything she could to lose. That may be true as well. But there is a current of dis-satisfaction with the “business as usual” approach to government and politics. Trump tapped in to this wellspring and the current carried him to victory. Republicans and Democrats need to stop and take notice – despite their best efforts to stop the stream and run business as usual campaigns, the message that Trump promoted (in between insults and horrible statements) was still the one that was the most important to voters. The people tried 8 years of “Hope and Change” under Obama, and have very little to show for it. They wanted an outsider to have a crack at it – someone that was against the business as usual, Washington establishment types. And that is who they elected – bad hair and all.
The right brain side of you is probably violently reacting again at this point, coming up with all of the counterpoints to things listed above. At the end of it all, the kind of person you are will undoubtedly shape what you tell your kids, and the tone in which you tell them. You can focus on the negative – which there was ample from both candidates – or you can focus on the smooth transition and the desire to affect change in a positive way in the future.

So my simple message for your kids is this:

I am proud to be an American, 
and will continue to work to shape the future elections 
for the benefit of all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Day After...

I was hoping this day would come. I know it is still early, but - like I said - I'm hopeful!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Some Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Elections...

There is so much noise in this election cycle - candidates, scandals, sex, emails. One could argue that is always that way, but in reality, the situation is far more polarized than I have ever remember experiencing.

I have thought a great deal about this election - who I should vote for, what will happen to the Republican Party, what will happen to the houses of Congress. And so I thought I would share some of these thoughts:

  • Donald Trump may be one of the worst people in all history. He embodies everything that we should stereo-typically hate in a person. He defines the ugly American. Even his body language is a performed, calculated and obscene exaggerated part of his overall performance.  Personally, I don't think we have actually seen the REAL Donald Trump - I think we are seeing the character created persona that was developed for his TV shows.  I don't really know (or do I really much care) about his acumen as a businessman, except that the Trump character is not like any businessman that I have ever met (and I know A LOT of them). We - as a voting public - have very little understanding of his political policy views, his values, or his vision, apart from some vague soundbites which are often contradicted in the very next breath. He is NOT a Republican from anything that I can see (which actually gives me a minuscule level of comfort) - The best way that I would describe him is as a preference poll populist: one that reads the polling data from the previous day to determine the message and direction of the day. The idea of his as the elected leader of my country is nauseating.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton may be one of the worst candidates in all history. She embodies everything that we despise in a politician. She is pompous, dis-ingenuous, self serving and heartless. Personally, I have actually considered if she is some kind of strange robot / android type being controlled by the man behind the curtain. The fact that she is a woman has absolutely no bearing at all of any of the disdain that I hold for her (my issues with her have nothing to do with her gender). In fact, if I were a woman, I would be extremely disappointed that Clinton is the example that being used to represent women in general.  Her campaign and political career has been one continuous opportunistic moment after another - first wife Clinton in the AK governor's mansion, then in the White House as First Lady, then moving to NY to take a very safe Democrat Senate seat, then as the Secretary of State. We do know exactly where she stands - she stands for Hillary and whatever is in her best interest. Her social media message says as much.  As President, it will be the friends of the Clinton Family Foundation gang, pay to play, and anything that will serve the Clinton dynasty and legacy.  The best way that I would describe her is a self serving bureaucrat: one that uses her position and influence as a government employee for personal gain, regardless of the expense. The idea of her as the elected leader of my country is nauseating.
  • The third party candidates that are running have lost before they have started, primarily because we are a two party system. I am not advocating a parliamentary or coalition type system by any means - I an just sharing that the two party system generally works for our country, and would be working now, and will still work in the future.  Gary Johnson and Jill Stein may be better humans and politicians than Trump and Clinton - from the little that I know about them, I have to believe that they are. But they decided not to play within the confines of the already accepted two party system, and therefore are marginalized.  Frankly, Libertarian Gary Johnson - even with his complete lack of foreign affairs knowledge or experience - is still a better Republican than Trump is / will ever be.

I will likely write more later. I still have other things to share about this. But these thoughts have been in my mind lately.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Presidential Debates...

I originally posted this on Facebook, but thought it worthwhile to share here as well.

So far, 5 different people have asked what I thought of the debates last night. Truth be told, I didn't watch. And ask yourself if you were one of the 100,000,000 people that watched: what were you expecting? Why were you watching?

