How did you get into IT?
I started playing with computers at primary school in South Africa with yeh old BBC Micro and "programming" in logo and also typing in games from magazines. In high school, I was very lucky to be able to take Computer Studies as one of my subjects, which wasn't offered at most schools. Learned programming in Turbo Pascal, Clipper & dBase along with the basics of tape backups and CPUs.
I was on the FidoNet BBS in the days before the Internet become popular. Networks were things that only universities had and I remember our teacher showing off Windows 3. I then left school and intended to study law, not really thinking my computer knowledge would translate into a career. I got involved in the campus student radio station which was far more exciting than attending lectures so received a letter at the end of the year saying it’s probably best I didn't continue with my academic studies…so that was the end of law!
I was lucky to be involved in a few community radio stations as the broadcasting industry was starting to be privatised and moved to work at South Africa's then only private talk radio station. I started freelancing in the newsroom writing & reading news bulletins and producing talk shows and on the odd occasion used my previous IT skills to replace a printer cartridge or clean a mouse.
This came to the attention of the IT Manager who had noticed support calls from the newsroom had dropped and had realised this was due to me so offered me a job. I did IT during the day and still kept on the news and producing work at night and on weekends. I learned Novell & Windows Networking, NT 3.5, Coax, Ethernet etc. and was connected to the internet for the first time.
A music radio station was bought during privatisation in my home city and I moved back home as the IT manager setting up the newly bought radio station from scratch while still writing and reading the news when they needed someone to fill in and also wrote a networked newsroom contact database program. Although having a great job, I wanted to see the world and expand my horizons and so did my NT 4.0 MCSE and moved to London in 2000 and have been contracting ever since.
How did you get into working with VMware and becoming a 2011 vExpert?
I had played with VMware Workstation a little bit and was working as a consultant at a huge bank and they were trialling VMware ESX 2.0.
I went travelling around the world for 18 months and came back to consult at another financial company that had very innovative IT and was spinning off a business unit and had built a "company in a box" by creating a whole virtual environment in a rack with ESX 2.5 on local storage that could be simply wheeled out of the datacentre when it was ready to be moved out. We then built a VM environment for the main company with ESX 2.5 and started an aggressive P2V process to save money and efficiently use hardware way before there was any talk of cost cutting and recession in the financial industry. This environment grew through ESX 3 & 3.5, shared storage with iSCSI and then NFS, migrated to ESX 4, adding VDI and moving to blades and linking up multiple global deployments.
I had been following the blogs of people like Mike Laverick, Scott Lowe, Vaughn Stewart, Duncan Epping, Jason Boche and Gabrie van Zanten and started attending the London VMware User Group. As I had been on the receiving end of so much useful information for many years, I decided to start blogging to have a chance to give something back and share some of the knowledge I had picked up. I presented at a few user group meetings on projects I had been working on and was very lucky and honoured to receive a vExpert award this year.
What would you tell someone who wanted to get a job like yours to do?
Working in IT presents some of the greatest opportunities available. You get to work on cool technology in a fast paced, dynamic industry with plenty to learn. Don't be passive, be interested, enthusiastic and committed to spend the time to teach yourself as much as you can. With just a PC or Mac and VMware Workstation/Fusion you can set up some amazingly complex environments to play with and learn from. There is a wealth of awesome stuff out there and it is up to you to take full advantage of it all to give you the skills to succeed.