Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The VMworld Guide…

The VMworld Guide…

VMworld is one of the largest IT events every year and in encompasses much more than sessions or vendors, it’s an experience and for it to be a positive one a few guidelines can help.  I’ve been fortunate to have attended 12 VMworld’s between Las Vegas, San Francisco and even Spain.  While each has its unique attractions, these general guidelines can apply to them all.   

Inside Info – With an event this size planning is key to ensuring you get to all the sessions and events you would like.  For you to have good plans you have to be on the inside for the sessions, events and networking opportunities.  Twitter will be your best friend for this, if you don’t have an account this is time to get one.  Think of Twitter as your VMworld news feed on what you need to know.  Of course, follow the staples of @VMworld, @VMware, @MyVMUG but don’t forget @VMTNcommunity, @vmwarensx, @vexpert, @vmwarenews, @vmworldtv & @vmwarevsan.  Then follow your vendors of choice, they will all be at VMworld and have news of events and sessions that you may want to see.

Calendar – With so much going on your calendar will be more important than ever.  Ensure all meetings, events and sessions are in one place so you don’t miss anything.  Also, before you go, if you have a time zone change make sure to test it before you leave.  While computers deal with time zone changes easily our calendars can have some hiccups so it’s best to double check before you onsite.

Footwear – Many will tell you to wear what if comfortable, that’s a huge mistake.  Flipflops can be comfortable but you don’t want to be putting on miles a day on them.  Wear shoes that balance comfort with distance.  20k steps is not unusual, in Las Vegas it might be 20k just to get to your hotel so balance comfort with distance.

Exercise – Okay we all can be a little bit better in shape but that is not the point here.  You need to start walking and start now.  It can be laps at the gym, outside or in the garage.  Start with what is comfortable and slowly increase.  Do this several times a week until a few miles are second nature.  You have to remember booth size at this event isn’t measure in feet but yards.  This also goes for sessions, what looks close on a map can be a football field away so having a good walking gate is helpful.

Communication – Make sure you have a solid communication plan with your team members and peers.  Cell numbers need to be up to date because hoping to run into someone has odds of 1 in 20,000+.  Now if you want to be advanced have a group Twitter account setup so you reach everyone right away.  You can do this with Facebook as well, but Twitter seems to be a bit faster. 

Sessions – As you attend your sessions you phone can be your best friend in capturing data you want to review later.  Unless you a speed writer keep you phone camera handy to capture any data presented as long as it’s permitted by the speaker.  Also remember if you do miss something most of the session are recorded and can be played a few weeks after VMworld.

Vendor Floor – This is a great chance to interact and learn about everything from the VMware partners that is coming to the VMware ecosystem.  The key here is you can’t do the event floor in a single effort, it’s simply too big.  Walk the floor to get a solid overview of the vendors and tag which ones you want to talk with further.  Then over the next few days single them out for deeper conversations.  Also make sure to leave room for the innovation centers and the smaller vendors, sometimes you can really be surprised what they might be bringing to the table.  Also remember the vendor floor will have hanging flags with row numbers, ideal if your trying to meet up with peers or looking for a specific vendor.

Village – Besides the main floor and sessions VMware has always had a village area where you can find groups such as Opening Acts, VMunderground and VMUG.  These areas area hot bed of community speakers and information.  You will find some of your favorite writers, podcasters and community speakers just hanging out.  Walk right up and say Hi, the VMware community is some of the friendliest people you could meet and will always take the chance to chat up some technology with you.

Technology – One thing you will need no matter what phone you have is an extra battery.  As you communicate with your peers and teams, take photos and general use your battery will be exhausted.  Ensure you have a solid spare battery and then bring a backup to that one.  Don’t count on getting one as swag from a vendor, be prepared before you leave unless you want to be tethered to an outlet waiting for that charge.

Social – Besides having a Twitter account remember to bring traditional business cards and not just a few (yes people still use them).  You will get the chance to meet a lot of folks with similar interests and challenges in their own environments and building those connections is what the IT community is all about.  Also make sure your social media platforms such as LinkedIn are up to date so when you connect with folks it’s not outdated information. 

Evening Events – So almost every vendor will have some type of party at night.  These will involve food and of course adult beverages.  Balance is key here, be social and have fun but within reason, you are after all there for your place of employment and social media posts can occur.  Also, while you can party hop you might want to limit yourself to 2-3 for an evening otherwise you will spend more time getting to different events rather than enjoying the events.

So there are few suggestions to help you get the most out of VMworld!

Brian Kirsch M.Ed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The challenges of leaving IT…

It’s been a year since I wrote part one and I wanted to follow it up.  Stepping out of the mainstream of IT has been a risk.  One of my biggest concerns is no longer being relevant in technology.  IT architecture grows at such a staggering rate it is almost impossible to keep up.  One of the initial challenges I faced moving into education is getting attention from vendors.  When your no longer on the purchasing end of things, not everyone is excited to talk with you since you no longer have purchasing power.  This initially was a challenge, as I wanted to bring more technology into the classroom.  My contacts and friends supported my decision but how do you support the side of classroom education where it no longer generates a profit?

