Hear from a Peer: Dustin Eastman
On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – The Power of Tech Education Series, I am joined by Eric Fusilero, Vice President of Global Enablement and Education, and Dustin Eastman, a Sales Engineer at Splunk, for our third and final part of the series, to hear the first hand experience of an end user in technology and how specific education and certifications are helping him on his journey.
Our conversation covers:
- How curiosity and initiative can help employees to grow and learn
- What makes Splunk a prolific proponent of continuous learning
- How Splunk’s training and knowledge translate into an end user’s day to day operation
- Why it is important to take advantage of as many learning opportunities as possible
It’s a great conversation, and one you won’t want to miss. To learn more about Splunk, check out their website here.
Missed Episode Oone? Watch Value of Education in Tech here.
Missed Episode Two? Watch Splunk is Championing Careers in IT and Cybersecurity here.
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Daniel Newman: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Power of Tech Education – three part series. I’m Daniel Newman, your host, principal, analyst, founding partner, Futurum Research, CEO of the Futurum Group. Excited to continue this series. This episode will be a little bit different. First two I did with Eric Fusilero and we talked a lot about what’s kind of going on at large with technology, education, how companies are approaching it for innovation.
In the last episode, we actually dug in a little bit more specifically to what Splunk is doing, but also more industry-wide, the way people are being given opportunities to learn and those opportunities, how they turn into careers. For the third part though, we thought, Hey, let’s talk to someone that’s actually gone through this process, done the training, gone through all these processes, and this is going to be Dustin Eastman and Dustin’s going to join the show. So without further ado, welcome both of you to the show. Eric, welcome back.
Eric Fusilero: Thank you.
Dustin Eastman: Thank you.
Daniel Newman: Good to see you again? Dustin, welcome. You’ve come in mid-series. It’s time for you. All the spotlight is going to be on you. So the way we’re going to do this is I’m going to ask you questions Dustin and Eric is going to judge you. No, I’m just kidding. What we’re going to do here is we’re going to kind of go through, I want to walk you through your experience a little bit because I want to see how right I was because that’s really important to me as an analyst is was I really right in episodes one and two or did we miss the mark? Okay, we’re having a little fun. We’re smiling. That makes these shows a good time. But how about we start with the basics? These are the first questions on the test. Talk about your current role, Dustin at Splunk.
Dustin Eastman: All right, so currently I am a sales engineer at Splunk. I like to think of that, I don’t like using the word sales in my role. My job is to be a technical advisor to my customers. Right. So the sales guy will come in and say, buy all the shiny things and I sit back and go, okay, let’s really talk about what you need and how we can work together to get you there. And a lot of that is we’re going to touch on education, but a lot of that even comes down to, hey, the customer doesn’t know how to do something. All right, well I’ll walk you through it, but then after you’re done, we have these other courses. Oh, and by the way, I can offer you a workshop and I can sit down with you and say, okay, we’re going to go through this formal workshop and we’re going to talk about these things. So I’m a sales engineer. I get paid to help you find the right solution. But at the end of the day, I like to think of it as an advisor.
Daniel Newman: Hey Dustin, I want to say something to you here. It’s okay to be a salesperson and you’re not, but it’s actually okay. Sales makes the world go round. I have an internal debate all the time with our VP of sales in our firm because he wants to change to things like VP of growth or VP of this. And he is like nobody,
Eric Fusilero: Yeah, or maybe operations or something. Yeah.
Daniel Newman: Every company on the planet understands that sales makes the world go round and in a technical capacity it is people that can actually translate. This is the best office space moment ever. I get between the sales people and the engineers because nobody wants to talk. The engineers aren’t people, people, I’m a people person, that kind of thing. It’s okay to be smart and actually be able to gain and understand customer needs and help them find something. When you’re selling something people want to buy, you’re not selling anymore. Just remember that. And so it is okay. So talk a little bit, you kind of started leaning into this, but talk a little bit about your journey. I heard about you being a really active in a Splunk user community, kind of something about you being a SplunkTrust. I mean, talk about how that kind of played a role in your journey to Splunk.
