A Conversation with John Gorski
Senior Systems Engineer at Scality
As Senior Systems Engineer, John Gorski has distinguished himself as both a savvy and seasoned solutions architect and a true team player. “He’s always ready to help other people in the team,” says Marc Villemade, Chief Solutions Architect. “He’s keen to help build tools for the team to be more efficient. And he’s even there for those who aren’t in his team, whether in the US or in other regions.” John’s willingness to go the extra mile for others, coupled with his long-honed expertise, is also why customers and partners trust him. “John’s been doing this for over 20 years so he has a lot of experience in the industry with the ecosystem and all the different solutions. He excels at trying to understand where we can fit into customers’ environments,” Marc explains. “Customers open up to him, so we can better respond to their needs and bring value to them.” John recently shared with me his views on his work, Star Trek, and the attraction of visiting new places, like outer space.
JW: What do you enjoy about your job?
JG: I travel quite a bit, which is a part of the job I actually like—going to different cities and meeting different customers. After going to Japan, for example, I was blown away at how amazing it was! Also we’ve really got a great team of people here, which together with the technology, makes it a fun place to be.
In 2000 I made the move from the post-sales side to the sales side, and I like it a lot better. Your day-to-day work flow is more planned and structured and you can pick and choose which opportunities to prioritize.
I’d actually left computers in ’88 because I had this revelation that I wanted to have my own business. I had a few friends who were in the restaurant business and it had always seemed interesting, so I went into that. I ran two restaurants in Montreal (where I was born and raised)—a deli counter in a high-end mall and a smoked meat shop in Saint Sauveur. Four years later I realized that being a restauranteur was fun but probably not for me for long term, so I went back to computers. So moving to the sales side has been the best of both worlds: I’m still in computers, but it’s kind of like running your own business: You have a degree of autonomy and opportunities to overachieve if you really apply yourself.
JW: What are the unique challenges in what you do?
JG: The challenges are actually the exciting part of the job. IT is not about doing the same thing every day. Every day we’re visiting a new customer and trying to really get down to the root of what some of their motivations are for potentially changing systems. You’re dealing with a variety of people who have different agendas, and you have to figure out how all of these work together to impact the overall sales process.
Part of the job is also keeping up with the competitive landscape. There are so many new storage vendors out there and so many new technologies. You start to learn something and then essentially by the time you learn it, something new comes out! I’ve been in this business since 1979, and this is the fastest I’ve ever seen it go.
JW: You’re known for having a high level of trust from customers. In your opinion, what are the most important elements of building good customer relations?
JG: I think it’s about being an honest broker, right? Just the fact that we take more of a consultative approach as opposed to a ‘car salesman’ approach. We don’t walk in there saying we can do anything and everything for everybody. We try to understand what the customer is really trying to accomplish and take an honest approach. If it’s something we can’t do, then we’ll say, “Listen, we may not be the best fit to help you here. You might want to look at this other type of technology.”
JW: Having been in IT since 1979, what surprises you the most about today’s technology?
JG: When I saw technologies like Facebook and texting, I thought, ‘Why are people texting when you can just pick up a phone?’ I honestly didn’t think they’d be pervasive to the point where everybody would be jumping on the bandwagon. Facebook has billions of users across the world! I thought, ‘Why would people want to put all this stuff publicly out there?’ To me, it doesn’t make sense. So I guess that surprises me.
JW: Did you always know you wanted to go into computer engineering?
JG: Kind of. I was always curious about things and trying to take them apart and put them back together. I think my parents were probably a bit frustrated with that! Because I probably didn’t always put things back together properly!
At the time, computers were just evolving. They were mostly used in large corporations and were very expensive, but it always seemed like that was the future.
JW: What’s an important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
JG: Taking the approach of a trusted advisor and trying to build a relationship rather than just selling something to somebody is a big plus. There are customers I talk to today that I used to work with back in the late ’90’s. We haven’t necessarily sold them anything but we have ongoing opportunities today through them. So I think that relationship-building has more of a long-term benefit.
JW: What you do in your free time?
JG: I have a wife and daughter. My daughter is seventeen, so she’s learned how to drive. We’re trying to show her road safety and all of that. Right now, a lot of my free time is spent doing that and also setting things up in our new home. One of my hobbies is home automation—automating lights inside and outside the house, alarm installation, stuff like that.
Our community has a car club, which I’m part of. So I hang out a little bit with those guys. Everybody’s got different cars. Mine is a 25-year-old Porsche, but there’s everything from these really old vintage cars up to newer Corvettes. I like tinkering with stuff like that.
JW: You’re a long-time ‘Star Trek’ fan, right? What’s your favorite series and your favorite character?
JG: The original series is my favorite. My number one favorite character is Kirk, and then probably Spock and McCoy. As for the new film version of the original crew, I didn’t think I’d like them but I actually like them a lot as well. The best Star Trek film ever is probably The Wrath of Khan. I like the mix of drama and the humor in the relationship between McCoy, who’s so emotional, and Spock, who’s so logical. It was well done.
JW: If you could, would you want to go to outer space?
JG: It’s funny because this morning on my way to work I was listening to a radio talk show and this guy was saying that his sister entered the astronaut training program for NASA. So I was saying to myself, ‘I wonder what the age cut-off is for that?’ I guess I’m way beyond that right now (and my wife probably would’ve killed me!) but if it had been possible, I might’ve even applied!
JW: What’s the pull for you about outer space?
JG: To see the Earth from outer space would probably be amazing, right? And because of my interest in Star Trek, I was always intrigued by outer space and what’s out there. Part of why I like my work now is that I get to see different cities and countries. That would be another place to visit. A new world.