How did you get into IT?
I started my life in IT at a very young age, it had to be around early 1992 or 1993 when I remember my father showing me the new IBM mainframe that was purchased for the family business. A few years later I can remember my father bringing home his first laptop, at the time a 30 pound IBM Thinkpad, from that moment on I couldn't get away from computers. Surprisingly, during my high school years I wasn't sure what I exactly wanted to do with my future career and bounced in and out of Law Enforcement and Information Technology.
It wasn't until I entered college at Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn State's Core Technology Division) that I noticed that IT was for me. I did some internships at the college, worked the help desk and technical support at the school but it wasn't until a year before I graduated that I found my niche. Virtualization. This was around the time when VMware was just starting to be an idea in our minds, running more then one operating system on a server or workstation. I was amazed at the technology, and more importantly the underlying nuts and bolts that made it all work. I started working with VMware Server and GSX and then the very early ESX products, well before all of the processor architecture enhancements that pushed the virtualization concept from a concept to a reality.
I graduated Pennsylvania College of Technology and found a position as a Network Administrator at large Law Firm in Pennsylvania and this kept me busy for a few years. I then moved on into another Network Administration position at large Insurance Company that was rapidly expanding its server environment. It was the perfect time for virtualization, I was reading all about of the amazing things VMware was doing with virtualization and what their product was capable of, and from there, the sky was the limit. I began a massive virtualization consolidation project, migrating physical servers to virtual running on VMware ESX 3.0, from that point on and through many version migrations and upgrades to vSphere, I designed and built a 95% virtualized environment.
In mid-2011 I found myself at a crossroads, and with the type of personality that I have of constantly learning and challenging myself I felt it was time for a change.
My "dream", as weird as it may sound, was to work with VMware technology, whether that was a product that worked with it, or VMware itself. I found myself applying for jobs all around the virtualization field and interviewed with many virtualization centric companies. It was only a few weeks into the process that I accepted a position at VMware, which to say the least, was thrilling moment for me. To be able to not only have an amazing passion for the technology but to also work for the same company was more then I could have ever asked for.
How did you get into working with VMware and becoming a 2011 vExpert?
As I said above, I started with Virtualization in college but didn't acutally start applying my knowledge until a few years later once the hardware technology caught up with the software. During my time working with VMware I noticed the incredible community interaction that VMware provided. I started visiting and participating in the VMware communities well before I started with migrations, it started to become a daily ritual. I found myself becoming truly passionate with the technology and with what VMware was able to do in release after release. At heart, I am truly a hardware guy, I love hardware and processor design and the optimizations that occurred every year after year. Mixing the ever increasing CPU and Memory performance from chipmakers and the amazing technology from VMware, I found myself working not only with products I truly believed in, but also challenged me every single day.
I always had a huge passion for collaboration and helping others, it's just in my nature. When I learn something new, I always enjoy turning around and helping the next person by sharing the same information. It was close to 2 years ago that I decided to start a blog and post about the topics I was working on. When I hit a wall or issue with something and figured out the solution, I started to write a post on the blog about the problem and how I solved it. Not only did this help others, but it also helped me to remember how I fixed that crazy issue a few months down the road. It wasn't too long into blogging that I found the incredible VMware/Technology Twitter community.
The more I engaged with the social media buzz and got my blog out there in the community, I became close friends with Barry Coombs (vExpert) from London. He operates the blog virtualisedreality.com and we started talking about creating a core blog and combining our posts and ideas, which is how we ended up with handsonvirtualization.com. It wasn't long after we started the blog that we thought it was time to start Podcasting and interviewing all types of vendors; from storage, networking, virtualization and hardware and really getting into the core of the virtualization stack. Not only did I enjoy this interaction with vendors and different products, but it helped me gain even more knowledge into the vast array of different server/storage/networking technologies. This continued work with the community forums on VMware.com, interaction and support on Twitter and working with customers from all over the world day to day gave me the opportunity to become a vExpert.
What would you tell someone who wanted to get a job like yours to do?
I truly believe that you must have some sort of passion for technology, you can't expect to work a 9-5 job and think thats it. I have known many people in IT that think the work day ends at 5:00, in this field your day never ends and if you can't accept that or don't share that same passion, then it's not for you. However, if you have that passion for fast moving, constant learning and challenges then this is the area for you. I tell people all the time, every day that I wake up I always have one goal that I must accomplish, learn at least one concept, technology, maximum, best practice, etc that I didn't know the day before, even it's something small, these little pieces of information keep you fresh and informed.
I strongly recommend getting involved in the social communities, whether its the VMware communities, Twitter or Blogs. The wealth of information available at your finger tips today is outstanding. Whether you join for relationships, comradeship, support of a product, or for the interaction with incredibly smart and talented individuals, its worth it. It's an amazing journey to the virtualized world, you might as well engage and share the wealth of knowledge!