Episode:16 Navigating the Demands of Always-on with Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano

Episode:16 Navigating the Demands of Always-on with Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano

In this episode Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano discuss how to navigate the demands of always-on. Listen as we explore how to develop an architecture to support the demand, methods & approaches to consider, how to ensure you lead a team to meet these demands without suffering from burnout.


0:07 Opening
2:20 How build an environment to meet the demands of always being on
55:19 Recommended books
59:06 Closing


Books mentioned:

https://www.amazon.com/Culture-Code-Secrets-Highly-Successful/dp/0525492461
https://www.hbsp.harvard.edu/product/99609-PDF-ENG?itemFindingMethod=Other
https://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/0671027034


Hosted By:

Brian Comerford
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/briancomerford/

Nick Lozano
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-lozano-97356621/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickLLozano          ‌

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Show Transcript:

Nick Lozano  0:07
How you doing today, Brian?

Brian Comerford  0:09
Well, I like how much territory we covered in this particular episode of leade[.]exe. I feel like we really got into a great breadth of areas where I think you were just saying, you know, we dealt with almost equal parts technical and leadership.

Nick Lozano  0:31
Yeah, like it I think this is probably like one of our most in the weeds IT architecture episodes we've ever done maybe Jensen Hendrix and Robert softener are close second maybe time. You know, I think you know, we really delved into virtual desktop infrastructure disaster recovery. And then on the leadership side, you know, we really want until you know, the whole mentality of leaders eat last and You know, being there for your staff, be an example leader and negotiating. lots lots of good nuggets in there, man.

Brian Comerford  1:08
Absolutely, it's, it all comes down to where are we positioned to be able to deal as leaders with these demands of an always on culture. And that is something that is likely only to continue to impact us particularly enrolls as business leaders and technology leaders. But you really do have to spend time making considerations around your your talent, your resource management from both the talent component, as well as your systems and downtime. So we we address those things. And I think part of the core of what we discussed today is that communication is key, being able to explore options, being able to really be coming from a place of empathy with what both This needs are as well as your talent needs. Those are the things that really gear you have to be the most effective leader in addressing always on challenges head on.

Nick Lozano  2:10
Alright, with that, let's go ahead and now hold them back and go to the upset rocket.

Brian Comerford  2:20
Alright, thanks for joining us for another edition of lead. I'm Brian comer forward and Denver, Colorado. And I'm Nick Lozano, Washington DC. Today we're talking about a topic that's near and dear to both of us, I think really the leadership demands of navigating through always on expectations. So there's a couple of facets that immediately come to mind for me and some of these things. I think that you've already worked quite ardently to solve for some of your own environments, Nick, which starts with the architecture right when you've got demands that system resources network, you know, all of those things that are work related. They don't turn off at 5pm. They're always available to people, no matter what time of day or where they geographically are located. How is a leader? Do you start to wrestle with the challenges of putting together an architecture that's going to fit that set of

Nick Lozano  3:24
expectations? Yeah. And I think you made a fairly good point when we were talking offline right here before we started is that, you know, the consumerization of it, once again, has, you know, bitten us, you know, between Google and Amazon having their 99 point, what was it 11 nine or something like that. Which means they'll be down like five minutes, once a year, has made the expectation on it. pretty difficult, right? People are coming into the office and they're expecting that they can work just like they do at home. And you know, our environments at home are bit more complicated. And, you know, even when we're talking about the work environment somewhat, most of our work environments aren't even anywhere as complicated as I imagined what Google or Amazon or Apple even has going on with the development size and just by sheer server farm own data center architecture, but you know, consumers are kind of, you know, doing as what they say standing on the shoulders of giants, right? And we're kind of standing in the way down below, looking up trying to trying to make our environments just as good as theirs are. And I think how you kind of get there, you start with your low hanging fruit first, right? Well, this is the way I see it. It's like, Okay, are we hosting our email in house? Well, you know, maybe it's time for somebody else to do that. I don't know, Ryan, but you know, I hated updating email servers, got him off, you update them. You apply that patch and you hope that that sucker turns back on, right? And then if it doesn't turn back on you hope that your email Your backup server is actually catching the email. So it's

Brian Comerford  5:05
a book of liturgy to be written for the prayers that it people speak when they're dealing with system reboots.

Nick Lozano  5:13
I think it's that whole thing is that I think everybody has that box sitting somewhere. Whether it's in a server rack room or even just just in an office space gone that that box hasn't been off in eight years. I don't know what it does, and I'm not going to turn it off. No one wants to be that guy, but but the way I look at the way I've kind of done in the past is I've attacked it with a low hanging fruit, right? So let's get our email off Prem, let's let's you know, give it to Microsoft. Let's give it to Google. Let's give day and I'll just pick any one of the vendors Barracuda, something, whatever. I would say your biggest bet is to start small, right? innovate in small increments is what Ryan did said and I think in our sixth episode, right.

