Today, we have Eric Ostler, Senior Incident Manager at Nike. Make sure to listen to the full episode as this one is a goldmine of knowledge if you’re interested in working in IT!
In this episode, we talk about:
- How bootcamps & certifications can double your income
- The day-to-day life of Eric as an incident manager at Nike
- How to thrive in a high-stress work environment
- How to get your foot in the door if you’re interested in going into tech/IT
- How to nail your next interview and get a high-paying job
Ryan and Eric also talk about their days working in public service as a firefighter and national guard and how it helped their career.
Enjoy the episode!
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Ryan: [00:00:00] Aloha folks, and welcome back to Degree Free where we teach you how to get the work you want without a college degree. I'm your host, Ryan Maruyama and before we get into today's episode, I did have a couple of things. One, if you'd like to receive a short email every week about different degree free jobs, degree free skills, and how to get the work you want without a college degree, go to degree free.co/newsletter to sign up for our newsletter.
Ryan: Two, one of the biggest struggles that we hear from Degree Free People is that they have no network. Just go to LinkedIn and search for Ryan Maruyama, M A R U Y A M A. Send me a connection request there. Drop a little note and let's connect. Now to get into today's episode, my guest is Eric Ostler, senior Incident Manager at Nike.
Ryan: We, in this conversation, we get into what incident management is, how you can do it, the different certifications in incident management, and then at the end of the interview, we go over everything that you need to know in order to ace your interview. This is a great conversation and I think you're gonna get a lot out of it.
Ryan: If you want to get the show notes to everything that we talked about and you wanna say hi to Eric, you can find the show notes at degreefree.co/podcast. Now, please enjoy my conversation with Eric Ostler.
Ryan: Aloha folks and welcome back to Degree Free. I am super excited to have today's guest on Eric Osler. Eric, thank you so much for making the time.
Eric: Yeah, no worries. I'm pretty excited to be here.
Ryan: Eric, I wanted to start kind of at where you currently are in your job.
Ryan: This is Degree Free podcast, so we try to help people get the work they want without a college degree, and I was looking at your LinkedIn and the title for your job right now is Senior Incident Manager at Nike and the way that I kind of view my job is to learn every job out there so I can kind of teach other people what's possible.
Ryan: 'cause if you don't have a target, we don't know, we don't have anything to shoot for. Just to, before I ask what a senior incident manager is, as a layperson, when I think of that, like I go back to my firefighting days. I used to be a professional firefighter and I think of like an incident commander where we like, we get on like somebody's, we need to go do cpr or somebody's house is on fire and we get on scene and the first person on scene, the most high ranking officer is the incident manager or incident commander, and they kind of manage what's going on in the scene.
Ryan: But I don't, I've never heard of this role within a corporate context, so can you tell me how wrong I am?
Eric: Actually you're gonna love this, you can see I got a big smile on my face right now. That is exactly where it's, where it comes from is the FEMA Emergency Response System. That is the foundations of incident management.
Eric: In fact, one of my titles during an incident is the incident commander. So, that's really funny that you brought that up. That's that's where this whole system comes from and where it's based on was, Woodland Firefighters is where it got picked up.
Ryan: Yeah. Awesome. And so within a corporate role, like what does that mean?
Ryan: So, for me, emergencies really make sense, right? Because, well, one, I used to live in that world. I was steeped in it, but within a corporate sense, like what is an incident at Nike that you would have to manage and is it like an everyday thing that you're doing?
Eric: It is, yeah. And I, some companies have more incidents and some companies have less.
Eric: It all just depends on how the company itself defines an incident. So in a corporate sense, you have incidents and then you have major incidents. Major incidents are where I'm gonna come into play. As an incident manager, I do assist on regular incidents helping engaging teams and getting a hold of people that need to, or that they need in order to fix a smaller problem but major incidents are really where I get in and every corporation defines a major incident differently, but all of them, defined on a severity level, which is usually a severity one through four, with one being the highest severity and four being the lowest.
Ryan: Could you give an example of a, what a major , of a couple of incidences in general.
Ryan: Is it like, manufacturing like the soles aren't fitting on the shoes or something, you know, like.
Eric: So a good example is like a non-major incident, but still an incident is, say a retail store for your company has their internet go out. That's an incident because now that store has to do all their trading offline and their service is degraded.
Eric: They're not able to serve credit card customers. They're trading in cash only. Right? So that's an incident, but that might not be a major incident at most companies, but it's still an incident and then you bring in the major incidents are things like, for example, this is my favorite one.
Eric: We had a severity one last year that hit almost every corporation in the country. AWS had an outage. AWS East had a huge outage. It knocked out Netflix, Hulu, it knocked down nike.com. It knocked down ebay.com. Like so many websites were unavailable. It was the great internet outage of like 2021, right? It was right before Christmas, I believe it was like early December.
Eric: That's a huge, major incident. That's something where I jump in and come into play and you actually might be familiar with corporate incident managers as well already. If you've ever seen a landing page that has live, like a live RSS feed where they're talking about something that's wrong in their system, and there's a little message there that says, Hey, we've discovered that we're having this problem.
Eric: Our teams are working on it and then they give you an update later and they say, Hey, we have an estimated time of resolution on this to be about an hour or so. We figured out what's wrong, this is what happened. Incident managers write those. We're the people that write those messages.
Ryan: I see, I see, and so are there, it seems like there would be different incident managers.
Ryan: So Nike's a massive company. I would've just use Nike 'cause since you work there as the example but like, Nike's a massive company and they have their e-commerce arm and all the internet stuff like nike.com and they have their manufacturing, they have their marketing, all of that. And so do, are there different incident managers for every department?
Ryan: So the IT department has an incident manager, the manufacturing has an incident manager, things like that.
Eric: Some companies do run it that way. Like, so in my previous role with another company, we had, two organizations, the tech organization and the customer service side and customer service had their own incident managers and tech had their own incident managers.
Eric: But currently where I'm at with Nike, it's one team. We are one global team and we are 100% devoted to the entire company which is actually kind of nice. I like to have it over one umbrella 'cause if you split it up like that, you start to build silos, right? And anybody with tech certifications knows you don't want a silo.
Eric: You want clear, open, and honest so everybody knows what's going on and when it's going on. So I deal with everything from retail stores with an iPad that's not working all the way up to, we have a distribution center that's got a broken conveyor belt and we're losing thousands of dollars an hour on shipping.
