My SXSW presentation, for those that may not have seen it

My talk about talking to pissed customers, how to earn customer respect, etc.

Fanatical, yes. With purpose, and a plan.

rackspace-1010-03p

A lot of people might look at this image and think it is negative.  I know Hugh, and I know my company.

This is a challenge to NOT be normal, not be boring, and not let life just happen.

We aim to change the world.

One URL at a time, or one customer at a time – doesn’t matter to me.  I am here to matter in a company that matters.

I am here to help other Rackers change the world.  And that is not “normal”.

Rob gets a “Cube Grenade” – Culture of Service.

Click to enlarge

I’ve known Hugh MacLeod for a couple or four years. Knew him online for even longer. I’ve respected his work – which first got my attention with his work for Stormhoek.  Then came the Blue Monster, for Microsoft.  I liked the way his cartoons got me to think about things.

That was before I came to work for Rackspace.  Recently Hugh was in San Antonio, and he toured our corporate headquarters in a once abondoned 1.2+ million square foot shopping mall.  He saw the worlds largest (certified by Guinness!) Word Search puzzle.  He saw the only known functioning escalators in a hosting company’s offices.  We had a good time, and later went out for some BBQ with a few Rackers, and guests from the community.  It was a great day.

While he was here, Hugh and I started discussing him doing something involving Rackspace.  Working with a number of other Rackers (Rackspace employees), we decided that we wanted Hugh to focus on what we are most proud of – what makes our company unique, and why the number of employees has doubled since I joined 26 months or so ago, and why our customer count has risen just as quickly – even in a down economy.

So here is his first cartoon – and I really enjoy it.  I thank Hugh for making this one special as my very own personal “cube grenade” :)

Click to enlargeOur motto is “Fanatical Support” – which is based on our unique culture.

This is the first in a series of cartoons, blog posts, etc that explore why culture is important to us, and why a culture of service – to each other, to customers, and to our community is so important to our success.

I am hoping this series starts a conversation about culture, and service.  So feel free to comment!

Hugh’s original post is here.

Rob

What my days are like, and why I love them so much

It is easy, looking at this blog, to discern who I work for. It should even be easy to figure out why.

I’ve never done a good job explaining WHAT I do on a day to day basis. I am sure some coworkers will be just as interested as anyone. In a company of over 3K employees, it is hard to know what people do. Especially people like me. Why?

I work at home most of the time. I manage a nomadic team, so they don’t need me in their faces every day. I trust them to do their jobs, and they trust me to let them. And when I work at home, I work with customers. A lot of them.

I am also part of a larger team that understands that I add a different value – one I can’t add in an office. Usually, at least :). I trust them to appreciate me, and to ask me for help when they need to. And I often ask them for the same. They are amazing people to work with, and they have a ton of my respect.

I spend my days, and nights (on good days and nights) talking to customers. Or potential customers. I love what I do, and who I do it for, so I spend a lot of time and energy doing it. I honestly don’t mind talking to a customer at 2am. 6am is harder for me though :).

I run Social Media for our company. And that is a pretty big job – we get a lot of mentions on Social Media. Our entire Social Media plan consists of two words though – “Be Helpful”. Not a lot of fluff there. No 37 slide PowerPoint Deck. We are singularly focused on helping our customers win. No fluff there.

I love customers – even one’s that aren’t happy with us – I spend a lot of time with them. I try to “fix” whatever we broke. A promise or a process has probably failed us. We are a big company – that happens. I want to fix it. It is not my job – it is my passion. My team has adopted it as their passion.

I’m empowered to cause change – and I empower my employees. And I have interesting employees. I have AMAZING employees, in fact:

Two Linux Senior Systems engineers that know more about hosting than I will ever know. Robert (Robot) Taylor and Robert Collazo have spent most of their technical careers helping customers.

Robert Scoble and Rocky Barbanica, who bring life to building43.com, and introduce us to amazing people that just need a bit of help by someone that just gives more than a shit. That’s why we do building43.com – it is helpful.

Yes – I have a team of five, and four of us are named Robert. And we have one Rocky. It DOES get confusing!

But we all have the same focus – to care for customers, share their successes, and help them build the value they deliver to their customers – that is our goal – we all win together. And it is our commitment. It is so simple.

And it is so fun! If you are not having fun, you are doing it wrong.

We have a different thought about “Social Media” than many public companies. We think we need to have a staff that knows the company and the products so well that they can actually FIX issues we see on Social Media. And we do. I am the former Director of Software Development for our Cloud. Robot and Rob Collazo are engineers that have built and supported our company for years. No fluff there either.

We also support and appear at as many events as we can possibly support. As recruiters, engineers, evangelists, speakers – it is all the same thing. We want to be where customers want to talk to us. And if that is on Twitter at 2am, you have a good chance of seeing me tweet my home phone number. Or one of my team reaching out to make sure we help, at almost any hour.

So yes – I love my role. I can touch a lot of parts of the business. But mostly, I can interact with a huge number of our customers – and help us find new ones. Mostly because I have a lot of people supporting me – from my employees, to my managers, to my coworkers.

And our Senior Leadership Team that is just willing to “think different” – and allow me to try some crazy ideas, (responsibly) and see where they take us.

And where they take me – which is to places I would not have imagined just 2 years ago when I went from a customer to an evangelist.

Find a company you love. Then find a job there. Then find a way to help them win. It is an amazing feeling.

You really can’t hire people that have the dedication my team has. You can inspire them, and empower them – trust them, and have fun with them. The right people weren’t looking for a job when they found you though.

They were looking for a mission.

Create one.

Rackspace Opens the Cloud (and I Couldn’t be More Proud)

openstacklogo

A little over two years ago, as I was talking to Rackspace Hosting about joining their Cloud Computing Division, I told Rackspace that I wanted to change the world (again). I was involved with creating WiFi – and I wanted to again make that kind of change for the world.

More than I wanted a J.O.B. – I wanted to change the world.

And here I find myself, at 4am, not being able to sleep – even though I need to be on a flight to Boulder in 4 hours.  I’m too excited to sleep – oh, I tried!  But every few minutes I would find myself peeking once more at the OpenStack Twitter Account (@OpenStack) – wondering if the hits were still coming in (they are) – and assuring myself this is real (it is!).

We’ve been hard at work for the last several years – working towards that end. Today, I think we have helped change the world.

By open-sourcing the second most popular Cloud Computing platform on the planet, I think we’ve just changed the world. Hell, by partnering with NASA, we may actually be changing more than this world. (I can imagine OpenStack running on the Moon, and on Mars!)

The list of partners is impressive – go look at http://openstack.org. There are a lot of forward thinkers on that list – and they are company I am proud to be in.

Mostly though, I am proud of the company I work for. This is a bold move by a Leadership team that has demonstrated exceptional thought leadership in our space. In the two short years I have been with the company we have more than doubled our customer count, drastically increased the number of servers and data-centers we have, and made bold moves in many other areas.

I’m sure there will be a lot of discussions and a lot of questions about our decision (there were plenty of internal ones!) – but I am confident that at the end of the day, a truly open cloud that is already in production will better serve the world – a cloud that has proven its ability to scale and serve real customers.

It is a great day to be a Racker. I’m very proud of what we have done, and what we will continue to do to change the world – one (open) code drop at a time!

Come join us at OpenStack – change the world with us.  Change your world!