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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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Long View Staff Rally Behind Playgrounds for Haiti Initiative

April 25, 2013
You could almost say that Paul Rwankole’s whole life changed in the space of a sentence. Paul had volunteered to be part of a 10-day emergency relief mission to Haiti in May 2010. Four months prior to that, one of the deadliest earthquakes in recorded history had shattered the Caribbean country. On the second-last day of that mission, one of his Haitian contacts told him: “You can leave Haiti, but Haiti cannot leave you.” “Those words still ring in my head,” he says. Those words also acted as the catalyst for an inspirational, company-wide Long View initiative — an initiative called Playgrounds for Haiti. The next time he heads south, on May 24, Paul will be leading a team of 17 of us that includes mostly Long View staff, along with some of our friends and family members, on a nine-day Playgrounds for Haiti assignment. Our team will be getting our hands dirty by building three school playgrounds around Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, on behalf of Haiti Outreach Ministries. That’s not all. Our amazing Long View staff from across North America have raised the $18,000 needed to purchase the playground equipment in the first place. In fact, those three months’ worth of fundraising efforts were so successful that we raised an extra $7,000. That money will fund an educational summer camp project, called The Long View Summer Camp, organized by Calgary-based charity Reach Haiti. Now, that is something for us to be truly proud of. Paul, one of our consultants based in Calgary, has already been to Haiti four times, leading medical, construction, and mental-health teams. He believes Long View’s Playgrounds for Haiti fundraising effort has been nothing less than “incredible.” “It’s just been a fantastic response. I’ve spoken with (CEO) Don (Bialik) about it, and I’ve told him that he has a lot of people with what I like to call unbridled enthusiasm,” says Paul. The $25,000 was raised, in part, through an online auction of authentic Haitian art, a raffle involving NHL hockey tickets and a one-hour helicopter tour, a bake sale, and a payroll deduction program. Above and beyond the fundraising effort, our team travelling to Haiti to volunteer for the playground-building project will be doing so at our own expense. Joanna Birrell is one of the travellers. She’s a project manager at our Calgary office, and she has a degree in international development. She also spent two years in Thailand, helping relief efforts following the southeast Asian tsunami of 2004. She says experiences such as Playgrounds for Haiti make her take a step back, look at her life, and value what’s important. “Children have an amazing resilience when it comes to tragedy and disaster, but they’re often forgotten as aid focuses on the big items like housing, sanitation, and livelihood assistance,” she says. “Just seeing those smiles as the kids enter the playgrounds for the first time will be more than enough of a reward.” I see Playgrounds for Haiti as a perfect example of Long View’s “culture of caring.” Our people consistently show a level of commitment to social responsibility and community involvement that goes far above and beyond traditional corporate standards. What’s truly special about this initiative is that it started from one of our staff speaking about his experiences in Haiti — and then, in the moment, offering to take a group of people with him if they were interested. Paul says he can clearly remember Haiti Outreach Ministries suggesting a playground-building project, and telling him the price tag was $18,000 for two playgrounds. “I went back to Long View for a meeting with the project committee, thinking this was a really big sum of money,” says Paul. “The response I got was: ‘Is that it?’ ”
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Mobility: An IT Career Trend that’s Constantly on the Move

April 24, 2013
As most of my Long View colleagues can attest, a career in IT is a career that never stands still. And those of us who work in Mobility (as the name might suggest) have learned to operate at an even higher gear. As a leader with Long View’s Mobility practice, I’ve seen the maturity of the space evolve rapidly. Right now, we’re supporting handheld and mobile devices that enjoy faster connectivity than most office-based Local Area Networks. Frankly, the growth in smartphone technology itself is a challenge to keep up with, not to mention tablets. In other words, grab hold — because it’s moving very, very fast. Mobility, as you’ve probably already guessed, is one of the most dynamic areas on the IT landscape today, and it provides a constant challenge to IT professionals specializing in the space. Users are adding mobile platforms (smartphones and tablets) to their traditional desktop workspace environments. Some of them are migrating entirely. And any IT professional worth his or her salt can tell you this change presents new challenges — and demands new skills — for deployment, support, and securing of these devices and the environments in which they’re used. Robin Bell, our Chief Technology Officer at Long View, believes the enterprise is looking for better methods of managing employees’ mobile devices in a holistic way, and also seeking better security and consistency of support. In his view, the traditional means of managing devices and supporting end users have changed — and, in some cases, no longer apply. Some experts in the field believe this particular Mobility trend, along with other factors such as price and the availability of technology, has led to the so-called “consumerization of IT.” They believe enterprises need to do a better job of adapting to consumer (and employee) mobile technology. Practically speaking, if you’re an IT professional looking to specialize in the fast-moving world of Mobility, I’d suggest that certain considerations are critical. The integration of enterprise messaging, for one. Deep understanding of network technologies and public-key infrastructure (PKI), as well. I’d say a well-rounded and well-versed understanding of wireless hardware and operating systems (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows), and a firm grasp of traditional datacenter technologies, are all key to success. And from a purely tactical perspective — this arises directly out of our experience dealing with Long View’s clients — I also believe that much of Mobility boils down to crafting corporate policies and designing governance frameworks. To me, it’s critical to understand how the traditional, top-down business enterprise paradigm is changing. Workshift is impacting how and when people connect. The technology in the home, in many cases, is more powerful than the stuff that’s provisioned by the employer. Believe it or not, Mobility involves emotional and cultural challenges, too. Android users, iPhone users, and BlackBerry users are three very different people in the workplace, and they use their smartphones in different ways, for different reasons. So . . . you’re thinking about specializing in the Mobility space. What skills do you need to be exceptional? You need to be able to talk to three different generations in the workforce. You need to be a good business communicator, because you’ll very likely need to be able write policy and procedure in governance. And you’ll need the broad set of technical skills required to integrate the ever-changing devices into the data center. What about the attraction, the rush, that you’ll get out of Mobility? To me, it’s clear. It’s empowering people to do business on any device, anywhere.
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