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Sunday, October 1, 2017

IT Takes A Village...

"IT Takes a Village", taken from the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." might seem like an odd sentiment and title for a blog about Information Technology and Virtualization.  As I mentioned in my introductory post I am also very passionate about the IT community and this growing passion is what ultimately led to my decision to finally step outside of my comfort zone and start this blog.

I recently attended VMworld 2017 and the great conversations I had the opportunity to engage in while there were absolutely priceless. I wouldn't have asked my current employer to send me to VMworld in the first place if I hadn't been encouraged to by a number of community members. These conversations and the advice I received gave me that final push I needed to start this blog, to step out of my comfort zone, and to be more active in the IT community.

I would like to take you back 2.5 years to when this novel idea for a user group came to my local area. I received an email from the account manager with my company's VAR notifying me about this VMware User Group that was being started in my area, something they kept calling a VMUG. Little did I know at the time, but that email would absolutely end up changing my life.

That first VMUG saw attendance somewhere in the 50+ range. Pretty good for a city with a population of 60K people! I was introduced to some amazing people and community members and contributors. Who I believe today I can call friends. By the end of that first VMUG I was more excited about my career than I had been in a while.

I was hooked. I now make it a point to attend three different VMUG chapters as often as I can. As far as 1.5-3.5 hours drive. That is how valuable I believe it is. I am blessed that my boss fully supports these efforts after seeing the boost to my passion and excitment that VMUG and the community involvement it bolsters has created.

My thought process for how to advance my IT skills and grow my career was to keep my head down and to "keep my nose to the grindstone", to "go it alone". I would sit back quietly and wait for an opportunity to present itself and try to take on opportunities that looked like they would force me to learn through "on the job training". This can create a pretty unfulfilling environment for yourself.

After many conversations with community members at VMUG meetings, VMUG UserCons, and two trips to VMworld my outlook has drastically changed. The resounding advice I have received from every conversation has been to "get out of your comfort zone" and "embrace the community". For me, this meant starting a Twitter account (which I primarily use for the IT community) and to start this blog. I hope to build up to presenting a community session at a VMUG meeting someday as well.

I am pretty introverted as I believe most technology people are at heart. Things like starting a blog, reaching out to the vast community on Twitter, starting a conversation at a local VMUG, getting up the courage to ask your boss if they would consider sending you to VMworld, building up to presenting at a local VMUG are all very daunting tasks for the introvert in us. To get a little personal and to be candid, for me it is the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. Let me tell you that this community is absolutely AMAZING. There is someone around every corner, on Twitter or at a VMUG that want nothing more than to see you succeed and are usually very willing to help you do so. Myself included if I'm able.

I'm sure there are plenty of other IT professionals who have had the "go it alone" mentality to how to advance their skills and grow their career. I personally know a number of people who have been very successful with this approach, but over the last 2.5 years, since that fateful first VMUG meeting, I have met so many people who champion the benefits of the community. Their eyes light up and you can not help but feel the passion they carry for the community, how it benefited them in their career, and how they continue to pay that forward. It is indeed contagious.

This leads back to my sentiment that "IT Takes A Village". This definitely isn't the only approach, but I have found that if you put yourself out there and embrace the community you can gain insight and opportunity while simultaneously strengthening yourself and the community. The benefit of being around like-minded people who you can engage with, who have been where you are, who are currently where you would like to go, and who will give you that nudge(and if needed, push) that is so beneficial and often times needed, is immeasurable and uplifting.

I hope you will join us in growing and strengthening this Community, this Village.

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