It’s an always an interesting time during the buildup to Citrix Synergy, so as I was talking to Jack last week we were doing some reminiscing. After a while, he mentioned something along the lines of “You’ve got to be coming up on ten years at BrianMadden.com, right?” After thinking about it, it turns out that I’ve passed my tenth year on this site, and, in an even more panic-inducing revelation, I’m now into my 20th year in IT!
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Everyone has a story about how they got into IT, and mine probably follows the same trajectory as many other 20 year veterans. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s as the “one that was good with computers” in my family. Nobody else got them, or understood what I was doing in my bedroom on a Friday night stringing coaxial cable through the attic into my sister’s bedroom so that she could share my 56k modem internet connection. (I soon upgraded from 10mbps Ethernet to 16mbps Token Ring!).
After high school in a suburb of Cleveland, OH, I looked at going to college, but I also had an offer on the table at a local VAR called Vanstar (which sounds like a moving company, or an investment company). My uncle worked there, and he vouched for me. They would pay for me to get an A+ certification, which to me was worth way more than a 2-year degree from the local community college. Since this was the job I’d want after college anyway, I just skipped the schooling and when right to work. (I am NOT a role model.)
The job at Vanstar (and eventually Inacom) was awesome. I worked doing warranty repairs for HP and Compaq on home computers. Once I got a call to fix a label printer, and when I arrived on site it wasn’t just any printer. It was the prescription bottle label printer at a methadone clinic, and the waiting room was full of patients waiting for some 19-year-old kid to fix the printer. The neighborhood had bullet holes in church windows, and when I got a page on the way there, I was too scared to stop at a pay phone to respond. That was the day I bought a cell phone.
With Vanstar, I spent a few years on-site at a greeting card company where we’d bring in new Pentium 90 systems (check out that 60MHz Front Side Bus!) to replace 486’s, then reimage those 486’s to replace 386’s, and so on. I even redeployed a 286…in 1998! It was there that I got into servers and networking, and where I received my first certifications.
Right after that I met Brian Madden, who at the time was a hotshot “Server Guy” while I was doing break/fix stuff. We were the two youngest people at the company, and we were set up on a nerd play date by a sales rep. (It was at a bar where we drank underage, so how nerdy could it have been?) He said he was going to Parma Hospital to install a Proof of Concept for something called “MetaFrame” and asked if I wanted to tag along. I had nothing better to do, and all of those words were new to me, so I tagged along. That day was the red-letter day of my career, not just because I met Brian, but also because it was the first time I saw what would become desktop virtualization. Since then I’ve been to seventeen Citrix Synergy or iForum events, though none can compare to those iForums at the Swan and Dolphin and the meetings with TheThin.net people at Shula’s.
From that moment on, all Brian and I did was desktop virtualization. We set up desktop virtualization practices at three different resellers in Cleveland. Eventually I moved to Omaha and built a desktop virtualization practice at a reseller there. After spending a few months as an independent consultant, I spent a few years at a trucking company in their Novell-based IT department as “the guy that knows Microsoft” (a job I got because I consulted there on a Citrix Presentation Server project). Finally, after a conversation with Brian about how busy he was getting running a blog, I decided to once again join up with my best friend.
In those ten years, amazing things have happened. I’ll never forget the all-nighter we pulled when we got wind that Citrix was going to buy XenSource (the most productive of several all-nighters over the years, probably because it was the only one that didn’t involve beer). We put on 21 BriForums, during which I’ve been cut, taken to the hospital by ambulance, stitched with no anesthesia, bumped, bruised, and burned in addition to spending hundreds of hours fixing videos so we could make them available to attendees. I’ve been to hundreds of events over the years, spoken on dozens of stages, written a few books, and have made great friends from around the world.
At the center of it all is desktop virtualization. Though it may not be as sexy as it used to be, we still find new ways to use it and make our lives easier. It’s a tool, like an old crescent wrench. It doesn’t look new, but it works just like it did 30 years ago. Just because people are no longer amazed by logging into a Windows desktop that’s hundreds or thousands of miles away doesn’t make it any less useful.
If the last 20 years have been spent helping to make something that seemed like magic become commonplace, I’ll take it! There are still problems that need to be solved and people that need help, so I’m looking forward to doing this for a long time to come.