Inside the Innovator’s Mind: A Conversation with Brad Tarno
For this segment of our Inside the Innovator’s Mind series, we interviewed Brad Tarno, a Principal Architect with Rackspace Technology. Read on to learn what inspires him to innovate and the kinds of demands he encounters.
How do you find time to innovate?
I block out sections of my calendar on certain days for an hour or two at a time in order to shut off all distractions and test out certain technologies in my personal, virtual lab. My virtual lab is based on open-source router emulation tools that allow me to simulate a large-scale global backbone all inside a single physical server. This allows me to test out different protocols, route policies and various other routing techniques without having to grab hundreds of routers and connect them together with fiber.
How do you keep up with new technologies?
I stay ahead by regularly connecting with technical leaders from other companies, attending relevant conferences, meeting with peers in the industry at local events and following blogs from some of the most technically inspirational people I know.
Who or what inspires you?
Simply put, solving a problem is what inspires me most. Getting to see the relief in people’s eyes when you present a solution to a problem that they didn’t think was possible — this is what fuels my desire to keep going.
What is your approach to solving big problems?
Stepping away from the monitor is key. That can mean going for a walk outside or mountain biking on a trail. Sometimes being in a different physical space than where I actually do my work is when I get some of my best ideas.
How do you manage failure?
I love failure. Failure is the best way to know when you’re heading in the wrong direction. It’s the best teacher when there isn’t one available. It brings out a new level of inspiration that causes me to think differently.
Getting to know you
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always thought I wanted to own my own business. My dad used to say, “You’ll never get rich working for someone else.” There was always something fascinating to me about selling a product or service that people needed, that they couldn’t get anywhere else. I went to college and received my bachelor’s degree in business, thinking that was going to be my future.
What do you do now?
I design large-scale computer networks that make all the applications that many of us rely on possible.
Is it what you imagined?
Not one bit. I first got into networking as a means to an end — something that I was naturally good at, which I could also make a living from. It wasn’t until later that I realized I actually really enjoy it.
A day in the life
Do you have a morning routine at work? What is it?
I am very routine-oriented. It enforces discipline and promotes good habits. My morning routine is to get up as early as I can, spend time in prayer and reading my bible. Immediately after that, my wife and I spend at least an hour exercising.
What types of demands do you encounter?
In my personal life, my demands are to not just be a husband to my wife, but also a partner in taking on responsibilities in the home and with our children. My professional demands are often how to solve problems while maintaining cost efficiency. This requires me to get creative in order to achieve the same outcome but at a much lower cost.
Which roles/people do you interact with the most? How important is this interaction?
Outside of my immediate team, I interact with our global data center infrastructure network engineers. This interaction is extremely important because the designs that I put forward affect their day-to-day jobs directly. Having their support is important for our success as a team.
What do you like about working with customers?
I love hearing about customer issues and how we can solve their problems. It brings a great deal of satisfaction when I can make their lives easier or enable their business to succeed.
What’s the highlight of your day?
The highlight of my day is when I come home from the office and my two girls stop whatever they’re doing and greet me at the door. I look forward to this moment every day.