Tips, Habits & Grit – What Successful Engineers do to Advance their Careers

Hello #vCommunity friends. Today I’m going to share a presentation that I gave recently at the Atlanta VMUG UserCon event. This was originally going to be a joint presentation between myself and my good friend Ariel Sanchez. Due to a scheduling conflict though, Ariel was unable to attend so I made it my own. The premise is a simple one. What have we as engineers done over the years to be successful? What are some of the tips and tricks that we picked up over the years that we can pass on to you all?

This topic came about over a number of conversations that Ariel and I had over the years. I even had the bright idea of trying to turn it into a book at one point but life got in the way of that. At least that is the excuse that I am going with. I did however write a previous blog post on this topic, which you can find here: How To Be An Awesome IT Professional

This presentation however, is a more up to date version of that post.

The topics that I focused on are the ones that I find most important. This list may be different for you, but that’s OK. Although, if you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them. The topics that I covered are as follows:

  • Be Educated
    • Never Stop Learning
    • Get certified, for the right reasons
    • Know your role, and its expectations
  • Be Organized
    • Develop good habits and routines
    • Create and follow standards
    • Learn how to create and maintain documentation
    • Automate as much as possible
    • Leave a place better than you found it
  • Be Like Water
    • Adapt, improvise and overcome
    • Adopt a growth mindset
    • Be a failure and learn from it
    • Have a Plan B
  • Be Vulnerable
    • “I don’t know” is OK
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
    • Find a mentor(s)
  • Be a Detective
    • Learn troubleshooting skills
    • Knowing the answer is not as important as being able to find the answer
    • RTFM – Read the Friendly Manual
    • Create a blog and use it as your own personal help file
  • Be Approachable
    • Don’t be that person……seriously, they suck
    • Break out of your shell
    • Be uncomfortable
    • Try to find ways to say yes
    • Be a good teammate
  • Be Collaborative
    • You’re not alone
    • Share the knowledge
    • Train others
    • Be “social”
    • Participate
  • Be Dependable
    • If you say you’ll do it, DO IT!
    • Earn a reputation for getting things done
    • Always have integrity
    • Do the little things
    • Listen and W.A.I.T (Why am I talking?)
    • Give your full attention to others
    • Volunteer to help
  • Be The Business
    • Know what your business does
    • Know your role in the business
    • Take a business approach to technical challenges
  • Be A Mentor
    • Give back
    • Lead by example
  • Be Rested
    • You can’t be on all of the time
    • Time management is critical
    • Maintain a work/life balance
    • Don’t lose sight of what is important to you
    • Burnout is real
    • Be present
  • Be Relentless
    • Never stop improving
    • Keep learning
    • Ask questions
    • Be curious
    • Be your best self

Check out the slide deck below and please reach out to me at @NScuola on Twitter with your thoughts on what I covered. I hope that these tips are helpful in your career journey. I’m always willing to discuss this topic 1 on 1, to a group, over video chat, the phone, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, you name it. I’d love to get more of a discussion going around this topic as I think it is critical. If this is something that you’d like to see in a podcast or video form, let me know that too. Please enjoy, share and make my slide deck below your own. See you next time.

Tips, Habits & Grit – What Successful Engineers do to Advance their Careers

NOTE: We will be presenting this topic again at the #ChicagoVMUG UserCon on October 24th. If you’re going to be in Chicago, please come by Salon 8 at 4:15 PM and join in the discussion. You can register for the event here: Chicago VMUG UserCon 2019

Upgrade Your Technical Skills Using a Business Approach

It’s been a while since I posted but with #Blogtober kicking off, I figured that this was as good a time as any. Here’s a bit more about Blogtober itself straight from the source. Thanks for the Motivation Matt!

This is going to be a short post with some links to content. I recently got on stage at VMworld for the first time. I submitted a topic to the vBrownBag call for content around the importance of not only understanding the technical aspects of your career but also the business aspects.

