Category Archives: Technology and Work

Blessings galore from transforming heartwork

Awaking with the opportunity to serve my world is a daily blessing that I aim to maximize even though it’s easy to limit my focus to the daily grind of work, kids, and home and miss on the opportunity to serve my world beyond myself and my home.  Yesterday, Saturday, April 26, 2014 was filled with countless blessings that had me in a seemingly constant state of reflection and sobriety.

My day started with leaving my house before 7am to take my 17 year old son to Loaves and Fishes where he’s regularly volunteered feeding the homeless on Saturdays since the end of 2011.  After returning home and handling a few errands, I was on my way to the Sacramento County Juvenile Detention Facility, where I spent over four hours with young men who are in the maximum security units as well as a couple other units.  I left there and met a friend for an early dinner that led to a phenomenal conversation about race, gender, and privilege in American society and our workforce.

After dinner, I was so thankful, energetic, and encouraged.  At this point, thinking my day would be “lightened,” I sat with my laptop to get caught up on work and wound up watching the movie Fruitvale Station while doing so.  “Lightened” didn’t happen and the movie stirred so many of the same emotions that were already awakened earlier in my day.  In the backdrop of this day was the news surrounding the comments of the Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy who’s comments were quickly overshadowed by the alleged comments of NBA team owner, Donald Sterling.  The movie accompanied with the recent national headlines combined to remind me of how the naiveté of so many (all races) would find themselves surprised by such events or in denial of how such comments from these individuals and fate such as in the movie are direct descendents of institutional discrimination, abused unearned privilege, and mental slavery.

I’m thankful for my many failures over the years to productively recognize and address the descendants of institutional discrimination, abused unearned privilege, and my own mental slavery that have resulted in me learning from those failures to now be in a position to personally help others who consciously and unconsciously struggle with those same poisons.  Yesterday was a blunt reminder of the pain, consequence, and inequality that endures in the lives of so many as a result and how I’m obliged to serve my world in contributing where possible to conquer these sources of division and hate.

I love the human race.

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STEM Education Starts Before School

Working in the enterprise hardware space I occasionally find myself frustrated with the amount of time that it takes for the adoption of what I view as obvious and unquestionably superior technology to what is being used by customers or within my industry.  I then step back, relegate myself to “the customer is always right” and seek to find that happy balance of pushing them toward a successful strategy that delivers benefits to their business and their careers while planting some form of go-forward strategy that gets them out of the Ice Age before it’s too late.  What’s interesting is I can have a conversation with the same decision makers about their personal usage of cell phones and the innovator/leading edge thinking of them immediately comes out.  I refrain from telling them that the disk arrays you use that are dependent upon you committing the whole capacity of several drives to create a static RAID group are the equivalent of that brick of a cell phone accompanied by the pager on your waist that you wouldn’t dare be seen with beyond 2010.  I digress.  Not too mention the geek speak specific to Enterprise Storage, but hopefully you get the point.

The place where I see similar or more slowness and where I’m most disappointed about the lack of movement is in the education of US children.  With the opportunities and growth in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) sector (high paying, long term careers) continuing to improve beyond the already high number of vacant positions today, I wish everyone in our society (not just a school problem) were tripping over themselves to have students excel and be ready for these opportunities as early as possible in life.  A relatively low effort area is in math.

While returning from a business trip two years ago, I read about this online education system called Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org).  Upon returning home, I began looking around the site and decided for myself that my oldest sons (16 and 14 at the time) could benefit.  Well, at that age, it takes alot more than me deciding for myself to generate regular usage, but on occasion, it was obvious that they benefitted from it.  That same year, my then “just turned 6 year old” was having the occasional challenge with his first grade math.  Good for us, he also liked television and video games and they soon became currency or incentive to do a little extra practice on his math before watching a show or playing a game.  By the end of the school year that supplemental instruction had him very confident in his addition facts and number lines and understanding the rules of carrying.  He transitioned from being an okay math student that wasn’t very confident in his abilities to one of the stronger math students in the class.