Brian Comerford  5:57
Yeah, absolutely. And You know, the, I think part of what you just touched on with email, there are those points where when you really have interactions with other business leaders, having an understanding of what the expectations of the most critical applications are getting that out on the table that may be fundamentally different for people who are business users versus those of us who are sitting on the other side of the network room. For instance, you know, most business types have some form of er p or centralized management system for contacts and finances, finances, and all of those things that are critical for operational day to day business. But that might not really be the number one most critical system I know as we went through recovery time objectives for our own business continuity planning. Email was far and away the number one yes, that everyone said we absolutely cannot deal without that. You know, we start hemorrhaging money every hour that goes by that that's not available. So that's another

Nick Lozano  7:06
theory. And I would add to it you know, what's funny is we're talking about this uptime and you brought up RPS and CRM and when you look at it from the endpoint, it's always a reach reaching your customer is the most important endpoint and I'll add the telephone on to that right now a lot of us have had you know, an in house PBX system that we host whether it's you know, my our Cisco or my teller or whatever that that we've had to deal with you know, even that on top of it right you always had to have you know, a voice PBX engineer on staff to to make sure that thing was up 24 seven, but up but I hundred percent agree with you. It's almost always that, that endpoint communication with that with the end customer that is the most important critical application. For sure.

Brian Comerford  7:51
So, you know, I think tying that to your comment about the low hanging fruit you know, that may not just be technical, low hanging fruit may be from a disaster recovery. perspective, what are those things that we need to ensure have fault tolerance built into them as part of their base architecture? Email is certainly one that, you know, I think it's it's pretty easy to identify everyone suffers when that thing goes away despite the fact that we all complain about the volume of crap in our inbox. So, you know, once you kind of go through that exercise, talk to me a little bit about virtual desktop infrastructure, because I know this is an area that you've explored, and I think, would argue you solved there are a lot of different approaches to getting there. And I think there's a lot of pushback from you know, some who would kind of align themselves with this old guard, you know, that having spinning disks having you know, hardware with local drives storage is superior to having a virtual environments I'm interested in your take on all that, Nick.

Nick Lozano  9:02
Know, I love virtual desktop environments. And that let me say, you know, as much as I love it, you know, it's like with anything else, there's use cases where it probably doesn't make sense, like the Department of Defense for the United States is probably not a good environment to be doing a virtual desktop platform. You do not want anybody being able to spin up a desktop anywhere. No demand. So I just want to start with that caveat. But I would think, you know, as we think of, you know, virtual desktop, the hard sell always is that, you know, we go from, you know, having assets, you know, that we purchase, we buy physical laptop machines, and then, you know, kind of depreciates them. It's been a life cycle that we've kind of done for a long time. So we kind of go from being these cap x things to these objects. Now, all of a sudden, all these virtualized desktops are licensing costs fees to Microsoft and licensing costs fees to Amazon or or whoever you pick to host it but I would say, you know, we look at it this way what what's always been a boon for me virtualized desktop is that it greatly frees up your it staffs time. Just think about the time you know if you've ever been a help desk technician which I know that's where a lot of people start in the IT field is even a help desk technician, somebody install the virus somehow whether it's through an email or or a file or plug in a USB drive and think of how long it takes to restore the roaming cache profile, you know, from Active Directory, pulling from the server and you're hoping that that's that, you know, profile wasn't corrupted on the main server that you're using. And then then if it's corrupted there, then you're going to your backup domain controller to make sure that that's not corrupted there. And virtual desktops have kind of taken away this problem. You know, somebody you know, installs clicks a virus. All the reviews, we throw away their machine, spin it up from a backup from a day before, you know they might lose some of some of the files They worked on that day. But the downtime for the end user is no longer it standing there going well. Let me go get another hot swap from out of the back and then plug it in. And then Okay, now I need you to log in. Now once you login, it's going to take it in and out 45 minutes to an hour to then download your roaming profile. You know, and to a lot of end users This is just Jewish speak, it's like how come I can't login and this thing works. where's where's all these? You know it? Where's all these files I had saved on my desktop, right? That's where everybody saves everything as all other files on their desktop. But I would say that's always the hardest sell to me is that you just like with change management with anything. You know, people struggle, you know, going, you know, to some website to grab their email, right? I mean, people are just adverse to change in general and change management. I think when when you to undertake a big project like this needs to be managed very well because when you go to the desktop industry environment. A lot of times you're changing your windows experience of business a Windows for virtual desktops because Mac doesn't virtualize any desktops at least as far as I know. And then so when you do that Windows seven, you know, you're taking away a lot of the slick features, you know, you're not letting them change their wallpapers, you're not letting them normally do some of these things that they're used to.

Brian Comerford  12:23
But dancing dinosaur mouse pointers,

Nick Lozano  12:25
yeah, now and it just makes global policy changes easy. It just makes management so much easier. There's a learning curve for your engineers because your back end environment has instantly become a ton times more complex and you probably need to hire engineering talent who knows how to do virtual desktop infrastructure, whether you will roll your own VMware, Citrix Zen desktops or do Amazon workspaces, or even Microsoft's new product their own virtual desktops. You still need somebody who knows how to manage on the back end because you're still responsible for patching windows. rolling your updates. But but the greatest thing, as I keep rambling on here is that you know, you have one golden master image. And all you need is one engineer to change the golden master image and everything else just flows on through. It takes a lot of work to get there. But once you're kind of there, your end users computers becomes a dummy terminal. And it's difficult for end users to understand that they're like, Oh, you've taken my computer from me. And now now you give me another one like, well, doesn't matter. You just have a virtual desktop, you just log in here. Your computer lives in some data center. But, but I mean, it's always a tough sell, especially because of the you know, the OP x cap x thing that we always talk about lately. I mean, that that was the big deal with going between hosted email and, you know, in house email, right, it was the same conversation. Right.

