Data Protection Software

Joining the IBM Spectrum Protect Technical Advisor Team!

By Tony Pearson posted Thu June 18, 2020 09:01 PM

Inside System Storage with Tony Pearson

This week, I celebrate my 34th year service anniversary at IBM! It is hard to believe that I joined back in June 16, 1986 here at IBM Tucson.

For the past 18 months, I have been a "content manager" for the IBM Systems TechU events team. IBM Systems TechU is the premiere deep technical training events for IBM Systems products. Each event had between 200 and 2,000 attendees.

(The way I got this job was purely by chance. For a TechU event in the summer of 2018, one of the speakers had a last-minute cancellation, so Mo McCullough, one of the content managers, asked if I could present his sessions instead. I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, and cover nine topics.

While there, another content manager, Glenn Anderson, told me he was retiring at end of 2018, and asked if I knew of anyone interested in taking his place. I told him that sounded perfect for myself, and applied for the job. I was up against a dozen applicants, but I managed to make it through all rounds of interviews and landed the job.)

For those who don't know what a "content manager" does, you are not alone. Here were the job responsibilities I was hired for, most of which I was already doing at the IBM Client Experience Center to run design workshops,executive briefings and live demonstrations:

Curriculum Developer
Effectively, I was taking over all of Glenn's responsibilities. We shared a passion for IT Leadership and Professional Development, and we both had a strong background in IBM Z and LinuxONE systems, z/OS and Linux on Z operating systems. I handled all phases of the curriculum, from sending out "Call for Speakers", to selecting speakers and scheduling sessions in the optimal order.

Instructional Designer
I not only developed the curriculum, but also designed how the lectures, demos and labs were run. Everything from coaching keynote and breakout speakers on their PowerPoint and presentation style, to building Virtual Machines (VMs) for the demos and labs. For most of the events that I worked on, I was there in person to watch the speakers in action, and provide them feedback on their session.

Public Speaker
All of the content managers on the TechU team are also fearless and confident public speakers. I presented topics on IBM Storage, IBM Z and LinuxONE, as well as IT Leadership and Personal Development. Sometimes it was last-minute emergency to cover for another speaker that was sick or delayed in travel.
Data Scientist and Database Administrator
When Glenn taught me his process for curriculum development, I was nervous. It was all done on pencil and paper based on his vast experience, knowing all of the speakers and sessions first hand. He had done the job for the past 18 years, and knew instinctively which sessions would be the most popular and which speakers get the highest ratings. I turned to machine learning, and trained AI models to crunch the last few year's worth of data for all of the speakers and sessions, and came up with a scoring algorithm to help the decision process. I put all this data into MariaDB database tables to make it easier to provide this to others as well.

Linux Administrator and Software Engineer
Our content manager for IBM Power, Alex Abderrazag, was also handling the bulk of administration for the Linux servers and web applications. One of the reasons i was hired was that I had skills to help Alex out. IBM TechU relies on several Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) servers running in the IBM Cloud. Alex, Lynne Morrell, Don Meyer, and I were the core team to maintained the servers and all the JavaScript, ksh and PERL code that kept it running. These handled registration, speaker selection, and scheduling agenda. I helped modernized these to using PHP, JSON and MariaDB, with support UTF-8 character set for all of the different languages, as some of our events were in Spanish, French, or Portuguese.

Social Media Influencer
As a top blogger in IBM, I was asked to help promote IBM Systems TechU events through Social Media. Working with Dominique Tenaerts and Heather Allen, our marketing team, I installed WordPress on our Linux servers and launched "Tony @ TechU" blog. Of the 1,146 blog posts I had written previously for "Inside System Storage", I hand-picked over 600 relevant posts to carry forward to the new blog.
It was my dream job, letting me use my technical skill sets, while also working directly with a large number IBM clients, IBM Business Partners, and fellow IBMers. After I worked 17 events in 13 countries, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. On March 9, IBM announced it would postpone its 2Q 2020 events to later in the year.

Our last in-person event was February 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. To fill the gap, our team offered [IBM TechU Talks], a series of virtual webcasts with live Q&A discussions, that started April 09, and are going on now until July 02.

Later, once IBM Corporate Health and Safe, and the rest of the world, realized that COVID-19 was not going away in a few months, all in-person events for the rest of year 2020 were postponed indefinitely, with plans now to have a single virtual event in October. This also means that the TechU team won't need a full staff, and surprisingly I was among [the many Americans told to find another job].

Fortunately, being a world-renowned expert with a strong personal brand and thousands of connections has its benefits. I was able to apply for a variety of jobs, weigh multiple offers, and choose the best job role for me.

I am excited to announce that I chose to work in the award-winning IBM Client Care organization as an IBM Technical Advisor for IBM Spectrum Protect, IBM Spectrum Protect Plus, and the rest of the IBM Spectrum Protect family.! The concept of "Technical Advisor" came from IBM's acquisition of XIV Storage System, and over the years has evolved to include other storage hardware.

As a "Spectrum Protect Technical Advisor", or SPTA for short, I will help clients plan, install and deploy these software product(s) at their data center.  This could be on-site, but for now, due to COVID-19 pandemic, will be done remotely.

The new  [IBM Storage Community] will serve as the new home for my blog posts.




Mon July 13, 2020 10:25 AM

We are honored to work along side of such an accomplished technologist !

Tue June 23, 2020 11:17 AM

Great Tony!  Best of luck on this new journey!

Thu June 18, 2020 10:04 PM

Fantastic, welcome to the Storage community!