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Introduction: This book is for you…

In this sample chapter from Modernizing the Datacenter with Windows Server and Hybrid Cloud, authors McCabe and Ralston help you embrace change as an IT professional. This book talks about various concepts and ideologies, all of which are designed to help you build a toolkit of thought. This is a reference book to help you structure your approach by giving you scenarios to see where you can attach to and implement or iterate on what makes sense for the positions you are in.

Ikigai. The Japanese culture is rich in descriptive words. For example, there are three words used to describe love. Ikigai is a Japanese reference for “a reason for being.” As an IT professional or developer, it is important that you have your vocation centered on what you love to do and do it well because “change” in our world of technology is inevitable.

This “reason for being” can be found at the intersection of what you love and what you are good at, crossed with world needs and getting yourself paid. Anyone looking to get into a technology field should honestly answer the very basic question, “What do you really love?” If you’re getting into the IT business just to make money, it will be a long road. You need to be able to take other value from your life in the IT world.

Let’s take a few minutes to explore this concept of Ikigai and your role as an IT pro or developer.

Let’s have some fun. Take out a piece of paper, draw a circle at the top of the page, and think critically about what it is you truly love to do. Write it in the circle. (See Figure 1-1.)

FIGURE 1-1

Figure 1-1 Write something you love to do in the circle.

The next step in the Ikigai process is asking, “What do I do well?” On your paper, draw another circle lower and to the left of the first circle you drew, and write something you do well in. (See Figure 1-2.) For example, you may love to play football, but you may not have the athletic prowess to make your living at it. It’s important to note that the things you do well do not have to align with what you love to do.

FIGURE 1-2

Figure 1-2 Write something you are good at doing in the circle.

To the lower right of the top circle and in line with the circle you drew on the left, draw another circle to continue with the process. In this circle, write something that answers the question “What does the world need?” which allows you a lot of subjective room. (See Figure 1-3.) We’re sure if you lined up ten people and asked them what the world needs, by the time you got to the sixth person, the first person would have changed his or her mind. One opinion is that the world truly can use technology solutions to empower people. But, as we mentioned, that’s just one subjective viewpoint. Take a shot and write your idea down.

FIGURE 1-3

Figure 1-3 Write something you think might improve the world in this circle.

Below the top circle but lower on the page than the other two circles on the left and right, draw another circle on the page. The question you’re answering is, “what can I be paid for?” which is something that can be subjective and a little tricky. (See Figure 1-4.) This question more than any of the others can misguide one’s true ability. It’s not uncommon for students to latch on to a specific technology or programming language because of what they think their projected pay will be. Often, they can paint themselves into a corner where they have no broadly developed IT skills; instead, they become specialists that are highly resistant to any change. Luckily for IT professionals and developers there is (generally speaking) good opportunity and pay across the board.

FIGURE 1-4

Figure 1-4 Write something you think you can be paid to do.

Okay, here comes the fun part. Take the four circles and combine them into a Venn-style diagram of four overlapping circles (you can re-draw them as needed). You should have something that looks like Figure 1-5. The area where the four circles intersect is Ikigai.

FIGURE 1-5

Figure 1-5 Venn diagram of Ikigai.

Another intersection of these circles reveals another layer of Ikigai. There is a reason why we addressed each of the questions in the order we did. In the Venn diagram, there are secondary intersections of the circles:

  • Your profession is the overlap of “What I do well” and “What I get paid for.”

  • Your vocation is the overlap of “What I get paid for” and “What the world needs.”

  • Your passion is the overlap of “What I do well” and “What I love to do.” Many people have trouble quantifying this.

  • Your mission is the overlap of “That which the world needs.” and “That which you love.”

Pretty nifty? We think it is. At the end of this exercise you should have something that looks like Figure 1-6.

FIGURE 1-6

Figure 1-6 Venn diagram of Ikigai—enhanced.

How does Ikigai around your role as an IT professional or developer intersect? As we have explored, it gives you a base for your role on this planet. Having your Ikigai within the realm of technology as a developer or IT professional, your Ikigai makes you tolerant of the inevitable with technology: change. Things never stay the same for very long in IT. That is both a blessing and a curse.

Embracing change

Someone once pointed out that for most of human history, people died in the same world that they were born in. In other words, the way things were done changed at a glacial pace. As a child, a person learned how to get things done; that person taught his or her children the same skills, and that continued for generation after generation. If that sounds like a great world to you then you should not be in IT, and you should not be reading this book.

IT has always been about passionate people embracing and managing change. While it has long been true that the rate of change is accelerating, the increased speed at which the cloud moves makes it feel like someone has poured gasoline on a fire. When faced with this rapid change, you have two choices: shelter in place and hope the change won’t affect you or put on your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. This book is for the latter audience—the adventurers, the heroes, and the brave of heart—the tribe of IT. Change is hard and requires effort and struggle, but the rewards and gratification are well worth it.

The first big change in the IT industry was the transition from mainframe computing to minicomputers. The business value of mainframes was clear and compelling, but they also were extraordinarily expensive, and the organizations running them were slow to keep up with growing demands. A new class of smaller machines from Digital, Prime, Wang, Data General, and other companies introduced the era of the minicomputer. These machines were dramatically cheaper, which enabled departments within companies to purchase and deploy them without the oversight and control of central IT. That is why we used to call these “departmental” computers. Departments eager to harness new technology to advance their business saw central IT as the problem. Departments’ computers were too slow and unresponsive and were hurting the company’s business. Freedom from central IT allowed departments to be agile and to adopt technology to drive their business forward.