Brian Comerford  13:53
Yeah. And, you know, from the always on perspective, I think there are immediately a lot of advantages and, you know, we talked A little bit about disaster recovery but in you know, consider something that is maybe a a more controlled type of disaster, right? Like the backhoe scenario, you've got construction going on in your city block and something disastrous has occurred, that doesn't necessarily directly impact your work environment. But suddenly you've been cut off to everything that you're dependent on. Being able to tell people to you know, pick up their thin client or their zero client and you know, go work from home. And you know, that may need to be for a three to five day type of stretch of time. Now, you've just simplified actually providing them with something that is far more analogous to their direct working at the desk, work experience, and something might be like, go home, we'll walk you through how you configure VPN. Your home computer will make sure that you've got, you know, all of your antivirus up to date, you know, so that in you know, eradicate those worries and, and all these additional hoops that you would have to jump through without having that type of option available.

Nick Lozano  15:17
Now I completely agree and you brought up the whole thing with the VPN. And I was going to bring that up to you, you know, most users have no idea what you're talking about when you talk about VPN, they're like, oh, that thing that I need to log into, and then I log into it and I close the window and I lose my connection. And by network drives, never map I got to click on some windows dopp bat file that does some voodoo magic and connects me to network drives. You know, as as we've we've virtual desktops really makes it easier for your end users on the front side. It makes it harder on your engineers on the back end. For sure. But for your end users, which is who your customers actually are when you work in it. You're making it easy for them. What you Which is a win win. And in my opinion, and you know, one of the great trade offs is security right there, right? Most of the virtual desktop products, you can lock them down so that you know anyone can plug any USB, they want to in that computer, you are no longer worried about what that actual local machine is doing. plug the USB in a, I don't care, it doesn't touch my environment whatsoever. You want to blow up your own machine, go for it, either you want to take that that a USB key that you got at some, you know, unknown conference that you found out found on the floor and plug it in the machine but you know, go for it that doesn't have any impact on us anymore. You know, it's it's, it's just great stuff. But like I said, the change management is almost always the hardest thing to deal with.

Brian Comerford  16:41
Well, there's some cost components also that you have to be cognizant of as a leader where, you know, effectively gaining the buy in from your organization to be able to make a decision to move forward on an initiative like this. You know, one area is you know, you've already addressed the shift from capex to op x. Right? But if you've already made a large capital investment in, you know, recently procured hardware, so you've got, you know, some of the latest and greatest and laptops from whoever your preferred hardware manufacturer is, then you've got, you know, some of those things already in your environment that can effectively be the connection points for your VDI, and you no longer have to worry about, you know, where are they at in the hardware refresh cycle, you know, are we do we have things that are coming close to being out of support or out of warranty

Nick Lozano  17:36
doesn't even matter anymore? You just run them until they die? And

Brian Comerford  17:40
then then you just replace them with a Chromebook or whatever your you know, next, preferred devices

Nick Lozano  17:46
or whatever they want. Yeah, yeah, exactly. You want a MacBook and before trying to join that thing to domain was a nightmare, but now it doesn't even matter. I mean, so someone you know that CIO, we know pretty well at another firm. He's like, you know, we just give for whatever they want, we don't care because that's not where they work. Just doesn't even matter anymore. Right? They literally have nothing on unsafe but a Cisco Meraki device, right? And an internet connection. So, you know, do whatever you want on our environment, you know, their, their PBX is in the cloud, you know, their desktops are in the cloud. But like you said, you know that your cap XX, you know, we just bought the latest greatest machines for our end users. Well, that's good, you know, you can still use a machine that shouldn't factor in too much into your decision. Right? You're going to still buy computers no matter what anyways, right? I'm not as big of a proponent of a zero client, or even thin, thin clients really, because there's a lot of things that still don't work very well in a virtual desktop environment, like the zoom meetings and you know, web x's and conference, things like that. Because you know, you're streaming to too many points and experiences are lagging. So it's still nice to have kind of like a physical real computer on the other end was Whether it's a Mac or PC or or a Chromebook, or, or whatever.

Brian Comerford  19:04
Well, and the other advantage there is, you know, if you've got something that's gone dramatically haywire with your VDI environment, and people do actually have machines that can do processing on them, then there is still the possibility that you know, in a, in a larger full scale disaster type of scenario, there is the possibility of being able to continue doing some form of work, even if you can't connect back into your network. So, you know, we've talked a little bit about, you know, what's it take from, you know, an architectural perspective and, you know, what are some of the methods for getting the mechanics behind the scene in place, as well as some of the conversations around that. An area that I think is also important to explore is the resource management considerations with an always on environment. And here I'm thinking of a couple of different things. I'm thinking of Systems resources, and also thinking of human resources. So in the first case, right, if you're always on, and you just referenced it a little earlier, right? You've got even a four nines environment, you know, where do you slot in time to actually bring down mission critical systems to the business, and particularly if you've got a global footprint where you're, you know, looking at geographic regions that are in overlapping time zones, right, if you've got a sun never sets type of environment, you know, for your your workforce, then again, it makes it additionally challenging to navigate through, you know, how do you make the decisions about you know, when you're taking things down that effectively at some point they have to be patched they have to be refreshed in some way.

