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Interview with Red Hat Technical Account Managers

I recently sat down with three of my colleagues and superstar Technical Account Managers at Red Hat for some discussion around Red Hat’s Technical Account Manager service and personal experiences. Our three Technical Account Managers, Taneem, Bryan, and Jennifer were enthusiastic to tell their stories and describe their own Technical Account Manager experiences. Each one of them is an expert on different Red Hat products and support different regions.

Juana: Let’s start with the first question, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Taneem: I am an application platform Technical Account Manager and I have been here for six and a half years in this role. My specialization is in Red Hat JBoss Middleware and Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform. My personal interest is playing a game called Badminton which is a sport that involves four people and is played on a court. The other hobby I have is playing competitive Bridge (card game).

Bryan: I am a cloud Technical Account Manager and I have been a Technical Account Manager for more than five years and I have been at Red Hat for more than nine and a half years. I started out in virtualization, moved to OpenStack and now in OpenShift. In my free time I enjoy watching movies, listening to music and playing video games. I am a big Nintendo fan from way back.

Jennifer: I am a Platform Senior Technical Account Manager and have been doing this for five years now. My specialty is high availability cluster. In my free time I play with my toddler, wander in the woods, do yoga, and install Fedora and different Linux desktops, and various other open source projects.

Juana: Describe Red Hat’s Technical Account Manager role from your own experiences.

Taneem: I have three pillars of customers that I support or work with. The first pillar is my named customers who have a Technical Account Manager subscription, the second pillar is our own internal support delivery team, and third pillar is our sales team. As a Technical Account Manager I feel like the best experience so far has been being able to network and work with all three groups helping the customer at the same time helping our support delivery team understand our customer problems better, helping resolve questions involving Red Hat JBoss Middleware products. Also helping our sales team with technical questions from our customer, overall infrastructure questions, simple questions like “What does the customer want? What they can do to increase our Red Hat product footprint?” Those are the overall aspects and experiences for a Technical Account Manager.

Bryan: The Technical Account Manager role is a combination of relationship building and proactive problem-solving. A lot of the role is working with internal support folks, account team, sales, partner management and various other internal departments. And of course, understanding the customer’s environment from a holistic technical viewpoint so you can solve problems before they encounter them and advocate for them internally within Red Hat.

Jennifer: It’s an old analogy, I know, but I think we are RSS feeds for our customers; we have so much information at Red Hat, and the Linux community, that it can be overwhelming. A very important part of a Technical Account Manager role is filtering that massive amount of information into consumable, relevant, pieces for our customers.

Juana: Tell us about a challenging experience you had in your role as a Red Hat Technical Account Manager.

Taneem: One of my customers was having a complex Java Transaction API (JTA) transaction issue on our Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (JBoss EAP). From our initial research, we found that the transaction issue stemmed from the application not handling the database connection object properly. The application that was having these transaction problems did not have enough debug/trace level logging in place for us to diagnose if there was anything in the logs that we could start working with. To make the problem even more interesting, the customer application was a wrapper application around another third party product and the code for that product was not accessible to us. We had to make heavy use of JBoss Byteman tool to find out exactly where in the application the connection object was getting reopened when it was supposed to be closed and nullified. This involved several live debugging sessions with the customer and the other vendor who provided the product and, in the end, we were able to resolve the issue.

Bryan: This is a fun one, I was working with a customer who had a large system with 256G of RAM, huge multicore system and running a large database on it. They were experiencing kernel crashes, and it was a different crash every single time. We could not figure out the commonality between the crashes because they crashed between different places in memory each time.

After a number of these cases started coming in, I started coalescing them together, working with the kernel support folks so that when these cases came in, the customer actually knew to provide information ahead of time, some crash analysis so our kernel engineers can investigate the problem quicker. So I got the customer trained on what to give us ahead of time so we can figure out the issue quicker. But we still could not figure out the root cause, we actually had to involve the hardware vendor and it took a while to get them involved. We had to go through multiple angles, we had to involve the partner support, the customer escalating it on their end and, eventually, we got senior engineers on the phone. We still could not figure it out, so we had to involve the processor manufacturer and that was difficult to get them involved too. But once we did all our investigative analysis, they found a firmware issue and got it patched.

Jennifer: One of the hardest situations we handle as Technical Account Managers involves multiple vendors. In my example, there had been a lot of troubleshooting before I was brought in, so they had already decided where the problem was, and the diagnostic data was pointing at me/Red Hat. I had to quickly get up-to-speed in a high-stress situation, decide if it was a Red Hat Enterprise Linux issue or if more data needed to be collected. I always say, “I hope it is a Red Hat Enterprise Linux issue, because then we can figure it out.” I have complete confidence in our troubleshooting and engineering abilities. But, when it isn’t a Red Hat Enterprise Linux issue trying to redirect that ship and get the other vendors on-board can be challenging. The best engagements I’ve had have started out with finger pointing and conflicting views on the issue and ended with all vendor participation and a solid workaround or code-fix.

Juana: Can you share some customer feedback you have received in your role as a Technical Account Manager?

