My Story: What is the vExpert Program and Why should I care?

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Published on 30 June 2021 by Christopher Lewis. Words: 1296. Reading Time: 7 mins.

The second-half application for VMware vExpert 2021 close soon 9th July 2021. Now I appreciate that there has been a plethora of posts about the benefits of being a vExpert, so I thought I would share my story too :)

What Is The vExpert Program?

In my opinon, at it’s heart, the VMware vExpert Program is not just about advocacy and envanglism, it’s about community. It brings people together. It encourages those people with diverse backrounds, who live in different countries or continents (that would likely never meet otherwise) to share their own experiences with VMware Technology through the medium of their choice. It encourages people to give back with the hope that someone, somewhere can learn something, fix a problem or just know that they are not alone. Most importantly, you DO NOT have to be an VMware expert to be a VMware vExpert (but it does help!).

When Did I First Hear About The vExpert Program?

I will be honest, whilst it has been going for over 10 years, if I think back just 5/6 years in my work history I didn’t know the program existed. I know right? #Shocking

At that time I worked for a large (maybe top 4 in size) VMware Partner & System Integrator in the UK. Along with a number of other people, I was considered a “VMware SME” in the company and worked on a number of high profile accounts. When I think back to that time in my careeer, I wasn’t an expert. I just knew more about it in the company than most other people. The fact is I have probably forgotten more about virtualisation in my careeer than I knew at that time.

Note: I also hate the label “expert”, I think there can be an unhealthy stigma and expectation attached to it (but that’s another blog post entirely!).

At that time, for most customers, deploying VMware products normally just meant either server consolidation using Server Virtualization or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). More often than not, VDI was basically running Citrix XenApp or Citrix XenDesktop on VMware Virtual Machines. We have come a long way since then and I know for sure that the VMware Cloud Management Platform as we know it today didn’t exist. It was in the infancy stage (or at least as far as I was concerned). Yes there was Log Inight, vCloud Automation Center and vCenter Operations Manager but they were disparate parts and only some of them were just getting integrated.

During my time with the SI, I remember having a voice conference with one of our Partners about some work and as the partner talked about their expertise they mentioned that they had a number of vExperts. I’ll admit, like the majority of recruitment consultants to this day, rather than vExpert, I heard VCDX as I thought the terms were synonymous. It wasn’t until I googled the term vExpert after the meeting that I saw it was all about. Working where I was working, we were not really encouraged to blog or embrace the vCommunity. The VMUG wasn’t even on my radar and VMworld was just a pipe dream that other people (above my paygrade) got to go to (but get no value from it). At that moment in time. I didn’t see any value in the vExpert program and I didn’t think it was something I needed (or wanted) to be apart of. I was in my safe little circle and I didn’t want (or need) to step outside it.

How wrong can one person be?

When Did My View Of The vExpert Program Change?

If we fast forward about 12-18 months to 2015, I decided that the SI was no longer the right place for me anymore and so I left. And yes, you guessed it I joined that Partner with all the vExperts. When I joined, there was no expectation but I was asked if I planned on starting blogging. I must admit, I hadn’t thought about it. Internally I questioned what value I could contribute but I decided to give it a go and thecloudxpert.net was born and I joined twitter! In my new role, I was actively encouraged to goto my local VMUG chapter in London and there I met lots of new and like-minded people who soon became friends. It was within my first few months that I received my first vExpert Award, that was in 2016. Through the next 2.5 years, I continued to work hard and got promoted. I blogged regularly about things I spoke to customers about and my confidence and self-belief started to grow as I tackled different size projects and customers along with presenting at different events throughout the UK.

During that time I went to three VMworld’s in Europe (two if which I paid for and one of those times I was a vExpert Blogger for the event).

If we fast foward another 12 months into 2019, and after a serious health scare, I felt the time was right to move on again and that is when I joined VMware. As corny as it may sound, I quickly realised I’d found what I had been looking for and I cannot imagine working anywhere else.

Describe The Impact Of The vExpert Program

If I was asked to describe (in one sentence) the impact of the vExpert program on my career, it would read:

I would not be where I am today in my career without the VMware vExpert Program

I realise that is a very bold and short statement to make and as I reflect on the impact making the statement, I feel I need to quantify it a little further because being a VMware vExpert is not the only thing that has got me to where I am in my career. The longer version would read:

I have worked extremely hard in my 20 year career to get where I am and I learnt a lot of lessons on the way. Working for VMware is the pinnacle of my career so far. It took longer than I wanted it to and I attribute that to the fact that I didn’t have the confidence, self-belief nor truly understand my worth for long periods of time. I wish I understood value of the VMware vExpert program sooner. I wish that I understood the value of the VMware User Group (VMUG) earlier in my career because I believe being part of the vCommunity helped me understand my worth. This was the missing piece of the puzzle that helped me get where I am today and I could have got there a lot sooner.

Lots of people have helped me in my career, but I want a special call out to two people here, both of which helped me understand what I was worth just at the time when I needed to hear it, Simon Conyard and Alaric Davies. Thank You - You both helped me more than you will ever know.

To be clear, being a VMware vExpert does not automagically mean you will work for VMware in your career. That was just my destination. Other peoples journeys take them along different paths and to different destinations. That’s what makes the vExpert Community so awesome, working together as a collective voice but coming from diverse backgrounds, skillsets and knowledge.

What Is It Like To Be A VMware vExpert?

Finally, I’m not sure what captures the feeling of being a VMware vExpert more than the following photo mashup of 3 VMworlds! (i.e. we have fun too!)

What Advice Would I Give Anyone Thinking Of Applying For The vExpert Program?

What are you waiting for? Stop thinking about it and just do it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Published on 30 June 2021 by Christopher Lewis. Words: 1296. Reading Time: 7 mins.