Don’t Look Back in Anger – A Review of My 2019

It has been quite a tumultuous year for me. So many things have happened – both good and bad. In hindsight, I had some great moments and some not-so-great moments. Let’s recap some of the major stuff.

VMUG Leader Summit – February

I had the opportunity to attend the VMUG Leader Summit for the second time this year. The Leader Summit offers VMUG Leaders an opportunity to spend a few days at VMware Headquarters learning and getting energized for the coming year. There’s a ton of opportunity for VMUG Leaders here: the VMware campus is beautiful, VMware flies in a ton of their top talent and content creators, and, maybe the best part, Leaders are afforded the ability to interact with 100+ other Leaders from around the globe.

Having been to my first Leader Summit last year, I was fully prepared to dig in super deep and suck the marrow from the bones of this years’ gathering. I had a great time at the reception hanging with some other Leaders. Unfortunately, my enjoyment was short-lived. As the following day started, I received a startling early morning phone call about some things taking place at work. It was a very uncomfortable, unnerving day that, in all honesty, had a drastically negative impact on my time at the Leader Summit. As a result, I felt that I wasn’t able to participate. I felt obligated to try to be there for my team in a time of need. It was not the time away from work that I had hoped for.

In the end, the support I received from fellow Leaders and friends at the Summit was more than I could have asked for. Many were willing to lend an ear or offer advice and support. It made a difficult time much less difficult.

vRealize Automation 8.0 Beta – April

In April, a coworker and I were invited to New York City to participate in one of a few vRealize Automation 8.0 Beta events. There were a handful of the events across the world. I was very surprised with the support provided by VMware. My coworker and I were two of approximately twelve customers in the room with at least an equal number of VMware employees. VMware had supplied another ten or twelve people online for a total of around a 2:1 VMware-to-Customer ratio.

This was an awesome two-days of vRA 8 deep-dive. While we’re a tiny vRA shop, one of the primary reasons was that vRA didn’t easily cater to developers. That made this Beta an interesting and eye-opening experience. I learned that vRA 8.0 is a complete re-write of the product which is mostly just the on-premises version of Cloud Automation Services (formerly Project Tango). Mostly gone is the influence of Dynamic Ops on the product as a whole.

I can’t stress how excellent the support and the discussions had at this Beta were. VMware made sure that every opinion was heard and that all thoughts shared would be taken into account for the final release of the product. I had a great time with my coworker talking about how the changes were better for developers (coworker = developer). That said – I couldn’t shake the feeling that vRA 8 very rapidly abandoned the infrastructure admin in lieu of catering directly to the developer. I’m positive that the change is necessary, but it feels abrupt.

If I had to reflect on myself here, I think I’m frustrated that I’m not ready to use vRealize Automation 8.0. I fell behind on the journey to create infrastructure as code and learn about CI/CD pipelines (I know how they work, but have no experience using them). Stay tuned – there will probably be a blog post about that coming in due time.

Acquisition Announcement – August

The day before I left for VMworld, VMware announced their intent to acquire Carbon Black. I was in the data center when I heard the news. For the last three years, I have been responsible for running all things VMware at Carbon Black. That includes all of Production (vSphere, Horizon, and a small vRA deployment) and Engineering (vSphere and attempts to utilize vRA) environments. All of that responsibility even gave me an opportunity to lend my thoughts and ideas to our Marketing department regarding the Carbon Black integration with AppDefense (I made the demo for VMworld 2018!). To have the announcement made only days before VMworld was something special.

The announcement was both exciting and nerve-racking. On the one hand, I had been theorizing for a while about how the two companies could have an even tighter partnership than just AppDefense and the WorkspaceONE Trust Network. I had a vision of self-healing applications protected with AppDefense/CB Defense which automatically healed via provisioning operations with vRA/vRO similar to Amazon GuardDuty. I still want to attack that! I think it can happen with a little bit of work, I just need to put it together. The vCenter Event Broker Appliance will make that easier, I think.

On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that VMware might not need another vAdmin. It seems like they might have that role covered. Add to it that I’ve never been through an acquisition before. For me, this is just like having the new job jitters except I didn’t apply for a position nor was I chosen out of a group of applicants – the entire company was hired immediately and I have no real idea if VMware actually wants me. Time will tell – I’m willing to accept that part of those uneasy feelings are Impostor Syndrome at an inconvenient time to be suffering from it.

Maybe it was because it just happened to be VMware that made the announcement, but at the end of the day I felt like all of my hard work and personal sacrifice had paid off. While I had guidance from some really, really smart and talented individuals, I felt like I made an impact. It just felt good to feel like a part of something that big.

VMworld 2019 – August

Attending VMworld after the acquisition announcement was very surreal. It felt as if it might be my last VMworld. I suppose it could be. It was also my first time in San Francisco. I felt that it was really difficult for me to participate this year. I don’t know if it was because I was unfamiliar with the event layout or because of the announcement of the intent for my company to be acquired, but something felt off. The Day 1 announcements were exciting. All of the content was there ready for the learning, but something still didn’t feel right to me. I’ll chalk it up to unease.

