Saturday, June 15, 2013

Entering the Field of Virtualization

So here I am, a college graduate! The big day came and went, now what? How do I continue to prepare myself for a career in virtualization and information technology? How do I take that next step? Reality hits you pretty quickly once the ceremony is over. I am already preparing for the VCP exam, continuously reading anything that could end up being remotely useful in my future, but really, all this prep work is so broad. I thought to myself, to get a better handle on what I should be preparing for and what to expect I should speak to professionals already in the field. 

Enter Brian Kirsch and Adam Bergh. Seven and five years in virtualization respectively, Brian currently teaches Emerging Network Technologies at MATC after working for Children's Hospital and Fiserv, and Adam is a Senior Datacenter Engineer at Netech Corp. The list of certifications between both of them is long and impressive, from MCSE & CCNA to VCP & NetApp to vExpert & Masters level education. To be honest, I couldn't do these guys justice without listing every certification they hold. I asked them both first five questions that came to my mind.

As I am working to enter the field, I wondered how these two got their start, so I asked what was their first experience with virtualization and how their careers began. Adam's first experience with VMware was Workstation back in 2002, and from that moment he knew big changes in information technology were coming. In 2008 he changed careers as an engineer and dove right into datacenter consulting. Like a lot of people, Brian started as a Systems Administrator and encountered Microsoft virtual technologies, but really got deep into ESX / GSX with Fiserv.

Now that I had an understanding of how they encountered virtualization technologies, the next question I had was as virtualization professionals, what traits or skills do you feel are necessary to succeed in the field? "Flexibility and a open mind to multiple solutions." according to Brian Kirsch. He went on to say "Virtualizing something is not always the correct solution. VMware and other tools are just that you have to know how to use and even use a bit outside what they are designed for to provide the solution to the customer". Adam's thoughts really spoke to my style and work ethic. He said "It sounds cliché, but the most important trait to have in this industry is a thirst for knowledge. Technology in this industry is constantly changing, and it takes someone who is willing to constantly be studying, reading, and communicating with industry leaders so stay on top of the emerging tech."

So at this point I feel like I'm on the right track. Reading, studying, watching training videos, using Twitter and blog posts to learn and network about virtualization, I am trying to take in as much knowledge as I can. My next thought was what advice to an aspiring IT professional could they offer? Don't get stuck in a vendor rut according to Brian, his advice was "Be open to everything coming, do not dedicate to a single vendor but embrace all of the technologies." The sentiment was shared by Adam, "The best advice I could give is to try and catch on with a solutions partner and integrator of one of the leading technology firms in this industry. (Cisco, VMware, Microsoft, EMC, NetApp, Dell, HP, etc)." He added "Your education is massively accelerated by seeing different solutions, implementations, projects, etc, rather that trying to do in-house IT for a customer of VMware, Microsoft, etc." There was one more point that Adam made that really sticks out in this job climate. His advice, " Don't be afraid to start small. Be an intern if you have to as a way to get in. Find the best engineers and shadow their every move. Stay up all night reading and building scenarios in labs." Not being afraid to start small is huge now more than ever. I've met with technical recruiters and a common theme is that job seekers are not willing to start at the bottom and work their way up. My stance has always been just get my foot in the door, whether it's re-installing operating systems, setting up workstations, or answering help desk phone calls, I'll let my skill set, knowledge, and work ethic propel my career upwards. 

To close out the interviews I asked for any final thoughts. Adam suggests keeping an eye to the future, "This is one industry where someone new to the industry can come in and compete with seasoned professionals who have been doing this for years. The reason is the constant change in the industry and the new technologies that arrive and seemly shake the industry every few years. Cloud technologies begin the most recent example. The next example the coming SDDC (Software Defined Datacenter) revolution that is threatening to completely change that way datacenters are designed and deployed." And Brian put it simply, "It's a fun ride that never slows down..."

What are your thoughts? Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below, on my Google+ page, or on Twitter, my handle is @ExploreVM. Also, if you would like to be interviewed for future blog posts, message me directly.