We caught up with Michael Williams, Elantis’ Managed Services Team Lead, to learn what sparked his interest in technology and how his IT career path brought him to Elantis. Michael’s quiet confidence and stellar customer service skills have been key factors along his IT career path. In this interview, Michael shares some wisdom on how to stay calm in high-pressure situations, how to stay positive and not take things personally, and how to make time for fun—like games of ping pong in the office!
Andrea Nwobosi: Tell me about what you do here at Elantis.
Michael Williams: I like to describe my job as a guy sitting with a fire extinguisher (ha ha). I’m the lead for the Managed Services department. Any time a client’s having an issue with either their environment or something we’ve built for their environment, I fix it or I find the right person to fix it. So, everyone who talks to me usually has something broken. I’m also responsible for internal IT, so anytime someone at Elantis has something broken, they come to me.
Andrea: Given that you have to put out a lot of fires, how do you stay calm through all of that?
Michael: I don’t care about anything!
Andrea: Ha ha! So you just stop caring and trust that it’s going to work out?
Michael: Everything in my life has always worked out every single time. I’m sure everything else will too.
Andrea: Tell me a bit more about that because it sounds like things have worked out well for you along your IT career path. How did your interest in technology and IT start?
Michael: Well, I took apart a toaster and I think I managed to get it to pick up radio signals. I thought that was the most amazing thing in the world. My dad was really mad at me for taking apart the toaster and then I determined I like breaking things. When I became a young adult, I realized that I could fix things that other people broke and people would give me money.
Then my career went down the IT path. I started working when I was 16 years old and I just jumped into the field. I started working for HP as a printer repair guy and I eventually worked my way up to a workstation and got a business contract, mainly supporting hospitals. I got pretty good with computers at that point, so I jumped around a little. I worked for Shaw for awhile and I got into their high-end networking position. In that role, I was looking after the entire routing system for Kelowna. For example, I could trace an outage so if someone hit a pole, I could tell every house that would be affected, and I would try to reroute things to prevent those outages. I would also schedule outages, so I did a lot of work at 4:00 in the morning.
Next, I got into corporate IT and I did a lot of internal IT operations in some large companies like Vision33, which is similar to Elantis, except they focus on accounting software. I jumped into a higher tier of operations in my last company, Wipro, where I was just the middleman for a lot of things. Then our recruiter, Chelsea, said “Hi” to me and asked if I wanted to work at Elantis.
Andrea: We are so glad you’re here and that you made that decision! What does your day to day look like in your role here at Elantis?
Michael: I’m in a lot of meetings and I wear a lot of hats—more than I was expecting, to be honest. A good portion of my day is spent making sure clients are satisfied with our services. So not only do I resolve problems when there are problems, I try to make problems when there aren’t problems. So, if we have a client that’s paying us X amount of money to work X number of hours, I give them a little nudge and say, “Hey, I’m sure something’s broken over there. Why don’t you let us know, so we can spend those hours you’re paying us for?” I am a strong believer in fairness. Business relationships don’t last when they’re not fair. Both ends need to be benefiting and sometimes that benefit isn’t represented properly in hours. So sometimes I’m just there to explain that everything’s working right now, but if you weren’t paying us, everything would not be working right now.
Andrea: It sounds like you’ve got a good handle on the customer service experience and how if nothing’s broken, you make sure that’s actually the case. So, what fires you up to get out of bed, to put out those fires every day? What makes you excited to come to work here?
Michael: I love fixing things. When a client comes to me and says, “I’ve had three guys on my internal team who have been trying to fix this for a week and no one knows how to do it,” and someone escalates it to me and I fix it in under an hour, I feel little thrills. I try not to show it, but I’m an incredibly prideful man and I take a lot of pride in being able to fix absolutely anything. I can take a car apart and put it back together, same with a computer and virtually anything else.
Andrea: Earlier you mentioned Chelsea, our recruiter here at Elantis, and that she said “Hi” to you. Tell me more about your hiring experience. What attracted you to Elantis?
Michael: This is actually the first time I’ve been headhunted for a position. I never really reached out to Elantis. It was a unique experience for me. Chelsea mentioned that it was a great company and that she thought I’d be a great fit. I came into the office and Dave was there for my first in-person interview, which was cool. The CEO of the company was interviewing me and we hit it off right away and determined that I’d be a great fit here. Now I get to play ping pong with people almost on a daily basis, which is pretty fantastic.
Andrea: Well, I know you’re always up for a game of ping pong, that’s for sure. What are some other little perks that you love about working here?
Michael: I’m really motivated by money. So, money gets me in the door and Elantis takes really good care of me. They have a nice cozy office for me, they give me food, and there are lots of social events where everyone gets to know each other outside of work. The company culture keeps me very complacent and happy.
