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Episode #59: Interview with Mitch Brindle

4 Feb. 2021 | 52 mins 29 secs

In this episode of the NewyTechPeople Podcast we interview Mitch Brindle, Cloud Operations Manager at nib.

We talk about Mitch’s passion for technology and how this has influenced his career, his decision to move into people management and advice for companies looking to make the move to the Cloud. 

Hope you enjoy the episode!

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Show Notes

Here you can source all the things we have talked about in the podcast whether that be books, events, meet-up groups and what’s new in the newcastle tech scene.

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • 00:37

    For those who don’t know who you are and your journey to date can you give people a bit of an overview?

  • 03:56

    How have you found the acceptance of the Cloud now versus the early days.

  • 09:17

    For companies that haven’t made the move what would be your advice to move to the Cloud?

  • 13:20

    What advice would you give to someone that is currently working in a traditional infrastructure stack?

  • 21:54

    Staying technical or choosing the people management route. Why did you choose to go down the people management route?

  • 26:20

    How important do you think that communication part of your skillset has enabled your success?

  • 29:15

    What are some of the key skills you look for in building out your team?

  • 35:05

    Presenting at the AWS conference.

  • 40:45

    Facing challenges working in technology.

  • 44:18

    Why Newcastle?

  • 48:30

    How do you (Mitch) keep up to date with your education?

  • 51:54

    How can people find you if they’d like to get in contact?

Transcription:

James: Welcome to another episode of newytech people. Today we have mitch brindle cloud operations manager nib welcome mitch.

Mitch: cheers

James: how are you?

Mitch: i am very good

James:  this is the first uh first podcast i’ve done in a while so welcome to our first episode of 2021.

Mitch: yeah awesome great to be here

James: mate i’ve known you for a number of years now with your journey definitely one of the first guys i knew in the devops space and obviously you’ve grown your career for those that don’t know who you are and your journey today can you give people a bit of an overview.

Mitch: yeah sure all right so i guess um been in it now for about 10 years i originally started in traditional it so servers help desk networking stuff like that moved up from victoria so first gig was a support tech at hospitals down there got a job up here at calgary healthcare doing again more that support orientated work but then once i got a bit more skills under me i decided to step into the server networking infrastructure.

first thing fell in love with was networking um anything cisco at the time that was me i went and got some certs etc then calvary went through a transformation so essentially i went from a support role to an engineering role which then essentially catapulted that exposure to that that tech space so going from networking then to service to citrix everything once calvary was done essentially i moved on to shangri-la track which then the networking side just exploded that’s kind of where we managed our internal networking completely we managed the actual track network as well so that was huge exposure there once i had done everything that i could there we then moved into nib and this is where the career just on its head nib was a place where they had a lot of that traditional infrastructure but because i had a lot of development focus too that’s where the the kind of shift from you know thinking around that tech stack to that more software stack happened and i guess when in late 2015 so i joined nib in 2015. they decided to go down the devops route and the first iteration of that was essentially splitting off the infrastructure team with people who wanted to get more into scripting more into programming more into automation and essentially once that happened i i bid in hard on that i thought that was fantastic i was already into automation a bit and because of like command line with networking the command line wasn’t too spooky so i kind of gravitated to that side more of the infrastructure side and then yeah went through that for a number of years now being on that aws journey did migrationary work but then also lift and shift from on prem to aws looking at any automation between those two environments as well and then today well i actually after that i i did leave nab for a proportion of time to go to coal lsl, fantastic time there and that was to take an opportunity in the management space um that’s where i want to take my career and then nib had a opportunity of a lifetime which is essentially managed the team that i was in before so my old peers were were there still and just working back in that tech space that i love and obviously nlp is a great company too so yeah that’s where i am today.

James: nice mate you mentioned definitely the early early stages of cloud early stages of devops, mate back when you were sort of putting your foot in there to start with i think cloud was still seen as a risk right? it wasn’t overly well adopted at that stage. how did you find that and how have you found the uh the acceptance of cloud now versus the early days when you guys were starting to work in there?

Mitch: yeah okay so yeah i guess the early days aws was still i don’t want to say new in australia but it was essentially the same services weren’t available they are today cloud was always seen as this oh you know it’s easy it’s cheap it’s blah blah blah but until you start to do it you realise well you know it’s maybe easy building a green greenfield up or something like that but in terms but in terms of moving a business system and transforming that from a tech stack to aws that can be quite daunting but then you’ve also got the the operational side of that as well in terms of like change management any sort of business processes affected and then that one system may talk to others so i guess at nib the very early days was around that discovery piece around well what what operating model changes do we need to go to the cloud and one of them like i saying earlier with my career is that we needed to form up a devops team that could work cross-functionally with these dev teams and start to bring them along our cloud journey what some of the the challenges were that i i faced like me personally was having that infrastructure background versus a development background that’s one thing that devops people probably wonder a bit about is that if you have a traditional infrastructure background how does that translate into aws because a lot of them like you hear words like our infrastructure’s code and codified deployments and stuff like that it’s like well i i don’t really deploy a cisco switch or i don’t really deploy a you know server as such i may deploy from a vmware template but it’s not well how do i use the new tooling so i guess the one you know thing that probably i had to do at the very beginning was just jump in and do it you know aws is a great place or any any cloud environment really is a great place where you can spin stuff up and learn there’s a lot of material out there where you can basically experiment and play and all that sort of stuff.

