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Episode 61

Tales From The Database | Rolling With The Punches

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Episode 47

Legacies | Hardy Hardware


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Show Notes

Career paths are full of unexpected challenges. In the last installment of our career series, we hear how a little empathy and authenticity helped two budding IT professionals  stay the course and find their calling.


00:02 — Christian Trujillo
I was born and raised in Mexico. I was born in a city called Guadalajara, and I was there until I was 18 years old.

00:10 — Kim Huang
This is Christian Trujillo. When Christian was younger, he thought his path was set pretty solid.

00:16 — Christian Trujillo
I wanted to go for a career in international business.

00:21 — Kim Huang
He decided to take a break before starting school, and something happened that he didn't expect. He met his future wife in California while on vacation.

00:31 — Christian Trujillo
Everything changed when I met my wife, and all my plans to the point just changed.

00:36 — Kim Huang
He always imagined himself going to school in Mexico for business, but that too would change.

00:43 — Christian Trujillo
I never really thought about a career in tech. I was very proud of myself for being able to type fast with two fingers.

00:54 — Kim Huang
This is Compiler, an original podcast from Red Hat. I'm Kim Huang.

00:59 — Angela Andrews
And I'm Angela Andrews.

01:01 — Kim Huang
We go beyond the buzzwords and the jargon and simplify tech topics.

01:06 — Angela Andrews
We're sharing stories from people who found their footing in tech. If you want to hear all of this from the beginning, check out the episode called Warning Signs.

01:16 — Kim Huang
This is the last installment of our series on career journeys, so let's get right into it. Sometimes making a career in tech is all about adaptability. Like I've said in previous episodes, where someone starts isn't exactly where they end up. I spoke with two people who started out on different paths and learned how they both leaned into the challenges and found their way, and ultimately found their calling.

01:48 — Christian Trujillo
I had just gotten married. I was probably a year married with a baby on the way working full time while my wife was also working full time, and so that was very challenging. It was a time where I realized that I needed to really focus.

02:07 — Kim Huang
That's Christian again. He's an Associate Principal Engineer at RedHat. He's the person you heard at the top of the episode. I want to make a note of what he was doing at that time.

02:18 — Christian Trujillo
Before college, I was working actually driving tow trucks, but I always knew that I wanted to go to college and I tried many different things.

02:27 — Kim Huang
He did. He tried a lot of different things. He wanted to be a firefighter, he wanted to be a musician—but it wasn't until he and his wife had settled into married life that something not truck-related would come up on his radar. They were having dinner with friends. When it came time for people to socialize, talk about what they were up to, one of the dinner guests spoke up.

02:50 — Christian Trujillo
He was actually going to a college that focuses on tech and was going for an engineering degree, and I got very intrigued as we were having that conversation and I was like, "Hey, so tell me more about that."

03:02 — Kim Huang
So Christian had thought about being a musician and a firefighter, but an engineer? That was new, and it sounded daunting.

03:12 — Christian Trujillo
Based on the fact that I was born and raised in Mexico and I had my high school diploma from Mexico, that was going to be a challenge. However, this school opened up the opportunity for me to validate a lot of the courses, and I was actually accepted to go to that college, and that's how I decided to go into a computer science degree.

03:33 — Kim Huang
Christian didn't have any context for a career in tech, unlike Diego Barrera, another person we spoke to.

03:40 — Diego Barrera
I hit the lottery with my mom and dad. They're from Central America, so it's so unlikely for a computer science engineer out of Central America, out of Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s. That guy just doesn't exist. So then they immigrated and brought me as a baby to the United States where I grew up in Miami.

04:03 — Kim Huang
Miami wasn't a tech hub at the time. Diego wound up working as a systems engineer at a law firm. Angela, I feel like working in this type of environment as a systems engineer is very unique, but what do you think?

04:20 — Angela Andrews
Well, I've done both. I was a systems engineer in a law firm.

04:24 — Kim Huang
What? Wait, you?

