Nerd Journey 032: Tony Reeves Part 1- Career Path

Welcome to episode 32 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two VMware Solution Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss career paths in the first part of our discussion with Tony Reeves.

Original Recording Date: 04-15-2019

Topics – Tony Reeves of Gigacast on Career Path

02:37 – The Gigacast

  • Tony is the co-host of the Gigacast podcast
    • In 2017, Britton Johnson approached him about starting a podcast.
    • They wanted to get more of the SMB voice out there. There were too many enterprise scale products out there that did not apply to the SMB, and they wanted to talk through the products.
    • They eventually began expanding to add guests.
    • Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or their website.

4:27 – Tony’s Career Journey

  • Tony has always been a gadget guy, taking all the computer classes he could in middle school / high school.
  • He ended up repairing a friend’s computer at one point and ended up starting his own PC repair business in Wisconsin.
  • After a technology hiatus, he worked for a telecommunications company on their help desk (in the dial-up days). He later moved over to DSL support and into the web hosting division.
  • John and Tony speak to the similarities between mechanics and PC builders.
    • Only John could work in the mention of an article about building your own AR-15 and relate it to PC building.
    • Tony used to work on cars for a living before getting involved in technology.
    • What is dirtier, working on cars or opening up old PCs? Tony shares a story to help you decide.
    • John throws in another story about his Intel NUC.
  • Tony left the job at the telecommunications company for personal reasons and moved to a customer service role at an outsourcer.
    • This company needed a new Network Technician and was encouraged to apply for the role by a peer. Tony got the job.
    • Tony’s friend and peer ended up leaving the company after about a year for a Network Administrator role.
    • This friend was the one who told Tony about VMware (around 2008).
    • Tony stayed at this company for about 7 years and was involved in a number of projects, but it was apparent he would not be able to move up within the company without relocating to a major city.
    • Tony wanted to get into servers and architecture and away from desktop support.
  • Tony then made the decision to get certified on VMware technologies, but the cost of classroom training was a barrier.
    • Someone he met encouraged him to sign up for the course through a local college at a discounted rate. Tony felt people with certifications seemed to have a leg up when it came to interviews.
    • Tony took the class (on-demand videos plus homework), invested in a home lab (started with a Dell R610), and achieved the certification in Data Center Virtualization.
  • At this point, Tony was targeting a role that allowed him to leverage his certification.
    • The employer where he landed was impressed with Tony’s initiative to get the certification on his own.
    • Experience with home labs or even free virtual labs is something you should list on a resume. Listen to John and Tony’s ideas on demonstratable experience.
    • Because of Tony’s lab experience, he was able to dive into the new role and perform very well.
      • He was unproven in a business environment, but someone took a chance on him.
      • Tony’s boss handed off most all VMware work to him.
    • Tony mentioned the opportunities this role gave him to learn about storage, specifically vSAN as well as to develop relationships with people on the product team at VMware.

30:09 – Conference Attendance as a Networking Tool

  • Tony talks about the effects of conferences and networking with others in the community on his career.
    • Conferences afforded the opportunity to learn from others and meet people close to vendor products.
    • He cited a shift in focus at conferences from attending sessions to networking with other users.
    • Tony has attended VMworld as well as VeeamON and mentioned meeting many of the same community members at both.
    • Conversations began as very technical, but as the number of interactions increased, it was more like talking to others as friends and "who is going where?"
    • Going to conferences was a career accelerator.
  • Tony was an early adopter of vSAN and was encouraged to do a speaking session on it, which gained popularity. He was asked to do the session at several VMUG meetings.
    • The more you step out of your comfort zone, the better you get at it.
    • Accept that the first time doing something will not be your best. It takes practice.
    • After doing a number of events during this year of speaking engagements, Tony’s employer was supportive of him continuing this trend. They saw value in the contacts he had made and could leverage to help the business.
  • Tony was hired as a SE at VMware and starts on 4/22/2019, specializing in vSAN.

41:34 – The Decision to Go for a SE Position

  • Tony had a conversation with his manager about career (the 5-year conversation).
    • "Someday I want to work at VMware."
    • Tony’s manager was very supportive to help him get there.
    • Tony had applied a number of times at VMware and was taking a break, but they sought him out about the vSAN SE role recently.
    • It was not a hard decision to go for it.
    • After taking the new job, Tony’s management said they were not surprised that he got a job with a vendor.
  • Many of the things Tony was doing internally involved salesmanship.
  • He loved VMware as a company and its culture.
  • Tony had considered a Solution Architect role at one point but did not quite make it. He also finds Technical Marketing as an interesting possibility.
  • John speaks to his realization about how to get projects funded happening after moving on to SE.
  • Should a manager have it as a badge of honor if the people under them improve to the point of having to leave the organization or take a larger role within the same organization?
  • Tony made sure to leave on good terms and turned over all relevant documentation to a trusted partner that would carry the weight after his departure.
  • Can a vendor employee give unbiased advice? What does Tony have to say about it?
  • What are Tony’s thoughts on giving up / maintaining technical relevance?
  • Tony weighs in on becoming a specialist after being a bit of a generalist as a customer.
  • Advice for walking a similar path…
    • Get involved with a mentor who has done it.
    • This person can be a sounding board, help you know where to get started, help you navigate community resources, etc.
    • Get involved in advocacy programs like the vExpert program.
    • Go to a local user group for direction.
    • The community (or #vCommunity) has been essential in Tony’s journey.
    • Tony mentioned Twitter has been extremely helpful.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the discussion next week!

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

image sources

  • TonyReeves1: John White

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