Nick Lozano  20:50
Ya know, and I, I get it I you know, it's always hard for this bigger companies or or like governments to right to kind of say, We're going refresh our whole infrastructure and go virtual desktop. I couldn't even imagine something like, like the OPM, the Office of Personnel Management for the US government. What they deal with when they go to buy desktops takes them years to negotiate deals, by the time they close the deal. They're no longer the latest, greatest thing. In I've never deployed virtual desktop in that big of an environment. But I could see where it's a case where you would just say, Okay, this is what I would think I would do forever in that case, because I would just build a completely separate virtual desktop environment in parallel while the other environments running and just cut the other thing off at a certain point in time and rip the band aid off. I'm sure some of our listeners, you've probably done that big of a deployment probably tell me I'm completely crazy and insane for doing something like that. But like you said, when you have that global always on operation, there's never any optimal time to do anything. There's all it's always going to be inconvenient with someone. I mean, I know it's even difficult Just having, you know, team meetings when you have, you know, a development team in India and maybe another one in California and one in New York trying to, you know, correlate a, you know, coordinate a time to just have a meeting, a one hour meeting is difficult to coordinate a time, like when you're going to shut a system off and you need engineers on here. If you have engineers on then you need it staff on hands, make sure you have enough of them for what if, you know, machines won't join to their domain? You know, all that all that other little stuff? When did do it's kind of like an an all hands on deck type thing when you do do projects like that?

Brian Comerford  22:38
Well, and I think there's another area to consider, you know, when you're effectively saddled with the responsibilities of a leader, not just for the technical team, but really as that trusted resource for all of your business stakeholders. There's got to be room for accommodation where you know, you can really take the business case Ford, and explain these what the needs are, you know, whether it's security, whether it's new feature sets, performance, whatever it is, there's got to be some opportunities that we've got, where these things are not going to be available for a period of time. And it's ultimately going to help serve to make all of us better. But it will be an inconvenience for somebody, and, you know, need to come to terms with how do we find some common ground there to determine what the case is, because you'll have some business leaders who are just adamant, they'll, they'll tell you now, there's no way you can't bring it down. That's it's gonna, you know, disrupt our overlap with workforce in China. And now, therefore, you guys are gonna have to figure out a way to do this, you know, that looks completely different than what you're planning. Being able to be skillful as a leader and articulate, you know, really, what are all the nuances that can help elevate us as a nation organization and improve the work performance of people who are actually interacting with these systems on a day to day basis. Those are some some key points to me that, that, that really bring forward your skills as a negotiator and a communicator. And those aren't necessarily always things that are at the forefront of strong engineering mentalities.

Nick Lozano  24:25
Well, let's take this back. Let's take a step back here from from all these technical aspects, it aspects and talk about the leadership component of our podcast, right? So we're talking like a big project like this one thing I've struggled with in my career, and I'm sure you have to as you walk into project they need it, you know, check it on the side, some technical lead or something like that. I find times that I'm almost always the person asking the question is like, Okay, well, what are we trying to accomplish here and what would make this project successful? Because if I know What, what would make this project successful? Then I kind of know how to plan everything, right? So if I know if we go back to, you know, the Jocko willing to Extreme Ownership thing is the commander's intent, right? For everyone from the chain of command to kind of know what the commander's intent is. And this is me fishing for that, right? I'm like, Okay, well, what would make this project successful? And then Brian, you say, Well, okay, well, what would make this project successful as we deploy these desktops, and our downtime is only, you know, seven hours. Perfect, then I know how to do that. I have seven hours of downtime, that I can get that acceptable that will make this product successful. I'm not stuck in this box, right where it's like, we can't have any downtime. Well, I can't upgrade any hardware and refresh anything, reboot any systems with zero downtime. I mean, it's just impossible. Like even Salesforce has five minutes of downtime. I mean, it's it's, it's, it's almost impossible. You almost had to be one of those humongous players with offices around the world have zero downtime? I don't know, what are your thoughts on that?

Brian Comerford  26:05
Yeah, I, you know, part of why I was leaning on the leadership side of it is there is some negotiation and some communication that is going to be required in the process. And some of that may take kind of a technique that you just walked us through, where you're almost putting words in somebody's mouth to help shape the path of what the change needs to be. Right? Because even asking for someone to define what success would look like, sometimes they really have no idea. And, you know, that may take some negotiating Sure, back and forth to get into some realistic parameters. It's okay, what if you have 20 minutes between 840 and 9am on Tuesday, and it's like, well, you know, we're really going to need more time than that and you know, and being able to go through and, and help articulate you know, here are the challenges that We've got on our side, here's effectively what's going to need to happen in order for this to be successful for us. Right. And that way, there can be some realistic dialogue that takes place and helps you get to an effective solution.

Nick Lozano  27:14
I think you hit the nail on the head. So like that's, that's exactly my The reason why I asked that question because it makes every other stakeholder in the room asked the exact same question. And and it stops them for a minute. In my experiences, they stopped Nick, like, Oh, yeah, well, what would make this successful for me for myself for my team, and then everything just starts coming out, right? It's that whole creative process thing and go again, where we're throwing out ideas. We're not necessarily accusing anybody of doing something wrong or that your idea is best for this Muslim worse. We're just trying to figure out collectively as a group as a leadership team, what's going to make this project successful? And how can we accomplish that from each side? And like you said, it goes into a whole negotiation process. It's just something that everyone should know how to do to definitely ask the questions why, right? So why and the how, right, the Y can help you get to the how, but you need to ask that why to figure out the how.

Brian Comerford  28:14
And it also ties back I think, to what some strategic imperatives can be, and you know, how you define some of those things for the organization. So, for example, you know, you start having a conversation around, you know, this is this is what we need to do to be able to, you know, take these systems offline, and, you know, make them more resilient for the organization. And then you get a lot of questions around Yeah, but, but we don't want that we want something that looks a lot more like what Amazon provides. Okay. Then let's start talking about what it takes to budget for three nights for four nights for five times, right? All the way to the theoretical 09 right. All of that, I mean, even Amazon

Nick Lozano  29:01
doesn't have 09. And

Brian Comerford  29:05
well, and all that starts to, you know, be a compounding investment, and you start

Nick Lozano  29:10
you start exponentially growing your costs, right and talent and, and, you know, equipment.

