Looking good is half the battle!

Growing up my father used to say to me “Looking good is half the battle.”  For too many years I interpreted this the wrong way.

I had an argument with the CEO of the first company I was working for.  His mantra was “Look Sharp,” and that extended well beyond clothing and included being clean shaven and punctual.  My argument was that performance should be based solely on performance, especially since I wasn’t “customer facing”.  Needless to say, I lost that argument, but I didn’t learn my lesson until after I had moved on.  I had two major mental blocks that I needed to overcome: I didn’t understand the importance of how other people saw me and I didn’t understand who my customers were.

The importance of how others see you cannot be understated.  Especially at the beginning of a career where the best strategy of high performers seems to be fake-it-till-you-make-it.  How can you fake competency without a good first impression!?

The 7% – 38% – 55% Rule:

55% of messages received and processed by your brain are based on your body language. This means that you are actually judged more on your physical stance and facial movements while communicating. A high percentage makes it imperative that you are aware of the way you look when communicating.  For example, you can say that you forgive someone while they are apologizing, but if you have your arms crossed over your chest, this puts up a barrier between you and the other person. Their brain will not accept your forgiveness because it doesn’t look like you are open to their apology.

38% of messages are processed based on your tone of voice. How you say something is more important that what you are actually saying.  While communicating with someone, if your voice is not expressive of the emotion you are trying to convey, the meaning behind your words will be lost.  Take the forgiveness scenario, if your tone of voice expresses a lack of enthusiasm when accepting the apology, the meaning will get lost.  You must sound forgiving and understanding if that is what you want the other person to feel.

Only 7% of your received meaning will be based off the words you are saying. This low percentage means that saying the words “I forgive you” means little when your tone and body language do not reflect forgiveness.
The functions of nonverbal communication are very important. Since there is so much importance on how we look and sound when communicating a message, it’s important to understand the functions of non-verbal communication. What makes this form of communication so important?


Ergo, you’ll need to look good to succeed.  It shouldn’t have taken me as long as it did to learn this.  This is the exact lesson my father was trying to teach me; I just wasn’t willing to listen.

The second flaw in my thinking was assuming that my company’s customers were my customers.  When I was arguing with my CEO, my position was IT engineer.  Primarily, my role was to support the business — meaning my customers were not the SMBs buying my company’s services, but the employees that were building our products.  How could I have missed this?  If I wasn’t taking myself seriously in front of my customers, how could I expect them to take me seriously?  Again, a lesson that I shouldn’t have had to learn the hard way.

Call to action.  Clothing is an investment.  You need to build a minumum viable wardrobe.  There isn’t a ton of items to consider when building out a Minimum Viable Wardrobe (MVW).

The MVW essentials:

  • White non-iron shirt
  • Blue non-iron shirt
  • Black pants
  • Shoes
  • Belt
  • A tie with blue in it (you can wear this with both shirts)

Want to step up your game?:

  • Add color
    • Shirts – light yellow, blue stipes, light pink, etc..
    • Pants – Blue, khaki, grey
  • A classy watch
  • Sports coat
  • Tailored Suit
  • Brown shoes

At the risk of making this sound like an advertisement, I am going to personally recommend my favorite brand, Brooks Brothers, for the following reasons:

  1. Service. They helped me find clothing that fit.  Pants and shirts that aren’t baggy.
  2. Shape.  The clothing lines that they have fit my body nicely.  I have a small frame and it is very hard to find good fitting clothing
  3. Quality.  I can’t stress this enough.  Quality wrinkle-free shirts are a godsend.  They last for at least a year or more and I never wrinkle them or bring them to dry cleaning.
  4. Price.  Yes, BB has a premium, but avoiding ironing alone is enough to sell me.  That said, if you are lucky enough to be on a corporate plan, BB has 30% off sales ~twice a year.  (If you’re around Boston and want to piggy back on my discount card on next sale, let me know!)

If looking good is half the battle, than we’re 25% of the way there.  To get the remaining 25% you’ll need to have a haircut that fits your style as well as facial hair maintenance.  When in doubt, tell your local barber “high and tight” and clean shave your face.  Lastly, don’t forget to have clean shoes.

