How to Lead an IT Team

Former Microsoft MVP Philip Elder reveals tips and tricks he's learned for leading an IT team.

October 19, 2021

This is a transcription of Episode 23 of the Conversations with Tech Experts Podcast, featuring Philip Elder, Senior Technical Architect and Certified Expert. Philip joins Experts Exchange CEO Randy Redberg and Director of Bus. Dev. Thomas Bernal to discuss the best ways to lead a team of IT professionals. Click the box above to listen to the full episode. To listen to more episodes of Conversations with Tech Experts, click here.

Thomas Bernal: Hey guys, Thomas Bernal and today on Conversations with tech experts, Randy Redberg and I sit down with Philip Elder. Randy, give a little take on Philip and our conversation.

Randy Redberg: So, Philip comes to us out of Canada, been an expert on our site for a long time but very knowledgeable in the Microsoft product area, Microsoft servers. And yeah, it was interesting to hear his take on where the cloud services has gone and how it's kind of come back to on-premises to really land in the middle for hybrid and so it gave us a lot of great conversation around that and just what he does and I know we're really thankful to have him on Experts Exchange as an expert and sharing his knowledge with people and just teaching others and helping others. So, it's really good.

Thomas Bernal: Sharing his knowledge, experience and understanding, it's great. Well please enjoy Philip Elder.

Thomas Bernal: As we kick off there and we kind of learn more about you already but give our listeners just a quick little take and introduce yourself and who you are and what you do.

Philip Elder: Sure. I am Philip, Philip Elder. Been in IT now since the early 2000s, late 1990s. I think my first 'professional' job in IT was 1999, January 3rd. And prior to that I was working on my journeyman's ticket as a mechanic. I spent four years in University studying Psychology. I really, really enjoy working on vehicles, whether it's performance was the big thing for me, Mopar…

Thomas Bernal: Oh, there you go.

Philip Elder: Mopar, still got oil in the blood, still like working on the machines. That's something I've never really left behind. So, prior to that, construction, all sorts of things. I've been all over the place but IT-wise I was always the guy, when I was in University, I was the one that had the WordPerfect 5.1 template set up for APA, so the American Psychological Association, structure for their documents because I studied psychology. And I was the guy that a lot of folks would come over to and say, "Phil, hey, I hear you've got this template." Because otherwise you're manual and if you remember the DOS days, it wasn't always a fun thing to do.

Philip Elder: So, once I got into IT professionally, just as an FYI I'm in the garage like I think I mentioned, so we've got six cats out here in the country keeping the rodents at bay and some of them like to climb on my lap so you might see a cat tail or cat go by every once in a while.

Philip Elder: I got into IT and started off with getting hired by a fellow who was looking for somebody with experience as opposed to papers. And then from there, what do you say, I became a Small Business Server Microsoft MVP, Most Valued Professional, 2009, I think was my first year. My focus always has been on small to medium business and SBS, Small Business Server, was the cat's meow for me. BackOffice Server, back in the day, 4.0, 4.5 which was the predecessor to Small Business Server 2000. And 2003 which was Microsoft Surprise, if you will, they were very surprised at how well it did. And we weren't because we knew it was an awesome product.

Philip Elder: There was a lot of really good things that happened in the SBS community but for myself, I think the key takeaway from that period was I learned something. I learned a lot of things. But one of the principle things I learned was how Microsoft put together a product around the stack. So, Windows Server, Active Directory, Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, SQL Server, the whole package was built on that one server product. And eventually the premium product which put SQL out on its own. So, we got an opportunity in the SBS community to learn a really solid foundation on Microsoft Stack.

Philip Elder: And we took that when SBS got retired and I became a Windows Server and Small Business something MVP for a year and then I've been doing Hyper-V since 2008 and prior, Longhorn actually, Virtual Server prior to that. Pretty good idea of virtualization was going to be the big cat's meow, if you will. And between SBS on one side and Hyper-V on the other got a pretty good direction, ultimately, for where we were going to go and what we were doing. I guess that's pretty much a good description once SBS was retired the MVP I asked for and received was...

Thomas Bernal: Say that one more time. You cut right out. The MVP you...

Philip Elder: Yeah. These headsets...

Thomas Bernal: That's okay.

