8 months at OpenDNS

Hard to believe it’s been so long since my last post here.  Life with a little one goes by so fast!  I never realized how quickly time goes, and I also never believed anyone that told me time flies when you have kids :)

So, the past 8 months have been quite the journey.  When I was hired, I was hired to fulfill two roles – Technical Account Manager and Sales Engineer.  After looking at a lot of data around where my time was being spent in my first few months, it was clear that it was time to split the role in two. I’ve moved into the Sales Engineer role for our MSP Sales team at OpenDNS.  This has proven to be a great fit for my personality and skill set, and it’s been so exciting and rewarding to be able to support our sales team with technical expertise and helping our MSP Partners deploy and use our products to protect their customer networks.

On a recent post on this blog, I talked about my career search and how I spent a lot of time looking for the role that would be the best fit and I can definitely say that I’m in that role now.  That’s not to say, however, that I’m not looking for ways to improve and grow – because I do that daily.  But I can definitely say that the work I do daily is rewarding, challenging and exciting. If you’re in a career search, i strongly encourage evaluating something like the PRO-D evaluation to help find career paths that work within your personality and competencies.

I remember during my high school and college days always saying how I could never see myself being a programmer because I didn’t “want to be in a cube all day” and never talk to people.  It’s funny how stereotypes get destroyed when you work with different people.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our developers and am actually working with some programming of my own (Python, mostly) and taking a Computer Science Intro course from Harvard on EdX.  Depending on how things go, there might be some additional classes in my future for Computer Science, as I’m really loving the topic and I really love being able to write scripts to make large tasks easier to accomplish.

My transition from an MSP service desk to being on the vendor side has been great, and I’m so glad that I’ve made the switch to working for such an awesome company as OpenDNS. I wrote a quick post about my transition over on our blog, and you can find it here.

What’s in a name?

As you read in my last post, I’ve certainly moved out of nonprofit sector. In light of that, the naming convention of this blog is certainly not consistent with my role.  When I began this blog, the purpose was to provide opinions and (hopefully) useful technology information for those working in the nonprofit sector.  I definitely have a desire to see nonprofits succeed with technology and to use it to improve their work experience and their productivity.  Continue reading

Life changes

change-wordle

Over the past few months, there have been a lot of changes in our family.First, we celebrated the birth of our first child in April. There’s quite a long story behind our journey to parenthood, but we are happy and blessed to have our son with us.

Secondly, over the past 6-8 months, I’ve felt a stirring to begin a change in career. Just like everyone who’s ever changed jobs, there were certainly multiple factors to my desire for the next step. The first key for me was realizing that I was on autopilot. Some of you have spent time on this site discussing RDS implementations and issues, and once our implementation was done, due to budget constraints, we were unable to pursue any new projects. This left me in a position of being on autopilot because no new projects or tasks were being done. This, to me, is difficult to maintain over an extended period of time, and drove me to begin the process of searching for my next challenge.

Continue reading

Kiosk Mode for Windows + SSO for RDP (part 2)

Last time we looked at Kiosk Mode for WES 7. This can also be used for Windows 7 Professional installs, and I plan to test with XP in the future. That could help provide low-cost kiosks for almost any scenario (libraries, church public use PCs, etc).

Today, however, I wanted to go through my struggles with SSO with RDS. My initial thought was that I didn’t want any prompt on the user screen, I wanted the ‘typical’ Windows Server 2008 R2 login screen as shown below. Continue reading

Kiosk Mode for Windows + SSO for RDP (part 1)

This will be a multi-part series on implementing thin clients (or thick clients) with a kiosk mode connecting to an Remote Desktop Services (RDS) farm with Single Sign On (SSO).  I hope to help consolidate 12+ hours of research, testing and configuration changes over the past few weeks, with most of that being this week as we began finalizing our implementation plan for 45 new thin clients.  I hope this is helpful to someone who may be thinking about a similar project, or maybe implement items learned here for something completely different.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to find the solution to this problem for our thin client implementation, and only after several weeks of trial and error was I able to piece together multiple bits of knowledge to accomplish my goal.

Project:
Deploying 45 new thin clients to two of our facilities. Continue reading

What is your biggest technology struggle as a non-profit/small business?

