Runecast Behind-the-Scenes: Kev Johnson

Sometime at the beginning of 2020, we got news internally that Runecast had acquired a new, not-so-secret weapon by the name of Kev Johnson. We’ve not been disappointed. It’s not that Kev is really so different from other Runecasters, but he’s definitely more extroverted than many of us – so he’s become one of the most recognizable Runecast faces. And we’re good with that.

Within just a couple of weeks, Kev had quickly settled into his first role as a Senior Systems Engineer for Runecast, providing deep-dive technical demos of Runecast Analyzer and supporting both the Sales and Marketing teams with our endless requests. Beyond that, he started to host monthly webinars and served as a strong bridge between the highly technical folks and the less-technical communication-focused types.

A year later, Kev kicked off 2021 as our Technical Marketing Manager (more aligned with his previous role at VMware). Unless he’s on vacation, he seems to have no ‘off’ switch. If someone needs assistance in one of our company slack channels, Kev is typically one of the first responders. Even in public forums like the VMware subreddit or the Telegram-app-based VMware Group channel, Kev can often be seen helping the IT community with their challenges. He helps a great deal to keep Runecasters – and the vCommunity as a whole – educated, updated, motivated, engaged, and frequently also entertained.

1. What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Every day is different. I’ve worked a number of different jobs over my career, and those which were the same old 9-to-5 just weren’t for me. Working for a startup means that you need to be able to switch up what you’re doing every single day, and I *love* that! Beyond that: I love talking to people, and I love solving problems. As Technical Marketing Manager, I get to speak with our existing and prospective customers, learn what we can do better and help to push things in the right direction for them.

2. What’s your go-to productivity trick?

Step away from the desk. If I’m in a rut, I find that my dog is always ready to get outside to the park and play with her friends. Even 15 minutes in the fresh air works wonders as a reset, and it’s really important to get away from the desk during the day.

3. What was the biggest challenge that you’ve had to deal with so far at Runecast?

One of the things I’m regularly bumping up against is my use of my own mother tongue: the English language is a many and varied thing, and I’m regularly coming up against ways in which I’ve been lazy, or terms that I thought were global that aren’t so much. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of technical challenges too, but as I move into a role that’s more focussed on communication I’m learning new tricks every day. Never too old for school.

4. How do you keep yourself updated about current technology?

This is something of a struggle for a lot of folks who work in tech. I spoke recently about a term that I thought I had coined, but it appears I just subconsciously stole it (which is ironic, given the name…). Magpie Syndrome is that constant drag of the latest, shiniest technology, and after many years of trying to be an expert in all of them I accepted that it’s just not possible until someone invents some kind of Johnny Mnemonic device, or figures out how to squeeze another 18-24 hours in a day.

Nowadays I try to listen to podcasts and read the occasional blog and tech news site in order to get a basic feel for trending topics. I try to learn from both sides of the story – why tech X is a great fit for problem y, and also what it’s weaknesses are. Beyond that, I’ll pick up maybe 2 or 3 technologies from that list and try to go to a level 100-200 understanding. If I’m still hooked, I’ll push through to 300 and beyond.

Different people learn best in different ways. One of my tricks is to try to explain a tech to someone who doesn’t understand it. If I can’t do it to the point that they understand clearly, I probably don’t know it as well as I thought. I’m currently mentoring someone who is working towards their first VMware Certified Professional accreditation. While I have a bunch of VCPs under my belt, as well as some VCAPs and VCIX, I’m learning new stuff through the process of teaching them. And I can’t recommend this approach enough!

5. What do you enjoy most and least about engineering?

The endless flow of problems and the challenge to solve them. That’s the answer to both.

6. How do you keep yourself organized?

Hah! Anyone who knows me would never accuse me of anything like “being organized”. I do my best: to-do lists, little hacks like setting myself reminder messages in Slack, snoozing emails in Gmail, blocking time in my calendar to do things that are time sensitive. I live and die by the contents of my whiteboard, and I rely (arguably way too heavily) on the kindness of the rest of the team here at Runecast to keep me on the straight and narrow, and make sure that I’ve created content in plenty of time for when it’s needed, and that I’m prepped for any live things like webinars.

7. Is there something that the current pandemic situation has taught you? 

It’s ok to not feel like you’re on top of things. I’ve been working from home for a few years at this point, and I rarely feel like I’m as productive under lockdown as I was when working from home prior to the pandemic. The stresses of everyday life are heightened, and so it’s really important to be able to disconnect from work at the end of a day. Different people use different tools, and my ritual is to step away from my office, walk the dog (again!), try to cook something reasonably healthy, have a bath, read a little and then go to bed nice and early. 

8. What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

Outside of work, I’m a creature of simple habits. I love getting out in nature, climbing hills, camping, that sort of thing. I’m also a big fan of Celtic FC (football club), and while that’s been a joy for the last few years, let’s not talk about this season, if that’s ok? I played the drums for a number of years, and while I still have my kit I’ve sadly not touched them in a long time. More than anything though: I love to eat delicious food. Are you going to eat that donut?

9. At the end.. if someone would love to take you for lunch, what’s your favourite cuisine? 

Well that segues nicely! I’m a lapsed/failed vegetarian, by which I mean it’s easiest to tell people that I’m vegetarian when talking about food, but I will occasionally have a moment of weakness for the great British Friday evening meal of fish and chips. Outside of that, I love spicy foods, I love cheeses and breads. My biggest weakness (apart from jelly beans, but we don’t talk about that) is noodles, though. I *love* noodles. Ramen, yakisoba, all kinds of noodly goodness! We’d better wrap this up, as I’m now hungry....

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