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Diving into Tech Management: The Pivotal Shifts

By Colin McNamara
Published in Business & Strategy
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Diving into Tech Management: The Pivotal Shifts

Finding Leadership Skills as an Architect, and Beyond

The transition from being deeply entrenched in the technical nuances of VoIP, big data, and analytics to stepping into the realm of leadership and management was not just a career shift; it was a paradigm transformation. This journey began with a significant milestone in 2007 when I achieved my CCIE in storage networking (#18233), marking me as the first Storage CCIE outside of Cisco. This achievement was not just a personal triumph but a doorway to opportunities that would challenge and expand my understanding of technology and its application on a global scale.

Utilizing the skills honed through my certification, I embarked on projects that involved building some of the largest fiber channel and iSCSI networks in the world. My work contributed to the infrastructure of cloud-scale networks for industry giants like Apple iCloud, NetApp’s Kilo Cluster, and Oracle’s gen 1 & 2 platforms. This period was characterized by rapid learning and adaptation, as each project brought unique challenges and required innovative solutions. The complexity and scale of these undertakings were formidable, yet they underscored an exhilarating truth: the intersection of expertise and ignorance is where growth thrives.

In 2011, my career took a pivotal turn as I moved from being a cloud scale engineer to embracing leadership roles. This shift was propelled by my selection into an executive development program at Cisco, championed by Tony Booth, a visionary leader who saw the potential in applying executive development principles to top engineers. This year-long journey through media training, soft skills enhancement, technical, and management development was transformative. It equipped me with the tools to articulate my ideas and lead with confidence, preparing me for the challenges of higher leadership positions.

The culmination of this training and my technical experiences led to my role in managing the data center practice for the western United States at ePlus, a large publicly traded engineering firm. Here, I was thrust into unfamiliar territory, responsible not just for technical outcomes but for leading teams, strategizing growth, and navigating the intricacies of corporate dynamics. The learning curve was steep, and the familiar feeling of being out of my depth returned. Yet, this discomfort became a trusted companion, signaling that I was on the verge of new levels of understanding and capability.

Leading at ePlus, and later taking on the challenge of reviving a failing division at Nexus IS, underscored a critical lesson: the skills that propel us in technical fields are the foundations upon which effective leadership is built. However, the transition requires a willingness to feel like a novice again, to ask questions, and to learn from those both above and below in the hierarchical ladder. It demands an embrace of the unknown and a relentless pursuit of growth, not just as a leader of projects but as a leader of people.

These experiences, rich with trials, errors, and triumphs, paved the way for further advancements in my career. They taught me the invaluable skill of translating technical expertise into strategic leadership, highlighting that the essence of effective management lies in the willingness to learn, adapt, and above all, embrace the discomfort of not knowing.

Diving into Tech Management at Nexus IS: The Pivotal Shifts

The transformation of the Nexus IS Data Center division under my leadership was marked not only by overcoming substantial challenges but also by achieving significant milestones that underscored the division’s turnaround. Within 18 months, we not only navigated the division out of financial distress but also propelled it to achieve $100 million in revenue. This remarkable financial turnaround was a testament to the strategic realignment, cultural shift, and relentless focus on innovation and execution.

Achieving $100 Million in Revenue

The journey to $100 million was fueled by a combination of strategic initiatives aimed at revitalizing the division’s performance. This involved a comprehensive overhaul of the sales strategy, a keen focus on high-growth potential projects, and a concerted effort to enhance operational efficiency and customer engagement. The result was not just a return to profitability but a robust growth trajectory that positioned the division as a key contributor to the company’s overall success.

Technical Achievements and Innovations

Parallel to our financial achievements, the division also made significant strides in technical innovation and contributions to the industry. Among these were:

  • Development of Advanced Networking Solutions: We pioneered new approaches to networking that enhanced the efficiency and reliability of data center operations, setting new standards for the industry.
  • Contribution to Open Source and Cloud Platforms: The division actively contributed to open source projects and cloud platform developments, sharing our innovations and collaborating with the wider tech community to advance cloud technologies.
  • Launch of Proprietary Products: Our team developed and launched proprietary products that addressed specific market needs, combining our technical expertise with strategic market insights to deliver solutions that drove additional revenue and market differentiation.

These technical achievements were not only a reflection of our division’s talent and hard work but also a clear indicator of our strategic focus on leveraging technology to drive business success. Our contributions to the industry and the development of innovative solutions were key factors in our financial success and in establishing Nexus IS as a leader in the tech industry.

Lessons from Nexus IS: Beyond the Turnaround

  • Strategic Agility: The ability to quickly adapt and realign strategies in response to changing market dynamics was crucial. Our success was due in part to our agile response to opportunities and challenges alike.
  • Innovation as a Driver of Growth: Our technical achievements underscored the importance of innovation not just as a tool for solving complex problems but as a critical driver of business growth and competitiveness.
  • Collaboration and Culture: Cultivating a culture that embraced innovation, encouraged collaboration, and rewarded excellence was fundamental. Our achievements were a collective effort, highlighting the power of a motivated and aligned team.

The Nexus IS chapter was a defining period that highlighted the impact of strategic leadership, technical innovation, and a culture focused on execution and excellence. It set the stage for future challenges and opportunities, reinforcing the lessons of adaptability, innovation, and the importance of a cohesive team culture in achieving success.

Continued from part 2 - Early Career Foundations: From the Marine Corps to Tech Innovation

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Early Career Foundations: From the Marine Corps to Tech Innovation
Colin McNamara

Colin McNamara

AI Strategist, Private Label Pioneer, Sustainability Visionary


Business & Strategy
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