Blog

The View From Here – Gord Mawhinney, CEO

July 1, 2013
I Made One Phone Call Welcome to my inaugural blog post. I will do my best to keep it short and interesting, the former being significantly easier than the latter. As our head count steadily climbs past 1000, it becomes harder to have the kind of personal relationship with each employee I would like. My hope is this blog will help to bridge the gap, giving you a window into my thoughts, and hopefully an insight or two as we move through this experience together. With that said, I’d like to share a little bit about the journey that brought me to this place. I believe my career over the past two decades has been preparing me for the type of role I am about to assume. Not that I’ve always been able to articulate it, but throughout my career and before I had one, leadership has been a passion of mine. At age 9 and much to my mother’s chagrin, I was the ringleader of a group of kids that was constantly in trouble. Not sure what the statute of limitations is there, so I’ll keep hush about the specifics. You’ll be pleased to hear I reformed shortly thereafter, but my passion for the power of teamwork remained intact. I was an ardent participator in student government. At 22 I was given HR leadership responsibility for more than 1000 people. From there I went to IBM and from there I became an entrepreneur. I was the international president of the Entrepreneurs Organization(EO). I then sold my business to Bell Canada, and immediately thereafter went to work for them in an executive capacity. You may find this surprising, but at that time, with the sale of my business right on my heels, I still felt like the most important work of my career was in front of me, not behind. When it came time to choose where I’d go next I did not do any research, I didn’t take a single lunch, and I didn’t so much as shake hands with a recruiter. I made one phone call. That call was to Don Bialik. I had gotten to know Don years prior at IBM and then in EO and finally at Bell when I attempted to acquire Long View on behalf of Bell Canada. Of course he turned us down. But what he gave me turned out to be far more valuable. He showed me that a company could achieve marked business success while still maintaining a strong sense of humanity. Don was an individual whose ideals I admired, and whose values were very much in line with my own. In that meeting I knew Long View was a place where I could thrive without ever having to compromise who I am. I came to work for Don and a few years later, well, I guess you could say the rest is history. I am deeply grateful to Don for giving me this opportunity and for creating a company I am truly proud to be a part of. As my first blog post comes to an end, I’m reminded of a quote that a friend shared with me a while back. Darwin Smith was the CEO of Kimberley Clarke for close to twenty years. In that time, the company became exponentially more profitable and saw returns far beyond what the market would’ve predicted. When asked what the key to his success was, Smith said “I never stopped trying to be qualified for the job.” That is the sentiment I bare in mind as I embark on this journey. I have been given an immense opportunity, in return I give you my word I won’t ever stop trying to be qualified for it.
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Peering into Big Data’s Crystal Ball

June 12, 2013
Until now, it’s been a fanciful idea revolving around tarot cards and crystal balls. But thanks to the advent of Big Data, we may soon be able to predict the future. As Long View’s Practice Director of Storage and Data Management, I am always keen on identifying and staying on top of industry trends, including those that include virtualization and converged infrastructure. Recently, I attended EMC World 2013, a partner conference held in Las Vegas in early May, along with seven other Long View representatives — and I was particularly intrigued by a keynote session I attended called Cloud, Big Data and Trust. Thanks to a big industry push that we’ve seen over the past couple of years to virtualize storage, we’ve arrived in the era of Big Data — essentially, the capacity to collect enormous amounts of data, and then harvest value out of that data. What does this mean in the real world? The possibilities, frankly, are endless. Big Data means using existing data patterns to anticipate events in the future. It could apply to matters of national security. It could mean increased safety in the auto industry, with an analysis of driving patterns. It could even mean anticipating consumer behavior — if there’s less RFID activity in the fridge, the water’s getting turned off, and the furnace is being turned down, it’s because the Smiths are probably going on vacation. What does the arrival of Big Data say to me from a careers perspective? First of all, if you want to specialize in storage, you’ll need to be a virtualization expert as well. And secondly, if you’re looking at a career in data management, you’ll need to understand math — particularly analytics. In fact, because of Big Data, I can see analytics-based careers opening up in areas like finance, science, and security, just to name a few. By identifying the correlation between certain behaviors — whether it’s people, genomes, or computer viruses — IT professionals will be able to predict and possibly avoid certain events. Still think this is the world of science fiction? Think again. Because Big Data is where the smart money’s going. We heard at EMC World 2013 that 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are using some form of analytics today. That’s a huge number. And it means that companies are leveraging big data to transform their business. None of this would be happening, of course, without virtualization of storage, which gives us the capacity to manage massive amounts of data. Those Fortune 500 companies I mentioned are tracking 100 billion real-time events every month. And one engine on a passenger plane, on average, racks up 30 terabytes of telemetry data during a transatlantic flight. From where I’m sitting, Big Data has enormous applications . . . and presents big opportunities for IT professionals.
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New VP Edgell Blazes an Impressive Career Trail