but i guess the one another hurdle we had as early adopters was then also being early adopters you get a bit of scrutiny from regulators and you get a bit of scrutiny from the business too when in terms of well why are we doing this why are we going to the cloud is it just the it people wanting to play of some new tech or what’s the business advantage behind going to the cloud and that’s probably something that’s sometimes lost in in that in that move and i think nib did that quite well where you know we emphasised on speed to market and we kind of emphasised on our deployment pipelines for our internal systems because we do the majority of everything in-house having that scalability during campaigns etc

you know we could correlate campaigns to downtime or outages or slowness where now we have campaigns that run and there’s been numerous examples of when a campaign is run in aws that now it was up it handled it the traffic we watched the scaling events and it was like a good news story so in order to overcome that hurdle we’re essentially having the appropriate communications and the appropriate good news stories like have a brag yeah you know just honestly if you do something great and infrastructure land like it is now you know like an enabler share that success with the business stakeholders and then you know they’ll be happy when you go to the next time and go hey we’re going to do this really cool thing they’re going to remember oh when you did that last cool thing we got this out of it yeah let’s go do that cool thing.

James: definitely for infrastructure because it could without actually telling that story it could be very easily seen as a keep the lights on type roll right?

Mitch: oh 100% it’s been traditionally bau since i’ve started in it like it was never really such as a like like i saying like an enabler where it you know typically was even in the finance sector it wasn’t really its own kind of thing it would report to the cfo so it was always like a cost center it wasn’t really anything that was kind of could in one way or another generate any you know income revenue or whatever it is even if it’s indirect revenue you know it’s it’s they they’ve never been seen like that but i think now with any sort of cloud computing or whatever it is that’s where that is shifting and i think you know the the the stronger the bond between the business and i guess it is or tech teams in general you know you can do amazing things and you know to not you know bang enough drum this entire thing but like look at like our chatbot staff look at any of the wellness stuff that we’re doing as well our cloud journey today it’s all been driven essentially from business direction to and you know if if nib spins up a new initiative or if your business spins up a new initiative do you really want to say that technology is going to be a bit of a hurdle or do you want to go yeah look you know easy peasy we just have to do x y and z or no we’ve got to buy some kit.

James: yeah you mentioned a couple things i’ll just make notes on um you mentioned there’s definitely an acceptance and more acceptance now of cloud than the initial periods as you said it could be hey is it just tech guys wanting to play with new tech there’s definitely an acceptance now that you know public cloud is uh can be very uh enabling to businesses for companies that haven’t made that move yet uh is there any advice that you would give them is it is it for everyone is it is there a discovery phase that people need to go through what would be your advice you’ve obviously you’ve seen a couple of companies go through that move i would say you’ve got more exposure to this space than the most definitely newcastle any advice you would give to a company that’s not not there yet but considering that move right now?

Mitch: yeah sure i guess the one thing is don’t don’t assume you have to go like the cloud it’s fantastic but it’s not for every business not for every workload it’s not for every scenario neither is one cloud like just because you’ve got you know industry you know colleagues peers whatever they’re in aws does not mean that you need to or your business need to go to aws there are many other well there’s two main uh others out there but you know it’s all about finding out i guess what your business wants to do with its infrastructure and when i say infrastructure like that’s currently talking about the server workloads and stuff but then also what about the systems that it currently has it’s i guess some people will even say like if if you aren’t in the cloud now it’s too late i don’t agree with that because if you’re not in the cloud now then you obviously haven’t had a big enough driver for it to actually do it or if you you know if it and also that the old if it isn’t broken don’t fix it well you know you’d think you know maybe someone myself would be like oh no let’s move let’s move let’s move fast it’s it’s honestly it’s up to the business but i i think there are many different models like you could have a hybrid cloud too you don’t have to go full cloud because when you go to a cloud environment like a lot of time people don’t um remember like you know what bcp or dr or what what workloads have you got material workloads have you got system of record workloads are you regulated it’s you know there’s so many different caveats where you you may have to have a contingency like an alternate provider where like if you move a workload to aws as an example you know your your business or your stakeholder or even if you get a third party assurance from another company if you like your white labeling or anything like that it’s you know you have to then answer questionnaires around your data sovereignty integrity backup yeah there’s so many different things but in you know kind of like a you know to um summarize that essentially i don’t think it’s ever too too late to go to the cloud or any other sort of like hosted cloud you know it doesn’t have to be aws doesn’t have to be azure it could be anything definitely not too late but i the one thing i’d probably say is that you don’t need to go to the cloud if you you know if you don’t have an actual driver for it and if it’s scaling then yes the cloud’s a fantastic place to go you know because that solves it but if you’re just going to go i’m going to go to the cloud and just move up some servers like vms and turn them into ec2s your price is going to be crazy and also don’t think the cloud’s cheaper it’s cheaper if you re-architect and redesign for the cloud and use the services appropriately but if you’re just moving workloads lift and shift yeah you aren’t gonna get a lot of the sort of cloud benefits and then if you do that due to the shared responsibility model and when i say that is that essentially when you go to the cloud the shared responsibility model shifts so essentially you know you’re you’re on the hook for security you’re on the hook for everything don’t just think if you move workloads up there i you know aws is going to protect it no it’s you know you need to own a lot more than probably what some people think yeah so i guess if people are still thinking about the cloud stuff like that get a good strategic partner get an implementer i’m not saying outsource stuff i’m just saying get someone who’s been and done it that can give you appropriate guidance on this stuff.