Randy Redberg: Yeah. You're good.

Philip Elder: Throws in a "Hey, you've got five hours or four hours or three hours." And I didn't realize it cuts out. Anyways, the focus of our business, when Microsoft canceled SBS, became Hyper-V clustering, high availability. And I've been designing and building solutions. We are a system builder. I know I've been called a dinosaur. I remember talking about folks who were called dinosaurs, if you will, back in the day and now we're considered dinosaurs. And in 2011, holy Sugar Smacks, that's 10 years ago, I'm sitting here going, "We're not leaving the on-prem when, you know, cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud." We focused on it and stayed focused on it. So here we are now on the cusp of Microsoft Messaging changing from all in the cloud to hybrid and we have a whole platform of solutions that we've been deploying on-prem for the last 10 years that are perfect for folks who want to be hybrid or totally on-prem.

Philip Elder: So that's in a nutshell, SBS, my bread and butter, really good learning tool. Got a solid handle on all the components, Hyper-V clustering and building solutions. We've got a parts bin that's probably worth a small car territory of stuff that, you know, broken promises, so that's my 'fun'. What I enjoy doing.

Randy Redberg: Let me ask. I have a couple of questions that just piqued my interest there but talk a little bit about hybrid. So, about two years ago IBM was starting to really push the idea of hybrid and they were just starting to talk about it. And I know for a long time everybody had talked, "Cloud, cloud, cloud." Like you were saying. And you said we're going to stay on premises, there's no way everything's going off to the cloud. Just talk about that, how that kind of that shifts probably come back now to balance out somewhere maybe in the middle or where do you see that? And just explain that to people like what's going on there because I find it really fascinating.

Philip Elder: We are, how do I put this? We're cyclic. We, as the human person, society, groups, whatever, we're very cyclic. And when I was in school our computer experience was COBOL, Fortran, Basic, whatever the case may be. The Apple IIe had just got dropped on the table in the computer room in about middle high school for me and our primary learning method was keypunch cards. And we were time sharing on the big mainframe downtown to take care of all of the processing needs and then we had the monster printout sheets that came out of those massive super fast dot-matrix printers that were in the computer room that was sound isolated because they were so loud. So everything was mainframe, everything was cloud. It was out there somewhere, that way.

Philip Elder: And then we went all on-prem. "Oh, the personal computer, oh, it's going to save your life, blah, blah, blah." I'm being sarcastic, facetious, if you will. So, here we are 2008, I'm going to go back a little bit. 2008 and the messaging was all in the cloud, all in the cloud, all in the cloud. And for those of us who did on-prem, we all sitting there going, "Well, what does that mean, really?" Ultimately the reasoning I see that there's two primary reasons that I see hybrid as being the best to some degree. Or on-premises being the best depending on who the customer, the client, is. The primary reason for that is... I just lost my train of thought, sorry.

Philip Elder: I have an accident in 2016 that I got a severe concussion with and eveonce in a while my brain resets on me. So, especially when I'm publicly speaking so I apologize for that.

Randy Redberg: You're fine.

Philip Elder: The derailment.

Thomas Bernal: It's easy to splice this stuff up. So don't worry.

Philip Elder: I'd prefer not to. I don't mind the idea, I've done enough presentations where I've just stood there for a couple of minutes, or not a couple of minutes but half a minute where I'm sitting there and I warn folks ahead of time.

Philip Elder: So, let's start from the question. Why don't you ask the question again and then I'll start?

Randy Redberg: Yeah. Just about the hybrid to cloud and why that, it's just really interesting and you were talking about how it went from you were seeing people talk about all of a sudden in '08, "Cloud, cloud, cloud." Again and then they're starting to bring it back and why it's important to stay on premises with people.

Philip Elder: Okay. So, as I was mentioning, in high school everything was in the cloud, if you will, mainframe downtown. Then we went through the on-prem. "Oh, it's on-prem, on-prem, on-prem," type of thing, personal computer, everything. I remember helping my Mom with Lotus Notes on her 8088, 8086, I think it was, it was this massive 50 pound PC that was sitting on one of the desks there. And helping her because the IT folks wouldn't touch it at that time. And this was a good 25 years ago or so when they were still using that machine. Then we go through the, "all in the cloud, you belong in the cloud, you belong in the cloud, you belong in the cloud." In 2008, 2007, 2006, in 2008 BPOS was Microsoft's big push into Office 365 that it morphed into.