June 4, 2013
Across the North American IT industry, we’re already known at Long View as a great place to move your career forward. And when I think of career development, Phil Edgell has a great story. Phil was recently named our Vice President of Service Delivery. He became Long View’s 30th employee in 2002, working as a client-based Citrix consultant in Calgary. Since then, Phil has made incredible strides in just over a decade. Our President, Gord Mawhinney, pointed that out recently when he announced Phil’s appointment to this newly created Vice President’s role. “Phil is the first example at Long View of someone beginning their career at Long View as a consultant — and through hard work, and a focus on personal and professional development with success in many roles, now joins the Executive Team,” Gord wrote. “At Long View, career progression and a no-regrets career are very important. I trust that Phil will be the first in a long line of many to come, who have such a progression within Long View.” I couldn’t agree more. Competence is one of Long View’s core pillars, and we take that seriously. Our Learning and Development group, led by the incomparable Nathania Parnetta, works with Long View employees to actively source training and certification opportunities — and pays for that professional development. Phil, for example, both started and completed his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business while at Long View. In 2007, he was asked to focus on business development by spearheading the establishment of a new Long View branch office in Vancouver. He held titles of Sales Director and, most recently, Director of B.C. Operations — which he’ll keep as part of his new portfolio. Phil is quick to credit our company’s bold, enterprising environment for his success. “Long View has always given me the opportunity to take a little risk, and stretch myself. And once you’ve proven that you can produce results, they just keep giving you more and more opportunity,” says Phil. “Long View has given me both the support and the space to execute on ideas and plans. “I also think that Long View believes strongly in staff advancement opportunities. They’ll look internally for somebody before they take that search to the marketplace.” Hats off to Phil, and his appointment to our Executive Team. He may be the first to chart such a course within Long View, but I know he won’t be the last.
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Ten-hup! Capt. Sun Developing Leaders with Cadet Corps

May 28, 2013
Julie Sun is helping to shape our leaders of tomorrow. And for that, I think she deserves a heartfelt salute. During the work week, Julie is a crackerjack Service Desk Lead in Calgary, helping to solve Long View client issues. But on evenings and weekends — out on the parade square, as well as the forests and the rolling hills of southern Alberta — she’s Capt. Sun. Since 1997, Julie has been an officer with the 2137 Calgary Highlanders, the largest Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps unit on the Canadian prairies. After spending three years as the unit’s Commanding Officer, Julie is now the Deputy Commanding Officer (DCO) and Training Officer of the 2137 Highlanders. As Director of People Services, I see countless examples of a caring culture at Long View, with members of our team working hard to strengthen the fabric of their community. In my mind, Julie is a prime example. Besides promoting physical fitness, and generating an interest in the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Cadet movement aims to develop good citizens and future leaders among youth aged 12 to 18. And for most of her time with the 2137 Highlanders, Julie has been responsible for developing and rolling out the corps’ training plan from year to year. “The kids get so much out of the program. They develop leadership, teamwork, interpersonal, and communication skills,” says Julie. “I got introduced by my brother more than 15 years ago, and I’m still doing it because I love seeing how much the kids grow during their time with the program.” The Army branch of the Canadian Cadet corps focuses on adventure training. Under Julie’s direction, the 2137 Highlanders gather in the classroom one night a week. Then, they put that education to good use throughout the year with weekend training exercises revolving around themes of search-and-rescue, navigation, and survival camping. The 2137 Highlanders also have their own pipe-and-drum band, and the corps offers complimentary music lessons to any Cadet who aspires to test their musical chops. This past spring, Julie and other officers with the 2137 Highlanders took a dozen Cadets to Europe for a battlefield tour. It’s an event organized every three years by the corps as a reward for longstanding membership in the 2137 Highlanders. The group visited battle sites from the First and Second World Wars including Normandy, Dieppe, Vimy Ridge, Ypres, the Somme, and Passchendaele, and also toured the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where Anne Frank died in March 1945. “We wanted to show the Cadets what war looks like through the eyes of both soldiers and civilians,” says Julie. There are more than 7,500 Cadet instructors like Julie across Canada, and she has no plans to step back any time soon — because she knows how much of a difference she’s making to the lives of our future leaders. “It’s really satisfying talking to the kids who were once part of our program,” says Julie. “They’ve told me: ‘You know what? Cadets really taught me about public speaking, about working with others, about how to be a leader.’ That is really rewarding for me.” (Photo of 2137 Calgary Highlanders during European battlefield tour, in the spring of 2013, courtesy Julie Sun)
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Student Capstone Presentations: The Start of Something Special

