Victor McNeal

What did you do before BigPanda?

That’s actually a question I get where not many people believe what I say. Before anything, I went to a performing arts high school in Atlanta, Georgia and went to college on a full dance scholarship. Classically trained ballet, jazz, modern tap mostly. Obviously, that didn’t work out. Funny, I know I’m the only person that got a full ride, and decided I was done learning. I’m going to leave it at that. Horrible idea.

Afterwards, I did a bunch of commercials and different shows and even had a short bartending stint. Then, 9/11 happened and I decided I had to do something – so I joined the Marine Corps. I was an O351, which is basically a Marine Corps infantry man with the demolition package. So essentially, just a kid with toys. I went to breacher school and learned how to defeat entry mechanisms. Once I was deployed, I was an older marine and graduated from bootcamp on my 25th birthday. By that point I already had my first child and one on the way, and I was trying to figure out where I fit into that environment. It’s the easiest job you’ll ever do. No one will ever believe that, but all you do is wake up and do what you’re told. Your entire day is planned out for you most of the time.

I went on a few deployments and spent some time in Iraq and Afghanistan. My platoon sergeant and I were close and he gave me the choice to take whatever classes I wanted, so I ended up picking up biometrics and what’s known as sensitive site exploitation. Which for lack of a better term, was almost like CSI. We would go out on missions, clear whatever the target was, secure the building and the compound. When that’s done, we’d set up a security perimeter. I’d take my team, we’d sweep the inside, bag and tag evidence and metrics on everyone. Biometrics is essentially life measurements, which comes down to your irises, fingerprints and biographical data. Our job was to make a link analysis for people in the area. The United States already has a great link analysis with all of the social media platforms and we were essentially trying to create that in areas that didn’t have that set up.

While I was there, I realized that, hey, this is a necessary skill and it’s kind of fun. When it came time to transition out of the Marine Corps, I wanted to move over to the human intelligence side. I had already been working in the field and I liked those guys. I started writing down all the classes that I’d taken and what skills I got out of it. I really just tried to prove that I was smarter than just a kid with explosives. I condensed this all on a resume and sent them out everywhere. People started reaching out to me for jobs, and they were like real Marine jobs! It was awesome. So just like that, I got a job to go right back overseas.

Transitioning to this whole new line of work, to this extremely technical job, I learned a lot on the fly. I worked overseas for three, maybe four years, and then transitioned back stateside where I started working with my first startup. At this point, I’m just biometrics all day long. At first, I was working strictly in the CSI type of role where I’d go out and process people in the field: fingerprints, irises, biographical data. Then I transitioned over to airports where I worked on facial mapping. I worked with airports all over the US. From the second you walk into Hartsfield International, your face was recognized as your boarding pass. You’d use it to check in for your flight on the kiosk, to drop your bag, get through security, and then to even get on the plane so you never actually had to take anything out of your pocket. That was my team.

What was your favorite part of being in biometrics?

The movement. It was always exciting: new people, new places. It was never dull.

What made you transition out of the biometrics career path?

From 2004 until BigPanda, I was constantly traveling for work. I spent a large chunk of time going back and forth between the US and Saudi Arabia. A month there, a month home, two months there, one month home. I have five kids, a wife and two large dogs. As the kids hit high school, I decided it was time that I just needed to be home. So I looked for an opportunity where I could be at home more to be with my family.

What do you like about the AIOps industry so far?

Learning something new, really. For me so far, this has been looking at the field and realizing like wow, we could have really used this at my last stint! I recently got a call like last week from an old customer who needed help getting the system back up. If they had BigPanda, that outage wouldn’t have ever happened and they wouldn’t have needed to call me. That’s the most exciting thing, seeing and learning the technology and realizing how useful it is. I like being a part of something that I know is actually worthwhile. I’ve worked on projects before that I didn’t think would necessarily make a big difference, and BigPanda definitely does.

How do you find balance between your home and your professional life?

BigPanda was actually able to reset the balance for me. I’m sitting in my living room right now! Being able to work from home allows me the flexibility to be able to start my day early and be at home with my family. I don’t have a long commute and I can work when I need to. Everyone at BigPanda is just super, super helpful and respectful. I feel like everyone has a good work life balance and makes their home life a priority as well.

What is one of your superpowers?

The ability to adapt. Knowing that I can work in any setting with anyone, I’d have to say that that’s my superpower. Just being able to take a step back and say: alright, this is where we’re at today. Cool, that is what we are doing and this is our new plan.