But before that career, I was a geek. I was a software developer, a sys admin and a network architect well before many of you were born. Today, I can look out from my office in downtown Boston and see the building in Cambridge that used to be the IBM Cambridge Scientific Center, in which virtualization was invented.
About mid-career, I decided that tech was for young people and believed that my bona fides in technology made me a more compelling marketer of high technology. After all, I argued with myself, tech ain’t soap — if you wanted to market it well, you had to know it intimately. So, I spent years working in companies where, frankly, my technical skill and knowledge out-classed many of the techs but where the marketing folks were just an acquisition event or change in fashion away from being tossed out like trash.
But in fact, in my last few jobs, I was the IT guy out of necessity. There wasn’t any money for a “real IT” guy, so I just did it. And I learned two things. First, you don’t get additional appreciation for being the IT guy who’s also the marketing exec. Second, as I migrated first a Java app and then a Windows Server app to Amazon Web Services (AWS) (originally to save money in the broke-ass startups I was working in) I found myself more and more drawn to the work of implementing and managing cloud infrastructures.
You probably know that Amazon has, over the last couple of years, built a big business out of providing “infrastructure as a service” using technology it built to support its retail website. But what you may not know is that AWS is a brilliant combination of technologies that were interesting separately but when combined are much more than the sum of the parts. And what underpins all of it? Nothing less than the virtualization I was so smitten with on mainframes in the 70s.
So, I set about to reinvent myself as an AWS architect and administrator. It took a couple of years, but I am pleased to say that I finally feel like I’ve succeeded. Today, I am working on a ginormous AWS implementation that is using some very advanced techniques in EC2 and VPC. We are implementing a near-realtime system with stringent performance requirements and multiple terabytes of data stored in S3 and archived in Glacier. The VPC network design alone is the kind of thought experiment that true geeks love to turn over and over in their minds.
In short, I am more fulfilled and happier in my work than I have been in at least a decade. And it proves that one can move between disciplines in a career if only one has a plan and can tolerate some risk.
Yup, for me, AWS is the new black.