May 23, 2013
These go-getters have their eyes on the prize. And we’ve definitely got our ears to the ground. As Long View’s Director of People Services, I want to ensure that we continue to bring the best people available on board — not only to ensure Long View’s core pillars of Integrity, Competence, Value, and Fun, but also to perpetuate our special workplace culture. And that’s why I’m excited to tell you all about a couple of events we recently attended for the first time — events that will strengthen our partnerships with post-secondary schools, and give us a leg up in recruiting the best and brightest among the next wave of IT professionals entering the workforce. Last month, members of our Long View team attended similar “capstone presentation” events at two technical institutes — Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, and SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary. In both cases, students presented their final-term projects to members of the IT industry for discussion and review. Recruiter Jenn Bishop from our Edmonton team flew the Long View banner during NAIT’s capstone event. Systems administration students had been asked, as part of their final projects, to establish an IT consulting firm, design a network/server infrastructure, and make a presentation to industry contacts. Jenn had an opportunity to ask these graduating students about their projects. She also held on-the-spot mock interviews, traded information, and walked away with some new connections to some future superstars. Meanwhile, recruiters Chelsea Balsdon and Sonya King from our Calgary team provided a Long View presence during the IT Capstone Project Showcase at SAIT Polytechnic — as graduating students in the Information Technologies (IT) program pitched their final-term projects to an industry audience. Once again, our recruiters were able to exchange business cards, collect resumes, and keep tabs on some of the more exceptional IT students about to enter the workforce. “It was a great opportunity for us, and other employers, to see students in action, as they showcased their own innovative ideas and hands-on projects,” says Chelsea. A recruiting advantage, and promotion of the Long View brand, aren’t the only potential benefits for Long View out of these initiatives. Because of these connections, we also now have the opportunity to shape post-secondary curriculum by sharing our needs and our experiences as an IT industry leader. By definition, a capstone is the final piece of a hard-won achievement. But in these newly established relationships, I see the start of something special. (Photo of SAIT Polytechnic's IT Capstone Project Showcase courtesy Chelsea Balsdon)
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Managed Services: The Swiss Army Knife of IT Support

