Our Meet the Hiring Manager series allows you to get to know the people who grow teams at VMware. You’ll learn about our hiring managers’ career paths and what they look for in candidates during the interview process. This week, we’d like you to meet and get to know Gary Christofferson.
VMware Careers: What attracted you to the VMware SLED (State Government, Local Government, and Educational) team, and what has been your career journey to date?
Gary Christofferson: I enrolled in college after high school and was planning to be a business major, a choice that was influenced by my experience as a family employee in my parent’s business during my teenage years. As I was about ready to start my higher education journey, I had some doubts about my passion for this field and needed to build a stronger financial foundation for college, so I decided to enlist in the military, which at the time, had a lucrative college savings program. It provided me with the time I needed to evaluate my long-term career goals and plan. I was fortunate to have some choices for my role in the military and selected a surveyor role. Surveying is a branch of civil engineering and this training and field experience sparked my curiosity regarding the larger field of engineering.
When I left the military, I decided to pursue a degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering and chose the field for two reasons – it was clear that technology would continue to become a larger part of every aspect of life, and it also was the highest paying engineering discipline! After graduating from CSU Chico, I joined Lockheed as a Consulting Systems Engineer and it was an exciting role for a recent college graduate because I was exposed to many space and satellite programs (“Star Wars” programs were at their peak) within the Federal civilian and DoD arenas. As I was in Silicon Valley, I was witnessing the technology industry explode and change before my eyes. A few of my colleagues and friends had moved into roles that were part technical, part sales, and I became interested in pursuing a similar path, primarily because I could be highly consultative and help clients with their technology journey. And as a bonus, the compensation was superior to that of my role as a government contractor!
I moved into my first ever role as a pre-sales Systems Engineer with a large Service Provider, Pacific Bell, and that gave me the opportunity work with many Silicon Valley companies as they connected to the Internet and stood up websites for the first time. This role enabled me to expand my knowledge and experience across many emerging technology areas including networking, the Internet, and security, which in turn led to me joining Cisco as a Systems Engineer.
It was with this role that I landed in the SLED (State Government, Local Government, and Educational) vertical, and I was fortunate to have responsibility for several agencies within the State of California where we could align to the delivery of programs and services and help them achieve their mission through innovative technology. Then the opportunity to move into a leadership role was knocking on my door. I had led teams in the military and while working for a contractor during college and had found it very rewarding. So, I decided to move into SE leadership for the first time and led a team of SLED focused SEs in Northern California, then moved into the large Global accounts arena to lead a senior SE team there, and then was promoted into an SE Director role in SLED leading the SE team for our entire SLED business in the Western U.S. While on the Cisco leg of my career journey, I came back to my original interests in business and earned an MBA degree from U.C. Davis, which for me, fulfilled a goal of having a strong balance between technical and business acumen.
I joined VMware after my previous SE leadership roles with Cisco and a two-year stop at a cloud service provider start-up where I started and built the SE organization and function for the company. My initial role at VMware was as a Business Development Manager within the System Integrator/Outsourcer community for SLED, although I soon realized that my true passion remained, building and leading technical and sales teams, and I had the good fortune to move into my current role as the SE leader in the West. This role has enabled a return to a SLED customer base I knew very well and re-establish many long-standing relationships in the community. Over the past 4+ years in this role, my team and I have been able to positively impact the unique missions of our SLED customer base in the Western U.S, and that was magnified during the pandemic. Overall, this experience has given my team and I a real sense of accomplishment with both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for all of us.
VMware Careers: How long have you been at VMware and how has VMware changed since you joined? What makes this different than other tech companies you have worked for?
Gary Christofferson: I joined VMware as a Business Development Manager in November of 2015 and then transitioned into my current SE leadership role in December of 2016. What makes VMware different is our people and culture. It’s always challenging to describe a culture to someone who is outside of a company but having worked for several technology companies in my career, I can state that VMware and our senior leadership truly values our customers and employees and always strives to create a diverse and inclusive culture while delivering on our goals and growth.
VMware Careers: What has been the biggest lesson you have learned as you moved upwards in your career?
Gary Christofferson: Change is constant and necessary in our industry and driven by ever-evolving client needs. It should be embraced, or you can fall behind your industry peers and competitors. Organizational change takes vision, constant communication persistence, patience, and encouragement. As a leader, you should recognize that both individuals and groups embrace and adopt change in different ways and as a result, they require tailored approaches to progress to the new normal.
VMware Careers: Your team in SLED is hiring. Can you tell us more about your organization’s mission and why people should join?
Gary Christofferson: Our SLED organization has a tremendous ability to impact the value and delivery of programs and services to constituents and learners, who are in effect, the customers of our customers. Serving government, education, public health customers is our organization’s purpose, our customer focused mission if you will. And it’s a mission we can easily align with as a SLED team and fulfill it by delivering technology solutions that impact our customer’s mission in new and meaningful ways.
VMware Careers: If someone reading this was coming to interview with you tomorrow for a role in your org, what interview tips would you give them?
Gary Christofferson: Be yourself, understand what you are passionate about, and spend some time thinking about your personal “Why” and how the role you are pursuing aligns with it. Secondarily, invest some time to research and understand the business drivers and priorities of our SLED customers and how VMware can add value through our related technology solutions.
Can you see yourself working in VMware’s Organization? Click here to browse open roles on his team at VMware!
Learn more about #VMwareLife by following our social channels below!