One Year of Podcasting – The Nerd Journey Podcast

It’s been a year since Nick Korte and I published the 30-minute "Podcast Trailer" for the Nerd Journey podcast. It’s been a terrific year of hard work, interacting with fascinating people, and personal growth. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year of podcasting in the hopes that it might benefit someone else who’s thinking about getting involved in the extended community of technologists. You can read Nick’s thoughts about this year in his Network Nerd blog post, "The Journey Continues … A Year Later" and listen to our first anniversary review podcast episode here. This inspired me to reflect on the origins of the podcast and talk a bit about the early days. Hopefully others can learn from some of what we did. I’d also like to reflect on the evolution of the podcast and myself. It’s been an interesting journey of introspection and self-discovery. Finally, I’d like to look forward to what I see for us on the horizon. I can’t say I’ve ever measured my guesses about the future, but maybe I can start with goals and progress to guesses as well.

Genesis of Nerd Journey

Nick and I

Nick and I have a friendship that spans years and at least two previous jobs for each of us. We first encountered each other on the Spiceworks Community. At the time, I was the sole member of a small/medium-sized business’s IT department, looking for guidance, opinions, and community from other Information Technology practitioners. Over time, I learned a lot, applied the knowledge, and began answering questions of others. I made a number of connections with members of that community who I really respected and helped push me to advance my career. Nick was one of the people whose opinions I grew to respect greatly. We actually met for the first time in-person at a Spiceworks conference and spent hours just chatting.

Personal Advancement and Offering a Hand

Eventually I left my jack-of-all-trades job and took a position at a technology distributor as a technical specialist focused on VMware’s place in the portfolio of resellers and integrators. It really opened my eyes to how the reseller channel works and the possible career paths that I hadn’t been directly exposed to before. After a few years, I left the distributor to work for VMware directly as a pre-sales systems engineer, helping customers to understand how the company’s portfolio of solutions would align with the problems they were facing. Throughout this process I kept leaning on the relationships I made at the Spiceworks Community and kept in touch. I tried to refer those I knew a bit better to positions near them. So many of those people helped me to progress to where I’d gotten, that I couldn’t help but think I owed the community some payback. Nick was someone who took me up on the offers of help; Just three years after I started at VMware, he excitedly told me that he’d accepted a systems engineering position at VMware as well. It was an amazing moment of a good person working hard, persevering, and triumphing.

We Should Podcast

Throughout the years we’d been talking about career, we’d spent a ton of time on the phone, strategizing about resume writing and interviewing. It struck me as he was about to start, that we should somehow document what he’d gone through somehow. I was also extremely interested in hearing about his observations about joining a large company like VMware after working in SMB IT. There was the shift in working in a pre-sales position instead of operations. Sometime after he accepted the position, but before he started, I suggest that we start a podcast to record some of this for others to benefit from. I thought we also had some opinions to offer about news and happenings in our industry as well.

A Very Little Relevant Experience

As some background on podcasting, I’d been an avid consumer for several years, including ones covering the IT industry, such as VMware’s Community Roundtable, the Geek Whisperers. A couple years into my job at VMware, I ran into Eric Nielsen, who hosts the Community Roundtable. After chatting a bit, he invited me to come in and co-host the podcast whenever I was available, lending my field technical viewpoint to the discussion. It was a bit of good fortune, and I’d been soaking in as much information about the production side as I could. When I told Eric that I’d had an idea for a solo project, he laughed and told me that I was following a well-worn path of people who got interested in starting after trying it out. He offered some great advice, but the thing that was immediately applicable was to "just get started" and not to invest too much in equipment until we knew we were serious about continuing.

Other Resources

As part of being part of the podcast, I’d started attending a few local meetups on podcasting, one in San Francisco and one in Oakland. I connected with a group of people interested in the field from the point-of-view of amateurs just putting their voices. Both groups were well connected, with the structure of bringing in long-time veteran podcasters on a variety of topics. I don’t want to over-simplify the process of getting started. I’d done a lot of studying about getting started in the production side, including an excellent behind-the-scenes episode of the Virtually Speaking podcast. As much as I wanted to pull out the credit card, we actually made minimal investments in equipment, keeping Eric Nielsen’s advice in mind. I realized it was a black-hole of gear I could get lost in. We made the tactical decision to focus on recording, figuring out our process, and gradually investing in the equipment over time if we felt we were going to stick with it. To this day, we still don’t sound as good as the Virtually Speaking crew do! grin We started recording the weekend before Nick’s start date and just dove in, learning about how to plan out episode topics and recording several episodes which we knew only had a vague chance of seeing the light of day. In fact, the first episode that we recorded that was actually published, was technically just a "release candidate."

