Jeff Finley, Sr. Cloud Architect: Traveling the Road Less Taken

There’s a motorcycle corridor in the Pacific Northwest that’s a part of the Trans-America Trail. It runs through areas of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The route is a trail system that rides over the mountains without ever needing to get on the highway. It’s an entirely off-road system providing stunning views and a beautiful sense of clarity.

I love hitting that trail on my motorcycle, or paddle boarding with my wife and kids along the Deschutes River here in Central Oregon. In both cases, you never know exactly what the trail, sky, or water conditions will be, so it’s a unique experience for every person coming through.

That sense of variety has been a big part of my personal life, and it’s also helped guide my professional career.

Finding my footing in technology

Since my early teens, one of my favorite things to do was taking electronics apart and putting them back together. I’d find items like old rotary telephones or drones, disassemble them, and then see if I could rebuild them. I took auto shop classes that provided similar situations, taking cars apart and rebuilding them — sometimes making them more efficient than before. That led to my interest in motorcycles too, since I better understood how they worked.

While I’ve always had that curiosity about how technology operates, I stumbled into a tech career somewhat by accident. I was working at the front desk of a company, handling a lot of admin work. After six months, an IT position opened up and, knowing my interest in tech, the company tapped me to fill it. 

At first, I worked primarily on dumb terminals and mainframes (and no, I’m not quite as old as that makes me sound). That role continued to evolve as the company grew and expanded into more locations. I went from a server admin to running the whole IT department, and then into a CTO role for the company.

Stepping into leadership as a CTO and cloud architect

Being a CTO was new to me. For a while, I thought I didn’t want to be a CTO and take on that kind of IT management role. I took a year off and returned as a developer. However, I soon realized working on one project for eight hours a day isn’t in my nature — I’m not one to do the same type of thing over and over. Just like there’s always a new trail to hike or ride or a new part of the water to explore, when you’re a cloud architect or a CTO there’s always a new business challenge to solve using the cloud. 

That’s something I encourage people to figure out early on: are you at your best when you’re focused on one main project? Or do you need diversity in your work? 

For me, it’s the latter, and I’m fortunate to be at Effectual where I can help on every project. Those opportunities — getting to see a problem in front of me and working to build a solution — are the things I enjoy most. I get to assist our customers on a variety of challenges in different business verticals. 

A sense of variety has been a big part of my personal life – and it’s also help guide my professional career.

Building customer success through Modern Cloud Management

Within the past month, I’ve shifted the bulk of my focus to our Modern Cloud Management offering. I’m working with every part of our business to build up the underlying way we deploy and support managed customers.

In most cases, customers come to us because they realize the cloud is a core need for their business. We’re not a shiny new pair of tennis shoes that might get you a compliment while you’re out on the open road — we’re the foundation for your business and your livelihood. They need experts to make sure they’re doing cloud right.

Just like driving through the mountains provides a unique experience each time, we take a unique approach with each customer. Nothing is cookie cutter; there are always trade-offs to be made. 

For example, if a company is running a certain number of instances for redundancy, that increases their cost. Having fewer instances reduces the cost but could lead to longer downtime if something goes wrong. A company needs to determine what level of liability they’re comfortable with, and that’s where I can help as a cloud architect. 

Making informed decisions along the cloud journey

There are times on the road where I decide a certain route isn’t for me that day. There’s nothing wrong with that – the important thing is making an informed decision. 

Those informed decisions are key for the cloud, too. When we work with customers, we start with where they are now and learn where they’d like to be, then help them forge the path to get to their destination. And that’s a beautiful journey.