Brian Comerford  29:17
Well, and that's also part of where the understanding can take place, right? Because the business may have the expectation based off of, yeah, but this is what we can get at the consumer level. To which point you can say, Well, what do you think Google might be investing in that, you know, they've got a data center that's fault tolerant, that's the size of a small village. Probably not a

Nick Lozano  29:38
village of engineers inside of it can.

Brian Comerford  29:43
You know, and similarly, I think when you get to something more like a recovery time objective conversation, you know, if we need an hour to have two to four hours on a given system, that doesn't necessarily you know, maybe a legacy Architecture type of thing. It doesn't necessarily, you know, play well with virtualization or fail over, maybe you really have to resort to some kind of pure backup recovery kind of approach with that system. Then when you have the conversation, you may be able to determine that, okay, let's measure what the costs are. Here's what it looks like today. And here's what it would look like. If we went for a premium, you know, this is the fastest we can possibly recover this thing. The business may then back off on what it believes its demands are if it really understands what's the the overall spend and the complexity to get to what the business may believe its wishes are for what those recovery time objectives are. Everyone would like everything to be available always at all times. But getting there really does come with some complexity and cost. So being able to negotiate you know how Those types of conversations and create that kind of understanding across the table. That's also part of what can come back to fold, right? The first is it, it actually makes us more effective in being able to deliver what ultimately, is sort of that qualified, compromised position where, you know, hey, it may not be ideal that it's going to take us a full business day, but we understand the reasons behind it, therefore, it's acceptable. And then the second piece is, okay, now we understand what our current state is for today. But in our next year's budget, we want to plan to be able to shift that so that are hard to move from eight hours recovery time to four hours, you know, what's going to take, and let's make sure that we earmark those dollars and next year's budget,

Nick Lozano  31:47
it's going to take you putting a whole bunch of stuff not Amazon's cloud, right. I mean, because that's that's the the traditional thing with it and disaster recovery right it getting the Machines is no problem getting the hardware is no problem getting the engineers, there's no problem. Recovering your data from backups and remote locations takes forever. I mean, there's nothing like going to a backup scene where you need to recover something from some type of disaster. The engineer pushes a button and he's like, I'm just gonna stand here and wait. So I mean, that's always your biggest factor. Right? But, but going back to the leadership component of this when when we're discussing and we're negotiating, as we're sitting near, you know, trying to get that RTOT know, a higher, you know, level of nines, you know, higher service level. How are you planning for talent with that, how are you having that negotiation with, with maybe the CEO of the board, I mean, for things like this, we're probably going to a board of directors, right? Not even a CEO looking for, for talking about going from foreign To like 11, nine, so we're talking, we probably have to go to some kind of board to get, you know, probably close to a billion dollars, right? Money. So how are you? How do you go about having this conversation with people who are not even technical? whatsoever? Because I mean, you can't kind of have this conversation without going down some type of technical route, right?

Brian Comerford  33:24
Yeah, I think it starts with the options. It can't just be a black and white, you know, here's the set of demands, you've told me that this is what you want. Here's what I'm going to tell you. This is what it takes. And that's it, the End of discussion, there's got to be some options on the table. And with those options, there has to be an honest discussion around where there are advantages where there are some clear cost investments that you know, maybe outside the scope of what we thought we would have to spend on something like this. And it may take more than one year to make the proper investment in some of these things. And then you know, what might be an area of color compromise where we understand, hey, we're either running lean, or we're running less skilled than I would be ideal for us to be for a period of time because we've gotten navigate through what the current state is. So I think being able to come equipped with those options, that's what helps people feel like, Hey, I'm not just some tech guy here, ready for a blank check so that I can go spend money on you know, some cool gadgets that I like to play with. Its I understand what the business demands are, I understand what the business desires are. And I am working in alignment with fulfilling, you know, those demands and desires. Here's the three options that we can lay on the table that are really going to help us effectively resource this. And, you know, then when those options are articulated in that way, I think it helps cultivate a perception of partnership, that there's a willingness that you're in this with the business, you know, everyone's in it together. It's not just two separate factions kind of, you know, pushing for their own strong opinions on something. And that's what really helps, I think drive to effective aligned outcomes. Right, that's when you can have the business then stand behind the decisions that are made, particularly when other folks in the workforce may say, Hey, we're all underwater here with our workload, and what we really need our, you know, a few more account managers to be able to help us carry the load on on some of our client volume. The business can then be there to help articulate now we got it. And we completely understand, here's why we need to make some of these other investments today, and it's actually going to help us go faster in the future. There there will be no end in sight, right, whatever they need to do to help mitigate what that change management looks like.

