[SATLUG] Rackspace

Todd W. Bucy todd at bucy-medrano.me
Sun Nov 15 14:16:21 CST 2015


Hey All,

I have not been a active participant in SATLUG in a long time but I am a
racker and can offer a "insiders" perspective in what we are looking for in
Linux Admins at Rackspace.  First a little background on myself, as I would
like to set the proper context for a rebuttal to Brad's comments about
Racksapce.

I am a Linux Admin II at Rackspace and work in the Engine Room. I have been
at Rackspace for a little over two years now.  Before coming to Rackspace I
worked in operations at a small local data center.  When I came to
Rackspace, I was what you might call a Linux power user, I was not a
SysAd.  When I decided to leave my previous employer and join Rackspace
they put me through a intensive three month program called TnT.  This
program is designed to take you from Level .5 to Level 1 in three months.
Upon entering the program I was easily a Level .5,  Upon graduating I was a
solid L1.  At the end of the program you are given the opportunity to take
the RHCSA and RHCE certifications.  Whether or not you take the exams is
completely up to you but all TnT students are "expected" to at least take
and pass the RHCSA at least as a L1. After graduating TnT, I went to the
Enterprise Support floor where I spent the first 6 months taking customer
calls, working alerts and well scripted maintenances. Since then I have
worked my way up to L2 and am given ample opportunity to learn every day
here at the Rack.

First, Joe I will address your original question.  At Rackspace most of the
networking is done by our NetSec team, If you are interested in networking
and that career path I would steer you towards the vast array of Cisco
switches, routers and load balancers as well as the F5 and Brocade load
balancers.  From my experience thus far it seems that most major hosting
providers have generally the same sort of career path.  In that, SysAd only
interact with the network at the server level.  Network Administration is a
beast all unto its own.  However should you choose to go into Linux
Administration a solid understanding of Cisco switches and routers is
always a plus and will server you well when you will eventually have to
prove to your Network Admin that this site is down because of the router
and not the server.

If you are interested in Linux Admin I position, as a hire strait to the
floor (no TnT training), you should have a solid understanding of the boot
process, the Kernel (not coding but different modules and how to load and
unload them) IPtables, Bash, Apache, Nginx, MySQL, NFS, Postfix, Dell and
HP hardware tools (Open Manage and hpacucli), and good scripting/Regex
skills. Ideally some form of hosting experience is preferred for a strait
to the floor L1.  Topics that are considered a definite plus for a Linux
Admin I: Wordpress, Magento, redis, memchace, Varnish, Rackspace Cloud,
VMWare, AWS, Azure, Python, Salt, Chef, Puppet, Ansible. I could go on for
hours with the breadth of things we have to be familiar with as Linux
Admins here at Rackspace but these should start you on your way.

With that said I would like to address some of Brad's comments.

"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 pays above average wages and benefits for the local San
Antonio/Austin market.  San Antonio is not San Francisco so don't expect to
make 100+ as a L1 hire.  What I paid for my 2400 sqft 4 bed 2 1/2 bath
house here in San Antonio would not make a down payment for a house half
the size in Bay Area.  It so expensive to live in California that entry
level employees at Google live in box trucks
http://www.businessinsider.com/google-employee-lives-in-truck-in-parking-lot-2015-10
.

"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."
- We have aver 4000 plus employees world wide.  If you have ever worked in
a large organization then you know that no matter what stove piping will
occur.  Here at the Rack we are constantly battling this and looking for
ways to break down the walls that sometimes builds between departments and
shifts.  Are there things about how we are organized that drive me nuts
sometimes, yes.  But with my advancing age I have come to realize that the
world does not work the way I want it to all the times and that other
people have agendas that may not match my own.  I have learned to accept
that not at Rackspace but through my many years of service within our
federal government. Furthermore, we are constantly developing new products,
so much so that keeping up with all the email on those projects can be a
bit of a problem.

"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."
- First all employers attempt to pay the lowest possible wage, its called
capitalism.  Second the accusation that you are tossed aside for having too
much experience is total BS.  This is especially true for Linux admins. We
never have enough of these fields because there is a nationwide shortage of
Linux Admins. (
http://news.slashdot.org/story/15/06/05/199231/linux-world-domination-creates-shortage-of-linux-skilled-workers-2-short-videos).
As
such our Linux Admins are constantly poached by other
companies because they know they are gonna get a solid Admin when they get
a Racker.  Finally if you burn out at Rackspace its most likely because you
over promised and under delivered. This is a mistake that is often made by
Developers and only sometimes by SysAds.  A good SysAd knows to do the
reverse.

"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."
- This is total BS.  Our most senior Linux admins
and engineers are extremely experienced.  I can think a dozen or
more Linux Admins/Engineers off the top of my head who have 15+ years
of experience with Linux and the hosting environment.  Our biggest problem
is holding on to these rackers as Linux Admins from Rackspace are
constantly being poached by companies such as HP, AWS and Google.  I have
two years of experience as a Linux Admin but I would hardly put myself in
the same league as many of my co-workers.  Case in point, meet Carl
Thompson, Linux Architect, and all around great guy
http://www.redhat.com/en/about/press-releases/rackspaces-carl-thompson-named-2015-red-hat-certified-professional-year
.

"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."
- No the reason why is that there simply are not enough Linux Admins in San
Antonio.  If you are a experienced Linux Admin in San Antonio, you pretty
much can have your pick of jobs if you network yourself properly.

"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."
- to be fair its not like they have to drive that commute.  Rackspace pays
for a shuttle between the Austin and San Antonio offices twice daily.  This
is a very similar practice with the Google shuttle albeit because no one
can afford to live in Mountain View California any more.
http://planetsave.com/2015/02/05/google-launches-free-ev-shuttles-mountain-view-ca/
.

All in all its really easy to form an opinion of a place or organization
from people who have had a bad experience.  However without having some
sort of insider perspective that opinion is likely to be flawed. Rackspace
has employed many people over the years and not all of those relationships
have ended well.  Why because we are human and flawed.  Again you are going
to find this amount all large employers what ever their sector of the
economy.  That said, Rackers recognize this and strive for continual
personal and professional improvement in a fast paced environment.  And yes
sometimes it does feel like I'm trying to drink from a firehose.  The
number of things that we are expected to know can be intimidating, but hey
that is the life a SysAd in the hosting environment.  I will tell you this,
at Rackspace you will be given the opportunity to learn more then you ever
thought possible.

All of that said, our culture here at Rackspace is highly valued by all of
us Rackers.  When we interview for possible hires we just don't look at
experience, knowledge, and skill.  We also look for what we call "Racker
Fit".  To give you some idea of what that means here are some points:

- If you can't share your knowledge and communicate in a effective manner
then, you are going to have problems.
- If you can't give or take constructive criticism, then
you definitely will not find your time as a Racker enjoyable.
- If you can't treat your fellow Rackers as friends and family, then your
time here will be very short and contentious.
- If you can't admit that you don't know something and you are not willing
to learn, then you are gonna have issues here.

For us Rackers, it doesn't matter how knowledgable you are, if you are a
jerk, you will not last long and your time here will probably be
un-enjoyable for both us and you. Our interviewers are quite good at
pulling this out of people in interviews.  If none of this scares you, then
feel free to hit me up off list and I can point you in the right direction.
We are always looking to hire people who are willing to learn and grow.

Finally Brad, please don't take my response personally, I'm just calling as
I see it.  I love Rackspace, and am a proud Racker and your
comments inspired me to defend my friends and family.  So as to prevent a
flame war I will make this post on this topic my final one.

Todd W. Bucy

On Thu, Nov 5, 2015 at 6:10 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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