Thought Leadership

Growth, Exploration and Understanding Worldviews: Spotlight on Katherine Skilling

Katherine Skilling, vExpert and CTO Ambassador, was already known as a quality contributor through her involvement in the DCV (Data Center Virtualization) Deploy exam. Her positive impact was so impressive that the team personally invited her to continue to work with us on the DCV Design exam where she again proved her high value.

Katherine is a strong team player always willing to help others as needed to ensure that, as a team, the result was of the highest quality. Even while working independently, Katherine drew on the expertise of others to ensure a smooth process. She has a forward-looking view and identifies areas that need additional attention, such as lab development dependencies.

There are many skill sets required to be an exam Subject Matter Expert (SME). Katherine consistently demonstrates her expertise not only in VMware’s products and solutions, but also the ability to turn that knowledge into cohesive scenarios. Throughout item writing, lab development and technical review, Katherine is able to bring meaningful questions and considerations to the team.

We are exceedingly pleased to recognize Katherine for her work on the VMware certification program! Thank you, Katherine!

What is your background? / How long have you worked in IT?

I left university with a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and I had been the only female student on the course. During my final year, as I started applying for graduate programs I realized that I really had no desire to enter that profession as my career. While I had enjoyed the theory of engineering, the reality of how the job compared to that theory just wasn’t for me. Instead of entering a graduate scheme for engineers, I got a job as a trainee IT support technician at a local government organization close to my home. The role covered everything from help desk duty to visiting remote sites in order to clear paper jams in printers or set up new users. Looking back, it was a great introduction to the world of IT. Over the next 9 years, I worked my way up to a senior position in the infrastructure team supporting all of the back-end systems including their new VMware VDI solution. That VMware experience helped me get a role at Fujitsu as a Customer Solutions Architect, specializing in VMware solutions before I joined VMware Professional Services in 2016. I have been in the role for just under 5 years now and specialize in our vRealize Automation and vRealize Orchestrator products. In total, I have been working in IT for nearly 20 years.   

What do you think makes for a great testing and online learning experience?

From a testing point of view, I believe an exam should challenge you. It should get you engaged and thinking about how to perform a task or answer a question. I want to feel like I have earned that certification badge when I pass an exam, not that it was a foregone conclusion I would pass. I like the remote proctoring option we now offer for some of our exams and am eagerly awaiting the same option being introduced for VCAP Deploy exams in the future.

Online learning (such as the VMware Install Configure and Manage courses) is great for studying at my own pace. I can skip past modules I feel comfortable with and replay the ones where I didn’t quite grasp it the first time. I can jump between courses and go for a bit more of a deep dive on some complimentary technology if I want to and then return back and finish off the original course. That flexibility is hugely valuable for me. If I unexpectedly find myself with some free time at work I can head off and do some online learning, when work picks up again I can pause until I have free time and then restart exactly where I left off. Having access to a lab environment with the course is a big selling point for me. I learn by doing more than I do by reading and listening to a talk about a subject. Getting hands-on access to labs to be able to practice the new skills is a great part of the VMware learning experience.

Why did you get involved in the VMware Education Contributor program?

Since joining VMware I have achieved VCIX status in both the DCV and CMA (Cloud Management and Automation) tracks, and am now looking at starting the VCDX journey. Being able to help develop the content that would form the latest releases of the exams sounded like an interesting team to be a part of. I was looking out for opportunities to get involved in VMware-related activities that were outside the scope of my job, to be an active part of the community.

When the recruitment message appeared on Twitter I put my name down immediately. That first opportunity had only just started when I added my name for a second exam, and not long after a third. Who knows how many more I may get the chance to contribute to in the future.

Writing the exams is hard work and time-consuming however the people you work with keep it interesting and make it a fun activity to be part of.  

What is the most desirable part of the Education Contributor program?

For me, it was the chance of giving back by being part of something bigger than any individual can do alone. Working at VMware means I am in a very privileged position. I get access to training and certification exams that others may not be able to justify to their organizations and have to self-fund.

Seeing a message on Twitter from someone who has passed the exam, knowing that you helped to write it, is very satisfying and rewarding. That work will be consumed for the next 12 months or more and will have an impact on individuals from around the world. Personally, I get a real buzz out of helping people to be able to do more, and working on the Education Contributor program gives me a platform to be able to impact a much wider audience.

How have you benefited from the program?

The program has given me a lot on a personal level. As you work with a team of SMEs to review questions, you learn how other people can view the same words in different ways. It teaches you to explore alternative approaches by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to consider the words from their viewpoint. I’ve had the opportunity to meet (virtually) new people within VMware who I would otherwise not have worked with because of location or our roles.

Contributing my time and knowledge has also helped me to grow. It has reminded me what I am capable of, and that even if I struggle to see it in myself at times, other people see and appreciate the knowledge and skills I can bring to a team.

Fun Fact

For the past nine months, I have been volunteering my time through a Good Gigs project to help a non-profit organization based in the US overcome IT-related challenges. The project is teaching me about new technologies, personal skills such as leadership and communication and is allowing me to work with colleagues based on the other side of the world collaboratively.

A Good Gigs project is the name given to a special project where a team of VMware employees partner with a nonprofit of their choice (who are not VMware customers) to identify the organization’s need and co-create a solution that will help accelerate the nonprofit’s impact. More information is available here.    

You can connect with Katherine via Twitter or her personal blog.

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