James: good advice mate good advice another point i just made before you obviously came at this from a more traditional infrastructure background right now if somebody’s looking to get it in the devops it’d probably be an easier move coming from a dev background as opposed to an infrastructure background you’ve done the opposite if you had to give advice to somebody that’s currently sitting in a sys admin role dealing with i guess more traditional infrastructure stack what advice would you give you you mentioned playing with something spinning it up yourself is that is that the advice?

Mitch: yeah like i i guess if if we split the two aside for a minute in terms of like that like infrastructure let’s just say you know you’re a server admin you rdp to staff etc but then if you’re a dev you’re essentially writing programs or at least doing some sort of scripting or whatever it may be the the developer will probably have an easier time in in that devops space when working cross-functionally with the developers and just just to be clear too when i say devops i’m not talking about ah you can do some powershell and you do a bit of scripting and automation i’m talking about the devops principles of there’s an infrastructure and operations engineer working with developers in their own squad so essentially we think of like a capability matrix think of it as a team and in that team if you look horizontally you’ll have a ux ba devops senior dev you know whatever it may be right think of them as another entity in this team so if that person there had an infrastructure background versus a dev they’ll probably i mean sorry a dev first infrastructure a developer probably have an easier time understanding the concepts of what the developers are trying to do they’ll probably understand maybe database structures a bit more they’ll probably get that lower level coding principles and stuff like that that’s that’s fantastic but then where the infrastructure person will shine it’s like when they start doing their deployments to aws that infrastructure person’s going to know about dr’s backup et cetera because as a devops engineer at a senior dev yeah they know what a backup is but do they really care about that backup in terms of like is that their responsibility to make sure that backup is a backup because the backups only back up when you restore it and it works otherwise it’s just some files and a storage somewhere you got to test that stuff and that’s where the devops engineer the infrastructure background will excel because they have that infrastructure ingrained in them about backups dr they’ll be able to do like storage monitoring alerting you know they’ve got that stuff so i guess each of them have their pros and cons but in order for the infrastructure person to kind of get into more of the aws coding space the one thing that you would really need to look at is some learning some languages getting that fundamentals from the like dev perspective like how to do clean code and stuff like that understanding what github is or any other other sort of code look up any sort of code deployment strategies as well is really useful but then from the devs perspective then you need to then also take an account and there’s some guys in the team at the moment who have got that really heavy dev and they’ve had to come in and learn more of this infrastructure and stuff because it doesn’t matter how you’re in the cloud that stuff still exists it’s just called something different yeah dns is route 53 your sans called s3 you know it’s everything’s just it’s just a different name the same principles so i guess any advice would be for either of them it’s just look at the other domain it’s like you know look at what a devops engineer does in a cross-functional environment and see what their responsibilities look like and i guarantee you’re going to find stuff that you’re like oh i haven’t really done that before and it’s honestly it’s just looking at the the opposite domain of what you know and then starting to pick at that.

James: yeah i think that’s devops engineers i remember when we started working on those type of roles together uh you know three four five years ago verse now um the the the rise in the need for those roles have risen dramatically and the skill sets definitely aren’t there of you know really seasoned devops engineers so it is looking at people that come from one of those two backgrounds and then seeing who can pick up those other skills to round themselves out right i think companies trying to to hire for somebody that’s going to come in and hit the ground running that talent pool is still very very short.