Nick Lozano  35:51
No, I think I think your keywords there you said is, I understand what the business needs and what we're trying to accomplish here. I feel like a lot of times, you know it, this goes back to maybe even before it was around and finance right, was always the most technical, most educated, most math oriented black box that people could never understand the like, I know, just give them some invoices, and then they figure out how we make money. Right? So I think accounting departments and CFO have dealt with this a long time. And I think, you know, understanding the business is what they had to do years and years ago, you know, depending on what industry you're in, and this is kind of like what we're seeing. technology leaders are having to do right we're having to understand the business so that we can make our cases when we're going to spend exorbitant amount, exorbitant amount of bouts of capital, whether it's talent or or technology or or investment and anything. We need to be able to understand the business and speak the language of business and not drown them out and and you know, tech new Babel speak as Right, we can't give them you know, all the acronyms and everything. We got to be able to articulate it and be presentable and have a way to understand the business as well. And, you know, the same can't be said for the business. A lot of times the business doesn't understand it. The expectation is not there quite as much as it used to be. But it seems like as we're going forward, and technology is becoming more apparent, you know, business leaders are demanding that their leaders understand technology. And we've seen that, you know, we'll go back to your Domino's Pizza example again. He's like, you know, we're a technology company who just happens to sell pizza. It's the same thing. So they've taken that culture and like, Okay, well, you know, the business leaders, you guys need to understand technology because this is how we're going to drive sales and this is how we're going to grow our business. Okay, and print.

Brian Comerford  37:51
All very viable points, Nick. And you know, I think the talked about kind of that one side of the resource talent management that really intersects with what the understanding of the business needs to be. And certainly coming down to understanding how to you right size, the talent for environment as one component of that. I think today there is so much competition in every industry that finding talent that is, you know, both skilled and experienced the compensation figures that go along with resources of that type are mind blowing to a lot of people who sit in other parts of the business, and particularly when they see someone who, you know, to their mind should be, you know, someone who's coming in at a junior PayScale because of their age. But, you know, I can especially compared to someone else who might be a senior engineer within the environment. Part of what they don't understand is that you know, from a competitive page perspective, the market demand is so intense that sometimes you really have to look at these investments in a very different way. So again, I think it's incumbent as a leader that you come equipped with options, it can't just be, we're going to have to pay high six figures, every single time we're going out to get someone new, who has a particular skill set that we require, there also has to be a conversation around who has the acumen and the interest who's already in the workforce that we can develop and grow. Get the proper training, you know, pursue some certifications, whatever it may be, so that we can enable those who are already here. How do you also as a leader, then quell the fear of those who have been in your workforce for a long time, and they're suddenly frightened because you're bringing in technology that's so new and different from anything that's within their experience. You'll have some who are ready to step forward and say, Hey, whatever that is. I want to learn that, but you've got others who are going to be in their comfort zone. And they may be a little fearful because it's it may have been 10 years since they had a certification anytime. And so. So that's ultimately, you know, again, where as leaders, we need to help make the determination, you know, what can the transformation of our existing skill set look like for those who are already in our talent pool. And that may look like some transitions that are very different for a variety of the folks in your workforce. Some of them may, by necessity have to transition out of your department. And that may be a good thing, or it may be, you know, a difficult decision to make. Others may not necessarily be suited for any of the skills that are required any longer for the changes that you're planning to make. But maybe they've got some great experience in some other areas, where, you know, hey, we've got a lot of these governance needs now. Where we need policies written or You know, we need, you know, procurement processes or any of these other number of things. They may not necessarily be technical as their first required set of skills, but having the technical background and experience and also the capabilities to to work in that new environment that may be another effective transition for folks.

Nick Lozano  41:21
And I'm going to bring up something you know, that I learned a long time ago work in the hospitality industry, we said the same is called walk your shift, right? Walk around, talk to your staff, right? build relationships with them. I'm not talking about be there, buddy. Just have conversations with them to learn who they are, right? There's no reason when this big shifts coming down the road that you shouldn't be meeting with your people one on one going, Hey, you know, Bob, you've been here for 10 years, you've been awesome. You do great work. You know, but but I want to let you know here coming down the road. We're changing our architecture. Some of this stuff you're doing right now, you're probably not going to be doing any here but you know what, you've been a great team player. I want you to be part of this team, you know, you do good work, you're always here to help out. Whatever you want to do here in the future, I'm here to help you. I'm here to help you succeed, whether it's here in this organization, or to help you find another role. This may go back to something, I always say we have these conversations, right, Ryan, it's like, you're a leader, you should be out there with your hand out to help your people. And that's how you're going to build loyalty, right? You're not bribing them or anything, it just kind of goes with the game, you know, you trade, you train somebody in something, they go get an MBA, and they leave just part of the game, right? You know, but then you could also be hiring somebody who gets an MBA or has a master's in engineering, so all kinds of evens out in the end anyways, people look for leaders to help guide them to be advocates for them to go to bat for them to, you know, to be to be that leader, right, when you think about that. So I really think when these big changes come down, you know, leaders should be sitting down at least with their immediate subordinates. You know, maybe Maybe you're a higher VPE be sitting down with your directors and your junior level managers who are directly under you have this conversation, hey, I need you to go have this conversation with all of your people, and let them know what's going on and offer them the same amount of help that I'm offering you. And you need to also offer yourself to everyone below them as well say, Hey, you know what, my door is an open door policy. Literally, anybody can come here and talk to me. I don't care if it's the janitor. The janitor wants to talk to me. You know, the janitor is a member of my team. Anyone who's a member of my team is a is a team member. And I'm here to help the team be successful.

