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Dan Frith is a Cloud Product Architect at Telstra and noted sideburn achiever.
What’s your IT origin story? How long have you been in the field?
I’ve officially been working in IT since early 1999. I completed a degree in French and was working through an Honours year. I’d been messing about with PCs at university for fun and my brother-in-law told me about a helpdesk job that I should apply for. I ended up staying at that place for over 6 years and, because it was a relatively small environment, got a lot of exposure to stuff like data protection and centralized storage – the sort of stuff that I might not have been able to look after if I’d worked somewhere bigger.
I also fell in love with DEC Alpha machines and Windows NT 4. It was a cool place and taught me a lot about the good (and bad) sides of the industry.
What’s been the biggest change in IT since you started your career?
My sideburns are grey, but I’m not quite old enough to have been around at the height of mainframes, so I’m going to say x86 server virtualization has been probably the biggest thing. I could say cloud too, but I feel like that one needed the other to get a real start in the market.
Current worst trend in IT
There are two things that irritate me right now. The first is that everyone wants to gamify their apps. If you’ve got something I want then I’m going to use it. Giving me meaningless badges and points that do nothing in the real world just drives me nuts.
The second is that everyone – from small businesses to large enterprises – think they can be hyperscalers. But they don’t have the scale to really do what the likes of Facebook or LinkedIn or Dropbox are doing. And they’re certainly very unwilling to invest to the same extent that those folks have in technology, processes and people.
The third thing is enterprises who are so scared of change that they’re still running Windows 2003 machines for core IT functions.
Fine, that’s three things. I should stop now before I get worked up.
Current best trend in IT
I like that data protection is getting some love in the industry. It’s been neglected, and misunderstood, for too long. Some of the newcomers to the space are forcing the established vendors to lift their game.
How do you approach organization at work? What are your must use apps? How do you approach organization? What’s your ideal workspace?
I’m terrible with formalized organization. If things are really hectic, I create a to do file on my desktop and work to that for the day. I sometimes jot down notes on my phone, and then delete them line by line as I get through the tasks. This is particularly useful when I’m getting ready for an international trip. I’m afraid it doesn’t get more exciting than that.
Book recommendations for other IT pros (besides The Phoenix Project). What are you reading now?
Go back and read some of the classics – “Unix Backup and Recovery” by W. Curtis Preston was a riveting tale, and everyone got their files back in the end. I read “Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability” by Preston de Guise recently as well. I seem to just read books by people with Preston in their name. From a business perspective, Tony Hawk’s “How Did I Get Here?: The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO” was an interesting read, particularly around some of the mistakes he’s made over the years.
First computer you owned
Amstrad CPC-464. I gave it away years ago. Then bought a replacement. But its tape deck is broken. I guess I need to get more serious about emulation.
What do you do when you’re not working in IT?
I hang with my family. I’m a basketball nut. I play a few club games a week and love watching the NBA (and European games when I can). I’m also very keen about music on vinyl (Editor’s Note: His Instragram is a treasure trove of vinyl).
How do you caffeine?
In Australia we have great coffee. But I’m also guilty of drinking instant at home. I tell people it prepares me for US conference coffee.
Who do you want to see answer these questions?
Best career advice you’ve received.
Every really good manager and mentor I’ve had has shown me that you only get out of this life what you put into it. Some days are going to better than others. The key is to come back the next day.