Ryan: That is so I love it because it seems like you have to kind of be a jack of all trades and you kind of have to just understand how incidences in general are managed and then resolves, and just from like, I'll just go back to my firefighting days. What I used to say about being a fireman was that firemen bring order to chaos.
Ryan: That's, very simply what they do and it seems like with this role incident manager, it's kind of very similar, just in a corporate sense. So
Eric: Oh yeah, it is.
Ryan: There's so much different that could go wrong from like an iPad to manufacturing. How are you even prepared to respond to all of those in incidences?
Eric: So we have a lot of systems that help us with that. Right. So that's the big thing is we set up a lot of systems and run books is what they're called, so in this situation, do this, I do have to point out incident managers don't fix any problems themselves. We don't do any of the work.
Eric: Our job is to engage and coordinate the people who can fix the issue. So we have these runbooks that help us with that, so if I have a retail store that has an internet problem and they're trading offline in cash only, I know these are the people I need to engage and this is how I contact them.
Eric: And then it's just my job to keep them on task until they complete the resolution.
Ryan: I love that because, and I would've loved that more depending on, and I'm, you were in the military, maybe you could, maybe it was similar for you, but depending on the incident, That we were at, sometimes we would have ICS that were not doing what you just said.
Ryan: And, they like, you know how you just said like ICS or incident managers are not supposed to do any of the work that I've had a few, a bunch that would, while they're trying to manage the situation, also try to do some of the work.
Ryan: And it's like
Eric: See, and that's a big failure point. Like you, you can't even, so here's the, my background is a web developer.
Eric: I deal with a lot of programmers in my job. That's where a lot of our incidents stem from is code issues and I might know the fix or think I know the fix and I can push them in that direction and ask leading questions and lead them there. It's not my job to go in and manually change the code myself 'cause that's their, that's what they're for.
Eric: They're my subject matter experts. Those are my people who are gonna fix it and I can ask the questions that I know will lead them to the conclusions that I have and maybe it is a viable solution and maybe it's not. But you don't. You can't get your hands dirty because then that's when you get down in the mud and the incident goes downhill from there, and we're all about fixing the issue in the most efficient way possible to get us back up and running.
Eric: It doesn't even have to be a permanent solution, even if it's a temporary workaround just to get us up and running again. That's my goal as an incident manager.
Ryan: How did you first get into incident management?
Eric: So it's funny actually, I had FEMA emergency response training when I was in the military 'cause I was in the National Guard actually. That's important to point out and one of my certifications that I did for my full-time National Guard job was for the FEMA emergency responder course and that's where I first learned about the in incident management system. Here's the thing, they didn't call it the incident management system.
Eric: I had no idea I had that experience when I got my first incident manager job, had no clue until I was doing the interview and they were talking about it and they're like, oh, well, you know, incident management is based on the FEMA system. Do you have any experience? And I was like, yeah, I do have experience being a FEMA incident responder, but for incident management in the corporate world, I kind of just stumbled into it.
Eric: Actually, it was the dark times, the pandemic covid and I got laid off from my variable data programming job because my company worked for casinos and casinos all shut down during the Pandemic. So, we had nothing to do, they laid me off in July and I was talking to a friend of mine and he said, you have a very commanding presence when you come into a social setting.
Eric: I think you'd be really good at this job that I just got promoted out of. Would you like to apply for it? And I said, yes, 'cause I really needed a job and that was a contract role at eBay. And so I started that in 2020 and fell in love with incident management there. Like, just seeing how it all works and knowing that there were these huge situations where there was millions of dollars on the line.
Eric: And I helped stop that from being lost, it was so fulfilling. I used to get like shaky and nervous during my incidents at first. That was an, it was adrenaline like crazy. It was great.
Ryan: Yeah. That's, that's awesome it sounds, what you're describing, I'm kind of getting a little jacked up talking about it too, because that is one of the things that I missed.
Ryan: The hardest decision in my life was to quit being a fireman. Hardest by far. I had nothing to do. I make more money doing this, than I had a business while I was a fireman. I made more money doing that and I could have at any time, stopped but you know, I ended up moving away, but one of the things, the reason why I miss it, that what you're talking about, that feeling selfishly, it's that feeling that you get that adrenaline, but also , it's the helping people.
Ryan: And then, you know, like I feel better, I feel better helping people and then also I'm kind of like, I'm like a child. What I mean by that is like, it's difficult to see any reaction when you're like writing a blog post on your, you know, but then you're just like, oh, a house is on fire flames, and then you put water on it and then it's not on fire anymore.
Ryan: And it's like that instant gratification. And so I totally understand what you're saying about the incident management. It sounds very, very similar. And for people that are looking for a career like that, it seems like that's, a perfect opportunity to kind of transition out of.
Eric: Yeah, no, and it does.
Eric: It has its ups and downs. It does. A lot of my day is spent eyes on glass. I'm just watching and waiting for something bad to come in, and that sounds nice to a lot of people, but let me tell you, after two years of doing that, it can get kind of boring at times when you're not on an incident.
Eric: You're like, ah, I pace around my living room sometimes, or end up talking to my dogs, or something like that. But yeah, so there, there's that and then the next thing it's extremely high stress but here's the thing. If you come from a high stress environment like firefighting, like police work, like, emergency response work or military work, and you're looking for that high stress, high reward job, this is it.
Eric: I mean there have been times we're dealing with millions of dollars being lost, and it's all the, and the decisions you make could mean the difference between it gets fixed right now or we lose four more million dollars before we fix it and so that's it. It's got that rush to it and that reward, but yeah, it's got its ups and downs.
Ryan: When getting into it, I know that you have the IT certification. Was that instrumental in where you are today? Could you explain a little bit more about the certification and like how to get it like that?
Eric: In fact, I'm glad you bring that up because, yes, it was instrumental in where I am.
Eric: That first incident management job could have ended up just being another job in the list as I moved on but, because I got that job, recruiters started reaching out on LinkedIn and I got a contract role with Nike and then Nike paid for me to get that certification because of that certification, I essentially more than doubled my income because of that certification.
Eric: I think I was being paid $54,000 at eBay as just a regular incident manager without that certification but now that I have that certification, my base salary's $125,000 a year and I don't ever plan on accepting anything less than that.
Ryan: That's amazing. Kind of wanted to dig into your past a little bit because you said something there.
