I’m Colin Westwater, and this is how I work

Introduction

I stumbled across a Github page recently called This Is How I Work and loved the content from the posters. The bloggers are participating in a series of posts on how they work. This is inspired from the Lifehacker How I work series. The posts detail how IT Professionals work in their role. Find mine below. Enjoy.

Where are you located?

I work in Glasgow, Scotland but live in Paisley, Scotland. I am very proud of Glasgow, so if anyone wants a tour guide let me know.

What is/are my current gig(s)?

I am a Server Administrator for a large multinational engineering company. I have worked there for over 17 years. I started there as part of a student summer placement while at University and never left. I love the role as I get to work in so many technologies, although sometimes it can be a curse. After spending most of a morning working to get a Fanuc CNC controller working on the LAN while itching to dive into some PowerShell I think wouldn’t it be great to focus on what I love. However they are a fantastic company to work for and have looked after me and my family very well.

What’s one work to describe your work?

Varied.

What apps, software or tools can’t you live without?

Installed on my computer C# vSphere Client (sorry VMware just can’t get into the Web Client!), PowerShell ISE, PowerCLI, SnagIt, VMware Workstation, Notepad++ and OneNote

The web apps I use all the time are Pocket, feedly and Gmail.

I could not live without my Kindle as I read a lot and have a big backlog of technical books to read.

What does your workspace look like?

Desk Image

Desk Image

I admit I am a bit of a neat freak at work. I just cannot work in a mess. As part of my standard work I make sure my desk is cleared at the end of each day and the office is left to a set standard at the end of the week so I come back on Monday ready to go.

I use a Surface Pro 4 as my daily driver with two HP Z24nq monitors on a HP Dual monitor stand. I love the Z24nq’s as they have the sweet spot in resolution for me. For a headset I use a Plantronics Voyager Legend UC as it works with our softphone, Skype and Cisco handset.

On the soft side I keep a clean desktop and only have the files I am currently using on the desktop. I just can’t understand why people use it as their primary storage location! I have changed the location of my Desktop and Documents folder to OneDrive so it’s accessible anywhere and when I rebuild everything comes back from the cloud. I use OneNote for taking all my notes and a personal reference system. It’s such a overlooked application.

What’s a typical workweek look like?

As I said before, varied! I am the proverbial Jack of all Trades. Instead of detailing out my week I thought I would be more broad strokes.

I used to work in the productivity trap of living in email and our ticketing system. I was always firefighting and reacting, instead of focusing on what work actually has the highest value. My productivity change happened after I read the book Getting Results The Agile Way by J.D. Meier. At it’s core you use the power of three to focus your week. On a Sunday night I fill out my daily planner sheet, blocking off my meetings, recurring tasks, obligations, etc. Then I go through my open task list, which could be from emails, action items from meetings, tickets, etc. and decide what three, and three only, things that if I accomplish for the week what delivers the greatest value for my customers, boss, stakeholders and yourself. Then every day of the week I use those three goals for the week to develop three daily goals that get me a step closer to accomplishing those weekly goals.

There is so much more to this system and the book is a great resource, but J.D. also has the system detailed in a series of blog posts. If you are the type of person that gets to a Friday and thinks “what the hell did I actually do this week?” this can change your results dramatically. Now I am not saying that I am perfect following this system as things come up that stop production in the factory that blow away my week, but I try my best!

Some of the things I am responsible for include:

  • Design, installation and management of our Windows Server infrastructure
  • Design, installation and management of our vSphere environment
  • Tier III support of all computer issues
  • Support for a complex manufacturing environment
  • Development of our desktop estate
  • Budgeting, project management and business analysis, end user training, departmental Continuous Improvement leader, the list goes one!
  • The last item is a great interest and driver for my week. We have a very strong CI culture in the factory which we are trying to develop in the IT department, especially in the Ops side which I am a part of. Each time I do a task more than once I immediately ask myself can I either automate or document and offload to Tier I and II support. This is where I have the most fun in my role using tools such as PowerShell and PowerCLI to automate those things. Nothing pleases me more in my role than successfully replacing something I have done with a script! People on the shop floor joke with me I will eventually be replaced with a massive PowerShell script.

What do you like best about your role?

The trust and freedom from my excellent manager to get on with my job and get shit done. He is based in the US and so being six hours of time zones away relies on me to be professional and responsible in getting my work done. I get to work with a great team in the department who I consider to be top class people. We have a small team but feel we push the envelope on technology.

I also love working in a company that supplies the tools and equipment I need to get my work done. They pay for my yearly subscription to Pluralsight which is an excellent training resource. They take care of my VMUG membership, certification costs, and professional memberships. It may not be much monetary wise but it means a lot to me.

What’s something about you that no one knows about?

I have been in the top 1% of Pocket users/readers the last three years in a row. I read a lot!

What do you listen to while you work?

Nothing - I need to really concentrate on tasks.

What do you wish you could change about your work?

Less break-fix and firefighting work to really focus on driving improvements to the business by automating things! I also need to improve my PowerShell and PowerCLI knowledge. I can hack scripts together but they are not exactly ‘elegant’ or probably the best way of doing it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?

I think as IT Professionals we are often seen by the business as a cost center and do not contribute to the success of the organisation. What they don’t realise IT is fundamental to the success of any business. We all need to quantify to the business through CI tools such as A3/A4’s how much so in terms they understand such as money, time or efficiency savings. We as IT pros provide so much value to our employers but we do a bad job of showing the business how much worth we bring every day.

Related to that if you work in IT you need to continually developing yourself. We cannot stand still and let technology pass you by. I was guilty in this in the first half of my career where I just sailed through the days and only learnt what I needed to get by. I know how hard it is to come home after a tough day at work, spend a little time with the family and then go off and learn something new to further yourself, but if you want a long term career it has to be done.

Lastly here are some other random things I think are useful:

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