Are you one of those types that watches sports for the injuries / disasters? Do you watch reality TV for drama and the least common denominator and the vapid emotional draw?

From everything that I have seen and heard, there was exactly nothing said or done that wasn't already expected and predicted by pretty much everyone. I guess one of them could have collapsed on stage, but apart from that (and the Trump Sniffles and the Clinton Swaying), it was everything that I expected (and I assume that you expected) to see.

For the record: they are both terrible. Both lie as a rule. Both are as narcissistic as a person can be. Both represent the worst in humanity, and I am embarrassed for all of us that we will have one of them as the next President.

So watching the debates? I choose not to contribute to the erosion of our public discourse. I refuse to support either by watching their ads or speeches or debates. I refuse to lower myself, my political influence, and my personal self respect by acknowledging anything associated with either of them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Game...

I wanted to share a story - one that I feel many of my friends can relate to or might find interesting.  It is a story of how the corporate world works, and how big companies lose sight of the employees that make the company great.

It is not a specific person, or a specific company. I heard the story and have decided to share it because it resonates with me, and will likely resonate with others.  The person who shared it and the company that they work for will remain anonymous (for now).

The Game.

Paula had previously worked in small to medium sized companies, and the kinds of work had varied: from sales, to marketing, to management roles, to Jack-of-all-trades. She had pretty much done it all at one point or another. And loved it. 

Paula was forever grateful for the opportunity to work for Acme.  The company was very diverse in its offerings and holdings, providing fantastic chances for promotion and professional growth. It was also one of those companies was older, but was trying to embrace the new way of work: telecommuting, unlimited personal time, flexible schedules, and a casual work environment. 

One of her fellow employees once talked about how employees were constantly leaving Acme to work at the other companies in the area, and Paula had seem some of it. It was almost the sport in the region – leave one company to work at the next. Leave that company to go back to work at the old one.  But this was not a sport that Paula was accustomed to, nor one that she wanted to participate.  Maybe she was old fashioned, but her experiences at smaller companies had allowed her to invest a piece of herself into her work, and the company usually awarded her investment.

Paula had been working at the company for a while, and thought she has seen it all.  There had been mergers and acquisitions. There had been the usual turnover that you would expect of a company the size of Acme*. But things are have steadily gotten worse.

Another big merger, another shake up in the executive suite. The CEO was driven to improve the stock price at nearly any cost, as he was hired by the board to do exactly this. OR ELSE!

So Paula was concerned – really concerned – for her job for the first time in her career. Even though she had exceled at everything she had been specifically asked to do, her responsibilities did not really fit into the core of the organization, and it was obvious to Paula that she should be concerned.  

In fact, Paula described the situation as “The Game” and to her it looked something like this:

Imagine a game of musical chairs, much like you likely played in elementary school.  You know the game is going on and some members of your team are playing, but you are not allowed to play. You know that eventually there will be the one chair remaining, and since you are not playing, you are certain to lose.

And even worse, the same game is going on in other places in the company. But since the company has closed ALL - meaning EVERY - hiring requisition, you are not allowed to play in those games either, even if you would be a really great fit in that game (team).

This was the state of Acme for Paula. It was the worst feeling she had ever had as an employee. Managers, directors and VPs all tried (unconvincingly) to convince everyone to keep on playing the game and that everything would be alright. But the truth of the matter is that they didn’t know any more than anyone else – that their confidence was a screen to try (again, unconvincingly) to reassure the employees.

So, Paula – with years of experience and skills on her resume – decide that it was time to leave. Acme had been a great company to work for, but the lack of direction and the poor communication (from the very top) was just too much. Besides, there were many other positions that she would like to do and that would likely progress her career more if she would take them. She would always be thankful to Acme for the opportunities afforded to her, but she had to look out for herself and her family. 

The greatest irony: when she leaves, her managers and co-workers will not understand why.

I feel for Paula, as I have been in this kind of position myself (even recently). I hope it works out for her. I also hope that if you are a manager / director / VP / executive that is part of a merger of this type, that you remember the employees. They are more than numbers, and it is impossible to address every concern individually without talking to the individual.

* Pretty sure the company is not Acme, in case you were curious.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Reorganization Transition...

I usually take the opportunity to write about cloud security or information security events in general. But today I thought I would share a few thoughts on something that foremost in my mind at the moment — the transition that occurs after a company goes through a significant reorganization.