Ryan: You said you were a variable data. Programmer or you were invariable data programming.
Eric: Yeah, that one's, a little interesting. I don't know if that would be the job title everywhere, but that was what we, they called me at the company I worked for, I was working for a printing company that made direct mailing campaigns and they had a program that you would use to make it so that the best way is just to say how it works.
Eric: Okay. So I'm sending coupons to casino customers basically and, you know, customer A spent $5,000 last month, so he gets $500 in coupons this month, and customer B spent a million dollars last month, so he gets $10,000 in coupons, but they both get the same number of coupons. They're just for different values.
Eric: So it was my job to tell the program or to program the printers basically on who or or how many of each type to print and who they go to. So this customer gets the correct coupon and this customer gets the correct coupon in the mail.
Ryan: I see, I see. And going back even further, how did you get into that?
Ryan: Because on your LinkedIn also, there's it looked like you got a certificate of, Computer Science?
Eric: Yeah, let's go back that far in, in how I got into that. Previous to that, I had been a broadband cable technician for Comcast. That was a good job after the military, but it was just as hard on my body as the military was.
Eric: You know, I broke my spine a couple times, shoulder blades, I broke wrists, fingers, toes. It was beating me up. You know, I was 26 years old and felt like I was in my fifties when I got outta bed. I'm popping and creaking and so I decided to go back to school and I looked up, I wanted to get into coding 'cause a good friend of mine was, had, was a self-taught programmer.
Eric: He had like a, I don't know if it was a PhD or a Master's in mathematics, but he had really high mathematics degree. Didn't work in that field. He was a programmer and he taught himself and he said, it's great. I make tons of money. You know, I mean, he drives brand new Tesla, he owns two houses. Guy keeps joining startups and those startups keep getting bought off by big Alphabet companies and FAANG companies and stuff like that.
Eric: And I'm like, wow, this guy is is loaded. I gotta do what he does. So I looked up certificates to get and I found a coding bootcamp to go to and that was rough. Six months of the fastest pace learning I've ever done in my life but I did graduate that I got out of there and I got my first coding job and then I was looking for increased pay 'cause my first coding job, they were paying me a flat salary of $1,800 biweekly, I think.
Eric: And I was talking to my uncle about it and he says, oh, well now you've got coding experience. My company is looking for a data, variable data programmer and I can pay you about $50,000 a year or or four. I think it became out, it came out to like 48 and in my first program or first programming job, I think I was making 40 total.
Eric: And so he, he was like, yeah, I'll put in the word and we'll get you hired. And , that's what happened there and that's how I got into variable data programming. Really, was getting that bootcamp done though.
Ryan: With the bootcamp, like that's one of the things, there's so many ways that you can learn how to program and you can do it for free.
Ryan: You can kind of take a course or you can kind of do a bootcamp, right? Like that's kind of the way that we
Eric: Yeah, those are the ways, yeah.
Ryan: Right. That we think about it. And what was, for you, the bootcamp seems like it was worth it, I guess for those that are on the fence about bootcamps, what would you, what would you say to, for them to warn whether they should or shouldn't do, or like what should they know prior to going into one?
Eric: It's tough. It's really tough. It's fast paced, extremely fast paced. I was in a part-time program, a part-time bootcamp with the, so there's usually two types. There's a full-time and a part-time, full-time. You're there eight hours a day for three months, and then you graduate with your certificate part-time you're there six hours a week for six months, and then you get your certificate, okay? And every week you are building a program. Your very first week in the bootcamp, you're writing a program before the end of the week, which is just insane, right? So here's the thing, if you can't hold your self accountable to learn it on your own, I think a bootcamp is great 'cause first off, you have to pay for it.
Eric: So now your money's on the line. So that's a good motivator and the second thing is you're gonna make a lot of great friends in the bootcamp that are also going to hold you accountable and they're gonna keep you and when you're down and you're struggling and you're having a hard time, You're gonna call them up and be like, I'm thinking about dropping.
Eric: And they're gonna say, no, you can't drop because if you drop, I have to drop. You know? And that's what'll happen. You'll have people to hold you accountable and you'll make it through and you'll make great friends. I'm still professionally connected and socially connected with a bunch of people I went to the bootcamp with and they're all really great people.
Ryan: That is something that we say. We say the same thing, right? And it's putting your money where your mouth is basically and just basically paying for one, like you said, a huge one is just having an accountability partner or, an accountability program to make sure that you are doing what it is 'cause it's so easy for me to just be like, oh yeah, I'm, and this, I'm speaking from personal experience. Like, oh, I'm gonna go and learn how to do HTML and or every Wednesday I'm gonna do HTML and then, I will skip it because I would rather watch the baseball game or whatever rather, you know, do anything else in the world.
Eric: You know what's funny about that is, freeCodeCamp.org right. Even though I know how to code now, I still haven't gone back and finished it all, you know, 'cause I tried three or four times before I went to that bootcamp to do the freeCodeCamp stuff and don't get me wrong, freeCodeCamp is a great resource.
Eric: It is almost word for word. Everything I learned in the same order as I did in my bootcamp, the difference is I had an instructor and I had people to keep me accountable. That was the only reason I needed that bootcamp was that I had an instructor and somebody to hold me accountable.
Ryan: Yeah, totally.
Ryan: There's definitely value. In having somebody curate the content for you because if you're on your own, you don't really know what you have to learn, right? You're just like, should I learn? Like, say we're trying to do a, I dunno, something simple like a WordPress website and you, and we're even using themes and you're just like, what are we, what am I supposed to learn?
Ryan: Where do I start? And that's where like if you pay for a course or a bootcamp, having an instructor there that has curated the content for you and that is available to answer your questions when you get tripped up because you will get tripped up. Like
Eric: Yes, that is so important.
Ryan: Whereas like the alternative, which can be done and lots of people do it is you just have to find the discords where you can, join and ask this really specific question. Stack overflow,
Eric: Discord, stack overflow. Two great resources. I even used those during my coding bootcamp as well and I completely agree with you.
Eric: It is nice to have the instructor there 'cause when I was doing the freeCodeCamps on my own, you know, I'm reading about Python for example. I tried to learn Python and I'm reading about variables. I didn't know what a variable was. I didn't know what I needed a variable for. Those are the kinds of things you're gonna learn in the code camp, right?