Philip Elder: But there is a reality that, we live in a bubble. There's lots of bubbles out there but we in tech really live in a bubble and marketing, if you will, is, "You've got to be in the cloud." But the reality for businesses, especially in the small to medium business field is there is a lot of workloads and enterprise, there's a lot of workloads that just won't fit in a public cloud. And I think it took 10 years. It's kind of like that boat in the Suez Canal, it took them a little while to unstick the boat and get her straight and get her floating down the canal again. And big companies like Microsoft and such, they're kind of like that big boat where it really takes a lot of effort for them to turn. So, 10 years later we're sitting there, 2008, 2018, we're sitting there and Microsoft finally realizes that it just ain't going to happen.

Philip Elder: Hybrid, now if you take all of the vendors out there, Amazon, Google and whoever else is doing 100% cloud. And then you take Microsoft who's got an excellent on-prem story although it had been suppressed if you will. And by the way, I'm very opinionated. I am the most opinionated guy I know so... And I'm independent. I am not a Microsoft Blue Badge. So, I speak what I speak as far as what I think. So you've got this boat that's finally starting to turn. Microsoft's saying, "Whoa, wait a second. Okay we've come to realize that there's a workload type or type of workload that'll never get into the public cloud."

Philip Elder: So hybrid became the thing. So as far as Microsoft's positioning though, the seamlessness that we're seeing between on-premises and Azure and Office 365 and all of those little bits and pieces that need to be there versus any of the other guys that are out there, we've got VMware and IBM and all these other guys going, "Oh yeah, we're hybrid, hybrid, hybrid, hybrid." Well, there's a catch there. The on-premise component is going to be either Microsoft Windows Server, Windows Desktop, Office, SharePoint and start getting into the on-premise side of things. But the key components of business in this world today are those three things, Windows Server, Windows Desktop, and Microsoft Office. Okay, I can't remember there's a big city, I think it was Munich in Germany that went all open source there for a very long period of time and it just eventually realized it just isn't going to work. Microsoft is the business foundation of the world, if you will.

Philip Elder: So the hybrid story is now such that the big stuff, the important stuff, that runs a business cannot get into the public cloud, so what is their opportunity? It's to pull all those little things around that app, that monolithic app, that dinosaur app, whatever the case it may be. Get all the other stuff and pull it into the public cloud. So you've got your Azure Monitoring you've got Arc, you've got Sentinel, you've got all these amazing, interesting things that are happening on the Microsoft side that bring about a pretty nice collection of things that we can do both cloud based and on-premises based to make a really, really seamless experience for the customer, the end-user, that works pretty good, all in all. We're kind of in beta mode but you know what I mean.

Randy Redberg: Yeah. No, I think one thing we see and I always think about a lot, small businesses that, one, you don't have resources to have specialists on site like yourself, right, to pay full-time to understand everything and figure everything out and it's just I really think that's been our niche over the years for Experts Exchange is kind of in that space with those small businesses and the people that help them, like yourself, I just I think that we fill, I hope we fill, and I want to continue to fill a really important spot in that need. So, I think, I guess when you came I'm looking at your profile and all the things you've done, how important is that, that companies find really qualified people like yourself through something like Experts Exchange? Where do you see us fitting into that picture?

Philip Elder: I'm a fiercely private kind of person as far as my personal privacy, my business privacy, and all that goes. So part of that effort is DuckDuckGo. So, Google is kind of like kleenex, it's a tissue, it's not a kleenex. Kleenex is the company that makes a tissue. However, we listen to folks, "Oh, just google this, google that." Smart marketing and smart interjection, if you will. I DuckDuckGo. So when I'm looking for something I DDG. Experts Exchange tends to come up now. If we back the truck up, where are we, 2021, if we back the truck up to about 2018, let's say, 2016 to 2018, when I was searching for more Small Business Server based stuff, Experts Exchange and my articles would end up being top five. If I'm searching for something particular, especially, Experts Exchange tends to be in the top 10.

