How did you get into IT in the first place?
Right around the time I realized that my university education wasn't working out for me, a couple of friends applied for a job at OGD. They told me it was a good place to start an IT career. Basically, they employ former students (like myself) and let them do helpdesk and basic systems management for customers. I applied as well, and liked the atmosphere and relatively young coworkers. It's more like a group of friends working together than a real actual business. I decided to hang around, and have worked at this firm for over 6 years.
I did grow tired of picking up the phone (did you try turning it off and on again?) and manage old Microsoft Small Business Servers (and even NT4.0 machines!) soon enough. I will not mention my Novell CNA and CNE certifications, nor will I tell you that I still kinda love GroupWise. Though not the part of the GroupWise installation where if you use a dash (-) in an administrative password the entire installation craps out on itself. Or the four weeks (no thanks to Novell GSS) it took me to find out that the problem was in fact this dash. I changed directions altogether after this unfortunate incident and applied for a technical specialist on virtualization and storage role in the consulting and projects business unit.
How did you get into working with VMware and becoming a 2011 vExpert?
As a technical specialist, I needed to test out scenarios for clients on the go. So I bought VMware Workstation and soon discovered that Workstation was fun, but not fun enough. I had done it all with Workstation, including SCSI bus sharing to create shared storage for vESX(i) and installing entire VMware Site Recovery Manager environments. I installed my first ESX-host back in 2006 (and in the process, destroying a couple of fibre-attached LUNs. Oh, how I hate the Anaconda installer) and knew this was what I wanted to do. Not destroying LUNs, mind you, but working with VMware's products. I started consulting and designing virtual environments about a year later. Thankfully, the first couple of customers were pretty small, and the design didn't consist of much more than a single sheet of paper detailing the kit list and software versions to be used. I started building out more and more of a design workflow and reference architecture, started training coworkers and aiding them in taking (and passing!) the VCP-exam, and became active in the community.
I started out as a fast answer-poster on the Dutch VMUG forums and started my own blog in October 2008. I joined Twitter not long after (January 2009), in preparation of attending my first VMworld. I kept on blogging and even presented a couple of sessions at the annual Dutch VMUG Event. I'm still proud of this; I was only 23 when I had my first public speaking engagement, even before starting my blog or joining Twitter. I believe that this enthusiasm at an early age is what eventually led me to becoming a vExpert 2009 and continues to 2011.
I can still vividly remember one early morning, eating breakfast at a hotel in Cannes for VMworld Europe '09, when suddenly Eric Sloof, Viktor van den Berg and I looked at an incoming e-mail from John Troyer: "Congratulations! On behalf of VMware, we would like to thank you for all the work you’ve done giving back to the virtualization community and sharing your expertise with others. We are pleased to present you with the VMware vExpert Award for 2009."
What would you tell someone who wanted to get a job like yours to do?
Well, giving up all of your free time and dedicating it to blogging, tinkering with VMware's products, discussions on Twitter and the communities is a good start. You might as well tell your spouse now they're never going to see you again. Seriously, dedicate your life to being passionate about that one thing you like to do. Reach out, be outgoing and let people know you're there. Be realistic about your position though. A new job might enable you to focus better on the technology.
You, as well as everyone else, learn new things every day. Let the rest of us know that you've learned something. Share it. On a blog, on Twitter, in your local newspaper or on a billboard, I don't care; just share it. Don't get hung up about not having an academic degree; I didn't graduate and haven't missed it once. That being said, make sure you keep current on certifications that matter to you. Keep moving forward. Make sure you join your local VMUG or the online community and stick with it. Having had all these great people around me for all these years has truly formed and shaped me, and I am thankful I stumbled upon this community, more or less by accident. I'm sticking with it.