As you may (or may not) know, I am employed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). I *LOVE* working for HPE — it provides opportunities for me that I literally could not have as an employee anywhere else in the world.

On Monday, HPE announced a significant reorganization in the cloud business line. I say significant — as it is significant to me. HPE is by far the largest company I have ever worked for, and is the only pure play tech sector company that I have worked for as well. But talking to any number of HP(E) “old timers” and they will tell you that this is the normal course of business, not only at HP(E) but throughout the tech industry.

I have no criticism of the reorg, as I think it is still too early to tell what impact it will have on the business. I know that our executive team is doing what they believe is in the best interest of the long term strategy of HPE, and at some point you have trust that they know what they are doing. To date — they really do know what they are doing, and the demerger from HP has actually been a very positive thing.

My thoughts are not really on the good and bad that is the reorganization, but more on the effects of the reorg on the people that are going through it.

Communication is key: The announcement, and subsequent meetings, about the reorganization are extremely important. Employees (and often the media, customers and competitors) want to know as much in the way of details that the company can share. Blogs, internal meetings, press releases and phone calls go a long way to providing that level of initial comfort.

A company is still made up of people: If I have learned a single thing over the 20+ years that I have been in the working world, it is that people make the business. Specifically, most employees choose to work for the company that they work for because of the people that they get to work with. There is a great quote by Marcus Buckingham that states that “People leave managers, not companies.” I agree with this statement, though people leave companies for more reasons than just their managers.

All comes down to trust: People need to be able to trust the company that they work for. Reorgs erode some of that trust, as it adds a level of uncertainty to the everyday equation. It is extremely difficult to be motivated to do a job when you don’t know if that job will exist the next day following a reorganization. Those that have been through numerous reorgs will probably tell you that it will all work out, but they are also wondering about what is going on as well. More than anything, it is a huge stressor, and sometimes it is just enough to check and see if the grass is greener on the other side…

Morale cannot be overlooked: People view and handle a company reorganization in different ways. Many embrace the opportunities the reorg will bring to them. Others have a feeling of uncertainty about their jobs, careers and how to make the next mortgage payment. I am personally somewhere in the middle of that — I am fairly certain that I will continue to have a job, as I think I provide a social media outlet that is valuable to my audience and to the company. But there is also a certain amount of trepidation about how that job and responsibilities will evolve. Part of this is solved with communication, part is solved with time, and part is solved in discussions with others about what is going on (kind of like I am doing here). The morale of the employees cannot be taken for granted — especially in my industry, there are just too many potential opportunities for employment for a manager / company to assume that an unhappy employee will just stick around.

The transition comes from acceptance — one day you go from being part of a reorg to part of a company. That transition is a nebulous thing, as there are companies that are in constant states of reorganization. At some point, an employee needs to “embrace the horror” as it were. And as my colleagues will tell me, most of the time, nothing really changes and it is business as usual. For example: most reorganizations are due to a reshuffling in the executive ranks. But does that really have a direct day-to-day impact on the job function of someone that reports 6 levels below them? Not usually. Sure — the company’s vision or strategy may change a little. The line employee may be asked to focus on the new product or direction, but those kinds of shifts occur all the time anyway, regardless of a reorganization.

No, the reorg transition is just one of those things that happens. To some, it is as natural to them as it is coming to work on any other day. For others, it means promotions and greater opportunities.

I certainly do not have all of the answers from the latest reorg that I am a part of, and arguably there is no one in my company that completely does. So I am going to choose to roll with the change, and embrace the transition while hoping for the best.

I’ll keep you in the loop as to what happens…

Monday, April 4, 2016

Old Skool...