That’s about it.  Am I missing anything?  Let me know!

NSA and the US Cloud Industry

Following the news around the NSA can be depressing.  Speculating on the future often leads down a pessimistic hole.  I want to share the light at the end of the tunnel I have seen.

As you may be able to tell from my intro, I’ve gone through a range of emotions regarding the NSA and all the surrounding news.  I first started caring about internet privacy and openness with the SOPA and PIPA acts.  I grew up with the internet and saw the SOPA and PIPA acts as a way for Hollywood to do to the internet what the FCC did to radio and television.  The reason that this battle was unprecedented was because the restrictions set on radio and television had a technical argument due to contention of airwaves.  There is no technical contention for resources on the internet like there was with radio and TV.  Thankfully, these bills have been stopped in congress, but this is an ongoing battle.

My internet activist fire was lit and many petitions against internet restriction bills had already been signed when the leaks started coming out around the NSA.  There was a lot of suspicion around the extent of the mass surveillance, but no one knew the extent of the reach.  The biggest news, in my opinion, to come out of the leaks is that the NSA was actively looking to undermine encryption standards with backdoors and that the US government was willing to shutdown US based companies that offered truly secure communications as-a-Service (see the tragic end of Lavabit and Silent Circle, two young companies with great promise).  I was emotional about this, but I struggled to find a pragmatic footing.

While I don’t agree or condone the NSA’s actions, there is a conservative argument to be made for the NSA’s programs to be in place.  After all, we are a world leader and we should look for advantages to stay relevant in the economic stage.  Not to mention the fact that private companies are selling mass surveillance to private companies and governments all around the world.  It wouldn’t be fair if the NSA didn’t monitor its citizens!

As individuals, companies, and non-US governments; how should we proceed in a world like this?  Well, there are two major problems to be solved.  One is that if privacy is going to be a concern, full-stack open source encryption needs to be more easily available to the masses.  Encryption is still mathematically proven to be secure.  If open source encryption is implemented with care (open source from the ground up), it makes snooping infeasible.  The second issue is trust with US service providers.  The PRISM program alone caused damage in the range of $35-180 billion to the US Public Cloud industry over the next three years.  Currently, to address the root of the problem, the US would need to reel in the NSA’s jurisdiction over private companies’ data.  There has been progress made in the past 24 hours, but in the event that that doesn’t happen, there is a workaround.  The workaround is for companies to expand their product offerings from public cloud services to onsite private cloud deployments.  Salesforce, as an example, would need to build out a private cloud offering for companies who aren’t comfortable letting their data move outside their data center’s walls (or host country’s borders).  For Salesforce and their ‘No Software’ slogan, this is less than ideal.

So encryption and changes to existing services are a nice first step to gaining trust back in cloud service offerings, but I think the real transition will happen when public service providers decouple their services from the infrastructure where the data lies.  I think we will see a shift of cloud service providers becoming cloud infrastructure agnostic.  There is a subtle but important difference between the workaround suggested above (sell public services into private clouds) and the decoupling of public cloud services from the infrastructure it runs on.  Using Salesforce again, if they decoupled their service from their infrastructure they could operate just like they do today, except there would be a setting to configure where the storage is coming from (e.g. a specific Salesforce DC, a private cloud, AWS, etc..).

I have a feeling that this type of offering will become more prevalent as US companies continue to compete on the world stage.  How do you see the IT industry reacting to these leaks?

Nimble and the Hybrid/Flash Array Market.

First and foremost, I would like to welcome Nimble to the public market and thank them.  I attribute their successful entrance with the bump in the entire tech stock sphere and the increased awareness of the hybrid/flash array (if anyone hasn’t heard about these yet…).  Secondly, I think competition is a good thing, especially in an emerging market.  It keeps everyone honest and promotes innovation.

