[SATLUG] Rackspace

typedeaf at yahoo.com typedeaf at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 10 14:06:27 CST 2015

I worked at Rackspace for almost 5 years, and they were probably the golden years for Rackspace. Brad admits to having never worked there, but must say, his description is fairly accurate --speaking in broad terms. 

I joined Rackspace at age 30 with nearly 10 yrs of experience under my belt. I was hired as a Level 4 Linux SA, and I quit as a Level 3 Linux Engineer. At the time I was hired, Rackspace only had the managed hosting business, and the day I walked in it was basically, "Here is your ticket queue." I wanted to quit immediately. Ticket queues are not my idea of an ideal job. When I left in around 2009, that was still how almost all SA (sub-engineer) day-to-day roles were.

It would take all day to tell you my full 4 years of experience, so I will try to summarize only few key points.

Rackspace did hire many people with zero experience, and quickly promote them to senior roles, even to engineer roles and managers. I have many problems with that, but I will just summarize it all by saying that 99% of the time, it doesn't work. Yes, they depleted all local talent, and yes the best talent generally leaves because they feel under appreciated or under paid.

The flip side is that you are surrounded by IT people, and even if only 1:50 are exceptional, there is a pool of over 300 people around you. I can tell you that just one exceptional person can make a huge difference. If you have the opportunity to work along side someone who is exceptional, it is priceless. When I was in Rackspace "Managed" I had at least half a dozen people that I considered my technical peers. Where I shined, many they could learn from me, and where I was weak, I could learn from them. Not many people are proficient at all aspects, especially early in their career. When I moved to Rackspace cloud, I worked on a small team of engineers, four including myself and a manager. I grew my skills tremendously during that time. Not skills as in DNS or scripting. I mean real job skills. How to solve problems in a way that is clean, repeatable, and scalable. That was the startup years of the could division, and unfortunately that bubble popped around the time Rackspace went public. 

In the end, I left Rackspace because there wasn't a path for where I wanted to go, and the pay was not very competitive given my skill set.
As for your current job skills, let me give you some harsh reality. When you say, "I know subnetting, routing, and I have my Network+", that doesn't really say much. What you are describing is a Network Admins primary skill set, but I am going to guess that you have never logged into a Cisco device. If you want to be a network admin, learn Cisco. I must have conducted 100+ interviews at Racksapce. In fact, I wrote/compiled the interview questionnaires. Interviews at big IT companies are BRUTALLY harsh. Be prepared to be thoroughly questioning on anything your resume is stating you know. So, if you think you know networking, be prepared to get drilled on the topic. Do you understand VLANs? How does VLAN tagging work? Where is the tag? What layer is VLAN tagging? What is the default VLAN and how is it used? How can you apply ACLs to VLANs? How can you replicate VLANs across multiple switches? What about link aggregations and the various protocols for it? What about STP? When do you need it and what does it do? These are all questions that a CCNA (basically L1 Cisco admin) should be able to answer. So make sure you clarify your knowledge of networks and routing before the interview starts. Make sure you know what you don't know, and don't be afraid to admit it. You will sound far less ignorant by admitting it, than trying to make up an answer and faking it. That being said, every 'admin' , wether DBA or SA or MW admin, should know at least basic LAN networking. I can't tell you how many times I have seen people hit a brick wall and throw their hands in the air at some issue, just to find out that they do not have a reasonable default gateway set. Finally, what most colleges require for a BS degree really just doesn't do much for helping you ace an interview for a Linux SA job. I think you are on the right track, but I wouldn't expect to get anything beyond a entry level Linux SA position.
Working at a huge IT shop can present the opportunity for tremendous growth, but it can also lead to pigeon holing you into a specific skill. What do you want? Do you want to know everything about everything? If you do, you need to go somewhere where they will let you do everything. For that, a start up is probably the best bet. Do you want to just master one particular skill, then almost any company will work. Do you want to be surrounded by hundreds of people doing technical jobs, and potentially learn and grow from their expertise? Then you have to join some large IT shop like Rackspace, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc. 

Networking at Rackapce was and probably still is its own island. They have traditional networking admin that work on LAN issues, and they have 'Network Security' roles that focus on 'security' devices --primarily firewalls, but also load balancers and other devices that are not straight up switches and routers. The Cisco people did not know Linux, and the Linux people did not know Cisco. There were a few exceptions, but it was rare, and only due to previous job experience. Rackspace did not in any way integrate the two roles. 

