To celebrate National IT Professionals Day, we're sharing an interview I had with Armory's Head of IT and Workplace, Guillermo Huerta. The interview is broken into seven parts. There's a video and transcript for each section.
Nikema Prophet: [00:00:00] I'm Nikema I am the Associate Community Marketing Manager at Armory and I'm talking to Guillermo today. We are celebrating National IT Professionals Day this month, and we wanted to talk to you and get to know more about you and like what you do at Armory, what it's like to be an IT professional.
So Guillermo, can you share a little bit about yourself and your role at Armory?
Guillermo Huerta: Sure. So I'm, Guillermo Huerta. I am the Head of IT and Workplace here at Armory. And I joined Armory in April with the plan to build out an IT department and facilitate the growth and structure that IT brings to a company.
A lot of the role when you think of IT is who's fixing your laptop when you have a problem. But that's when you have a problem and when IT is going well, you're not having a problem. So [00:01:00] a lot of the work is preventative. How do we prevent issues from arising? How do we make sure that the services that we need as a company to do our jobs are running and are available before we need them to be
IT at Armory
Nikema Prophet: [00:00:00] Can you describe a typical day or week at Armory?
Guillermo Huerta: Sure. So I think one of the things that makes being in IT at a startup a little bit different from a larger org is so much of what IT is doing is preparing for that growth and getting us ready to scale.
So it's, it's looking at what applications are we using? What hardware are we using? How is that going to work? When we add another 50, a hundred people into this environment and start tracking that. So, a lot of it is planning. So having meetings with the various departments, understanding what their goals are, what their team is working on and what are the tools and processes that they need to get that job done.
And then taking that information and looking at what systems we currently have, what systems we need to have, and planning out what is the path that's going to get us from, where we are today to where we [00:01:00] need to be to continue that growth and planning. And then there's a lot of administrative work that goes alongside with that.
Because to do that scale, we need to bring new employees on, onto the company accounts, we need to be able to give them the appropriate access, make sure that their machines are secure. So some of it is planning how those things operate and then the actual action of doing those tasks.
And again, looking at how do we scale? A lot of this is automation. How do we do all of those things in an automated fashion? Because we could do them manually that doesn't scale, but also by doing them manually, we're creating the opportunity to make mistakes. So when you set up your, email account, for example, if I, type in your name manually, rather than it coming from the HR system where, you know, the new hire [00:02:00] inputted their information directly, there is an opportunity that it gets mistyped and then that information is wrong. And the employee can't use that account because they can't log in, or it's going to start sending out emails as this misspelled name and all of those things that need to be created, creating more work.
Whereas, if you could just automate it – that's one of the things that IT focuses on is how do we automate things in a way that improves our accuracy and ease of life for the employees
Guillermo's Career Path
Nikema Prophet: [00:00:00] So that makes me wonder, how did you get on this career trajectory? How did you get started?
Guillermo Huerta: Yeah, that's a great question. IT, definitely, wasn't my original plan to go into IT. I went to school with the idea that I would be pre-med and look at medical school. But I always had an interest in technology. In high school, I got interested in computers in actually the hardware side. So I had access to a computer lab. I thought it was really cool that if you opened up a computer and took out parts and swapped them out and put them back in, it would change how that computer, behaved the next time you powered it on. And so, I got exposed to it then, and it became, a hobby. And then in college, well, I was focused on my studies. I got a job in the libraries as a tech, so servicing computer labs and the library and then also in the dorm. So supporting my, [00:01:00] fellow students to do that.
And so it was always one of these hobbies where I was getting more and more skilled and interested in it as I was growing up. And then when I did have to make a career decision I was in California looking for jobs and found a, company that was looking for an, IT support role. So my, first full-time IT job was as, a lot of people started in IT as a desktop support person. So I, literally was the person who went around and fixed your laptop if you had an issue. And through that learned that IT is really a very wide field. There's a lot to do in IT. You can focus on the end-user support.
You can get into system administration and system administration is a giant field. There are all sorts of different kinds of system administrators, and a lot of them have completely distinct skill sets. I actually was interested in [00:02:00] network engineering because that to me was, well, that's the backbone of all of these systems and how they talk to each other.
So I got into that and while I was doing that, I just so happened to, start supporting as a system admin, the video conferencing infrastructure that my company was using. And as I learned more about networking, I realized that well, video conferencing is using 60% of our internal bandwidth on a day-to-day basis.