NOTE: I originally posted this to Medium (follow this link), but thought I would share it on my personal blog as well.  Enjoy!
A friend and colleague of mine recently mentioned that I was “Old School IT” — actually several times. I have been thinking on it most of the weekend, and thought it might be worthwhile to share some of those thoughts.
Let’s start with a definition: In this case, old skool refers to a technology enthusiast that probably has 20+ years experience, and, at one point in their careers, has pretty much seen and done it all when it comes to information technology: system administration, wire monkey, help desk, network Jedi (or Sith, depending on your affiliation), database admin, and/or printer paper filler. You might have even had that title-of-titles: COMPUTER GUY.
In all likelihood, at this point in their careers, they are a specialist or expert — having done many of the various aspects of IT and settled into a specialty (for me it has been information security, or — even more specifically — information security and compliance in the various cloud architectures). They may even be a member of management — using those skills gained over the last decade plus to educate and train others in the technical field. In some rare cases, the old skool tech has become an executive, using their experiences to drive a technical vision and direction for an enterprise or the industry. In my years of tech, I have been privileged to know and even work with a few of these. It is a truly amazing thing to see experienced technical innovators at work — the right combination of business acumen with technical kung fu.
Now to really age myself — Part of being old skool is remembering and working in a time where technology was NOT ubiquitous, the Internet was a very small collection of web pages, and the only thing that Apple had released as a portable mobile device was a Newton (and no — a Mac Portable does NOT count).
15 years too soon, Steve.
Point being — I remember the trial and error in building computers (jumper combos and dip switches), programming EPROMs, coding using the VI editor in some flavor of Unix and making a Macaquarium out of my Mac SE/30 (still wish I had that thing). Answers came in books and manuals (RTFM), not Google searches (anyone remember setting up Sendmail using the Bat Book?). It isn’t to say that the twenty somethings that are the techies of today are not qualified, but it is a very different beast than it was when I started (one could say the same thing about programming with punch cards or even worse — in Fortran — but I am not THAT old).
Being old skool has made me a better technologist: instead of jumping into management and executive positions with no experience, I have been there and done that in the technical world. I can honestly relate to those that I am talking to at *ANY* level. A significant part of my job is talking to people about cloud security, and I have the confidence and the experience to relate directly to the audience — from the C-Table to the security engineer — because I have been there and done that. For example, when attending a technical conference, which was better: the sessions where someone drones on and on about technology (think PowerPoint of Death), or the sessions led by someone who is a technical expert in his/her subject (think technical demos or just Q/A)?
I never really intended to have a career in the technology industry — it just sort of happened. But I kept coming back to it, despite diversions in politics and non-profits. Sure, it pays the bills. But there is more to it. The constant challenge of learning may not be unique in any particular vertical, but in the technology world, and even more so in the information security and cloud spaces, the technology and uses are evolving right in front of us.
Old skool technologists — then — are those that have evolved as the technology has evolved. They have stayed relevant with their skills, applying their experiences to better understand the next evolution — revolution.
I am proud to be considered old skool…
(BTW — I am not so “old school” as to not know how it is really spelled…)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Drive and Determination...

Every once in a while, you meet someone that you immediately know is destined to change the world in some way...

No – this isn’t the opening line of a sappy employment recommendation or valedictory speech. Instead, it is my first thought every time I come in contact with a person I know, whom we will call ”Michelle” (not her name, but a sobriquet to protect her identity).

While I could go into a huge list of her many accomplishments and adventures (some of which would just completely blow your mind), what made me put down words is her incredible passion and drive.

As I told her earlier in the day today, I have met some of the most fascinating people in the world through my own work and personal experiences.  But none are at quite the same level as Michelle.  She has worked with Nobel Laureates, traveled (in most cases by herself) to six continents, earned multiple Bachelor and Masters degrees (all for free, BTW, through scholarships and raw determination), been a CEO of a tech start up, a motivational public speaker, an ice skater, and a college cheerleader. She joked with her sister about a beauty pageants, was basically dared to enter it, and won (again, something else she doesn’t really publicize).

Today, she shared with me that she is pursuing another of her life long dreams to become a cheerleader for a professional sports franchise.  She is not doing it for the money. She is not doing it for the publicity. She is not doing it to hook up with a sports player. She is doing it because it is something she has always wanted to do.  Unlike most of us (myself included), she is completely able and willing to dedicate whatever she needs to do to accomplish her goals. 

And she will become that cheerleader.

I am reminded of that line in Legally Blonde, when one of Elle Woods professors says "Do you think she just woke up one morning and said, 'I think I'll go to law school today'?” I think that Michelle has bolted upright out of her bed on several occasions and said “I am going to do X tomorrow”.

And she does it.  Regardless of how crazy it may seem to you and I.  She just does it.

I admire drive and ambition.  I have it in spades.  But never have I met someone who is so much more passionate and driven than myself that it makes me feel boring. 

I could say that we need more people in the world like Michelle.  But we don’t.  The world is completely unprepared for the extreme few that we do have like her, and more could cause a massive unbalance in how the world works (I am being completely serious here). 

