Phoebe Kim’s journey into tech was atypical, to say the least.
Originally intending to become a professional violinist, she started college as a violin performance major. But, after an injury threatened her playing ability, she started to consider alternate career options. This led her to study industrial engineering as a second major — inspired by her father, a mechanical engineer.
Now, she’s the Senior Manager of VMware’s Multi-Cloud Solutions Architecture team, leading multi-cloud efforts in the United States.
Change of plans
After deciding on engineering, Phoebe’s career plans pivoted once again when she got an internship in tech consulting, her first introduction to the world of IT. Her first post-graduate roles were also in consulting, where she specialized in networking and NSX.
While working those jobs, Phoebe was introduced to VMware through VMware Learning’s certification pathways. She officially joined VMware in 2019 as a member of the Advanced Customer Engagement team, now known as the Customer Success team.
Her current team helps VMware Cloud providers and other partners implement multi-cloud and app-modernization solutions. She’s also developed a passion for the customer service responsibilities that come along with her role. “I love the customer conversation that I get to have. I sometimes get involved in executive briefings or telling customers and partners about VMware’s multi-cloud vision and where the company is going. And that, to me, is most exciting, and just hearing how customers value VMware and how they use it, I think that’s the most exciting part of my job.”
A love of learning
Throughout Phoebe’s life one thing has remained constant: her passion for learning.
Her list of certifications is extensive and includes VCDXs — VMware’s highest level of certification — in Network Virtualization, Data Center Virtualization, and Cloud Management and Automation.
Her first manager at VMware was one of the original developers of the VCDX certification program, which motivated her to work toward the achievement. She also looked up to the senior architects on her team, the majority of whom were VCDXs.
“I think I was in the minority of the team for not having a VCDX. To me, it was almost a challenge and a goal to be like them. I was also the most junior member of the team. So for me, it was not just a learning experience, but also to kind of somehow show like, ‘OK, I deserve to be here and I can do this job.’”
Phoebe’s other credentials include the AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Cisco Certified Network Professional, and Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications. Recently, she embarked on a journey to get certified in leadership essentials through Cornell University and build her skills in business fundamentals through the Harvard Business School CORe program.
As for her future plans, she hopes to earn a master’s degree in computer science and learn more about artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Her continued learning doesn’t stop at work-related education either — she also learned how to ride a motorcycle and got her motorcycle license last year. Phoebe’s other hobbies include spending time with her shar-pei beagle mix, reading, and playing violin and piano.
When she’s not studying for a certification exam or cruising the streets of Dallas on her bike, she often shares her multi-cloud knowledge at industry events, such as VMUG UserCons, VMware Explore, or AWS conferences.
Room for growth
“VMware is a very special place. I always felt supported and felt heard and felt like a team at VMware, but that wasn’t always the case.”
Though VMware has been supportive of Phoebe’s tech journey, she acknowledges that some of her previous roles weren’t as friendly to women in tech. “It just always felt harder to feel like I’m part of a team or that I had a support network or I have somebody I can go to if I had an issue or I had a challenge or whatever it is. So just because we’re a minority, I think that’s really hard to find.”
Now that she’s in a leadership role, she recommends women in tech work not only on technical skills but also soft skills such as writing and verbal communication. “It’s easier to be a little bit more invisible when you’re a woman because we are in the minority, so being able to have that communication, being able to speak up when needed, being able to share your ideas and communicate those ideas in a well-thought-out manner is just huge.”
She cited research showing that women tend to be less confident when applying to roles they don’t meet as many of the job description requirements for — often shying away from submitting their resumes unless they can already perform 90-100% of the listed skills.
“One time someone told me when I was looking for one of my first or second jobs that if I know how to do more than 70-80% of everything listed on the job descriptions, that job isn’t for you because how are you going to grow if you already know how to do those things?”
Her advice? “I would say look at the job description. If you could do maybe 30-40% of it and you can figure the rest out, just go for it. Really just take the opportunity to take the challenge and continue to grow that way.”