Nick’s 3-year check-in as a VMware Solution Engineer Part 1

Welcome to episode 103 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 Nick’s 3-Year Check-in at VMware, part 1.

Original Recording Date: 12-18-2020

Topics – Nick’s 3-Year Check-in at VMware, Part 1

1:05 – Revisiting Nick’s Journey at VMware

  • We’re picking up a topic we started back in Episode 1. That episode covered Nick’s first week at VMware. This episode marks 3 years for him at VMware.
  • Nick wrote this blog post describing how his career at VMware started in late 2017.

2:32 – Still Living the Dream

  • Nick started in December 2017 in the commercial segment at VMware as a Systems Engineer (or Solution Engineer as it later became), supporting 3 salespeople as their pre-Sales technical counterpart.
    • Each of the salespeople had territories containing hundreds of customers across North Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
    • Nick would travel to Oklahoma probably once per month. The frequent trips out of town were relatively new.
    • Even when in meetings all day while on the road, e-mails continued to come in that needed to be addressed. Separating urgent from important was a requirement for keeping up and getting enough rest.
    • When not visiting customers, Nick would work from home.
  • The team of SE peers Nick joined was made of people scattered across the south central United States.
    • The team was extremely welcoming. Nick felt comfortable calling other team members when he needed help navigating the VMware organization.
  • Much like teaching math and working the help desk, Nick loved the dynamic aspect of SE life in this segment.
    • We might not talk to the same customer very many times (maybe only the very top tier).
    • There may not be a lot of time to do research on the customers before meetings.
    • Many times Nick would meet with people who had a similar background to his as a customer (not always but much of the time). This made it easy to relate to what these customers did every day.
    • Work-life balance was off for a little while. This took some figuring out with travel, the need to be responsive to customers, and the need to support other teammates.
    • Nick also had to learn when to utilize internal specialists in customer conversations.

9:44 – A Change in Segment

  • In February 2019, Nick transitioned into the Enterprise segment. He moved from supporting 3 salespeople to 1 and from supporting almost 1000 customers to supporting 3.
  • These customers were different. We’re talking global companies with technology teams in different locations and business units who might not talk to one another. It’s almost like many customers in one.
  • This involved a number of transitions. Nick supported a (new to him) salesperson, team of SE peers, set of customers, a new manager.
    • If you follow the podcast you probably got a clue as to when this happened (since we have done shows on some of these topics).
  • Nick didn’t understand how he could possibly stay busy with just 3 customers but found out quickly they were plenty to keep him very busy!
  • In this segment, Nick did not have to travel as much out of state. Most customer visits were within driving distance.
    • One customer would require out of state travel every now and then.
    • There were still days when Nick would be gone all day (out visiting customers). He had to plan gaps in the day and stops for meals and was very intentional about it. See EP 102 for some tips on how to make better decisions at restaurants.
  • Nick’s new team of SE peers were all local to Dallas / Fort Worth except one who lived in Austin and visited Dallas pretty often.
    • Nick’s manager was in Dallas rather than completely remote (the case during the Commercial days) and liked to come in to the VMware office a few days per week.
    • Nick began coming into the office as well to get face time with the boss and teammates. The extended team of specialists would come to the office as well.
    • On occasion, there were customer meetings at the VMware office.
  • In Enterprise, the number of resources (i.e. specialists) at Nick’s disposal went up exponentially. He had to learn how to use these resources wisely.
  • This segment seemed to bring with it increased pressure.
    • There were meetings with high ranking technical officials who shape the overall strategy.
    • If you’re not used to communicating with these types of people, it can be a challenge.
    • Check out the episodes with Brad Tompkins for more on this challenge:
    • Larger organizations had Enterprise Architecture teams, Technology Review Boards, VPs of SaaS and other red tape that was not present in the commercial segment.
      • The challenges and mindsets of these teams was pretty new and not as relatable.

19:37 – Reflecting on Other Changes

  • VMware continues to grow as does its portfolio, whether via organic growth or acquisition. That means more to learn as a generalist!
  • As for extracurricular activities, Nick has continued as co-leader of the Dallas / Fort Worth SpiceCorps but ended up missing squeezing in a meeting for Q4.
  • Nick has been more involved in VMUG this year. In fact, he and John did a career session for the VMUG December Virtual Event.
  • This year Nick co-presented with Mark Foley at VMworld. You can watch the recording of that session here.
  • Nick has been trying to write one blog per month but doesn’t always hit that mark. He did start up a blog series on Azure Functions and Tanzu Observability to learn something new and its ties into a VMware product.
    • This involved writing code, learning Azure DevOps, and CI / CD.
  • It is important to get outside the vendor bubble. Nick continues to remind himself of this.
  • Nick also joined the DFW Azure Meetup group.
  • He was recently accepted into the CTO Ambassador program at VMware.
    • This opens a number of new doors within the company. Nick will have to report back on the types of projects in which he is involved.
    • This will require better time management.
  • The changes in segment and change in customer base has helped Nick develop a very wide network both inside VMware and beyond.
    • When Nick talks to customers, he tries to encourage them to be a part of online communities and do presentations.
  • Nick has been thinking a lot about mentoring.
    • When he started at VMware, he was given a dedicated mentor (a peer you can ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking your boss).
    • In wanting to provide this help to others, Nick has worked with the Academy SE program to provide mentorship to folks learning how to become Solution Engineers. It’s extremely rewarding.
  • John has some questions for Nick, but you’ll have to wait until next time to hear the answers!

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