Cause this was before everything was SAAS based there wasn't a SAAS service that would handle over all of our video conferencing. Like there is today, it was more, if we needed to make a video call somebody in the IT department had to maintain a server in each office, the infrastructure and the conference rooms and the servers and data centers.
So that, that conversation between our dev team in Mountain View and Toronto and Paris could have that, [00:03:00] call and a smooth and seamless process. And so through that, I kind of realized, oh, This keeps on getting wider and more more interesting of a field. And that's, how I started to get more and more technical.
Just, realizing that every time I learned something new, I found a whole new a whole new avenue of IT. And I think that's really one of the things that I share with, anyone who tells me they're interested in IT, is that, well, IT is a really large and wide field, and it's great to come in with a, generalist point of view, and want to learn everything, but what you should do is see what are the things that actually interest you in IT. And how, can you learn more about those things? Because there's, just so much to learn and all sorts of directions.
More on the Video Conferencing Story...
Nikema Prophet: [00:00:00] That's a really cool story. About what year was that when you had to do all of that setup for one video call?
Guillermo Huerta: Well, so I have a funny story about that. The first time I had to support video conferencing I found out the day before because again, IT is a very, very, wide field.
And so the department I was in, nobody had any experience setting up a video conferencing system. So the day before three servers arrived to our director of IT. And there was going to be an old director's meeting the next day. That usually it was a phone-in meeting. And so they wanted to use video conferencing for that meeting.
So the director came to me and said, Hey, nobody else has any experience with setting up these video conferencing servers before. Do you want to get these set up with the idea that this call is going to be tomorrow? And so that was what I had to do.
I got those three servers. I got badged and fingerprinted to go to the data center that we had that I [00:01:00] had locally at the time in San Jose. Drove down there, racked and stacked the servers, got them configured, and got the office infrastructure communicating with those servers in the data center.
Got on a call with people in those various offices. So the day of, and then the morning before that call was supposed to happen. So that was the first really rushed hustle, hustled IT experience I had where, hey, this is something with, no previous knowledge of, you're going to have to get up to speed quickly.
And we did with within that that that day turnaround, we got this entirely new video conferencing system spun up and working. And then of course that director's meeting was canceled. So we do all that work and it was great because that then gave us some more time to keep doing testing, actually write documentation.
Because one thing I've definitely learned over my career is. IT really is about planning. It's, the action is exciting. That's when you going to do the technical work [00:02:00] that you've learned so much about, but if you don't plan you're really going to have to put in a lot more work during that action phase.
Then if you have a plan, you have a communication plan and documentation, because at the end of the day, everything you were doing as an IT professional. Is going to affect a end-user's life. And how will the users interact with that system? What information do they need to know to be able to interact with that system?
Thoughts on Representation in Tech
Nikema Prophet: [00:00:00] I know you mentioned that you were in California, at the time, are you originally from California ?
Guillermo Huerta: I'm not from California, so I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. I'm actually, not from there either though. I was, born, outside of Detroit, Michigan. And my parents are from Detroit and Miami though.
My, my father is a Cuban refugee, so he grew up in Miami. But was born in Cuba.
Nikema Prophet: What are your thoughts about representation in tech?
Guillermo Huerta: Yeah I think representation is one of the keys to having good diversity and inclusive company culture. Because one of the kind of reasons why we talk so much about representation is a person can't really see themselves in a role if they don't have representation in that role. If it's a role where [00:01:00] you've never seen somebody who looks like you has a similar background to you in that role, then you have to.
Really go out on a limb to to imagine yourself in that role. And so, I mentioned, my father is Cuban. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where there were not a lot of Cubans there wasn't a large Latin population. And our kind of careers that we were encouraged to, were, doctor, lawyer and that was kind of the end of the list. And there was a small Latin community that we would celebrate holidays with get together. And it was kind of the same for all the other kids in those families. We were encouraged to, go to school, stay focused. And then, try to get into one of, one of those professions.
