The Life of a Mobility Engineer

Introduction

Hi there everyone! This is something that I have been thinking about doing for quite some time. I will be honest with you…this article is going to be part venting, part projecting, and completely honest. Yeah I know the word “honest” twice in one sentence…I suck! The point of this blog post is to have a frank conversation about how “for the most part” mobility engineers are not worthless wastes of space. I know that most people think we don’t have any intrinsic value. We’ll talk about the three real types of roles that exist from the simple and green mobile device administrators to the people who actually own the mobility service (no I’m not talking about one of these people who just manages up and doesn’t do any actual work).

We come in three flavors

How many flavors of people exist in mobility support? I mean seriously how many? Are they like ice cream flavors?

We can group mobility into three generic buckets:

  • Mobile Device Administrators
  • Mobility Engineers
  • Mobility Service Owners/Architects

We’ll talk about all three and what they actually do on a normal day. The three are honestly quite different. The problem is that people think they are all the same thing. This is part of the reason why people have so little respect for the mobility industry. This is how I will set the story straight. You will basically see from Tier 1 to Tier 3 it has a gradual growth in skills/growth/talent. So let’s get started….

Mobile Device Administrators

So, let me say honestly that the point of this blog is NOT to show any disrespect to any of the tiers in mobility, but to show self-awareness and educate people. Over my career, I have been in all three of these roles and they are so very different. It’s not a bad thing if you are just an administrator. We all have to start somewhere.

Administrator Overview

An administrator’s tasks extend to:

  • Working Adds/Moves/Changes
  • Activates/Enrolls new Devices
  • Working L1 Tickets
  • Opens tickets/contacts MDM vendors to work on issues
  • Potentially manages Cellular Accounts/TEMS work
  • Runs Reports/Audits of Accounts for Management
  • Performs Device Cleanups
  • Supports Hardware/Device Software Issues
  • Device/Hardware Orders
  • Device Testing
  • Contributing to KB articles

Administrator Day at a Glance

Just by reading the administrator tasks overview, you know that their role is obviously understated and undervalued. One of the most impactful areas where companies waste money is telecom. They can have a real impact on an organization whether people realize it or not. A good administrator can account for a 20% or higher savings for a standard enterprise organization. So let’s talk about their normal day…

Let’s pretend that your day is 8-5 and I’ll provide a nice day at a glance

 

Time Tasks Why its Important
8:00 AM
  • Signing into the admin console to check health
  • Checking for incidents from the previous night

 

A good admin will set the stage for a successful day when they get in. You prove how good you are by the way you set the stage for your day. Proactivity is vital to being awesome.
9:00 AM
  • Working tickets and following up on any existing issues
Its important to get ahead of any issues. The way you manage your devices drives good or bad optics
10:00 AM
  • Checking/Placing for new orders
  • Running reports/auditing devices
One of the big failures I see are people not being on top of their licenses and clean-up. This keeps costs down and increases the TCO of the service.

Additionally, ensuring people are using newer devices is a great way to make a name for yourself and build relationships

11:00 AM
  • Working on QA Tasks for the BETAs.
  • Updating KBs
Knowing the BETAs helps to eliminate issues and reduce tickets. You can get ahead of issues and communicate open problems in new versions.  It can be very valuable to your company.
Noon
  • Hopefully lunch, but most admins end up working through lunch (reality!)
  • Continuing to work on tickets and open issues
You frequently work on tickets throughout the day. That’s just how it goes. This is just the reality. It’s always good to get involved in non-mobile tickets if you can to build some other skills.
1:00 PM
  • Working with vendors on feature requests/open issues
After lunch is a common time that you are calling your EMM vendor and doing that whole song and dance. It’s a necessary evil!
2:00 PM
  • Following up on orders
  • Validating cellular accounts/cleaning up devices
If you end up having to work with the carriers, this is a key time. This is also when your west coast people start banging down your door for their issues
3:00 PM
  • Activating and Enrolling new devices
Usually UPS/FedEx have arrived by this time with the “crap” you have to do. Nothing is more soul draining than activating 6 iPhones at once.
4:00 PM
  • A little of this and that
Around 4, I would possibly still be activating devices or working random BS. At this point, we are usually just wishing the day would end!
5:00 PM
  • Cleaning up before getting out of there
  • Dropping off newly-enrolled devices you need to ship out
To be successful the next day, you are usually putting away any devices you were testing. You are also dropping off the devices that might be getting shipped out.

Last thoughts on the administrator’s life

Honestly, it is SUCH a painful job being a mobile administrator. Thinking back to my past, it was a very difficult experience. You “think” you know everything and eventually you realize you have just scratched the surface. You also aren’t very appreciated and usually make like 50-60k (in the northeast at least). It’s just a step in the process, but its not an easy one. We all have to pay our dues. Some people are a bit stubborn about that fact, but its still a fact. People with humility and an open mind will be very successful if they respect the process. The most important thing is to build your skills outside of being an administrator while working in this role. You will eventually get to a new level if you have the drive and passion for it.

