Women in Tech, Upskilling, and Cloud Strategy — SolarWinds TechPod 013

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Phoummala Schmitt opens up to host Alex Navarro about the unconventional career path that led her to becoming a Microsoft advocate. Listen in as they discuss taking control of your career path, training courses, and even a little cloud strategy. Related Links
Phoummala Schmitt


Phoummala Schmitt is an IT professional with a broad range of experience that focuses on Microsoft software, VMware, and enterprise storage. Phoummala has extensive experience… Read More

Episode Transcript

Alex: At SolarWinds headquarters in Austin, Texas. I’m Alex Navarro with SolarWinds TechPod. This is A Hero’s Journey.

Phoummala: So, my background is also virtualization and storage and that’s pretty much where I’ve been up until July 23rd, 2018 where I crossed over into the vendor side.

Alex: Phoummala Schmitt is my guest today. She’s a Microsoft advocate and is also known as “exchange goddess” on Twitter. She dropped by the studio to discuss women and girls in IT, free tools, and her own personal IT journey.

Phoummala: And it’s been a wonderful ride.

Alex: I know that you love this industry and it’s apparent because you’re constantly challenging yourself to learn new skills, to acquire more knowledge. And, it’s interesting because I don’t know if everyone knows this, but this was it your first plan.

Phoummala: No. So, I actually came from the fashion industry. I was an assistant buyer for a local or regional department store, but you know, life and whatnot. So, I had kids and then I became a stay-at-home mom, and then I got divorced and then it was like, oh, I need to do something. You know, I’m left with $20 in my pocket, going I have no idea what to do. And, in high school I was always told that if you’re not good at math or sciences, you know, that’s not the career option for you. Don’t go study it. And so, I didn’t and I really regret it. I wish I would have taken the opportunity to try computer science earlier in my life because after doing it, you know, I figured out I’m pretty good at this. You know, I learned really quickly, I mean my career has accelerated pretty fast. But, the regret that I have, you know, the bad, not the bad advice, but I guess misplaced. This presumption that you have to be good in math to be in computer science and you know, that’s hogwash because I’m not very strong in math and I think I do pretty good in IT.

Alex: Well, you’re proof. Anyone can do anything.

Phoummala: And I tell my kids and I tell all little kids that, if you have an idea and you know, you think you can, you want to do it, try it. And if somebody tells you, “Oh, you know, you’re not good at, this isn’t your specialty or you’re not strong in science, so you probably shouldn’t try it.” No! Try it because all it really takes is passion. You know, if you’ve got passion for it and if you want to learn something, it’s amazing what you can do. I mean, I figured out how to do IT when I was told I couldn’t. I mean, if you have passion, it’s going to drive you to excel, which is awesome. My, I guess, other thing that I’m a real advocate for is; owning your career. You are the owner of your career and nobody else is. While your employers are there to help you, they can send you the training, but ultimately, you own it. Nobody owns your career, except for you. So, you can change your career path, it’s trajectory, that you want it to be at. Empower yourself. Learn, always learn, just because it seems comfortable now, “Oh, I’ve got a job, you know, this is great, I’m getting a good paycheck,” that’s probably the point where you should be learning more. You may not know what’s all in your environment. I’ve found that we don’t always know everything.

Announcer: Connect with more than 150,000 IT professionals by becoming a member of the SolarWinds THWACK online community–a place where you have a say in the direction of SolarWinds products, can get product support and answers on the fly, and where tech pros of all types engage and share best practices. Find the link for the SolarWinds THWACK Community in the show notes.

Phoummala: We don’t know everything. We’re humans. You know, I always say the human brain is the most complex machine. I mean, there’s still parts of it that scientists haven’t been able to figure out. So, you know, we are constantly evolving and learning. So, we should never, just say, “Okay, I’m done. You know, I’ve reached a certain point in my career and this is great.” We should always be challenging yourself and owning what you do with your career and there’s some people out there that you’ve got great employers that send you the training, but not everybody does. So, take that initiative. And I know Microsoft, we have this learning portal, MS Learn, and it’s free and people can go and the learn all their tools, you know, Azure, the cloud, even some DevOps. It’s free online training that you sign up for. You don’t need a credit card, and you get this, sandbox environment and you go through these modules and once you finish the module, the sandbox gets wiped clean and you can go onto the next module. But let’s say you didn’t quite understand the concept, you can redo that. And it’s great because I know a lot of people always ask me, how do I learn more? I always tell them, the internet.

Alex: Take something you’re passionate about and just take the first step.

Phoummala: The internet has a wealth of tools, but knowing where to go for this free learning, there’s blogs, there’s forums, I mean…

Alex: Podcasts.

Phoummala: Podcasts. The THWACK community, if I can throw that in there, is awesome because it’s just not a community of SolarWinds users, but it’s a community of people sharing their experiences,  their knowledge. And any community like that is going to help anybody that’s looking to learn more. I tell people don’t, don’t underestimate the communities and those online forms. Those are probably sometimes even more valuable than paying for a scripted course that costs $2,300, that you take online.

Alex: What is it that you are most looking forward to see happen in the coming year or what you’re maybe anticipating?

Phoummala: I see a lot more organizations, developing plans, an actual cloud strategy. And then, with the strategy, instead of just diving headfirst, they’re developing the plan to go, but also to govern. They’re bringing their processes, their standards, and their procedures on-premises and they’re slowly modifying or adapting it to the cloud. We’re going to see a lot more of that just because of all the war stories. And now, people are like, “okay, we know we’re going to go there. We decided we’re going to go there and we figured out, you know, the who, what, when, where, why.” So, they’re taking all that into factor and then, how do we govern this? Because we’re just not going to go head first. We’re going to go, but we’re going to go in the way where we’re taking our same principles that we’ve applied on-premises into the cloud. It’s going to be a more, a lot of its going a very proactive approach instead of jumping, and then firefighting.

Alex: A strategic, proactive…

Phoummala: Very strategic. I see a lot more planned migrations, careful planning, that’s my only hope. Or, you’re going to have this backlash again, of people going, “oh, it was horrible and I need to go back.” I think the cloud has stabilized in terms of people jumping back.

Alex: Thank you again for being here, Phoummala Schmitt. We really appreciate it. Thanks for listening. I’m Alex Navarro and we’ll catch you on the next episode of Solar Winds TechPod, A Hero’s Journey.

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