I’m currently heading over to the newly renamed VMware Explore and it’s not been lost on me that this is the 10th anniversary of my very first VMworld back in 2012. That was also my first overseas work-related trip… and it was also the first time to the USA. Though it feels like just yesterday as I search for the memories of that trip, it also felt like it was a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the following decade across all aspects of life, but the one think that I do know is that that trip did change the trajectory of my professional life.
Apart from the pandemic impacted 2020 and 2021 editions of VMworld, the only one I’ve missed in the last ten years was the 2013 edition. Apart from that, this late August trip has always felt like a bit of a pilgrimage. Back to where it all began… back to my first experiences of American culture and all that comes with that, back to my first experience of being hosted as a customer/partner and back to where I learnt to focus in on career direction and how to take advantage of networking, community and brand building.
What I observed in 2012
I could go on here about how I learnt to how to handle American Free Pouring and the impacts of that on the body, or how to handle vendors spending what seemed like outrageous amounts of money hosting customers and partners or how to take advantage of US Shopping options… but upon reflection the biggest thing I learnt in 2012 was how to put yourself out there for what comes next.
I learnt this through osmosis… not only seeing and understanding the power of networking at tech events, but also through they very direct approach that my good friend Craig Waters was taking at the event. Craig was on a mission… and that mission to elevate himself and his brand to potential employers.
To quote another mate of mine Grant Orchard “You never know who is interviewing you”
Both myself and Craig spent a lot of time together at that 2012 event… he even told me to stay at the lovely Holiday Inn Civic center… which we still have laughs over today due it’s proximity to the doggy part of San Francisco (which has spread everywhere unfortunately now). But I finally understood what it meant to set a course for career progression and take advantage of an event like VMworld where the ecosystem of vendors in attendance was ripe for the picking in terms of potential opportunity.
Already a vExpert at the time, from that point forward I was focused on elevating my brand through networking, content creation and education. All of which helped build and build to a place where, ten year later I can look back and say that the strategy set into motion at VMworld 2012 was successful.
Presenting and Validation
Every subsequent VMworld, I became more confident in myself, my network grew, areas of focus became more noticeable, and my brand was building. I give massive kudos to the vBrownBag crew who give people the experience to deliver community sessions at these events and for me it was a great way to break into higher profile presentations. I remember delivering my first TechTalk and thinking how brilliant that experience was! Thought the audience in front of me wasn’t huge, the long tail of the YouTube videos gave me confidence and also allowed me to gain exposure as a subject matter expert in Cloud and Service Provider technologies.
That said, it wasn’t until VMworld 2014 when I passed my VMware VCAP-DCV the day of the San Francisco Napa Earthquake that I believe like I was truly ready to elevate my career and start to pursue vendor roles. For me, that was a validation moment where it wasn’t just community and brand, but technical validation of where I wanted to be.
Going to the Other Side
It’s ok to write this now because those involved know about what was going on, but it was at VMworld 2016 where I basically solidified my push for the role at Veeam and where I had several interviews with the Veeam team as part of the hiring process. It’s crazy to think about how many people like me are going through interview processes at events like VMworld, but I would say that it happens on mass and it’s the perfect vehicle to get those in person interviews done which is so important during a hiring process.
A few months after VMworld 2016 I was working for Veeam and since then VMworlds have changed for me and being on the other side of the fence, the experience is a little different now. I have presented more vBrownBags, delivered sponsored sessions for Veeam and appeared on multiple side gigs at the 2017, 2018 and 2019 VMworlds.
One of my proudest VMworld moment was in 2018 when I participated in the Hackathon with my good friends Mark, Tim and Matt and we (Mark) won! For me, that wasn’t so much about me or my brand, but I was super happy to be part of helping elevate those guys. It was one of the proudest moments of my life… I might not have told them that either.
The Art of Hosting
Finally, I will touch on Eugene Geaher from VMware. I mentioned in the opening paragraph about getting introduced to American free pours and what it was to be hosted. I learnt a lot about how to be a good host from Eugene and what it means to give back to your customers and partners. It’s a critical thing that we do on the vendor side and its very much part of the networking element of these events and we had some crazy times both in Vegas and in San Francisco over the years, but it’s not lost on me that that in its self is a skill that is learnt and refined…. I learnt off the best!
All said and done… if it wasn’t for VMworld 2012 and the experiences I had during that first trip I would not be here today… flying to my 8th in person event and 10th overall. I owe a lot to VMworld and the people I met, chatted and drank with along the way!
Again… don’t be afraid to talk to people, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and don’t be afraid of setting a direct course… and once again… don’t forget that anyone could be interviewing you at any time!