Landon Orr: Global IT Manager, Qualtrics

Landon Orr: Global IT Manager, Qualtrics

An interview with Landon, Global IT Manager at Qualtrics, a software company headquartered in Utah, with 1,300+ employees.

What do you ACTUALLY do?
I manage the IT team at Qualtrics. We support multiple offices, both domestically in the US and internationally in the EMEA and APAC regions. Our team handles all the IT and networking infrastructure of our offices. While my team is made up of technical rockstars who do all the real work, I feel like I’m mostly attending meetings and writing emails all day.

What types of devices do you support?
We’re a 99% Apple shop so mostly MacBook Pros. However, we do have a smattering of Windows machines spread around (for the Excel guys) and all infrastructure is containerized on Linux servers. On top of that, our team supports all the networking required to run our offices (Cisco, Meraki, Palo Altos and a smattering of barely surviving Brocades).

What’s your favorite piece of tech?
Currently, I’m in love with our Zoom Rooms for video conferencing. As we’ve become an international company, video conferencing have become a huge help in making all our offices feel connected as we scale. It’s very nice to just snag a conference room and talk to someone on the other side of the world as if they were in the same room as you. Also, while not a “piece” of tech, I’m currently very enamored with docker. I keep trying to find more and more ways to deploy it where possible.

What tools or apps are most important to your job?
Slack is my lifeline with the company, which is both a blessing and a curse. On top of that, Google Inbox and Calendar are probably the most important applications I use throughout the day.

Do you prefer hands-on, or troubleshooting from afar?
I’m definitely a more of a hands-on type person, face-to-face. Remote troubleshooting definitely has its place however, especially as it teaches other employees to be a bit more self-sufficient when fixing their issues.

Favorite thing about your IT environment?
Qualtrics has a very development-focused IT environment in that we try and find new solutions to the repetitive and time-consuming tasks we perform throughout the day. This allows us to come up with some cool things like building IT vending machines and we get to build out some pretty cool automations.

Thing you’d most like to change about it?
We’re an all Linux/Mac shop which I like for the most part. However, there are just some things Windows does well that would be nice for us to bring in. However, the headache of building a Windows infrastructure from the ground-up is a pretty good deterrent in keeping that at bay, for now.

What’s on your desk?
15 inch MacBook Pro, Logitech G710+ keyboard, $5 HP mouse, three monitors and way too much random IT gear.

How did you start your career in IT?
I managed to convince my buddy to get a job working as a hardware tech for my college’s supercomputing facility, even though I had very, very little technical experience. After a year of replacing literally thousands of bad memory modules and picking up quite a bit of Linux experience, I took a job doing sysadmin work with my major which I did for a few years before entering the professional market.

What are the biggest misconceptions of your role, internally or externally?
Our biggest misconception is that the IT team is just a bunch of helpdesk jockeys. In reality, our team at Qualtrics works on a mixture of networking, databases, python development and Linux management. We strive to automate as much as we can so that helpdesk becomes the least time-consuming part of our job.

What was your proudest professional moment?
My proudest moment in my IT career was probably recently when one of my first employees “graduated” from my team to our production server management/automation team. IT at Qualtrics is used as a place for employees to get their foot in the door and begin their technical skill development. This employee had gone from having just a basic understanding of programming to handling (and dockerizing!) our entire automation infrastructure along with an intimate knowledge of our networking, database and server responsibilities. She had become an employee I trusted to run any project and I was very sad to see her go. It made me proud though to see her moving on to bigger and better things using the skills she learned on our team.

What are the biggest challenges in your work?
Qualtrics is a very fast growing company so keeping up with that growth can be a challenge. One of our key cultural tenets is “scrappiness” where people need to be able to fix their own issues, when possible. Keeping that scrappy, start-up mentality as we grow has been a struggle but it has definitely made IT’s life easier as our employees are more willing to troubleshoot than toss problems over the fence.

Most cringeworthy request?
Just recently we were asked to fix someone’s “hard-wire WiFi port”. Apparently we’ve been pronouncing ethernet port wrong this whole time…

Do you stay hydrated at work?
I definitely try and grab a few cups of water throughout the day, though our Mt. Dew machine keeps calling my name whenever I pass it

CLI or GUI?
CLI all the way. Just can’t beat the efficiency and time is just becoming too precious.

DIY or turnkey?
The older I get, the more I appreciate turnkey. It just becomes a tradeoff of cost vs. time and reliability. In an ideal world, I’d love to build everything I need in-house. Unfortunately, time and personnel constraints have a way of limiting this, especially supporting anything you build down the road. When feasible though, I’d prefer a DIY solution. I guess that’s what you get for growing up in a Linux world.

Where can people follow you online?
You can always connect with me on LinkedIn or follow my fun hobbies like my carnivorous plants and beekeeping (yes, you can do both at the same time!) over on Instagram if that’s your thing.

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