Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why I left IT...

Why I left IT…

I have thought about writing this piece for several months now and its finally time.  Today I am a college IT instructor teaching VMware, EMC and Microsoft to the next generation of IT professionals.  Before that I was an IT architect / admin for several companies in the Wisconsin area.  I enjoyed working with new technology and seeing everything new and exciting.  Designing systems, figuring out new technology made my heart race and I loved every minute, or so I thought.

As I continued in IT I found myself looking more and more for career advancement and that next big step.  Over the course of many years it drove me, my only focus was to get better in technology, obtain that next certification and of course that next promotion.  I often times passed on family events and vacations because I was always about work.  There was no time for anything else, just the next project or certification.  At the time it seemed like the ideal life, I was making more money than I could of needed and it appeared that my career had no limits.

It is a known fact that behavior and personality traits are almost impossible to change unless you have a life-altering event, well three years ago my events occurred.  In January of that year I lost my Mom suddenly to heart disease.  Anyone who has lost a parent knows the impact of that.  Later that year when it was time to get the promotion I was promised I found out that my manager had been leading me on about it for almost a year.  On it’s own losing the promotion does not come close to losing my mother but here is where it gets twisted together.  My mother had asked on several times for me to go with them on vacation and I always turned it down because of work and striving for that promotion.  So when the promotion didn’t occur and the fact that I should of went on one of those trips with my parents I realized the consequences of my decisions.

That was the moment when my life changed, and for the better.  Thanks to a good friend I worked with he suggested I help out a local college, as they needed someone to help teach VMware.  Well I knew the technology but nothing about teaching but how bad could it go?  Okay the first rule in teaching; never have a three-hour lecture without a bathroom break.  Besides that folly I found I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it.  After a year of doing it part time the college wanted me full-time.  This was a big step because it was stepping out of the technology stream and a 40k pay-cut.  I figured I could still consult to help keep my in technology but salary loss is where I had a lot of concerns until my wife put it to me very bluntly “we can afford the salary loss, it’s just your ego - get over it”.  Well she was right and I made the jump. 

So I have been in education full time for two years now.  My salary recovered to a degree in about a year due to teaching additional classes but something very funny happened with my consulting.  While I have a few clients that I work with I end up consulting for many of my students now.  Unlike many other colleges the average age of my students is closer to mid-thirties and already in IT.  They are working on additional certifications or degrees and I often find myself helping them design solutions for their companies before and after class.  I have helped design or redesign about two-dozen virtual / VDI and storage environments that I can think of off the top of my head.  My reward for it, often times in the next semester I will have another student or two from the same place that was referred to by a previous student, you can’t ask for a much better thanks than that. 

I continue to be involved with VMware and the amazing VMware User Group on both a Wisconsin and Global level.  Also my connections with great vendors such as A&E, Ahead, VMware, EMC, Veeam and many others has continued to grow as I continue to recommend their solutions to my students.  Milwaukee Area Technical College is unique, unlike other colleges that teach theory we teach real products and technologies and the vendors know this.  I remember Rick Vanover from Veeam flying up for the day to help us create a Veeam backup lab for one of our classes that included a great student portal.   What does this mean for our students well at a recent event in Chicago held by Ahead they not only encouraged students to attend and learn they also had them meet the engineering recruiting folks to see if they were interested in new careers. 

I thought leaving the general flow of IT would reduce my skill set however just the opposite occurred.  I have found myself keeping up with more and more new technology so I can bring it to my students.  In fact recently I began writing for several great technology sites and that has been an amazing experience.   I use to think to be successful in IT it was all about the position and salary but I had to “leave” IT to realize one of the keys in being successful in IT is to have a balance and ensure that IT does not own you. 

So today I have the best of both worlds, the ability to work with amazing technology and people and not have a pager after hours.  As far as promotions and advancement, each time one of my students / friends gets a new job or certification it means more to me than any reward I had ever gotten for myself, my only regret is that it took me this long to gain clarity…

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