Head geek at SolarWinds Chrystal Taylor discusses her career path, from applying to study botany to spending almost 10 years in technology.
As little as a year ago, Chrystal Taylor didn’t see herself becoming a head geek, she tells me. Having racked up nearly a decade in technology, she works at SolarWinds, a US software company that helps clients manage their networks, systems and IT infrastructures.
Here, she talks to me about taking the leap into a new role, her daily routine and why people skills are crucial to the world of IT.
‘There’s always something to learn from other people, whether they’re developers, salespeople or people who work in administration’
– CHRYSTAL TAYLOR
Can you tell me a bit about your role as a head geek?
I’m a dedicated technologist with nearly a decade of experience and have built my career by leveraging curiosity to solve problems, no matter the size, industry or client. I’ve built a successful IT career by translating client needs into optimised and performant systems. I love customising current deployments to ensure systems grow in tandem with user needs.
In my role, I leverage my experience from my previous positions as a troubleshooting sniper, technical escalation point for the engineering team, break/fix and augmentation support technician, and subject matter expert for SolarWinds products to provide direction and conversation around current topics in IT.
My role involves thought leadership, content creation, community involvement, speaking engagements and generally getting to talk and write about monitoring, IT and SolarWinds.
Is this job where you expected to end up?
If you asked me even a year ago if I expected to wind up in this specific role, I would have said ‘no way’. This job was something of a mythic role for me. I think my path was straightforward, but it felt like a big leap, which made the decision to jump scary.
I worked in IT for nine years before making the leap to the head geek role. In my previous job, I had the opportunity to work with many companies, large and small, in many different industries, which gave me perspective and allowed me to broaden my knowledge of IT across the world.
This role seemed like a logical leap when the opportunity presented itself. This helped convince me to take the scary jump, as it provided an avenue to further immerse myself in conversations about monitoring and IT, and to develop and share my opinions to hopefully help others on their journeys.
Did you study at college?
Initially, I went to study botany. But, during my freshman year, I found I was the only new student to apply for the programme, so it was discontinued.
This left me a bit adrift while I was in college and eventually personal circumstances forced me to leave after about a year and a half.
Thus far, I have not gone back to college, and all my IT experience has been gained on the job or in my personal tinkering.
What does a typical day in your job look like?
A typical day in the work life of this head geek starts with getting dressed (yes, in ‘work attire’) and taking care of hygiene. Then I get my 10-year-old started with his distance learning (previously, I would’ve gotten him ready and dropped him off at school).
I get my caffeine intake started and settle in at my desk. My workday can consist of anything from recording videos and writing blog posts or articles to preparing for upcoming webinars. I might do some research or work in our lab for preparation or to further my IT education.
We use several apps to help manage tasks and manage my time. I take an hour break for lunch with my son every day to have quality conversation and eat with him. At the end of my workday, I log off. Unless something absolutely can’t wait until the next day, which is rare, I don’t log back onto my work PC until the next morning.
For others interested in pursuing a job similar to yours, what advice would you give them?
Spend time learning from others who come across your path. There’s always something to learn from other people, whether they’re developers, salespeople or people who work in administration, and the things they teach you can help you on your way.
Learning from them can especially help with your people skills, which are essential for a job like mine. Every aspect of the business is touched by IT in some way and understanding the impact and how you can make others’ work easier or better, even in a small way, will go a long way toward improving relations between departments.