Eric: I need a variable so that I can build, functions and do things. Right? I need to define my data so that I can use it. You need to be able to ask those questions. I knew nothing about computer logic going into that course and now coming out of it, I've had, I've now, I graduated in 2018, so that's what, four years IT career now?
Ryan: Yep. Amazing. I kind of wanted to hone in on here is for people listening is, this is a common theme that I've seen with people that have come on the podcast, but also personal friends where they will go and either take a bootcamp or learn how to code and learning how to code is such a ethereal term because
Eric: It really is. Yeah,
Ryan: Right. There's so many different languages and everything like that, but we'll just say they learned how to code and then they got their first job, and then that was just to get their foot in the door in tech, and then they went and they switched all over.
Eric: That is the key with tech. That is the key.
Eric: Your first job in tech is just your foot in the door. Right. You get that first coding job. Here's the thing, like, so going back to the IT certification, 'cause I feel like we just barely touched on that. Getting your foot in the door is really important because once you are in the door, this is gonna start happening to you.
Eric: I get 40 hits a day on my LinkedIn on message requests from recruiters that want to talk to me about giving me a job. I don't look for jobs anymore. Jobs come to me and I make my terms and once you are in the door in it, that will start happening to you and it's not gonna be 40 hits that first night.
Eric: Right? You know, or that first little while, but you get that IT job and you're gonna have a recruiter week reach out maybe once a month and then maybe once a week and then maybe every day. And then next thing you know, you've got recruiters in your inbox like crazy asking you, Hey, do you want this job?
Eric: Hey, I was looking at your LinkedIn. You look like a great candidate for this. Do you want this job? You know, and you get to, to tell them basically what you want. You get to set your terms. You start marketing yourself rather than marketing to the job.
Ryan: That is such an important point because for a lot of people that are listening to this podcast, that is a fever dream right now, right?
Ryan: Like for most people. Listening to this podcast, they're trying to go through a major transition, whether it's deciding whether or not to go to college, or they're teachers or nurses. They have, they're a little bit older. They've been working in a specific industry for a while, and they're trying to make a major change and they can't even dream.
Ryan: They've been applying and applying and applying, and they can't even dream of having your phone like ding ding but, you know, just to know that it is possible and there are the steps to take, and coding is just one of those steps, right?
Eric: It is, yeah.
Ryan: Not everyone has to become a coder. Like I, I tell my friend's story a lot, he did the same thing.
Ryan: He was a marine biologist.
Eric: A marine biologist, okay,
Ryan: He was a Marine Biology Major and then he was an actual marine biologist but it didn't pay a lot at all and then he went to a coding bootcamp for like, I think his was like six weeks or something like that. 12 weeks, I dunno something like that and he ended up getting a job at Facebook and then now he works in something completely different. He works in procurement now, but , it was just his foot in the door. And there are other people, Hannah's one of them, my wife, where she went the Salesforce route and she got a certificate in Salesforce and now she works in product or she also gets people hitting her up every single day.
Ryan: People are still hitting her up to do Salesforce. Like, and I'm sure you can kind of do the same thing too, right? Like incident manager and you could also jump back into programming if you wanted to as well.
Eric: Exactly. Yeah. It's all about, it's all about rounding out your skillset, right? And once you get into tech, you'll find that in the tech world, most major tech companies encourage you to learn about all of the other aspects of tech.
Eric: You know, like I am encouraged to get as many certifications as I want in any place, and I, they do tuition reimbursement. Some of them, depending on the budget that year, I can go to my boss and say, Hey, I want to get my ITIL professional manager certification. It's $10,000. Can we afford that this year?
Eric: And he says, yeah, we'll just put it on the corporate card. You know, like that kind of stuff happens. Once you're in the door, all you have to do is get in the door and it's so easy to get into the door, especially it, the ITIL Foundation certificate is one of the cheapest that I've found. Now it has gone up a little bit with inflation and everything.
Eric: I think when I took it, it was like $465. I think it's up to like 700 now. but usually you can go to, any of those websites that sell the courses. Pink Elephant, those guys that's where I do a lot of mine and you pay them the 700 bucks for the self-paced course and let me tell you how easy the ITIL certification is to get. So skim through the modules, but don't, you don't have to read it for word for Word.
Eric: Get a basic idea of what they're saying and then go grab the practice test sheets and take the practice test over and over and over again until you can pass it and then when you can go take the real test and you will pass the ITIL certification and that gets you in the door into a service desk role.
Eric: If you've ever heard of it, service management, it'll get you into IT service management, it'll get you into, any of these, these, these hundreds of jobs, problems, problem management, change management, relationship management, incident management and these are all not even full IT roles. These are IT adjacent is what I call them.
Eric: I work with a lot of IT guys, but in my current role, I'm not an IT guy myself at all. I work in the global technology organization, but I don't do anything technical. I look at Slack all day, wait for something to happen and then I start emailing people or paging them on pager duty or something like that to get them into, to work on the issue.
Eric: And then I hop into ServiceNow or something like that and send a communication.
Ryan: I love that IT adjacent because there are so many people that on very typical comment email that we'll get is like, I'm trying to get into it. What do I do? And that is such a broad question, right? Like it's, that is such a difficult,
Eric: where you wanna be in IT yeah.
Ryan: Right, exactly. There's like, there's risk management, right? There's incident management, what you do, right? Or there you can be the fingers on keyboards guys, right? Yep. And, and actually dealing with firewalls and security and all of that. And it's just like,
Eric: Or you could be the guy running the ethernet cables, you know?
Eric: That's IT as well.
Ryan: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly and so it's a difficult thing to talk about, or at least like, it's a difficult profession to get into when you have such a broad thing, which is why we try to have on as many professionals from different fields to kind of talk about it and kind of break this stuff down.
Ryan: Like just yesterday, the podcast that's gonna come out right before you. I was interviewing a director of IT and he has a completely different job but you guys both work in the quote unquote IT
Eric: IT space.
Eric: Right? Like my senior director, Eugene Cook, he used to be a senior director for the Walmart corporation.
Eric: Really great guy by the way but his job is completely different from mine. He doesn't do anything similar to what I do and he's the head of the whole technology, global technology organization within Nike. You know, like the, he's senior leadership. These are the guys I'm communicating to and telling them what's going on when there's an incident.
Eric: But other than that, he has, he, his day-to-day has nothing to do with my day-to-day.