The Importance of [good] Project Management and Communication

I know it’s been a long time since I last posted…and for that I apologize.  Now that life has settled down a bit, I’m able to dedicate a little time to this…that being said, let’s dive right in!

I am constantly reminded of the need for a client to have a good project manager, especially when working between multiple vendors.   Most software vendors have project managers that will work directly with the client on a particular project or task (depending on the size and scope of the task), but when multiple software vendors are involved, many times the customer gets lost in the shuffle if they aren’t careful to have a strong project manager.  From the customer’s perspective, setting proper (and realistic) expectations from the beginning is key.

Scenario:

Scope: Vendor A and Vendor B build a bi-directional interface to share information across the two applications.
Expectations: Vendor A configures interface for both applications, Vendor B will verify complete implementation and schedule training with the client.
Initial Estimated Timeline: 2-3 weeks after initial install

Actual Process:

Day 1-3:  Vendor A completes the interface installation, and informs the client that everything is complete.   Vendor B completes first set of tests and finds 2 bugs which need to be addressed by Vendor A.  Customer is given the steps necessary to verify bugs are fixed.

Day 5-7: Vendor A resolves first set of bugs, Customer tests and verifies.

Day 8: Customer discovers that Flat file from Software A is needed to import into Software B.  Requests the appropriate format from Vendor B and sends to Vendor A.

Day 14-19: Vendor A creates flat file and imports into Software B. Customer finds possible bug, requests information from Vendor A.  Vendor A states all information is correct, asks for Vendor B to verify completion.

Day 20: Vendor B verifies import was correct, but bug that customer found does exist.  Vendor B and customer confirm exact problem and provides documentation to Vendor A.

Day 24-31 – Vendor A resolves final bugs and releases client for training.

 

What you don’t see in this process is the dozens of emails from the client to both vendors and multiple phone calls that took place to resolve the various issues that should have been taken care of on Day 1.  Imagine this process without a client advocate [read: project manager] to manage this process and maintain the information flow between both vendors and the client.   Without diligent communication and follow-through by the project manager, what would have happened is that on Day 1 when Vendor A completed their steps, the client would have called to schedule their training with Vendor B.

This is because the client assumes that Vendor A and Vendor B have already done this process hundreds of times, and that everyone already knows what they’re doing.  Unfortunately, there are too many variables in software implementations that what may seem simple (even to technical staff) is not necessarily so simple.

As you can see from this scenario, it took 31 days rather than the 14-21 days that were originally estimated.  According to both vendors, 14-21 days was a very exaggerated time-frame, as the process was “simple” to finish.   In this case, it wasn’t so simple.  To me this stresses the importance of a project manager on the client side of the project.  It helps for that person to be knowledgeable enough to actually get involved in the nuts and bolts of the implementation to keep both vendors honest.

This is an important part of the vendor-customer relationship going past the project, because a smooth, timely project helps create a positive relationship for both the client and the vendor(s).   Remember all those vendors who couldn’t manage a project to save their lives?  I sure do.  In fact, I’ve even been on the vendor side of the unmanageable projects that turn out to be a nightmare because of any number of reasons.   No vendor ever tries to create a project that doesn’t go smoothly, so anything the customer can do to help the process is extremely important.

Since I try to focus on nonprofit organizations here, I know that a staff member dedicated to project management can be quite expensive and that’s not necessarily feasible for each organization.   If I had any advice for those looking at upcoming projects or even current projects, it would be to find the person that is your “Super User” (for application projects, etc.) or is one of the folks that this project is designed to benefit (stakeholders) to be involved in the project management, even if only in a limited scope.  It’s important that the person involved has a stake in the success of the project, because that gives them motivation to see the project come to a timely, successful completion.  And while project timeliness is important, a complete and successful project that is 3 days over the due date is better than a project that’s on-time but has many outstanding issues that will ultimately carry past the due date to resolve or cause significant technical, operational or logistical problems in the future.

If you are needing technical assistance with project management for vendors, please feel free to get in touch with me.  I have a consulting company that specializes in Information Technology needs for small to medium-sized organizations, and project management is something I do as part of my consulting.