From a high level, Nimble has many things going for them.  They have had a product in the market for a while now, a (reportedly) growing list of customers, and a successful IPO in a red-hot market.  That said, they have many challenges they still need to face.  In my opinion, their IPO is a symptom of their biggest challenge — an exit strategy.  It’s a loaded comment, I know, but I believe the most viable option for a all-flash start-up is by acquisition.  But even if they wanted to be acquired, all the giants already placed their bets on other startups, and some even made the decision to develop their own technology instead of buying a technology.  Nimble had to go public.  Whether their hand was forced or they did so on their own free will, their IPO was a success.  Time will tell if they can convert their recent wins into a viable long-term business.  Their first test will be with their quarterly results (their numbers close Jan, 31), but their long-term viability will be evident in their strategic vision and an ability to execute against that.

How do I really feel?  There is a war underway flash space, and it’s already begun.  Here are some highlights from the second half of this year: IBM acquires Texas Memory, Violin Memory goes public, EMC’s XtremIO becomes generally available, and Nimble goes public.  Without a doubt, there is a lot of hype in this space, there are no clear winners yet, and there are real world use-cases and workloads that are demanding this technology.   Will Nimble be able to play with the big boys?  Ultimately, time will tell, but I’ll remain skeptical for now.

EMC’s ScaleIO vs VMWare’s VSAN

VSAN is a hot topic today! Without getting into the weeds, I want to briefly describe the similarities between these two technologies and how they can help enable your IT department followed by their differences.

Put simply, EMC products will be hypervisor agnostic and VMWare products will be storage agnostic. Ask anyone (including analysts, but probably not NetApp), and they’ll say that EMC and VMWare products work best hand-in-hand, but they are free to move about each others competitors. While this strategy can be a pain in the side of EMC and VMWare, it is ultimately a great source of power. This relationship holds true for ScaleIO and VSAN

Both of these technologies essentially do the same thing — build a virtual SAN. By using the storage presented to a group of hosts, a virtual SAN is created and then shared within a cluster. ScaleIO is hypervisor agnostic, and can even support physical servers. VSAN, on the other hand, is ESX specific. And the fact that these technologies are DAS, VSAN being ‘storage agnostic’ isn’t much of an advantage in this case. You could say VSAN is like ScaleIO if it was only licensed for VMWare…

There are other differences. Both technologies enable hybrid storage (e.g. a combination of spinning disk and magnetic) in different ways. They architecture is different (VSAN code is in the kernal where ScaleIO needs it’s own virtual machine). ScaleIO can scale larger today. And the list goes on.

Candidly, I believe ScaleIO is a better product because users of this product will have a lots of options in deployment and supported infrastructure. That said, if you are a VMWare only shop and you aren’t plagued with excessive scale, then you already have this code on your ESX clusters, you just need to license it.



I have two goals with this blog.  Every post/page I have should tie back to one of these goals.

  1. Dive into market trends in IT and investigate the specific products and companies that are making it happen.
  2. Explore how to maximize success (work/life balance, financial, happiness), avoid mistakes made by others while reflecting on my own, and share this journey with my followers.

Why? My Obligatory First Post.

It is important for me to share with you who I am and why I am writing this.  I don’t expect this particular post to be the reason you come back, but hopefully it provides a foundation of trust and will give you an idea of the lens I am looking through.

Who am I?  I am Jon Leaman, a 27 year old Boston native.  This is my first real attempt to establish a personal brand online that embodies my values.  I am recently engaged, own a black lab named Argos, and love getting out on my motorcycle.  If you forced me to describe myself in a phrase, I would say I’m a prudent risk-taker.

Why am I writing?  To provide a platform for me to share ideas, insights, advice, and ask questions.  Ultimately, I will leverage this blog to foster personal development.  My topics will range from technical industry coverage (e.g. What’s the difference between VSAN vs ScaleIO?) to macro industry news/trends (e.g. Did the NSA kill America’s public cloud?), to how changes in IT affect the individual (e.g. What career advise and strategies are best to maximize your value in the long term?).  I kept my blog title vague to give me the freedom to cover a variety of topics, but more importantly to allow my blog to remain a relevant medium as I grow in my career.

Disclaimer: I’m currently working at EMC (3 years strong!).  This will undoubtedly affect my writing, but my writing is my own, and you can mark my word that all the content I produce is sincere.