We are excited to introduce this week’s Friday Feature— @Adam Fowler. Adam is an IT Operations Manager for a law firm in Australia. He shared with us his advice for those new to IT, where he goes to stay informed and how he’s seen the cloud impact IT during his career. Check out his Q&A below!
Tell us a little bit about where you work and your role in the organization.
I work as an IT Operations Manager at an Australian law firm. The users have high demands to meet their own requirements, so I'm very customer focused. My role is rather broad, as I manage things like Skype for Business, Active Directory and Azure AD, working on new projects and decommissioning old software, while keeping everything ticking along and making sure everyone is happy. I like the variety of a role like this, it never gets boring.
How has IT and the cloud changed since you first started your career?
I started in IT back in 2000, although I'd grown up with it, seeing it in business was a whole different situation. Things we take for granted these days - cheap storage, more CPU grunt than we need etc. were commonplace issues. There was much less focus on doing things properly, a lot of time was spent making sure band-aids didn't fall off. That's improved a lot, and going from 'next to no cloud' to 'consider and evaluate cloud for all your solutions' requires a different mindset. Right now, cloud isn't about cost savings, it's about flexibility and moving work that provides no real value to a centralised area that accommodates scale. For example, patching your Exchange on-premises servers usually doesn't provide the users any new benefits, but is required for maintenance, security and bug fixes. Letting Microsoft worry about that with Exchange Online lets you spend your time doing other things that can have a direct impact to the company's success.
Where do you go to learn new skills and stay updated on new updates and trends?
One of my favorite feeds of information is Microsoft Mechanics. They're often pushing out several minute videos on a new product, or new features to a product. They're brief, with demos on how to do what they're talking about. For me, it's a good peek into knowing what's new and how it can help me. One of the first videos I watched was on Azure AD B2B which got me started on using that product, giving the ability to invite external users to services to your own tenant. That video is a bit dated now with the rate of change in Azure, and they've made a newer one recently.
Beyond that, I use Twitter a lot and that's a great way to manage your feeds of news and information, as well as ask questions and talk to others about what's happening in IT. People like Richard Hay (@WinObs) constantly tweet out all the interesting news they come across, and there's also tech news sites like TechTarget and The Register (which I occasionally write for) that have the style of article I like to read. Twitter can take a bit of work to work out who to follow, and don't be afraid to unfollow accounts that don't work for you.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting their career in IT?
If you're getting started in IT, have a healthy respect for both trying things and learning, as well as not going too crazy with it. One of the general rules is - in production, if you don't know how to get yourself out of trouble when making a change, then don't do the change yet. Build up a lab, do some online reading, talk to others online and going to user groups to learn and absorb as much as you can. If possible, find a mentor - this doesn't have to be anything official, but someone you can go to for general advice. Experience is incredibly important in IT, find someone who has it and learn what you can from them.
What would you say is your most valuable skill? Why?
I think my best skill is assessing a situation big or small, and working out a fair outcome for all involved. That includes good communication - which doesn't just mean lots of communication. Doing it right and efficiently, while trying to cover everyone's requirements. There's also the technical aspect of understanding a situation when it relates to IT.