Aside from the inherent benefits of the OpenVPN technologies, there are many dedicated, hardworking people who make the software, services, and company what it is. Many people working at OpenVPN were drawn to the company by their love of the protocol and products. The majority of the team is obsessed with OpenVPN and uses technology in many different ways: both in their professional lives and for their personal hobbies and projects.
At OpenVPN, we have found that when team members are working on something they enjoy using personally, and that enhances their lives, it creates an environment of passion and excellence. It is not abnormal for the company to recruit long-time OpenVPN users. OpenVPN is full of individuals who started on open source, in the IRC channel, or setting OpenVPN up on their own servers. These people now channel their passion and enthusiasm into the business products. This is the case for Andrew Proctor, the Director of IT Operations here at OpenVPN.
Andrew was an OpenVPN enthusiast long before he started working for the company. He was a hobbyist who set OpenVPN up on his own servers, played around with different configurations, and was deeply interested in the various uses of OpenVPN. One night he searched to see where the company was headquartered and saw that it was only a fifteen-minute drive from where he was living. He e-mailed the company, interviewed with the CEO, Francis, and the rest is history.
Today, Andrew is responsible for technical operations and infrastructure management and spends a good portion of his time ensuring that the team adequately supports projects and infrastructure. "A lot of my time also involves talking to other leads and department heads to make sure we help meet their objectives and fix any issues we can along the way. I do a lot of other things, but this is how I've recently spent most of my time."
In such a fast-paced environment, time management is crucial. Team members have to stay on top of deadlines and be prepared to pivot as priorities change, and schedules get pushed up. To help his team effectively manage time, Andrew prioritizes decision making and delegation. "I try to run things in a more democratic way where my team members can have a voice and speak up with their ideas. I value and welcome everyone's input, even if it isn't the direction we go in the end." Andrew values and trusts their ideas because he knows that, like him, his team knows the OpenVPN offerings inside and out since they use them in their personal lives.
Andrew takes the approach that no idea is a bad idea. Not every idea is actionable or will be followed up on — but Andrew values an environment where people are empowered to share their insights and experiences, even if it is outside the box. Because so many on the team were enthusiasts before going on staff, they have unique ideas and can present concepts that might have otherwise been overlooked. This allows the whole team to plan for a wide range of contingencies.
"In my particular area, even a small, minute, and insignificant change can bring operations to its knees. When rolling out new infrastructure into production, we need to be very detail-oriented and consider how one change somewhere could affect many other areas. This isn't always easy in practice, especially when there can be abnormal unknowns, and quality assurance checks can't and don't always catch everything."
Because of the nature of the work, the team must stay fast and sharp.
The open environment he encourages means that people are always thinking about all the different implications for every change. The work Andrew and his team are responsible for is integral to the success of OpenVPN and its products. Everybody is ready to spring into action immediately if something goes wrong. "In my line of work, you are always on-call. I could be spending time with family over the weekend or sitting on a beach during vacation, but if there is an emergency, I have to be available." But Andrew is passionate about his work here at OpenVPN and is always willing to pitch in to ensure success. He says the same thing of his team members: "My team is full of very hard workers who are passionate about our products, mission, and values."
Another benefit Andrew explained is that everyone on the team gets along with each other very well. This is likely due to the underlying connection they all have — their passion for OpenVPN. The team isn't made up of people who only want to collect a paycheck. The team is personally vested in the company's success, and it is evident in everything they do.