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Extended Travels, Devices & Professional Development Tips

Hi Folks,

I recently culminated ~5+ months of travel in Europe, South and East Asia. Countries traveled to included Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and SAR (Special administrative region) of China; Hong Kong and Macau.

As this is an IT related blog I thought I would jot down a few tips for others and myself for future reference.

Internet Connectivity and Devices

I originally left Sydney with my iPhone and a cheapish laptop, within a week it became obvious that the laptop was a thorn in my side both with regards to security (theft) and also weight. I quickly off loaded this as a present to my mother and settled on smartphone only travel. The iPhone served its purpose but I did miss the larger screen and more high level features of a tablet. I purposely left my Surface RT V1 in Sydney (storage) as I found this device and o/s to be a headache to say the least, another days story. During a trip to Singapore (at the early stages of my travels) I purchased a Nexus 7 tablet and never looked back. I have since bought a Nexus 5 smartphone on arrival back to Australia.

Internet connectivity is very good in South and East Asia, some countries better than others with regards speed. I purchased a sim card with 3G data plans in every country I was in except Singapore as I was only there for a few days. 3G sim and data is very cheap (Thailand being the most expensive IMO)  and generally the connection is very good for daily browsing. Asia is very good for WiFi hot-spots and lots of the places I stayed in had free internet in the nightly room price.

Professional Development (the real reason for this blog post)

I set a goal before I left Australia that I wanted to do at least 2 hours per day keeping up-to-date with Cloud related technologies. Looking back I think I pretty much met this goal or even broke it. I decided that Twitter would be my only source of content along with some online courses e.g. Pluralsight, YouTube, Webinars (Gigaom, etc.) . I backed away from my RSS reader and made a conscious decision to stop reading blogs about BizTalk, .NET/Visual Studio, SharePoint etc. (basically declared temporary Tech bankruptcy on development languages and vendor products outside of a pure Cloud play ).

I picked a handful of thought leaders in the Cloud space and followed them closely on Twitter and the blogosphere. I also tracked some of the main Cloud Service Providers as they released updates to their services and focused mainly on Microsoft, AWS, Rackspace, IBM, Red Hat and Docker. I followed Gartner and Forrester analysts for Cloud and also the independent Cloud analysts e.g. Ben Kepes. To reduce Twitter drift (trying to avoid reading all sorts of garbage) and to stay focused on the pertinent Cloud stories of the day I used the excellent aggregator Web Site http://tame.it/ to neatly condense my Twitter network stories into the ’top 10’.

I made a conscious decision not to read any books on my travels, 1.) due to weight, 2.) I didn’t bring my kindle and 3.) I enjoy reading Cloud blogs so this was my downtime and professional development in one! I also used mail, social media and news apps to fill in the other aspects of the Internet and social as a means to communicate with family and friends. For all voice communication Skype was my tool of choice.

Another piece of professional development outside of IT was at least one hour per day on the Asian news channels focusing more on APAC news stories and business today in the emerging markets (China etc.). This dovetailed quite nicely into my travel plans with regards an insight into places like Singapore and Hong Kong.

Lastly I went to the first ever two day Cloud Expo Asia conference in Singapore with a goal of expanding my network and also my understanding of ‘the Cloud’ in Asia, this was an excellent conference which I was glad to have worked into my backpacking travels.

Highlights

- I believe I’m a much more well-rounded Cloud Architect (breath) having took the downtime to skill up on new Cloud Service Providers/Technology e.g. OpenStack

- Hong Kong and Singapore truly are amazing business cities, I would happily work there. HK had that amazing wow factor I haven’t really seen in a city since I briefly lived in New York many moons ago.

- I set a LinkedIn goal to grow my network before I left Sydney, I wanted this to organically grow but had an aim to focus on new connections in APAC, I managed to achieve this.

- The ‘professional development’ I did on the road has further enhanced my Cloud knowledge and given me a greater appreciation and understanding of Asia; its culture, the movers and shakers.

This post is very much a reflection in how I kept my finger on the pulse whilst taking an extended hiatus from I.T. (hopefully there are some good takeaways, I know I’ll be referencing this post when I do the next ‘Big Trip’ someday!)