Ryan: I wanted to kind of change gears here and kind of talk a little bit about the future and what you see for yourself. Like now that you're a senior incident manager at Nike and you're making, good money 125k a year, where does a senior incident manager go?
Ryan: I guess if you're taking a traditional path and are you trying to walk that?
Eric: So I am trying to walk kind of a traditional path, but that's kind of a loaded question. Well, not even a loaded question. There's just so many answers 'cause the traditional path is really anything from incident management. I can go anywhere I want in the organization with my ITIL certification.
Eric: If I want to move into problem management, I can do that. If I want to go into change in release management where I'm dealing with, engineering teams that are coming in and saying, Hey, we wanna make a change to this program and I've gotta verify that they've done their work and stuff, like, I can do that.
Eric: If I want to move up to a managerial position, I can do that. There are so many things and now I do wanna take the, I want to take the traditional ITIL path though. I think that's a better way of putting it. So not as an incident manager, but as an IT till professional. I'm taking the traditional ITIL path.
Eric: My next step is this year I'm working on getting my ITIL Managing Professional Certification, which is the highest level certification you can get within ITIL that one is very spendy. I'm using my tuition assistance for that, a minimum price. Self-paced courses about $3,000 but that includes my testing, that includes all my training materials and I think that's like five certification tests 'cause there's five certifications I have to get the managing professional Certification. Once I get all of those certifications, I plan on moving into either a managerial or director role, is what I'm looking forward to. I'd like to, the Eugene Cook that I was just talking about, a little bit ago, the senior VP or director of our division. I want his job someday.
Eric: That's where I wanna be and so I'm gonna keep using these certifications to take that path and become an executive, hopefully at Nike, or another major tech organization.
Ryan: Awesome. With kind of getting into incident management and your role now, we kind of touched on the ITIL certification and you could definitely get that and definitely suggest getting that. As far as other skills, like are there different hard skills or soft skills that people should be kind of focusing on getting?
Eric: Yeah, so there's a few things you're gonna, you're gonna need to know. You'll need to be able to use, basic email and communications tools.
Eric: That's important but I think we all kind of have that these but really you gotta work on managing your own emotions. This is important because things can get heated. Very quickly. So for example, just yesterday I engaged a team and apparently I didn't take the right route to engage them that they like, but I have run books and so I go off my run books and they popped in and one of their guys on their team said something that was really passive aggressive because you are dealing with people and people do that.
Eric: And I thought my head was about to explode. I typed out about a two paragraph slack message going off on them but here's the thing, I work on my emotions. So I highlighted it all and I deleted it. And I said, noted, that's important. You need to be able to control yourself and your emotions and stop yourself from doing things like that because there will be times you wanna do that as an incident manager.
Eric: It's a high stress job and you're dealing with a lot of people from all around the world. I work in an organization that's global. We have something like a hundred thousand employees or 80,000 employees worldwide or something like that. There's 40,000 here in Oregon alone. We're a huge corporation and I'm dealing people with people of all different backgrounds from all over the world.
Eric: And so you kind of have to be able to check yourself. So that's something you need to work on. Be able to check yourself, stay professional at all times. Be firm, but professional. That's the other thing. Work on being firm. When you say something, you are the incident commander. You say it, it goes.
Eric: One of the things they teach you in ITIL,in the ITIL best practices is that the incident commander is, during an incident, is the highest ranking individual in the company. It doesn't matter who they are, it could be the 22 year old kid who just barely got his first incident manager job or it could be, you know, the 35 year old veteran incident manager or the guy who's been doing it for 20 years.
Eric: Doesn't matter who they are during an incident, they are in charge. And so if you are that incident manager, you need to act like you are in charge. Okay. So it does take a certain personality type. You don't, you can't be very timid with people 'cause engineering teams and stuff like that, they're gonna come in and try to take charge and take control of your incident.
Eric: But, it reminds me of a time in, one of my roles where I had to tell a senior director to basically get off of my Zoom call , And me, I'm, I was a low lowly little, I was a contractor at the time. I didn't even work full-time for the company and I had to tell a senior director to get off of my zoom call, but you have to do it in a professional manner.
Eric: So, you know, basically they jumped in and started barking orders and asking questions, lots of questions. So as an incident manager, I have worked on my speech and my people skills over the years, and I knew exactly what to do in this situation. What I said was, Hey, sir, it's great to have you on the call.
Eric: Currently we're doing, we have everyone engaged that we need, and we're doing everything we can to get this fixed as fast as possible. Now, I understand you have a lot of questions and you have a lot of things that you want done. So if you'd like to take over this call, I will gladly hand you control of this incident and you can run things.
Eric: But if you want this fixed in a timely manner as fast as possible, I'm gonna ask that you save your questions for the end of the call or leave the Zoom call. And he was like, oh, oh. And as a VP, he's not used to being talked to that way and so he kind of stepped back and was like, oh, well I see you've got things under control then.
Eric: Alright, I'm sorry and then he dropped off my zoom call. So you have to be firm like that with people and you have to know when you can and when you can't be firm like that with people, 'cause you know, I'm not gonna say that to John Donahoe, the CEO of Nike, if he jumps on my Zoom call, I'm gonna say, Hey boss, so, this is what's going on. We've got these teams engaged and this is what they're doing. This is what we think is the best way. Again, I'd gladly give you control of the call if you'd like, otherwise, if you could just let the engineers get their work done, so that was much more polite because that's the CEO, you know, and I, you gotta know who you can be tough with and who you can be firm but not tough with, I guess, if that makes sense.
Ryan: That's great because one of the things that we basically preach, I'll say is the importance of soft skills and one of the biggest threads, I mean the largest thread throughout all of the jobs and all of the guests that we've had on, is that soft skills matter.
Ryan: And like you can learn the industry specific things and just like what you were saying, you run books. Yeah.
Ryan: You can learn that stuff. Learn all of that.
Ryan: But speaking, communicating, interacting with people, even if you work at a really low Touchpoint job. Like maybe you are, laying ethernet cables or maybe, you know, you're working a server room or something like that.
Ryan: Eventually you're gonna have to send an email. Like eventually you're gonna have to slack somebody and just knowing how to address people is invaluable in any career.
Eric: No, it really is. If you can take, like, if you have, some rough soft skills and you recognize that, and you can take some classes or read some books to help you develop them more.