May 16, 2013
A set of skills is often referred to as a toolbox. But when you think of Managed Services, think of us as the Swiss army knife of the IT support world. If you’re considering a career in Managed Services, be prepared to act as the true utilityperson for your IT team. In Managed Services, we handle the day-to-day management of our clients’ IT infrastructure — sometimes all of it, sometimes specific components of it. And that means you’ll need a broad understanding of several different areas of IT. That can be a challenge. But at the same time, it can act as a career springboard, since it lets you see all of the different workings of the industry, close up. And from there, you can choose whether to build a career as a senior generalist, or choose the specialized route. Some people use the terms Managed Services and outsourcing interchangeably, but there is a difference. Outsourcing is more about providing resources via a long-term, contractual arrangement, while Managed Services are essentially “outtasking” — day-to-day managed responsibilities as a deliberate strategy for more effective and efficient operations. And at Long View, we do Managed Services very well. Ridiculously well, in fact. We earned back-to-back No. 1 rankings on the MSPmentor 100, which ranks the world’s top managed service providers (MSPs), in 2011 and 2012. And we were also named the top MSP on CRN’s Solution Provider list (then known as the VAR500) in 2011. After four years as Long View’s Client Service Manager for the British Columbia region, based in Vancouver, I’ve seen us take care of a small company with one server, five desktops, and a few network devices. I’ve also seen us handle a large, 5,000-employee enterprise with 1,500 servers and a large datacenter, using a dedicated team. But what makes Long View so successful in Managed Services is the methodology and the service offering we use to maximize efficiency — handling one or more duties such as network, messaging, Cisco VoIP systems, datacenter, backup, and application support services. The concept of Converged Infrastructure — basically, the back end of Cloud, with the centralization of servers, storage, networking and software — is a sweeping trend that’s keeping nearly all IT professionals on their toes, and that includes those of us in Managed Services. The Converged Infrastructure model is dependent on multiple pieces, and we need to know how best to maintain and manage them using underlying technologies, such as NetApp’s FlexPod or VCE’s Vblock architecture. Extra efficiencies and complexities are fantastic when the technology is working — and when that’s not the case, it’s going to take an especially nimble Managed Services expert to tackle the problem. The way I see it, trends such as Converged Infrastructure and the economic changes faced by our clients are creating a shift in what a successful IT consultant looks like. Back in the day, you’d start as a generalist and build a career as a specialist in one or two areas. Now, a senior IT generalist is a preferred career path — and, ironically, you can be considered a specialist by choosing to be an IT generalist. Either way, working in Managed Services will almost certainly set you up for success.
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Hello, Credibility: Meade Aces CCIE Voice Exam

May 9, 2013
Leslie Meade believes making the grade with CCIE Voice is a lot like passing the bar exam. And apparently, he’s not the only one. “I read somewhere recently that a lawyer, who’s also a Cisco employee, went to do his CCIE Voice, and said it was in fact harder than the bar,” remarks Leslie, a Senior Network Consultant in Long View’s Vancouver office. “Personally, I compare it to doing your dissertation for a PhD — both writing it, and defending it — in eight hours.” Networking: The Long View Careers Blog is a perfect forum to trumpet the professional achievements of Long View’s technowizards. In Leslie’s case, he passed the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Voice exam in San Jose, Calif., near the end of March — after countless hours of study and preparation for the better part of a year. CCIE Voice is considered one of the most difficult exams anywhere in the industry. To give Leslie’s achievement some proper context, there are less than 2,300 CCIE Voice engineers in the world, and just five in the province of British Columbia. Leslie becomes the ninth IT professional at Long View to earn the CCIE certification, and only the third with a CCIE Voice. According to Cisco, achieving the CCIE Voice engineer status means expert-level knowledge of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) solutions in an enterprise environment. CCIE Voice represents Cisco’s stamp of approval in building and configuring complex, end-to-end telephony networks, while also providing top-drawer troubleshooting and quality control. The exam process starts with a two-hour, written qualification exam, and is followed by an incredibly demanding eight-hour lab exam, in person, at Cisco headquarters. Leslie built up to that lab exam on March 26 with a solid nine months of study — as in three hours a night, four nights a week, with no exceptions. So what does this professional triumph mean for Leslie, and for Long View? In a word, says his manager Dave Richardson, prestige. More and more clients with a sufficient network backbone are approaching Long View with requests to start building out VoIP networks, and the presence of a CCIE Voice engineer is instant confirmation that the job’s going to get done right. “This allows Long View to establish ourselves as a critical Cisco partner, and a very reputable provider of VoIP solutions,” says Dave, a Vancouver-based Client Services Manager for Long View. “And being a CCIE Voice resource expands Leslie’s career, for sure. It gives him that credibility right out of the gate. People recognize that accreditation around the world, and it gets Leslie three or four conversations ahead of the next consultant.” Leslie, an Aussie from Brisbane, has worked for Long View for about a year. He’s invested significant time and money to earn that CCIE Voice accreditation — including two previous attempts at the lab exam, a CCIE boot camp, and a complete CCIE laboratory that he set up at home. But from the moment he joined Long View, Leslie was able to stop paying out-of-pocket for his efforts. As part of the company’s overall efforts to encourage employee training and certification opportunities, Long View paid all the bills associated with Leslie’s final CCIE Voice hurdle — travel and accommodation to the Bay Area, as well as the cost of the lab exam itself. “In the long run, this will be beneficial for me and my family,” says Leslie. “I’ll be able to progress further in my field.”
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Ayala Feels the Long View Love in Kandahar

