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vExpert Spotlight: Chris Wahl

MeName: Chris Wahl

Blog URL: http://wahlnetwork.com

Twitter handle: @ChrisWahl

Employer: Ahead


How did you get into IT?

I’ve always known that technology was going to be a major focus in life, ever since picking up a “BASIC Computer Games” coding guide when I was a little kid. I had the usual slew of junior level “jobs” coming through high school (computer lab type gigs), ran a few MUDs and a BSS on my white box 486, and was lucky enough to spend a lot of time at the Computer User Group in college. My big break into IT actually started out from a typing test at a temporary agency where I hammered out 156 WPM. The proctor decided I had cheated somehow, and made me rescore – this time earning 162 WPM. The small office was in awe and quickly found me a "computer centric" position at a transportation company as a clerical worker. From there, I just kept finding technical inefficiencies and improving upon them, people would notice and I eventually ended up doing more IT related activities as the “computer guy”. It wasn't until I graduated college that I got a shiny new Systems Admin role and started a real career path in IT.

How did you get into working with VMware and becoming a 2012 vExpert?

Virtual PC was my first introduction to virtualization, and I struck out looking for something a bit more robust. I stumbled upon VMware Workstation 4 in 2004 and was pretty amazed how well it worked, using it for benching applications as a test environment before deploying to the network. I quickly found my way to ESX 3.0 and put it onto a box built from a pile of spare parts. It’s hard to remember now, but the concept of stacking virtual machines on a piece of hardware was absolutely mind blowing back then – all of my servers were multiple roles because hardware budgets were lean (Sometimes resulting in some nasty DC/DHCP/DNS/WINS/File/SUS/IIS servers at remote sites). I put together a business case that was ultimately approved and purchased my first real ESX 3.0 server, cramming all sorts of single purpose role servers on it (amazing!). I decided to make virtualization my focus and have never looked back. The virtualization community was always so fun, positive, and exciting, that I decided I wanted to join in, so I went to VMUG meetings and started posting on the VMTN forums, and eventually fired up a blog to chat about my experiences.

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

Getting your first IT job is hard, it’s a chicken and egg thing where everyone wants 1 – 3 years experience. My advice would be to convert your brain into a sponge and learn anything and everything in sight, be that applications, hardware, design, or networking. Go snag VMware Workstation or a cheap server (or build one) and start up a home lab – my home lab was just VMware Workstation for a very long time. Virtualization is one of the widest disciplines out there, and getting your head and shoulders above other candidates sometimes requires raising eyebrows with knowledge rather than experience, at least for a first time IT job. Also, be active in the community to prove to people that you have passion – go to VMUGs, participate on the VMTN forums, ask questions in social media, get some low level certs (CCENT or CCNA is a great start), and be nice (this never hurts in any situation).