Well, today is my 100th day at VMware, I thought it might interesting/amusing to share my experiences. There’s couple of gags going on here. Firstly, in the US its popular for the media to focus on the 1st 100 days of a Presidency (especially a new one) to measure the success of their office, and try to get a feel for what type of president they are going to be. It’s all rather silly because you have to wonder what any person can do in such a high-office in such short people of time. Presidencies should be measured in the years, and the affects can last decades. Of course, there’s the other gag in the picture – our old friend “Darth Vader” from the “Dark Side”. You’d be surprised how many people have asked me what life is like over on the “darkside” of “vendorland” – even fellow employees. That’s kind of funny seen as we work for the same company, but I guess they interested in my own skewed/tangential perspective…

So I’ve heard that a lot in the 14 short weeks – darkside and the kool-aid – and after hearing the comments a number of times they do become a bit jaded after a while. Yesterday saw the 2nd UK-wide VMUG and I was tempted to hire a Darth Vader costume for the vCurry event the night before just to make a gag out of it. Sadly, the various places near me that had the outfit were a bit naff, so I gave it a wide berth. I was talking about how I re-shapped my “home” lab the other day in the light of learning vCloud Director and all things related. At the end of the session I gave away a prize – an engraved hipflask with the word “Microsoft” on it. It had been given to me by a Microsoft employee as joke a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t know what to do with it. Anyway, I filled the hipflask with “VMware Kool-Aid” (aka Jack Daniels). The idea was if you are in a VMware shop and some guy starts talking about looking at Windows 2012 Server HyperV, you hand him the hipflask. He drinks the “VMware Kool-Aid” and suddenly realizes what a mistake he or she was about to make! 😉

Anyway, I’m rambling. The first 100 days have been a bit of rollacoaster because I joined before a major product launch (vSphere5.1 and vCloud Suite) and two VMworlds almost back to back. It was a good time join when there plenty going on and plenty to get my teeth into. As a new-starter it felt important to me to feel really busy with stuff, and to feel I was producing something. Blogging here has been and will continue to be (until Jan 31st next year), and absolute godsend. It’s meant I’ve had some kind of platform to get thoughts, views, technical stuff out into the wild – and help promote stuff the community is up to such as the vBrownBag sessions that ran at VMworld for the first time this year. With me walking away from RTFM which had existed in some shape of form since 2001, I also walked away from significant chunk of subscribers and regular visitors. So whilst I haven’t gone away, the site that I was so long associated with is now RIP. The other godsend has been the lab environment I have in the colo which was built up in the years of running RTFM. I’ve kept the lab going even though its a bit of financial burden (I hope to offset the cost with advertising on the new blog when it launches next year – sponsors please approach me!). It’s meant I could get started with installing the new 5.1 bits as soon as they GA’d. At some stage I will have to close the colo when we head for the US. A couple of months before that happens I will have to start seriously thinking about my options. Do I still want the burden of having my own rack, or should I use the internal lab resources available. That’s a bridge that right now I will cross when I get to it.

One thing I have realised in recent weeks is how much previous experiences influences me even now I’ve joined the “Mothership”. [For some reason this always makes thing of Parliament’s “Mothership Connection” song. It is actually quite funky here…]. So I’ve released that even if I joined a company a quarter of VMware size it would have been a big cultural change. You can’t get any more smaller than one guy in who is the company director and the sole employee. The other thing I’ve released is for a more than decade I’ve worked in the most smallest company you can have, and I’ve got very used to making more own decisions and agenda. Ironically, that’s situation that still exists at this moment. I feel like I’ve got an awful of flexibility to follow my own interests. Apart from my weekly team meeting call, and the call with my manager – I’m still working from my home office – doing many of the same things I did when I was independent. In fact the trouble has been remembering I’m part of a bigger organization now and that means I can use that team of people to help me. So occasionally I’ve asked questions on twitter about various matters, when I could have approach colleagues or folks in my team. Wonderful though twitter & the community is – for me one of the big selling points of being on the other side of the fence is easier access to people and information than I did in the past. But often forgot that that resource is there and available for me to use. Old habits die hard and using twitter and the forums to ask questions has always by necessity been my first port of call. I have to remember there other direct resources too. So I’ve wrote up on my wall – the name of my team to remind me I am part of one!

