My Life in IT

Nic Mann
ServiceNow Consultant for Virteva, Nic Mann, was asked to speak to the University of Minnesota’s IT Infrastructure program at the College of Continuing Education on November 9, 2016. Following is an excerpt of Nic’s presentation. Click here to view the PowerPoint presentation or here to watch a video.

I am a ServiceNow Consultant and developer at Virteva, a leading provider of IT professional and managed services. My position as an IT consultant and developer is a unique hybrid position where I manage customers’ enhancements to their ServiceNow instances, build new applications for our customers and help manage their work. In addition to working full-time at Virteva, I am in my senior year at the University of Minnesota in the ITI (Information Technology Infrastructure) program. The program and coursework focuses on actual business issues and relates classroom experiences to the workplace. This has provided a seamless introduction to my work at Virteva.

I consider myself a non-traditional student in how I progressed through my schooling. I began college in 2008 at a local community college as a Business Management and Marketing major. I quickly learned that wasn’t the path for me and moved out of state to complete a network engineering degree at a school in Kansas. I completed most of this program but realized this still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I was missing the computer science and the business side of IT that is becoming so important in today’s IT world. I then moved back to Minnesota and enrolled at the University of Minnesota in their ITI program. The program comes very highly regarded and respected by industry leaders and the courses pointed in the direction I thought IT was going. I haven’t looked back since.

While involved in the ITI program, I completed a 2-year internship with a local mass media and information firm. From there I was contacted by recruiters to do some contracting work as a DevOps Automation Engineer for an analytics software company working on software deployment. It was through this internship I found my way to where I am now, with Virteva.

Who is Virteva?

Virteva is a managed and professional services provider. Headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, the company currently employs approximately 150 people and is growing rapidly. The team I work with, the ServiceNow team, began about a year ago with only 5 employees and has grown to 20 people. We plan to continue expanding our team and expect to have 40 people working in ServiceNow by the end of 2017.

What We Do in ServiceNow

The ServiceNow team has built out the heart of the soul of our Service Desk in our own ServiceNow instance, providing the tooling to allow our Service Desk to seamlessly support approximately 65 customers that use our services. We also offer Rapid Deploy packages, ManagedNow support, health check and roadmap support, as well as other various deployment services.

Key skills I learned in the ITI program

Project Management – The ServiceNow platform I currently work on handles change management and much of the process work that goes into IT organizations. Systems such as ITIL and ITSM are taught in the project management courses in the ITI program. Project management is a key component to my current job where we are tasked each day with managing and delegating the workload. The courses I have taken taught me the fundamentals that are the basis for this entire ServiceNow platform. It is imperative I have a very strong understanding when working with our customers of what these processes are so I am able to translate and teach our customers what they do in conjunction with their business and how to best implement them in their environments. Much of my job is teaching, not just technical.

The other component to the project management coursework is learning about SDLC and Agile Development methodologies. As a developer, I follow the learned methodologies when working with our customers and routinely release software changes through these processes. These were very valuable skill sets to learn in the ITI program at the University of Minnesota.

Computer Science – This strong component to the ITI program was also very meaningful to me. When I initially began IT courses, I didn’t think I would enjoy the development, coding and scripting aspects, but as I delved into the web development courses for my degree I began realizing I did enjoy this and felt I could really get into it. The computer science coursework really sparked a creative interest for me in tackling the different issues the customer needs to resolve. I learned to apply my coding knowledge to solve problems through automation rather than implement manual processes.

Infrastructure Support – This is also a key component to the degree I am working towards. Although I don’t currently work with infrastructure support through ServiceNow, I have previously and I know will again at some point in the future as Virteva does offer this service via their Infrastructure Management spectrum of services. Storage administration, system administration and network administration will be the foundational courses that will provide the background on how the infrastructure systems that we support function. This offers the base that everything else will build from and having a strong, fundamental understanding of the various customer systems allows you to grow your skill set and apply to other areas.