Philip Elder: And let's take that back into your hybrid question as well, the trusted advisor, okay, we were told in 2008 by Microsoft, the trusted advisor and by all those who are proponents of the cloud, "Trusted advisor isn't needed any more, blah, blah, blah, it's all in the cloud. It's all going to happen." And well here we are in 2021 and folks like myself who are knowledgeable, experienced, have the proper processes in place to be consistent with all of the work that they do and show good results as a result of that, are still the most valuable people out there. The trusted advisor has not gone away. We may have morphed a bit but now the trusted advisor, in my case, is the person who's developing the solution for your on-prem high availability. And then the hybrid aspect, if that's the direction you're going in, and then if we go to the other side so you've got myself on-prem hybrid and then you've got the cloud only, or the cloud person who is doing cloud hybrid. So that person who does cloud and this person who does on-prem and then all of us who do hybrid are really, really important and Experts Exchange fulfills a very specific need there, especially when it comes to finding something, "Oh, Exchange is doing this, search DuckDuckGo." Click, click, click. Experts Exchange.

Philip Elder: So, there's very few forums out there and I know you guys, like I said, site click, I know Experts Exchange has gone through some cycles, ups and downs, ups and downs, and bumps and hiccups along the road. I don't know any system software, hardware, forum, or anything I've been part of over the last 20 years that hasn't gone through these cycles. One of the reasons why I've stuck with helping out on Experts Exchange is because the quality of the questions and the quality of the people asking the questions is really easy to see their history. I can look back at the askers, at their history, and I can get a feel for the type of questions this person has been asking or where they're coming from and that. It helps me as the answerer to provide a better answer to their question for one, and for another it helps me to make sure I answer the question as best as I can based on my experience and my knowledge, but also to make sure I'm meeting their needs.

Philip Elder: So, that's one of the reasons why I think Experts Exchange is a great forum for myself, the quality of the questions, the quality of the people asking the questions and it's really easy to focus in and hone in on those types of questions and help them out. And vice-versa, the folks that are looking for solid quality questions, they get to find the right people and ask, they can reach out to us, they can message us, they can say, "Hey, can you help me with this problem? Can you help me with that problem?" So it's a really great avenue to find folks that are good at what we do, whether it's on-prem, hybrid, or cloud. So, kudos to the team.

Randy Redberg: It's very interesting when you talk about DuckDuckGo because we're right in the middle of all this, right? And we've been doing these tasks where you can go search something that we know is on Experts Exchange, we type it in Google and it's on page 100. And then we go to DuckDuckGo and it's the second search result, we're like, "What's the deal there? Why is that happening?" And when you say DuckDuckGo is your way of searching I think everyone in our office now only uses DuckDuckGo because we kind of have that like, "Why are they doing that to us?" And we're still not going, "Hey, how do we start marketing that?" Going, "Hey, when you come to Experts Exchange use DuckDuckGo, they're going to serve you up better content that what you're looking for, not just what Google wants you to see." So, when I hear that you're just kind of confirming what we're already doing. So it's not very good to hear.

Philip Elder: Yeah. It's ultimately the search company has to make money and if I remember back in the early to mid '90s when this particular search company came on the scene and they had the right people in the right place at the right time to build an excellent search engine. But the ultimate goal was not to be an excellent search company, it was to capture that advertising, that marketing, that shaping, if you will, of the results to bring about the best dollar revenue that they can based on what people were searching for. It's just a simple business, I don't know, what do you call it? Simple business model. It's like, "Oh, we've got people coming to us because we're really good at what we're doing for search results." The reality is, "Oh, hey, I need that too. I need a new carpet for the front door." Click. Here's a couple bucks in their pocket. "Oh, hey, I need that too. I need that for my dog." Click. And then, well, we can get into all the tracking mechanisms and everything. But, yeah, that's probably another conversation.

Randy Redberg: Right. Yeah. We've looked a lot with Gabriel, the CEO over there and actually read one of this books on mental models, really fascinating and just kind of watching their thought around privacy and tracking and what they're storing. And I think that's always been us as well as far as we don't sell people's data. We don't take everything we get. Sure, we want to serve up the best content possible so we need to know some information to put people together to make that a successful relationship. But after that, we're not doing it to figure out how can we sell our data to other people and so I just think that puts us in a unique spot that DuckDuckGo is really been pushing. It's just been really interesting watching how they've really tried to say, "Look, we're not tracking you. We're not doing all these things. We're just trying to give you the best content."

