Mission Accomplished: I Am Coming Home

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Almost two months ago, I took what many would consider a huge gamble and decided to quit my job at Platform9 and make public, through social media, my job search. As part of that decision to rely on my community of technologists to help crowdsource opportunities, I also decided to open my job search decision making to a small group of folks I trust who advised me at every turn through the process.

I am happy to report that after various twists and turns, my job search is over and I will be starting a new job in April. It will be a coming home for me as I return to the place where I first learned what it means to be a Technology Evangelist and Advocate – Rackspace.

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Starting April 4th, I will be returning to Rackspace as a Senior Product Marketing Manager on our OpenStack Cloud team. The opportunity to come home was unexpected and may not have happened at all if I had not made the decision to go public with my job search. I will be talking more in the future about what exactly why I chose to go back to Rackspace and what I will be doing there. In this post, I want to share about my job search process and some lessons I learned along the way.

Stick To Your Guns

As I had hoped, being able to do my job search out in the open brought me a number of opportunities almost immediately. While I was grateful for the responses, it was clear that not every opportunity would be the right fit and that I needed a way to filter those out. As I shared in my last post, I had a couple of criteria which were non-negotiables for me during the search process. They included:

  • A Tech Evangelism/Advocacy/Marketing role – I have a varied background that spans multiple disciplines and job responsibilities. As a result, I had inquiries regarding my interest in doing everything from Tech Marketing to Pre-Sales Engineering to Support Engineering to Solutions Architect and across various industries. However, knowing that I wanted to focus specifically on Tech Evangelism/Marketing allowed me to filter out ~25% of the inquiries I received.
  • Being Able To Work Remotely From New York City – Franky, this probably placed the most limits on the companies for whom I could work. I had to find companies that would be willing to pay enough so that I could support my family living in NYC and stock options didn’t count. I also needed an employer that had a good number of remote employees and knew how to include them in the life of the company. While this criteria did not necessarily rule out all startups, I found few who were content to have me in NYC, could pay me enough to support my family here, and had a well-developed remote work culture. This criteria alone eliminated ~50% of the inquires I received.
  • Work with Cloud Computing and Cloud Native technologies – This was actually the criteria with the least issues given the growth in that area and my previous work experience. Because it’s still so new for most people outside of Silicon Valley, Cloud is an area where Tech Evangelism/Marketing are still in high demand. This criteria did not filter out any of the inquiries I received.

Some people may argue that my criteria are too narrow and too limiting. However, they were actually a big help in allowing me to clearly articulate what I wanted when I received the rather ubiquitous question of “So what is it that you want to do?” The key to making this work is that you have to be able to make peace with the limits as well as the opportunities that your criteria creates for you. In my case for example, I made peace with the fact that there were certain companies, however much I may believe in them, that I would not be able to work for because, for now, I need to live in New York City. But that was fine with me because I firmly believe that my family and I receive far more from being in NYC than what we may lose.

Job Titles And Roles Are In The Eyes Of The Beholder

I found out quickly than if you ask 5 companies what they thought a Tech Evangelist did, you are likely to receive 10 answers. One company considers Tech Evangelists to be spokespersons, another consider them community managers, another consider them content creators, and a fourth may consider them to be strategists and CTOs. I found it was important that I knew clearly in my own mind what I wanted to do as a Tech Evangelist. To that end, I created a job description which I used as talking points with prospective companies.

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Another important lesson I had learned from previous experiences was the importance of understanding the ramifications of where you fall in a company’s org chart. Tech Evangelism roles typically fall under Corporate Marketing, Product Marketing, Sales, or an Office Of The CTO. Sometime, you’ll have an Evangelist or team of Evangelists that don’t neatly fall into any of these groups; often they are a special unit created to be the “tip of the spear” in evangelizing an emerging technology or new product. The metrics which are used to measure this special unit can often be amorphous which can put the team in a precarious position once the technology or product they evangelize is no longer considered emerging or new.

