Why I Love What I Do

First, it’s all about the people.  From the Rackspace Chairman (Graham Weston), who I met long before I started working here, to the Racker I met in a fast food joint at lunch – there is an immediate sense of “family”.  We are Rackers.  We speak the same language.  What specific JOB we do isn’t really important.  We know we have the same customers – the same goals.  And we all understand the goals.

That is actually an interesting fact about Rackspace – every employee is treated as a trusted friend.  We see the books.  We know the numbers.  We know how we are doing, and how we depend on each other to get better, and to do better.

And we let people find what they are good at, and where they best fit in.

Think that is bullshit?

In 11 days I will have been at Rackspace for exactly one year.  After one year I’ll feel more comfortable calling myself a Racker.  I feel like one – just don’t feel as if I have “earned it” yet 🙂

I was hired in the Cloud division.  To manage developers.  I now work for Rackspace proper – doing something MUCH different then I was hired to do.  Many companies would not have worked with me to find that “sweet spot” – they would have parted ways with me before they put that effort into the relationship.

Instead, Rackspace let me go try something new (to us).  I took over our Cloud blog, and our Twitter account.  And it worked – pretty well.  They let me build an event for SXSW in Austin – which was amazing, and very well received.

And then they let me do something really out there – I hired Robert Scoble and Rocky Barbanica.  And then we built building43.com, which is yet another experiment.  One I have a lot of passion for.  One I truly believe in, and am passionate about.

And I think that’s the key that Rackspace has figured out – they let people follow their passion.  And they work with those employees to find a way to make that passion make sense.  For the Racker, for Rackspace, and for investors.

So I was hired to manage developers.  Instead I am managing emerging media, building a truly unique web property, and trying to find a completely new way to do both marketing and PR in a public company.

Not bad for the first year.  Wonder what they will let me try in the second?  Guess that depends on how these current projects work out!

But it is pretty damned cool to be able to TRY – to do something totally new.  To have the company see if it fails instead of demanding proof it will succeed before they even try.

If you think hosting companies are boring, you haven’t worked at Rackspace.  We are anything but boring – we are pushing the envelope in ways most companies aren’t.

And that’s why I love it here.

Join us 🙂  We’re hiring.

Always.

Rob

In these times, being proud of where you work seems unusual

Unless you are just really, really lucky.

I am.

About ten months or so ago I took a position at Rackspace, in their Cloud Computing Division.  A LOT has changed in that division in that amount of time.  It has grown like crazy – both in the customer base and the headcount.  We’ve brought on some new roles, both technical and in management.  I went from being the Director of Software Development to the Director of Customer Development.

I’m in a better place now – for me AND for Rackspace.  Why?  Because I’ve always been a customer guy.  I’ve always talked to more customers than almost anyone else I have worked with.  Why?  I just love it.  I love hearing what customers are thinking, what they wish for, how we can make them more successful.

And I absolutely love to help.  I really get paid by helping people – meaning it is every bit as important to me as money.  I need money to eat – I need to help customers to truly live.  I know that sounds corny as hell.  But it is true.  A painter needs to paint.  A customer guy needs to help customers.

So why is Rackspace a great company to work for?  For me, the most important thing is that NOBODY argues with anyone who is trying to care for a customer.  It is just a given that if you are working a customer issue, you are doing the absolute most important thing you could be doing at that given moment.  This isn’t BS, or a marketing gimmick – I’ve worked in companies where it was.  At Rackspace it is ingrained in what everyone does every day. And since I spend a LOT of my time working customer issues, it is nice to know that the entire company is behind me – everyone wants me to succeed.  Everyone wants to win that customer satisfaction battle.  It is NOT BS.  It is what we strive to do.

I also love how Rackspace has let me experiment – even to lead them, in some ways.  Our Mosso Twitter account is extremely popular with customers, competitors and prospective customers.  You have a question at 9am on Sunday morning, it is very likely going to be answered quickly on Twitter – either by us, or by our cast of customers that love helping each other out.

I wanted to do something big at SxSW – and Rackspace made it happen.  I am NOT taking credit for that – it took a LOT of people to make that happen.  But the fact that we went from virtually no presence at SxSW last year to one of the best events at SxSW is amazing to me.  Our turnout was huge and the response to our “Mediterranean themed” party was wonderful.  If you have an idea, it won’t get swept under the rug here – people listen.

