Jeff Finley, Sr. Cloud Architect: Traveling the Road Less Taken

Jeff Finley, Sr. Cloud Architect: Traveling the Road Less Taken

There’s a motorcycle corridor in the Pacific Northwest that’s a part of the Trans-America Trail. It runs through areas of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The route is a trail system that rides over the mountains without ever needing to get on the highway. It’s an entirely off-road system providing stunning views and a beautiful sense of clarity.

I love hitting that trail on my motorcycle, or paddle boarding with my wife and kids along the Deschutes River here in Central Oregon. In both cases, you never know exactly what the trail, sky, or water conditions will be, so it’s a unique experience for every person coming through.

That sense of variety has been a big part of my personal life, and it’s also helped guide my professional career.

Finding my footing in technology

Since my early teens, one of my favorite things to do was taking electronics apart and putting them back together. I’d find items like old rotary telephones or drones, disassemble them, and then see if I could rebuild them. I took auto shop classes that provided similar situations, taking cars apart and rebuilding them — sometimes making them more efficient than before. That led to my interest in motorcycles too, since I better understood how they worked.

While I’ve always had that curiosity about how technology operates, I stumbled into a tech career somewhat by accident. I was working at the front desk of a company, handling a lot of admin work. After six months, an IT position opened up and, knowing my interest in tech, the company tapped me to fill it. 

At first, I worked primarily on dumb terminals and mainframes (and no, I’m not quite as old as that makes me sound). That role continued to evolve as the company grew and expanded into more locations. I went from a server admin to running the whole IT department, and then into a CTO role for the company.

Stepping into leadership as a CTO and cloud architect

Being a CTO was new to me. For a while, I thought I didn’t want to be a CTO and take on that kind of IT management role. I took a year off and returned as a developer. However, I soon realized working on one project for eight hours a day isn’t in my nature — I’m not one to do the same type of thing over and over. Just like there’s always a new trail to hike or ride or a new part of the water to explore, when you’re a cloud architect or a CTO there’s always a new business challenge to solve using the cloud. 

That’s something I encourage people to figure out early on: are you at your best when you’re focused on one main project? Or do you need diversity in your work? 

For me, it’s the latter, and I’m fortunate to be at Effectual where I can help on every project. Those opportunities — getting to see a problem in front of me and working to build a solution — are the things I enjoy most. I get to assist our customers on a variety of challenges in different business verticals. 

A sense of variety has been a big part of my personal life – and it’s also help guide my professional career.

Building customer success through Modern Cloud Management

Within the past month, I’ve shifted the bulk of my focus to our Modern Cloud Management offering. I’m working with every part of our business to build up the underlying way we deploy and support managed customers.

In most cases, customers come to us because they realize the cloud is a core need for their business. We’re not a shiny new pair of tennis shoes that might get you a compliment while you’re out on the open road — we’re the foundation for your business and your livelihood. They need experts to make sure they’re doing cloud right.

Just like driving through the mountains provides a unique experience each time, we take a unique approach with each customer. Nothing is cookie cutter; there are always trade-offs to be made. 

For example, if a company is running a certain number of instances for redundancy, that increases their cost. Having fewer instances reduces the cost but could lead to longer downtime if something goes wrong. A company needs to determine what level of liability they’re comfortable with, and that’s where I can help as a cloud architect. 

Making informed decisions along the cloud journey

There are times on the road where I decide a certain route isn’t for me that day. There’s nothing wrong with that – the important thing is making an informed decision. 

Those informed decisions are key for the cloud, too. When we work with customers, we start with where they are now and learn where they’d like to be, then help them forge the path to get to their destination. And that’s a beautiful journey. 

How A Cloud Partner Helps You Maximize AWS Cloud Services

How A Cloud Partner Helps You Maximize AWS Cloud Services

Working with an experienced cloud partner can fill in knowledge gaps so you get the most out of the latest cloud services

Cloud services have been widely adopted for years, which is long enough for users to gain confidence in their understanding of the technology. Yet as cloud continues to grow and develop, customer knowledge does not always grow proportionately. When users become overconfident, they can unknowingly overlook new Amazon Web Services (AWS) technologies and services that could have a significant impact on positive business outcomes.

What cloud customers are overlooking

  • Control is not necessarily security
    In the early days of the cloud, many companies were reluctant to offload everything to cloud services due to security concerns. Today, many CTOs and IT Directors are still unsure how security translates to the cloud and remain hesitant about giving up control.

    AWS provides a proven, secure cloud platform for migrating, building, and managing workloads. However, it takes knowledge and expertise to take individual services and architect them into a solution that maintains, or even heightens security. A partner well-versed in AWS services and advanced cloud technologies can identify and deploy tools and services that strengthen your security posture and add value to your business.
  • Keeping up with cloud innovation is an investment in continual learning
    This can be a tall order for organizations with limited internal resources or cloud knowledge. Partnering with cloud experts who stay constantly informed about new AWS services – and know how to implement them – gives you immediate access to cloud innovation. It also frees up your developers and engineers to focus on core initiatives.
  • Aligning business and IT delivers better results
    Internal teams that pitch a cloud-forward strategy often face hesitancy from business leaders. This is because executives have historically made decisions about how to allocate and manage IT resources, leaving developers to work within the parameters they are presented. However, involving solutions architects and cloud engineers in decision-making brings a crucial technical perspective that uncovers additional options with better results.

    Bridging this gap is a matter of translation, as what makes sense to an in-house developer might seem like jargon to executives in other business units. Because our engineers understand both business and technology, we can bring clarity to modernization initiatives by acting as a translator between business and IT – preventing major communication and technical headaches down the line.  

The benefits of pairing managed and professional services

If your cloud partner is capable of handling larger professional services projects such as migrations, app development, and modernization as well as the ongoing maintenance of managed services, you will be far more successful at optimizing resources, improving security, reducing stress, and realizing cost savings.

There are several advantages of pairing professional and managed services:

  • Reduce operational overhead and optimize workloads
    Allowing a partner to directly manage more systems reduces your operational overhead and optimizes workloads. This guarantees your business will not get bogged down with redundant operations or pay for more computing power than is truly needed.

    For instance, you may be paying high colocation costs to house everything in your data center. By engaging a partner that offers both professional and managed services, you can move a workload safely from on-premises to the cloud with the same functionality, make it more secure, maintain compliance, and have confidence it is being optimized for performance and cost.
  • Upgrade and modernize more efficiently
    Having professional services and managed services under one roof makes it easier and more efficient to upgrade or modernize. Changes to infrastructure go much smoother with a trusted cloud partner at the wheel who has access to customer systems. Without access, the partner has to navigate the back and forth between client-controlled systems and new professional services before any real progress can take place.

    The goal is not to scrap an entire in-house system, but to develop a smooth transition where managed and professional services work in harmony. With the right context, and the right cloud partner, you can translate the ROI of pairing professional services and managed services so your executives are onboard with cost-saving proposals and your developers have a seat at the table.

In summary, you can maximize the benefits of cloud services by engaging a partner with the technical expertise, business experience, and deep knowledge of AWS services to support your modernization efforts.

Connect with our Modernization EngineersTM to find out how we can help you unlock the full power of the cloud.

Jeff Finley is a Senior Cloud Architect at Effectual, Inc.