I realize I did not say much useful, but at least I used a lot of words doing it. :)

Chad Wilson 

     On Thursday, November 5, 2015 6:27 PM, Brad Knowles <brad at shub-internet.org> wrote:

 On Nov 5, 2015, at 4:52 PM, Joe <null.div.zero at gmail.com> wrote:

> All,  especially those of you that work at Rackspace or a similar company,

So, I currently work at VMware and not at Rackspace, but they have recruited me several times over the years, when I’ve worked at places like UT Austin, at a consulting company working on a contract at Apple, at a cloud/devops consulting company headquartered here in Austin working for companies like Raytheon, AT&T, Shopkeep, ServiceMesh/CSC, and others.  I know several people who work (or worked) at Rackspace.

Let me give you an outsiders perspective of Rackspace, which is also applicable to most other hosting companies I know of, albeit to a lesser degree.

Keep in mind that everything I say here is my own personal opinion, based on my own direct interactions with several different Rackspace recruitment attempts, and my personal observations of what I’ve seen happen to a number of people who work (or worked) at Rackspace.

I’m sure that there are plenty of Rackers on the list who will violently disagree with everything I say.

Basically, they’re involved in a race to the bottom.  In fact, I submit that Rackspace is one of the major players helping to cause the race to the bottom.

Rackspace is heavily stove-piped, and none of the people working in one product line know anything about anyone or anything in a different product line.  They actively work to pay the lowest possible wages they can for the least qualified people they can, and as soon as those people get too much experience or start making too much money, they get tossed aside.  That’s assuming that the people in question don’t get burned out and leave the company first.

They think that “Senior” means someone who has two or three years of experience.  Their most senior technical people in the company have only five to seven years of experience.  They are incapable of dealing with the concept of someone who has a decade of experience, or more.  Now, none of this may be a problem for you personally, but it does tell you something really important about the company — they don’t value experience.

The reason why Rackspace opened a large office here in Austin is because they had basically exhausted the supply of people who were available and willing to work for them in San Antonio, and so the largest market of potential employees that was close by was an hour and a half north.  All the people I know of who work in the Austin office were told that they would be working up here the entire time they’re employed by the company.  And then that become four days a week and one day a week that they had to commute to San Antonio.  And then three/two, and then two/three, and so on and so on.

The management has actively and repeatedly lied to their employees about their working hours, their place of work, and virtually everything else.

Of course, now Rackspace is finding it harder and harder to get people up here in Austin that are willing to put up with that kind of BS.

If you want to get thrown in the deep end of the pool and see if you can either sink or swim, I’m sure that Rackspace will certainly be happy to let you do that.  Oh, and they’ll also be happy to give you plenty of extra lead weights to take with you on your trip.  But, if you can survive long enough, I’m sure that you’ll learn a lot of things very quickly — most likely the hard way, and most likely having to do with ways you want to avoid ever doing those things again in the future.

But I’m sure it is a great learning opportunity.  If you can survive.

Of course, to that degree, AWS is no different, and if you’ve read the recent reports, you know that Amazon is actually worse.  Hostgator is in the same boat. I don’t know of any large hosting providers/ISPs that are good in this area.

There are companies that are good, but most of them aren’t hiring — they’ve got plenty of former Rackspace/HP/Dell/Oracle/etc… employees to choose from, and they don’t need to advertise.  Or, if they are looking to hire people, they use word-of-mouth through their current people who are good and who might know others who are also good and who might be available.

Where I was at UT Austin was great when I first got hired, but then they hired a new manager above me, and the entire central IT Services division tanked — of course, these two events may or may not be related.  Oh, and we got caught in University-wide layoffs, too.  And my thyroid cancer also played a bit of a role.

The consulting company I worked for when I was on contract at Apple was fine, but once the contract with Apple was over, they didn’t have anything more for me.  And I quickly learned that Apple just wasn’t the right kind of company for me, and the whole Bay Area was just way too bloody expensive to stay there.

The Austin-based consulting company has been good, but then they got bought by VMware in November of last year.  We’re still trying to figure out if that was a good thing or not.

> I've been working in oil & gas,  on SCADA networks.  I'm interested in
> changing directions.  And,  I'd like to do more with Linux.  So, my
> question is,  what kind of networking prospects are there at a company like
> Rackspace? And,  what kind of experience are they looking for?
> I have a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems. I've got
> subnetting,  dns,  and  routing experience. I'm Network+ certified. And,
> I've been expanding my Linux experience on LinuxAcademy.com.  Also,  do
> you think I'm moving the right direction?  If not, what companies, or
> fields do you think I would be able to contribute,  with this skill set?

Skill-wise, it sounds like you’re doing reasonably well.

However, one question I would ask is what open-source projects are you involved in, and can we see what your work in that project has been?

For me, certificates have always been of questionable value.  I’ve always been more interested in seeing actual concrete results.

Brad Knowles <brad at shub-internet.org>
LinkedIn Profile: <http://tinyurl.com/y8kpxu>

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