Philip Elder: Yeah. I was skeptical of, if I can remember the term correctly, of scrapers and ultimately a while back there was a few predecessors that I don't remember to DuckDuckGo that didn't work out so well. But they seem to have the whole mechanism done properly or done right, if you will, and one of the things that we do when we set up a client's system, with their permission, of course, is we set DuckDuckGo as their default search engine and then in the process of setting up Credge we remove all the other search engines out of the browser. So the only search engine in the browser when it gets plunked down on their desk is DuckDuckGo. And the primary reason for that is we don't know what those little, what do you call them, extensions, or little programs are doing, search connections are doing in the background while that browser's open.

Philip Elder: I'm not a very trusting person. I'll trust people. I give everybody enough rope to hang themselves. And when it comes to digital privacy I've pretty much seen a lot of companies hang themselves so I'm very cautious around all tech, right down to Faraday bags for the key fobs. You all know that if you've got a key fob for your vehicle that it's always broadcasting, right? So, if you don't put your fob, at home, all of your fobs in a Faraday cage at the end of the day, there's folks out there who drive around with a really good antenna and they can pick up your fobs from about 300 feet through the walls, whatever the case may be, and if they like your vehicle, next day it's gone. So, yeah, we keep things in Faraday cages, the phones, devices like that, just I don't want people listening to my wife and I having a conversation about what we're doing with our finances and that kind of thing.

Thomas Bernal: Well, the point of this conversation really get to talk to some business-

Philip Elder: I digress. Sorry, I digress.

Thomas Bernal: It's a great podcast, right?

Thomas Bernal: Talk about what's interesting. But we do want to hear a little bit from your perspective on your leadership and leading a technology team. My first question I really have for you is, what do you find most fulfilling about leading a technology professional and that technology team?

Philip Elder: Imparting knowledge. So, I started the MPECS blog 2007, I think. The primary reason for doing that initially was because this only has so much space in it and so, if this is out, it's not showing up pretty good. But if this side is out and this side is in and all the stuff that was going in there was stuff falling out on the other side.

Philip Elder: So I started the blog because I needed a method to remember or have a reference point for all the stuff I was learning at such a furious pace. Eventually people started asking questions, say, "Hey, you've got this blog post, you've got this..." I think I got involved in Experts Exchange some time around then, although the current profile that I have now is a little bit younger than that. People started asking questions like, "Hey, what about this? What about that? You've got this question you've answered, this blog post you posted." And I got involved with helping people out. That's when I went, "Whoa, okay." That's when my job became secondary to some degree. And I started to discover that I have an ability, a gift, if you will, to teach and to impart knowledge and to do it... I am the humblest guy I know, right? I am the humblest guy I know. I know my head sometimes has a hard time fitting through doors and it's one of those Achilles heels of my personality that I have to deal with but that was part of my learning process as well was how to teach in such a way that I'm not the one cracking the whip, so to speak.

Philip Elder: Sorry, that's my momma cat, she's on my lap here.

Philip Elder: I discovered that sharing and imparting knowledge and teaching folks how to do what they need to do, to do things better, especially with process, consistency, was something I really, really enjoyed doing. So, from around 2008, 2009, the MVP award was actually a surprise. It came about a couple of really pinnacle people in the industry at the time for what I was doing, came to me and said, "Oh, by the way, you're going to be an MVP." And I went, "Uh. What?" So that's probably the most rewarding is helping folks do what they can do and do it really well. And being somewhat blunt and assertive to some degree about, "Hey, this is not being done the best way. Let's talk about what the best way is, or best practice is for what needs to be done in this particular situation." That's the primary one.

Philip Elder: And the second thing is, like I said, I was a mechanic working towards my journeyman's ticket, I really enjoy working with my hands which is one of the reasons why I never left the system building behind. And that's something I really enjoy doing. So right now we're working on a series of AMD EPYC Rome and Milan platform proof of concepts to build out some high iop's we're aiming for about three to five million high op and multi-Gigabyte throughput type solutions so, that's the other side of what I like doing. I love to tinker. I love to play. I love to learn which is important in our industry. If you ain't learning you're in big trouble. That's another good thing about Experts Exchange, awesome learning tool.