Mitch: 100% and they’re you know what we kind of call like a unicorn it’s like you know finding someone that oh i’m a dev but i also love playing of servers in my spare time and it’s kind of very unique and if and if you use terminology like full stack like a full stack dev go go back five years ago that didn’t that didn’t have the underlying infrastructure as code in their development pipelines but when you kind of look at things now it’s like you know that that development pipeline can go down further into the actual infrastructure depending on how it’s deployed it could be like a lambda function it could be fargate it could be some sort of containerization thing where it’s handled in the deployment step there’s so many different ways you can do it and again it depends on how the business wants to architect their cloud environment but when you have a cloud of environment architecture to get the advantages of the cloud then yeah like that’s when that stack will expand a bit but then that’s when you have that devops and again that devops cross-functional person that can at least facilitate when it gets a bit deeper down into the actual like if you want to call it the osi model like to get old school i guess you know when you start getting down deeper that’s where that infrastructure devops engineer is going to shine but then you know when you have that developer devil’s engineer they may not be able to go that one level deep you know but they’ll be able to still go well they’ll go instead of one one deeper they’ll go one higher so they can kind of assist with some of the co-deployment stuff the apps but but for hiring it would be very difficult especially in newcastle because i guess we don’t have huge businesses on every corner of the street with multiple teams that have enough demand that can have these traditional like well not i guess devops engineers that can work cross-functional with devs i guess what what i’m seeing at the moment and you know speaking to you know friends in the industry and stuff like that it’s more of that they just simply want a cloud cloud engineer someone who’s got that you know infrastructure background but they know enough about the cloud environments where they can kind of do a like a translation between on-prem to cloud but then also assist with any sort of movements to and from or what i’ve seen in the past two is where like an implementation is moved or built a cloud environment implement is now gone because now it’s back to the bau and they want someone to come in essentially maintain manage and go forward so i guess that role in my eyes is a cloud engineering or an sre site reliability engineer that’s what google terms that but then that devops engineer again is that cross-functional resource and finding that in newcastle would be it would be quite rare yeah super difficult definitely super rare and i guess you know i guess with the remote workforce now it’s kind of making things a little bit easier because we can kind of like look further but then newcastle people like to hire newcastle people too right you know it’s it’s still yeah i i would not want to be a recruiter.

James: yeah we’re definitely not there yet from most companies looking fully remote and i think as you said i think you if a company is struggling or looking to do this you know having that implementer or the partner to work with to make that move initially and get get everything built uh have somebody that really knows their stuff come in and get it built and then hiring somebody to manage that is definitely an easier pathway than trying to hire a unicorn to come in build it own it manage it um because i guess those people do tend to get bored as well once it gets at you know that management stage right it’s that the sexiness the architectural side of it’s gone and it comes bau right?

Mitch: 100 and that’s kind of where you do get those um people who who would like love to do the building is that when you do get to the bau it’s like well what’s next and you know it’s again should be that enabler where you know yeah the platform should be out it should be kept up to date but that’s bau but in terms of like you know getting it ready for the next big thing to come in from the business it’s depending on the size of your business and their rate of change you could be sitting on your hands for eight months yeah 12 months and you know that’s okay but again those hungry people the ones that are actually going to want to build the next best thing and want to develop everything.

James: yep completely agree mate uh you’ve obviously gone through that technical background and still still technical yourself but you’re now managing a team it’s a question i like to ask a lot of people that get to your sort of stage in your career i guess as technology professionals you can sort of go one of two routes you can you can continue to grow your career and stay extremely technical and not manage your team or you can go that people management route and they’re two different routes and it comes down to personality style and what people want to get out of their careers. why did you decide to go down the the team management people management route?

Mitch: sure i guess and real quick like i’m sure my um team if they hear this they’re going to probably like scoff at the still technical bit um but i guess for for me i technology has always been like a passion for me like it’s it’s it’s been a hobby it’s everything like i love it always have so i guess i was always going to be in tech but i guess in terms of why i i kind of decided to look you know i’ve kind of hit where i was happy to like peak i guess you could say and we’ll go in into the management side of things i think it’s probably my personality where i do like the people engagement i i do like talking to people you know i i tend to gravitate to that side of stuff um while i do still appreciate the actual tech i guess there are people out there that are smarter than me in that space that’s dead you know it’s their want to also get into that nitty gritty and to really deep dive where i guess i’m kind of more interested now in the business aspect so kind of um i guess the why like why are we doing this this x y and z at all or how do we evolve a platform that’s going to be ready for the next business initiative to come through and i guess you know when you’re in in a cloud environment like you are so flexible in that space and being like i guess a people manager or even like interfacing with the business you then basically have that conduit from the the reasons why we’re doing stuff in tech so having that conduit and me being that conjurer back to our cloud team it’s i still feel that i’m part of the technical decisions but um you know relaying the why and i think when when tech teams aren’t just churning through jira tickets and stuff like that because that that that’s that’s how like you know if that’s what you do fine but i i i much prefer that a personal approach like just jump in a room or a zoom these days and just look what’s your problem you know and having that kind of and then i can then relay that back to the leads in the team and then we can form something up because arguably still a little bit technical i love being able to sit there and whiteboard and understand what’s happening yeah i’m not probably going to make many decisions sometimes so sometimes it’s probably going to be arguably poor decisions made but i still understand i i like being able to have conversations with the team i don’t want to be essentially like a lead approver yeah so and also having an understanding of the technology being used and stuff it’s very easy then to to talk to like other stakeholders in the business higher ups and stuff like that so if i have to do any presentations or anything like that which is quite common at nib i’m quite comfortable i can talk to anything in our aws environment around any sort of approach yeah i won’t be able to tell you every single little detail of the code used but you know i can talk about any initiatives or what’s going on because at the end of the day my position is not only just a people manager but it’s like going through our road map it’s working with the business to get what’s happening next to make sure our platform’s agile enough to support it looking at any initiatives coming through as well to make sure we’ve got the bandwidth it’s it’s kind of like a like a pmo slash people manager slash pseudo architect in some ways because you know we’re small we kind of do things as a collective yeah not so much there’s not one person they’re just going hey that’s what we’re doing.