May 3, 2013
Steve Ayala is halfway around the world in Afghanistan. But thanks to his Long View friends and colleagues, he’s still getting a taste of Texas. Steve, a captain with the Texas Army National Guard, joined our Managed IT Services team in Houston in August 2008. Last June, he received word that he was being seconded by the U.S. Army for active duty in Afghanistan, where he would be mentoring and advising members of the Afghan national police force. Steve will return home in July after eight solid months in Afghanistan, where support for the Taliban still exists in some pockets of the country. It’s dangerous work, with primitive living conditions, bone-chilling mountainous terrain, and fairly unappetizing grub. The kind-hearted folks at our Texas offices, though, were determined that Steve and his colleagues with Task Force Arrowhead should enjoy at least a few of the comforts of home — and they’ve sent care packages that are still the stuff of legend in the Kandahar area! As Director of People Services here at Long View, I am so proud of the tremendous social support and the strong sense of community that sets us apart. This is just one example where the groundswell of support from our Long View team has made an incredible difference. Lisa Begnaud, our Corporate Services Coordinator in Texas, has been the driving force behind this project. Before he left for training exercises, his Long View friends took Steve and his wife Ana out to lunch and vowed they would do whatever they could to support him while he was in Afghanistan. Everything that’s followed, says Lisa, “has been an ongoing effort by Steve’s colleagues to make sure he feels our love.” I’m sure he has! Just in time for Christmas, our generous Texas crew sent over a package worth about $1,600 for all 12 members of Task Force Arrowhead. They sent everything from snacks to sunscreen, toothpaste and toothbrushes to loofah mitts and body wash, hand warmers and bug repellent to deodorant and candy canes. And just before Easter, another package found its way to Afghanistan — including socks, canned chicken and tuna, seasonings, crackers, candy, and hot sauces. Since he arrived in early November, Steve has managed to keep in fairly regular contact with our Texas offices via e-mail. “Wow! This is an incredible amount of support and generosity,” Steve wrote in one recent e-mail to the team. “The liquid soaps were so needed, as well as the hand and foot lotions. The sun block, lip balm, and razors also were very popular. These packages were really incredible! We are set for quite some time! “We cannot properly express our thanks,” continued Steve. “Your efforts and kindness really have demonstrated to us we are appreciated, and not forgotten.  I am proud to be a part of a great company in Long View.” Lisa and the gang in Texas also stay in regular contact with Ana, and have taken up collections for restaurant gift cards so she and their two teenage girls can get out a little more often. “We are just so blessed to have the support of Steve’s close friends and colleagues at Long View,” says Ana. “From the time they found out Steve was leaving, they’ve been so generous and understanding. We’re so grateful, because they’ve shown nothing but support.” (Accompanying photo: Employees from Long View's generous Texas offices gather with the Christmas care packages they sent to Steve Ayala and his colleagues with Task Force Arrowhead)
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Choosing Cloud: The Virtual Jack-of-all-trades

