296 episodes

We are John White and Nick Korte, two technologists with experience in IT operations and sales engineering who started this podcast in 2018. Our mission is to accelerate the career progression of technical professionals, increase job satisfaction, and give listeners the career advice we wish we'd been given earlier in our careers. Most people in technology fields do not realize just how many different roles one could pursue or what those roles truly entail. We find guests who either have experience in tech or with a perspective that would help the technologist or someone looking to get into the industry. While the advice may be helpful to listeners well beyond this, our main focus is on the technologist. Interviews with our guests are usually released in multiple parts to showcase career inflection points, point out patterns we've seen elsewhere, and dive deep into lessons learned along the way. Our show is clean, released weekly on Tuesdays, and can be found at https://nerd-journey.com.

Nerd Journey: Career Advice for the Technology Professional John White | Nick Korte

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 34 Ratings

We are John White and Nick Korte, two technologists with experience in IT operations and sales engineering who started this podcast in 2018. Our mission is to accelerate the career progression of technical professionals, increase job satisfaction, and give listeners the career advice we wish we'd been given earlier in our careers. Most people in technology fields do not realize just how many different roles one could pursue or what those roles truly entail. We find guests who either have experience in tech or with a perspective that would help the technologist or someone looking to get into the industry. While the advice may be helpful to listeners well beyond this, our main focus is on the technologist. Interviews with our guests are usually released in multiple parts to showcase career inflection points, point out patterns we've seen elsewhere, and dive deep into lessons learned along the way. Our show is clean, released weekly on Tuesdays, and can be found at https://nerd-journey.com.

    Educate and Advocate: Certifications and Community Responsibility as a Joy with Jason Belk (1/2)

    Educate and Advocate: Certifications and Community Responsibility as a Joy with Jason Belk (1/2)

    How could the skills learned as a video game tester be applied to different roles in technology? Understanding and documenting the steps needed to reproduce an error in a video game aren’t so different from understanding the steps to perform a specific task like removing malware from a laptop or replacing a hard drive. Jason Belk, our gest this week in episode 283, has consistently utilized the skill of building checklists over the course of his career, using them to develop and deliver instructional technology courses and to prepare for presentations at a conference.

    In this discussion you’ll hear how Jason’s internship at Electronic Arts shaped what he wants from an employer, the experience he gained working in IT Student Services, how he landed a job at Cisco, and why he wanted to become a network engineer. Jason will give us advice on how to choose a technical certification and how we can each play a part to build talent in the tech industry.

    Original Recording Date: 06-28-2024

    Topics – Meet Jason Belk, Computer Science and Experience as a Video Game Tester, Working in IT Student Services, Learning to Give Presentations, Working on the Cisco on Cisco Team, Pursuing the CCNA, Technical Certifications in a Shifting Industry, Building Talent in Technology

    2:23 – Meet Jason Belk



    * Jason Belk is a Senior Technical Advocate at Cisco and someone who tries to be a constant learner.



    * In this role, Jason is tasked to be a voice of customers and learners and gives feedback to teams at Cisco who are building platforms and content for training and certifications. Jason also builds content like videos, blogs, and tutorials to get people interested in Cisco’s training and certification offerings.



    * See also Introducing the Tech Advocate Team.





    * Jason is also tasked with community building like you would see in a developer relations role, and this is his second stint in developer relations.

    * “Developer relations is a newer iteration of what people have traditionally seen as a technical marketing engineer type role.” – Jason



    * Jason feels there has been an industry need to step beyond just a technical marketing engineer (or TME) and be more relevant to customers by bringing their perspectives and feedback to product teams. This can be achieved through activities like content creation, community building, ownership and improvement of documentation, and creating a better overall user experience.





    * In the past Jason worked in developer relations for Cisco’s NSO or Network Services Orchestrator.



    * Jason worked under the product manager for NSO at that time and sat in the team meetings. After being charged with improving the user experience, Jason worked with a group of contractors to transform the documentation for NSO to make it more relevant for users. They built a developer center for NSO so that it was geared less toward software engineers and more toward network engineers who needed to use the product.





    * In Jason’s current role working with Cisco learning and certifications, he is no longer focused on one specific product but the entire portfolio.



