Home > Solarian Spotlight: Noel Barbee, IT Manager

Solarian Spotlight: Noel Barbee, IT Manager

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When Noel Barbee was recruited to SolarWinds in 2019, he joined the IT team with a vision of what the future could be and what he could bring to the company. But most of all, Noel saw an opportunity to continue the work he’d started with his previous employers to develop his intern and IT teams through, what he calls, servant leadership.   From his first time building a computer in college to his guidance in building the SolarWinds Virtual Tech Bar, Noel leads with ingenuity and a desire to improve circumstances for as many people as he can. His involvement with Break Through Texas and their Internship Network also speaks to his love of helping others develop their skills and achieve their goals.   It was truly a pleasure to sit and speak with Noel about his background and the improvements he has spearheaded in his short tenure at SolarWinds. Noel’s smile is infectious and his passion for his work and helping others grow shines through when you speak to him. Indeed, it’s his driving force in many of the activities he participates in including the SolarWinds® Global Internship Program and IT Pro Day. For these reasons, Noel is a fantastic example of the Solarian values of CARE at work and he’s a tremendous asset to the IT team and those he leads. 

Tell me about your background and career path. How many years have you been at SolarWinds?   

I was recruited to SolarWinds in 2019, so I’ve been with the company for about three-and-a-half years. My telecommunications background prepared me to succeed as an IT support operations leader for the past 15 years. In college, I was an accounting major at first—I love logic and analytics—but after I built my first hodgepodge computer with $75 of parts, I switched my major to IT. IT is a perfect fit for me because it brings together logic, analytics, math, collaboration, and problem-solving in an exciting way.  One thing I have learned—and come to love—through my past employment is the fact IT Ops remains the same regardless of industry. Despite that, when working at a company like SolarWinds, we’re providing IT support to IT professionals who really know IT. They often present unique situations and this presents an additional challenge because to provide them support, you really have to be an expert yourself to provide the expertise the IT pro you are working with doesn’t have. 

Tell me about your role now. What do you do as an IT manager?  

I’m responsible for the daily management and operations of all end-user devices and peripheral equipment for all Solarians in the Americas. I lead a team of 13 high-octane technicians who are crazy about delivering excellent IT service to our Solarians. As their manager, I am able to support them in their current role and where they would like to advance. To date, I have helped eight of my techs earn promotions and I continue to support upskilling and learning on my team.  Along with leading my team, I’m also responsible for developing and maintaining end-user technology standards based on industry best practices, managing a technology roadmap, and proposing and developing new solutions based on business strategy. Having the opportunity to develop new solutions is something I’m incredibly grateful for. 

Our IT Trends Report showed as IT environments become more complex, IT pros are struggling to keep up. What’s your perspective on this trend from experience?  

There’s a balance between meeting the operational demands of an IT environment, proposing and developing innovative solutions based on business strategy, and acquiring the skillsets to implement those new solutions. It takes a strong leader to be able to recognize those three areas—not to mention one who is capable of leading their team to achieve the goals.   Over the years, my roles have progressively become more complex, parallel to IT. However, as a manager, not only do I need to be up to date on IT advancements, but I must also balance developing strategies to address advancements and proposing innovative solutions – all while maintaining the daily demand for IT services. It takes a strong leader to marry those three silos together and support the growth of their team members at the same time. To support my employees, I encourage upskilling and cross-training. I pair up my team members with mentors who are working with the technology or solutions my team member would like to advance to down the line. In this way, I support their growth and development in different roles and with growingly complex IT. 

I hear you’re very involved with our interns and have just wrapped up this year’s summer class. What led you to be interested in working with interns?  

I actually launched an internship program at my previous employer and found it was incredibly beneficial for the students, but also for the company. Because the interns gain hands-on experience with our tech and our environment, they’re highly qualified additions to the IT team when they graduate. In fact, one of the interns from my previous role joined us at SolarWinds and has become an integral part of the team.  Our interns are integral parts of our teams, and we train them and treat them as if they’re full-time employees and have access to the full gamete of the IT resources. When they graduate, the interns have the chance to join a fantastic company straight out of college and develop in a fast-paced and nurturing environment while SolarWinds earns employees who are intimately knowledgeable of the company, the tech, and our culture. There’s incredible value in bringing someone really green and molding them into a great IT tech and I am glad to be a part of the program at SolarWinds as well. 

I know you’re passionate about what you call “servant leadership.” Can you tell me what that is and why you’re so passionate about it?  

I believe as a leader and as a human, the overarching objective in all we do is to create a lasting legacy—be it for your team or yourself. Building a legacy is permanent and everlasting while also helping others develop the skills and knowledge to build their own legacies. To do so, I follow three rules in all I do: Put others before yourself, be the hardest worker in the room, and build lasting relationships. As we’ve spoken, I have mentioned several instances that showcase these rules and servant leadership. I believe I’m a servant leader when I organize mentorship for my team members, when I develop interns during their internships, and when I support the growth and development of skills and knowledge among my team. 

We’re so excited to be recognizing the hard work and dedication put in by IT pros across the industry for IT Pro Day and I know you’re especially close to the program. As an IT manager, why is recognizing IT pros of importance to you?  

Being an IT professional can be a thankless job at times. Our team works extremely hard every day to keep things humming along and that brings very few rewards and isn’t often noticed. Typically, the network hums along smoothly but no news is good news! It’s working smoothly because we have tens of IT pros working behind the scenes to make sure it continues to work. They manage updates, upgrades, and problem-solving to continue the ease of use and access the average end user takes for granted.   When things break and we resolve issues efficiently, that’s usually when we receive praise. But we spend a lot of time/hours upgrading and improving systems to build the foundation necessary to quickly resolve issues. On the whole, SolarWinds is really good at recognizing IT pros but across the industry, recognition isn’t common. This is what we’re trying to rectify with IT Pro Day and the awards—we want to recognize IT pros for their time and efforts and remind them they’re appreciated and highly valuable to their organizations, no matter what organization they work with or where they are in the world. 

Finally, you’re incredibly enthusiastic about SolarWinds and share your dedication to our Solarian values daily. What do you love the most about being a Solarian?  

This is an easy answer—SolarWinds is people first.  

To tie into servant leadership again, it’s exciting to see Sudhakar (Ramakrishna) and the new leadership and changes we’re all driving at SolarWinds emphasize the value of people and how their success helps us all—embodying the company’s CARE values. By being people-centric, not only do our customers derive value, but our company does as well. The culture at SolarWinds encourages innovation and growth—two things that can only happen if employees are given the flexibility in their roles to do so. While some days may be a list of tasks that need to be done, generally we can take time to upskill, cross-skill, and help develop new strategies and solutions to our and our customers’ problems. 

Learn more about SolarWinds 

At SolarWinds, we CARE. Our core values are Collaborative, Accountable, Ready, and Empathetic. Each of us at SolarWinds prides ourselves on striving to embody these values when working with customers, shareholders, partners, other employees, and the communities in which we live. We’re thankful for Solarians like Noel, who demonstrate all these characteristics in his everyday role and go above and beyond to serve interns and IT pros across the business.   SolarWinds continues to grow across all sites and departments (engineering, IT, marketing, and sales), constantly adding new positions. Our Global Internship Program partners with students early in their careers in collaborative research and development work, work-study opportunities, and specialized learning activities. If you’re interested in working for an industry leader and joining a culture focused on learning and collaboration, check out our career opportunities. 
Alexandra Vincent
Alex Vincent is the Talent Branding and University Relations Program Manager and joined SolarWinds in 2021 to strengthen our employer brand and develop our global…
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