The other thing I’ve written are the words “Think before you tweet”. As so much has stayed the same since joining VMware I’ve sometimes forget that I’m not an independent. And in my naivety I’ve made statements/questions on it – which in my innocence have been without any politics. Totally unaware of the law of unintended consequences. Those naive statements/questions could cause unintentionally embarrassment to a colleague or to the company, and potentially used by competitors or taken out of context by others and used against me or the company. If know me well, you probably know that I’m man who has no truck with politics and there’s no guile intended in anything I say. Sadly, the folks we compete against or certain characters on twitter aren’t necessarily inclined to be the same way. So the challenge for me is not some much having my “independence” stripped away, but more me forgetting that I now work for a big company – and in small way represent it (not myself) publicly. I’m keen NOT to have that turn into self-censorship or merely become tiresome marketing mouthpiece either – but like it or not an “evangelical” role comes with outbound messaging – and that means being responsible for what you say/do publicly. It’s just merely being a question of thinking before tweet/speak – and asking – are there any unforeseen consequences to this seemingly innocent remark.

The other thing I’ve realised is how quickly people associate your job title with you as individual – and how that shapes your expectation of you as a person. So as the “Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist”, I’ve sometimes got the impression that folks think I’m going talk/act like someone who has just knocked on your door and asked if you want to buy a copy of the “WatchTower”. Rightly or Wrongly, as I see it the term “evangelist” has very strong religious overtones, and is associated with people who might have gone through a big conversion. Spreading the word is the derrivation, but the way I look at it you can spread the word, without neccessarily expecting or even wanting instantanious conversion. For me to be an evangelist you really engaging people in a conversation. That makes it a two-way thing where the “evangelist” is supposed to LISTEN as much as spread the word. Realistically, I think you have to be armed to accept that not everyone is going to be ready or in the right place technologically to hear that message. In crude terms its hard to talk cloud/sddc to folks who haven’t even virtualized yet. And believe me their are still many companies who haven’t – and they have to walk before they can run after all. One thing I’ve found myself doing when people ask me what my role is at VMware is, is to hit them with job title – and then joke about how there are know “Junior” Cloud Infrastructure Evangelists that can I boss about, and how being evanglist doesn’t mean you have to have some sort of crazy 1,000 yard stare as you look into the middle-distance…

The other about being part of big company is how quickly people adjust their attitudes to what you have to say. Like for example I was making the point the other day about how architecturally I think a dedicated hypervisor is better model than retro-fitting an OS with a virtualization layer. I’ve thought for a long time that the two things such be kept separate at all costs, less you inherit the weakness/flaws of the OS model. The discussion was with Scott Lowe on twitter, and to be honest – I know Scott was pulling my leg (after all he made the move to EMC a while back), and joked how maybe I’d drank the VMwar$ Kool-Aid. Being man fitted with a sense a humour (something people occasionally loose sight of on twitter/facebook/forums…) I released Scott was pulling my leg. The truth was I wasn’t saying anything I wouldn’t have said as independent. But some saying this when you are an independent has more “credibility” in other peoples eyes, than when your affiliated to the vendor who share the same viewpoint. My message here for fellow independents is just how your current views can be dismissed by others as being a “fanboi” you will find folks will try to dismiss your arguments because “well, you would say that because you work for them”. Like it or not, unjust or not – its reality. And if you going to make the jump as I have done to vendorland, its something you will have just have to accept and live with. Hopefully, you will have enough respect and credibility in the community you operate in that folks who know you well, and have followed you for a while won’t think this – but folks who don’t know you that well or are new to you – they are likely to be skeptical regardless. Perhaps that’s good thing. In many ways I think I have to be more “honest” than when I was independent, because I’m conscious that if too fervently bang-the-drum for the VMware cause, that would be an enormous turn-off for my followers…

My other realization is how different the role is going to be in years time. Right now I’m a work-for-home guy who gets out and about with occasional VMUGs and customer meetings. But when we get to California next year, I will be turning up to CorpHQ on a daily basis. Yes, I know I could probably work from home a couple of days too. But a big part of me doesn’t want to do that. It seems weird to relocate 5,500 miles to then stay at home – I can do that from the UK already everyday. The move to California will mean going to work each day, swiping my way through security and sitting at my desk – a stones throw from Eric, Randy and Jenny. I’m already imagining how much more I can be a part of the team if I can just push back a chair and ask one of them a question about our software-defined networking strategy. Even with the marvels of modern technology that’s something I could do right now from my home office. As I type its 2.30am in the morning there!

So to summaries – my first 100 days have been great. But I still feel like I’ve got so much more to learn – not just from a technology pespective but for an organization perspective – and once I’ve done that, I will have the change of relocating to absorb as well. In many ways its good thing that I’m here working in the UK for while for making that change. A new job, getting married and moving to a new country is a lot to do – and having the time to make that adjustment is useful.