After continuing to work on Khan Academy for nearly half of the summer (typically 30-45 minutes per day), he entered second grade with very high confidence in math and was frequently pulled aside along with two peers to do math work that suited their advanced level.  At some point 2012, I was at dinner with customers from Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and as usual I was bragging about Khan Academy when one of the managers from CME acknowledged the good work of Khan Academy and challenged my familiarity with an app called Math Bingo.  I’d never heard of it, but after hearing her endorsement along with the fact her kindergartner was regularly doing addition work with ease, I simply had to learn more.

I was able to install Math Bingo on our iPod and Kindles and found a lively, learning experience on the basics of math that the now 7 year old saw as a game.  Equally interesting was that my almost 4 year old son who had recently learned to count to twenty was excited about playing the game also.  Despite this interest and excitement it was obvious that some fundamentals were lacking to grasp the concepts of addition; though that didn’t stop him from wanting to hear the game make the loud blowing sound whenever a Bingo was achieved.  This would initiate a process of developing handmade practice sheets that I alternated with Math Bingo addition levels (easy, medium, and hard) and later flash cards to ready him for Khan Academy.  In less than six months the 4 year old confidently completed two digit addition on Khan Academy, hard level of addition on Math Bingo, and had memorized most of the basic math facts between one and twenty.  Over this same period, the 7 year old had mastered all of the addition and subtraction exercises as well as multi-digit multiplication with a strong start in division.

Aside from being proud of my kids and having pride in their intelligence, what I’ve come to believe is that most children have the capacity to accomplish similarly in math at an early age.  I also contend that the availability and acceptance of today’s technology could help all of our chlidren realize their potential in math far sooner than what’s measured or achieved by any of the current standards.  Technology alone will not solve the deficiencies in STEM education; however technology has enabled education to take a step in the same direction and it’s time for our homes, schools, and communities leverage the technology available to do so.

The opportunity for a lifetime of amazing feats and discoveries rests in the abilities of the amazing children of our world.  Ongoing delay in the rapid adoption of technology to its fullest extent only stands to cripple our nation’s ability to lead our world in realizing its full potential and eventual destiny.

Technology is abuzz in Greater Sacramento area

I love living in the Sacramento area.  Schools, cost of living, plenty family-oriented activities, tons of outdoor hobbies and interests, bearable traffic, easy access to airport with direct flights to virtually all major hubs, and a great mix of mature and budding technology companies.  Being a geek at heart, the technology piece has me completely excited to roam around the 50 corridor, Downtown/Midtown, through Roseville/Rocklin, and other locations to see how the technology scene is already here and gaining added momentum and maturity everyday.

From my vantage point, core to this speed and maturity has been the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance or SARTA (@SARTA_Tech).  Under the leadership of Meg Arnold (@MegAtSarta), SARTA carries itself with a “get in where you fit in” attitude that welcomes and accepts anyone ready to contribute to the growth of high tech ventures in the area however direct or distant the effort might be.  Despite running a million miles an hour the SARTA staff manages to stay connected with and considerate of other non-profits in the area that are pushing technology or business interest.

Of those, my absolute favorite is the Hacker Lab (@SacHackerLab).  They refer to themselves as a “coworker and maker space” but the reality it is an innovation mecca.  For all practical purposes, it’s a big shack (former tattoo shop) in midtown with three big garage doors in back.  However, I think there was some amazing voo-doo in the blood that was splattered on the walls that has this place hopping with really good hee-bee-gee-bees.  If you’re an old school ham radio person, new school app developer, staunchy enterprise hardware tester or developer, PC technician, dabbler in code, lover of code, mechanical engineer type, IT manager, user of IT, oscilloscope loving propeller head, or maybe you just like good people and technology- then you owe it to yourself to make a stop by 1715 I Street.