Thomas Bernal: What's a piece of advice now that, start back in late '90s, been doing this for 20 plus years now, so what is a piece of advice you give to another leader leading a technology team? Just starting out, maybe they have to not so much hands on anymore as much as they like to be, but they're leading a team to be more hands on and helping them out. So what is the advice from Philip to say what you would help them focus on?

Philip Elder: Invest in your people. One of the most difficult conversations to have is investing in your people. What does that mean? That means giving them the tools, whether it be Azure credits, IBM credits, VMware credits, VMGuru, hardware, software, whatever they need to be the best that they can be. Build a lab. Have a lab. Don't be shy about that. The amount of resistance, like I said, our parts bin is five figures easily and well into the small, maybe even medium car territory now that I think about it. But that investment has paid off in spades. So, yeah, invest in your people.

Thomas Bernal: Great. How did you feel like, obviously you're successful, you're where you're at. Obviously somebody investing in you. Can you tell a story about someone investing in you or how you felt your career growth?

Philip Elder: My wife and I have been married for close to 20 years now. We're 50/50 owners in the company and she's probably the most vested, if you will. Obviously we're married, so there's some vested interest in there but as far as the business goes, when it comes to that parts bin, she's the person I have to justify that with. So, the business plan is a key part of any investment strategy, if you will. And it would be her. She put her foot down and she says, "Okay. You want to do this, this, and this. Put a business plan together. Justify the expense because some of the expenses we have are well into six figures and make it happen. Show me where the rewards are going to be."

Philip Elder: So, as far as external investors, the number one external investor, if you will, is the client I started serving in 1998 when I got employed in the end of 1998, '99 in Edmonton. They're still our client and we went through a period there after I left my last employer. I had an NDA and a Non-compete so I stayed out of the industry for about a year doing side jobs and helping folks out who wanted me to help them out with their networks because that didn't contrary, or whatever, the NDA, Non-compete. And then the day we incorporated MPECS and I told them, I said, "Terry, we're in business. We've made the decision." And he said, "Great. Here's a check." They had been holding off on their refresh and they handed over a really nice five-figure check for us to start off with. That was the biggest investment, I think, and the biggest vote of confidence in my skills and abilities at that time. And we've been building on it ever since. We have clients who say, "Here you go. Here's a check. Here's a check. Here's a check." 5, 10, 15 years, almost 16, 17 years now, so, that's the other side of it too. There's investment, good investment, with solid client relationships.

Thomas Bernal: Nice.

Randy Redberg: When you come in, just curious, when you come in to a small business and you see they obviously probably have a small team there. They're already doing stuff. How does that work when you come in to help that team. What do you see the deficiencies are in a technology team on a small business? What are they lacking?

Philip Elder: Okay. I have a big head, remember? I've had to learn not to be blunt. I lack tact, basically. So, the first step in that process is being humble. Everyone has an ego and those egos, us guys, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, kind of thing. I know, I'm dating myself but our egos tend to be a little fragile so when somebody like me comes along, "This guy, he's like a god in the IT world, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." And the managers or whatever are extolling the virtues, if you will. And then I walk in and they're all terrified they're going to lose their jobs so that's probably the biggest hurdle hump to get over when it comes to being brought into a situation.

Philip Elder: So the first step is to ask questions, lots of questions. Learn to know who's doing what, why they're doing it and what they see the benefits to what they're doing are. Then once I have a solid picture and understanding of what's being done... Down you go. Then we can work with what they have and move forward with that. So, I got asked to go in to a consult with a hospital crew and there were, how many of us in that first meeting? Six or seven of us. And there was a blend there. There was the head of the IT department who wanted me to be there and then there were the other folks around with a few of them who were just kind of looking at me like, "Okay, what are you doing here?" Kind of thing. So, working in that kind of environment, understanding what everybody's about and what they're doing, assuaging, if you will, helping them to get comfortable with my presence and making sure that they understand that I'm not a threat. I'm a resource. I'm a knowledge base, if you will, that they can type into DuckDuckGo and I'll spit out a result, if you will, to give you an analogy. So, I hope that answers the question.