Cheers,
Conor

Moving On

Hi Folks,

Blog update on my career and travels, quite literally ‘moving on’. I have decided to shut everything down in Sydney, pack-up and head to South East Asia, Middle East and home to Ireland for ~5 months travel and then resurface back in Sydney the end of January.

By the time I leave my current employer I will have served 3 good years in a high-end Tier 2 consultancy in Australia. I joined Oakton (National SI) as BizTalk Architect in 2010 but my real passion then was ‘The Cloud’. Since being with Oakton I have moved away from BizTalk (few small gigs), became a Solutions Architect and specialised as a Cloud Architect. Client base during my time in Australia were large enterprise customers in the Manufacturing, FMCG, State Government, Utilities, Higher Education and Private Sector. I have worked across the full Microsoft Stack and also Solution Architect with technology vendors like Tibco, Oracle, SAP, AWS to name a few. Oakton is a great consultancy which gave me a diverse career path to exploit my pre-sales talents, bid work (RFP’s), some great clients, dabble in application manage services and transform my career into a fully-fledged Cloud Solution Architect working across architecture and strategy.

Two years ago I was also selected to be one of only two V-TSP (Virtual Technology Specialist) on the Windows Azure Australia Team, this was a testament to all the work I had put in on learning the Azure platform inside/out from Go-Live Day 1 in 2010 (I still learn it inside out!).

So with my leaving Australia for a number of months and shutting things down completely (phones, apartment, internet, Foxtel, etc.) it also means I need to shut down two things close to my heart career wise:

  1. I’m currently the Windows Azure Sydney User Group Leader and Founder for the last two years, for the past year I have been working long term at a client in Perth and have been struggling to keep my work commitment up with my User Group leader responsibilities. With that in mind I have just handed over the User Group Leader position to Simon Waight of Kloud Solutions. I’m very excited to be able to hand this over to such a trustworthy person and Azure specialist and I’m sure between him and the local MVP team will do a great job at running the User Group.
  2. As mentioned above I’m currently a V-TSP for Azure, I have reluctantly (personal decision) decided to step down from this program too, it is a great program and it was excellent working with the local Australian Azure Team (thnx team). Am sure my position will become available and the right candidate will get the new role. Being part of this team allowed me to work directly with some of Australian’s largest enterprises and help them architecturally make Azure deployments a success.

So what’s next for me? As mentioned above I have been working on Cloud architecture and strategy for nearly a year with my current client and have thoroughly loved it, I remained vendor agnostic at all times and found myself working heavily across a LAMP/Oracle stack, here are some highlights of my work:

  • Data Centre Private/Hybrid Cloud Architecture
  • Integration Architecture
  • Application Portfolio Cloud Readiness Assessment
  • Cloud Policy, Risk and Guidelines for the enterprise
  • Expression of Interest (EOI) panel member
  • PaaS Market Assessment
  • PaaS Vendor Options Paper
  • PaaS Architecture and Roadmap
  • Cloud Business Case(s)
  • Cloud procurement enterprise adoption “Cloud first model”, SaaS where possible.
  • SaaS Risk Assessments e.g. ServiceNow

I hope that my next career steps will remain in cloud architecture and strategy (along with pre-sales and a move into management) and also getting hands on in the solution architecture phases of work when it comes to a specific vendor or products e.g. Azure, AWS, CloudFoundry, OpenShfit, SFDC etc.

I haven’t as yet decided where in Australia I will settle when I’m back (flight booked for Sydney but that can be changed!), also whilst I’m travelling I would be very interested if any enterprises would like to avail of some short term contract work with regards Cloud architecture and strategy, I have always wanted to work in South East Asia so now is as good a time as ever!

I’m looking forward to the break and enjoying/sampling gluten free food around the world, let’s hope the Cloud industry doesn’t move to fast for me and I can still stay on-top of my game with good old RSS and a blast of Twitter each day…

Thanks to all my consulting clients, colleagues, community members, vendors (especially Microsoft) that I have met and worked with over the last 3 years, lets hope we can kick it all off again Jan ‘14

Cheers,
Conor