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Hi there, Community members! Welcome back to our ongoing series focused on our AppDynamics University instructors. We’re proud to present, Mike McFarland, who shares with us his extensive list of fun extracurriculars and work experience!

Please feel free to add your comments and questions for Mike and our Community moderators, below. We look forward to engaging with you! 

– Johanna & Claudia 

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In this post...

Your work

Can you give us a picture of “a day in the life”? What do you do at your job?

There are two main roles I fulfill as a Senior Instructor.  My primary responsibility is to deliver classes to students– that is my job! That probably takes up about three-quarters of my time.  

Secondly, is to help develop and/or improve the content for our AppDynamics University classes.  This can include things like testing the lab environments or help writing new delivery material and lab guides. 

Mike McFarland, a technical instructor for AppDynamics UniversityMike McFarland, a technical instructor for AppDynamics UniversityHow did you get involved with technical instruction?

It’s kind of a funny story.  I started my career over 25 years ago as a Mechanical Engineer here in Silicon Valley.  So, what does a Mechanical Engineer naturally end up doing in the San Francisco Bay Area?  Why software development of course!  

I happened to have kept a good relationship with the Robotics Instructor at San Francisco State University where I got my BSME (Bachelors of Science, Mechanical Engineering).  He remembered that I was always good at doing the Lab Classes and got the idea that I should start teaching the Robotics Labs at SFSU.  What fun that was! I got paid to play with some really fun toys, and always had access to new talent to bring on board as an Intern or Junior employ.


Your work at AppD

What first brought you to the AppD?

How then did I get to become a Technical Instructor with AppDynamics as a Mechanical Engineer?  About 8 years ago, I was working as a Robotics Engineer.  Loved the work!  I got to play with some really cool toys on occasion.  Unfortunately, the Robotics Industry is a tough Business to be involved in.  The company that I had been working at for over 12 years was slowly going out of business.  I was one of the last employees left, and there was no longer revenue to make payroll.  I did not want to admit it, but it was time for a change.

One of the very early Instructors at AppDynamics happened to be an old friend of mine.  So he and my Wife conspired together to help me make the change.  I did not want to leave the Robotics job, so my friend invited me to lunch ‘just to check out the cool AppDynamics Office’. I thought to myself, OK, sure why not?  It is always a pleasure to have lunch with a friend, right?  

I get to the office and a bunch of folks are lined up to ask me all sorts of questions about myself, previous jobs (like at NASA Ames) and such. Then a group of them want me to teach them something.  By that point, I had figured out this was not just an informal lunch…

As an occasional Lab Instructor at San Francisco State University, I had a couple favorite lectures that I liked to give.  So I gave my 10 minute lecture on ‘encoders’.  At the end, I remember someone saying, “Wow, I think this is the first person yet where I actually learned something!”. I guess I hit it out of the park, because I had an initial job offer the following day.  

Can you tell us about a positive experience you’ve had while teaching?

The best experiences are when one or more students start asking good, insightful questions. I then know that I have done my job, and won over some new lovers of AppDynamics! I also like to help address questions even after the course is over. Students can feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn to do so.


Keeping up with industry news

What’s your favorite way of keeping up with industry news?

Earlier in my career, I would say Trade Journals and Trade Shows have been the best way to keep up with what is new. I would attend hard drive trade shows, such as Javaone. While there, companies had booths and lecture series about new products and topics.

I still love Trade Shows, but I think the Internet has largely replaced Trade Journals for me. 


Life After Hours

What are some of your favorite things to experience outside of work?

  • I am a volunteer manager for Burning Man. That takes up a lot of my spare time, especially in the months before! Fun fact: 2022 will be my 10th year going! (What is the burning man experience like? The best way to summarize it is: “You’ll have to go yourself”)
  • I love Jazz: Dixieland style in particular
  • SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism)-fighting! I make the armor and weapons from scratch using metalworking and welding techniques. 

A dusty view from Burning Man 2022A dusty view from Burning Man 2022Instructor Mike McFarland engaging in SCA fightingInstructor Mike McFarland engaging in SCA fighting


Insights to Share

How—or where—do you find inspiration?

From my students.  When they get excited, I get excited!


What advice would you give someone who is interested in getting started with AppDynamics University?

DO IT!!! (Start learning now)