The party was great at first, but then reality set in. Without financial oversight, departments’ purchases were out of control. Some groups had too much capacity, whereas others didn’t have enough and often failed to budget for ongoing support fees. Some groups purchased machines but then didn’t have the skilled people to get them deployed or keep them running when a problem occurred. Newly empowered teams were painfully introduced to the concept of disk failures and gained an understanding of why IT had maintenance downtime to do backups. Company auditors discovered that business-critical data was unsecure and unprotected.

At many companies the music stopped, and central IT was called in to take control over departmental computers. The departments still benefited from the minicomputer revolution, but the company was able to get what it needed as well. The needs of the people advancing the business were coupled with the needs of the people preserving the business. However, the transition was a huge challenge for IT because all the skills they had learned were not applicable to the world of minicomputers. As they worked with the minicomputers, they quickly realized that their skills were not applicable. The languages they used and the techniques that they had mastered weren’t useful in the world of minicomputers. Some people let their fears and insecurities get the better of them, thinking that they had nothing to offer in the world of minicomputers, and they retreated to the comfort of their mainframes (some of those people are still there). Others embraced the challenge and learned new tools; consequently they learned that what made them valuable in the world of mainframes made them even more valuable in the world of minicomputers. They needed to learn a new set of tools to express their skills, but once they mastered those tools, their skills in fiscal responsibility, ensuring data is safe and secure, and maintaining the availability of systems once again made them invaluable to the company.

And so, the die of IT transformation was cast. A similar pattern played out in the transition to the era of PCs and client-server computing, and it is being played out again as the industry transitions to cloud computing. Here are some points to think about:

  • The interns of companies (for example) don’t like the strict barriers enforced by central IT, and they desire and embrace radical new technology that they feel delivers compelling business value.

  • A series of crises occur that require central IT to get involved.

  • Some IT people retreat from the challenge and decide to ride out their careers with the skills they have.

  • Other IT people embrace the challenge to retool and, after a period of discomfort, discover that the things that made them superstars in the old world also make them superstars in the new world. They become the new heroes of the company.

IT has been, is, and always will be the post-facto cleanup of the mess someone else made. It is the way of the world. That said, IT has been, is, and always will be the heroes of the company because they’re able to adapt and partner with business teams to harness the power of new technology to deliver business results. Anyone can buy a wild horse and point out how powerful it is and the potential of that power. The real value comes when you can tame the horse and get it to wear a saddle, accept a bit, and go in the direction you need it to go in.

Radical change

It is important to get good at change. You’ve made the choice to get into one of the most dynamic, rapidly changing industries the world has ever seen. Of course, we’ve heard this all many times before. How many times have we heard talks start with a review of the incredible impact of Moore’s Law?

In 1975, Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double every 24 months. This became known as Moore’s Law. As impossible as it seems, this “law” has held true, and it’s even been updated to state that the doubling would occur every 18 months. Apply that rate of growth for a few decades and incredible things happen. Combine that with the fact that a sufficient change in quantity produces a change in quality, and you have the magic that is Moore’s Law.

In many respects, this stage of the industry is just like every other stage of the industry; Moore’s Law is bringing us yet another wave of innovation. However, we believe that something very different is occurring that makes this period more important and, in many ways, less predictable than in the past.

After an initial period of figuring things out, the general model for computing has been worked out, and most of the industry has been implementing the model and filling out the details. In this world, it was pretty straightforward to predict the rate of progress and forecast what would happen in the next few years. Every now and again, a particular area of technology would experience radical change, and the industry would be less predictable for a while. Then the change would come into focus, and the model would be updated so people could go on with implementing and filling out the details. We believe this stage of the industry is different because almost every layer of the technology stack is undergoing a deep rethink and fundamental changes.

Digital transformation and the “other” Moore’s Law

What really matters is IT’s ability to focus on customer value delivery. Going faster at things that don’t matter isn’t a good strategy. If the thing you choose to do quickly doesn’t have any impact to make things better, then why do that specific thing at all? Amdahl’s Law addresses the maximal speedup you can achieve through parallelization. Consider a program that takes 100 hours to complete. If you can parallelize 80% of the application, the fastest the program can theoretically finish in is 20 hours. You need to focus on the goal rather than on the candy. In business, the goal is to create and retain customers by delivering something that the competition is not. The goal is to ensure the customers see value in consuming your business in a convenient and cost-efficient way that evolves with the changing needs of the marketplace.

How to use this book

This book talks about various concepts and ideologies, all of which are designed to help you build a toolkit of thought. This is a reference book to help you structure your approach by giving you scenarios to see where you can attach to and implement or iterate on what makes sense for the positions you are in.

We intend this to be a reference for you to go back to over the course of your transformation. Sometimes you will be ahead, sometimes you will behind. We describe some situations that don’t apply and others that you will absolutely relate to.

No matter your situation, we hope that you adopt the concepts of change, monitoring, and feedback that underpins all the chapters. We know the journey is not easy, but we do know that the rewards far out weight the difficulty of the journey.

Throughout this book, we have references to specific technologies that are available now and screenshots of the current view of the technology. Although the software might change, the concepts surrounding why we use it don’t change much. You might need to do some additional research to find what current technology is in place in Microsoft Azure. As we’ve said throughout this chapter, you’re on a journey of change, and you need to be ready to embrace it!

Happy reading!