Development and Managed Hosting

Martin Horn: Firefighter, young father and the longest-serving Anexian

Written on May 17, 2018 by Christina Rauter

In the 12 years since it was founded, Anexia has gone through frequent changes and grown steadily. First a one-man business, then a limited-liability company (GmbH) with 10 employees, today Anexia is one of Austria’s largest internet service providers and has a staff of over 170. Horn is an established part of our Anexia family; after all, he is the longest-serving team member next to Alexander Windbichler. In this #joinourrevolution interview, the network technician talks about how he ended up at Anexia and the qualities he has as a firefighter that he is also able to use at work:

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You started your training at Anexia nine years ago. What was it about Anexia back then that made you want to apply here?
I heard a radio ad at the time where Anexia advertised that they were happy to take on people who had dropped out of vocational schooling. That suited me, and when I came for an interview the young team appealed to me.
It really was a great job for training: there was a lot of variety, and in those days our CEO, Alex, still came to the data center with us to build things. There was never any shortage of fun, even though it was sometimes quite stressful.

It really was a great job for training.

And compared to the past, what do you like about Anexia as it is now?
We can take on completely different projects now, which is very exciting. Everyone brings expertise from various industries, and we make sure that we find a common denominator. It’s great because you pick up completely new, highly professional insights and are presented with totally different points of view. Now we plan everything with automation so that we can implement projects more quickly and ensure consistency. In the past we did build everything consistently, but always with an eye firmly on the budget. Achieving a lot with few resources. That’s the difference now.
And I always enjoy seeing the company grow. At our headquarters in Klagenfurt we now occupy almost the whole office block – before, it was just one office. It’s just something that always pleases me, and gives me the greatest respect for our CEO.

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Just a couple of years ago, there were only two of you in the network department. Now there are almost 20 people. How has this changed your work?
The biggest difference has to be that now we’re purely Network & Infrastructure. At the start, when it was just the two of us, we also dealt with System Operations tasks because there was no dedicated team for that. There was just my trainer Jürgen and me.

During your training especially, I imagine such a broad spectrum of duties was fantastic.
Yes, it was just wonderful. I tackled Windows servers as well as Linux systems. I would configure switches and then a firewall. I really covered the whole gamut, and that was a tremendous help to me, especially at technical college.
But you also have to look at it this way: now I might be a niche specialist, but we’re constantly improving in individual disciplines.

Why did you stay with the Network team? You could have gone to join the SysAdmins.
It’s true, I could have done both. In the beginning I was also with Alex Griesser in the SOC [LS note: System Operations Center]. But I was heavily involved in building and maintaining our infrastructure, such as setting up and cabling the data center we acquired back then in Vienna. That was in 2012, and I often had to travel out there to help build it. So I was regularly pulled away from my work in the SOC, and that resulted in my switching to the NOC [LS note: Network Operations Center].

And was network technology the right decision?
Yes, definitely. Being able to touch things, getting into the data center… that’s something else. You see the work you’re doing. For example, there was a really big customer project we had in Frankfurt. When we walked into the room, it was empty. We built and cabled everything on the spot. We had all the infrastructure stuff to contend with – when will I have internet? When will I have power? Nothing was ready. And then after a couple of days (and a couple of night shifts) you’re standing in the doorway with a fully equipped room in front of you. It’s really something.

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Do you also put the servers together yourselves?
In the past we did it ourselves, yes. Now that the dimensions are so different, we no longer do our own assembly. But of course it was nice to properly work with our hands and build the first 15 virtualization machines ourselves before the first Dell server arrived. Now we order 40 Dell servers at once. It’s a stark difference.

The Network & Infrastructure department has since become an international team. How do you work together as a team?
Each day we have our daily meeting where we briefly discuss our to-dos. Even if we didn’t need it every day, it’s good to be connected and quickly hear from each other. But yes, there are colleagues who I unfortunately don’t have much to do with in Klagenfurt. It’s a shame that they’re so far away, but we get so big you have to expect that not everyone will be together.

And have you never been tempted to move out of Carinthia?
Not really, no. I’ve always loved being in Carinthia. Nature, mountains, 27 ski resorts or so less than an hour away [laughs]. I’ve never wanted to move away. And now I have my family at home.

You’re not just a young father, but also involved as a volunteer firefighter. No doubt you are used to stressful situations in both roles. Does that help you to stay calm when things escalate at work?
Yes, definitely. I’ve never been the super frantic type, but no doubt that’s also something I learned as a firefighter. When something happens, the gears start turning. “What can or must be done now?” In the fire service you can’t say “I don’t know what else to do, I’m out!” No two fires are the same. You have to improvise and look what you have available and work with what’s there.

You have a very practical and pragmatic view of the world.
Yes; thinking back even further, I also get that from my father. He’s a DIYer and likes to tinker with things. My brother and I picked up all the manual stuff along the way as children. And although we’ve done less than he would have liked, I’d say I can now go into a workshop and get by pretty well with any tool.

You volunteer with the fire service, you have a young family, you’ve just extended a house for your family, and on top of it all you have a very demanding job. Do you ever sleep?
Pretty rarely [laughs]. No, the remodeling is finished now and I’ve come off our new network team’s on-call roster. Now I get home at a decent hour more often and still have time for my family.

You have been Technical Lead Network Operations since April 1. What new duties do you have?
To be honest, I was already doing a lot of things before and there aren’t many new responsibilities. When our old head of the department left us last year, we took over the organizational work as a team. I take care of organizing site upgrades and process any orders we receive. But I still make sure that in between all the organizational to-dos I still grab a ticket every once in a while and say “I’m doing this one”. I don’t want to neglect the technical side of things completely.

What career path would you recommend to someone who also wanted to become Technical Lead for Network Operations?
I don’t believe you necessarily need a degree, vocational school diploma or technical training. I think what matters is that you need to be a bit nuts about technology and happy to educate yourself. You can’t expect everything to be handed to you. Oh yes – and volunteer as a firefighter so that you can be calm in stressful situations [laughs].

I think what in my job matters is that you need to be a bit nuts about technology and happy to educate yourself.

And what about your son? Does he play with a fire truck or does he prefer fiddling with his first PC?
When I’m sitting in my office at home, he comes over and wants a keyboard too. He bashes around on it and gets grumpy if he doesn’t have a mouse. So then he gets mine. But he’s equally keen on the fire service. Because you can actually see the fire station across the field from our house, of course he always has to look at fire trucks. He also has firefighter-themed pajamas and toy fire trucks. So it’s looking pretty good for him following in my footsteps [laughs].

Thank you for your time, Martin, and here’s to the next nine years or even the next 18.
Yes, no reason why not!

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Are you interested in technology as much as Martin? Then apply now for one of our advertised vacancies and join our Anexia family: