Its been a very interesting year so far, career wise. Late last year I figured I had a good shot at the vExpert status. I had written some in-depth blog posts, covered a lot of ground with GSS and even discovered some unique bugs (some of which I have yet to blog about), and tweeted a fair bit. But last years highlight was definitely speaking at the VMWare summer school in Utrecht, on our experiences with Metro-Cluster. I reached out to over 15 VMware employees across GSS, PSO and the NSBU and every one was willing to sponsor me, which was very nice 🙂
Having gotten to know some vExperts over the last year, one theme that kept drawing my attention was the exclusive Slack community they are given access too. Yes all the free stuff is nice of course, and you can see many a blog post commenting on that it should not all 'be about the swag', but I can honestly say I don't care all that much for that. For me its the networking that is by far the most interesting opportunity. And being somewhere lightly on the 'spectrum' and generally shy around people, a chat-room seemed more or less a perfect way to connect to other people with high-quality knowledge. And so it indeed has proven to be!
I was slightly worried that with over 1500 vExperts being selected this year (some people are none to happy about this), the chat would be a constant buzz of activity. Which could be good, or bad. But its actually relatively quiet most of the time. At least so far. To give you an idea, there are only about 550 people that are 'in' the main vExpert channel. But many of the other channels have far less participants.. vSAN: 200, NSX: 238, AWS: 100 :p Of those, 80% are lurkers... its just like IRC 😀
I have already had some very interesting discussions, and it was nice to see that even while feeling like a complete amateur amid all the 'big names' that frequent that chat, I still have actual valuable field experience to bring to the table, especially in regard to aspects of NSX. When the 'Crème de la crème' of the VMware community has next to no experience with, say, NSX load-balancing, then even lowly me can add value. And that makes me a lot less shy about participating!
Generally though, once you are part of the VMware community, and especially if you are a vExpert, that community aspect of it really starts to become important. Seeing what people are talking and posting and tweeting about, being on the inside-track of a lot of those talks, mingling with thought-leaders and VMware product owners, pushes you to become even more involved. One place where this has really ignited in me, is podcasts. I used to listed to podcasts a lot. But for the last few months that interest has revived, and its revolving around the VMware community. I now even try to take the time to attend the live recordings of several. I will dedicated a separate post about my favorite podcasts to follow.
Ok, lets talk about swag anyway :p
The most interesting things in this lineup are a year free Pluralsight subscription, 35% off VMware Press titles and advanced previews and webinars about unreleased or upcoming technology. (for a complete list of the kind of benefits, this post is good) Certain companies like Rubrik, Pluralsight and Veeam really put an effort into supporting vExperts and offer software, training and other goodies for free. It seems like you get a lot of extra benefit from visiting VMworld, not just from a 'stuff' perspective, but mainly from a networking angle. But unfortunately it is by no means certain I can attend every year.
As for Pluralsight, their catalog is intimidating. I am looking to get more into Docker and associated things like Kubernetes. So these will be the first things I will look to. For example Getting Started with Docker ( https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/docker-getting-started ), which is a course given by @ who has also produced a short book on Docker I highly recommend!
It seems that once you get into the vExpert community, it seems pretty straightforward to stay in it, year after year, as the momentum of participation carries you forward. Whether it be through blog posts or speaking at events, I have a feeling such things will tend to become a natural and expected part of being at 'this level'. Lets hope I can keep it up. Well, speaking for the first time this year at the NLVMUG should certainly help 😉