What did I learn at the IBM ATS Masters?
I think of “The Masters” in the golf world is when high caliber players come together to compete on a very tough challenging course. The idea is to be competitive everyday and hope to be in the top portion of the leaders in order to have a chance to play for the coveted green jacket on Sunday. There is a ton of strategy and players become consumed with details of every aspect of putting a little white ball in a hole that is 100-450 yards away.
My love/hate relationship with golf is based on the idea that out of 10 swings I may hit 3 really good shots. This does not have much to do with how long I have played or how focused I am on making good shots, but more of an experience or lack thereof. People who play once or twice a week tend to be more consistent and all around better golfers. This is the same for most sports, the more your play / practice the better you get.
This past week IBM has brought in all of the technical community from its storage sales force. IBMers and business partners came together to gather insight and deep technical skills on the storage portfolio. This ranged from DS8000 all the way down to LTFS and all of the pieces and parts in between. The ATS team (Advanced Technical Skills) were tasked with putting together material for an eight hour session on their specialized product. The classes ran from 8am on Monday to 5pm on Friday and while we had breaks for lunch and snacks, for the most part it was a solid day of brain stimulation for most.
The classes were focused on helping us get a better understanding of hardware and software. It was not a marketing pitch or about value of a particular feature / function but truly deep technical information. We even saw the distinguished engineering announcement of Brian Sherman who taught classes on XIV, DS8800 and others. We also had a good chance to interact with people like Brian who live and breathe this technology everyday.
When I look back over the week I try to summarize in my notes and head what did I learn and how can I apply it to my job here at IBM. The easy answer is the technical details of products, pure and simple. What I do struggle with is how these new deep technical details help my customers. Often we talk about the value proposition of a product or simply put “how does the product/feature/function/integration make my customer want to buy IBM storage?”
Now don’t get me wrong I believe I can add value by matching up certain technologies to a customer’s issue. The true test is the value in these technologies. It does not matter how technical a sales engineer is if he/she does not understand the value. You may be able to explain how the best mouse trap in the world works but if you can not tell people how it catches mice better/faster/cheaper/friendlier then no one will buy your mouse trap.
Like in golf, we as engineers have to practice our game. We do not get any better by just showing up and hoping the tools/clubs in our bag are going to make us better. There is no club in the world that can swing itself and make you the next PGA golfer. I think what this week was more about is helping us get to know our clubs. Certain clubs are good for certain shots; drivers all the way down to putters. The more we golf the better feeling we get for which club is right for that particular shot. You wouldn’t use a putter on the tee of a par 5 right?
I am hoping that as a company we can use these technical details and add value to them so that engineers in the field can relay the true value instead of just talking ‘speeds and fees’. With a little practice, you should start seeing the IBM technical community not just making par for the course, but in green (or blue) jackets at the end of the tournament.