Saturday, December 31, 2022

Solution Engineering Training Opportunity

 If you're following me on Twitter, you've probably seen my announcement a few days ago, about me offering to train 1-2 people to become competent IT Infrastructure Solution Engineers (SEs). I wanted to announce this during BarCamp Kuwait 10 two weeks ago, but didn't to prepare things in time.

SE Basics: What, How and Why

What is a 'Solution Engineer'?

A solution engineer is someone typically working at System Integrators in the IT industry, or at IT companies (vendors) directly. IT vendors are the like of Microsoft, Red Hat, VMware, IBM, Oracle, and so on. System Integrators are companies that leverage solutions from multiple companies to bring over a complete solution to a problem their customer has.

A competent SE must be able to look at the big picture, a solution that fits this company's needs and not necessarily cater for a quick itch that it may have. The SE must have exposure to multiple technologies on various levels of infrastructure and applications, in order to have a valuable & trustworthy opinion of a proposed solution.

This does not cover technology alone, but also needs to cater for the customer's budget, purchasing cycle, existing investments, and future growth.

At the end, the SE has to also present the solution in an easy to understand matter to various people, some technical, some financial and some are high level executives. A competent SE needs to know how and when to create a presentation catering to each type/group of business people at the customer in order to secure their trust, their budget and the deal.

How Does One Become a SE?

The typical path is that a fresh graduate would work at a company's IT department as an administrator for a few years and gain knowledge of various systems, either by immediate assignment to each of these systems or out of curiosity.

After that, good IT people are picked up by System Integrators (SIs), to implement specific solutions that they already know well. Often, this involves pushing them to get certifications on the solutions being implemented from the vendors to showcase their qualification and this is also often a requirement for each SI when submitting formal documents for a tender/request for proposals (RFPs).

After a few years at SIs, exceptional SEs are picked up by vendors, and are either given the role of a generalist (core) solution engineering, or become specialized in a very specific product.
A generalist, like myself, is someone who's the first point of contact for their customers, and gathers information on their current issues, then decides whether s/he can devise the solution on their own or needs to involve specialists.
A specialist is someone who has deep knowledge of select products belonging to one business unit. For example, someone who knows how to implement VMware's Horizon virtual desktop solutions and architect solutions around it.

As you have guessed, this process takes many years, and apart from the technological aspect of learning, there's also a big learning curve on social skills and presentation skills.

Why Become a SE?

So why bother? Why not stay an administrator managing software, networks, storage, servers, or some systems and be happy with the routine work?

To each their own, and some of us have minds that are tuned to routine work and are happy with routine work. Others, like myself, would be bored to death with routine work and prefer to spend time solving problems and dealing with various industries and customers to help them get better: reduce their costs of operations, enhance their response to emergencies, help them launch new services faster, secure their infrastructure, applications and data on various levels, ...etc.

If you find yourself to be as the latter, then being an IT SE is the road to feed your hunger for problem solving.

My Conditions and Limitations

Before going further and to not waste your time, I'm instating certain limitations and conditions for this training opportunity.

  1. This offer is limited to citizens and children of citizen women of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.
  2. The priority of selection is:
    1. Kuwaitis and Kuwaiti women's children (if the children don't hold Kuwaiti citizenship)
    2. Other GCC nationals and their children similarly to Kuwaitis.
  3. Age must be between 23 and 35 years old. Though older people may have more experience, the purpose of this training is to provide as much information as possible to save on the time spent to gain knowledge. At least 2 years of working experience (in any sector) is needed, even if not IT related.
    Non-IT work can be useful to build one's soft skills (conversational, presentation, sales skills).
  4. Male or female. Both will be treated equally and comparison will be done based on personality traits and ability to self-learn.
  5. There will be a push for a lot of self-learning and you need to invest time in it. If you slack off, I'll give 2 warnings, and then discontinue the training if you keep slacking off.
  6. I work long hours during the week, but I'll try to provide at least 2 hours per week for a year. We'll see how it goes for 3 months, then decide what times and days of the week work best for both you and I.
  7. Our meetings will be a mix of emails exchanges/messaging, phone calls, Zoom meetings, and in-person meetings, depending on the time of day and the topics, as some topics would require meeting in person and practicing technical & non-technical aspects.
    1. If you're unable to do any of these due to certain conditions beyond your control, such as a strict family, I'm happy to meet them, introduce myself and how this training can help you grow.
    2. All meeting options above have to be accessible, and if not, then unfortunately this won't work for you and you shouldn't apply.
  8. You must have good command on English, both written and spoken and be able to write long coherent paragraphs. Having similarly good command on Arabic is even better and would definitely weigh in during evaluations.

Why am I Doing This?

The reason I've put such conditions is that I'm seeing a huge lack of skilled people in our region, and an even bigger demand for them. Governments and companies wanting to keep up with technological advancement MUST have such skilled people, either as solution designers, or as administrators and operators.

My initiative is to help more people get into the field of Solution Engineering, and feed this dry market, and the priority is to feed the markets with locals who'll stay in the country, rather than fellow expats who are likely to move out after a few years.

This is a personal initiative and will be based on giving up my free time. My past, present and future employers have no involvement in this initiative.

Who am I and Why do I Qualify to Give Such an Initiative?

I like to segregate work from personal life and as such, I kept my online presence with low personal information, however, almost everyone in the IT industry in Kuwait knows me, in the Banking & Finance industry, Government, Oil & Gas, Logistics, Retail and others.

  1. I have 10+ years of experience as a SE and solution architecture for IT infrastructure solutions.
  2. I have a unique experience combining knowledge of multiple systems & solutions:
    1. IBM Mainframes
    2. IBM POWER Unix systems and Sun/Oracle Solaris Unix systems
    3. AMD/Intel based systems (Dell, Lenovo, Cisco, Nutanix)
    4. Performance comparison, capacity planning and platform selection between all the above systems
    5. Linux & Windows operating systems
    6. C++, Java, Python, & JavaScript programming languages
    7. Hyper-V, and VMware virtualization hypervisors
    8. Hyper-converged Storage Infrastructure (HCI) with VMware vSAN and Nutanix
    9. Private Cloud/Hybrid Cloud solutions from VMware
    10. Layer 2/Layer3 networking, and VPN
    11. Securing operating systems, data, applications, whether on-premises or remote
    12. Data recovery
    13. Soft skills, such as public speaking, solution sales cycle management, presentation preparations for C-level executives as well as technical staff, requirements gathering from business people, and more.
  3. I've worked with
    1. 4+ banks on full infrastructure overhaul/upgrade projects
    2. 2+ investment companies
    3. 2 logistics companies
    4. 2+ retail companies
    5. Military, Defense and Police
    6. Government ministries
    7. Telco IT (not telco ops)

How to Apply?

First, read everything above, and if you feel hesitant even a little bit, it's OK and you should still apply. Some people shy away from such opportunities or big job positions as they think they're not up to the task; you should disregard these feelings and apply anyway. I'll work with you to assess whether we can go on or not.

You can find the application form here. Its results are saved privately on my account and no one else will get access to your information.

What is the commitment needed and duration of this training?

As mentioned in the Conditions section, I'll try to provide 2 hours every week for a year's time. We'll assess our availability and what works for both of us in terms of timing and adjust every month or 3 months.