Just remember – it’s not all about being technical. We all have this image of an IT guy looking more like a cave-dweller sitting in a dark cube, typing away at a keyboard, but that is not what IT is anymore. I currently work in IT and much of a typical day for me involves speaking with customers, teaching them how to use different functions of the platform, and walking them through different business processes. Much of my day-to-day job involves soft skills, working with customers, managing work flow between different members of my team. In order to be successful, I have to understand the business that I am doing work for and how the processes I am helping to implement can best apply in order for the business to see value.

The Internship

I mentioned I completed an internship with a local mass media and information firm in their Data Center and Information Services (DCIS) group. During this internship I would rotate every six months to a different team within the company and learned different skill sets at each one. My third rotation was focused on ServiceNow Development. This was definitely my favorite rotation and the reason why I am working at Virteva now. It proved to be a great experience because I was able to learn a lot of new pieces of the organizational puzzle that I had never even thought about before. I was performing system integrations with other systems using REST and SOAP. I decommissioned old systems, pulling all the old information into the new ServiceNow platform which gave me the chance to be an integral part of the strategic shift in how we were managing our data center. It was a meaningful rotation for me and gave me experience and insight into where things were going. If you have never heard of ServiceNow, once you get out into the business world you will.

During the fourth rotation I was able to work with the OpenStack environment, learning about the various components and how a company can run and maintain their own private cloud infrastructure. It was really fun and interesting to learn how companies are doing this. While working in this rotation I helped build an interface with ServiceNow for OpenStack to be able to integrate the two systems.

During my internship, I was able to use the new knowledge and skills learned in the classroom through the coursework in the ITI program and apply that to what I performed at each of the rotations.

What I Gained from My Internship

When I began my coursework in the ITI program, I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to go in the Information Technology industry and this internship helped me figure that out. I learned it is a broad industry with many areas of focus to choose from and skill sets to specialize in. The ITI program and the internship I completed helped me to know what I wanted to do by providing hands-on experience in a variety of functional areas so I could determine my strengths and weaknesses. I also gained valuable experience and skills in areas such as:

  • Virtualization
  • ITSM/ITIL
  • Scripting/Automation
  • Cisco Networking
  • Working with International Teams
  • ServiceNow Development
  • Private Cloud Management

What I Do with ServiceNow and Virteva

In addition to the time spent training and building new applications for customers each day, I also spend a lot of time helping customers solve problems by using code. It’s rewarding being able to solve an issue for a customer and then explain to them how it will enhance their functionality. Knowing I can apply the skills I have learned through my coursework and internship experiences to help our customers is something that keeps me going.

The Future of IT

Many organizations are moving to a services model. This means that IT organizations are now bundling various services together in packages to provide to their customers. Customers will be requesting a platform to operate their business on and IT organizations will offer them the package of services to implement and manage that request. This will help organizations determine cost effectiveness, work efficiently, and drive continuous improvement.

It is also a good time to be a DevOps expert. Someone who knows infrastructure and code is a hot commodity right now. It seems to be an exploding area of IT and industry leaders, even here in Minneapolis, are not able to find enough people who own these skill sets. With this comes the importance of automation and software. The hardware aspect is becoming not as important, but the industry is demanding workers can understand the process and how to make the most efficient use of it, which is typically through automation and software, which involves your coding and scripting knowledge as well. Having the background of computer science and the knowledge of the infrastructure it is on, is absolutely key to where the IT industry is going.

Automation ties all these pieces together since more companies are trying to squeeze every dollar they can out of their technology budget which directs them to more automation vs manual processes. This will lead to reduction in human error, as well as speed and efficiency to streamline processes.

Overall, having the ITI background that incorporates the understanding of the business you’re in, the infrastructure skills of what you’re working on and the knowledge of computer science are all key components to where the IT industry is going.

If you’re looking to put your IT skills to work at a dynamic company that promotes from within, check out the Virteva Careers page.