Mobility Engineers

So, what is a mobility engineer anyways? No I’m not talking about a developer. It’s sort of silly that they call them mobility engineers/architects because that is absolutely not what a developer is. This is REALLY what most administrators aspire to be. Firstly, its a significant increase in salary and a vital part of an organization. The biggest problem is most people think mobility engineers are just some administrator who logs into a console and activates people. That is completely wrong! They get such a bad wrap and I want to set the record straight. When I was an MDM administrator, I thought I was king shit until I went to BlackBerry and realized I was a moron. It was such a complete awakening for me and that climatic experience was enlightening.

Mobility Engineer Overview

The best place to provide an overview is to give you an idea of their toolbox and who they are:

  • Typically 5 years of experience
  • Some sort of messaging background
  • You understand load balancing, ActiveSync, networking, client to server etc
  • You are a systems engineer
  • Can speak authoritatively on multiple fronts in mobility
  • Project management skills
  • Tactical mindset
  • Experience with multiple MDM platforms
  • Ability to implement and translate business needs to functionality
  • Ability to train/teach your help desk
  • You aren’t a pushover
  • Capable of troubleshooting issues without a vendor

I’m not going to go down the 8-5 as its not really necessary, but I think it would be good to talk about their frame of mind. A mobility engineer is a whole new level. You tend to build your own servers and host your MDM on your own. You understand the way your MDM works and can work through issues easily. When you can’t enroll a device, you don’t just pick up the phone. You are interested and engaged in why things don’t work and try to fix them.

Mobility Engineers tend to be more of a leader in their office. You are versatile and an expert in multiple technologies. Most mobility engineers are very strong in Exchange, mobility, and a few other core competencies. People (especially your help desk) will have a strong desire to come to you to help. Mobility people tend to be more approachable and less “bitchy” than other systems engineers. It’s mostly because they are so grounded because no one respects them 🙂

As a mobility engineer, you know what Fiddler, Wireshark, and MFCMapi are. You are pretty good at solving the evilest of issues like mail delay, synchronization issues, or mobile performance issues. You have all of the same skills that administrators have, but you know things at a deeper level. You will often focus on developing your skills and evaluating the other products in the space. Mobility engineers are good at being transformative. They tend to help evolve end user computing by delivering efficient and effective workflows through their platform.

The last thing I would out about mobility engineers is that they are certified. Mobility engineers should be certified in their MDM solutions. If you end up owning SCCM, you should probably go after your MCSE Mobility (which I find to overall be an overrated certification). I don’t particularly condone collecting certs, but it does help you prove your ability to learn and develop. One final point that I would like to make is that you need to make sure as a mobility engineer that you continue to build those soft skills. People often think they are entitled at a certain point and are no longer required to treat people like human beings.

Mobility Service Owners

I spent a number of years as a mobility engineer, which I found to be quite rewarding. As a MSO (Mobility Service Owner), it is a whole new world. Some of the ways that it differs are:

  • You have written a formal mobile strategy for your organization
  • You own mobile application development if it exists
  • You think strategically and not tactically
  • You have a say in the strategic direction of your organization
  • You understand the big picture of end user computing
  • You don’t “trust” Gartner, Forrester, your MDM vendor, or “anyone” but yourself. Think of it like your friends giving an opinion on your girlfriend. They’re resources and not the bible
  • You are a legitimate subject matter expert in not just your MDM but mobility in general
  • People value your opinion
  • You possibly have spoken at conference on topics that show talent and growth
  • You are a big picture thinker
  • You get your hands dirty and don’t just manage up

MSOs are true mobile thought leaders. They aren’t these so-called C-level directors who use buzz words. Aren’t we all sick of buzz words honestly? Do we really want to hear about ROI, TCO, IOT, M-Gap, blah blah?! We want to hear people speak intelligently and objectively. A MSO has shown that they are architects of the end user experience. They don’t just do the bare minimum. They look at every side of the argument and focus on eliminating problems and making things just work.

We deliver things that are amazing that people never knew they wanted. We all know people hate AD lockouts, but do we know how to eliminate them? MSOs deliver password-less WiFi, certificate-based authentication in Exchange. They deliver solutions that eliminate problems and create “fans.” You don’t just think of mobility as an iPhone. You know that wireless printing, Surfaces, Per-App VPN, and a consistent user experiencr across any device is true mobility.

You understand mobile threat defense, application reputation, and TLS. You know how to react when a vulnerability surfaces and you have SOPs for mandating/enforcing OS updates. The summation of a Mobility Service Owner is that you are like Neo in the Matrix.

You know what people want and you know what the problems are before they become problems at you STOP them. You eliminate insecure protocols, you deliver fast lanes for WebEx and ActiveSync, and you unleash a powerful platform that no one dares question. You are a CHAMPION and you CHAMPION mobility.

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