This concept has been particularly eye opening for me especially in the last 5-10 years of my career. I was always technically sound and took pride in doing a great job in all that I set out to do but there was something missing. I wasn’t even aware of it at first. It wasn’t until I worked with someone who clearly knew the importance of knowing the business along with the technical that it finally clicked for me. I told this story during a Meet the Expert interview with @arielsanchezmor here (fast forward to the 12:15 mark for the story):

Long story short, how can you know how to architect a solution if you don’t know the business outcome that you are trying to solve for. That’s really what the point of this presentation was, I wanted to take the business oriented approach that I use and share it with all of you. Rather than trying to transcribe everything that I talked about, I’d rather just share the presentation with you.

Here is the recording of the VMworld presentation. A link to the slides can be found below.

POWERPOINT – Upgrade Your Technical Skills Using a Business Approach by Nick Scuola

The New RTFM

Most of you who come here know that I post A LOT about the #vCommunity. What you may not know is that I actually have a day job. Who would have thought? In between being a dad, and a husband, and a VMUG Leader in NYC, I’m also a Solutions Engineer for Zerto. I’ve been in this role for over a year and I love it. I really enjoy speaking to customers and learning different and innovative ways of doing things.

As part of this totally awesome gig, I get to talk to a lot of customers and prospective customers about their disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) plans and approaches. One of my favorite questions to ask is this:

“How many people went into IT to become a DR admin?”

I usually get crickets. Not because it’s a bad thing to be in BC/DR (I make a great living from it), but because it’s not a sexy job. It’s usually a task that gets dumped in your lap for legal or compliance reasons and it takes you away from the things that you WANT to do. It usually involved getting a whole bunch of different teams (Virtualization, Storage, Networking, DBAs, App/Dev, etc) involved and spending a few weeks (usually a few months) preparing for a test that is almost always done during a (holiday) weekend. Who the hell wants to work on the weekend? I sure don’t, that’s why I made the move to the vendor side but that’s a whole other story.

There’s one other component that I haven’t mentioned yet. Runbooks. Ugh. Just the thought of those things make me cringe. Who remembers or still uses those huge loose-leaf binders with hundreds of pages of step by step instructions that were written (and probably not updated) years ago. Once a year you would have to dust them off for instructions on how to recover your environment in the event of a disaster. Then you would have to go page by page with a bunch of other team members and hope that the system matches what is on the page.

You know what is really helpful with this kind of situation? The simple acronym RTFM. I come from the military and this acronym had a very simple meaning





That however, is the old RTFM.

Since working at Zerto, I’ve come up with a new meaning.













These are some of the essential functions that any IT Resiliency Platform should be able to provide you. By performing these functions, you’ll ensure that your workloads are protected, your data is intact, and your processes are valid. Let’s take a quick look at each of these functions:



This is the ability to restore your data. It could be restoring, or as we like to say resuming your VMs or applications. Or it could mean restoring files or folders from a point in time before a disruption.



Testing is probably one of the most important but also most overlooked operations when it comes to IT Resilience. Testing is how you know with great confidence that your systems will work when you attempt to get them back up and running. It’s a way to recover your VMs or applications in practice before having to do the real thing.



Failover is a misleading term. This is actually recovering your VMs or applications at the target site. Think of this as initiating your DR plan in a live scenario. If your production site becomes unavailable for whatever reason, this is how you recover your workloads and make your users happy again. Simply put, when you’re down, get yourself back up and running.



Zerto has a function called Move VPG which provides you with Application Mobility by migrating a Virtual Protection Group (VPG) to another location. (NOTE: A VPG is comprised of the VMs you are protecting) This could be moving to another storage platform, or another datacenter, moving from one hypervisor to another or even moving to, from or between cloud providers.


In order to have a complete IT Resilience platform, I believe you need to be able to perform all of these functions simply and consistently. Stay tuned as I will dive into each operation a bit more and how Zerto specifically performs each function.