04:27 — Angela Andrews
Yes, I worked for a law firm many years ago and wore many hats at that time. And when you're talking about pivoting and it's like, "Oh, I'm working in a law firm," technology is not the same there as it is everywhere else. So you can imagine, and I'm only imagining what Diego went through, but he was trying to figure his way and doing things in a very specific way that really doesn't translate. If you're talking application-wise specifically, it doesn't translate to anything outside of a law firm. But it was good learning, I have to say. You do have to wear a lot of hats though when you work, especially if it's a small firm.

05:14 — Kim Huang
Yeah, it sounds like it. I feel like this law firm was a bit bigger. He talks about a lot of really major clientele.

05:22 — Angela Andrews
So he had teams.

05:24 — Kim Huang
Yeah, he had teams. He had different disparate teams that are all over the world that are working all at the same time on different cases and different clients, and it sounded really interesting. That's why I wanted to talk and get your thoughts on what is it like to work in that environment. I feel like what you're saying still applies because you're wearing a lot of hats, you say.

05:46 — Angela Andrews
Definitely wearing a lot of hats. Things need to happen fast because—attorneys! And it was just one of those experiences that help you test your mettle. I'm sure he learned a lot working there.

06:02 — Kim Huang
Oh, yes. One day Diego is working. He's a systems engineer at a law firm. He's in his office, and he gets a phone call.

06:10 — Diego Barrera
I'm still working in the evenings, and I get a phone call, and I think it was the president. And he's like, "I've got a trip, going to be on a boat, and I'm going to be with all of these important VPs [vice presidents]. Tech just has to work." And I'm like, "Whoa, what do we have to do?" He needed a way to communicate while on that boat.

06:33 — Kim Huang
Let's just say this request was way above Diego's pay grade. He was just a systems engineer.

06:42 — Diego Barrera
And I'm talking about I would do password resets and help people with email stuff, and I just had to drop everything I was doing that day and go to a location offsite, figure out a SAT phone, get it charged and make sure that it worked, then coordinate a courier and then make sure that he got access to it. I had to navigate all of that stuff and then provide him that solution.

07:11 — Kim Huang
Diego took away a lot of lessons from this very unconventional project.

07:17 — Diego Barrera
Just getting a guy a phone, but a lot hinged on that one moment. And while that was a long time ago, that really did stick with me in showing that what matters is the outcome, and it really shook free for me that notion of, "I'm just here to do a job." Right? No, I've always been an above and beyond. Well, here's the actual problem, let's work back and solve that problem.

07:44 — Kim Huang
Couriers are a staple in a law firm because how do documents and things get from one place to another?

07:52 — Angela Andrews
Wow. That request sounds so on brand.

07:58 — Kim Huang
I always get hives whenever someone talks about SAT phones because of my own experience in the military with SAT phones.

08:05 — Angela Andrews
I can imagine.

08:06 — Kim Huang
I'm always kind of like, "Oh no." The memories, some of them are fond, but not all of them. So I really like that story, and it's really just so strange. He gets a call from this big wig, this person that's really high up in the law firm, and they have such an unconventional request. And before, Diego's helping people that got locked out of their laptop that forgot their password.

08:35 — Angela Andrews
That's totally two different levels. I get that.

08:38 — Kim Huang
Yeah. I don't think that's normal, is it? I feel like sometimes you might get—

08:43 — Angela Andrews

08:44 — Kim Huang
No? Okay.

08:45 — Angela Andrews
In a law firm, if someone calls you with whatever request it is, it is now your responsibility.

08:54 — Kim Huang

08:54 — Angela Andrews
You better make it work. It is that type of environment. Drop everything you're doing and do this. And if it's a partner or something like that, yeah, you're going to figure out that SAT phone issue, ASAP. No ticket, no nothing, no procedure, no triaging. No. Make it work.

09:20 — Kim Huang
Wow. For me, this sounds so different from talking with other people who work at help desks and working support.

09:30 — Angela Andrews
It is not the same working in a law firm. It is not.

09:33 — Kim Huang
Could you just not answer your phone I wonder? I don't know.

