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Jon Hildebrand – IT Origins

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Jon Hildebrand has decades of experience in infrastructure development, working as a Senior Systems Engineer and Cloud Architect. 

You can follow him on his blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

What’s your IT origin story? How long have you been in the field?

Counting all the time I did work with the university I went to school in (I spent four years as a field tech, doing specialist support for emeritus faculty), I’m now around 23 years in this industry.  Once I graduated from that university (University of Northern Iowa), I moved down to the Kansas City are and spent 14 years with the healthcare software company, Cerner.  It was there that I got into the rise of thin client computing (using Citrix MetaFrame and Windows NT 4.0 TSE).  Eventually, I worked my way over to server virtualization and VMware. From there, things have been all over, from supporting a 80,000 virtual machine environment to orchestrating deployments within said environment, to working up the stack and playing around in public cloud implementations.

What’s been the biggest change in IT since you started your career?

The fostering of empathy within segments within IT. We’ve known for years that IT should be enabling businesses, not hindering them.  To do so, organizations have been getting traditional enemies, in the form of infrastructure teams and development teams, to finally work together towards a common goal.  To do so, empathy for one another had to finally develop between the long warring factions.  It’s been rather incredible that to get these groups to finally work together, we had to resort to “soft skills” rather than depend upon technical knowledge to save the day.

Current worst trend in IT?

The ongoing harassment issues we hear about in our industry.  I never expect everyone to ever get along completely, but this industry has no business tolerating brilliant jerks.  Human decency should have implored many of us to call some of this destructive behavior out.  This industry needs to do better to ensure everyone can be a part of it.

Current best trend in IT?

The reduced role of infrastructure.  I realize this means I’m effectively killing off my forte, but infrastructure has long needed a kick in the pants.  Infrastructure had become too cumbersome to operate, too time consuming to keep the lights on, and just plain too expensive to maintain.  It’s about time that our networking, storage, compute, and virtualization stacks are getting easier to maintain, especially with the advent of orchestration and automation capabilities being ingrained within those stacks.

Where do you see your field going in the next 3-5 years?

While I want to laude the death of infrastructure, it’s certainly not going to be going away immediately.  I do want to see it as having a vastly reduced role and no longer be the impediment that it’s been to businesses for the last 30+ years.  I want to see far more success stories with hybrid/multi-cloud approaches than I do about hearing about vendor XYZ’s server line.

Book recommendations for IT practitioners? What are you reading now?

I know I’m not allowed to say The Phoenix Project.  That being said, I have been reading quite a few publications related to the DevOps movement (it’s cultural NOT technical at it’s core!).  However, the author I believe has had a major impact on me this last calendar year is Simon Sinek.  For some reason, his book Start with Why has changed my approach on how I view companies and their approaches to their success.  I’d highly recommend giving a read, even if it doesn’t change your mind about how you view what a truly successful company is all about.

First computer you owned.

In the summer of 1996, I purchased my first computer.  I dropped $3,500 on a large tower Gateway 2000 Pentium 133Mhz computer.  Complete for 16MB of RAM, a 1.2GB hard drive, and Microsoft Windows 95 as the operating system.  Up to that point, my computer usage was school owned, being mostly IBM PS/1 DOS devices and Apple II GS devices (in which I learned AppleSoft BASIC).

What do you do when you’re not working in IT?

To get away from this industry, I tend to enjoy a few evenings with Netflix and whatever tickles my fancy.  I also love being driven crazy by my four-year-old son.  I can also be found watching baseball games on my tablet during the summer when I need something nearby to provide background noise.  It doesn’t happen often, but I love pulling out some video games and playing those, especially the Rock Band series of games on various consoles.  I have a full electronic drum kit that I only really get to use with that series of games that can be some nice stress relief (seriously, hitting something with a stick is very therapeutic).

How do you caffeine?

Multiple trips to the drip coffee machine.  I prefer to grind my own beans (my family keeps a good supply of beans from a local coffee place in Kansas City on hand) and then use a standard Mr. Coffee 12-cup brewer.  Nothing fancy.  There are times where a French press might be pulled out, and while I don’t partake much in it any more, my wife can be found forcing the Starbucks app on my phone to send me updates about purchases or additional funds being added to the Starbucks card.

Who do you want to see answer these questions?

Get Luigi Danakos.  I’m sure he has some great tech marketing stories to share.

Any career advice you’d like to pass on to our readers?

As I’ve been in the midst of a job search (not voluntarily!), I can’t tell you how important a vibrant and engaged personal network is.  A few years back, I never saw myself where I am right now, mostly due to my own short sightedness, but also because I didn’t realize influencers were a thing.  Now that I’ve joined the ranks, having access to all sorts of people that can easily slide over from the business side to the personal side (and vice versa) pays for itself in the end.  Always be willing to expand your personal network.  You never know when you might need it to help you out in a pinch.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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