James: yeah no i think also being in that role and being you call yourself technical or not but you’re reasonably technical it’s you know being able to have those conversations and i’d still have the respect of the team from hey i’ve been there done that i still know what i’m talking about from the technical perspective definitely makes a difference i think the other key point you made there is communication right i would say infrastructure roles a lot of people would have had a picture of old school technology there’s an infrastructure guy that you know probably sits since then doesn’t communicate with the business whereas you’re all obviously now especially the higher up you’re going to get in that managerial level is that presenting to the business being able to communicate with the business how we’re enabling what you’re trying to do that business technology focus uh you know the continuity there how important. do you think that communication part of your skill set has i guess enabled your success?

Mitch: i personally think it’s quite a large part um like i i will be the one that will like ask a question and you know talk in meetings i will you know not shut up so i guess i think the the communication part is important in sort of any career but when it comes in it um or tech in general like honestly i think it’s like everything it’s huge it’s because it’s not only you know communicating like it’s a two-way street so you know you being able to communicate well doesn’t necessarily mean all you can talk well you can listen well and i think that’s really important because you know your customers if you’re an internal technical team is the business that is your customer if you can’t listen to your customers wants demands etc then you’re just going to be presenting a product or a solution that might not be fit for purpose and you’re just wasting everyone’s time so i think communication is a huge one and that’s where i believe like myself and my team and and my peers as well like in the wider rt team we’re very good at that we you know well it’s not death by meeting so let’s not you know let’s just you know scrap that but you know when it’s needed like we will make sure that we know exactly what we’re doing yeah there’s some times where you know a ball gets dropped but at the same time we’re also you know like i guess professional enough to admit that and go okay well let’s nip this in the butt now and then we can move forward but communication it’s it’s huge yeah it’s massive.

like honestly having even in the skill matrix of someone in tech these days especially in this kind of new age world with like scalable everything and infrastructure is code and all this sort of stuff communication i think is up there with even your technical ability especially because now the way that things are costed in terms of business like cloud environments kind of cost per day etc you know being able to communicate fluctuations being able to un talk to them and then predict costing because again it’s not like a flat fee week okay we’re doing a hardware refresh guys it’s the you know we’re at year four or five of our maintenance there’s a couple of mills just go and put in some new blades that doesn’t work like that anymore so you need about a listen to the business coming through with initiatives and demands so that way you can then communicate back well okay well that looks like we’re going to be going up in price and that’s kind of communication is huge massive.

James: yeah i think it’s a rising skill and it’s it’s definitely an absolute necessity these days is it’s not you can’t get away with it you’re without it i guess now in technology um there’s definitely that that that mix between technology and business where communication is absolutely paramount on that no then you’re you’re obviously building a team managing a team these days uh what are some of the key skills you look for in in the people that you’re looking for in building out your cloud team?

Mitch: yeah look i guess our doubled inside over over the past two years i believe now and i guess when i’ve been hiring i don’t really look for a specific skill set it’s kind of more of the individual you know like yeah having a fundamental knowledge on stuff is fantastic but essentially that’s that’s not everything the one thing that we do at nab and specifically myself is we’ll hire for that cultural side of things but also that that straight drive you know let’s be real people work to to live right you know you want you know someone who’s going to be you know putting in what they essentially can to either learn the skills or they’ve got the passion to learn the skills to be able to deliver whatever the business wants so i guess if i had to name summers because obviously i aws fantastic or any cloud stuff a development background is good too but infrastructure is good too the last couple of highs was a mixed bag we had some that was a dev some that was infrastructure dev one guy that hadn’t even seen aws really before now he’s running the show so it’s like it’s kind of it’s it’s more around when we go through the recruitment process and we sort of ask our questions etc is how it gets answered and especially it’s always interesting as like when you kind of you know start that whole process and and you start talking to you know engineers that wanting to join etc it’s the ones that um when they start talking about their previous workplace or wherever it may be or even a problem at home like someone said oh look i’m doing stuff at home and i’m getting agitated it’s the ones that when you see they’ve got a problem they are very you know animated on how to fix it and you see them they start to adjust themselves in their chair because you can tell they’re getting a bit passionate and worked up over it so when you kind of start to reading the body language on like you really you know like that process that you’re talking about that you aren’t allowed to fix at your workplace currently or whatever it may be you know you not only know how to fix it but it bothers you that it’s not fixed so just knowing that essentially tells me it’s like well you’re probably going to do something about that then or you’re going to want to do something about you’re just going to go ah that’s the way it is or look just another day it’s that you know you want to it’s as cringy as but you know be the change you want to be all sort of stuff but you want to legit make it change and that’s where nib like you know we want people like that straight up it is it is 100 you know we’re not going to give you a jira board full of tickets to do they may look like that but you know we’ve got projects on but if you see something that you don’t like or you’re not happy with change it yeah you’re encouraged to actually you are encouraged to spit the pill and come and tell me hey this i can i don’t think this is the best way to do it i’ve done blah blah blah here’s the thing look i think this is the best way to do it let’s do it as simple as that and there’s numerous examples of that going through nib and i think that’s when i be you know ken can retain these like very passionate skilled hungry people because we give that opportunity.