    * Jason knows he cannot be an expert in everything, but he has experience in network operations and achieved the CCNA earlier in his career also.

    * Jason is working to turn Cisco’s public-facing presence into “an empathetic learning experience for everybody who’s either already in a Cisco related career or looking to get into it.”











    6:54 – Computer Science and Experience as a Video Game Tester

    ...

    • 57 min
    All the Networking Things: Project Management, Pre-Sales, and Broadening a Technical Specialty with Amy Arnold (2/2)

    All the Networking Things: Project Management, Pre-Sales, and Broadening a Technical Specialty with Amy Arnold (2/2)

    When should we adjust from focusing in a specialized area to something more broad? Amy Arnold left technical consulting because she missed working on “all the networking things.” The former network engineer who worked in public sector would boomerang back for a time before taking a role at Fortinet in pre-sales. The theme of technical exploration in Amy’s career story continues this week.

    In episode 282 you’ll hear how project management skills have helped Amy Arnold progress as a technical consultant, in her role as a network engineer in the public sector, and in her current role as a pre-sales engineer at Fortinet. Also, we have some good discussions on effective communication through writing and the value of participating in technical communities.

    Original Recording Date: 05-30-2024

    Amy Arnold is a Pre-Sales Systems Engineer at Fortinet. If you missed part 1 of our discussion with Amy on her early career getting into networking, check out Episode 281

    Topics – Applying the Skills of Project Management, Shifting from Troubleshooter to Architect, Picking Pre-Sales vs. Post-Sales, Moving to Fortinet and Working for a Tech Vendor, Writing and Communication, Technical Community Involvement

    2:47 – Applying the Skills of Project Management



    * How did project management training help Amy in the role as a consultant?



    * It definitely helped. Even though Amy did not enjoy a formal role as a project manager, she tells us using project methodologies and managing your own projects is essential for the network engineer and especially for the consultant.

    * Because a consultant is “working on someone else’s stuff,” they need to understand and communicate timelines, deliverables, expectations, resource constraints (i.e. people), and dependencies (i.e. network readiness). Project planning skills are extremely helpful.

    * In Amy’s role as a consultant, she acted in both a pre-sales and post-sales capacity, participating in both the sales process and post-sales implementation.



    * It is important to understand the role of a consultant could mean both or it could mean only one of pre-sales / post-sales. Read job descriptions carefully!

    * Amy worked for a medium-sized reseller in this consulting role. In the smaller or medium companies, you may perform both functions (pre-sales and post-sales). In larger companies a person may be dedicated to either pre-sales or post-sales.









    * Was this Amy’s first exposure to pre-sales?



    * Yes – the closest experience Amy had before this was selling her projects to city management and to different departments to get them approved for funding. Her input into any quotes or statements of work from vendors or resellers was slightly different than working for the vendor or reseller to generate those same deliverables to a customer.

    * Amy says she had done project requirement gathering and meeting with her internal customers on a smaller scale for the city, but in being a consultant she did this for many different customers.





    * Would Amy have appreciated a manager managing her with project management methodologies?



    * Amy tells us it depends. She mentions project managers would get assigned to large projects.

    * Some people just want to be responsible for the technology and get told to “show up,” preferring to be managed more closely within the overall project (possibly due to a lack of overall skillset). Amy has the project management skills and prefers to have more control of how things go from a project standpoint.

    * No matter what, if something came across as micromanagement, Amy would not care for it.

    • 49 min
    Packets Don’t Lie: Quality of Service for Technical Exploration in Network Engineering with Amy Arnold (1/2)

    Packets Don’t Lie: Quality of Service for Technical Exploration in Network Engineering with Amy Arnold (1/2)

    When something related to your current job or a job you think you want isn’t for you, how do you know? And how quickly can you make that decision? Much like quality of service is applied to enterprise network traffic, we can apply the same sort of prioritization to our technology careers through the process of technical exploration and curiosity.

    Amy Arnold, our guest this week in episode 281, had originally planned to be an attorney but ended up dropping out of a pre-Law program after 5 days. From there, she decided to take networking courses, and though it was a new subject to Amy, something “just clicked” when it came to networking. A future network engineer was born.

