If there’s one thing Evelyn Baymon has learned during her career, it’s that it really does “take a village,” as the saying goes. I interviewed her about her professional journey, challenges she encountered and what she has learned along the way. She’s been with VMware for 16 years now, but this is only the latest chapter in her 41 years in tech.
Though we spoke mostly about her path from college graduate to manager of the West Coast Learning team at VMware, she was quick to remind me that, “I’m a whole person. Work is a part of me, my family is part of me.” The longer we spoke, the more it became clear that “it takes a village” refers to her career, as well as her personal life. Her village encompasses everyone from her family to colleagues and mentors.
Today, Evelyn urges young women who are pursuing STEM careers to find their own villages. “Know that there are others out there who have gone before you and can give you advice.” Her suggestion comes with the gift of retrospection after decades of experience. To understand how Evelyn arrived at VMware and how 16 years later she’s still finding ways to indulge her curiosity, we should start at the beginning.
A family village supports career aspirations
After graduating from college, Evelyn found herself working a Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) as an engineer. Over her years with DEC, she was presented with many challenges, including having to leave for a 90-day technical development program. Attending the crash course would not have been possible without the help of Evelyn’s sister, who cared for her young son while she was away. Her family understood that this program was pivotal to her professional development and that she needed focus to complete the course.
“The village was always those who were around me, my family primarily. That made it easier for me because I had people to rely on, I had a strong support system.”
Now, Evelyn is a grandmother of three grandchildren. She is a devoted member of her family’s village, often walking the six-mile round-trip journey to see them. Knowing how important her family was to her early career aspirations, Evelyn is grateful that she can so easily support her children. It’s evident how “it takes a village” describes her personal life. Evelyn also understands the importance of a village for a young professional.
A collaborative village enables efficiency
The development course Evelyn took prepared her professionally for years to come. DEC sent its management group to the 90-day program because it was in the midst of a transformation from a hardware to software company. The organization needed its leaders to understand the ins and outs of such a transformation and how to pilot the company into the future.
Though it was important for Evelyn to grasp the transformation and technology it required, she learned that technical know-how is just one part of a seasoned leader’s arsenal. A mentor from her DEC days demonstrated the interpersonal side of business leadership.
“You know,” he told Evelyn. “We have to work the Relationships before we work the Issues. You put the ‘R’ before the ‘I.’”
That nugget of wisdom has stuck with Evelyn. Throughout her career, she has prioritized healthy professional relationships and observed how they allow people to better focus on the issues at hand. She learned that strong interpersonal dynamics are especially vital during transformations — transformations DEC underwent and transformations VMware customers experience today.
Successful professional villages are shining lights
When Evelyn was first introduced to VMware, she didn’t have a clue what VMware was or what its technology did. “What’s virtualization?” she remembers asking. As she learned more about virtualization and VMware, she realized, “Oh my god, this is a game changer.” When the opportunity to join VMware arose 16 years ago, she jumped on it and has been here ever since.
At VMware, she manages VMware Certified Instructors (VCIs), the instructors who teach the company’s educational courses. Evelyn’s village has continued to support her growth, and vice versa. There are two things she enjoys most about her job, and people are central to both. One of her favorite parts of VMware are in-person offsite meetings, these get-togethers mold the “comradery, respect and relationships built over the years” that Evelyn enjoys so much.
“It’s a VMware family. We collaborate and work really well together. I look forward to the new challenge of each day and how we solve that challenge in a unified way.”
The comradery Evelyn experiences with her colleagues carries over into her interactions with VMware Learning students. The “real shining light” moments for Evelyn are when she sees students taking VMware courses experience breakthroughs. Those a-ha instances show that the VMware Learning team is doing its job as part of the students’ village.
New horizons are possible with village support
It’s these shining-light moments, collaboration and family-like atmosphere that drive Evelyn to remain curious and continue learning. While she was an instructor, education wasn’t simply a job requirement. Teaching courses like her favorite, site recovery manager (SRM), was “a delight.”
Although she no longer teaches courses, her curiosity has brought her journey full circle. She intends to enjoy VMware Learning material from the students’ point of view by enrolling in some of the classes that interest her most. She’s even planning to secretly take an on-demand class for VMware’s Carbon Black offering. “Right now I don’t have time for a five-day course, but if I can take one or two day class, to get myself up to speed, I am going to do it!”
Take Evelyn’s advice to your own village
Though Evelyn’s village and her own determination paved the way to a fulfilling career, the road was not without occasional speed bumps. Evelyn remains one of few women in the technology industry, and stereotypes still abound.
She feels strongly about being part of the next generation’s village, and so passes on words of advice she’s acquired through years of experience.
The first comes from a Black executive who spoke to the DEC team years ago. When asked what challenges he overcame to earn his position, he responded simply, “What challenges?” Though perhaps a bit startling, his point was clear. Challenges exist, but you can choose to not give them power and instead focus on the work at hand. Evelyn has found this true to her own life, “I do my work. I do my profession. I don’t let those external things sideline me.”
The other piece of advice Evelyn gives to her up-and-coming village is her own. “Embrace the technology in you and move forward. If that’s who you are, be you.” This piece of advice may be easier said than done, given how few women pursue careers in the technology industry. Evelyn noted:
“I think a lot of times women live by these ideas that others have for women. They don’t look at a woman in this era as someone who would be technical. I think what has happened is a lot of girls stray away from engineering because it’s male-dominated and they have to figure out if that’s something they want to go up against.”
To build your own village, begin by being you
Even with a strong village of support, younger generations who seek Evelyn’s success will encounter challenges along the way. To succeed in the face of obstacles, Evelyn recommends one final piece of advice: Instead of letting challenges derail you, focus on being “the who that you are in the space you are in.” And if technology is where your passion is, embrace that part of you.
So, no matter what challenges lie ahead, keep your purpose in focus and remember: be you.
One of the reasons VMware Learning helps so many customers achieve their technology goals is because of people like Evelyn, who pour their passion and experience into their roles as instructors and course designers.
“To see customers get it, that’s a real shining light for me.”