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Rackspace creates career path for tech execs who do not want to manage people

Ann Bednarz | June 16, 2015
Egle Sigler started at Rackspace as a junior programmer and later moved to a DevOps architect position before advancing to her current role: principal architect of private cloud solutions at Rackspace.

Egle Sigler started at Rackspace as a junior programmer and later moved to a DevOps architect position before advancing to her current role: principal architect of private cloud solutions at Rackspace.

Along the way, Sigler was asked about leading a team of developers, but it did not seem like the right path. "I wasn't really interested in taking the management route, at least not immediately," Sigler says.

She sought advice from a senior colleague, who raised an important question. "He asked: When do you feel like the time disappears? What is it that you work on that you can lose yourself in?'" Sigler recalls. "For me, that really was a turning point. I love the technical stuff. I can spend hours and hours working on it without realizing it. While I like working with people, I prefer the technical part."

Sigler found a way to stay technical while still advancing her career at Rackspace thanks to the cloud provider's technical career track (TCT) program.

The TCT program gives top technical personnel the opportunity to rise to executive-level leadership positions within the company, without having to manage people or give up their technical work. TCT people take part in strategic company decisions and are paid at rates equivalent to senior management staff.

"The people in the program have the same status within the company as the equivalent executive ranks. They're invited to the business leadership functions, and they're expected to use their knowledge to help drive business impacts," says Van Lindburg, a vice president at Rackspace and head of its TCT program.

Rackspace created the TCT program to provide a clear advancement path for technical staff. It helps employees avoid the mid-career plateau that can stymie technical people's advancement, and it helps Rackspace avoid losing experienced people to attrition.

"This has been a huge boost for some of our very top technical talent," Lindberg says. TCT members see that their opinions are being taken seriously and their ideas are being implemented.

The program also has benefited Rackspace. "We've been able to increase the accuracy of our estimations, make wiser and better decisions, speed our time to response or time to market, and increase the effectiveness of the things we do," Lindberg says.

Rackspace's Microsoft Private Cloud offering was brought to market faster than any other product in Rackspace's history with the help of TCT members, for instance. TCT people also took part in a project to rework Rackspace's datacenter and server designs to use custom-designed computers, racks, and systems based on the Open Compute Project; that initiative has yielded savings of tens of millions of dollars in Rackspace's supply chain plus new capabilities, the company says. Involving TCTers in an overhaul of Rackspace's security incident response processes resulted in an 80 percent reduction in response and resolution time.

 

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