Becoming the ‘Hero’ to your ‘Cloud Hero’ – the Role of the Sidekick

Michael Sheehan

Literature, television, and movies are filled with heroes. And typically, where there is a hero, there is a trusty sidekick. While the spotlight is frequently focused primarily on the hero, more often than not, the hero with their activities of a champion would not succeed without the trust, knowledge, and loyalty of the sidekick. With these stories, it is important to understand and focus on the relationship between the hero and the sidekick. One cannot survive without the other, regardless of the role. Their personalities and characteristics are frequently complementary, providing balance, filling the gaps, and eventually creating a stronger force together than individually.

Riverbed has been championing the idea of the Cloud Hero for a while now. Through our suite of SD-WAN and Application/Network Performance Management solutions, we bring super powers to IT leaders across the globe. From giving visibility to those dark corners of IT, to enhancing the performance of networks and infrastructure, to bringing agility to DevOps, and to wrapping it all within a secure environment, we create Cloud Heroes of our customers.

The Hero/Sidekick Dynamic

Cloud Sidekick

Let’s think for a moment about some of the well-known heroes and sidekicks: Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, Batman and Robin, Kirk and Spock, and Sherlock and Watson. It is truthfully hard to think about one without the other. Neither the hero nor the sidekick could truly survive on their own in the long run. Episodically, the hero probably could, but how many times has the hero gotten stuck in a bind only to have the sidekick come in and save the day…”tune in next time to find out.” Similarly, the sidekick receives much of their character definition through their relationship with the hero. Without the hero, they are relegated to a much lesser role.

As I said previously, theirs is a complementary relationship. To succeed as a hero means the sidekick must succeed as well. And while the two may share characteristics, often it is the sidekick that grounds the hero to reality, provides strength and support when the hero falters, brings humanity and reason when the hero lacks direction, or simply enables a bond or companionship when the hero is lost psychologically. Spock balanced Kirk’s passion with logic. Samwise physically, mentally, and emotionally carried Frodo on his adventurous journey. Robin prevented Batman from becoming too dark in his ways. And Watson gave Sherlock a way to humanize and translate the often-cryptic logic of a solution.

The Hero is driven toward a goal of good, frequently by any means possible. Often the sidekick is the one to guide the hero towards success, with their own strengths, knowledge, and capabilities, while simultaneously being a reality-check.

When you think about the business space, the customer is the one who has the expertise in the market or vertical they are in, but they might not necessarily know or focus on the best path to achieve success, only the end goal. Customers are determined to succeed, driven by conviction or the bottom line, to beat out the competition, or just to survive. While often they are governed by the “by any means possible” phrase, in reality, their trusted advisor is often the one who delivers the “best means possible.”

The Hero’s “Hero”

It is important to think of the sidekick not as a diminished role. It is, truthfully, much more elevated than people suppose. In fact, the sidekick could be better termed, the hero’s “hero.”

As a Riverbed Partner, you are the hero to your customer, the Cloud Hero. You act as a trusted advisor, you provide support and insight, and you give relevance through solutions. In the end, your success can only come from their success, just as when Sherlock solves a crime, Watson always is a key catalyst in the process.

To become the Hero to your Cloud Hero, it’s important to emulate these sidekick traits:

  • Learn how to tell the story – Anecdotes and examples can be much more compelling than a just a slideshow. (Watson tells the world of Sherlock and his adventures.)
  • Be a reality-check – While tricky at times, use your experience to tactfully guide your customer away from a risky decision onto an alternative track that will lead to the desired (or better) outcome. (Spock’s analytical response often keeps Kirk from literally spinning off into space.)
  • Focus on the broader picture – Often, customers are hyper-focused on a particular outcome; it’s the role of the sidekick to embrace a holistic approach to solution-building. (Sherlock focuses on the intricacies of the details while Watson provides the real-world counter-balance.)
  • Relationships build bonds that last – While every hero and sidekick have a falling out at some point in the relationship, once healed, there is more trust. (Batman “adopts” Robin to essentially save himself.)
  • Leveraging the success – Build upon wins, drive more opportunities, and embrace the victory together. (Frodo is carried by Samwise to the summit to destroy the Ring, and together, they succeed.)
  • Be the trusted advisor – Listen, understand, and engage at executive levels by providing knowledgeable insights. (Watson often enables Sherlock to think through things by providing alternate perspectives.)
  • Become your own expertSD-WAN, APM, NPM, WAN optimization, hybrid WAN, and other technologies can be complicated to the uninitiated; by being the trusted advisor, your knowledgeable insights move the customer closer to success. (Robin handles other tasks and contributes to the greater whole allowing Batman to focuses on his specific expertise.)
  • It’s all about growth and transformation – Digital transformation involves the evolution of both business and technological processes and thinking, but this can only occur if the status quo is challenged. The sidekick is paramount to questioning the establishment to enable transformation. (Watson and Robin humanize their counterparts through their own insights and discussion.)

Sidekicks might not lead the heroic actions in all cases, but the hero would be lost and the story wouldn’t be the same without them. Be that trusted advisor. Bring insights and knowledge to a chaotic IT landscape. Carry your client across the finish line and beyond.

Be the hero to your Cloud Hero!