James: yeah mate problem solving’s probably you know one of the biggest biggest parts you’ve mentioned there right somebody that actually does get agitated by a problem and will find a way to fix it i think that’s that’s that’s something in technology as a whole i think problem solving people that are actually passionate about it because they said like technology changes so quickly whether they’ve got uh whether they’ve got experience of the current tech stack or not it’s going to continue to evolve anyway so they’re going to have to learn within the next three six twelve months anyway so them not having every box ticked from a tech stack perspective on day one it’s not the biggest issue it’s have you shown you know an aptitude to learn in the past like or solve a problem i think that they’re the sort of things that i know that have worked in your teams in the past.

Mitch: yeah just honest that problem solving is good probably the one thing with problem solving it’s there’s with problem solving i guess the one thing that we also don’t ex well i don’t expect really is you don’t need to solve it on your own either like i guess don’t don’t forget like what we’re doing is some stuff maybe bleeding edge nothing’s like you know mostly cutting edge there’s probably someone in the business someone around that might be able to help you yeah so i guess you know with the problem solving it’s like a fantastic skill to have and naturally enough like you need it but i guess it’s also being able to admit when a problem when you’re defeated it’s when that problem has defeated you that you now as a person can kind of admit to figure some people tend to not really like you know they don’t want to go i can’t do this i need help and then if you’re in the asking in a public forum they may not want to look silly so that’s kind of a thing as well so it’s been able to again solve problems but then realise you can’t solve it because you just can’t find the resources or whatever it may be nothing against your technical or whatever ability that you’re struggling with at the moment to like solve this but then able to ask for help from your peers or whatever it may be so yeah that’s that’s another really big one.

James: nice man that’s enough about your team i guess to start with it but individually from your career perspective uh i know you’ve uh presented remotely at the aws or the remote aws conference recently how did that come about because that’s something that not everyone gets into from a career perspective i know it’s something that there’s quite a few people from nib that have done that in the past it seems like it’s definitely encouraged there but why did you do that?

Mitch: yeah so a bit background then so aws um has a like an alliance program so essentially aws goes out to the enterprise customers and go hey would you like to put any people forward to represent your company with aws and like companies as well so myself and tony brown we got nominated accepted so last year we were part of the 2020 aws cloud dev alliance um of australia pacific so we got to present basically nib aws you know nutshell i guess plus some slick stuff tony’s been working on naturally enough anyone that knows tony brown you’d assume he’s working on some um pretty slick stuff so we presented um in front of basically all the other members of the alliance um we got really good the feedback from it because the one thing about our presentation that i guess caught a lot of attention was that typically in these things you’ll hear about the good stuff of aws you’ll hear about oh we’ve done this serverless thing and it’s been fantastic and blah blah the one thing that nrb is you know currently doing at the moment obviously we’re on our cloud journey we’re looking at moving everything at data centers all that stuff right but the one thing that our our presentation touched on and it was kind of it was like a tag team approach where we started off talking about well how do you move like legacy to the cloud so we’re talking about things that aren’t cloud native and stuff like that and then we moved all the way through to tony’s whiz-bang serverless architecture right because a lot of companies and when you were talking earlier around you know when’s the right time to go to the cloud there are still companies out there moving to the cloud but they’ve got legacy workloads that are pretty honestly lack of a better word pretty scuffed in terms of architecture because they’re like an old monolith style thing where they’ve got a database on it it could be it could be any data you know what i mean it’s like a single tiered instance it’s not scalable it’s disgusting and it can’t go in a cloud natively right so we’re looking at doing how does that work in cloud but then because these other companies you know they’re in the same stage there’s a lot of requests for tony brown and i to do the talk again but to the um asian community as well so we did a nut so we did the presentation again to another aws like dev cloud alliance team um another part of the world which was fantastic like it was really good because like these i guess are aws enterprise partners so they’re quite quite in bed with adepts as well but you can do things so many different ways so when you’re in these communities you can hear these talk you know they’re all different topics and stuff like that so you can really get some really good insight into aws so that’s really really good and nib is fantastic with that they’re very they’re very willing to enable like well yeah enable someone to not so much promote their personal brand but able to talk on nib’s behalf around look this is the tech we’re doing this is the really cool stuff that that we’re doing um but then also giving you again like you that platform to present and get that own personal skills as well so that you can further your own career you know and i think as a company that’s fantastic and that’s a really it’s a testament to them to show that is somewhat indirect development of their staff but it’s more giving the staff that i guess who want to do that and have that opportunity to do it that platform so it’s yeah i i i think it’s fantastic so like robbie williams and i um he’s the cyber security manager at nib we need a talk as well with um sumo logic and crowdstrike i’ve got another one coming up with sumo logic and pagerduty and it’s just really good also talking about the nrb story just because like the majority of us now have been there since day one of our cloud project it’s kind of like sharing what we’ve done and realizing that oh what we’ve done is it’s pretty slick like yes and not many people out there have either moved us quick or done things as wild as we have too um which is great but yeah so the talks just come about about just you know having that strong vendor relationship too so while i was talking earlier around having strategic partners from their tech space awesome again you can use them for what they’re used for but there’s opportunities like this that come up where you can either boost your company’s personal brand because other people see and they can get either confidence of you know well they’re using at the vendor so you can get like different arrangements and stuff so just you know there’s lots of different opportunities working with strategic partners than just purely tech and i think that’s something that you know some people may not realize even that even that should that that strategic partner can team you up with another customer who’s going through a similar thing have a bit of a forum a bit of a chat yeah and you know they might be able to help you or you could help them and then all of a sudden you’ve got another networking you know so you just you think of it as not a vendor but a strategic partner and then that strategic side of things isn’t just the tools or the product it can be more.