Brian Comerford  43:40
One of the CO CEOs that I've worked with over the course of my career has saying that I want every employee to have at least three career careers at this organization. And you know what I love about that is exactly what you just talked about, Nick. That's what opens up the door possibility so that people don't feel like, hey, my job could be under threat if you know, I'm not prepared for what's coming next. Particularly when you're dealing in a world of technology, right, you want to know that there's some options for you to be able to transition. Now, one other area that I think this also touches on that I want to make sure that we cover is in this always on approach and the set of demands that come with that. There's also that increased set of demands that come on those who serve fulfilling those SLS, right. And so part of what this means is, when when you've got always on 24, seven, you need to understand whether or not that really means you've got a 24 seven support culture. You've got expectations that you know, at 2am you've got someone on your infrastructure team, who should be expecting a phone call and You know, they need to be prepared to jump out of bed to go address a fire? Or are you actually paying for that amount of overlap in your workforce, whether it's you've got someone who is part of an MSP, who's helping to provide that overlap for you, or you've got, you know, a sun never sets type of model where you can actually geographically help build that overlap in. But one of those challenges that comes with that always on demand, in my opinion, is you really start edging towards the potential of burnout if you don't spend quality time addressing how exactly you're going to manage to ensuring that that overlap is available for your human resources.

Nick Lozano  45:50
Now that's that's a tough one right? And it's especially hard for small organizations are right let's let's talk about the small to medium sized business, something that we have haven't talked about that all yet on this episode. You know, what is somebody do who's in the 10 person shop, right? The only IT guy period. That means they are the help desk. They are the software engineer they are, you know the PBX engineer there everything right? So that's probably, you know, the the most difficult position to be in when you're the only one, right. And that's when you should probably be looking at when you get situations like that. So leveraging an MSP, right, maybe an MSP helps you get over the hump till the business gets big enough. And then you can bring on another engineer, maybe everything works out with the MSP just fine, it allows somebody else you know, allows you to kind of go about your day. But you know, burnout is something hard to deal with. And I think the more important thing too is that we look at recently as burnout, and people are being pinged when they're on vacation, which is the more concerning thing when you're on call your uncle You're like, Okay, well I could be called at any time, it's kind of expected on the individual when they run their rotation like, okay, you know, it's three o'clock in the morning, somebody might call me to, you know, help them troubleshoot something on their network. But when you're on vacation, that's when things things are worse when employees and staff members start getting really angry about having to do something right, you're out with your family or you're maybe out camping somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Now, you gotta leave your family, go find internet. Those are the situations right there. I feel like that really burn people out, at least in my experience in the past. It's the having to leave your family, your vacation, whatever you're doing on your off time to go answer a call for work, you know, and leave and go put a server together at three o'clock in the morning. What I've done that before, you know, have a server trying to have it up in the morning time, you know, and like you're like, Okay, well, where's the Dell guy, you know, the office opens up in six hours. So I think I've seen some great things come across like that, where people will leverage an MSP and they're like, Hey, you know, when you're on vacation, we'd lock you out of your accounts. You can ask your email, you can answer slack messages. You can't log into virtual desktop, you can't do any of this, we lock you out of it, because you are on vacation. Take that moment to not worry about what's going on here. And take the time to unwind and relax.

Brian Comerford  48:25
That's great. Yeah, we we've had a term for it, where I've worked over many years workstation referred to it and, you know, I say that only half jokingly because everything that you described as a reality that I think, you know, anyone who's worked, particularly in some type of technology support role has been confronted with at some point in their career. And it's I agree with you, I think it's one of those most critical factors with burnout. Another area that I think is, you know, part of our what really drives that burnout is when you've just got this relentless demand. Part of what that brings with it are these very tight timelines on very short project delivery cycles. And, you know, as a result, a lot of what you see, and you described it already, Nick is you've got the hero mentality that emerges out of that. And, you know, that's great when you need it. But you shouldn't need heroes to come in and rescue every situation. Every time you've got an implementation every time you know, you've got a situation where you had something go awry, and you haven't resourced accordingly as a manager, and therefore, someone's coming in at 3am to build a server, right? I mean, it's, it's great when you can play that card maybe once in the career, someone who has to work in your organization, because there are always those moments of exception, right. And that's when you roll up your sleeves and you step up. And that's what you know, good resources as well as good leaders will do. But being able to plan around that, I think is is a really critical component. And part of what you mentioned about, you know, if you're the only IT guy and you're playing all those roles, if I were an organizational leader, in a resource structure of that time, I would be very worried about how much knowledge runs one deep in my workforce around things that you know, you you really need more than one brain containing that information.

Nick Lozano  50:42
Knowing guaranteed and we go back to to the burnout topic again. If you're the leader and in charge of people, you should be helping to kind of protect them somewhat too from this happening, right. Whether you're scheduling more resources, overlapping thing going to Back going to upper management saying hey, you know, like, I can't have just one on call guy. You know, we need to make sure we have to on call at all times because what happens if this guy comes in at six o'clock in the morning? me know and then he's here till four o'clock the next morning I can't have him on call the rest of the weekend right so it goes back to the thing of planning your resources and actually trying to be an advocate for your your staff, your employees trying to treat them well right. Treat them how you would want to be treated as the thing we've always heard well in it like you said, it's it's extremely important because we're a lot of times we're on call, we're expected to work 24 seven and we should be doing everything that we can as leaders to help make sure that they're successful and that they're not burnt being burnt out. And you know, we should be checking in and talking with our people all the time. Whether it's that change situation that's coming or not, you know, like a Cisco check in say hey, you know how, how is work going how's life, you know, are you getting everything you cannot out of this Job, what can I do for you? What do you need? You know, is there anything I can do? You know, don't try to have is like you, you you What do you, you know, like, you know what's wrong here? What's that, you know, try to frame it where you're always looking to help them instead of trying to, you know, ask them what's wrong, you know, I'm here to help you. How can I help you? type deal, you know.