Dustin Eastman: All right. Let’s see. I have actually been using Splunk since around 2006, 2006, 2009, somewhere in there. Brain gets a little foggy with this many years in between. And as I went along, I spent years as a customer using the product and getting to know the product and finding the use cases. And the user group just kind of happened. I started finding myself looking for answers and I didn’t want to wait to get answers back from my account teams or whatever. And I started reaching out locally to other professionals in the IT industry that I knew and I said, Hey, do you know anything about Splunk? What do you know about this? What do you know about that? And I started to find a common group of people that all had similar questions. And then I found out about the user group community and I looked in our city and I said, do we have one?
Oh, we have one, but it hasn’t met in two years. So I reached out to my Splunk account and I said, Hey guys, do you know anything about how to get this off the ground? And they said, well, we’re not really sure, but we can get you in touch with some people and if you want you can run it. And so that kind of fell in my lap and I took off with that. As I developed in the community and the more I contributed to the community, the SplunkTrust is a select group of people that get a kind of honors for helping the community and helping it grow and helping others find answers and working together. And so I was asked to join that trust in 2021. So that was a big honor for me.
And along the way as I was learning, I started to go, well, I wish I had some formal training and I took some of the classes and there were small things that were mentioned in the trainings that I didn’t find in documents anywhere. There were just little nuggets and little pieces of things that maybe they’re in the documents but they’re not easy to find. But the training called them out. And had I not taken the time to invest in the training, had my company not taken the time to invest in the training and in me most importantly, I wouldn’t have gotten that information to the point where part of that information become one of my early conference presentations that I gave at Splunk about a piece of information that I found in one of the trainings that wasn’t well documented. So I created a whole conference session around it.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s kind of like that Eric, I want to bounce it to you. It’s like GitHub repository. It’s like those people that built things that are really trusted and they become core to, I think being in this space of trust is there’s so much ongoing learning here. Now, Eric, his path, the path you mentioned sounds a little atypical. Dustin obviously did a lot of initiative, but I’m guessing there’s some themes in what he did and how it sort of got him where he is.
Eric Fusilero: Yeah, I mean, I think one thing that Daniel and I sort of talked about in the first couple of episodes, right, is just the importance of curiosity, right, and sort of this continuous learning mindset. And I think that’s one thing that’s key in what Dustin just sort of mentioned, right, which is he was told to go use Splunk. He wasn’t given any investment in terms of, okay, how do I go do that? He went and figured it out. Right. He started asking questions, he joined a community. This was getting into sort of the informal learning conversation that we had, which is if you don’t have anything formal, then go look informal opportunities and do that.
And then he realized, hey, you know what? This informal stuff is great. Learning from others is great, but maybe there’s some formal stuff I might need to sort of tap into, to see if I’m missing something, which he did. Right. And so whether you take that route or whether you flip that around, which is okay, I’m going to read a book and then I’m going to figure out how to apply it, people do that as well. Right. So I think his path is probably just emblematic of other folks. It depends on really sort of what side of that sort of experience do you live in or preference.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I also think it’s about being really innovative and being creative. And so when you think about what drives a lot of businesses and a lot of roles, it’s like what is a manager? Well, this isn’t universal, Eric and Dustin, but good managers love creative people that’s solve problems, that take on initiative. These are good managers. I want to be very clear because there are obviously always micromanagers that’ll want to know everything you do, but I’m saying a good manager’s like if you’re on the team and I’ve given you a problem, I just want you to solve it. And what I mean is coming in and saying, kind of what I heard Dustin, is I saw a gap, I saw an opportunity, I saw a problem that could be solved and you know what, I didn’t see anyone else really reaching out and saying, I’m going to solve it. And you’re like, I’ll do that.