09:36 — Angela Andrews
I mean, if you're not at your desk and someone calls—shrug.

09:44 — Kim Huang
Now we know.

09:45 — Angela Andrews
But you don't want to be that person.

09:46 — Kim Huang
Now we know.

09:47 — Angela Andrews
I called Diego, and he wasn't at his desk. You don't want to be that person.

09:56 — Kim Huang
Let's get back to Christian because he's out of his computer science program and applying for his first tech job. He gets an interview, and he gives it his best shot.

10:08 — Christian Trujillo
The interview went quite well. However, I was told at the end of the interview, "You know what, Christian? We really like you, but unfortunately you don't have the expertise, the experience to be a help desk guy, a help desk associate. But we have an opportunity for you as a customer service representative. It's within the same building, within the same group where the help desk agents are, so you may get exposed to that. What do you think?"

10:41 — Kim Huang
He immediately says yes, takes the job. It sounds like a win. There's just one small problem, very minor. Christian can't speak English.

10:54 — Angela Andrews
Christian can't speak English yet.

10:58 — Kim Huang
Well, he can speak the language at this point. You know what, I'm going to let him—

11:02 — Angela Andrews
A little bit.

11:02 — Kim Huang
Yeah, I'm going to let him explain.

11:04 — Angela Andrews
Okay, all right.

11:05 — Christian Trujillo
My wife was born and raised in the U.S. and spoke a little bit of Spanish, and so she taught me English and I taught her Spanish, but during the time I was still learning.

11:17 — Kim Huang
So we're going to find out how things turned out with Christian after the break. At this point in the story, Christian was navigating his new job and learning a new language at the same time. He got through it with a little help from his better half.

11:32 — Christian Trujillo
My first week on the job, I was texting my wife left and right, "Hey, is this how you spell this? Can you please check my email?" So imagine the stress that I was going through in that first job. So there was a lot of definitely stresses, a lot of challenges that I experienced.

11:50 — Kim Huang
But the stressful work paid off.

11:52 — Christian Trujillo
Three months into the job, my manager calls me into her office and she's like, "You know what, Christian, I love what you're doing. You picked it up very fast. You're doing a great job. I need a supervisor in my help desk department, and I'd really like you to consider that." And I was like, "Wait, what?" I could not believe it. It was way too fast, right? Well, I accepted, of course. I was just so excited.

12:19 — Angela Andrews
So 3 months, and he just lapped everybody else and got the supervisor role of the help desk?

12:26 — Kim Huang

12:27 — Angela Andrews
Where do they do that?

12:28 — Kim Huang

12:29 — Angela Andrews
He's pretty exceptional, I must say.

12:31 — Kim Huang
I think the texts from his wife are exceptional. I think that's what the exception part is right here.

12:36 — Angela Andrews
So she should be supervisor.

12:38 — Kim Huang
I feel like she gets a lot of the credit here. I feel like this was big teamwork on their part.

12:43 — Angela Andrews
For sure. And I know he gave her a lot of credit for that.

12:46 — Kim Huang
Oh, absolutely. Meanwhile, our other guest Diego Barrera is broadening his horizons and getting a change of scenery in the process, moving from sunny Miami to San Francisco.

13:00 — Diego Barrera
And for the first time, my eyes completely opened about the difference of being in a tech market versus not. My salary nearly doubled, but in fairness, so did my cost of living. And I get this job in a startup that puts drones to work in enterprise. And at a later date, my mom reminded me once I became a pilot that ever since I was a kid, I wanted to become a pilot.

13:22 — Kim Huang
This startup provided customers with drones to use for surveying land, usually for the purposes of construction. Drones are definitely a useful tool in that line of work, but when Diego and his team looked at their sales numbers, they encountered a surprise.

13:39 — Diego Barrera
What we realized was about half of the customers were churning at the time that I started. However, they love the company, they love the people, and they love the app. So you're like, "How do you have that happen and customers still churn?" And what we learned was that they had so many other requirements outside of the software subscription to make them successful, that they needed a professional services arm to help them navigate certifications, training, regulations, SOPs [standard operating procedures], what hardware you buy.

