My journey to vExpert and beyond(part 1)

So to start with, I'd like to make it clear that I'm a Backup Admin by profession, NOT a VMware Admin. I have managed VMware systems previously, and am VCP certified on multiple versions but it is not my day-to-day job.

I developed an interest in VMware back when I was a tech support engineer for a company and needed a reliable system to allow me to run multiple operating systems for testing purposes. Dual booting with GRUB, while it would work, was not convienent. Enter GSX. This little application, alone with VMware Server met my needs and sparked my curiosity.

After a couple of years in support, I eventually moved on to a regular Backup Admin job, which reduced my normal day to day exposure to VMware. I worked in that role for a couple of years, eventually deploying my first VCB deployment, bringing VMware back into my daily operations. Time passes. Job ends. Now I'm in the job market with a very specialized career direction (backups). While job hunting, I decided it was worth while to get VMware certified. But wait, there's a snag! VMware requires a training class (~$5k!) for the cert! well, there goes that option I thought.

I contact the Workforce Development Board in my town and find out I can get funding for career training. "SCORE!" or so I thought... until I call VMware Education department and find out that I can't use those funds. Bummer. Then the wonderful person I was speaking with at VMware tells me she might be able to help me out. Companies get VMware training vouchers as part of their bundles, but don't always get a chance to use them. Instead of waisting them, some companies are generous enough to donate them. After a couple of ups and downs I get the call. "We have your training vouchers! Can you be in Tampa next week for class?" You betcha! Hell or high water couldn't keep me away.

Week rolls around and I find out that I was in a class being taught by Chris McCain (@hcmccain if you want to follow him). I spent the next week getting more information crammed into my head than I'd experienced in many years. VCP4.0 Install Configure and Manage. Amazing class at the time. Took what I learned and paid for my certification voucher and managed to get VCP.

A couple of weeks later I land a job as a Backup Admin in Tampa (which the VCP helped me get in the door for). While virtualization isn't my primary role, I assist the admin on a regular basis. VMware slowly became more and more important to my job.

Fast forward a few years and new jobs later, still working as a Backup Admin but now have access to VMware. I am working on a project to setup a new backup system and when I start discussing how we want to approach this I get put on a project with one of our company's VMware admins, Ariel Sanchez (@arielsanchezmor). After going back and forth for weeks just between us, we finally had a plan to present to management that changed our fundamental way we would perform VMware backup selections going foward.

At the behest of Ariel's constant badgering, I become slightly active on Twitter and begin my blog. Publishing various problems I ran into. "Nobody cares about backups. I don't know if anyone even reads this!" I'd argue to Ariel. Yeah, it's probably helpful info, but backups of VMware are topics that never really come up. This went on for a few months. Eventually vExpert for 2017 came around and Ariel again begins to get after me to submit based on my participation. I figure, what the heck... couldn't hurt right? Well then came the anouncement and (in my best Gomer Pyle impression) "SURPRISE SURPRISE! YOU'RE ACCEPTED!" I think I literally fell out of my chair. I immedately called Ariel to share the news. Posted on #vExpert and received even more congrats. Felt an amazingly supportive community.

Right around that same time I found a contest for VMworld that I could enter to try and win passes. Wow. I won a pass to VMworld! Wow, there goes my luck for the year! I managed to attend a conference that blew my mind. It was on a level that I never expected.

Only one problem I ran into. No backup sessions short of vendors explaining how their product is better than everybody else's. Even the experienced and amazing people I talked to didn't have a fundamental knowledge of the overall designs and risks for backups. "You know, I should submit a talk for VMworld" I said joking to Ariel. BIG MISTAKE! His eyes went wide like a kid in a toy shop and so he began "You should do it! You definintely should do it!".  After weeks of poking and prodding, the VMUG Call for Presenters opened. I caved. Thinking I'd submit for the novelty of it, I turn in my application. Laughing to myself the whole time "Nobody is going to want to hear this stuff!"

New year, and finally February rolls around. I get an email out of the blue. "Hey, would you be willing to travel to Connecticut?" "Are the expenses paid?" "Of course (reasonable ones that is)"..... "SURE. Why not?" Oh dang! Now I actually have to put together the presentation! I spend the next two weeks outlining, writing, and putting into slides a presentation. I check my timeslot and realize I'm up against a "Meet the Sponsors" and "PowerCLI" sessions. Ok. not bad. I'll have 3-4 people in there for the novelty. Wrong. I was obviously nervous as I had never presented before, but there seemed like there was 20+ people there.

I swallow hard and bluff my way through it. At one point I get a lob of a question about selection criteria which I was amazingly thankful for. Managed to make it through my first session and even had people come up afterwards asking for copies of my slides for reference later.

Since then I have now applied to the VMworld Call for Papers. I also realized (even though Ariel kept telling me over and over again) "Hey, what's boring and everyday to me as an Enterprise Backup Admin can be novel and interesting to others, especially if they don't have access to a backup admin". I admit it, I was wrong Ariel.

Just because you feel that your knowledge may be everyday kind of stuff, I can promise you there are people out there who don't have that knowledge and who it would benefit, so please take a little time and participate in this great community that wouldn't exist without people sharing their "everyday" stuff.

/steps off soap box

More will come later