There are many more connections that SARTA brings to the table and it’s much for the locals to be proud of and for businesses in other states to bear witness to.  The biggest complaint that I hear about Sacramento in terms of technology and innovation is that it isn’t San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.  Well no $#!+.  Sorry, I’m kind of sick of hearing that.  Were you to put the tech scenes of New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, Seattle, Bangalore, Tokyo, you name it 100 – 125 miles outside of Silicon Valley, they too would look smallish in comparison.  The only missing ingredient that I can muster is a private institution of higher learning that delivers a great mix of young technologists and liberal artists.  Downtown is coming around too.

That aside, UC Davis does a phenomenal job of keeping fresh talent rotating through with a knack for research, Sac State has no shortage of graduates ready to dive in both testing and development roles, Cal Poly SLO some how manages to send large numbers of its top talent to the area year after year, and we thank Silicon Valley for being Silicon Valley and sending so much tech genius who’ve decided they want to see green stuff growing from the ground, shorten the drive for skiing, easily access bike trails and rivers, row on Lake Natoma, send their kids to great schools without paying tuition, spend more time working than commuting, amongst many other reasons.  Technology is abuzz in the the Greater Sacramento area, the environment is primed for it, and it’s going no place but up- really fast.

 

Fan Experience at Sacramento Kings New Arena

Long Live The Kings is Here To Stay and a new arena is on the way. With that, I’m done with my rhyming and completely excited about the opportunity for the new Kings ownership to provide an amazing basketball and downtown Sacramento experience to fans and the community. Below, I’ve taken a stab at my first dozen fan-facing ideas that I’d like to be considered for leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience at the new arena. I’d love to hear back on ideas above beyond these or how the Sacramento Kings faithful will rate these. And yes, these are currently listed in my order of preference. These ideas are my own, not tested or vetted with any company or group. Though, I’m keenly aware of a company (one of TIBCO’s largest partners) that can facilitate making this all a reality.

Note the list doesn’t list the need for lots of monitors, wifi, where monitors need to be posted, what needs to be on monitors, etc. which I considered a given but don’t let that stop you from re-emphasizing.  I also have a list of to-dos and to-adds for the app of which the top ones are included below.  But there are clearly more.

My Top Dozen for a Savvy Technology Fan Experience

1. Tickets and parking pass barcode via phone
-make it easy like at an airport and less paper
2. Pre-order and pay for food via smartphone/app before walking to concessions
-include in app with appropriate rules/conditions
3. Location-based awareness of walking arena vendors in app
-where vendors are in arena, what they’re selling available via app, and means to identify interest
4. Game-time candids
-photos/videos of sections and suites throughout the gamethat can be searched online using ticket number
5. Suite attendees/guests listed on arena camera/board
-option for every Suite Holder to include names of companies or people in suite via TicketMaster or App
6. Tweetboards in arena and concession stands
-display tweets occurring during game
7. Enable pledges to Kingscares charity of the game
-encourage charities to drive attendance
8. SoMe of the game
-award to fans with most/highest quality SoMe posts during game / Make @Kings top NBA trender
9. Downloadable videos/photos of arena camera during game
-readily available to capture experience of game
10. Best of the game uploadable photos from the crowd
-monitored post-game and made available for others to see at Kings.com
11. Easy access to post-game downtown locations and events
-in-game videos, app updates, etc. of where to go post-game (sell ads)
12. Team and Game Gear Promotions
-targeted promotions during games and ability for fans to pre-order specific items

It can’t be this lonely… Hip-hoppers in Enterprise Technology

Last month, I wrote a post (Hip-hopology. Enterprise Technology and Lyricists) that had a few people respond to me directly with their input and thoughts which I greatly appreciate. Neither of them completely agreed with me but there was clear appreciation for having content out there in their industry which also connected with their music preference which isn’t often a topic of conversation amongst peers.

With one of those gentlemen, we were singing the praises of some artists (KRS-One and Keith Murray). From there we questioned how many people in enterprise storage (our industry) or enterprise computing technologies in general would have a love for hip-hop music. And to help qualify what we consider hip-hop music to be, I’ve included 20 lyricists below. One of the guys think we’ll struggle to find 20 people that love hip-hop and can appreciate the names on the list. I’m going out on a limb and saying there’s at least 100.