Eric: You know, that's, that's really important. Another thing to work on with incident management is a lot of companies. I'm very lucky where I'm at, they don't care if we put out the same update every two hours 'cause we are on a schedule of when we put updates out, they don't care if we repeat our updates and say, Hey, the teams are still working on it.
Eric: We don't have an estimated time right now. Sometimes I don't have to change a communication at all except to update a couple of numbers. Other companies do not like to receive the same message twice in a row. My first company was like that. So, creative writing, if you can say the same thing five different ways, you're a perfect fit for this job.
Eric: That's really important for some companies, is being able to say the same thing with five different sentences, completely different sentences. They like, 'cause you gotta think. The communications that you're sending as an incident manager are going to VPs, directors, CEOs, cto, all of the big C-suite people.
Eric: And some of those people do not like to read the same thing twice in a row. So they want you to come up with something new. So instead of saying, Hey, the teams are still working on this, say while the teams are continuing to do this, this is what else has been happening and then just, put in a bunch of stuff that really they probably won't understand anyway.
Ryan: That's great because it's also an exercise in. communication and framing things, right. It's kind of like my mind goes to like sales basically. And just like, you can sell this person on, you know, this cup of whatever in so many different ways and as long as you can frame it correctly, you might be able to sell it to them multiple times.
Eric: Right, exactly.
Ryan: Do you have any tips for creative writing? Do you have any tip, like, any resources or like books that you've read or anything like that?
Eric: I actually do. I actually do, and it's gonna be funny it's kind of a, it's a party game, catchphrase. catchphrase, play catchphrase with your friends, with your family.
Eric: You know, if you are an incident manager, play it with your team. It is an amazing, 'cause it's just this little electronic device and it gives you a word and you are not allowed to say the word, but you have to describe that word to everyone around you until they guess what it is and it's so, it's fun and it helps you build that vocabulary.
Ryan: Okay. Is that the one, like, there's, I saw a version like on a phone where yeah, so you, a word shows up and I can't see the word and you have to, you can see the word and you have to keep like explaining what that word is. Yep. Until I guess it, right?
Eric: Yeah. I think it's called catchphrase.
Eric: Okay. Okay. I actually played that when I was working in a call center, , call center is what got me onto that. During our training, every day at the end of the day for an hour, we played that game to work on our soft skills.
Ryan: That is so interesting. I literally never would've thought of that game, but it makes a lot of sense.
Ryan: Now that you, now that you say it.
Eric: It gets you really creative in how you describe things and how you can tell people things. It's very, especially in a job where you are describing things, it's really good to have that skill as broad as possible. because it's my job to, to take, like, so I'll have an engineer tell me, Hey, this X server is having this error and it's causing this to happen.
Eric: And they'll put it in all this tech jargon. So it's my job to take that tech jargon, change it into regular speech, and then send that out to executives so that they can understand what's going on. So you need to be able to describe things really well. Hey, so we're having an issue within this system that is making it so that customer service athletes are unable to process customer returns.
Eric: This is causing this much impact to our business. There's the information, so you have to be able to translate what your engineers are saying from technical impacts into actual business impacts so that you can tell the people who are subscribed, the people who are your, what do they call them?
Eric: Stakeholders, sorry, I should use the proper phrases here. Your stakeholders, what's going on and catchphrase is a great way to do it. Amazing.
Ryan: Well, my jaw was on the floor for a second 'cause I've played that game a bunch but I have a couple of friends that like, love that game. I forgot what it was called, but I'm not a huge fan of that game.
Ryan: But maybe I just, it, it wasn't framed for me in the right way.
Eric: Yeah, maybe not.
Eric: So it's a great way to develop those skills.
Ryan: And those skills, like we were talking about, the soft skills. Just being able to describe things multiple ways is huge. Like I have a one time, I told the story on this podcast once about my worst interview ever and it lasted all of like 10 minutes.
Ryan: But it was basically the interview I was interviewing with this company. It was a startup at the time and, I interviewed with the CEO and he was asking me like, how are you gonna get our platform out to millions of people? And I basically said, I'm gonna get you on this social channel. I'm going to, send out email newsletters, get subscribers, whatever, whatever, whatever.
Ryan: He was like, perfect, but how are you gonna do it? And then I was just like,
Eric: You couldn't describe how you were gonna do it.
Ryan: Yeah. I was like, what are you talking about man? I was like, I just told you. And so I literally just went and I repeated the same exact thing. I said, oh, you know, well I'm gonna get you on all these social channels.
Ryan: I'm gonna send out email newsletter and I'm gonna get you newsletters or subscribers. And then he goes, how? And me, I just say the same thing over again and the interview was done at that point but , if I had taken a, there's a couple of things there. One, I should have, clarified the question.
Ryan: I should have clarified the question for clear communication. That's, but then also if I have been thinking more creatively, I could have, if I wanted to restate the things, because I thought that he didn't, Hear me, or he didn't understand what I was saying. I could, if I had, taken the creative writing, course that is catchphrase, I might have been able to
Ryan: communicate a little bit more effectively there.
Eric: Yeah. No, and communication is key. Another thing that's helped me, is interviewing you. You brought up interviewing. So I'm sure you've touched on this, but plenty of times in your podcast but I will say this, and, not to toot my own horn or anything, but every job I've ever interviewed for, I've got, and that's another thing that has to do with those soft skills.
Eric: But I will give this tip and it may be something that's been given before. I don't know. I actually haven't caught up on your podcast yet. It's on my list though. The, star method of interviewing, even if it's not a star interview. , when you answer a question, use the star method and if you're not familiar with the star method situation, task, action, result.
Eric: So they ask you a question, so you tell them about a situation you were in, that you tell them about the task you were supposed to do or you needed to do in that situation, you tell them what actions you took, you take, you tell them the results. Situation, task, action, results. Yeah. Star and then you tell them the results of those actions.
Ryan: That is awesome. Do you mind giving us an example because honestly we actually haven't, we haven't touched on the star method before, and so since you brought it up, I would love to just kind of, , throw it back and forth. Like, can we think of, a time in your life recently or, you know, that we can kind of just use this star method, for that.
Eric: Yeah, I can do that. And I mean this really applies to any question they ask you too. Even personal questions. You can use a personal story from your life but let's talk about, okay, I've got one. so a little while ago, a few years ago, I was working as it was more than a few years ago.