The point in all of this: if we had 1/10 of the drive and determination that Michelle has, think of the incredible things we would be able to accomplish.  You don’t need to be a Michelle to be passionate about the things that are important to you. Even those things that others might find odd (I have an abnormal obsession with all things cheeseburgers, as many of you may know) can be channeled in a way to be of interest to others.  And people like Michelle push me to be even more crazy than I already am. Because – if she can do it, I know I can as well. 

But I will likely NOT be a cheerleader.  No one wants to see that. No one.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The President and the SCOTUS Nominee...

Today, President Obama will nominate a person to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), filling the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  The President will be nominating Merrick Garland, the chief justice of the US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

I am not going to go into a huge review of Garland’s resume, except to say that, regardless of his political bent, he is undoubtedly qualified to fill the open seat on the Court.

The President has performed his Constitutional obligation, and now the ball is squarely in the court (excuse the pun) of the Republican controlled Senate.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said that there will be no hearings for any nominee that the current President chooses, instead leaving the next President to fill the seat.  And in the truest form of irony, various conservative media outlets have produced video of President Obama and Vice President Biden recommending that exact position as Senators while George W. Bush was in office.

The larger question is: Should the Senate hold hearings and confirm the President’s nominee to the SCOTUS?

The simple answer is yes. And here’s why:

First, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(highlights for relevance, italics for importance)

At some point, the “Advice and Consent of the Senate” clause has been bastardized to mean that the Senate gets to scrutinize every aspect of a potential Presidential nominee (and for the record – both parties are guilty of this abuse). Constitutional scholars and historians are at odds as to the meaning of the phrase, but nearly all would agree (I hope) that the Founders never envisioned the type of circus that exists now over Presidential nominations.

One could also argue that the nomination of a SCOTUS Justice is one of the most important powers that a President has, given the lifetime tenure of the appointment, to promote their ideas on government. This is not a new concept – Adams and Marshall’s plan to fill the judicial branch with Federalist judges was the first of MANY examples. There may be another discussion here about the lifetime appointment of federal judges, but what is relevant is that a SCOTUS lifetime appointment makes the nomination ever more important to the President and their values, but also to the Senate to confirm the appointment (which is a partial explanation of the rancor surrounding SCOTUS nominations).

Just because the nomination or the appointment is “high stakes” such as the SCOTUS appointment, does not grant the Senate the arbitrary purview to ignore the nomination.  

For the record – I believe that the Senate is obligated to conduct hearings on the President’s nomination.  Further, I believe that the Senate should confirm the President’s nominee, unless they find an extraordinary reason to suspect that the nominee is somehow unqualified for the position (which they will not find).  Political views or leanings are NOT grounds for finding a nominee unqualified for the position, regardless of any diametric opposition the Republicans may have to the nominee.  

My view will likely not win the day with the Republicans in the Senate – they will continue to preach their mantra and stall as long as possible. But it is not the right thing for them to do. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Good Bye Old Job - One Year Later...

Today, about the time that this blog has been posted, will mark one year since the company that I had been working for decided to eliminate my position as the Director of Information Technology. It came as a shock – I knew that I had accomplished most of the projects that I had been hired to do, but I still had a number of things I wanted to do to improve the enterprise infrastructure and solidify the corporate office transition.  Alas, it was not to be.

Instead of bashing that company (which is never productive), I wanted to share some insights that I learned from that experience.  Maybe they will be helpful to you, or maybe not.  

Your job should not define who you are.  Especially in the IT universe, we (IT workers of the world) are given labels. And those labels come with an identity.  And for many, that identity becomes part of who we are as a person.  I don’t know why this is the case, but it usually is.  But as much as I enjoyed being an IT Director (I even had a t-shirt made – no kidding), it is / was not who I am.  Yes, I am a bit of a nerd, and I do like pretty much all things computers, and I did have a job as the IT Director for a cool company.  But I am also a Boy Scout, politically active and educated, a renowned burger expert and (according to my wife) a pretty decent husband.  I decided long ago that I work to live, and that I did not live to work.  I appreciate the comforts that a good job affords me, and I work very hard at the job.  But there is more to me and my life than to be “owned” by my job and my employer. If the job you have is more important to you than your family or living, maybe it is time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Your skills are yours – your employer rents them from you.  The IT Industry (as well as many other verticals) are filled with specialists – educated individuals that are often hired to fulfill a specific task or role within the company. In the IT realm, you may be a security specialist, a database administrator, or a project manager.  Sometimes, you may even be all three.  Whatever your particular skill set may be, it never hurts to be able to do more.  Most people have the dreaded “other duties as assigned” line somewhere in their HR approved job description.  I know many that hate when their boss / manager asks them to do something not within the confines or comfort zone of their usual tasks.  But you should always take the opportunity to improve and increase your marketable job skills – if / when you leave the company you are currently employed by, the skills and experience that you take with you are far and away the most valuable thing that you can take.  To that end, go to as many trainings as possible. Even if they are free online webinars, the company is paying you to learn something that will make you more valuable – initially to the employer. But also to the next employer.

