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vExpert Spotlight: Jim Millard

Twitter Handle: MillardJK

Blog URL: blog.millard.org

Current Employer: CarterEnergy Corporation

How did you get into IT in the first place?

I’ve been a bit of a nerd/geek all my life, but I didn’t get seriously into IT until I took a Pascal programming course for some fill-in hours in college. That was my Senior year in the Chemistry program, so I finished that major track and went back part-time to get my Computer Science degree while working as a Research Chemist. My company considered it a bit of an investment because scientific endeavors have turned increasingly to computers & automation to become more accurate, precise and efficient. It didn’t take long before I was splitting my time between the typical Chemist tasks and the lab IT tasks; when the company IT guy left, I interviewed for and won the full-time position.

Although I retained some duties as a backup to the research team, I was thrilled to hang up my lab coat and focus 100% of my time on IT. By that time, I’d “cracked the nut” on my career as a chemist (I share 3 US patents), and was ready to move on.

Since that time, I’ve worked for two companies either as “standalone sysadmin” (apologies to Matt Simmons, but that’s what it was!) or on a small team as a lead technologist. Today, like then, I’m an “uberslashie”: Network Admin/Database Admin/ Programmer/Architect/Storage Manager/Virtualization Manager/Security Manager/etc. You name it; I’m ultimately responsible for it. At my organization, when the VMware guy is arguing with the Storage or Networking guy, it’s just me talking to myself…

How did you get into working with VMware and becoming a 2011 vExpert?

I proposed a one-host installation of ESX (2.5) to my company back in 2004 as a skunk-works project to replace several of the desktop machines that we had pressed into datacenter service. While the experiment was a huge success, it was pure luck that we went with VMware instead of the competition: at the time, it was the only Type 1 hypervisor available, so that’s the one I chose. It proved to be a fortuitous choice: I later went to a VMware-hosted seminar where they demonstrated vMotion and had one of those “Eureka!” moments which would essentially change my life forever…

We immediately proposed a second ESX host along with the required Virtual Center and host licensing to get vMotion going—we already had the SAN, so shared storage wasn’t going to be an additional capital outlay—and started putting more and more VMs into play. Today, we’re over 80% virtualized in the main datacenter and have a DR site—something we’d never have been to accomplish without virtualization—that is 100% virtual.

I also became a member of the local VMUG in those early days, and volunteered to join the leadership team in late 2006 as the sponsorship coordinator. I filled that role until the end of 2010 when I moved to fill the newly vacant communication coordinator role.

In my tenure on the steering committee, we’ve grown the VMUG from a couple dozen attendees at small quarterly meetings to hosting nearly 100 members at the “regular” meetings and over 300 attendees at our annual “regional” meeting.

This is my third year being honored as vEXPERT, each year in recognition for the work my team and I do to grow the VMUG and evangelize VMware.

What would you tell someone who wanted to get a job like yours to do?

That’s a really hard question to answer: although it’s true that the way my brain is “wired” helps to me be good at this job, dumb luck played a big part in it.

Because my position requires broad expertise, anyone wanting a job like mine needs to learn a bit about everything. You don’t have to be very deep in all disciplines, but picking one or two that really interest you while keeping “a hand in” as many other disciplines—including non-tech disciplines like writing and public speaking—as you can will pay off. To borrow from The Bard, become “…A Jack of All Trades, Master of Some.”