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Are you a VMware vExpert? Announcing a new community award.

A few years ago, I asked one of the most prolific posters on the VMware Communities if he wanted to be recognized for all the effort he was putting into answering questions on the forums, and the obvious breadth of knowledge he displayed. "Oh no," was the answer I got. "I don't want my boss to know how much time I'm spending on the site. I've learned so much doing it, but I don't think he would understand." I hope your boss has a more enlightened viewpoint than his did, because it's time to recognize your contribution, and your expertise, in public.

VMware is very proud to introduce the VMware vExpert Awards. The VMware vExpert Awards will be given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the overall community of VMware users over the past year, either online or offline. You might be contributing online to blogs, forums, wikis, or other online sites. You might be organizing VMUG meetings or otherwise getting the word out to local IT professionals. You're helping spread the word about virtualization and making people successful in deploying this game-changing technology. We want to thank you.

Here is the nomination form. You can nominate yourself or someone else. We're also taking nominations from people and programs within VMware, so you actually don't even have to nominate yourself and you still could wake up one day with an award. You might want to fill out the form anyway, because we may not be aware of everything you're doing.

Awardees will get an award certificate and a little gift, but the real award is being able to call yourself a VMware vExpert for the year, getting listed in a public directory, and getting access to our private community. The vExpert award is not any sort of technical certification like VCP, and in fact vExpert isn't really about your raw technical expertise at all. However, the people who get this kind of award tend to both (1) display a lot of technical expertise as they help others; and (2) work their tails off in the community on top of their day jobs.

The VMware vExpert program will likely get talked about as "VMware's MVP," and while we'd like to acknowledge inspiration from Microsoft's very successful program, please don't compare them directly. Microsoft MVP has been going on for over a decade and includes a 4-day conference — and the vExpert won't even get you a free ticket to VMworld! :-) Our first goal simply is to publicly thank you and acknowledge all the hard work you've been doing on behalf of virtualization and VMware. That being said, when you get this award you'll be visible to various teams inside VMware and may be tapped to participate in various activities.

If you aren't active in online places like the VMware Communities or the blogs, or if you aren't active in your local virtualization community, then this award isn't for you. However, if you've been thinking about getting started, I hope these awards are an inspiration. Being active in the community is a great way to get exposure to technologies that you don't normally touch in your day job and to keep learning every day. (As the Roman smart dude Seneca put it "We learn by teaching.") In general having a higher professional profile is a career accelerator. I hope at this point most bosses agree that the VMware Communities and sites like it are valuable for all IT professionals in 2009.

Finally, I also want to thank everybody in the community that I've had the privilege to work with. You're super-professional, super-knowledgeable, and you've taught me to tell my LUNs from a hole in the ground. Being able to help shepherd these awards out the door is both personally and professionally rewarding. I'm looking forward to hanging out with the VMware vExpert Award winners of 2009!

John Troyer