And then that actually becomes a way that you build credibility and you build visibility and that credibility and visibility becomes opportunity. And you started to kind of put all these things together. But I do got to ask you, you hit a certain level, you’ve gotten into a role, maybe the role you really wanted, Dustin, and so what kind of sparks your desire to not stop? Meaning you kind of get to a point now where I’m guessing a lot of your calls, you’re probably like I knew. I know this like the back of my hand at this point, which by the way, I don’t know how anyone actually knows the back of their hand. I don’t actually know it that well, but I say it a lot. But how do you kind of keep yourself inspired when you know you’ve kind of hit that point where you are oftentimes, at least when it comes to Splunk, the smartest person in the room?
Dustin Eastman: Well, I thank you for the compliment first of all.
Daniel Newman: I’m just guessing by the way.
Dustin Eastman: I guess that really, that depends on how you want to look at it. Whether you want to look inside or you want to look outside. I constantly find myself doing things outside of work, right, that make me want to be better, that make me want to do things differently. And then that triggers something in my brain that goes, wait a minute, I couldn’t do this thing before, so maybe I can go try this thing again. And so a lot of it is outside sources as well. But as far as really in day-to-day and work specifically at Splunk, they’re constantly growing. They’re constantly changing.
To use kind of one of the phrases as we go into 2023, resilient. Right. They’re changing, they’re growing, they’re moving forward. So there’s always learning opportunities. There’s always opportunities to learn about the newest thing that’s coming out and learn how to help with that. And there’s so many resources and some of it just comes from learning that I enjoy mentoring. Right. And I enjoy working with others. So that ability to mentor other people lets me grow and lets me never be satisfied because as I’m working with a mentee, I see they have challenges. Maybe I don’t know the answer, now I have to go find it. So now I’m learning as well as helping them learn.
Daniel Newman: So Eric, as a democratizer of information in many ways, and you sort of enabling all day long, how do you keep your skills, I just want to push this back to you for a minute, to know how to actually continue to build programs for people that are often more skilled than you and me? Meaning when you’re the actual, I always say the curriculum developers for a PhD in engineering, it’s like do those engineers actually know if they’re smarter than all those really smart engineers about what they need? How do you keep engineering the program to keep that talent stable, growing the right way?
Eric Fusilero: Yeah, I think that we always joke that the fact that education requires a village, it’s never really sort of done by one individual, one team. And the village is made up of subject matter experts like Dustin here, right, who are out there really sort of blazing a trail who are in many cases looking for opportunities to pay it forward. And so we take advantage of that opportunity, right, across the board, whether it’s inside the company, regardless of whether you’re in the field like Dustin or whether you’re in engineering, but also externally, right? Because there’s plenty of customers who are blazing trails with how they’re applying Splunk.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think you bring up some good points there and that is an continuous and evolutionary state of always figuring out how to keep training and keep people inspired and keep people motivated. And you kind of mentioned already, I was going to ask you about kind of how your training is translating in your day-to-day work, but if you had to kind of weigh Dustin, how critical was your vendor specific training in this case? Obviously you got tech aptitude, you’ve got drive. Eric, you and I talked offline about kind of the culture and social and fit and human. How much do you weigh that sort of technical training? If you had to kind of scale it on a one to 10, how much did it help you in terms of landing where you wanted to land?
Dustin Eastman: I would probably say pretty high. At least an eight, maybe a nine. It’s,
Eric Fusilero: Checks in the mail Dustin. Checks in the mail.
Dustin Eastman: Thank you.
Daniel Newman: I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure. So I genuinely wanted to know because the soft skills are important.