James: yeah can it can open some doors for you right and as you said being able to talk with other companies that are doing the similar things to you to your point earlier about problem solving you don’t have to have all the answers yourself right?

Mitch: correct

James: i think the other thing i know you’ve mentioned to me before uh as you said most talks at conferences and things is it’s all the bells and whistles and and none of the dirt behind the scenes uh i know you’ve talked about how you attacked it a little differently and we’re happy to you know the warts and all story about hey this didn’t always go right this you know we had these issues and this is how we went about it i think people find that quite refreshing in may we all make mistakes you’ve mentioned it before we we all make mistakes we all face challenges we don’t know how to do and uh it’s refreshing to actually hear of people that had success in the long run but it had wasn’t always smooth sailing.

Mitch: oh correct and and that’s probably the one thing that when  i do go to conferences and i watch or uh like do talks and whatever it is the one common theme is it’s always some good news thing it’s always um you’re doing some new function i’m like yeah but look you know from someone who’s been on the ground and still quite on the ground in the weeds in terms of light from that like the technical problems of the business i know you’ve got some little sneaky applications sitting at the back there that’s not really in the cloud yet but kinda is like why don’t like that’s something that most businesses have if they’ve been around for a while like that’s the stuff that personally like i find you solving that that’s much harder and to me more impressive than deploying a greenfield app to aws using a new service that’s a couple of lines of code and the way you go you’ve got a website or a pipeline it’s like no like you you you move the stuff that you don’t talk about that that that’s impressive and i guess that’s kind of the part where nib is up to now as we’re moving the stuff that wasn’t very it’s not easy to move to the cloud but you but to be able to move those workloads to the cloud but get the benefit of the cloud and then that’s the key thing here right i’m not talking about our lift and shift as such even though for the most part it can be but it’s leveraging the appropriate cloud services so you have a reduction in cost or you have the correct governance around cost management or you have the correct governance around dr and bcp and when i do my my talks and like um the ones i’ve done at aws and sumo and stuff like the one thing i really like to really do is emphasize like yeah look you know these things aren’t perfect look nothing’s perfect especially if your company’s been around for 10 20 30 years but they’ve gone from physical like my first job in like a rural calgary was peter ving probably a lot of kids in the in the early start of it now don’t know what physical to virtualization means we add physical servers we used vm conversion tool to put it as a virtual vm like it’s you know you know you’ve probably got servers that have been pdv’d in vmware and now you’re doing a bmdk to ec2 conversion you know solve that right tell me how you’ve solved that but enabled to keep the slas of the business rtos rpos all that sort of jazz that to me is impressive not i’ve just built a lambda that’s deployed in our website it’s like a few milliseconds quicker now yeah but but still like not to diminish that that’s pretty cool but from that again that infrastructure mind of mine in terms of that’s my background right getting doing a cloud migration you know that’s moving the stuff that is in the back server room.

James: yeah so mate you’re obviously doing some pretty cool stuff you’re getting to speak at you know conferences with international companies there and you’re doing all this from a role in newcastle you’re still based in newcastle i know you’re passionate about staying around and why newcastle for you and what’s kept you in newcastle?

Mitch: it’s just an awesome place so i was i was born here but moved around heaps when i was younger so i spent most of time in in victoria after e12 straight back up here look newcastle is fantastic like yeah it might not have all the big name businesses but it’s got the ones that you know are doing the cool stuff too so i guess i haven’t really had a need to go anywhere else with the um new remote workforce etc that does open up um avenues and opportunities but i’ll be real i’m not even looking at it newcastle is just a fantastic place it’s like you know everything is close it’s like you got the beach you got the lake you got you know bushland you’ve got everything here it’s in terms of even it’s it’s not that busy yet it does sometimes but it’s you know you got half an hour vineyards depending on where you live half an hour away you can kind of get to so many different areas so i guess in terms of i guess to that what kept me here is just the area yeah um but again like where i currently work i haven’t had any real need to go anywhere else i’m you know from a creep i creep that career progression point of view.

