Board and Executive Relationships with Brad Tompkins of VMUG

Welcome to episode 72 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical 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 Board and Executive relationships in the second part of our discussion with VMUG Executive Director Brad Tompkins.

Original Recording Date: 03-16-2020

02:35 – Thinking at The Board Level

  • Brad has heard it said "prepare for / do the job you want next."
  • Preparation for this likely started around the Seibels time frame with access to VPs (his boss was VP level).
    • He specifically remembers meeting the chairman of the board at one point.
  • At Immedion, the board of directors would visit different datacenters. Brad would get to sit in on some of those meetings.
    • He would observe the meetings and think about how he might contribute / take part in a meeting like this at some point.
    • It was interesting to see what questions were asked and how the CEO would answer.
    • Sometimes Brad had to research a specific item to prepare the CEO or his other leaders for a board meeting.
  • Boards are very high level and don’t get into the weeds much.
    • They want to focus on next year and beyond. Once a year’s budget is approved, the board start to focus on the next year.
    • Once the execution plan is set, the board does want updates but would rather talk about what will happen in the future (sticking to strategy talk).
    • This can be both fun and scary. It is about having the right data to back up your decisions.
  • Since the board of VMUG is a volunteer board, it is likely different than the board of an established company.
    • In VMUG’s case, the diversity is based on company size, industry, etc. The organization is much smaller than larger organizations.
  • How does interaction and reporting to a board compare to a front line / middle manager’s lens?
    • The front line / middle manager would focus on the here and now (maybe next few months or next quarter).
    • The board is thinking of the next few years. Communication with them is more to determine if we are on track or off track to hit revenue targets.
      • We have to get out of reporting back numbers only.
      • Steve Athanas is VMUG President and has coached Brad on how to approach and present to the board. The President’s role is to serve the board and ensure they get what they need, helps develop content and agenda for meetings.
    • Brad is on the board (non-voting member) but is also on the team. He has to bridge both worlds.

14:22 – Understanding and Aligning with C-levels

  • In VMUG, they want to ensure everyone on the team (down to lowest level) understands how what they do to contribute to the organization’s mission.
  • It is the job of managers to help team members understand this. Brad gives some nice examples of explaining more detail about the connection of an employee to the organization’s mission.
  • Brad has to remind himself that he is not working with IT people. The person could be an events person or a community person.
    • Much of his job is not IT, and he relies heavily on the rest of the team to execute.
    • Brad’s interaction with employees that have different backgrounds from his allows learning in both directions. He helps them where he can but takes the opportunity to learn from them also.
  • After a board meeting, the deck from the meeting is shown to the entire VMUG staff so they understand the feedback and direction.
    • Exposure to a higher level person in the organization is something that helps team members.
  • Nick’s book recommendation for this situation is The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni.
    • One of the three signs is irrelevance. Brad’s emphasis has been on making sure his people do not feel this way.

24:57 – Deciding What Is Next

  • He thinks right now the next steps are around where VMUG can go and what the organization will do next.
  • He enjoys the partnership and looks forward to being close to the future of what VMware is doing, especially after having been close to the technology as an end user previously in his career.
  • Brad thinks back to all the people he has met across the world as part of VMUG and the relationships developed.
  • The community has to change to welcome the developer into the ecosystem. Knowing this is a possibility is very exciting, especially with acquisitions like Heptio, Pivotal, and others.
  • We need to work on the community. People are looking for what their next step should be. There are many exciting options like platform engineer, SRE, moving to a vendor, etc.
    • The job at VMUG is challenging and rewarding, and the vCommunity continues to resolve.

30:55 – Closing Thoughts

  • Be on the lookout for more VMUG virtual events coming soon.
  • Events put on hold because of COVID-19 are being rescheduled for H2 of this year.
  • If you are not a member of VMUG, get plugged in and join for free.
    • Send questions to Brad on Twitter or via e-mail ( if you have them.
  • Check out VMUG Advantage for discounts on education, certification tests, and 1 year access to a ton of VMware software (for your home lab only).
  • Share your journey and what you have done with others via presentations.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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