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Meet an expert: Q & A with James Belton

By Stephanie Wing posted Tue September 22, 2020 03:14 PM

  

James Belton is a U.K.-based Global IT Architect across the IBM Cloud® Customer Success team and regular leader for webinars, client workshops and more. We asked James about his role, global technology trends, the impact of Covid-19 and a new training series, IN THE CLOUD

What is the best thing about your role? What challenges do you face most often? 

The best thing is probably the fact that I work globally, which means that I get to talk to customers and IBMers across the world. It’s great to get insights from different places, and it’s interesting to hear how different countries have been coping with the pandemic, too.

I suppose being global does sometimes offer a few challenges around time-zones! But I think my main challenge is making sure I stay on top of new features and developments around IBM Cloud. Things can change at such a fast pace and there’s always something new to learn.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your role?

From a working perspective, it’s had a fairly limited effect in the sense that I spend a lot of time working from my home office anyway. There are times I'd go to customers and of course that’s stopped. There has been a noticeable uptick in people developing or wanting training around IBM Cloud, so I’ve had a lot of opportunity in the last few months to get more involved in creating some of that content too, which has been really great.

Given the upticks you mentioned, can you talk about technology trends and your current (non-confidential) projects?

[In terms of trends,] we’re starting to see the emergence of ‘technology everywhere’ and I think that can only grow as we start to exploit 5G networking. Over the next few years as 5G rolls out and becomes normal, we’re going to have the ability to be connected as never before. Coupled with IoT and the kinds of data that’s now available to support more accurate, real-time decision-making, I can see there are going to be some really important shifts in areas such as agriculture, energy management, healthcare, retail, insurance and beyond.

I spend a lot of time talking to customers and helping them make decisions on their cloud usage. The COVID pandemic seems to have focused people’s minds towards learning, so I’ve been active in producing internal and external learning content, including for my YouTube channel (IBM Cloud Foundation Skills Series).

On the topic of learning, what can you tell us about the new IN THE CLOUD series?

IN THE CLOUD is a series of regular webinars focused towards the developer community. The aim is to have this regular one-hour session where we’re going to talk about and show things which hopefully will make folks think in a slightly different way and encourage them to try stuff. This is a chance to get more ‘under the covers’ than you might get from a shorter video or just reading the documentation.

I did a session called “It’s not all about the Console”. The IBM Cloud console is really feature-rich and fantastic for most users, but you can do pretty much everything that you do in the console through code as well, be that with the CLI, APIs or Terraform.

Any other resources, trainings or words of advice for clients?

I guess to start with, and some shameless self-promotion here, I’d take a look at the IBM Cloud Foundation Skills Series on YouTube, which is a series of videos I have created to get you started with IBM Cloud and work through lots of the services and how to use them. It’s kind of a mix of lecture and demo, and I’ve been really pleased at the response I’ve had to it. 

[I’d also say] take a little bit of time to familiarize yourself with the IBM Cloud console and things like IAM (identity and access management) and user management. IAM can be a little complex at first, but it’s a great way to make sure things are nice and secure. I’d look at pushing the technical boundaries of what you can do as well because that can lead to new, possibly more effective ways of working. Also, if you have a CSM, make use of them because they can help a lot and are a gateway to a lot of other resources in IBM.

Another thing I think lots of people maybe overlook is the IBM Cloud documentation, which when you get stuck into it, is pretty detailed. It’s helped me out in most cases. 

Since you recommend ongoing learning, what’s one of the coolest things you learned this week?

Most days when I speak to customers and hear about their use cases, it’s something different that I’d not really considered before. So there’s that. Personally, I’ve been working on some scripting examples for a webinar and without giving too much away, I’ve been diving a bit deeper into the CLI and some of its functionality around VPC.

Away from work, I recently bought a bass guitar, so I’ve been learning how to play. I’m a bit of a fan of The Stranglers so I’ve been working out some of their bass lines – or trying to – but I think I’ve nailed No More Heroes.

If you were a superhero, who would you be?

Well, not strictly a superhero but being British I grew up on Doctor Who and I think it would be pretty exciting if I suddenly found myself in the shoes of the Time Lord, or even a passenger in the TARDIS. I think that what drew me to the series was the fact that The Doctor traveled through time and space and generally used science and reasoning to sort things out, which in turn probably got me interested in technology as a youngster. I’m still a fan - If you catch me on Webex, you can normally see a TARDIS over my right shoulder, though I keep my 16-feet-long stripey scarf off screen!

Want to learn more from James?

Register for his next webinar - Ask an Expert: All about Virtual Servers.

You may also reach out to him via LinkedIn or email.


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