James: yeah you’ve been provided opportunities ticking the boxes as i go um so yeah on the flip side of that what’s the biggest challenge for us yeah i guess attracting talent to newcastle or keeping good talent in newcastle.

Mitch: well probably depending on the business it would be the rate of change in the business i think a lot of talented people are people that probably don’t want to do a lot of bau yeah they may do it if they have to or whatever but i feel the one thing that keeps these really passionate strong people is the rate of change in your business to be able to give them new things to challenge autonomy i think is a big one too and i think newcastle from the businesses that i’ve dealt with are quite good at autonomy but yeah i guess like we spoke early about the unicorns as well that is difficult to find in newcastle you know obviously if one comes along you you keep retain you do whatever you sort of can to make sure that they’re happy honestly that’s probably about it’s that rate of change is to keep people here because you know they know i in six months there’s going to be a new thing that i can i can do so i guess that’s kind of the business side of thing um but then it’s also that person having the autonomy to be able to show the business hey did you know about this?

James: yeah, agreed man. mate from a productivity perspective is there a is there a tool years or any software you use on a daily basis you know help you manage your day your team?

Mitch: um not particularly like apple onenote outlook my team know how much i love at out looking quite versed at it um i hope some watch this because yeah they will not like that and yeah honestly i just trying to let’s just do any notes reminders um my phone like i kind of put as much as in in my calendar i can in terms of work stuff jira through work but i’ve got a personal trello board which i do kind of put stuff in that too just to make sure that everything’s sweet yeah i don’t really have anything fancy or anything like that pretty old school when it comes to that.

James: yeah mate i think you know between between the the suite you’re using it probably takes monster boxes right?

Mitch: yeah it’s fine um the only real stuff just just the calendar um is probably the biggest one like i’m i i like to think that i’m quite good in terms of like remembering to do stuff myself but just really apple knows like i’ll kind of drop down or any reminders if it’s something that’s like a priority or important just a reminder but in terms of that like i don’t really you know at nib as well a lot of stuff’s not so much reported back so i i tend to just put some of my own personal stuff in like i’ve got my own jira board as well i kind of do my management stuff in there i’m not surely about it that helps me keep track.

James: i know you know a big you know podcast reading books perspective that’s not how you go about your education mate how do you how do you you know keep up to date?

Mitch: honestly it’s it’s stuff like this like it it it’s talking to communities it’s this understanding um what other businesses and what other people are the same level of their organisation are doing i was being in in the aws um dev cloud alliance that’s fantastic wearing a slack together so ask questions in there a lot talk to other colleagues as well or um other people in that community that are at similar or organisations as nib so ones that are like in you know regulated stuff so that way we can talk around well in your cloud movement you know did you get kicked back from this or you know or blah blah right you know yeah that that kind of stuff but with the educational point i i tend to really talk to probably people that are usually at i don’t know because it’s the easy point but those probably seen you guys it’s kind of like making connections with the senior leadership management kind of like that mentoring kind of approach not official mentoring right but you know getting guidance and stuff or hey i’m doing this thing and you know just you know if if it’s kind of down their path versus you know another head-off or something like that i’ll kind of ask them for a bit of guidance and hey can you like proofread this thing or can you give me support which at nib that is that is something that is is amazing so yeah it’s really just i kind of like to have it have a knock myself.

James: mate i really like that i think there are some people oh there’s a lot of people right everyone goes about education different ways for my education and then courses short courses then podcast books yadda yadda but man the fact that you’ve gone about it from like i guess unofficial mentoring and also communities like building communities building those networks and relationships i really like that i think it’s a different approach to most people or people maybe have that as a minute part of their education or maybe don’t focus on the educational benefit of a network or building a network or community but i really like that i think it’s a good point people could really take a lot from.

Mitch: 100% it’s massive because you know you are not talking theoreticals yeah you know you’re talking to people that have either been done or doing and we’re in tech this you know half the stuff’s been done before it’s like you know don’t don’t beat yourself up trying to solo something like you know if you need any and i’m not talking from like a technical perspective here but from like a management perspective there’s so much knowledge out there from these people and even if you look from like at a senior in terms of age like you know they’ve been around longer they’ve probably seen more things they’ve been through more different changes they’ve been through so much it’s like really look around because also when you do do read as well i find that you can get like sometimes the context isn’t there in terms of what organisation do you work for but if you know you’re looking for some sort of guidance here and now talking to someone in your organisation or in a similar organisation to you also you know they can give you guidance around you know what to do in this current situation so therefore it’s not so much theoretical it’s more in the now.

James: mate on that note then finishing up for people that are out there and don’t want to reinvent the wheel themselves i want to sort of ask you for some advice they might be looking at a cloud journey or looking at something you’ve mentioned today what’s the easiest way for people to get in contact with you?

Mitch: linkedin really i’m not a huge social media guy um or anything like that so honestly linkedin search me yeah you’ll see it don’t have the beard in the photo so might look a bit older and a little bit thinner but no look um but linkedin’s fine i’ve just got my email stuff on that.

James: so all right man thanks for coming in today.

Mitch: no problem