It’s Not What You Know But How You Think That Really Matters (to Your Business)

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My absolute favorite interview question goes something like this:

“You’ve decided to move, and you are given three options:

  • Hunt for the perfect house in the perfect location.
  • Find an empty lot and build your dream home.
  • Find the dream plot and work with the tired house that’s already there.

Which do you choose?”

There is no right answer, and in fairness, I’m not really looking for one. Rather, I’m looking to see how the person tackles the question, how he/she breaks it down and ultimately how he/she responds. The speed of response alone is telling and so is the thought process that’s involved in getting there.

This type of questioning helps flush out if the person is a:

  • Tank or Plumber
  • Linear or Abstract Thinker

In my previous post, I jumped on my hobbyhorse and galloped around espousing the differences between Tanks, Plumbers and Chameleons; and now in part two of this “Know Yourself” series, I’m going to explore the differences between Linear versus Abstract Thinkers. Both are critical to know when you’re assembling a team.

If asked, the knee jerk reaction for most is to say they’re Abstract Thinkers. Why? Well, let’s face it, Abstract sounds cool, sassy and forward-looking; Linear seems one-dimensional and a little, um, boring. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Let’s look at some definitions:

  • Abstract Thinkers: Have the innate ability to “connect the dots” or see how “stars align”; they’re normally fast on their feet when it comes to discussions and the answers. However, the last mile isn’t really that interesting to them so the final execution feels kind of unnatural… sort of like catching a ball with the wrong hand. It’s possible but not something they welcome trying to do.
  • Linear Thinkers: See what’s in front of then and form tasks into a single work stream, knowing which part needs to be knocked off the list first before they move to the next one, and so on; they’re very process-orientated. They are generally not the first to answer a question; they’re more cerebral and like to formulate a response first. They’re not known to shoot from the hip.

Why is this important to me?

Knowing what I am good at is one thing, but equally important is knowing what I’m not so good at. It’s critical that I have a healthy balance of both attributes in my immediate circle of decision-making and influence so my team crosses the finish line strong and on target. (Yep, I’m a Tank and an Abstract Thinker.)

Additionally, it’s important for me to understand how each member of my team thinks as some will rush to an answer while some will need the space to formulate. All opinions are important after all (ever watchful of implicit bias).

If you go to the trouble of creating a diverse management team or, in the more specific case of IT, an effective protection team, you really need to understand how each person ticks or your initial efforts will render a suboptimal result.

You need to understand how your CIO thinks, your DBA thinks, your storage admin thinks, and so on. Else risk internal chaos.

So, you can be a Plumber or a Tank and within these personas be an Abstract or Linear Thinker.  The challenge for organizations and managers, as the book “Good to Great” explains, is making sure you get the right people on the bus and in the right seats.  Companies succeed or fail on this simple principle, and I contend their mojo depends on it.

How’s your company doing?

Guy Churchward

Guy Churchward

President, Data Protection and Availability Division
I'm an enterprise infrastructure hack. Really, if you think of my career as a building, I’ve spent it underneath in the sewer lines and the electric plumbing, making sure things work. Invariably, my businesses end up being called boring. But that’s okay. It means they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, which means their customers can do what they need to do. I come to EMC by way of BEA Systems, NetApp and most recently LogLogic, and my mission is to lead EMC Data Protection and Availability Division's efforts to deliver a protection storage architecture that leaves us all in better shape for the next guy, or gig, that comes along. Oh, and make no mistake about it, I want everyone to know who’s number one in backup, and why.

EMC Data Protection Takes Oracle OpenWorld By Storm

Visit our booth!