I’m looking for help getting this in front of as many people as possible to see how many commenters we can get to give us hip-hoppers some confidence that we’re not alone out here working in Enterprise Technology space. If you or anyone you know works on Servers, Storage, Networking, Security, or Enterprise Software and you work for a manufacturere like HP, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, EMC, Dell, Hitachi, NetApp, Intel, etc. and you can readily identify 13 names from the list below- please comment on this page. Edits are welcome on the top 20 list or just a plain ol’ acknowledgement.

Help me out- please?

LaMills Garrett’s Top 20 Hip-Hop Lyricists of all time
1. Rakim
2. KRS-One
3. Big Daddy Kane
4. Nas
5. Biggie Smalls
6. Jay-Z
7. 2Pac
8. Kool G Rap
9. Chuck D
10. Scarface
11. Ice Cube
12. Slick Rick
13. Eminem
14. Redman
15. LL Cool J
16. Andre 3000
17. GZA
18. Lauryn Hill
19. Common
20. Black Thought

https://lamillsgarrett.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/hip-hopology-enterprise-technology-and-lyricists/

Dongles and forking and privilege… Oh my

For those who’ve yet to hear of the events at and following PyCon last week, I’ll leave you to research Adria Richards, PyCon, and dongles and forking to gain as you may from what you find. After spending time reading articles, blogs, etc. I have something to say. Funny enough, the comment that incited the greatest reaction from me was vaguely within context of the incident but in my opinion had more to do with the incident than anything.

In response to a blog, a commenter wrote “…disgusted by….overwhelming privilege exhibited…” and the blogger responded, “I’m not sure how any of my words are a result of privilege. What privilege?…”

This all reminded of a personal situation about 15 years ago where I had a public disagreement (Opinion response in newspaper) with a college professor which led to an email exchange, brief phone discussion and then a face-to-face discussion about our viewpoints and eventually a friendship, regular discussions, and spending time with his beautiful family. The core of the initial disagreement and many of the ongoing discussions and perspective were borne in perspective on and appreciation of privilege.

I believe privilege has everything to do with the situation. Before writing any further, I’d like to provide a few examples of how I’m privileged as a man working in the technology industry. I will also note that in the computing and technology industry is a huge amount of logical thinking that I believe misses or overlooks the realities of privilege which is frequently not spoken nor overtly done, but simply accepted or enjoyed.

1. Amongst most of my peers, I can make an edgy joke about men or women without my gender being called into question. (Sorry fellas, women don’t get this privilege and I did nothing to earn it.)

2. When presenting publicly to a group of powerful men, I’m not concerned about whether any member of the group feels I belong based on my gender. (It’s up to the woman whether to be concerned or not, but not paying attention could very well hurt her- not me.)

3. In working across most technical companies or companies in general, there’s a high likelihood that when I’m escalated to the “boss” that person will be another man. (Just a reality and it’s typically more comfortable to speak with someone you relate a little more to in these situations, but most women would get another man to deal with.)

4. If I were to weigh in as an “outsider” on a situation in determining whether gender was at play or not, it is likely that my position will be seen as more valuable than a woman’s opinion. (If a man is in situation with woman “A” that she feels is sexist and I along with woman “B” witness it. Assuming all things equal other than gender, 9 times out of 10 my opinion on whether it was sexist or not would carry more credibility than woman “B.”)

5. I can mostly speak about gender diversity without being seen as someone who hates men or seeking to promote oneself. (A woman likely needs to weigh the consequences of speaking on this topic and to whom it’s shared and the setting. I can speak fairly freely about the need for greater gender diversity in technology and not worry.)