    Amy Arnold is currently a Pre-Sales Systems Engineer at Fortinet. In this discussion you’ll hear Amy’s technology origin story, how she progressed to become a network engineer, what working in the public sector is like, thoughts on mentoring and technical communities, and reasons for pursuing a role as a consultant while choosing a specialty in VOIP.

    Original Recording Date: 05-30-2024

    Topics – Networking Just Clicked, Program Advisor and Mentor, Technical Communities, The Path to a Networking Focused Tech Job, Embracing Exploration, Hitting a Stride and Progressing as a Network Engineer, The Nuances of Public Sector, A Move to Consulting

    2:39 – Networking Just Clicked



    * Today Amy Arnold is a Pre-Sales Systems Engineer at Fortinet.



    * In this, role, Amy architects Fortinet solutions to solve problems for customers in the public sector. We often refer to this sector as SLED (state and local education as well as local government).

    * To contact Amy, you can find her:



    * On LinkedIn – Amy Arnold

    * On Twitter / X – @amyengineer

    * Amy’s blog can be found here.









    * Amy tells us she originally planned to be an attorney. After attending law school for a week, Amy dropped out, feeling it was not the right path for her.



    * Upon dropping out of law school and not having much of a plan, Amy decided to take some courses at local colleges – a coding class and a programming class.

    * “The coding class was…fine. But the networking class…it was amazing. I still remember my instructor when she told me what a router was for the first time. I was like, ‘tell more about that. I really want to know.’ And so, I was hooked. I took all the classes they had to offer in networking and ended up with a certificate in networking. And then I took certifications as well.” – Amy Arnold

    * Amy had grown up with a father who worked in technology, specifically in coding / programming. Amy didn’t feel compelled to pursue technology and didn’t see herself in that type of role just because she had some familiarity with it. After leaving law school and taking some courses, she gave technology another look.

    * Amy tells us she can do coding, but something about networking “just clicked” for her.

    * “Why not give it a try and see what area of technology might be a good fit? And that’s what I did. Honestly, like I said I didn’t even know what an ip address was until I took this first class…and the rest is kind of history from that point.” – Amy Arnold, on the decision to dive deep into networking

    * John points out how a few days in networking classes were enough to let Amy know she had an interest in the area, and she then decided to see if it was a passion.



    * While Amy enjoyed pre-law classes, there was something about the practice of law that just wasn’t for her. In fact, she didn’t even want to give it a year to see if things changed, feeling that would have been time wasted.

    • 47 min
    Life after Layoff: A Leader’s Sense of Duty and A Series of Good Conversations with Marni Coffey (3/3)

    Life after Layoff: A Leader’s Sense of Duty and A Series of Good Conversations with Marni Coffey (3/3)

    When a people leader is laid off, they have a choice – stop everything, or continue to lead, even as you exit. Marni Coffey continued to model strong character and supportive leadership for her team until the end of her last day with PepsiCo. This is the mark of a great leader…a leader whose greatest skill is empathy.

    After taking time to recharge and reset, Marni needed some help to move forward. This week in episode 280 Marni Coffey will share how she processed the layoff event’s impact on her and the former members of he team, the support she received during her job search, reflections on stress, and the series of good conversations that led her to McKesson.

    Original Recording Date: 05-19-2024

    Marni Coffey is the Senior Manager for Business Systems and Indirect Sourcing and Procurement at McKesson. If you missed our previous discussions with Marni, check out part 1 in Episode 278 and part 2 in Episode 279.

    Topics – A Forced Job Search, Addressing the Layoff in Interviews, Noticing Stress

    3:14 – A Forced Job Search



    * When asked about joining McKesson, Marni tells us it’s about the way things “just happened” to get her there.



    * “I knew who I was. At Pepsi, I finally knew who I was in that people manager role. I knew what was important to me, what I wanted to do. And I knew I wanted to elevate people. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make them successful and get them where they were going. I wanted to be the one to work on that employee experience and navigate across a global company to get those things done for our employees, not just my employees…all of the employees…I want them all to have a good experience. And I know that sounds like some utopian wish, but that’s what I mean by continuous improvement. You’re never there. You just keep doing the next thing to make it better for them.” – Marni Coffey

    * Marni knew what she wanted when working for PepsiCo. But the company went through a global transformation, and Marni was laid off. Her husband, who also worked at PepsiCo, was laid off as well.