Evolution of the Podcast

Nick and I recorded for several months, trying to find our voice. It was a great learning experience and we added structure over time to our process.

Not Launching

During the first six months, we recorded but didn’t publish; Most of that delay fell on my shoulders. Ultimately, it’s not that difficult to self-host an instance of WordPress and use the PowerPress Podcasting plugin by Blubrry to host a podcast. However, I tried to make it more complicated than it needed to be. I was interested in using the opportunity to learn how to containerize WordPress having had a previous experience with keeping the underlying PHP installation up-to-date. Ultimately, a discussion with Nick really brought me some clarity on this block. I was using Bitnami’s excellent library of pre-built WordPress images to deploy to the Google Cloud Platform (Bitnami has recently been purchased VMware, my employer). WordPress has some plugins to make exporting and importing a site fairly easy, so migrating the site to a new WordPress image would be simpler than upgrading the components in the image. And much simpler than bumbling through my attempts to learn to do things inside Docker Containers.

The Push to Launch

Nick and I were both attending VMware’s user conference, VMworld, in Las Vegas last autumn; Nick suggested that we launch before the show and have a few episodes released going in as a basis for networking for people possibly interested in our advice and points of view. I had to quickly get past my platform block to get the technology stack up and running. We recorded an "episode zero" as an introduction to ourselves and to get some conference-oriented advice out as our calling-card. Our wives both pitched in, Nick’s donating our logo, and mine arranging our music. The members of the podcast meetups were an interesting accountability point. It became more and more embarrassing to attend the meetup and face the question on when we would launch.

Constraints and Emergent Behavior

The next task was editing and publishing our catalog of recordings. We realized pretty quickly that we should focus on the career-aspects of our discussion ("the career advice we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers"). It was essentially "evergreen", while anything we put about industry news, product launches, or the like was ephemeral. That meant cutting out some of the segments we’d recorded. We were pretty honest (and at time brutal) about identifying segments where we had little to say or just seemed off of our core topic. We have a particular point of view, influenced by resources that we use, like the Career Tools podcast. The advice we were offering started out very tactical, (advice on resumes and interviewing but also discussed skills development, goal setting, and more strategic career management. We had fun with a segment examining article on career which popped up LinkedIn, decided whether they were career clickbait or not.

Feedback

At VMworld, we had a chance to chat with people about their career journeys and challenges, offer advice, and get invested in the career trajectories of some new friends. We got overall positive feedback from listeners and lots of suggestions. I participated the SF Podcast Meetup’s "Hotseat" which involved having the membership listen to some sample episodes and give candid feedback. This was particularly helpful as they had quite a bit of constructive criticism from sound quality, branding, to looking for more contrasting points of view. It was a terrific experience and was a valuable lesson in soliciting detached feedback.

Interviews

I’ll give Nick credit for pushing us forward (notice the pattern there?) on bringing people in to interview on Nerd Journey. It’s been a great addition, often resulting in more than one episode. We’ve met and talked to a number of fascinating people. I don’t think we’ve had a bad conversation yet, but a couple stick out, like Tom Delicati’s sniper approach to applying for jobs, Jimmy Tassin’s ability to parlay his experience running a Minecraft server into an IT career, or Jon Hildebrand’s recovery from being unexpectedly laid off. We also talked to other tech-industry podcasters like Ramzi Marjaba of We the Sales Engineers and Ethan Banks of the Packet Pushers network.

