Why and how I became a VMware vExpert

vExpert

What is the VMware vExpert program?

I first found out about the VMware vExpert program at the end of 2019. As many others I guess, I first thought of the vExpert program as a program for people who have deep technical knowledge about VMware products. What else would “expert” mean? But after reading a bit more about the program, I quickly found out deep technical knowledge was not a requirement to become vExpert. The vExpert program is all about “community”. It’s a program to recognize people that help other people with VMware related questions.

There are a lot of ways to help other people and the best part is, you can choose your own way. If you are not the person to take place on stage (either real life or virtual) and tell dozens or hundreds of listeners about your experiences with VMware products, that’s perfectly fine. Maybe you are more of a writer, writing blog post about things you experienced, problems (and solutions) you faced, just like I do. Or maybe you just want to help other people answering questions on the VMware Technology Network (also known as the VMware Communities). Either way is fine, as long as you’re doing it for the community, do it voluntarily (meaning, it’s not your day-job where you get paid for) and do it with passion!

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.

Coretta Scott King

How I became a VMware vExpert

When I first learned about the vExpert program, I had been working with VMware vSphere for about 10 years and I worked with VMware Horizon for about 2 years. I was also searching for a way to get more involved in the VMware community so this was the right time for me. I was already a little active in the Horizon category of the VMTN site, but it was at a very basic level and also a bit more in my own favor, asking for help, than helping others. I also had been writing a bunch of scripts to monitor VMware Horizon environments in PRTG, which I intended to share with the community, but I had not found the time yet to actually publish them. So there were a lot of things I wanted to do, but I hadn’t actually done much already. And let that now be the primary condition of being allowed to the vExpert program: “What have you done over the last year to help the VMware community?

I reached out to a local vExpert Pro to get some more information and help to apply to the vExpert program. This is something anyone who hasn’t been a vExpert before should do. They know what the program is about and can help you filling in your application form. They are also the people who process all applications for the vExpert program. I immediately got invited into the vCommunityBelux Slack channel where I could already get in touch with lots of other Belgian vExperts (and non-vExperts too) and join their regular vBeers sessions. This already gave me new energy to put more effort in the VMTN community site by helping others with their questions and I also started a new website where I would post my experiences with VMware products.

Applying for the vExpert program is only open for a limited time, starting beginning of December and closing beginning of January. It’s important to know that the people who approve all the vExpert applications effectively check your contributions of the past year (public speaking, blog post, activity on community websites, etc.). That’s also why the approval (or rejection) of the program is only announced a few weeks after the closing date. Those people are doing a great job checking all the contributions of all the applicants every year again. They are really taking the vExpert program seriously. Only publishing a single blogpost just before the end of the year won’t get you in the vExpert program!

Although my contributions for the past year were not at all high, I still decided to apply for the vExpert program and see what would happen. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, there was an e-mail in my mailbox saying “Your vExpert application was not approved”. I wasn’t really surprised. The reason they provided for not approving was also completely on the spot: Not enough contributions for 2019 and the contributions I provided were mostly related to my day-job. It gave me another reason to become more active on the VMTN community site and to continue on expanding my new website. Although the application period for the vExpert was closed, there is another period around June where you can re-apply if you failed or missed the application in the beginning of the year. So I had to be ready to provide enough contributions by June.

I regularly started posting my Horizon monitoring scripts on my new website. Not only just posting the script, but also explaining how the scripts are working, so visitors can learn from it, use it as a base for further customization in their own environment, etc..
Besides my blog, I also subscribed to the Horizon channel on the VMTN community site. That way, I get e-mail notifications for any question or post that was done there. This not only allowed me to answer to questions of other users, or to share my experiences with specific issues, but it also allowed me to learn a lot about issues I had not yet encountered. By reading solutions of other people I was able to better solve issues I might encounter in the future, or at least remember that I saw something about that on the VMTN site. The daily number of e-mails I got from the VMTN site were not that high, so as long as I could follow up on them on a daily or bi-daily basis that was doable. Although I also have to admit there are some times that I just very quickly read them or even just deleted them without reading, mostly after holiday periods. Just remember, we are all doing this voluntarily, so no one is going to punish you because you didn’t reply to any post in the last days, weeks or even months. It’s completely up to you to decide how much effort you put into.

I am only one, but I am one. 
I cannot do everything, but I can do something. 
And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.

Edward Everett Hale

A few months later, something funny happed. Around April I got an e-mail from one of the moderators of the VMTN community saying he noticed I was very active on the Horizon category. He explained about the new vExpert EUC sub program and asked me why I didn’t signup for it. I told him I did apply in January but was not approved and that I would apply again in June. 2 days later, I got an e-mail with the subject: “Welcome to the vExpert program!”. Based on my contributions of the past months, and probably also because they were just starting the EUC sub program, they allowed me in the vExpert program before the new application period started. Don’t start to think now that you will be able to get in the vExpert program any time you want, this was an exception they made and I don’t think they do that a lot. What I am trying to say is, if you’re proving you’re worth it, you’ll get recognized for what you do! If it’s not immediately, then it will certainly be the next time you apply for the vExpert program. By the way, I still had to apply in June to make it “official”.

I kept on working on my blog to share my experiences and to help others. I’m also still active on the VMTN community site where try to help but also still learn a lot. All this lead to another vExpert approval in 2021 and hopefully a lot more will follow!

Why I became a VMware vExpert

My primary reason to become VMware vExpert was to get in touch with fellow peers with the same passion for VMware products. At that time I was the only person responsible for the VMware infrastructure at my day-job and I missed the capability to share some experiences, ask some advice, listen to how others are doing things, etc.. By becoming a vExpert I expanded my network with very passionate people, who love to share their experiences and knowledge with the community!

Becoming a vExpert probably won’t help you in getting a pay raise at work. It’s not some kind of certification with which you can prove your knowledge. Although, for me personally , it did get me in touch with some people at whom I looked up at that time and in the meantime I may call colleagues now.
But mostly, being a vExpert is just taking time. “Fun” time to share your knowledge, to help others, to just chat about VMware and non-VMware related subjects with passionate people.

And of course the times, when you receive new comments on your posts saying “You don’t know how thankful I am for this”, “God!”, “Great article. It helps me a lot in my homelab build”, etc. just gives you a boost of energy to continue sharing.

At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better.
It’s about what you’ve given back.

Denzel Washington

What do you get in return

I already said, being a vExpert is asking some of your free time. How much time you spend is completely up to you. But what do you get in return?

  • a continuously expanding network of passionate people
  • regular meetings about VMware related topics, prodcuts, announcements, etc.
  • a “voice” in the VMware community
  • a way to help other people
  • by helping other people, also a way to get help back when needed
  • a way to develop yourself

If, after reading my story about becoming a vExpert, you want to become part of this vExpert community, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any other vExpert (or vExpert Pro) you might know, and let us help you on a new journey in your life!

Oh, did I also mention there’s also some swag and VMware licenses for your homelab too? But that’s not why we are doing this, or is it 😉?

Interesting links

The VMware vExpert website: vExpert Application Portal
The list of all the current vExperts: vExpert Directory (there’s a search box where you can search for names, country, etc.)
VMTN Community: communities.vmware.com

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