At VMware, our people are empowered to defy convention while pursuing the seemingly impossible. Hear from Chris Knowles, VMware Staff Solutions Architect, on the innovation projects that play a part in his growth.
Role: Staff Solutions Architect
Office Location: London, Ontario, Canada
Years at VMware: 3.85
Favorite tech innovation: The transistor
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
When I was very young, probably around three years old, I started tinkering in my father and grandfather’s workshops. I would take apart everything I could get my hands on, sometimes to the dismay of my parents. One day, my dad brought home a commodore pc10-II IBM clone from work when I was a kid and from then on I was hooked. I had found something in computers that really resonated with me, and when I reached an age where I started thinking about what I was going to do for a living I knew that it would be technology related. As a little kid I was always interested in the technology behind the things I enjoyed. When I was around 8 years old if you asked me what I wanted to be for a living, I would have answered a hydrodynamics engineer. What 8-year old wants to do that for a living? I did. I wanted to work for Reggie Fountain and build the fastest offshore race boats in the world. I have enjoyed working with computers from a very young age, and as such I didn’t so much pursue a career in technology, as evolve into it.
How would you describe what you do at VMware?
My team has three primary roles. We support top deals and escalations that become very complex from both a business process and technology standpoint and we deliver advanced enablement for the field specialists on our product stack derived from what we learn dealing with top deals and escalations. Without trying to sound arrogant, our team effectively acts as the expert’s expert.
Continuous learning is what helps us innovate. How do you practice this at VMware?
We are constantly working on pushing the limits of what we can do with our solutions. This drive to innovate allows us to be in a constant state of learning. Learning is not something that we should set time aside to do; it should be a part of our everyday actions. I had a teacher in high school that went to great lengths to instill a love of learning in her students, and that has stuck with me. I enjoy growth and strive to learn every day.
Which VMware values most resonate with you?
Overall, I would say execution and passion. I am constantly amazed at how much we can accomplish when we work on things that we are passionate about. Any of the projects I have had the opportunity to work on that I am truly passionate about don’t ever feel like work. Anything that is worth doing is worth doing as best as you possibly can. I don’t think you can over-execute on something, especially something you are passionate about.
How did your growth and development at VMware empower you to work on “Music of the Data Center?”
I have an amazing leadership team that I report into at VMware. They have always been incredibly supportive of us and allowed us the freedom to pursue our objectives in a very unconstrained and freeform manner. This has allowed my team to develop some very innovative solutions to problems that were often thought unsolvable with our current technology. This led to me winning the DaVinci Award, an internal award that is given out to employees within GTS (Global Technology Services) for continually innovating to solve problems and create new ideas. As part of the award, I was given a week to work on whatever I wanted. I had been playing around with the concept of the music of the data center since around 2007. I had been doing some experiments and algorithm development over the years but with not much focus or direction. When I was given the week to work on whatever I wanted, I felt it would be a great opportunity for me to put my head down and see if I could make some real progress on the concept based on my past work and the knowledge I had gained over my time at VMware. At the end of the week, I was able to show real results by building a basic proof of concept of some of the fundamental components of the concept. This led to me submitting my work to the VMware XLR8 program, an internal program for employees to work on hard engineering problems. I’m anxiously waiting to see if it is accepted. It’s an incredibly high bar to be accepted to XLR8 so I’m not holding my breath, but it’s great to work somewhere that even has an avenue by which to get your ideas visibility.
Share what’s next for you, your team or VMware?
I’m hoping that my research proposal is accepted in the VMware XLR8 Program. My team is working on developing new enablement for the field specialists and I’m working with colleagues across GTS on a new program for engaging with top deal customers in order to drive the closure rate and timing of large ELAs.
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