14:12 — Kim Huang
What is Diego talking about? These businesses could see the value of what his company was offering, but there was complexity, compliance, legal considerations.

14:23 — Diego Barrera
You can fly drones under different federal regulations, but even just interpreting all of the legalese in that Bible of a document, it just took a lot of time, and it made sense to work with an outside partner who was an expert.

14:36 — Kim Huang
So what did the team do?

14:38 — Diego Barrera
We built this end-to-end bundle and solution that included certification training, standard operating procedures, hardware resale, the software that Skyward sold and more, regulatory consulting, for instance. And we basically reverse engineered that surveyor who didn't want to have to build this entire drone program.

14:57 — Kim Huang
And from Diego's account, the strategy was a success.

15:01 — Diego Barrera
And what we saw on the other side of that was literally not one customer churned from the platform if they went through that program for the entire time.

15:13 — Kim Huang
Angela, you have worked with some companies that are subject to compliance issues and a lot of regulation. I wanted to know what your take was on Diego and his team's approach.

15:29 — Angela Andrews
It was actually mastery. When you realize you don't have the skillset to deliver a solution your customer needs, you have to partner with someone that does, that's aware of all of the legal ramifications and the hardware involved, and you're better together being able to build a complete solution for the customer and just taking their problem away with just one fell swoop. That is what I call success.

16:03 — Kim Huang
Yes. And it seems such an easy thing, right?

16:07 — Angela Andrews
I'm sure it wasn't easy. I mean, can you imagine? He worked at a startup and he had to deal with someone that dealt with being able to fly drones and construction information and training and what type of hardware to buy and what are our standard operating procedures for X, Y, and Z. In my opinion, they're probably all different vendors or a vendor that does maybe one or two parts, and then you have to partner with someone else who does this part. So, again, that's a lot of moving pieces. And to be able to collaborate and build a solution—a total solution—to say, "Here, customer, this is everything you need." That's a lot.

16:55 — Kim Huang

16:57 — Angela Andrews
That is a lot.

16:58 — Kim Huang
It is.

16:58 — Angela Andrews
It's a lot of meetings, trust me.

17:00 — Kim Huang
Yes. A lot of meetings, a lot of education, a lot of knowledge sharing. And even when you're talking about construction, it may be a lot of cultural shift, a cultural change as well, because people in that space may not be used to doing things a certain way.

17:17 — Angela Andrews
That's right.

17:18 — Kim Huang
And they may be hesitant to change the way that they're doing things. I mean, you saw yourself, we looked at the sales numbers. Why are these people not re-upping on their contracts? Why are they not coming back? Why are these customers leaving? It wasn't that the product was bad or the offering was bad or the service was bad. Everything was great. It was just a lot more complex. And all it needed was someone to understand the complexity and be empathetic to what the customer was dealing with.

17:49 — Angela Andrews
I'm sure the customer gave the gift of feedback telling him that everything is great, but... And taking that and filling in those holes.

18:00 — Kim Huang
Yeah, absolutely. Both Diego and Christian came to the United States when they were young, and while they didn't have the same situations, they did learn to adapt and be flexible. I asked the both of them about what helped them navigate difficult situations, challenges, and big moments in their careers. Diego says the most powerful tool a person can have is empathy—especially when looking for a job.

18:32 — Diego Barrera
You have to channel the person who's hiring you or the company that's hiring you, and how do you solve their challenges? Let's say you're an individual contributor, you're at your day job. Well, you have a customer, and that is your boss, and your boss continues to buy your services over time. This is a very simplistic way to look at it, but then it all gets down to being keenly aware of what is valuable and then finding a way to articulate that to that person or a group of people.

19:02 — Kim Huang
And in Christian's case, he says, it pays off to just be yourself.

19:09 — Christian Trujillo
Trying to be someone else is just a waste of time. So whether you are creative, whether you are an introvert, whatever it is, be 100% yourself and bring yourself to work.

