Shane (pronounced “Shawn”) Walton is a retired federal employee currently working as a systems engineer for a startup cloud service provider. A collector of certifications, he is attempting to add Cisco CCIE Data Center. He has previously been a member of the United Stated Air Force and completed 25 years of combined federal service. He is contrarian in nature so don’t be offended if he disagrees with you on twitter despite the probability that he actually agrees with you. When not doing “network stuff” you will usually find him building hash cracking rigs and sniffing the airwaves for anything of interest.
I am sure most people are aware of the 2005 movie Waiting… While the restaurant industry and IT have few parallels, job satisfaction and trying to find a way to make the day to day grind interesting and challenging are a central tenant to any career. In the movie we learn that moral was very bad and no one was happy until a new employee was hired and implemented a game which is described enough in the title and won’t be described further. If you’re that interested, you can rent the movie. The point is they took it upon themselves to find a way to make work interesting and fun again.
I found myself in this dilemma after 25 years working in the same organization. For those 25 years I was lucky enough to always have interesting work. Nearly unlimited budget, an organization that was forward leaning with regards to technology adoption and always had a large project flanked by several smaller projects.
Then I left the government… I know what I described above does not sound like a government agency. Government agencies are slow to adopt, risk adverse and have almost no people capable of technical innovation but we were lucky enough to have leadership that was interested in pushing the envelope.
We were the first Federal organization to implement Cisco Nexus in our data centers. We learned so far forward we all but forced ourselves to be chosen as a location for one of the Air Force regional data centers. But that was all gone and I found myself working for a small company providing professional services (PS). That’s where I met Mike. I enjoyed working for the company. I traveled like most PS engineers, moving from project to project but nothing like I was used to. I wouldn’t say I was not satisfied but I wasn’t fulfilled. Soon I took the opportunity to stay on with a company I was contracted to.
This new job was with a small startup cloud service provider and I was REALLY happy. I had great pay, really good benefits that they paid for 100% and a culture that I loved with no travel, supporting internal engineering. Then things started to get stagnant and I wasn’t unhappy I was just bored. There were days I would sit with different configs up on all three of my screens and that would be how I was 6 hours later contemplating going home because it was obvious to me I wasn’t going to get anything done.
I wasn’t looking to leave but a friend of mine called me and said I need you to engineer and implement the first Cisco ACI capable device in the federal government. Not just the DoD, the whole public sector. I couldn’t have signed up any faster. I was chasing the great project. It was four phases, implement the hardware and test VXLAN followed an alphabet soup of new technology insertion with SDN, VMware NSX, Cisco ACI, automation and orchestration galore. It was literally a dream project with a period of performance that would provide stability for a very long time. The client was my old agency. I couldn’t have been happier.
It turns out though that sometime government contracts get hung up and back to back projects don’t always get funded in a timely manner. What I didn’t know when I took the job was that although my division of the company was making enough to float all of us on the bench for months the company was basically imploding financially everywhere else. As soon as the contract didn’t get awarded we started getting furloughed and eventually were given a choice to find our own work or be furloughed full time until we were billable. At this point I was going to take a contract with Cisco advanced services but that would have only lasted as long as that contract and continue making money for my titanic of a company so I very sheepishly contacted the cloud service provider to see if I could get my old job back.
I am now going on my 6th month back with my old company now and I am really happy. Not only am I really happy, I am not bored. Now I am building labs, working on new potential service offerings and taking it upon myself to push into different technology areas. I am going to finally take the time to finish my CCIE. I’ve finally found what I was missing in my search for post government job satisfaction.
It was always up to me to challenge myself and while it was nice to be in an environment that didn’t require me to look for interesting things to do I don’t need to jump from company to company to find it. I learned much like Ryan Reynolds and the rest of the gang that it isn’t the 100% responsibility of the company to ensure I am fulfilled in my job. Sometime you really do have to create your own penis showing game.