Brian Comerford  52:25
And I think that, you know, kind of helping to close that particular topic, ensuring that you are being proactive as you're talking about, and ensuring that your workforce is taking adequate time off so that they're not starting to run into counter productive behaviors that they're not starting to see the erosion of their morale. Right when you've got people and you know, hey, I've been running these guys hard. They've been working wonderful weekend out of every month. They, you know, continuously are pulling 70 hour weeks, that's not sustainable indefinitely, you got to take your foot off the gas at some point and say, Hey guys, you know, let's, let's celebrate the success of what happened. I know that we pulled a couple of late nights and a couple of weekend nights, I want you to find some time, let's make sure it's not everyone at once. But let's find some time during the workweek. Take a four day weekend with your family or you know, those things that help to reward by returning some of the capacity that was lost by saying, hey, let's let's, you know, I recognize what's happened. Maybe there's a monetary reward that goes with it. But I want you to know that this is for behavior that's not just expected as part of the norm. Right? This is recognized as going above and beyond and we're not going to continue to run everyone that's hard. But as a show, thanks and getting through this, let's give you some of that capacity. Be back, and, and let you take some time or you know, any of those things that ultimately help someone feel like hey, I'm recognized. And there's something being given back to me so that they come back refreshed and ready to be productive once again.

Nick Lozano  54:18
Now I like that it goes goes back to this, you know, old military saying right leaders eat last right? You always let everyone through the line and up last because how terrible does it look when you go up there and you eat first? So if we take that into our frame, you know, we're asked always ask people Hey, man, you know, I just need to make sure that you're here on call and you've been on call, you know, two times, okay? Just do it again for me. And then you go and take off and take you know, a two week vacation. People see that they noticed things like this. You might not think they notice it. But people notice it. You need to make sure that you're taking care of your people. If you take care of your people, they're going to take care of you and it has to be genuine. If you're not just Anyone when you're doing it, people are going to see that too. That's right. That's where I'll leave that.

Brian Comerford  55:05
And and the fact is, if you don't remember the phrase leaders eat last, you might remember the phrase, the captain always goes down with the ship.

Nick Lozano  55:14
You will be experiencing that one momentarily. Yeah.

Brian Comerford  55:19
All right, Nick, I'm going to ask you because you usually ask the question of our guests. But what are some books that lead to mind that help address some of this? fast paced always on sort of demand that we see more and more of today?

Nick Lozano  55:35
I mean, I don't know if I think I have a book, per se. But one thing I have always tried to do is there's this whole thing about mindfulness lately, right and trying to be aware, I've been trying to be more present. You know, we have technology around us all the time. How about when you get home, you take your phone, set it down, don't pick it back up. Especially for those of those of who have children? Sometimes we grab our phones, we sit down, and we're kind of ignoring what's going on because we're buried in our phone. So I would say, just try to be more present in the moment, put your phone down, have conversations with people, and just try to be there.

Unknown Speaker  56:18
What about you? Brian, do you have? Do you have any books?

Brian Comerford  56:22
There's one that came to mind that is, you know more about culture overall, and how do you deal with sort of all these interconnected components of expectation? And, you know, it's, it's, it's not necessarily about technology, explicitly, but technology factors into it. There's just a lot of these other observational mindfulness opportunities that we can take from a leadership perspective that help feed into how do we really know what is going to help create a long term sustainable, successful culture. And particularly as we continue to go through all these, you know, leaps and bounds with evolutionary changes that technology deliver to us. So this is one by Daniel coil called the culture code. And it's really, you know, more targeted around. How do you manage towards group dynamics to help make groups work effectively, towards, you know, more centralized success?

Nick Lozano  57:30
Yeah. And I just a book just popped to mind. For me. It's by Dale Carnegie. It's how to, what is it How to Win Friends and Influence People? Yeah, it was written like in the 20s. And it's very corny when you read it. But the concepts behind it are still relevant today. And it's not about you know, tricking somebody into doing something it's just about developing relationships. And and how to how to manage those relationships and how to be a good person. There's great tidbits in that. And it's maybe what like a 200 page book, it's not very long at all. Or you could probably cry, read it in a weekend or four, if you're fast reader, like my wife who reads like 55 books a year, you could probably read it in the day. But I am not that person. So I add that on the list that as that just popped into mind, you know,

Brian Comerford  58:23
and that brings to mind also there's, there's a, an article that's written based off of one of the concepts out of that book that I've seen recently, was the most downloaded PDF of all time from the Harvard Business School. And that's called who's got the monkey. I don't know if you've ever seen that one. But that's, that's related to the Dale Carnegie time management principles that are explored and how to win friends and influence people

Nick Lozano  58:54
not to check that one out.

Brian Comerford  58:57
easily available on the web. Download your PDF copy today.

Nick Lozano  59:03
Big plug for the Harvard Business Review.

Brian Comerford  59:06
I think you can get it from all sorts of resources at this point. It's it's been around I think that articles been around Also, since about the time I was a taught. So

Nick Lozano  59:16
it's all just to show you that, like when we're talking about these leadership concepts, a lot of times there's nothing new with them. They've been around for a long

Brian Comerford  59:24
time. Amen. Don't let that stop you from downloading our next episode of lead DMC.

Nick Lozano  59:31
I was at a Thanks. Thanks for being on Brian. Appreciate it.

Brian Comerford  59:35
Thank you, Nick.

About Nick Lozano

Co-host of the > Lead.exe_ Podcast and owner/consultant at CornerStack, LLC.

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