A job is a job is a job. As great as your job was / is, it is only a job.  There are others exactly like it (more or less) if you look.  Chances are, the skills that you brought to your job are the same skills that another company is looking for.  Now, you have to find them.  Networking, social media, even those free conferences – all great ways to let others know about your skills and availability.  The job I Have right now came from letting my Facebook friends know that I was looking.  72 hours after that initial post, I was interviewing, and eventually hired.  I am incredibly grateful for that, but I also know that I am not alone.  While I don’t have statistics, an unbelievable majority of jobs are never posted, and are filled by word of mouth – a friend knows a guy who is looking for a guy that can do .  Don’t for a second think that you are not hireable.  There is a job out there waiting for you, almost regardless of the market conditions.  Keep looking, keep talking, and you will find the job (or the job will find you).

I could go on and on, but I hope these suggestions have been…interesting.

And to the company that let me go - I know how things have been going since I left.  I still talk to people, and follow the goings on at the company.  I wish you nothing but the very best!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Political Recovery Wednesday...

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately for work – mainly on cloud security topics. And it has been fun. But I thought I would take a few minutes and write a good ol’ political blog, seeing as I haven’t done so in a few years, and it has been on my mind a ton lately.

This election may very well prove to be a tipping point in American politics.  On the Democrat side, you have a centrist woman, former first lady, who is often thought to be one of the nastiest persons that has ever been in government service.  She is facing a self-proclaimed socialist from New England, who has about zero racial diversity appeal, but is very popular with the Millennials and the other left leaning lemmings that are still looking for the “Hope and Change” they were promised with Obama.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, the Republican cast of characters include a neurosurgeon with ZERO government / political experience who also happens to be black, but has about as much racial appeal as the socialist from Vermont; a right wing ideologue from Texas who was born in Canada and may also believe that the world is flat, a Cuban American that is part of the Republican party establishment, but is also so centrist that he does not really know what he believes, and a reality show populist with REALLY BAD HAIR that has to wait for the latest polling data before having a position, and that position only lasts as long as the next poll.

For those that have yet to embrace the horror, I am here to tell you that it will likely be Trump vs. Ms Clinton in the general election.  And here is why:

Love them, hate them, indifferent to them, the process used to nominate candidates for President (and, for that matter, elect the President) are not directly related to the popular vote.  They are based on a representative system of delegates (and electors).  So, while NO ONE seems to like Trump or Clinton as an individual, enough delegates have pledged their support (through various means) that they will likely be the nominee from each of the two parties.  

The Democrat rules are different than the Republican ones, but it still amounts to the same thing – Trump and Clinton have amassed a huge majority of the convention delegates for the states that have had primaries / caucuses.  So by the time the party conventions come along, the nomination process will be little more than a formality.

There is also some talk of a brokered convention on the Republican side (that is the level of animas the party leaders have for Trump). But unless something significantly shifts in the coming weeks before the primary, I just don’t see how that is going to happen.  It isn’t like he only leading by a couple of delegates – after Super Tuesday, he has more delegates wrapped up already than all of the other candidates COMBINED.     

Strangely, while the main stream media would have you believe that no one likes Trump, they were obviously not polling any of the hundreds of thousands of party elites (defined as those that attend primary elections and caucuses) that voted OVERWHELMINGLY for him in primaries and caucuses across the country.  So either they are wrong (the media is NEVER wrong) or something just doesn’t add up.  

Regardless, the weeks and months leading up to the general election will be interesting, and will likely be different than anyone has seen in politics in their lifetimes.  

Buckle up, this ride is just starting.