Archive for September, 2015

The accounts of a few and guidance to many…

Every once in a while there is a day that brings together people that are from down the street, across the country and around the world with an attempt to make the world a slightly better place.  While this sounds like quite the audacious goal, The Reckoning aims to:

Do Work That Matters 
Beyond Technologist: Communicator, Businessperson
Be a Creator, Not An Operator
I have been lucky enough to be in attendance to represent Nexenta but also my history and background.  Kicking off the day with an unconference that was hosted by Cody Bunch and Alastair Cooke of vBrownbag we started with a generic list of topics that those in attendance thought were important to the community, the tech sector and hopefully others that could not attend.  I have done these before and the ideas tend not to get to flow past the group in attendance, and since the first break out, I volunteered to lead it seems only write to pass on some of the insight from those that may have been there, might want to go there or those that are just guessing but either way they are nuggets of knowledge.
Breakout #1: Making the transition from hands on tech to a business person
After a little history of everyone in the group a few main topics really jumped out, first off what does being a business person mean?  We came up with a few things but overall it is a multi-faceted role where you may manage people, you may be leading a technology or you may be selling technology.  The business role could me one or any of these and we had some random comments throughout:
  • Help to build things that remove blockers for others – it shouldnt always be about you getting ahead
  • It doesnt have to be just about making more money
  • Move to what comes from the heart
  • Actively pursue happiness or as Amy Lewis mentioned “I can’t work if I’m not happy”
  • Be the one to make the decision

As we tried to wrap up the first breakout we have a few pieces of advice to pass along in no particular order.

  1. Don’t worry about your title and role – Do the job you want to do
  2. Perception Management is key – Don’t hide your second job, that extra you do that may not get noticed
  3. If you are making your job up and your company doesnt agree, maybe that means you are at the wrong company
  4. Find something you resonate with – Follow your internal GPS
  5. Be comfortable in your lifestyle, it might not be about the paycheck but make sure you are happy
Breakout #2: Crossing the skills gap from one vendor to many

Again this one required a little bit of clarification, many of the people here had their careers revolve around VMware but how do you make sure you are not just “The VMware Guy”?  The first thing discussed was from Cody Bunch pointing out that when he mentors others he asks them to write down all the things they do in a week.  He doesn’t need to read the list but the mentee needs to recognize all the things they do.  Another version of this was to come up with a skill set pie chart.  Maybe you spend 80% of your day working on VMware, but then you spend 5% learning about DevOps and 10% of your day in project management (we all know 5% of your day is wasted at a minimum)  Now determine which of those secondary skills you want to get better at.  What will make you happy?  You have to remember that it is a choice of sacrifice, meaning what will drop, why would you drop it and are you ok if something doesnt get developed?  As you try to develop a skill though you have to remember that if you hit a wall, that doesnt always mean give up but there are times when you should potentially look elsewhere to find what you can excel at.  Are you not sure what those secondary skills are?  Ask your peers, interview for roles not exactly like yours, you will find out what your brand is and quickly learn what those secondary skill sets are.

All of this find a second things to do and the sacrifice does come at a cost, but as with every financial advisor that says pay yourself first, the same goes for your career.  Make an investment in the company of YOU.  While you may work 60 hours a week at your primary job, dont expect that every company sees that when they make financial decisions, often times you may be 2 or 3 or more layers removed from those looking at the balance sheet.  Those people simply see numbers and while it is always good to get visibility with them, it is not always possible and you should be prepared for what your future might hold.  That being said always make sure to balance your skill set between what is good for you and what is good for your employer.  Dont take this to mean that you should just do your own thing, but remember to stretch your comfort level and find that next thing for you, or you too will go the way of the mainframe and punchcards.

The first day at The Reckoning sure was insightful and continues with some great speakers and a group talk led by The Geek Whisperers, looking forward to seeing what day 2 holds…

 

The Meteoric Rise and Slow Fall of a Community

Over better part of the last ten years, I have been involved and benefited from one of the largest business communities that I have ever seen.  Revolving primarily around the VMware ecosystem, this community has provided me with access to some of the smartest minds in systems administration, business leaders and I have made numerous friends, but alas I think it is all about to fall.

To even start to explain where I am coming from lets first take a step back and explain some history.  I started working with VMware based products somewhere around 2004 or 2005 with GSX Server. As time progressed I worked more and more with virtualization and was even offered a job after and early VMware User Group(VMUG) meeting.  That turned into a stepping stone that began to escalate my career path.  I moved from a standard admin to management and then shifted over into being a sales engineer.  During my first role as a sales engineer for a regional reseller I began to participate heavily in the Community Roundtable Podcast, a very early weekly podcast hosted by John Troyer.  Combined with the VMware community forums I had access to tons of resources and people.  Things we progressing great and I moved into more VMware centric roles and eventually moved over to the vendor side.  This move was all because of relationships I had built with this VMware community.  The community had grown and so had my involvement, 5 years ago I started hosting a daily podcast at VMworld with some of these community member that I still do today.

It was during one of these podcasts this year in San Francisco that I had a few other guys confirm feelings that I have been having for the past year, that the VMware Community has gone too commercial and lost the camaraderie and independence that made it so special.  Vendors used to spend small amounts of money to help get people together with the knowledge that their name would be shared and these influential bloggers and social media activists would in turn support them (if their product was worthwhile).  Events were created by individuals and anyone could show up and be welcomed regardless if they worked for a vendor.  If you were active with a certain group it did not matter if you filled out a form on a website to give the sponsoring company a fresh lead, you were welcomed into events with open arms.

Times have changed and while I still have many great friends and contacts I dont think the community as I knew it exists anymore.  We have groups of people recognized for their participation in the community, vExperts, that many even with the group have become too entitled and it is no longer a group that provides feedback but rather just wants free swag.  We have events that were once only ran by the community and were open for anyone that are ran by corporate marketing teams and are no different than if a customer appreciation party.  There are very few new blogs or known technical talents that are being publicly lauded for their work and those that remain are often now so entrenched in their circle of friends that it is nearly impossible for a regular customer to make a connection with them enough to feel like they are becoming part of something.

There are still a few events that are driven for the community and managed in a way that any sponsored money and invitation goes back into the event but the feel and the vibe is slowly dying.  This VMworld I was lucky to be involved with VMUnderground which while much bigger than the founders or any of us involved ever expected still goes back to making sure people meet each other and see sponsors logos and hopefully is mutually beneficial.  Community packages were built for sponsors around participation in the vBrownbags, a series of hopefully no FUD short talks, Spousetivities, the definition of work-life balance and of course VMUnderground and vRockStar and the sponsors seemed to feel they are getting good value by participating.  I also got to see a much smaller event like The Gathering with only about 35 people be very well attended and produce great value for all involved.  Something that allowed community members and sponsors intertwine and even allowed community members that had not meet were able to.

I am not going to list off any of the events that I heard were not as accommodating or as focused on the attendees as I only hope they already received that feedback.  What I will say is that I hope as we move towards VMworld EMEA in a short 5 weeks everyone involved in the community finds a way to meet someone new, find a vendors they think is amazing and support them, and welcome that new talent that has allowed our industry to grow.  The community is not about a number of leads but rather about a network of people helping people.  Lets not let that fail!

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