Archive for the 'Austin' Category

Goodbye Cube life…

Goobye mau5trapThis month marks the end of my 41st year in information technology, IT; or a it was called back when I started, Data Processing.

Interestingly, officially yesterday I cleared out my “executive” cubicle at the mau5trap and for the first time became a remote (work-at-home) worker. I have to say I’d have preferred not to, but really given the distributed nature of our team it was simply a waste of time and space to maintain the cube, especially since I’m there infrequently; and for the most part, none of the other technical team members are.

It also means I don’t have to waste 90-minutes per day getting to and from the mau5trap, which has got significantly worse in the last 5-years. Yesterdays drive home was an epic waste of time, nearly 2-hours of which 90-mins was getting through downtown Austin.

Over the years I’ve worked at the head office of the businesses I’ve worked for; commuted by train, planes and automobiles to offices; worked on international assignment, temporary assignment, and virtual assignment; but I don’t ever recall actually giving up an office entirely before. In my later projects at IBM I was remote from the team and regularly worked from home; that was actually pretty demotivating.

As it turns out, it’s a pre-cursor to the start of other changes, and probably marks the beginning of the end of my technology career. I have no plans to retire just yet, but as someone who spent his career thriving off the enthusiasm and excitement created by being around others, spending days doing whiteboard architecture and design, I find the current state of tools, webex, powerpoint, chat and the omnipresent  email less and less an attraction.

Add to that my recent tendency to take-on the jobs and assignments no one else wants, or is hoping someone else will do, and there you have it.

| Edit. Thanks to #1 for pointing out I had too many “too’s”

Operational Transparency

I’ve had a couple of emails and facebook comments that asked, or at least inferred, was this a real email? Yes, it was. I do get questions like these from time to time, it’s unusual to get all them all in a single email. The final question in the email from my colleague was:

 How important do you think operational transparency is?

My response was again curt and to the point. I think. without context for the question, this was the best I can do.

Very. There are time when it is OK to be opaque there is never a time to be deceptive. Your manager should never tell you he/she will work on a promotion for you when they know they have no ability to deliver it. They should never tell you your position is solid, when they know it isn’t.

Austin Business Journal posted an article with a quote from a University of Texas (UT) expert on recent staff actions at Dell. I wrote a response/comment which I think nicely bookends this series of posts. Thanks for all the positive feedback.

Career goals and aspirations

Following on from yesterdays post, the 2nd question that came up in the email was:

What is the most effective way to build and achieve career goals?

Before I get to my answer, I’d like put in a plug for the 3 Minute Mentor website created, run and produced by long time friend, ex-colleague and fellow Brit’ ex-pat Nigel Dessau. Nigel and I worked together as far back as 1991, and he has produced a fine set of short, topic based video advice guides. I don’t agree with all of them, but they are a fantastic resource.

The very first 3 Minute Mentor episode was in fact, “How should I plan a career?” – My take of careers has been long documented in my now 15-year old, “Ways to measure progress” presentation, available in it’s original format on slideshare.net or in the 2012 format Technical and Professional careers I delivered at Texas A&M.

My approach has always been to set a long term goal, and then judge changes and opportunities against that goal. My email answer makes sense in that context.

This is a long term objective. As per the presentation(see above), you need to evaluate each and every job and assignment against a long term objective, depending on what you are aiming for long term, you may or may not decide to take a short term job. For example, I took an assignment in New York as a stepping stone to get here in Austin. I’d worked in NY before had had no desire to go back. However, equally it wasn’t clear how I would get assigned to Austin, so I took the NY job and worked on connections here[Austin] to create the opportunity to move to Austin

Next up, “How do you go about dealing with difficult people and company politics?”

Senior Architect – Enterprise Systems Management and more

With things really rolling here at Dell on the software front we are still in the process of hiring,and are looking for some key people to fit into, or lead teams working on current and future software projects. At least currently these are based with our team here in Round Rock, TX. However, I’d like to hear if you’d be interested in joining our Dell west coast software labs in Sunnyvale and Palo Alto.

Here are a few of the current vacancies:

Senior SOA Architect – Enterprise Systems Management
Performance Engineer – SOA Infrastructure Management
Senior Java Developer – Systems Management
Senior Software Engineer – Systems Management-10069ZNS

Depending on how you count, there are over a 100 of us now working on the VIS and AIM products, with a whole lot more to come in 2011. Come join me and help make a fundamental change at Dell and be in on the beginning of something big!

Profiles in, err, courage

Back in March I caught an early morning bus on Saturday to downtown Austin to attend Bar Camp IV, suffice to say it’s mostly not a bar, and doesn’t involve camping(anymore).

I attend a few interesting sessions, I learned a few things about Windows 7, mobile development and attended a session on airships and blimps that I assumed was some kind of coded language for a session on clouds, but it wasn’t it WAS about airships and blimps and more.

Big-up to @whurley @sarad and @linearb for organising and to the various sponsors which included not only free attendance, but also free lunch and libations.

I was on my way out when I bumped into Texas Social Media Awards finalist and local tech analyst and sometime contact, Michael Cote from Redmonk. We passed the time of day, and he asked me if I wanted to be interviewed for a podcast, why not?

I learned a ton about Cote from the interview, mostly that he doesn’t forget anything. We’ve met probably 5-6 times in the past and he seemed to pull 1x question from each discussion. I mostly laughed the whole way through, I thought it was going to be a tech discussion, and we did touch on a few topics, but it was just a fun way to spend 10-mins. You can hear the podcast and read the liner notes here on Redmonk Radio Episode 55. – And no, I have no idea why the series was called “profiles in courage”, why I was selected, a why I giggled all the way through. It’s been a while since I did my press training, I don’t remember them telling us about giggling as a technique!

It takes a team – April Power Systems Announcements

I’ve had a few emails asking me if I was going to write a log entry on this month announcements, and to be honest I wasn’t. They are an impressive list of products, branding and customer announcements. I wasn’t anything to do with them, given I’m no longer asked to do marketing/sales types presentations, I picked that time to go do the Machupichhu/Inca trail trip in Peru.

The April announcements though were a credit to the teamwork across the even more global IBM. Core Processor and server development teams in Austin and Rochester, worked with domain specialists in Poughkeepsie and Boeblingen. On top of this were the software development and test teams in India, China and and ever increasing number of places.

The new UNIX enterprise server, the Power™ 595 is an impressive beast if the charts are anything to go by. I’m hoping to get Nancy to take me across the building to the test bring-up to have an up close and personal look sometime this week. The new POWER6 “Hydro-Cluster” supercomputer, the Power 575, is very impessive using a new super-dense system, with a unique, in-rack, water-cooling system and with 448 processor cores per rack. Apprently it offers users nearly five times the performance and more than three times the energy efficiency of its predecessor, IBM’s POWER5+™ processor running upto a industry busting clock cycle of up to 5 GHz.

These Super-dense systems are starting to become a really interesting value prop. On Friday I got a link to the IBM.COM public website that included a video on our iDATAPLEX offering. It was there Saturday and has gone today, but it was there as this search in the current google index shows. The video doesn’t show any technical details but does give an interesting insight into this x86 based super-dense, Internet scale, behemoth of a server. I was hoping there was other public comment or blog entries I could leach off for discussion points, but the only search results return job postings 😉

Anyone go to the iDATAPLEX session at IMPACT 2008 and want to comment ??

One for James, Ruby in Austin

Ruby on booksHey James, no promises but here are a sample of the new books in the IBM Austin library…

Click to enlarge…


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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