Nerd Journey 024: John’s 3-Year Check-In at VMware Part 2

Welcome to episode 24 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 John’s 3 Year Check-in at VMware, Part 2.

Original Recording Date: 2019-02-02

Topics – John’s 3 Year Check-in at VMware, Nick’s Questions

1:55 Topics Begin

  • Check out part 1 of John’s 3 Year check-in if you missed it last week.
  • John mentions sports research. Was he prepared for what came next?

2:54 What has Made John stay with the company?

  • John considered this a medium to long-term job once he joined.
    • He loves the technology VMware has and the innovations as well as the overall technology space.
    • John has enjoyed exposure to new customer problems and situations (technical, political, etc.).
    • The constant change keeps it interesting.
    • Building good relationships with customers is part of the job and a nice perk.
    • The overall experience has been enjoyable. John describes this as a process of continual improvement (always considering ways to get better), which has involved self-study as well as collaboration with others.
    • The goal is to always do the right thing for the customer to maintain a long-term good relationship, even if it means advising them not to buy something.
    • Everyone has more expertise than someone else and less than others. John is a relative Yoda rather than an absolute Yoda

10:32 Is John where he thought he might be after 3 years at the company?

  • John applied a number of times before getting into the company. He had applied for a technical marketing role around the same time as applying for the SE role.
    • He had to sell the company on the fact that his career progression was not tied to a specific position or role.
    • Mentoring was something he wanted – to be a mentor and to be mentored.
  • He’s been able to be more active in social media, attend events, podcast, etc.
  • A specific title was not part of the goal. He focused more on the controllable steps to achieve what was needed to accomplish a promotion.
    • Nick’s book recommendation – Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron
    • Check out our episode on Process over Outcomes as well.
    • Figure out the process. Do the things you can control. If your measure of success is promotion to a specific title, you will be disappointed.
    • John has been iterating.
    • If there’s nowhere for you to go at your current employer, you may not get recognized as you think you should be. Maybe the goal should be to get a better job elsewhere. Being excellent at what you do will always be in demand.

21:45 Favorite memory from the time at VMware

  • John tells a story about being nerd famous.
  • Giving someone else a tour of the VMware Palo Alto campus for the first time was a great experience.

24:42 How does John stay relevant while working for a vendor?

  • Relevance can be measured in different ways.
    • The ability to help customers solve problems over the long term is one way to measure it.
    • John also cites ramping on the growing product portfolio and knowing the value of each as another way to be relevant.
    • John cannot be a pure technical expert at everything, but he knows the right technical resources to engage when needed.

28:04 Does John missing being a customer?

  • He misses having 100% input and control over technology solution decisions. It was easy to do as part of a small business, but there is probably not a job he can go into to get that level of control.
  • He’s currently able to be an influencer at a number of different levels within multiple organizations.

31:53 What’s the least glamorous part of working for a vendor?

  • The nuts and bolts of the Sales process and being part of Sales meetings is not always 100% enjoyable. "Not every part of dinner is desert."
  • Knowledge of the Sales process can be valuable for anyone in an organization. Check out Episode 5 for more on this.

38:46 How has the amount of travel been since joining? Do you have any travel tips?

  • Amount of travel is ultimately dependent upon the role. Even for those with the same job title, the amount of travel is different.
  • John is flying about once per quarter and usually has to drive 3 days per week.
  • John’s travel essentials:
    • Packing lists for everything (good way to lower stress)
      • Different lists for local vs. long distance travel
        • Nick pressures John to write a blog on this. Send us a Tweet if you want to see it happen!
      • Sign up for GlobalEntry if you are flying with any kind of frequency (includes TSA Pre Check).
      • Sign up for travel rewards programs.
      • Dongle from automatic.com to capture mileage
      • Capture expense receipts with your phone camera to avoid loss

48:58 If this is your dream job, how do you determine what’s next?

  • Should John become a full time career coach?
  • His dream for 5 years was to be a SE at VMware. On day one of the job, he realized it was time to figure out a new dream.
  • John deconstructed what he enjoys doing:
    • Mentoring other SEs
    • Figuring out best practices across segments, specialties, etc.
    • Peer collaboration
    • More one-to-many conversations (i.e. outside of just his customers)
      • Speaking at VMUGs / conferences
      • Giving more presentations
    • John talked through the Principal program but mentioned he cannot just success / failover based on this alone.
    • These items lend themselves to a number of roles.
    • Figure out what he has time to work one, and see if other roles present themselves.

55:47 Would you consider a move from generalist to specialist?

  • Nick cites examples like technical marketing for a specific product or SE specialist in a particular area.
  • John mentioned the challenge as a generalist to get deep enough in a specific product area.
  • He would probably need to be open to moving wherever the role is available (i.e. large concentration in his area).
  • He’s keeping his eyes open but not committed to any specific path.

58:40 When did you start co-hosting the VMware Roundtable Communities Podcast?

  • John started going to VMware meetup events and ran into Eric Nielsen.
  • Eric was looking for a podcast co-host with experience in the field, and John fit the bill.
  • The opportunity presented itself because John went to meetups in the first place.
  • John had an idea for doing a podcast that eventually morphed into the Nerd Journey podcast.

01:03:06 What’s a lesson learned the hard way?

  • Not everyone is reasonable or sees the company as an important partner.
  • John has had some confrontational interactions. It’s challenging to not take this kind of thing personally.
  • You can only control your reactions to situations.

01:05:14 How has work-life balance been over the years?

  • Nick was out of balance when he first started and still has spurts.
  • In some ways working from home has been incredibly freeing.
  • John says the most difficult thing has been managing how much he’s working.
    • There is always something to do.
    • It takes time to get better at this?
  • Sometimes you have to choose to go to sleep and take care of yourself.

01:08:28 What would make you leave the company tomorrow?

  • Ethical mismatch with what the company was doing

  • Cultural gap between expectations and reality (i.e. "bro culture", discriminatory culture, etc.)

  • Career issues

    • Not being valued / recognized as a good team member
    • Career dead end (builds up over time) / unable to progress
  • Family issues

  • None of these have ever been an issue. See also Episode 16 and Episode 17 for reasons not to pursue an opportunity.

  • Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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