Funny enough as I’m preparing to type these next examples, I can feel anxiety rising from the possible pushback for sharing these real examples. And in my head I’m laughing with the thought that when I challenged the professor 15+ years ago, I hadn’t earned much. But now there’s stuff (career, perception, opportunity, etc.) at stake that if taken “wrongly” could hurt me personally and professionally. With that, it’s a worth-while risk to write about something we all should be more comfortable talking about. Now I’d like to provide a few examples of things I’ve earned and accompanying examples of how I do not leverage certain privilege.

1. If I need to relocate for work or most any other reason, I’m not likely to have an issue affording the necessary rent or getting a mortgage in most places. (However, in choosing those places I do have to consider the “welcoming” of neighbors, community, schools, etc. based on race, potential consequences if we’re the first or only Black family in the neighborhood, the perception and representation delivered in local media, ability to access a barber that’s experienced cutting hair like mine, representation of music and arts of my liking, etc.)

2. If I should need specific clothing, I can be pretty sure of affording the needed items immediately without financial strain. (However, before going to shop at an upscale store I have to consciously consider potential consequences for how I will be treated in the store based on race and then whether my appearance (clothes, grooming, etc.) will be considered a negative reflection on the race or just a choice I made.)

3. I can be sure that my children will attend a K-12 school that is highly regarded for its academic, athletic, and extra-curricular offerings. (However, that’s accompanied with added work of exposing them to professionals that look like them, encouraging self-love to overcome that lack of seeing self in community and school, coaching to address negative or demeaning terms from peers which are race based such as Oreo, N-word, “good one,” etc., ensuring cultural and religious preferences of others are acknowledged and respected)

4. I am likely to be called on by executives to complete challenging tasks that typically are not trusted with others. (However, I am still prepared to continue responding to whether I believe I first got my job because of affirmative action. I am very conscious of how in past situations my grooming, appearance, and presentation were assigned to the race and not just me. I am limited in finding executives who have common professional experiences impacted by race to discuss professional progression. Still face doing well in a challenging situation as being considered a credit to my race.)

In the first case, the “privileges” denoted are unspoken burdens that women face that I don’t have to deal with. However, it is not I that created that burden or am doing anything to intentionally limit women. The privilege is a consequence of our social structure which essentially provides me the luxury of not being directly challenged by those burdens as a man. Much the same, my Caucasian peers are far less likely to be burdened with the race-specific challenges that I noted for me and it would be a disservice to any of my Caucasian peers to suggest that they are responsible for or to blame for such challenges. And though racism and sexism are likely at the genesis of the societal norms that lead to the privileges I described, I believe (with the privileges I’m carrying) that most people are NOT intentionally perpetuating sexism or racism by enjoying the freedoms and advantages of those privileges. However, I believe the biggest problem with privilege is the ignorance or denial of having such privilege. Followed closely behind that is the willingness of individuals to discuss it with the goal of understanding the person not in their shoes. Though the examples only touch on race and gender, privilege extends to nationality, first language, age, class, sexual orientation, and beyond.

Thus, I’m inclined to believe that the gentlemen making the joke regarding dongles and forking were well immersed in their privilege (being men at tech conference) and their comfort led to inappropriate behavior (freely making sexual joke or innuendo). If you eliminate all women from the conference and these behaviors likely would be minimized or ignored by all others within earshot, right? Because most men are very unlikely to react, be angered, address the bad behavior, etc. especially since it was associated with an object and not directly a woman. That’s our privilege. But the reality is that women were at the conference, the very fact that we have so few women at the conference or in the tech industry in general is directly related to the privilege that we receive as men.

However, for Ms. Richards to then become scorn by so many men and women is disappointing and understood. There’s the myriad of things she could have done upon being offended and she clearly had options. However, minus breaking the law, it was those who went overboard exhibiting their male privilege that opened themselves up for whichever she chose. And the one she chose (tweet picture with comment) exposed their choices in a way that resulted in them having to explain those choices to others. There are clearly a range of responses and consequences. And to each of those are an even greater range of opinions on what should’ve been done and why. But only the person living with the burden of having to make a choice in such an unfortunate situation gets to choose what that response will be.