April 25, 2013
Do you like to know a little bit about everything, rather than everything about one thing? If that’s the case, you may just end up with an IT career on Cloud 9. The Cloud sphere is radically changing the face of IT, and what it means for end-users in terms of efficiency and agility. Speaking from a career perspective, Cloud brings a significant challenge, and that’s because of the multidisciplinary requirements it’s placing on our technical staff. As Director of Cloud Services with Long View, I can tell you that it demands a strong understanding of all the technologies required to build and operate the environment — Storage, Networking, Compute, Virtualization. At the same time, it also demands an in-depth knowledge of the software used to manage and maintain these environments. In other words . . . Cloud really demands a virtual Jack-of-all-trades. Cloud brings together several technologies, and removes the silos that have traditionally been involved in IT delivery. Essentially, these silos no longer exist. You can’t just be a Storage guy anymore. Or a Network guy. You work in integrated pods of teams — you’re sitting beside the Virtualization guy, and you have to understand each other’s worlds. Here’s the analogy I like to use: My dad worked on the line at an auto-assembly plant for 40 years. As that line got automated, they were responsible for the automated equipment, as well as multiple tasks on that line. What’s happening in the IT world right now is very similar. Some people out there believe that the Cloud model is so compelling, some businesses are making their final hardware purchases as they opt for a service model. Our own Robin Bell, Chief Technology Officer at Long View, says that because workloads, such as Microsoft Exchange, can exist in a virtualized environment which may not even be on a client’s premises, IT professionals need to get their heads around this concept — and possess the skills to troubleshoot those environments. As career opportunities go? Cloud’s game-changing demands have also created the emergence of a new discipline called Automation — basically, creating scripts that allow you to build components like operating systems and storage automatically. It’s taking the workflow process and automating it, and creating massive efficiencies for things like provisioning and configuration. It’s a key area . . . and it’s a skill set we’re extremely interested in. Besides the multitasking and the silo removal, here’s the straight goods on Cloud. Clients don’t really care about the capacity anymore. They just care about the functionality. They tell us what they want to do, and our IT professionals — using a business-analytical skill set, understanding an organization’s requirements, and translating them into what the organization needs from the Cloud — make it happen.
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Long View Duo Achieves Everest-like VCDX Certification Challenge

April 25, 2013
  Going back nearly a century, British mountaineer George Mallory offered a simple reason for his attempts to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.” Jump forward to the present day, and you’ll find Long View’s very own Matt Vandenbeld is cut from the same cloth. He’s reached a rare summit in the IT industry . . . and he did it, in large part, because he likes a challenge. “I’m a completionist, I guess. If something’s out there to get, I like to get it,” says Matt, a Technical Architect in Long View’s Calgary office. “I like to set targets for myself and achieve them. And it was kind of a career goal of mine to be top of the mountain, as it were.” Recently, Matt and Long View colleague James Charter, the Practice Director for Virtualization Solutions, managed an extremely rare distinction in the IT sphere — earning VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) accreditation. Just five IT experts across Canada, and 110 all over the world, have qualified for VCDX status. It’s the highest level of certification available from technology vendor VMware, a Long View partner and an industry leader in cloud and virtualization software. Matt and James have joined the global elite, effectively, and they’ve managed it with Long View assistance. Competence is one of Long View’s core pillars, and Long View backs that up by both sourcing and providing technical, soft-skills, and leadership training year round. Reaching the VCDX summit took nearly a year, and hundreds of hours, for Matt and James — who worked in tandem to design and implement a refined virtualization project that demonstrated an appropriate level of background expertise. Finally, during the VMware Partner Exchange 2013 conference in Las Vegas in February, they successfully submitted, presented, and defended the project in person before a panel of VMware VCDX-certified experts — and then, on top of that, they worked through a design and troubleshooting scenario with the panel, too. “VMware have certified us as global design experts,” says James. “To a Long View client, this means we have the capability of applying the best practices, and the approach, to ensure the solution we’re building with them will be successful.” Prospective employees will be intrigued to learn that Long View has its own Learning and Development group, working with employees to actively source training and certification opportunities. And if it qualifies as relevant professional development, it’s on the company dime. Nathania Parnetta is our incomparable Learning and Development Team Lead at Long View. She says that in any given year, Long View will offer 180 different technical, soft-skills, and leadership classes, and that our employees will partake in more than 1,800 different formal training sessions, all paid for by Long View. Some impressive stats, to say the least. “Long View openly supporting employees in their professional and personal development really fits with the culture that’s here,” says Nathania. Only 44 virtualization architects from service providers around the world have aced VCDX certification. For Matt and James, it opens doors and instantly adds credibility to any professional discussion. And the fact that Long View paid the bills? “To me, it shows that Long View is a company that’s invested in the development of its people,” says Matt, “and it speaks volumes as to how we operate as an organization.”
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