I’ve had some challenges at Rackspace – I’ve slipped a bit here and there while trying to find my footing.  I’ve had to prove myself and have had to prove things TO myself.  It hasn’t been a cake-walk.  But it has been a walk worth taking.

My senior leadership team has listened to me bitch, and whine, and moan, and perhaps even throw a temper tantrum or two.  But they stuck with me.  They believed that I added value and they, along with me, were convinced that we just needed to figure out the “where and how”.  Finding the right position is always difficult.  Finding it for someone like me, who is considerably difficult to work with, is a challenge.  I am pretty demanding.  Mostly of myself, but also very much so of my employer.  I need real work to do – meaningful work that actually benefits customers… or I quickly lose interest. Rackspace has worked hard with me to find that place.  That place that makes sense for both of us.

So Rack and I get along pretty well – we are both demanding.  We both expect customers to just be taken care of.  We expect to challenge and question each other – we expect to learn from each other.  And honestly, I am not sure we will ever be completely comfortable with each other (perhaps it is best if we never are).  But I think we both benefit from the challenge of finding how to work together – and to do so in the best way for our customers.

And finally, Rackspace is a very human company, which I appreciate a great deal.  Just a few weeks ago we lost our first Racker – in almost ten years the first active Racker passed away – in an auto accident.  I won’t go into details because it is a personal thing for Rackers, and his family.  But Rackspace stepped forward and did more than the right things.  For Rackers, and the family members.  Today I wear a wristband that speaks to that fact.

I don’t care where you host your website.  But if you are a customer advocate, and you want to work someplace where that trait is well-regarded – then look at Rackspace.  They really are Fanatical about their customers – and we love employees that push us to make that true, to keep it true, and to make it better every day.  We can always improve.

And I am living proof that Rackspace is always looking for new ways, new people, and new methods of thinking to make that a reality.

I am a Racker.  And I am quite happy about it.

A change at work

I recently changed positions at work.  Instead of managing developers and QA I will be “managing” thousands of customers.  My new title is, “Director of Customer Development”.

While I will miss directly mentoring people, this does seem to be a role I have spent years preparing for.  From my years running a public dial-up BBS years ago, to managing global customer care during the development of WiFi, and finally the last 4+ years I have spent involved in what is now known as “social media” or “social networking”.

The most challenging aspect, and the one I look forward to the most, is the fact that this is something new for us as a company – so I’m getting to pioneer, at some level.  So how do you do that?

To me, it is easy – I asked my customers what they need/want from us.  I’ll focus on delivering that.  Hard to imagine failing if you give customers what they ask for!

The other aspect of the job that I know I will enjoy is the ever changing nature of the position.  I don’t do well with repetition.  This should be anything but repetitive!

So how did I start this new position?  Well, by doing a forum post where I gave the domain owners for nearly 100,000 websites both of my cell phone numbers – AND my home phone number.  Does that sound crazy?  Perhaps so.  🙂

But I love talking to customers – always have.  And I never cringe when my phone rings and I recognize a customer is calling.  Even if they aren’t 100% happy – because my job is to make them happy!

So I am looking forward to this next stage of my journey through my professional career.  It is rare that you get the chance to get paid for what you absolutely love doing.  So I plan on making the most of this 🙂

The Rackspace Cloud Event

I’ll be in Austin, TX for the next couple of days.  I am going to the Rackspace Cloud Event.  It should be fun, and we’ve all been working really hard on making it a reality.

I’ll write more about it after I’m allowed to talk more about it 🙂

But I encourage you to watch the live stream on Wed – the link is on the above URL.

Thanks!

Rob

A Day Away with Team Mosso

DSC00191We had a team outing yesterday, on the Guadelupe River in New Braunfels (about 30 minutes from our offices).

Our host was none other than the Rackspace Chairman, Graham Weston, whom I have been lucky enough to know for about 6 months or so.

Graham fed us, we drank some of his beer (just a LITTLE BIT!) and we played on a pontoon boat, and with a Jet Ski.

I dressed “river casual” and wore my favorite shirt and hat 🙂  Michael (a member of my team) was nice enough to take a couple photos, including the one above.  Could a guy even get more relaxed!?

I also rode my motorcycle, which was great.  The temperatures are cooling off!

Great day for me personally, and a great experience for Team Mosso.  It takes a lot of work to keep 80,000 domains online, and we appreciated the chance to relax for a bit.