Eric: It was about 12 years ago, I was working as a security guard on a National Guard base. Just after I had gotten out of the National Guard. It was my first job out of the National Guard out of full-time National Guard and, I saw a red glow on the horizon. This is in Utah. I was living in Utah at the time.
Eric: This was at Camp Williams. It was about two o'clock in the morning, and I saw a red glow on the horizon. It's the middle of summer and so I was pretty sure I knew what it meant. , but I wasn't a hundred percent sure. So I hopped in the patrol truck and I drove 20 miles out onto the base and, verified that it was a fire.
Eric: So that's my situation. Situation is I'm by myself on a military base at two o'clock in the morning and there is a wildfire. So what is my task in this situation? I have to notify every one of what's going on and we have to get people out there. So I drive, my task is now to drive that truck back to the guard shack, get on the , radio down to HQ let them know that there is a wildfire on Camp Williams and it's big, and that they need to call out probably helicopters and planes to come drop water on this thing and possibly evacuate the town nearby that was near the fire.
Eric: So that was my actions. I drove back to the guard shack. I got on the radio, I made the call and I said, Hey, this is what's going on. We, we've got a big fire out here. So then fire department comes out, this is the results. Fire department comes out, starts fighting the fire. We get wildland or, woodland, wildland, wildland firefighters out there.
Eric: We get planes, we get helicopters, they evacuate part of the town but because of my actions and early notification, the houses that were at risk of burning did not burn down. So that's my situation, task, action, result. So that's a broad example of it, but there's, you can drill down and get more specific right?
Eric: To even work tasks. Hey, my boss came to me and said, Hey, we need to get this update out in two weeks. So that's your task. Now you have to code this update in two weeks. You're doing a two week, scrum, right? I think that's what they call 'em, encoding. I can't remember. It's a two week something, sprint, a two week sprint.
Eric: So, oh, you've got a two week sprint and you've gotta get this release out in two weeks, but you're doing it solo. So what are your actions? What did you do to make sure that you got that task done? And then what were the results? Did you get the update, update out in time? Did you miss the update? Use it for good stories and bad stories.
Eric: Your results don't have to be positive, but if you. yeah. Oh yeah, sorry, go ahead.
Ryan: No, no, no. That's great because we honestly, we haven't talked too much about interviewing on this podcast and that's a great method, to do it and that's just good for the star method is great, even for like, status reports, right?
Eric: Oh, yeah.
Ryan: Or just like regular, just updates.
Eric: It's a good skill to have.
Ryan: Yeah. Like, Hey, what are, what have you been working on? And then you can frame your experience
Eric: in that method.
Ryan: Yeah. A really structured way where somebody's like, okay, well Ryan's not just sitting on his ass all day.
Ryan: Like he's doing something.
Eric: Yeah, exactly.
Ryan: Yeah. I think that's the key that a lot of people really struggle with at the beginning when you're a really poor interviewer, is just looking at your experience at all and what I mean by that is like, I put you on the spot there and you were able to come up with a story like that and structure the story using the star method.
Ryan: Because you used the star method, you made it into a story that I could understand and was intelligible.
Ryan: People love stories, right? People love stories, people, I was there with you the entire time. Anybody listening to you, we were in the truck with you, right? Like we, we saw you drive back to the guard shack to alert everybody.
Ryan: And that is one of the best ways to interview rather than just like saying, oh, well I'm really, I'm really good at communicating, you know, and, I did it this one time in this way. So, thank you.
Ryan: Thank you.
Eric: I was gonna say one more thing. If your interviewer is asking the questions in this format, tell me about a time you did X.
Eric: They're looking for you to use the star method. That's what they want from you. If they say, tell me at about a time you did this. That's the last thing I've got.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's perfect.
Ryan: That's perfect.
Ryan: What's really, do you do a lot of practice for interviewing or was it just something that came natural?
Ryan: It came natural at first, but now as I've gotten older, I do practice. I do, I run mock in, a mock interview with myself or, a colleague or a friend. The day before I'll run a mock interview and then two days before I actually prep my answers, I don't know what the questions are going to be.
Ryan: But I start thinking about my work history and I say, okay, what do I want to bring? What do I wanna highlight in my work history? Because a lot of your star answers can be applied to multiple questions. So you just have to remember the stories and you gotta say, oh, I remember this one time this happened.
Ryan: So you write that down in a notebook and then you practice telling that in the situation, task action result method. And then, when they ask the question, tell me, about a time at work that you were extremely challenged, . Well, there was this one time, I had this two week sprint on an impossible update.
Ryan: This is the situation, this is the task action result. Right? That's, and then they could, maybe they don't ask that. Maybe they say, tell me about a time where you messed up really big and you can use that same story because maybe you didn't achieve your goal.
Eric: Exactly, exactly.
Ryan: When you say practicing, what does that look like?
Ryan: So I know whenever I hear people say, you have to practice. You have to practice. You have to practice. I know for myself when I was first starting out, like I have no idea what that looks like. Like what? What do you mean practice? Does that mean like I just sit in front of my computer and video tape myself?
Ryan: Or do I record myself talking? My answers like, what does your practice look like?
Eric: So my practice does currently look exactly like that. I have a pretty nice camera here, and I will sit in the compu in front of the computer and I will practice and I will record myself, and then I'll go back and I will watch that recording and I'll go, no, that was not good.
Eric: I don't like that or I have ADHD and I move my hands a lot when I, and I play with pens when I'm talking to people. I make sure during part of my practice is cleaning up my workspace if I'm interviewing from home. Making sure there's nothing here that can distract me. I don't want anything.
Eric: I I don't want to be sitting there going like this, flipping a pen in my fingers, stirring an interview. I want to be sitting like this, looking at my camera, talking to my interviewers because it makes them feel like I'm making eye contact with them and I'm there in the room with them, you know?
Eric: So part of my practice is making sure that my space is comfortable for me. The next part is recording my own practice interviews. I'll hop in Discord with a buddy. I'll give him a list of 10 questions to ask me, and I will record myself with OBS or something like that and make a video of me answering those questions, another thing I do during my practice is come up with questions for my interviewer.
Eric: And I know a lot of people do the whole, oh, well, you know, you guys have been so informative, I just don't have any questions, don't do that. Always ask a question. At a minimum, the question you should be asking is, was there any point in the interview, or anything that I said that maybe didn't sit right with you or didn't answer your question well enough that you'd like me to go back and touch on?
Eric: And then they go, oh yeah, well there was this one thing. Or they might say no, and then you would say, they say no. You say, great. So you know, as long as there's not a more qualified candidate that comes long, you would feel comfortable hiring me today. And that puts 'em on the spot to let you know as well.
Eric: Now that's a bold one. That's a bold one. I've only used it twice, but I was sure I had the job at that point. So
Ryan: I love that. I love that. That is, I have literally, I've heard of people say that, so I completely agree with you. Your practice looks very similar to the way that, to the way that I practice as well.
Ryan: I'm a little bit, I'm terrible at interviews. Like really, really, we were talking about it, right before we started recording and getting into it. But like, I am really, really bad and so my practice is a little bit more structured where I will literally like the first, if you go to those lists of most frequently asked interview questions, those top 10 or 25, tell me about yourself, when was the time?
Ryan: What are your strengths or weakness, da da da da, da. I will literally go and type out my answers in like a Google Doc first, and then try to like word for word. I will type it out and then I'll try to read it a bunch of times, edit it, and then I will then go to the camera and then like, you can't say it word for word because, well, at least I can't, I'm not that skilled enough to make it sound like conversation.
Ryan: I have to memorize the essence of what I'm trying to say and then say that as far as questions go, I always try to ask questions. Definitely. I've never been so bold of, as you
Eric: Like I said, I've only done that one twice and I was pretty sure I had the job.
Eric: But here's the thing, that one, that first question, you should really be asking that every time. Is there anything in the interview that I said or that I maybe didn't expand upon enough, that would keep you from wanting to, or to hire me, or something along those lines? Basically just ask them, did I interview well and what could I have done to interview better?
Ryan: So in those situations, and so let's say that they said yes, we didn't like this once or we have a question about, or I mean, not a question cause you can answer that in a, rebuttal, but if you're like, we didn't like what this portion, like what do you say to that?
Eric: You're gonna say, Hey, well then if we have time, I would love to expand upon that for you.
Eric: I would love to talk more about that and maybe clear that up. That's the whole point of the question, is to see if there was anything that didn't sit right with them and if it didn't, now you can go back and you can, you know, try to explain a little bit further. Maybe they didn't understand the point that you were trying to get across.
Eric: Maybe they did and they still, they're still not comfortable with it and that's okay too. That's okay too, because they're not gonna like all of your answers to everything. Nobody's ever gonna like all your answers to everything.
Ryan: Eric, thank you so much for doing this. I'll ask you a couple more questions.
Ryan: I hear, think, is what is, what's her name? His name?
Eric: Moose, moose was the dog that was up on my lap and then I've got Baxter over here whining at me. I'm not sure why he's 16 years old. He's got dementia, so he does this sometimes.
Ryan: I will take up all of your day. I had a couple more questions, so that you can get back to Baxter.
Ryan: If somebody wanted to learn more about being an incident manager, what are some good resources? Books, blogs, anything, podcast, anything out there for people to, to look at?
Eric: So, I'm not familiar with any podcasts, just yet. It's actually something I've been considering doing myself, because I just, there aren't many out there, but, I would say, A great place to start is, pager duty.
Eric: Now they are a business that provides incident management software, but they also have a free, they call it the pager duty U where they describe incident management. They talk about their internal incident management processes and how they run things and in fact, they have a lot of great resources there for the certification.
Eric: Another thing you could look into is honestly some books. I'm gonna be really cliche here, and I'm gonna say those standard sales books that , you always read when you get your first sales job or whatever. You know How to Win Friends and Influence People. As cliche as it is, and as cringey as that book gets in some places, it does have some good information.
Eric: That's a good one to read. Honestly. It's not terrible and the updated version is even better than the original. And I say better when I actually am not a huge fan of the book in the first place. But like I said, it's got some great tips in there on really how you can work on those soft skills.
Eric: The manipulation stuff is a little, I would stay away from that stuff, but
Ryan: Yeah, how to Win Friends and Influence People. Definitely. If a book can be cliche, that's about as cliche as it gets. But a cliche is a-
Eric: There's another one. Give me one second.
Ryan: Go for it.
Eric: I think I've got it over here.
Eric: I don't, I've already packed up my business bookshelf. I can't remember the name of it.
Ryan: No worries, no worries. But yeah, Eric, for people that are trying to
Eric: oh, okay. Well, so, of course I'm on LinkedIn. I accept every request I get on there. That's one place. Another place that they could go is I do, I do stream on YouTube playing video games. It's just C A T R 3 E is my handle on there. , you're welcome to stop by. I will say that it's probably, adult because of explicit language.
Eric: We don't want a lot of children coming by and I don't want to offend any parents or anything like that, but, I do get pretty heated when I'm playing video games. Sometimes it's where I let out that incident management stress. So there's that as well. And then, I will be launching here in the next three months.
Eric: I'll be launching my new podcast, actually. It's more of a fun podcast like, an entertainment one. It's called, Hey, check out these nerds. So that'll, so watch for that to drop within the next three months or so.
Ryan: Sounds good. Sounds good. And then, for your YouTube, that was C A T R 3 E?
Eric: Yeah, C A T R 3 E
Eric: that's me on every platform. I'm on TikTok. I'm on, oh, I guess I forgot to mention that. TikTok, it's PK underscore C A T R 3 E. I changed my name on there a while back as a joke and then when I was able to change it back, somebody had stolen my handle. So it's PK underscore C A T R 3 E on TikTok.
Ryan: Got it. I will have links, to all of that in the show notes for everybody, degreefree.co/podcast and Eric, thank you so much for the time. I really, really appreciate it.
Eric: No, thank you very much for having me. This was a lot of fun. This was a great time and if you ever want me to come back and chat about other stuff or the same thing again in the future, you let me know.
Eric: I will be here. This was fun.
Ryan: Absolutely. Absolutely. We'll have you back on, when your podcast comes out. We can. Oh, cool. Yeah, that'd be great. Alright, Eric, thank you so much. Have a good one.
Eric: Yep, see ya.
Ryan: Thanks so much for listening everybody. Before you get outta here, once again, if you haven't already, please connect with me on LinkedIn, Ryan Maruyama, and if you haven't subscribed to our free weekly newsletter, just go to degree free.co/newsletter and put your email in.
Ryan: If you guys enjoyed this episode, please give us a review wherever you get your podcast and share this with a friend. Until next time, guys.
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