Looking to the Future

Lessons Learned

  • I’m glad we’re finding our voice and topic focus. If you’re starting to get involved in the technology community with a technical blog, having a number of different topics you post on is very acceptable; it’s fine to write on deploying infrastructure, trip reports on attending a User Group meeting, and a technical breakdowns on how to cook a brisket on the same site. In the podcast format, we found we needed more focus. We couldn’t be yet another infrastructure virtualization opinion and news podcast while offering career advice.
  • I’d definitely pass along the advice that I was given about just recording episodes and worrying about technology, platforms, and anything beyond basic process until you’re fully invested in podcasting. The podcast community consensus is there are some break points around 10-20 episodes published, and around 100. Those are the numbers where "pod-fade" can set in. It’s easier to quit than to continue, and sometimes one’s priorities change. It’s not worth investing tons of cash in equipment until you’re committed. Perhaps we could do a follow-up on budget recording gear…
  • We’ve been pretty good about the discipline of constantly working. Each episode requires preparation, recording, and post-production work. We’re constantly workshopping new ideas and working to prep and post-process our episodes.
  • I think one thing that’s been consistent has been a commitment to helping others in their career journeys. It’s really about mining our minds and those of the wider community for the greater good and knowledge of all.
  • Like anything complex, the more we examine the topic of career development, the more complexities are reveled. It been humbling to dive into these complexities and learn along with our audience.

Collaboration

I don’t think that I’ve been in a position to collaborate with someone on an external-to-work project for so long. It’s been a terrific partnership with each of us having strengths that complement the others. I’ve been more invested in the platform, the process, and some of the behind-the-scenes technical details. Nick’s really pushed us forward with schedule, structured brainstorming time, and follow-through on that brainstorming. I’m really fortunate to have a partner like him in this project.

Speculation and Goals

  • I’d like to return to VMworld and record some interviews on-site with people who might have a quick piece of career advice or story they’d like to share. If you’re going to be there, let me know, and we can set up some time to record. We’ve talked to at least one other group of podcasters about doing some quick-hit recording.
  • I’ll be at VMworld in San Francisco this year; It would be great to connect with other vCommunity and vExpert community members to chat, even informally and off-mic about career journeys.
  • It might be nice to take the show on the road and do something at a VMUG, similar to the Geek Whisperers at the SV VMUG.
  • If we can enough content together, perhaps we could pitch a session next year on career
  • Every once in a while we check out listenership stats and see them growing steadily. I’m not sure it’s good for us to set download counts and chase those with topics or content we think might get us there. I think Nick and I are on the same page about that
  • I think we should follow-through on our series on the decision to go into people-management. We’ve got some ideas and would welcome community suggestions when it comes to topics to cover.
  • If anything, I’d like to clarify what is working best for our audience and what we can do better. Some of that is topic diversity. But there might be other, technical changes we could be making to improve the listening experience. I’d like to find another opportunity to get some candid feedback from non-listeners.

Conclusions

The past year of podcasting has been a serious investment of time and attention. It’s been extremely gratifying to get some positive feedback from our peers in the community who have enjoyed the conversations we’ve published. I don’t see us stopping any time soon. Every discussion spawns a few other ideas to chase down. It’s been terrific to get some ideas from the listeners and follow-through with our thoughts. It’s been interesting to look back on how my attitudes towards the topic have evolved. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next!

VMworld Prep Part 1

I’m headed to Las Vegas for the show next week and am trying something new for my VMworld prep. I’ve got two a last-minute purchase, a goal, and an on-going action for my run-up to the show. By the way, if you’d like to meet up and chat, hit me up on twitter: @vJourneyman. I don’t know if you’re looking forward to anything specific at the show, but I was re-reading my post about VMware Validated Designs in 2016, and am looking forward to seeing what the Integrated Systems Business Unit announces for VVD and Cloud Foundation. 

Purchase: Conference Charging

Conferences tend to intensely use phones these days. You keep your registered session schedule in the app, map the conference in the app, network with other attendees in the app, etc. You might take pictures of slides, get on a phone call for your day job, text with other attendees, and so on. So, I recommend a USB battery pack which can provide two full charges for your phone. Why two? Because sometimes you forget to charge overnight… I’ve got a phone and tablet which both USB-C, so I’ve got that additional requirement.
Here’s The Wirecutter’s article on USB-C Power Banks.

In addition, I’d recommend a USB hub to recharge multiple electronic items overnight. I’m charging my phone, a tablet, Bluetooth earbuds, and the USB battery.
Here’s The Wirecutter’s article on USB-C PD (Power Delivery) chargers. I use USB-A to USB-C cables to charge my phone and battery pack while the USB-C PD port charges the tablet. And one port for USB Micro Bluetooth headset. That means I need a USB-C port and three USB-A ports as a worst-case scenario.