Dustin Eastman: Yeah. The soft skills are important, but I think having that firm foundation in the education, and I think part of what it comes back to too when you’re talking vendor specific as well, it helps you be better as a customer from a support perspective. Because when you’ve been trained the right way, when you’ve had the proper training, then you’re going to configure it more than likely closer to best practices. Not always obviously, but you tend to lean that way. So then when you call support and say, Hey, there’s a problem, it makes it easier for support to be able to be like, oh, I think it’s this. And it’s also as a customer, it’s less jarring for you for support to say, Hey, we need to change this because you understand why they’re changing it or why that could be the issue because you’ve been trained the right way.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that takes us to a really opportune moment here as we sort of wrap up this series. And Dustin, it’s been really great to hear your journey and I’m hoping other people out there that have sort of going through this and whether you’re at a skills inflection point, whether you’ve been part of this really challenging macro with some of the rifts and the layoffs or whether you’re in a great job and you’re just kind of thinking, what’s next about where does this continued education fit? Let’s do a lightning round. This will be a fun way to end and just kind of talk about advice. Dustin, why don’t you kick us off? What advice from your experience and your journey would you give to people that are in all these kind of situations, whether, like I said, a recent grad, someone that’s in between jobs, someone that’s in a good job but scared they’re going to get stuck if they don’t keep learning. What advice would you give them?
Dustin Eastman: The number one thing I could say, and I’m going to cover up the other side, we’re going to cover up the Splunk thing somewhere. We’re going to cover that up a little bit for just a second.
Daniel Newman: Please.
Dustin Eastman: We’re going to cover that up for just a second. From an industry perspective, the number one recommendation I can give is networking, networking, networking, networking, and find mentors. Make that a priority as you’re coming out of your learning phase. That is something that I didn’t learn until a few years on and I wish I’d learned earlier. And now I have some very, very strong mentors that I’ve had for 10 plus years, and I still talk with them at least on a monthly basis. And do we talk about anything specific? No. Sometimes we just sit down and have a meal and say, how’s life? But their guidance and their leadership gave me something that is invaluable. So that’s really a big piece for me and that’s why I think it’s become important for me to serve as a mentor for some people because I saw the value in it.
Daniel Newman: That’s good insights, Dustin. Eric, what about from your purview?
Eric Fusilero: Yeah, so I think at a high level, I always use this saying, so it’s two acronyms, ABC and NBC. ABC is always be curious. NBC is never be complacent. So that’s just from a mindset perspective. And I think all the things that Dustin just mentioned, right, which is there’s the formal education piece, but to cross that chasm between sort of the formal education to what customers need, right, you need that experience. And whether you find a mentor, whether you find an internship, take those opportunities to apply what you know, test what you know, grow from what you know by putting it to the test, right, in real life experiences because nothing like experience will sort of expand it. So just a couple thoughts there.
Daniel Newman: No, I think that’s really, those are some really good thoughts Eric. And I guess I’ll call my own number. I love your ABC, NBC. I think curiosity is probably one of the biggest things. I always say the two biggest competitors of any business, and this is also as any individual, are not actually who you think they are. They’re not other candidates, it’s not other companies, it’s don’t know and do nothing. Those are always the two biggest competitors of your own ability to succeed in life. So the constant thirst and desire to take advantage of all the knowledges at your disposal, whether that’s the library, whether that’s free education from MIT, whether that’s courses that are being made available for free or for pay, or going in and enrolling in a big expensive institution. All of those can be sensible, but that desire to continuously learn, to read with all the information at our disposal, it’s all about being able to adapt.
We said this in the first episode, Eric and Dustin, you didn’t hear this, but the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn is really what’s going to set apart the people who are going to be successful in the future. And those that are going to be, you struggle the most with this rapid pace of change. I think if you can really build a mindset that’s all about continually learning, never stop being curious, to your point, and really taking advantage of all those opportunities, Dustin, to your point that are presented to people who want to grow, who want to learn and want to find stable opportunities in the market, it’s all there to be had. But with that, Eric, Dustin, I want to thank you for helping me go through a great three part series here on the power of technology and education. Everybody out there, hope you enjoyed it. Hope you tuned in all the episode. Share it with your friends. I hope you stay educated, stay thirsty, stay curious. We’ll see you later.
Daniel Newman is the Chief Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio