Who's the boss at fixing anything related to current or vintage technology? Tigerpaw DevOps Engineer Tony Gies.
Whether he's tackling a complex software error, performing routine maintenance on the Terminator pinball machine in our Rec Center, fixing a plug-in that broke on the Tigerpaw website or getting our Crazy Taxi throwback arcade game back in working order, there is no task Tony can't handle with his signature calm, quiet, "Don't worry — I've got this" attitude.
Learn more about Tony and how he uses his wizardry IT skills to keep Tigerpaw and our customers running efficiently during our next installment of Tiger Tales in which we highlight members of Team Tigerpaw:
How long have you worked at Tigerpaw and what brought you here?I’ve been at Tigerpaw for five and a half years. I came here because it seemed like the type of company I’d done well at in the past — smaller, with plenty of opportunities to wear different hats and solve new and interesting problems. Of course, the office being within walking distance of my house factored into my decision a bit too.
At Tigerpaw, we really celebrate quirkiness. What are some of your quirks?Lately some folks around here have been making a big deal about my preference for trackballs over mice — maybe because I have five of them on my desk right now. (I was taking inventory.) I’m fond of old computers and various corners of my office are stuffed with old MS-DOS programming manuals and bits of 1980s technology. I walk to work from my house a couple streets away, cutting through the brushy field behind the office and frightening new employees who are not familiar with this arrangement. I never liked being described as “quirky” but can appreciate that it is intended to be complimentary as it is used around here.
DevOps Engineer is a badass title. What does that mean exactly? What does your typical day look like? What are your favorite things about your job?
The industry is still kind of figuring out exactly what my title means, but basically the idea is that I combine methodologies associated with the formerly separate disciplines of development and operations to produce and maintain the computing resources we need, more quickly and better aligned to specific business needs than I could with older operations methodologies. A less-buzzwordy description would be that I am basically a sysadmin that tries to get out of a lot of work by writing programs to do it for me instead. I also get called upon to deal with a lot of development and support issues due to my broad knowledge of fiddly Windows systems stuff.
My typical day at Tigerpaw starts with reading a lot of automated complaint letters from computers that believe they have something wrong with them. Any kind of sysadmin is basically being harassed 24/7 by automated notifications signifying that something is maybe slightly wrong somewhere. I triage these and determine the actual impact of any real problems that may exist and make a plan to address them. Around this time, the questions generally start coming in — our other technical departments often rely on my knowledge of things like database servers, networking and weird Windows bugs — and I could be pulled in any number of directions depending on the needs of the day. At any given time I usually have some major architectural project like a new service or a server move going on as well, so between all these things I can get pretty busy. Like I mentioned earlier, I deal with this partly by writing programs to automate anything I can — my army of robots can keep tabs on the mundane stuff while I deal with some exciting emergency or big new project.
My favorite thing about my job would have to be the variety of different things I get to do. Between keeping our systems up and running, helping our developers implement new functionality and pinball repair, it rarely gets boring around here. A close second would be the laid-back work environment that helps me maintain my sanity when the computers are complaining more than usual.
You know all of the ins and outs of Tigerpaw and the systems that power it. What advice would you offer users, whether they're veterans or newbies?Read the fabulous manual! We have tons of documentation on every in and out of Tigerpaw. Take the time to figure out the right way to do something before you try to do it and you’ll save yourself tons of time down the road. If you have a process that is an awkward nightmare every time you do it, or doesn’t seem to work right, check with us and see if there’s a better way. This especially goes for the setup guides — usually, when we get a support call about a newly installed integration or service not working, it’s because one tiny critical step in the setup guides was missed. Tigerpaw is a big system with a lot of moving parts because it integrates so much of your business into one interface. If you take the time to make sure all those parts are set up correctly from the jump, you’ll have a much smoother experience down the road.
When you aren't at Tigerpaw, what are you most likely doing?
I’ve always been into music and I spend a lot of time noodling around on synthesizers in my basement. I make music on old computers and video game consoles too, combining my love of music and programming. I’ve had a consulting business since before I got to Tigerpaw and I still do some stuff on the side; things like helping other companies move their development processes to the cloud. I like outdoor activities like hiking, but I have also been known to remain indoors for an entire weekend working on a custom DOOM map. Takes a long time to get the cacodemons all lined up in the little alcoves so they all ambush you at once.