    * When Nick heard about what was happening at PepsiCo, he reached out to Marni to see if she was impacted. It turned out Marni was impacted, and her plan was to take the severance package and figure out her next move.

    * “I had not been hunting for a job in so long I didn’t even know where to start…. I had really thought I was going to retire with Pepsi, so I thought I was just done with this job hunting stuff.” – Marni Coffey

    * Marni mentioned Nick and others helped her get her resume into a format accepted today. She also took time to update her LinkedIn profile. Once both were updated, Marni began her job search.





    * Marni took every interview she was able to get and went in with the mindset that many were just practice. Taking this approach made her feel more relaxed.



    * For some companies, Marni knew after the first interview it was not the right place for her. If Marni was not passionate about what the company did or didn’t like the culture, it wasn’t a company for her.

    * The style of an interview can turn off potential candidates. Marni shares the story of an interview style that made her not want to continue with the process.



    * “It was unpleasant. They didn’t take the time to find out who I am and what I’m looking for, which I think is an important part of interviewing. You need to know who you’re interviewing. Are they a motivational fit for you? …Are they going to be happy with you? Are they going to fit in with you? Are you going to be happy with them?

    • 34 min
    Change Management: The Hardest Leap and Developing People with Marni Coffey (2/3)

    Change Management: The Hardest Leap and Developing People with Marni Coffey (2/3)

    Why is moving from individual contributor to technical lead or team lead such a hard leap? For Marni Coffey, it was about learning to develop the people around her. Developing others is something Marni chose to do as a team lead, and as a people leader she continues to do it. In Episode 279, you will hear how Marni approached the first set of one-on-one career conversations with members of her team after joining McKesson. We will also discuss change management and considerations for doing it within global organizations. Should good managers be doing a form of change management for the careers of their employees? See if you can formulate your own answer after listening to the episode.

    Original Recording Date: 05-19-2024

    Marni Coffey is the Senior Manager for Business Systems and Indirect Sourcing and Procurement at McKesson. If you missed part 1 of our discussion with Marni, check out Episode 278.

    Topics – The Technical Lead as a People Developer, Change Management, Improving Employee Experience and Career Development

    3:21 – The Technical Lead as a People Developer



    * Marni mentioned being a technical lead. What should someone expect if they are an individual contributor seeking to take on a technical lead (or tech lead) role?



    * “It’s a leap. Moving from individual contributor to technical lead is the hardest leap, the hardest leap I ever took.” – Marni Coffey

    * As an individual contributor, Marni would learn how to do things and not stop until they are complete, delivering excellent solutions to internal customers and stakeholders.

    * “Becoming a lead…you now have a team, and they all have individual tasks that they are going to contribute to. And you will have some of your own tasks, but mostly, you’re kind of going around and making sure everybody can do what they do…. You are supposed to enable them to do the job…. You don’t just take the task and do it. And too many technical leads do it…. That is not what the people on your team want you to do. They don’t want you to take their tasks. You may think that you’re doing them a favor. You are not. You should be developing them.” – Marni Coffey, on the role of the technical lead

    * Others on a team may not be able to perform tasks as quickly as the technical lead, and the technical lead should understand this.



    * The tech lead can peer review a team member’s work and provide feedback and coaching on how to make it better without doing the task for the team member.

    * If a team member needs help, help them. Help does not mean taking the task and doing it yourself!

    * The technical lead’s job is to develop the people on the team and ensure they can complete their work.





    * Deadlines are also an important consideration in all of this because they must be met.



    * Marni tells us sometimes people are working in the wrong role. Maybe a person is working in the data layer and needs to be working in the presentation layer.

    * The tech lead needs to understand when people are in the wrong role and help get them in the right role. Someone on the team may be struggling or not enjoying the work they are doing, for example.