Taneem: Here is one:

“I wanted to send my (and my organizations) thanks to Taneem for his hard work with our team. Taneem has been extremely valuable in providing insight on EAP 6.x in regards to a third-party vendor project, as well as multiple other internal initiatives. His assistance and interaction with our teams have been stellar and we greatly appreciate his time. It’s fantastic having a reliable and knowledgeable resource available to answer questions as needed, he’s very timely and really does go above and beyond to help with our needs. Thank you for your time and Taneem truly, we appreciate it!”

Bryan: Here’s one from a co-worker on the same customer account that I was brought on for a three-month trial Technical Account Manager for:

“Thanks to you and Bryan so much for your flexibility on this account. It has been an absolute pleasure working with Bryan. He is very collaborative and provides a spectacular customer experience. He is certainly one of the strongest Technical Account Managers that I have had the pleasure to work with, and I’m hoping customer pursues this service come August. Thanks again (and outstanding work, Bryan!)”

And here is a second one from a Red Hat solution architect working on the same customer account,

“Just wanted to say thanks to Bryan for working hard over the break and heading off a possible leap second issue over the holiday shutdown. Without a doubt, an ounce of prevention is worth about a metric ton of cure where a customer is concerned.”

Jennifer: Here is a wonderful note from a customer. I think this can apply to all the Technical Account Managers at Red Hat, maybe some customers did not take the time to write this, but this is what customers think of Red Hat Technical Account Managers.

“I would like to take a moment to recognize Jennifer for her outstanding service and dedication. During my tenure at the company, I have dealt with practically every major tech vendor in the world. Our contracts are large, and the account representatives tend to extend great service because of this. I want you to know that, in the opinion of EVERY Linux system administrator I work with, Jennifer is hands down the best vendor/account representative we deal with. She consistently goes out of her way to increase our knowledge on the nuances of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform, particularly on the various moving parts of our sizable clustered environments. She always meets every problem with an excellent disposition and a true SME knowledge level. Additionally, Jennifer is NEVER too busy to help us address an issue, no matter how small. She absolutely stands head-and-shoulders above other vendor representatives. And to clarify, that is not to be taken lightly, as I am comparing her to some of the best vendor representatives in the world!! We are extremely lucky to have her on our side. We look forward to working with her for many years to come.”

Juana: What is the most rewarding aspect of your role as a Red Hat Technical Account Manager?

Taneem: The most rewarding time as a Technical Account Manager is working with a customer with a multi-vendor type scenario. Where there is a lot of areas to look into to solve a problem. Some of them even take many weeks to resolve and then finally we have a moment where we discover the issue. That to me has been the most rewarding experience. I was able to help the customer solve a particularly complex issue that involved different product suites that are not necessarily only Red Hat products.

Bryan: This is sort of two-prong aspect, one part of it that is really rewarding for me is actually getting to see that I am making a difference for the customer. Whether easier deployments for them or less downtime. Whatever it is I love solving problems and helping the customer. The other part of that is helping to improve our products whether it is documentation or getting an RFE or getting a bug fixed. I feel like we actually help drive the product direction for Red Hat.

Jennifer: That was awesome Bryan, I love getting things fixed. And it is not just fixed here, it is also fixed upstream, for the world. That is the most rewarding. I love helping our customers, but I also love helping the people who don’t pay for our subscriptions by fixing things upstream. For example, universities and research organizations use open source and what I have done is helping anyone using it. I am very proud of the work we do for our customers. We are helping our customers and helping the whole world.

Thank you Taneem, Bryan, and Jennifer for all your hard work and for your insights. This was a very inspirational and eye-opening interview. For more information regarding Red Hat’s Technical Account Manager service please refer to our site.

Juana Nakfour is a senior mobile Technical Account Manager with more than 15 years advanced R&D experience in the telecommunications industry. Juana’s focus is broad and includes wireless communication networks, embedded/mobile devices and microservices.

Bryan Yount is a Senior Cloud Technical Account Manager in the NA West region with more than six years of experience with systems management, proactive customer engagement, and was one of Red Hat’s first virtualization Technical Account Managers. Bryan’s current focus is on DevOps with Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat OpenStack Platform.

Taneem Ibrahim is a Principal JBoss Technical Account Manager in the NA Central region with more than 15 years of experience in application development, platform automation, and management. Taneem’s current focus is on JBoss EAP and OpenShift.

 Jennifer Scalf is a Senior Platform Technical Account Manager. She has more than 16 years of Linux systems experience working in every layer of the stack. Jennifer is a subject matter expert in clustering with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux High Availability Add-on.

A Red Hat Technical Account Manager (TAM) is a specialized product expert who works collaboratively with IT organizations to strategically plan for successful deployments and help realize optimal performance and growth. The Technical Account Manager is part of Red Hat’s world class Customer Experience and Engagement organization and provides proactive advice and guidance to help you identify and address potential problems before they occur. Should a problem arise, your Technical Account Manager will own the issue and engage the best resources to resolve it as quickly as possible with minimal disruption to your business.

Connect with Technical Account Managers at a Red Hat Convergence event near you! Red Hat Convergence is a free, invitation-only event offering technical users an opportunity to deepen their Red Hat product knowledge and discover new ways to apply open source technology to meet their business goals. These events travel to cities around the world to provide you with a convenient, local one-day experience to learn and connect with Red Hat experts and industry peers.

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