Next week Oracle OpenWorld rolls into San Francisco (right alongside the fog) and EMC has a lot going on at the event.  You can get all the details in the EMC vPass, but first I’d like to give you a sneak peak of all things EMC Data Protection for OOW ’13.  Here are some highlights as you set up your agenda:

Monday

  • Session – 1:45 pm, Moscone South, Room 301 – Join yours truly and EMC database backup expert Jeff St. Cyr to learn how to “Make Oracle Backups 50% Faster with Deduplication and Oracle RMAN”.  In this session, we’ll discuss:
    • How Data Domain Boost for Oracle RMAN gives DBAs complete control of backup and disaster recovery and,
    • How Data Domain systems support Oracle RMAN multiplexing to optimize performance while maximizing deduplication ratios
    • Best practices for setting up Oracle backup and recovery
  • EMC Booth – 9:45 am to 6:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1301 – EMC Data Protection will be well represented in the EMC booth:
    • Conversation Stations – join EMC Oracle experts to discuss your Oracle data protection challenges and learn about best practices for ‘Complete Oracle Data Protection’ from EMC.
    • Meet the Experts – join us to dig deeper into EMC solutions for Oracle data protection:
      • Part 1 – Next Generation Data Protection for Oracle (10:00 am)
      • Part 2 – Faster, more efficient Oracle Backup and DR (12:00 pm)
      • Part 3 – Empowering Oracle DBAs with the EMC Backup (5:00 pm)
  • Cisco Booth – 4:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1021 – Join me to learn about ‘Backup and Recovery of VCE Vblock Systems for Oracle Applications’

Tuesday

  • EMC Keynote – 8:00 am, Moscone North, Hall D – Come see Joe Tucci and Jeremy Burton discuss how EMC can help you ‘Lead Your Transformation’.  This keynote includes a live demo of backing up Oracle to Data Domain!
  • EMC Booth – 9:45 am to 6:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1301 – same as above, except slightly different ‘meet the experts’ times:
    • Meet the Experts – join us to dig deeper into EMC solutions for Oracle data protection:
      • Part 1 – Next Generation Data Protection for Oracle (10:45 am)
      • Part 2 – Faster, more efficient Oracle Backup and DR (1:00 pm)
      • Part 3 – Empowering Oracle DBAs with the EMC Backup (3:00 pm)

Wednesday

  • EMC Booth – 9:45 am to 4:00 pm, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1301 – same as above, except slightly different ‘meet the experts’ times:
    • Meet the Experts – join us to dig deeper into EMC solutions for Oracle data protection:
      • Part 1 – Next Generation Data Protection for Oracle (11:00 am)
      • Part 2 – Faster, more efficient Oracle Backup and DR (12:30 pm)
      • Part 3 – Empowering Oracle DBAs with the EMC Backup (3:00 pm)
  • Cisco Booth – 10:00 am, Moscone South, Exhibition Hall, Booth #1021 – Join me to learn about ‘Backup and Recovery of VCE Vblock Systems for Oracle Applications’

Throughout the Week

  • If you’re coming to the show and would like to meet with an EMC backup and recovery expert, please reach out to set up a meeting.
  • In addition, you can follow along with us on Twitter before, during, and after the show @EMCBackup with the hashtag #oow13.

Look forward to seeing you all there!

Caitlin Gordon

Caitlin Gordon

Data Domain Product Marketing, Data Protection and Availability Division
I have spent the past nine years focused on all things data protection, with a focus on backup and archive. Lucky for me, Data Domain Systems give me lots of good topics to discuss here. When I’m not blogging, I’m equal parts gadget geek and sports freak – always ready to chat about the latest IT rumor or celebrate/lament the latest Boston sports heartbreak/victory. You can also find me talking backup on Twitter and YouTube.

How Long Should You Keep Your Data?

At last, the definitive answer to the question “How long should we keep our data?”.

It depends.

I understand that this answer will not make me any more popular.  But before you rush to judgment, consider a few issues that make data retention periods such a complex issue.

Ideally, data is retained based upon its content, not its type or location.  So an email message that is a contract should be retained for the period that you retain contracts.  But how long is that?  Many organizations have retention schedules specifying that they will retain contracts for the applicable statute of limitations after the contract has been fully performed.  A common statute of limitations for the breach of a written agreement is six years.  If the agreement takes two years to complete, then the contract itself should be retained for eight years.  But how do you know when the contract has been completed so that you can start the clock on the six year retention?  And whose job is it to figure this out?

