Meet John Allen, Senior IT Systems Architect at Verkada
In this employee spotlight, see what a day in the life looks like for John Allen, Senior IT Systems Architect at Verkada. (And if you’re interested in joining us in our mission of making the world safer, check out our open positions!)
What made you want to join Verkada’s IT team?
What brought me to Verkada was the opportunity to solve huge challenges and create an impact with a company that I could tell was making a splash. When I joined in March 2020, our goal was to get our IT infrastructure ready right before the company scaled. The managers told me that they were planning to double the size of the company by the summer, and way more by the end of the year. So right there, I was presented with an exciting challenge to solve, and I was excited to use my skills to implement a lot of processes and systems step-by-step.
While I always love a challenge, Verkada’s product was the cherry on top for me. There was an exciting atmosphere surrounding the products, as we could all see the potential of the products the company was developing. When I joined, the only product was the video security solution, but it was clear that that’s not where we were stopping. Within a couple of months, we launched access control and environmental sensors– all big goals on the company road map. I was drawn in by the way the products worked seamlessly together, as well as their smart, sleek design.
“If you’re working for a company and you don’t really believe in the product, you’re just a drone getting up and going in everyday to work, but that’s not the case for me. I truly think Verkada has an exciting product and it’s rewarding to help employees make it even better.”
What do you look forward to everyday that you work?
No day is ever the same. You’re never working on the same system or the same project every day. Because we are expanding quickly, there’s always something new and novel to work on, and I really enjoy that part of it. The generalist position that I’m in for IT has me touching so many different facets of the organization, so I get to learn about what other departments are doing and how they impact the company and the product. It’s a great feeling being able to use what I know to help other employees accomplish tasks faster.
What really motivates me is being surrounded by motivated and talented people and I have that here. At Verkada, the team is continuing to grow rapidly. I would describe a Verkada employee as someone who’s autonomous, but also knows how to adapt to their role in the greater organization. The company also know that at the end of the day we’re still human and we’ve got to make sure that we come together and celebrate our success.
What are you most proud of achieving at Verkada?
Outside of the work that I do, I’m proud of being the original chair of the Pride at Verkada community that supports LGBTQ+ employees here. When I started last March, we had just reached 300 employees, and Verkada was growing really quickly. At that point, we realized that it was critical to create communities to support & celebrate diversity at the company. So I worked with other folks to create programming and events to empower the LGBTQ+ community here. Some of these programs include: having speakers come onsite to talk about diversity in the workplace, a fun night of bingo hosted by a local drag queen, and charity drives to support Pride Shelters in San Francisco. The focus of the group is around celebrating our identities and being prideful, but also making sure that Verkada is a safe space where the community feels supported. I’m proud of the fact that we are about to hit our one-year anniversary of creating the group, and it’s stronger than ever.
What projects have you enjoyed the most?
Last year, there really wasn’t a main single sign-on solution, and we didn’t really have an MDM solution to scale. Over the pandemic, I was able to configure and roll out both Okta and Jamf, which were huge undertakings that included convincing the business owners that this was something worth investing in, and convincing everybody else in the business that this was worth adopting. As IT administrators, we know how awesome and useful Okta and Jamf are, but it can be challenging to get managers and employees on board. To a lot of people, all you see with Okta is a dashboard with a bunch of buttons that you log into all day. While it may feel that way to the average user, the vast array of features takes a huge weight off our shoulders behind the scenes, which is a tremendous help to the IT team. It’s the same thing with Jamf, which helps us ensure that computers are patched and secure. It allows us to streamline the process of onboarding, specifically when we set up computers for new employees.
With the move to open up more locations, being part of the team that is involved in opening day prep is no easy feat. It involves buying a ton of equipment, getting that equipment set up, managing multiple vendors, and trying to get the internet circuit up and running. Due to the nature of office openings, IT and Workplace work closely together to ensure Day 1 success, creating a close knit inter-org community that helps bring us all through the stress of the work. It can be very challenging with quick deadlines and onerous tasks, but we always enjoy the opportunity to bond together.
What does the future of Verkada look like to you?
If Verkada continues to become the operating system of a building, the world is our oyster with the product. I’m really excited to see the new ideas we’re coming up with. As someone working on the IT team, I’ve had the ability to help advise on some of the new products and it’s been exciting to get a glimpse into what’s in store. In my time in the IT industry, I’ve seen plenty of antiquated technology that comes with an array of issues when managing security devices. It’s exciting to see how this is all solved with Verkada’s products.