Tuesday, June 18, 2013

vExpert 2013 Rejection: Just What I Needed

No, really.

When the vExpert 2013 recipients were announced a few weeks ago, I quickly went to the winners list and did a Control-F to search for my name. Chrome found a match for Stump, and I started to get excited. Then the disappointment set it, as I realized that it was another Stump. And like that, I joined the minority of VMware geeks who applied but were rejected from the program.

Self-doubt set in. I started to worry that I didn't actually know vSphere that well. Maybe I was spending too much time in the lab, and couldn't see the forest for the trees. Maybe I was so caught up in the details of VMTools on linux, or banging away at vami, or digging through fdm.log, that I has lost that larger perspective on how people were using vSphere in the wild.

Eager to find a positive outcome for the situation, I set up a quick call with John Troyer to talk about my application, and how to prepare for the next go-round. I didn't anticipate how important that call would turn out to be.

We talked about participating in the community, and how to raise my profile a bit.

  • Attend VMUG and user conferences.
  • Stay active on social media (for me that means Twitter. Like any self-respecting hipster, I quit Facebook years ago.)
  • Work up the nerve to present at VMUG.
John knows the VMware community so well, that I started to get excited just listening to his advice. All of a sudden, I had a clear idea of how to get out there.

As we ended the call, John suggested I contact Amy Lewis at Cisco. Of course, I had known of Amy (or rather @CommsNinja), but aside from a very brief chat at VMwarePEX this year, I hadn't connected with her. But if John thought it was a good idea to reach out to her, it was worth pursuing.

Amy was kind enough to make time to talk with me about all things community, both from a Cisco Data Center and a VMware perspective. She's connected to so many of the stand-outs in these communities that it was a little surreal. We talked about the convergence of skillsets in the modern data center, and how the old dichotomy of server guys vs. network guys doesn't fly anymore. The importance of building a personal "brand" as opposed to having an online identity that's permanently tethered to your current employer (which by the way, sounds like a nearly universal problem!). We even talked about how to introduce more virtualization topics to the CMUG (the Cisco Mid-Atlantic User Group) that Chesapeake NetCraftsmen runs.

I left that call with a renewed sense of community, and an even clearer idea of how to quit lurking in the virtualization circles.

In retrospect, I'm now convinced that rejection from the vExpert 2013 program was a good thing. It forced me to analyze my current participation in the community, and reach out to some wicked smart people. It reinforced the important role that social media plays in staying educated and informed in data center and virtualization concepts, and yes, even marketing. And it encouraged me to focus my efforts on giving back to the community in more meaningful and visible ways.

Now I just need to brush up on my #v0dgeball skills. :)