MATC teaches VMware, Cisco, EMC and Microsoft.  While these are big players they are not the only ones in the IT world.  As I started to reach out to vendors I did receive the comment “oh your just an instructor” more than once when I tried to bring them in.  Unless the sales occurred immediately they had no desire to talk with “students”.  While it is not a sale today one never knows what the future is.  Many of the students that take the technical college education today become the engineers of tomorrow.  At a recent VMUG in Wisconsin I reconnected with about 30 former students that after only a year or two in the field are recommending and deploying solutions such as clouds and VDI. 

The exposure they get at the college level is what they are bringing to their employers.  Recently the Wisconsin Nutanix team came to MATC, sat done and simply asked how can we help educate your students.  It was not a sales call; they wanted to share an incredible technology with the next generation of professionals.  Two years ago Veeam flew Rick Vanover to MATC to help MATC create a backup lab for one of our classes and even provides one-year NFR licenses to students.  These are two great examples of the vendors investing in the next generation of professionals.  Does exposure at the college level guarantee a sale later on, some might debate that but Apple and Cisco don’t and have invested heavy in it.  As more data center technology continues to come into the classroom the question should not be “oh your just an instructor”, rather it should be “I would like to talk to the instructor”.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Over the past year and half I have had an amazing opportunity to write for several technical sites and publications.  I never considered myself to be an author and my english / spelling skills reflect that (my editors are amazing).  Over the past week two people reached out to me and said that different pieces that I have done were insightful or helpful to them.

Having success in today's world is not about the title or degree you have but the impact you leave on people and the success you enable others to have.  Sometimes with the speed of IT those things can be easy to be forgotten...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why I left IT...

Why I left IT…

I have thought about writing this piece for several months now and its finally time.  Today I am a college IT instructor teaching VMware, EMC and Microsoft to the next generation of IT professionals.  Before that I was an IT architect / admin for several companies in the Wisconsin area.  I enjoyed working with new technology and seeing everything new and exciting.  Designing systems, figuring out new technology made my heart race and I loved every minute, or so I thought.

As I continued in IT I found myself looking more and more for career advancement and that next big step.  Over the course of many years it drove me, my only focus was to get better in technology, obtain that next certification and of course that next promotion.  I often times passed on family events and vacations because I was always about work.  There was no time for anything else, just the next project or certification.  At the time it seemed like the ideal life, I was making more money than I could of needed and it appeared that my career had no limits.

It is a known fact that behavior and personality traits are almost impossible to change unless you have a life-altering event, well three years ago my events occurred.  In January of that year I lost my Mom suddenly to heart disease.  Anyone who has lost a parent knows the impact of that.  Later that year when it was time to get the promotion I was promised I found out that my manager had been leading me on about it for almost a year.  On it’s own losing the promotion does not come close to losing my mother but here is where it gets twisted together.  My mother had asked on several times for me to go with them on vacation and I always turned it down because of work and striving for that promotion.  So when the promotion didn’t occur and the fact that I should of went on one of those trips with my parents I realized the consequences of my decisions.

That was the moment when my life changed, and for the better.  Thanks to a good friend I worked with he suggested I help out a local college, as they needed someone to help teach VMware.  Well I knew the technology but nothing about teaching but how bad could it go?  Okay the first rule in teaching; never have a three-hour lecture without a bathroom break.  Besides that folly I found I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it.  After a year of doing it part time the college wanted me full-time.  This was a big step because it was stepping out of the technology stream and a 40k pay-cut.  I figured I could still consult to help keep my in technology but salary loss is where I had a lot of concerns until my wife put it to me very bluntly “we can afford the salary loss, it’s just your ego - get over it”.  Well she was right and I made the jump. 

So I have been in education full time for two years now.  My salary recovered to a degree in about a year due to teaching additional classes but something very funny happened with my consulting.  While I have a few clients that I work with I end up consulting for many of my students now.  Unlike many other colleges the average age of my students is closer to mid-thirties and already in IT.  They are working on additional certifications or degrees and I often find myself helping them design solutions for their companies before and after class.  I have helped design or redesign about two-dozen virtual / VDI and storage environments that I can think of off the top of my head.  My reward for it, often times in the next semester I will have another student or two from the same place that was referred to by a previous student, you can’t ask for a much better thanks than that. 

I continue to be involved with VMware and the amazing VMware User Group on both a Wisconsin and Global level.  Also my connections with great vendors such as A&E, Ahead, VMware, EMC, Veeam and many others has continued to grow as I continue to recommend their solutions to my students.  Milwaukee Area Technical College is unique, unlike other colleges that teach theory we teach real products and technologies and the vendors know this.  I remember Rick Vanover from Veeam flying up for the day to help us create a Veeam backup lab for one of our classes that included a great student portal.   What does this mean for our students well at a recent event in Chicago held by Ahead they not only encouraged students to attend and learn they also had them meet the engineering recruiting folks to see if they were interested in new careers. 

I thought leaving the general flow of IT would reduce my skill set however just the opposite occurred.  I have found myself keeping up with more and more new technology so I can bring it to my students.  In fact recently I began writing for several great technology sites and that has been an amazing experience.   I use to think to be successful in IT it was all about the position and salary but I had to “leave” IT to realize one of the keys in being successful in IT is to have a balance and ensure that IT does not own you. 

So today I have the best of both worlds, the ability to work with amazing technology and people and not have a pager after hours.  As far as promotions and advancement, each time one of my students / friends gets a new job or certification it means more to me than any reward I had ever gotten for myself, my only regret is that it took me this long to gain clarity…