And when I had this interest in tech, it was always seen as well, this is an interest or a hobby, it's not a career. [00:02:00] So representation matters not only in the industry that you want to get into, but also within your community, because if your community doesn't understand that industry or that field, there's there, isn't a resource within your community that you can go talk to and understand what are the things that I should be doing, or learning, or researching
about, so that I can get into that field. And that was, there was definitely one of the things that I struggled with as I made this movement into tech. It was always seen as, oh, this is a opportunity to learn more about this. This isn't a career. And as I got more involved in it, as I learned more about the industry, the opportunity there, just like learning more about how wide and varied IT is, I learned that, oh, there is opportunity in tech. I do have a path and a career here in tech and I can focus on this and not just see [00:03:00] it as, a hobby or an interest of mine.
And that really, really would be supported more with representation. And so my kind of personal outcome of that is I have been more conscientious of how do I, support representation be representative of my community in my community as well as at the company. And so I definitely think it's not only important, but it's one of those things that you can't just talk about, you have to act on.
So at my previous company, I was active in our ERG and focused on, those kinds of things.
How do we show representation within the company? And we would do a lot of events throughout the year. One event we would do was around the Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month. And when we did those events, we made sure, okay. Not only do we have a, a Latin panel or presenters who are speaking, but they are all varied [00:04:00] levels at the company, because if we can't show anybody at a leadership level, then what we're really showing is the representation that, yeah, you can be in tech, but you can be in tech at an entry level. And that then represents that the career path really isn't there. And so I think taking those opportunities to really show that there are individuals that you have similar backgrounds to you, that, that look like you in these roles at all different levels of the company that have gone through a career in this industry it, it encourages people to focus and see this as a career rather than this is a job and I'm going to have to, you know, find a real career in the future.
Nikema Prophet: That's so true. I don't have anything to add to that. That was great.
It's Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15)
Guillermo Huerta: [00:00:00] It is Latin/Hispanic Heritage Month. And I think this is a great opportunity for individuals and companies to better understand, well, what is the exposure of the Latin community to tech within their company, outside of their company.
And it's not only, who are you hiring? It's how do you interact with those communities? Because those communities are your customers. They are your vendors And they shouldn't just be limited to a hiring plan because going back to why representation matters and why diversity matters, is if you don't have a diverse workforce, but also, work with a diverse set of vendors and contractors, when you do engage with your users you're inevitably not going to be able to reflect your user base because your user base for most [00:01:00] companies is everybody. And if you don't represent a good portion of everybody, then how can you possibly have a product that understands the needs of all those various communities? So I think the heritage months throughout the year, they're a great opportunity to learn what resources are out there, but those resources are available year-round.
Techqueria is a great one for the Latin community in the tech industry. They put on lots of events throughout the entire year, but particularly during this month. They have great programming. I highly recommend if anybody is curious about the Latin experience and the tech industry to check out their events. And then there's also a Latin Fest that's happening at the end of the month. And that's a three-day event that has all sorts of speakers, career development paths, and sessions for networking.
So it's not and I think this is one of the things that I always [00:02:00] talk about when planning those events is yes, we are celebrating a particular community's heritage or culture during one of these months, that does not mean that is the only audience for these events, which goes back to, true diversity and inclusion is having diversity and including everyone. And so if you only create an event and you're only having the community, that is you're supposed to be raising awareness about show up to that event. You're not really raising awareness your just creating an environment for that community.
What Do You like About Working at Armory?
Nikema Prophet: [00:00:00] What do you like about working at Armory or is there a favorite part about working here?
Guillermo Huerta: I really enjoy working at Armory.
I think it's an exciting time to, to join Armory. And I think one of the things that, really makes it different for me is I started this job entirely remotely in the middle of the pandemic. But I think one thing that really stood out to me as while there was this special circumstance on why I was starting remotely
Armory is the first company I've worked at, which is, a remote first culture. And really, reinforcing that in the way that we are thinking about how the office is being used, how employees get their setups. And so I think I've really appreciated that, that not only am I starting as a remote employee and in this special circumstance, but the fact that it's something that the company [00:01:00] is committed to.
And despite that I have had the opportunity to get to know people and the company culture is very friendly. Like I've enjoyed my conversations. You know, the, all the coffee meetings that we randomly get paired with and just get to know who are the people behind this company? And they're all very interesting, and that they all have plenty of fun facts to find out about.
Thanks for the awesome work you're doing at Armory. I'm glad I had the opportunity to interview you so that we all can celebrate you on this year's National IT Professionals Day 🎉.