And that’s just for contracts.  What about financial statements, marketing materials, sales proposals, etc.?  Even in areas of strict regulation, there can be highly complex issues.  For example, under the new Dodd-Frank Act, certain financial companies that deal in swaps (derivatives) must maintain detailed information about those swaps for five years past their “completion” (and they must be maintained on compliant storage, but that’s even another issue!).  Many of our customers have mentioned that they deal in swaps with an anticipated duration of 40 years. Sometimes those swaps complete earlier, so an initial expectation of a 45 years retention period could quickly be reduced to ten years or less.

That’s why the answer to the retention question is that “it depends”.  In the real world where employees receive 100+ messages each day, we just cannot (yet!) reliably classify every email and file based upon its content.  So we take shortcuts.  We use “big buckets” to set retention periods that will safely capture and retain important content; we divide our organizations into functional areas (legal, HR, sales, operations, finance) and set default retention periods based upon risk and the type of information that is usually created and maintained in those departments.  We develop robust processes and deploy tools so that we can quickly segregate eDiscovery content efficiently, allowing us to keep deleting production data as it “expires”.  It’s not the simplest task, but with a little effort (and a cross-functional team), your organization can figure out how long it should keep its data.

Rev Up Your IT Transformation

As Guy wrote in his blog last week, F1 is about speed and protection. Check out this really cool infographic. Lots of great data to support a EMC VNX + Data Protection strategy.

Print

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division at EMC Corporation
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

Is Your CxO a Plumber, Tank or Chameleon?

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As I see it, there are three types of CxOs: Plumbers, Tanks and Chameleons. Your grip on knowing which one you are will likely signal the future course of your organization.

Plumbers lay the floor under a house, stare at the pipes and work out the optimal distance, sheen, density, throughput and direction to absolute perfection. They love “blue-sky thinking” and have brilliant minds; however, operational aspects of the business aren’t generally their forte; they’re seen as distracting and unfortunate.

On the flip side, Tanks generally don’t fare well in blue-sky situations, but when a job needs to be done, they are the first to roll up their sleeves, jump in their trusty vehicles and begin knocking down walls. These individuals tend to lack finesse and generally find themselves in controversy since they are unafraid to make bold actions and ruffle feathers.

I think it’s fair to say that Tanks are naturally suited to run mature or operationally intensive businesses whereas Plumbers generally excel at stimulating new markets and businesses, but as business grows, they generally don’t transition as well.

Now, I’m not saying that running an operational business is an exclusive Tank domain. There are plenty of Plumbers who have succeeded and adapted because they understand their skills and have hired Tanks to fill gaps. Case in point: Bill Gates (Plumber) and Steve Ballmer (Tank).

Once you understand these types of personalities, you can easily pocket yourself, your management team and your associates (the classification works throughout the organization) into these two buckets. Doing so can be super valuable, allowing you to amplify that value and have a fabulous career. It’s pretty interesting really.

Of course, the cautionary tale is what if you’re wrong?

What if you see yourself as a plumber, but you’re really a tank, or visa versa? Worse yet, what if you think you’re the ultimate chameleon (gulp)? It is true you could cross between the two, but like “catching a ball” you can use your wrong hand but it feels really awkward.

So, here’s my take: Figure out, which you are, get validation from someone who will tell it to you straight. If you do this, you’ll not only enjoy the fruits of your talent for years to come, but be better understood and also understand your management team and the course it’s taking, and why.

Also, remember, if you’re building an organization you need both Plumbers and Tanks. Each has their place and need each other – just like Yin and Yang. But, above all, watch out for the Chameleon, as they major in spectacular face plants when you least expect it.

What am I? Well, a friend of mine, on this very topic, developed a huge grin and proclaimed, “You’re a Tank!” And I guess I agree.

Guy Churchward

Guy Churchward

President, Data Protection and Availability Division
I'm an enterprise infrastructure hack. Really, if you think of my career as a building, I’ve spent it underneath in the sewer lines and the electric plumbing, making sure things work. Invariably, my businesses end up being called boring. But that’s okay. It means they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, which means their customers can do what they need to do. I come to EMC by way of BEA Systems, NetApp and most recently LogLogic, and my mission is to lead EMC Data Protection and Availability Division's efforts to deliver a protection storage architecture that leaves us all in better shape for the next guy, or gig, that comes along. Oh, and make no mistake about it, I want everyone to know who’s number one in backup, and why.