    * “As a technical lead that was the hardest thing. The hardest thing is not doing it for them. It is teaching them to do it.” – Marni Coffey





    * Does the technical lead essentially manage the team’s task workload to ensure deadlines are hit?



    * Marni says yes, but the job of the technical lead (or team lead), it’s your responsibility to go and speak with stakeholders.

    * If you are someone who is afraid to talk to other people who may be leaders within your company,

    Uncovering Empathy: The Greatest Skill of an Inclusive Leader with Marni Coffey (1/3)

    Uncovering Empathy: The Greatest Skill of an Inclusive Leader with Marni Coffey (1/3)

    If asked about your greatest skill, how would you answer? Could you even answer the question? Our guest this week was asked to name her greatest skill in a job interview, and the answer is one of the most important skills of effective people managers.

    Marni Coffey is a Senior Manager for Business Systems and Indirect Sourcing and Procurement at McKesson, and her greatest skill is empathy. In episode 278 Marni will share her early career as a web developer, why she didn’t like being a consultant, thoughts on creating an inclusive team culture, and the importance of connecting with the company where she works.

    Original Recording Date: 05-19-2024

    Topics – Meet Marni Coffey, Building Websites and an Internship, The Glamour of Consulting, Part of Something, Uncovering Empathy as a Skill, Relocation and Connecting with a Company

    2:18 – Meet Marni Coffey



    * Marni Coffey is the Senior Manager for Business Systems and Indirect Sourcing and Procurement at McKesson.



    * McKesson is a healthcare company. They do pharmaceutical distribution, medical supplies and equipment, etc. Before Marni started working for McKesson she didn’t quite realize how much McKesson does.

    * Nick remembers ordering from McKesson years ago when he worked at Wal-Mart Pharmacy.

    * John mentioned McKesson is the brand of tissues he sees at his physician’s office.

    * During the time Marni has been at McKesson she has been able to learn about all the things McKesson does. Marni has been able to hear stories of patients impacted by the work McKesson does, feeling it is inspiring to work for the company.







    4:20 – Building Websites and an Internship



    * Marni originally thought she was going to be a high school English teacher. After working as a substitute teacher at a private school while still in college, Marni realized teaching was not for her. This prompted a change of major to focus on Management Information Services or MIS (sometimes called Management Information Systems).



    * Marni loved building websites and wanted to do something like it.

    * While still working toward the English degree, Marni had taken on a project to bring a Chicano literature site into copyright compliance. She also took a job in the computer lab at her college to support an online class at one point.

    * Marni considered majoring in computer science, but she felt there was too much mathematics required for it. That prompted the selection of MIS as her major.





    * Marni’s interest in building websites came from deciding to build a Wonder Woman fan site, and she really enjoyed the process of building.



    * She was also working for the school newspaper, and some of it was done online. Marni enjoyed the writing process and thought it would be fun to build her own website where she could do the same thing on her own. That site was never finished.

    * As Marni built websites, she enjoyed playing around with all kinds of functionalities like theming. Then she learned about databases to have data-driven sites and loved that too.



    * “And I just immediately turned into this giant programming nerd…. Most of what I learned I learned from just digging in and learning because by the time you get through your classes, what you learned there is already obsolete. It’s moving fast.” – Marni Coffey









    * Marni had an internship with Logix Communications through her college focused on solving real-world problems like building an intranet site for Logix employees. She and one of her classmates were chosen to participate.



    * Upon bringing some problems and situations from the internship back to her classes, no one seemed to be able to help Marni.

    * Marni and her classmate were offered jobs with Logix in Oklahom...

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
34 Ratings

34 Ratings

Jason Belk ,

My new favorite podcast

There is so much wisdom in both the guests who are invited and the hosts who prepare with thoughtful questions. Very practical and always challenging me to grow as a person and in my career. Highly recommend!

J-one-won ,

The shoulders of giants

Thought provoking questions? Check. Insights drawn from years of experience? Double check! If you're anywhere in your journey as a professional, technical or ortherwise, there is something for everyone who is willing to invest some time and listen to some amazing Nerd Journeys.

botare ,

Passion and talent

I really enjoyed the interview with Erik Gross and his practical approach to finding the intersection between your passion and your talent

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