VMware TAM

I have accepted a job with VMware, as a Technical Account Manager (TAM).

To say I’m excited about this would be a gross understatement. VMware has been the company I’ve spent the majority of my technical focus on up to this point, and since announcing this change on Twitter last week I’ve been thrilled with the replies like “I’ve been here 4 years and it’s an amazing place to work.” During the interview process, one of the current TAM’s told me point blank: “This is the best job I’ve had in my career.” All of this has maintained a level of anticipation about this career change that I’ve not had for any other.

It’s not as if this is a surprise because I interact with so many great people on a regular basis who work for VMware, who seem to genuinely love the work they’re doing. But it’s been refreshing to get the same messages from people I’d never even met before. I’ve never worked for a vendor before, and reguardless of the company I had reservations before going this route. Would I lose my independent voice? I’ve had opportunities to make the switch arise before, but didn’t always see myself as a fit because the product itself didn’t engage me in any meaningful way.

The last year has been a rebuilding year, for me. In early 2017, I left my role as an data center engineer at a Value Added Reseller, to go back into a customer role. I had been working as a consultant for nearly six years, but prior to that I spent seven years on the customer side. So now I was back working 9-5, at the same desk. It was tough because I loved consulting, and I literally couldn’t wait to get back, but for various reasons I needed the transition. The role I took was intentionally outside my comfort zone, to force myself to do something different and pickup new skills. It was challenging in ways both expected and unexpected. The team I was working on has some great people, and it has been a fun to work with them, even if all the while I knew this wasn’t the place I wanted to stay at for very long.

This year in transition was a change that I needed, being a customer was a place to lay low, reset, and figure out my future and my priorities. There was no travel and no on-call, not even an expectation to even have email on my phone, let alone respond after hours to it.

But now I’m back, and ready to get to work doing what I love, for the company that I’ve spent the last decade focusing on, in the company of all the great people who’ve helped me get to this point.

Will work for reasonable salary + benefits

The process of looking for a new job is stressful. If you already have one, you’re a bit like a secret agent, sneaking around town trying to complete the mission of getting someone new to agree to sign your paychecks, without the old boss finding out. If you don’t have a job, it’s even more stressful, as you wait around and watch your bank accounts dwindle, with nothing to replenish it.

I knew by March of this year that I was ready to move on from my now previous employer. I’ve never really had a difficult time finding a job when I decided to commit to the process. I don’t think this time was any different in that respect, but it was interesting. I was very lucky and excited to accept the position that I had the most interest in of all those I looked at during the entire process.

My process was around the same time that my friend @davemhenry was in the midst of his #HireDaveNow campaign on Twitter. It was kind of fun to watch Dave advertise himself, while I was lurking in the shadows, although I’m sure it was super stressful for him at the time. It would have been refreshing to be able to shout “I’m available” to the world.

Someone eventually hired Dave.

Continue reading Will work for reasonable salary + benefits

An end and a beginning

This morning I gave two weeks notice to my current employer, a Kansas City based VAR, where I have been a senior data center engineer for the last six years.

I’ve enjoyed many aspects of my current role; becoming certified in new technologies, learning new skills, and solving problems for customers. I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot of talented people within the organization and within our partners… and of course, with our customers.

Looking through my documentation folders, it appears I’ve worked with at least 242 different customers on technology implementations. Some of these have been single day, one and done type customers. They needed a VNX, so I stood it up for them, and I never talked to them again. But really, many of these have been customers that I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a trusted advisor, where I can not only help guide them through infrastructure changes, but also build relationships. I will absolutely miss working with them on a daily basis.

There have also been other countless service tickets, some in the wee-hours of the morning, where I’ve helped people recover data or reassemble failed infrastructure. Some of those sleepless nights I might miss a little less.

I have been both lucky and challenged to travel a lot in my current role. Growing up and living in the Kansas City area my entire life, it was fun to be able to go to Boston, Seattle, San Fransisco, Austin, Atlanta, D.C., etc., for projects and training. Even the less glamorus places like western Illinois, northern Arkansas, eastern Oregon, or southern Tennesse could be fun for a while. While the travel schedule was not as aggressive as some in our industry endure, it was starting to became more than I wanted keep up with. Having two young children, and wanting to be always be present in their activities has been getting harder and harder.

I also reached a point a couple of years ago where I wanted to go a different direction in my career. I like to brag to people that I was a system administrator at age 13 and I became a consultant at 27, but I’ve always basically been the guy pushing the buttons and turning the screws to make things work.

My new role will be back on the customer side, but this time in a much larger enterprise than anything else I’ve really worked in before, and now my role will be a more strategic, architecture focused role. I’ll be working within the company business units to standarize systems, define technical requirements for projects, and act as a liason between the development, business and operations teams. I won’t be abandoning my experience as a virtualization, storage, and core infrastructure guy, I will be leveraging it to also get out of that comfort zone. I will be able to really focus on being the trusted advisor, within the organization, and less on pushing boxes into racks.

It will be a major change for me, and a new type of challenge, but it is one that I’m excited to be making.

Security from obscurity

A couple of years ago, one of our network security architects at work told me that I was in the wrong business. Storage, virtualization, data centers, it’s all going to the cloud. I’d soon be out of a job. 