That being said, you can get batteries as giveaways on the show floor, but they’re generally lower capacity. Its right up against the latest time you can buy something from Amazon for home delivery before traveling. Staying juiced up is a critical part of my VMworld prep.

Goal: Get fully packed by Friday for my early morning Sunday flight

I need to break out of the pattern of staying up all night doing laundry and packing the night before the flight. Before the early, early morning flight. I did that in February and knocked out on the plane before it took off. I was out so hard that it took my seatmates more than a few minutes to wake me up to get past me for the bathroom. Not good.

Good VMworld prep for me involves not stressing about packing the night before the show. I’d prefer to spend that time with my family.

Action: Start waking up on my conference schedule

My goal is to get to the conference breakfast as the doors open, usually 7 am. That means getting out of the hotel room by 6:30 am. So I have to wake up by 5:30 am.

I think I mentioned this tactic in the Nerd Journey Trailer episode about conference success. As much as I value the late-night networking, I want to maximize my daylight time at the conference. I don’t quite have a job which focuses more on the after-hours networking than the in-conference attendance, and the cost of my pass came out of someone’s budget. 

So this part of my VMworld prep means I’m waking up pretty early. And getting a solid week of good sleep before the show means I’m going to bed early.

What are you doing for your VMworld Prep?

UX/Design Team at VMware is Hiring

I’ve been watching several internal programs, non-product demos, and ideas-stage discussions on design at VMware for the past few years. Just recently, I noticed that we’re in the middle of a big hiring push for the UX/Design team, so I thought I put up a couple resources for those interested in exploring that career path.

First, here’s my list of open UX/Design positions:
http://bit.ly/vmw-design2018

And just as a reminder I maintain more lists of open VMware positions by type and recruitment campaigns:
http://vjourneyman.com/vmware-jobs

Next, here’s an interview with Jehad Affoneh and Anna Marie Panlilio of the UX/Design team back in June of 2018. The spoke about their philosophy of design, how they conduct end-user research into the design process, and some ideas on the future direction of VMware product design. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at the recording session, but fortunately, there’s a recording!

It was interesting to hear they’re doing NDA design sessions at VMworld. I checked and they’re almost all full. If you can sign the agreement and sign up, it would be interesting to see that information-gathering first-hand.

Also, here’s the design site they mentioned, and their design blog. If you’re interested in applying and are looking for some background on what they do and why, it’s worth a read.
VMware.design
VMware.design/research.html
VMware Design Blog on Medium

Oh and you might want to check out one of their public projects, the Clarity System.

Clarity on Github

Clarity Design System Training video (in a VMware Clarity YouTube Playlist):

VMware Wavefront Acquisition

Yesterday’s VMware Communities Roundtable podcast centered around the VMware Wavefront acquisition. Bill Roth (@BillRothVMware), Director, Product Marketing at VMware’s Cloud Management Business Unit, was in studio to talk about what Wavefront’s product is and the thinking behind the acquisition. We (maybe just me) went down an interesting speculative path of what might be done with the product. Eric was especially interested in

Continue reading VMware Wavefront Acquisition

Reactions to WannaCry Ransomware

Here are some quick thoughts on the WannaCry ransomware threat that emerged this past Friday [L.A. Times, Bloomberg, etc], as I get ready for the work week.

  • I wouldn’t want to be the person in the office of the CISO who wrote a security exception for Windows XP this week
  • The Shadow Brokers disclosure of this vulnerability isn’t what enabled this attack, it’s the lack of disclosure from everyone who knew about it but didn’t tell Microsoft.
  • It sure would be nice to have an easy way to see what computers are and aren’t patched against the vulnerabilities swiped from the NSA toolkit. Or to work for a software company that sold a solution that could give you that information (I don’t).
  • PAN discussed how the attack spreads after getting past a perimeter. I’d encourage anyone with a micro-segmentation solution to make sure that they’re mitigating the methods of attack spread.

Angel Villar Garea, a VMware Systems Engineer, has a video out on how to block the spread using NSX.

How about physical machines? While platforms like NSX provide increased security via hardware VTEPs, I don’t think we yet have a mature way to push down security controls to the physical switch that the desktop is plugged into. Or the WiFi router. Again, in my view, the strength of a platform like NSX is it’s ability to integrate with next generation physical firewalls from other vendors to extend security policies to the physical world.