19:22 — Kim Huang
Well, Angela.

19:24 — Angela Andrews

19:24 — Kim Huang
We're at the end of the episode and at the end of our series on career journeys. Tell me some of the things that you've observed and the things that you've walked away with.

19:34 — Angela Andrews
I think the guests have been absolute marvels, meaning they've taken something challenging and difficult and new, and they've transformed themselves into a totally different person, a totally different role, a totally different career. If we're talking about previous episodes where you start at one place and you wind up somewhere else, seeing that transformation and seeing how that hard work and diligence paid off. Christian says something really on point here: "Be yourself. Everybody else is taken." That sounds very cliche, but that really does work because people want that level of authenticity. And why front? Why be someone that you're not? That's exhausting. So anyone in this position trying to level up or transition or making this ascension into this field that we call tech, it's always best to just be true to yourself and work hard. We can't forget that part.

20:45 — Kim Huang
Yeah, I feel like the stories that we've highlighted these last couple of episodes really take the fear factor out of making your way through tech or trying to break into the industry or trying to map your way through your career. It takes a lot of the fear out of it. Hearing these stories makes me less intimidated by all of these decisions that a person has to make or that I have to make or someone that I love has to make about what they ultimately want to do with their life. Because like you said, they can just change, and where they start is not where they finish.

21:27 — Angela Andrews

21:28 — Kim Huang
That really takes fear out of it, and it really makes a person feel empowered to just take the leap or take the jump into a career that they love and that they're passionate about.

21:39 — Angela Andrews
This was such a great series. I think it was captured very well that, again, you don't necessarily end up where you're starting. The world's yours.

21:53 — Kim Huang
Oh, I almost forgot. Remember when Diego said he moved to California?

21:58 — Angela Andrews
I do.

21:59 — Kim Huang
This was another case of relocation for that special someone.

22:03 — Angela Andrews
Oh, heart emoji.

22:05 — Kim Huang
Yes. And just days before we recorded his interview, Diego, a person who's always loved to fly, took his girlfriend up in a plane and proposed to her.

22:16 — Angela Andrews
Oh, my goodness.

22:18 — Kim Huang
And she said yes.

22:21 — Angela Andrews
I hope so.

22:22 — Kim Huang
Yes. Yes.

22:24 — Angela Andrews
I love that our guests have found love. That's awesome. That's awesome. What a nice way to end our episode, and we want to know what you, our listeners, think. Share your thoughts with us. Hit us up on social media @RedHat. Always use the hashtag #compilerpodcast. I mean, how do you roll with the punches? How do you make something out of nothing and see what happens? We'd love to hear your story about that.

22:57 — Kim Huang
And that does it for this episode of Compiler and our series, Tales from the Database.

23:04 — Angela Andrews
Today's episode was produced by Kim Huang, Johan Philippine and Caroline Creaghead. A big, big thank you to our guests, Christian Trujillo and Diego Barrera.

23:16 — Kim Huang
I bet Victoria Lawton types her emails with two fingers. If that's not true, she can prove me wrong.

23:24 — Angela Andrews
Special thanks to Britt Duggan. Our audio engineer is Mark Angly. Our theme song was composed by Mary Ancheta.

23:33 — Kim Huang
Our audio team includes Brent Simoneaux, Leigh Day, Stephanie Wonderlick, Mike Esser, Nick Burns, Aaron Williamson, Karen King, Jared Oates, Rachel Ertel, Devin Pope, Mike Compton, Ocean Matthews, Paige Johnson, Alex Traboulsi, and the magnetic Mira Cyril.

23:51 — Angela Andrews
If you like today's episode, please follow the show, rate the show and leave us a review. Also, share it with someone you know. It helps the show, and you get to share something nice with someone. I mean, this is the gift that keeps on giving.

24:07 — Kim Huang
It really is. All right, everybody, until next time, take care.

24:12 — Angela Andrews
Bye everybody.

24:13 — Kim Huang
Apparently Harlem is joining our audio team.


Featured guests

Christian Trujillo
Diego Barrera

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