I barely knew the guy. At first I politely laughed when he said it, but then realized he was serious. Not really a great way to make new friends at work. The irony of the situation was that he tracked me down on one of the few times I was in the office, and approached me to help him lay out some of the VMware requirements for a Trend Micro Deep Security implementation. 

It wasn’t more than a few months later, that he didn’t work for my employer anymore … not by his choice … and I’m still there, two years later, still billable most of the week. 

I don’t even remember his name. 

But, he’s wasn’t wrong, just a jerk. It’s not as if he was delivering some sort of life changing message, that I’d never heard before. It’s one I hear repeated very often on social media, in conference presentations, etc, and in the wake of this Amazon re:Invent conference last week, I’m hearing it a lot. 

It’s undeniable that a big part of my job is chucking boxes of rust and silicon into racks, stringing copper and fiber optics around, and making it all sing together in unison. I kind of enjoy it.

It’s also undeniable that things are changing.

PTAB

I just flew back from Palo Alto where I’ve been attending the VMware Partner Technical Advisory Board on End User Computing. Prior to a couple of months ago, I’d never heard of a PTAB, and then I got invited to one.

The purpose of the PTAB is for VMware to invite services partners out to meet with VMware leadership to discuss the future of their products and to provide very candid feedback. There is also chance for training, as I was able to attend a free two-day ICM class on Horizon Mirage.

While the actual content of the PTAB is under NDA, I will say that VMware has some really exciting things happening in the EUC space. I had a great time, VMware puts on a nice show. The moment I realized I was sitting in the VMware headquarters eating bacon, I felt like royalty.

It was also a great chance to do some networking and meet people that I only previously had a chance to know on Twitter… including the vExpert Godfather, Mr. @jtroyer.

Last but not least thanks to people like @BChristian21 @DavesRant @rockygiglio @jaslanger @keithnorbie @thombrown @earlg3 and the others who let me tag along in the evening and share sushi, milkshakes, chowder and beer. Every night I felt like I was drenched in knowledge just being able to listen and share feedback between the group.

If I ever needed inspiration to start evaluating my professional future and to go for my VCDX, this was the group to do it.

I’m looking forward to another oppertunity to attend in the future.

Longer title and more acronyms

There is no other purpose for this entry, except for some shameless self promotion. I’m pretty excited about both of them, as they’re the results of things I’ve been working on for a while. Even though I love to talk about myself, I’ll keep it short and sweet.

  • Last week, I was promoted to Sr. Systems Engineer with AOS. No doubt that the recent vExpert award played into this, but I also like to think it was the result of proving myself over the last two years to managers, co-workers and customers.
  • On Wednesday, I passed the first test for my CCNA (adding “CCENT” to my resume in the interim). Getting my CCNA done has been on my to-do since about 2007ish. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to report on passing test #2 and finishing that up.

At the end of this month, I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC, for week long training on CommVault, since my company is going to start selling their solutions soon. This means more studying, more classes, and more testing/certifications. When kids say things like “I can’t wait to be done with school so I don’t have to study anymore” I’m quick to point out I do more homework now, then I probably did then, and with far more responsibilities along with it.

Learning never stops, and if it does, you’re doing it wrong.

vExpert 2013

Earlier today, John Mark Troyer announced the 2013 vExpert list.

Shockingly, I made the cut, and I’m beyond honored. One of 580.

Full disclosure: I originally wrote this entire blog post earlier today from the point of view that I wasn’t included, so I’d have something ready to go discussing how I plan to increase my involvement in the community and try again next year. Except for announcing that I actually was selected, none of that outlook changes.

I wasn’t even sure if I’d apply for it when the application/self-nomination form went up last month, because I knew I’d not done anywhere enough to contribute at the level as the current vExperts. That being said, I threw my name into the mix and have been waiting patiently since then to find out the results. While I’ve been tweeting and engaging people online about virtualization for a while now, I made it my mission a couple of years ago do do more. It’s difficult with other obligations like work, family, etc, to (after all that) spend a lot of time giving back, but I will. (To be honest I’m not sure how some of the current vExpert folks do it.)

Now that I’ve actually been selected, there is a huge weight to do more, in order to prove myself worthy of this selection, but also because of the realization that this is only for one year and this is something to continue to participate in. This year I hope to contribute a lot more in the way of tutorials on this site, regular news updates, and Twitter/social networking participation. I also need to dive deeper into providing assistance on the official VMware Communities site, something I’ve avoided doing so far.

I also need to go to VMworld this year.

For the sake of everyone who doesn’t know a lot about the vExpert program, this doesn’t mean I am suddenly imbued with all the knowledge of VMware’s various applications. As John said over on the VMware site:

“I want to personally thank everyone who applied and point out that a “vExpert” is not a technical certification or even a general measure of VMware expertise. The judges selected people who were particularly engaged with their community and who had developed a substantial personal platform of influence in those communities. There were a lot of very smart, very accomplished people, even VCDXs, that weren’t named as vExpert this year.”

I hope to continue to learn and share as much as I can about VMware, and continue to be an evangelist for them.

Congrats to everyone who made the cut. I look forward to continue engaging with all the other vExperts, and the rest of the community, in the coming year.

Update: Originally the list had 575 names, then 579, now 580. Also, shout out to my local KC VMUG people, who I also promise to attend meetings with regularly in the future.