WannaCry is only the latest ransomware to come along. It’s probably only the first to leverage to tools from the Shadow Brokers leak of stolen US Government zero-day attacks. What are you doing in your organization to block the next one?

Photo by bbearnes

VMware Career Saturday 2017 Week 19

This week in VMware job listings, I’ve changed formats slightly. I dropped market segment [EDIT: and seniority or role type] as that was taking a bunch of time to generate. I managed to automate things enough to post a refreshed version of every job category I’m monitoring: SE, Sales, Consulting, and TAM in the US/Canada and EMEA. Each of those has it’s own page with it’s weekly, refreshed, complete listing. In this post, I’m going to highlight the new jobs posted in each section. Those listings are in the single digits, so I’m not going to bother having them in a table with a sort/filter function. Continue reading VMware Career Saturday 2017 Week 19

VMware Career Saturday 2017 Week 18

UPDATE 2017-05-13: I’ve added individual pages (wherever my navigation currently has menu structure, currently on the left) with a weekly refreshed, complete listing of all listed positions for SEs, Sales, TAMs, and Consultants in both USA/Canada and EMEA. Those tables will have filters and sortability. My weekly posts will have new listings without the complexity of sorts and filters.

This is my weekly Saturday update of new open positions at VMware. I’m hoping this helps anyone looking to start a VMware Career! There were no new Field Sales and TAM positions posted in the US, and only a single SE and two Consulting positions posted. At readers requests, I added the listings for EMEA sales, EMEA SEs, EMEA consulting, and EMEA TAMs. I must not know anyone in Canada, LATAM, APAC, or ANZ. There’s some Bay area local positions I want to highlight and a note about what the open position on Advisory Services is all about. Continue reading VMware Career Saturday 2017 Week 18

Discounted VCP-NV – It’s Never Been Cheaper

Discounted VCP-NV Bottom Line Up Front

There’s a discounted VCP-NV promotional package right now; $2,200 gets you:

  • An exam prep course for the vSphere Foundations course
  • An exam voucher for vSphere Foundations
  • NSX Install, Configure, Manage On-Demand E-Learning course
  • A separate NSX exam prep course
  • An exam voucher for the VCP-NV 6.2
  • 6 CPUs of NSX Enterprise for non-production personal use (training)
  • A full year of VMUG Advantage, including eval licenses for almost all VMware products.

Continue reading Discounted VCP-NV – It’s Never Been Cheaper

Thoughts on VMware Certification and Education

Last week, I appeared as a guest-host on Episode 386 of the VMware Communities Podcast [TalkShoe | iTunes | PlayerFM]. It’s something I hope to do on a fairly regular basis, time permitting. We had a great discussion with Karl Childs, the Senior Manager – Certification Development on the topic of the VMware certification program. We talked for an hour about the state of VMware Certification landscape. I wanted to summarize my thoughts on the conversation and write about some follow-ups I did. Continue reading Thoughts on VMware Certification and Education

VMware Career Saturday 2017 Week 17

UPDATE 2017-05-13: I’ve added individual pages (wherever my navigation currently has menu structure, currently on the left) with a weekly refreshed, complete listing of all listed positions for SEs, Sales, TAMs, and Consultants in both USA/Canada and EMEA. Those tables will have filters and sortability. My weekly posts will have new listings without the complexity of sorts and filters.

After receiving a lot of interest last week from my previous post on open jobs at VMware, I wanted to put up an update on Field Sales and Systems Engineering positions. I shouldn’t be surprised that there were 6 new requisitions posted, more than one per work-day. VMware is increasing the size and reach of it’s sales and systems engineering force on a pretty consistent basis. I don’t know if I can keep up a weekly cadence, but I’ll try as long as there’s interest in starting a VMware career.

In addition, I got asked about asked about implementation and other post-sales positions at the company, so I’ve included those. There are two kinds of positions I’ve listed here, Consultants and Technical Account Managers. If you want to see everything that was open for Field Sales and SEs as of last week, check out last week’s post. This is only the new SE and Field Sales jobs. As always, you can head to VMware’s recruiting site at Rolepoint and conduct your own searches. I’m watching the “United States” as a location and four types of positions: “Sales-Field Sales“, “Sales-Systems Engineering“, “Services and Consulting-Consulting“, and “Services and Consulting-Technical Account Management“.

Continue reading VMware Career Saturday 2017 Week 17