One of the things that drew me back to Rackspace is the fact that I will be part of Product Marketing and not part of the Sales organization where I may end up functioning more as a sales overlay. The former is a better fit for my passions and skills and put me in a place where I can make a material difference which can be measured.

An added benefit of being part a Senior Product Marking Manager, and what sealed the deal for me coming home to Rackspace, is it puts me in a position where I can potentially be nominated for our Technical Career Track (TCT). The TCT is a program that gives Rackers a career path that allows them to stay technical and not have to go into management, while still advancing in their careers within Rackspace. The TCT, which has received rave reviews, was not present in it’s current form when I was previously at Rackspace. This give me the opportunity to advance in my career with them without having to stop doing what I am passionate about or having no choice but to move out of NYC to become a manger.

Go Far With Your Community

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – Senator Cory Booker

I could not have gotten this far without the group of technologists I call my community. They responded to the crowdsourcing of my job search with overwhelming support. Community members were there with offers to help, with job leads, with wise words of advice, and uplifting words of encouragement.

While several opportunities came about because I reached out to specific individuals in my network, most came from people who reached out to me after reading my blog posts, tweets, and LinkedIn updates. In fact, the initial inquiry from Rackspace came about because my former manger there follows me on Twitter and reached out to me as soon as an opportunity opened up in Product Marketing.

But the impact of community did not end with the dozens of opportunities that came my way but in the advice and encouragement I received. I decided early on that I would ask a small group of individuals in the industry, whom I trust, to be my sounding board as I approached each opportunity. I created a Job Search Status Google Doc where I posted updated on my search and asked this group of folks to offer comments and to ask questions.

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The notes I put into the document came in response to thoughtful and sometimes uncomfortable comments and questions from my team of advisors. In a couple of cases, I actually withdrew myself from consideration for certain roles and companies based on input from the team. Perhaps most importantly, these folks assisted me in thinking thoughtfully, soberly, and clearly throughout my job search and helped me to rank each opportunity so I knew on which ones I should place my focus. I would encourage anyone who is considering a job search or career change to find a similar team of advisors to come alongside them. So many thanks to Andy Hill, Ashok Bhojwani, John Griffith, Keith Townsend, Massimo Re Ferrè, Matt Brender, Shamail Tahir, and Tyler Britten; you guys are the best and have my eternal gratitude!

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So one last question to answer – “Would I do something like this again?” And I would say “a definite maybe.” While I think the experience was invaluable and worth having, I was also fortunate to be in a place where I could afford to be unemployed for a period of time without adversely impacting my family. More importantly, I hope that in coming back to Rackspace, I’ve found a permanent home for my career.

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15 comments

  1. yadinporterdeleon · · Reply

    Congrats Ken! It’s funny, I got introduced to you via Niki Acosta, so I’ve always thought of you as “Ken from Rackspace.” I can’t thank you enough for making this process so open and sharing so much with the rest of us who have benefited tremendously from your experience. Best of luck in your new role!!!

  2. Congratulations Ken! I’m excited for the future for you and Rackspace both!

    1. Thanks John, see you in Austin!

    1. Will do, Lee. Thank you.

  3. I really appreciate that you had a narrow focus on your next opportunity. It’s a lesson I learned from my job search. I knew what I didn’t want to do but not what I wanted to do. If I had it to do all over again I’d focus on the attributes of the my next challenge vs. having too broad a criteria.

    1. You are welcome Keith and I am always happy to help if needed.

  4. Don Schenck · · Reply

    Congratulations! My first OpenStack meetup was one you hosted in Philadelphia.

    1. Thank you Don!

  5. Nice work Ken, your strategy paid off, glad to see you landing into a familiar environment. Thanks for being transparent and communicative throughout your journey, I learned a thing or two from you! Good luck, have a blast, and hopefully see you at the conferences.

    1. Thank you Scott.

  6. Congratulations and the best of luck on the next step of your journey.

    1. Thank you Maish.

  7. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your experience!

    I’m currently where you were several months ago – considering resigning my current position to focus full-time on job hunting. Your blogs have been helpful! Best of luck at Rackspace!

    1. Thank you and best of luck. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

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