“We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late and too far to go back, and I went on. And the mists had all solemnly risen now, and the world lay spread before me.” – Pip, Great Expectations
Growing up the son of a firefighter and homemaker, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to go to college so many years ago. So in the autumn of the release of Windows 95 I left my childhood home to go to school at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. At four hours by car the UW was far enough away from my parents that they wouldn’t stop in randomly, but it was close enough that I could go home easily. I never really went home, though. Sure, I’d go visit, but my home became Madison, and I dug in. And while my parents helped with my tuition, room & board was solely my responsibility. I got a job, hired at the UW-Madison Help Desk to do phone support for the dial-in modem pool.
Information Technology wasn’t a career path when I was in high school, at least according to the school guidance counselor who told me I was going to be a chemical engineer, and that was that. All engineering students go through the first sets of classes together, though, and along the way I heard about Electrical & Computer Engineering. Took me about 12 seconds to switch. The grass is always greener, it seems, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I liked the software side more than hardware. The overlap with Computer Science seemed a natural path.
Fast-forward a few years. I’d been promoted out of the Help Desk. I was running giant AIX systems for our PeopleSoft implementations, and I was wondering what was next in my life. The work I was doing was so much more interesting than school, and it was the path I wanted to be on. I liked the UW, I had lots of friends there, and the people I was working with and for had interesting problems to solve. Above all, it was safe and familiar. My father died in 2001 and that left me adrift and with a case of PTSD, so when the UW offered me a real job, with real pay and real benefits, I signed on.
23 years later I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some of the brightest (and interestingly enough, fastest and strongest) folks around. I’ve been able to reinvent my job a few times, as new technology comes along to reshape the landscape. Landscaping in higher education involves a lot of hard work, overcoming inertia of silos, culture, and incredible fear of change. It requires immense amounts of patience. It has worn on me, as I’d seen my father’s job as a first responder wear on him, turning us into sarcastic, bitter, angry people. I grew more and more like the mythical Sisyphus, destined to roll rocks up hills as punishment for offending self-appointed gods in non-specific ways.
I’ve been thinking about moving on for a while now. I don’t want to turn into my father, and I cannot keep rolling the rock uphill for 20 more years. I’ve talked to a number of friends that have made the leap to vendors, all of which told me, nicely, to shut up and do it. I clearly enjoy technology, but I also enjoy speaking and writing about it to help others understand more. I’ve been active in the VMware community for years. With all of that I’ve been envious of the work the VMware Technical Marketing folks do in all these spaces, getting paid to do the things I basically do as a hobby.
With two small children I’ve been hesitant to take a position with a lot of travel, though, and I’m very fortunate to be in a spot where I could take some time to make sure where I was going is a very good fit. That said, it took almost no time for me to respond when I was asked to consider applying for a position at VMware, in the Cloud & Platform Business Unit’s Technical Marketing group. I am the secret Mike Foley’s been dying to reveal on Twitter, and I’m very excited to work with him, Adam Eckerle, Niels Hagoort (who just joined as well) and all the others that produce such great content and understanding for VMware customers.
I start at VMware in early December and for the first time in a long time I feel again like Pip in that quote above, excited and nervous at the possibilities that lay before me.