By the end of the event, I had spent a ton of time with friends I’ve made in the virtualization community which is all that really mattered. I spent some time with fellow VMUG Leaders at the VMUG Leader Lunch and VMUG members at the VMUG Member Party. I got to hang out with people that I don’t regularly see at the Carbon Black booth in the Solutions Exchange. There was an awesome turnout for the vExpert Party where I got to meet a bunch of the people I look up to in the industry. Bonus – I took more than my share of time with Pat. After seeing my Carbon Black lanyard, he had some encouraging words to say about the future.

vExpert_Party_2019.jpg
Photo Credit: Dan Barr

The saddest part about all of this is that I saw more of my good friends Steve and Matt at VMworld that I do when we’re at home. It took the three of us flying a few thousand miles to hang out. I realize now that we need to change that.

VCIX-DCV 2018 – September

I had signed up to take the VMware Certified Professional – Deploy 2019 exam at VMworld as part of my VMworld Registration package. I can’t pass up the offer to take 50% off of the exam costs. No more than a day or so after signing up to take the exam, I received an email indicating that there would be no lab-based (re: Deploy) exams administered at VMworld. Instead, I was given a voucher that needed to be consumed in the two weeks that followed the event.

I’ve already written an entire post about the exam experience. It was intense. This was a major achievement for me as I continue to battle Impostor Syndrome and prove to myself that I really do know what I’m doing sometimes. I’m of the impression that if I take the Design Exam a second time, I’ll have VCIX upgraded to 2019. I understand why that’s the case, but admit I’m a little disheartened by it. It’s perfectly fine – goals for 2020!

Boston VMUG UserCon – September

love the Boston VMUG events. The UserCon is always exciting to see several hundred people gather together for the love of VMware technology. It’s fun to check in on some of my local friends and VMUG Members to hear how their projects are going and how they’re traversing the journey through the VMware product portfolio. It’s awesome to see when people are leveling themselves up and turning back to give to the community that helped them. There is very little that energizes me more than seeing so many people talking shop and working through problems.

During the event, I had an opportunity to sit in on the VCDX Workshop that was hosted during the second part of the day. This gave me some insight on what to expect if I really do with to continue on the certification path and earn my VCDX. I’m still not sure whether I’m qualified for it or not and am still gauging my interest in pursuing it. Maybe 2020 is when I start writing about the design…

The Heavy Stuff

If you’ve read this far, it sounds like it’s been a pretty good year. One of the reasons that I wanted to write this post was to force myself to look back on the year and see all of the good that came out of it. It’s time for a short bit on the negative stuff – followed by my favorite on-going project this year to round out with some goodness!

Truth be told, this was a very hard year for me. I allowed work to consume me when I was uneasy. Putting my head down and getting work done makes me feel better. Except I did that far too often and dug a hole for myself. There was a lot of change this year. I loved picking up responsibilities. I loved being the person that people turned to for answers. I loved teaching those people how to find those answers. All of that made me feel important while at the same time put an immense pressure on me to be almost omnipresent.

Looking back over more than just 2019… I put an undue amount of pressure on myself to perform and to help drive my team to success. I made some decisions that have had an adverse effect on my health. I don’t think I’ve ever been as stressed as I was in 2019. I’ve got more grey hair than ever. I’ve never weighed more than I do now. I have some hard times coming to be introspective and fix some of those wrong decisions. I’m OK with it – this is a part of growth.

A Project I’m Proud Of – All of 2019

At the tail end of 2018, I delivered vRealize Automation to a subset of the company to help them provide better support to our customers. Every customer and every environment is different. The delivery of this project allowed some (if not all) of the team to stop using the handful of local VMs they had built and offered a significant increase to the variety of what they could deploy.

While the launch of the platform closed the official “project” that had been on a Jira board, ongoing support of the environment was something that I would have to continue doing. At the initial release, I made a video to highlight all the new capabilities that my coworkers could use. I gave a bit of a long-term road map of where I felt I could steer the project in time.

I really enjoyed the fanfare of making that video and using it to share with the team, so I kept doing it whenever I had some new functionality. Videos were approximately five minutes in length and showcased whatever changes had transpired since the last video. I certainly didn’t add any “groundbreaking” new use-case for vRA. At most, I cleaned up some code, made a few new things available, and fixed stuff that I had broken to begin with.

While that might not be the greatest of examples, I continue to be proud of my work for that team and continue to enjoy the challenges they bring me for the next “release.” I’m happy to have ownership of the project as I’ve found it to be both challenging and rewarding.

 

If you’ve made it this far – sincere thanks for sticking around and reading all that. What’s a project that you worked on that you were proud of this year? Here’s to looking forward to 2020 – Happy New Year!

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