How I Found My Path to the Cloud

From the Storage Peak to Layoff Valley to the Cloud

“Dell EMC’s Data Protection Division won’t need a CTO in the future.”

I started 2017 as an SVP and CTO at the world’s largest on-premises infrastructure provider. I ended the year at a 10-person startup building data management for the public cloud. Like many, my journey to the cloud began with a kick in the gut. Like most, I have no idea how it will end.

The Dell layoff didn’t depress me. I’d seen the budget cut targets, so I knew I wasn’t alone. The layoff felt personal rather than professional, so my ego wasn’t bruised. Since cloud is eating the on-premises infrastructure market, I’d wanted to move. Since I’d always had my choice of jobs, I looked forward to new opportunities

The job hunt, however, plunged me into the chasm of despair. I wanted to be cutting edge, so I applied to cloud providers and SaaS vendors. What’s worse than companies rejecting you? Companies never responding. Even with glowing internal introductions from former colleagues, I heard nothing. No interview. No acknowledgement. Not even rejection. My on-premises background made me invisible. Then, I applied to software companies moving to the cloud. They interviewed me. They rejected me for candidates with “cloud” expertise. My on-premises background made me undesirable. Legacy infrastructure companies called, but I needed to build a career for the next 20 years, not to cling to a job for 5 more years. For the first time in my working life, I worried about becoming obsolete.

Then I found hope. I met a recently “promoted” Cloud Architect whose boss wanted him to “move IT to cloud”. His angst-ridden story sounded familiar: change-resistant organization, insufficient investment, and unsatisfactory tools. He couldn’t deliver data protection, data compliance and security, data availability, or performance. He couldn’t afford to build custom data management solutions. The business didn’t even want to think about it. They did, however, expect an answer.

I realized data management was my ticket into the cloud. Even in cloud, data management problems don’t go away. The problems I know how to solve still matter. In fact, expanding digitization and new regulations (e.g. GDPR, ePrivacy Directive) make solving those problems more important. Even better, the public cloud’s architecture opens better ways to build data management. Electricity surged through me. Cloud gave me the opportunity to build the data management solution I’d spent my career trying to create. Now, I needed to find a place to build it.

Nuvoloso, our startup, wants to help people like me get to the cloud. Individually, each member of the team has built data management for client-server, appliances, and virtualization. Now, together, we’re building data management for cloud. The requirements don’t change, but the solutions must. Each of us adds value with our existing skills, while learning about the public cloud. Our product will enable infrastructure IT professionals to follow our path. We will help them use their experience to add value and get a foothold in the cloud.

Image from the Morgan Foundation

The journey to the cloud still ties my stomach in knots. When I started at Nuvoloso, I felt helpless and terrified. Cloud took everything I knew, and changed it just enough to confuse me. As I’ve adjusted, I feel helpful, excited and (still) terrified. Public cloud is real. Public cloud changes how businesses buy and use technology. Public cloud does not, however, eliminate the requirements for data management; it amplifies it. Public cloud will not replace us. Public cloud needs our skills and experience. No matter where the applications run, somebody needs to manage the data infrastructure.

Your journey to the cloud may begin with a project, a promotion, or (like me) a layoff. Regardless of how you start, remember:

There’s a future for people like us.