For me, this is not much different from me dealing with a normal dose of-
1. whether I was hired because of Affirmative Action or
2. being congratulated on being a credit to my race, or
3. being asked “why do Black people…” or
4. responding to comments based on assumption of my political position

I’ve never gone to HR to report such questions or conversations. If I did, does that make me wrong for choosing not to personally deal with this burden coming to me through the voice of others’ ignorance or lack of consideration for me? Would it be wrong to take their picture along with what they said and tweet it? What if I just loudly repeated their question/statement and my response to it so that at least everyone within the range of my voice would know “that’s not cool?” I don’t have the answer. I repeat… I don’t have the answer and don’t know what’s right. To date, I’ve addressed the situation one and one and then make others aware of what happened by keeping the person anonymous. In taking that route, no scene is made, jobs are relatively secure, and others aren’t feeling the need to to take a side. That also means that I absorb all of the work of others’ ignorance and educating others in the workforce with full knowledge that someone else will come along to be educated. But whatever legal route I choose, it is not me that’s doing something to anyone. And I’m really laughing now because I can see people wondering if they should talk to me about anything related to race. The answer is “absolutely yes” and to first apply those questions to yourself and the group you belong to determine if you think you’re in a position to answer that or if asking that would be demeaning to what you’ve earned via hard work.

I beg that those of us in a place of privilege whether it be based on gender, religion, race, class, parent, sexual orientation, authority figure, and anything I missed to invest in doing some of the hard work along with those who aren’t in the position of privilege. This typically starts with having open and honest discussions about how others might not enjoy the benefits that we do with the understanding that we are not limiting them from enjoying those benefits. However, our willingness to come to a point of understanding about the situation will very likely trigger meaningful conversations with more people and hopefully transform our work environments, our neighborhoods, our schools, our nations, and our appreciation for each other.

Many if not most of our words as Americans and those working in America are a result of privilege. Let’s avoid victimization, blame, anger, labeling, denial, and paranoia and before the next bad joke about dongles and forking comes up, let’s do more talking and gain more understanding so that either the joke isn’t said or is worded in a way that’s inclusive and funny.

One ARM better than none- ARM architectures in servers

Today, Pat Gelsinger was quoted in a blog by Tiernan Ray of Barron’s Tech Trader Daily as seemingly dismissing the place or relevance of ARM architectures in server technology. Mr. Gelsinger noted that EMC is “skeptical” about ARM chip architecture or chips outside of Intel and AMD finding uptake.  He went on to focus on how dropping power consumption of x86 wouldn’t make much of a difference and says “Chip architectures don’t change because of 25% power improvements…”

I see such statements as a classic case of either focusing on technology instead of customers or couching a response to protect the position of one’s company.  Whatever the case, I don’t believe it to be an accurate representation despite my respect for Mr. Gelsinger and his personal success. 

Leveraging ARM in servers isn’t about chip architectures, it’s about Total Cost of Ownership.  Which translates into taking a full datacenter’s worth of servers and putting it into a single rack.  Which translates into taking a full datacenter’s worth of cabling, complexity, networking, and support cost, and making it a blip on a CIOs budget compared to today.  Which translates to businesses putting their dollars toward their people and innovating against their competitors.

 ARM in servers is a fast approaching mainstream reality that most organizations will have to consider in their desires to actually stay ahead and keep up with the realities of IT.  Just as Open Systems and client/server wasn’t a “niche” in following mainframe, nor was SAN and NAS a “niche” in following direct connect, nor was virtualization and hypervisors a “niche” in following dedicated server-OS, and neither will ARM be a “niche” following x86 and RISC.  It’s an evolution that lends itself to expanding what’s done in the datacenter.  ARM processors will absolutely compliment with significant presence but not wholly replace x86 servers in the datacenter.  Fortunately for those companies leading the way in this trend and working closely with all of the leading chip vendors to ensure customers are ready for the next datacenter reality without compromising on current needs of rack and tower and blade architectures.