The Many Faces of SUSE Global Services: An Interview with Roger Whittaker

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SUSE Premium Support Services Engineer - Roger WhittakerThis installment of The Many Faces of SUSE Global Services focuses on one of our Premium Support Services engineers in the United Kingdom.  Roger Whittaker has been with SUSE for many years, but he wasn’t always a “Linux-guy.”  In this interview, Roger shares his journey to the open source world and why he is such a proponent of open source.  It’s a great story, so let’s get started.

Roger, tell us a little about yourself and what you do in the Global Services organization.

Sure, I have been with SUSE for more than 12 years and have always been in the Global Services organization.  Currently, I’m a Premium Support Engineer for several named large accounts.  That means that I am their  point of contact for any of their technical requests — from service requests to new technology.  Because I am familiar with their environment and team, I can help them resolve issues quickly so they have minimum business disruption.  I typically split my time among three to four customers, which allows me to forge a deep and trusted relationship with them.

Your customers’ must really appreciate you and your dedication to their success.  So, what do you do for fun?  Any interesting hobbies?

Besides work?  I am an avid reader and read quite a lot of books on various topics.  I also play the piano and enjoy playing classical music, including classics from Beethoven. When I have time, I enjoy getting out on my bike for some exercise.  It’s all pretty normal stuff – I don’t climb Mount Everest or anything crazy like that.

Roger, I hear you have an interesting story about how you got involved in open source.  Can you share that with me?

Absolutely!  Back in the late 1990’s, I was a teacher at a small private school and quite liked it. The head of the school was anxious to upgrade the technology, wire the school for Internet, provide an email server, and set up file sharing.

I had been reading about Linux and we decided to set up the servers using Linux as the base operating system.  Coincidentally, we had a young man in the department who had just finished his PhD who was keen to do the work for us. Shortly after the project started, he was offered a good job outside the school, ultimately quit, and left me with an unfinished project.  I was at a crossroads – I could either hire someone to finish the project or take it on myself to complete.

I decided to complete the project myself and ultimately ended up doing more with Linux than what I was hired to do – teach.   Around that same time, SUSE was opening and recruiting for a small office in London.  I decided to take my open source passion forward so I applied and ultimately was hired.  It was the perfect opportunity for me as it was a combination of teaching people what Linux was, evangelizing the SUSE brand, and supporting customers.  I’ve never looked back.

What a great story!  When did you join the Global Services team?

Around 2006, SUSE Global Services looked to me to support a large bank in the UK.  I’m basically doing that same job today, but supporting several large customers.  It’s been a great experience.

Roger, tell me a little about your role.  What’s a day in the life of a premium support engineer?

I spend my morning prioritizing support requests and getting back to the customer as quickly as possible to provide status or potentially asking more questions.  I then split my time between working on service requests myself or submitting collaboration requests to our back end support team or our engineering groups to get assistance.  The entire Services

While I don’t go onto customer sites very often, I am happy to should it be needed.  With the right technology, most of the work can be done remotely.

Thanks for sharing that, Roger.  With SUSE being the “open, open company,” tell me what open mean to you.

Open means encouraging contribution and participation.  I’ve always been inspired by open source and believe that it is an unbeatable idea.  The ability to access, modify and improve source code, and sharing that source code back to the greater community makes for richer solutions.  Open extends beyond software and solutions.  It promotes a way to share and collaborate transparently.  It also means that failure is not really failing, but rather a means to improvement.

Without open source, we wouldn’t have many of the solutions that we depend on in our web-based world – such as Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Excellent definition and I agree!  So tell me what do you see as some of our customers’ biggest challenges?

I think the biggest challenge is getting our customers to think about the new world.  Many of them live in the old world of individual pieces of hardware or traditional IT.  They are being asked to transform their IT so they are in step with customer expectations.  This world includes private and public cloud integrated with existing systems of record – resulting in a hybrid or multimodal IT environment.  It’s a different mindset.

We have to help our customers understand the benefits of this transformation by providing a roadmap showing how they get from where they are to where they (and their business) need to be.

And finally, Roger, give me the three top reasons you enjoy working at SUSE.

First, I would say my colleagues and my team.  I have a great team that I can call on should I need assistance.  I enjoy the teamwork.

Second, would be the culture of the company.  Our culture has continually improved over the years and we are adhering to the truth of being an open source company.  That is, we are open and honest with each other, we have open access to our executives, and we can speak the truth about issues without fear of retribution.

Third, I look forward to the future of SUSE.  I believe with our newly found independence, we will continue to be a strong player not only as a provider of open source distributions but also as a contributor to the many open source communities we belong to.

I want to thank Roger for telling his story.  If you’d like to know more about Roger you can follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.  Stay tuned for more of our Many Faces of Global Services interviews.

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Stacey Miller
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Stacey Miller

Stacey is a Senior Product Manager at SUSE. With more than 20 years in the high-tech industry, Stacey has a wide breadth of technical marketing expertise.