Robbie Blake talks to Smart Futures about his career as a Senior Storage and Vmware Administrator
What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?
I work in a team who are responsible for the underlying infrastructure that supports over 400 virtual servers that run airport specific systems, and corporate systems for Dublin and Cork airports.
Describe a typical day?
I start work at 9am. This involves ensuring any alerts or issues relating to the enterprise infrastructure are resolved. We have a 24 hour on call system; any serious issues would have been dealt with as it happened. After ensuring there are no issues, I also work on a number of different projects as a technical resource. These projects range from small business requests, to major works that impact the airports. When a project is in its design phase, I will sit down with a project manager and discuss the technology requirements for their project.
These meetings involve finding out the criticality of any new systems, and the best architecture design that suits the projects budget. After meeting with the project manager, I could spend a number of hours researching the technologies outlined from various meetings with the project manager. I normally finish work at 5pm, sometimes later depending on workload.
My role is both a support role, and an implementation and advisory role, which works across different technology teams.
Working with enterprise class systems and being responsible for these systems that run the two main airports in Ireland gives me a great sense of satisfaction. We build, design, and implement the latest technologies that align with our business goals, and needs.
What are the main challenges?
It can be quite frustrating when you have been told that a specific infrastructure design needs to be implemented due to budget constraints and not set to best practice.
Who or what has most influenced your career direction?
I always liked computer technology, ever since my first home computer. But I never really thought about working in the technology sector. This changed when a role was advertised for a desktop engineer within Dublin Airport. I was lucky enough to get this role, and had the benefit of working with people who had lots of experience in this role. I soon realised after taking up this role that I needed to skill up. The people that I surrounded myself with proved very important. You tend to adopt the standards and goals of your peers.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes, but it can be quite easy to misalign your work life balance. You need to constantly check yourself to ensure you are still maintaining a good work life balance. It is very easy to get wrapped up in project work that takes too much of my time, so trying to balance procedural work with project requirements can be a challenge when deadlines are looming. If we have an issue that may affect some critical systems, these need to be prioritized. Major issues need to be resolved, even if it involves working through the night. As I have progressed through my career, my skill set has become more specific but still remains very portable. This portability instills a degree of confidence.
What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?
I sat my Leaving Certificate in 1988. Around this time we were going through a recession and everybody advised me to get a permanent job. School was something I had to just get through; I was more interested in football and having fun. On reflection, I wish someone had sat me down and opened my eyes to what was possible, that I should try to find out what I wanted to do in my life. It is only now that I realize how important it is to have a least a good idea of what career you want to pursue.
This gives you focus, and focus helps to keep you on the right track. Because I was not focused, the subjects I took in school didn’t mean much to me. It wasn’t until I started working in IT that I realized that education was key. Learning is for life, particularly in the technology sector where change is the only constant. As a result I pursued professional technical qualifications, and over time these allowed me to take a post graduate course in Dublin City University.
What is your education to date?
I went to Rosmini secondary school and straight into full time employment after my Leaving Certificate. I had a number of jobs before moving into the sector, but only started completing specific training when working in the IT sector. Completing this training led to a number of professional qualifications. These were vendor specific qualifications that needed to be consistently renewed. This led to, what I can only describe as a study habit. The sense of reward when completing such qualifications drove me to continue with my study.
After a number of years I had the confidence to step up my studies, which led to me to completing a post graduate diploma in Information Technology from Dublin City University. This was an NFQ level 9 qualification and proved to be quite a challenge to complete while holding down a full time job, and having a new edition to the family.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
The overall experience of the self-discipline required to sit down and push myself to study has proven to be the most important aspect for not only my job, but for my life. Having a good idea of where you want to go will help motivate you, and being able to constructively analyse your mistakes can be the best way to overcome obstacles.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
When I interview for a technical role, I will not only look at the person’s technical abilities, but also how the person relates to other people. Emotional intelligence plays a very important role in any career. The ability to understand and manage your emotions in a positive way will help you communicate effectively, which in turn helps overcome challenges and conflict. This skill carries throughout every aspect of a person’s life.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
The information technology sector encompasses a very large range of skill sets. Having a broad range of knowledge on each discipline of IT will help hone in on what discipline you want to pursue. Read up on the different roles, such as IT project management, software design, business analyst, software programmer, IT architect, technical support, and many more.
Job vacancies are a great way to understand what a specific job role requires. Once you have an understanding of what each role involves, you can then look at courses specific to that role. A number of businesses partake in graduate and intern programs, which are a great way to gain the experience needed to pursue such careers.