Andrea: What would you say that you are looking forward to in your career growth? How do you see your career expanding either within your current role or perhaps in a different position with Elantis? How do you see the future looking for you?
Michael: One goal is to become more efficient and automated. I consider myself an efficiency expert, so I try to make my job as easy as possible. For my career at Elantis, it has been very front-loaded with a lot of long days and lots of work, but it’s getting a little better. My days are becoming a little more normal and I’m having time for games of ping pong and stuff like that. Eventually I want to have my work so efficiently done that I have lots of time to socialize throughout the day—where things take care of themselves and I have time to go out for beers with clients.
Andrea: That sounds pretty amazing to me, and it sounds like you’re on the right path! Let’s look back to your whole career path in IT. What would you say might be the top things that you’ve learned or that you would do differently, knowing what you know now?
Michael: I think I would have job-hopped a little faster at the start of my career, had I known how the world works. Now that I’m a little further along my IT career path, it doesn’t matter as much, but raises don’t mean a lot when you’re making $30,000 a year and you’re getting a 3% raise.
The two best skills I’ve developed are to not take anything personally. Someone can hop on the phone and just start yelling about how everything’s broken and that their company’s going under because I’m not doing my job, but as a general rule, I know that’s not actually my fault.
The greatest lesson that I’ve learned is mistakes happen and they usually happen when you’re new at the job or new in your career—just don’t let it bog you down. While in my first role in operations, during the first week, I was given a project to redo the infrastructure for the entire office. I was trying to get that accomplished during work hours—which was probably a bad idea to begin with—but I removed one cable I shouldn’t have, and I accidentally brought the whole office down for about three hours. That was a really embarrassing thing to happen during my first week, but lessons were learned.
Andrea: How did you build that resiliency to just let things roll off your back? Where did that come from?
Michael: I’ve always been a little more stoic than my peers, and I think that is partly my nature. I’m a very fun-loving guy; I don’t have time for things that aren’t fun. So, I don’t dwell on negative things. I am incredibly prideful, but it’s mostly internal; I try not to be too boastful. In that sense, the words someone else says to me don’t have nearly as much effect on me as the words I say to myself. So, if someone’s upset with me, it wouldn’t bother me. If I’m upset with me, then that could weigh me down quite a bit.
Andrea: In terms of your own professional development, what’s something that you found has worked well for you in learning everything that you know? Also, what’s something you plan to do to continue developing your skills? What’s something you do regularly to stay fresh on what’s happening in the IT industry?
Michael: I try to find the newest, fanciest things and see how many ways I can break them. Also, just the repetition of “destroy and create” helps me hone my skills. I have enough skills in my field at this point that I can make most tools that can affect most anything in a computer-type environment, and it allows me a lot of flexibility in how I want to utilize something. For example, if Google releases a new API that allows me to interact with a new part of their systems in a unique way, I can usually start getting something to touch into that very quickly. Then from there, very quickly getting something that can pull enough data to crash servers off that, and then finding out how to prevent something like that from happening.
Andrea: It makes sense that once you know how to break it, then you know how to prevent it from breaking, right?
Michael: To some extent. Usually, it’s a little harder to fix than break, but it’s definitely the right way to go about it. If you know how it was broken, it’s a lot easier to know how to fix it. Like when someone comes up to you and says, “This is broken,” it’s much easier to explain, “This is how it was broken,” and work around that.
Andrea: You mentioned that you take great pride in your work. What is one thing that stands out for you either in your educational experience or in your professional working experience that is a moment you are most proud of?
Michael: I don’t know if I have a moment, but throughout my entire IT career path, I can say something that a lot of people who’ve gone on a similar path can’t—and that is nobody hates me. I’m really proud of my customer service skills. Even if I can’t fix something right away, I establish relationships and rapport to the point where that is generally okay with the customer, and they understand the position I’m in. I’m clear and transparent enough that they see what I’m doing and that’s been consistent in every role I’ve worked in.
Andrea: What’s next for you? What are you most looking forward to in the short term? Any exciting projects you’re working on or something that’s rolling out that you’re excited about?
Michael: Projects keep coming in like a flood. There’s a lot of upcoming work for the Managed Services team. What I look forward to the most are the personal improvements. Right now, I’m working on a lot of little things. One of them is improving the performance that everyone has in the Edmonton office. This involves getting our internet speeds up and getting better Wi-Fi. As for bigger projects, I’m looking at new IT managed services software that could make improvements on Elantis as a whole. Not just so clients can send in tickets so we can track that better, but so we can also track assets better. Every part of Elantis can benefit from that. One of my goals is to increase visibility across the board in our internal infrastructure.
Andrea: It sounds very exciting and something that’s going to keep you very busy! Thank you so much for your time, Michael. Is there anything else that you want to add?
Michael: Do you want to go for a game of ping pong?
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