[Updated Monday 7 June]
The invitations to the VMware vExpert 2010 program have been sent out. Emails were sent out Friday and Monday; the timing had no bearing on the merit of your application! (If you were expecting an invitation, please check your junk mail filters. Although I tried not to use any words like Congratulations! or You Win a Million Dollars! or Free Herbal Prescriptions! I've gotten reports that spam filters did catch a few of the outbound emails.)
We had a great selection of candidates this year, and I'm looking forward to working with all of you. All of the judges were very impressed with the applicants, and we made some very hard decisions about who to accept in the program.
If you applied but did not get selected, I would be happy to work with you on planning for 2011 and how you might work toward a vExpert designation. The vExpert award looks backward on what you did the year before, and in the seven short months until Jan 2011 you could make quite an impact. Things move very quickly in the social media world, and people who rock it hard can get noticed quickly.
There were a number of common cases in applications that weren't accepted:
You didn't demonstrate enough activity. If your claim to vExpert fame is a blog, then you should blog like you mean it. If you are active on the community, then you should be very active. Although we tried to evaluate quality over quantity, blogging or answering questions on the community is an endurance sport, and the way to grow in knowledge and grow an audience is to be consistent over time. Take the time to blog (or speak, or whatever you do) every day. This is hard work. Work hard, but you just have to do one step at a time. After a year, you'll be shocked at how much you accomplished. (Now life may have intervened — babies, work, health, and happiness are all part of living and should take precedence over virtualization evangelism. We'll catch you next year when you come up for air. No worries.)
You participated but did not create. You came to events, podcasts, and more. You supported and commented and tweeted. You probably learned a lot, and you now know more people, but you didn't do a lot of sharing of your expertise. Creating is hard work, and we looked for people who sat their butts in their chairs and typed or powerpointed or otherwise instantiated their knowledge so that others could benefit. You have something to say to the world. Say it. What problem did you solve at work today? What are you passionate about? Give back to the world.
Your didn't differentiate yourself. There are two related parts to this problem: one you can't do much about, but one that's the key to success. If you are in the English-speaking virtualization world, the bar for evangelism is very high. We're a bunch of smart people, and you're competing for people's attention against both geniuses and overachievers. (Oh, yes, I'm talking about the Dutch.) You can't do much about where you live, but you can figure out how to make yourself stand out. Don't just blog product and press releases. Go beyond. Blog your passion and tell people about what's important to you. Make a picture or a comic or a presentation or a video. Become "that guy that does that amazing thing." Dare to be memorable.
You didn't demonstrate enough "above and beyond" activity outside your normal job. If your day job is to sell virtualization products, you had to pass a high bar to receive a vExpert award. The judges have a soft spot in our hearts for people who could be lounging on the couch at home or even at a hotel, but instead push it harder. Invest a slice of your time in yourself. Having fun doing something cool is the best way to stand out in your career. It's much better than not having fun and not standing out.
You need to go deeper. Virtualization is a deep topic. vSphere is a deep product that cuts across all IT disciplines. We all start somewhere in our journey and from the perspective of where we've been. Be humble enough to realize that you might not understand the whole landscape yet. Do your homework. Listen, learn, break out of your silo.
You didn't demonstrate enough reach outside your company. The vExpert award is at some level about evangelism. Sharing your expertise internal to your own company is wonderful, but the judges were also looking for people who had created a platform where they could influence beyond the boundaries of a single company — thus the emphasis on a blog or speaking engagements. Go out and conquer! If you're introverted, write. If you're extroverted, speak. If you're brilliant, teach. If you're not brilliant, hook up with people that are and help organize! Make waves.
Your application note wasn't detailed enough. Often, the judges couldn't determine exactly what impact you had in your activities, or exactly what you did. If someone else nominated you, they may not have adequately described exactly how awesome you were in 2009. I think we're moving to an application model (vs a nomination model) for next year. Get ready to apply for 2011 – now is not the time to be modest. Allow yourself to excel and then just let us know what you've been up to.
Your activity was mostly in 2010. The award was given out for things you did in 2009. The next vExpert selection will be in seven short months, so if you just got going in 2010, you have a great runway to join the program next year. Keep it up!
I hope something in that advice resonates with you. I'd love to work with you throughout this year and next – give me a buzz. For those that did get selected as vExperts, I've got more to say about why and what's coming up, but that came come later. I hope you're as excited as I am. Doors will be opening to our vExpert community site tomorrow!