Randy Redberg: And I'm just thinking, so what is it that when you see a team, what do think their biggest needs are, usually? Is it that they just need additional knowledge? Is that what you see when you come into a team? Why do you get brought in? Why is there a necessity for another technology person? They're obviously all in technology. They're obviously doing that job. They know it probably better than you what they exactly do but why is there a need for additional resources like that?

Philip Elder: Okay. Primary reason is if we take a step back to my last employer before taking a leave from the industry for a bit, they had a sales team, they had a tech team, they had a, pardon me, excuse me, a team that took care of... Off you go. A team that took care of printing, like there was about five or six different teams in the environment that I was working in. And when I got introduced I was part of the sale of the previous employer's business. When I got introduced, "Here's Philip. He does this and this and this." I had not worked in that kind of environment before. So, as a mechanic, I'm in the back, I'm working on the vehicles, I'm doing as I'm told. I'm fulfilling whatever needs and tasks. I didn't have anything to do with the front end and what goes on up there. So here I am sitting there, I've got sales people beside me. I've got tech sales, engineer sales, engineers, I've got technicians who I understood right away. But I watched as the sales team and the sales engineering team put all of these products together and said, "This is what the tech team have to go out and actually implement."

Philip Elder: And I was like, "Hmm. My ability is to take an assessment. To do the assessment of the business." Find out and this comes back to Small Business Server. That product was just freaking amazing. Take that assessment, establish a set of pain points so that could include user interviews or IT team member interviews which is what I was telling you earlier. Design a solution in collaboration with the team. Work our way through to the point where we create the business plan that was going to justify that solution set to management. Then from there, implement that solution from the implementation to support that solution. My skill set is from A to Z. There's nothing in that whole process that I cannot do. And that to me has been, if I look around in the room, when I'm in a room full of Microsoft MVP's who are in the same category as myself, that is one of the more unique aspects of what I do relative to anybody.

Philip Elder: Most teams are siloed. Everyone is really good at what they do specifically. Management tends to be one of those folks that got pulled up, if you will. But for what I do and what folks like myself do, we can take the A to Z, the full spectrum, and give some understanding. So this team at the hospital that I worked with, that was a little over a year ago now, I guess. No, it would be a little bit longer than that. That was the goal, was to provide some input on everything they had, what they were doing, what they were planning on implementing. And it was around Storage Spaces Direct which is Microsoft's Hyper-converge product. So, that would be the big thing right there, is bringing that full spectrum ability to help folks see things that they might not be seeing otherwise.

Thomas Bernal: That's great. Well, I wrap up this conversation, all podcasts, with the big idea. I gave you 30 seconds to talk to our audience to say what is your big idea. What would you do to wrap up this conversation?

Philip Elder: What is my big idea? Holy Sugar Smacks. Well, I've got a lot of stuff going on in the background in our business that mentioning a bit about our proof of concepts. But the big idea is get good at something. Invest in yourself. Put aside 10% of all your revenue, 15% of all your revenue, and invest that in yourself, whether that's technology and that's not toys. I'm not talking about toys. You separate that out. But invest in yourself in knowledge, experience and understanding. When we hire we look for somebody, the first question out of my mouth is how many DM's are you running? What's your virtualization platform? Have you installed Active Directory, et cetera? So, that is what will take you beyond the piece of paper experience. That is what will take you to where I can say where I am today at the pinnacle, the master of a trade. I used to call myself a JOAT, jack of all trades, and master of none. Well, I can comfortably say I am master of a few. So, that is a 30 second spiel. Invest in yourself and don't be shy about it. And if you need to, make a business plan for the CFO.

Randy Redberg: There you go.

Thomas Bernal: Love it. I thank you. Even wrapped it up even better for a little promo for Expert Exchange. Knowledge, experience and understanding, I love those three right there. I'm going to run with it so I'm not going to give you any money from that but I'm going to send that to the marketing people. Run these three words, see how they work.

Philip Elder: They do work. It's what brings people out to ask questions and willing to pay for the knowledge that we have.

Randy Redberg: Yeah. Well, Philip, it's really nice to meet you and get to sit down and talk. Thank you for taking the time today to do that.