The Importance of the #vCommunity – Part 2 – The Benefits

Hey everyone, it’s time for Part 2 in my #vCommunity series. Today I’m going to talk about some of the benefits that the #vCommunity can provide you as an individual.


You’re going to make friends.

I’m going to put this one first and foremost as it’s the most important aspect to me. You’re going to meet a lot of really good people. What is great about the #vCommunity to me is the fact that you’re meeting like minded individuals. I touched on this a bit during Part 1 of the series. Most of the people that I’ve come across that are involved in the #vCommunity participate because the genuinely want to be there. They are selfless and encouraging almost to a fault and always seem to be willing to lend a helping hand. To me, those are some of the most important qualities that I look for in my friends. I have been lucky enough to make a lot of friends in the #vCommunity that I plan on keeping for a very long time. It doesn’t just have to be people you meet in person, it could people you hardly ever or never meet that you talk to on Twitter. When people share a connection, it’s very easy for that to turn into a friendship.

Increased knowledge

You’re going to get smarter.

Whichever route you choose to engage in the #vCommunity, someone, somewhere is going to teach you something. It goes both ways too, you may teach someone else something. You’ll come across great training, blog posts, great speakers, study groups, hackathons, Git repositories, you name it. Once again, people will have a common goal and will look to work with others to get there. vBrownBag is a great example of #vCommunity members coming together to build awesome content that is by the #vCommunity and for the #vCommunity. Study groups have been pretty good to me in the past and I always try to share the knowledge whenever I can. You should too.

Career advancement

You’re going to get a better job.

Even if you love your job, there’s plenty of other ones out there. You may not have the skills today or have the right relationships to advance at your current spot but the #vCommunity can help with that too. The #vCommunity provides for awesome networking. Not the route/switch kind of networking but the LinkedIn kind. The more people you meet, the more relationships that you’ll build. Yes, skills are important to land a job but relationships are way more important. Having the right person recommend you for a position or even make you aware of a position is critical for landing the right job. Plus, having existing relationships at a company make the transition easier for everyone involved.


You’re going to teach someone else to be awesome like you.

I don’t know many people that have made it to where they are today without a little help or guidance. I for sure didn’t make it here alone. I’ve had a lot of great mentors along the way. Now that I am fortunate enough to have advanced in my career, I try to give back as much as I can. This is one of the main reasons that I became a VMUG Leader. It gives me the opportunity to meet new people and provide any guidance on how they can learn more about technology but also advance their careers. I’ve been through enough over the years that I’ve experienced lots of ups and a few downs as well. If sharing some of my experiences can influence others in a positive way than I’d be more than willing to do so. It’s also one of the reasons that I became of the Tech Level Up Project. I’d recommend checking it out. It’s just another way that you can give back to the #vCommunity. If you’re looking for a mentor, you just found one.

Improved public speaking

You’re going to talk to a room of people at some point.

This one may not be for everyone. I get it. Not everyone is comfortable getting in front of a room of people (especially a room of strangers) and speaking. That’s cool. You don’t have to be comfortable but it’s a great skill to have. It helps when you are comfortable presenting not only to your peers but to your management and customers as well. It takes practice and not everyone gets the opportunity to do it. I’m still learning how to be comfortable in front of a room. One of the best ways that I found to practice is to volunteer for a user presentation at a VMUG event or better yet, if your local VMUG does Whiteboard Meetings like we do at NYC VMUG, you’ll have the opportunity to get up and present to a smaller group of people to build your confidence and just get the repetitions in. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.


You’re going to get noticed.

Some people live for this stuff, whereas to others it’s still a little weird. There are different forms of recognition. It can come in the form of an award, such as vExpert, Cisco Champion, Microsoft MVP, etc. but this isn’t the only form. The most rewarding experience that I’ve had was when someone came up to me at a VMUG event and mentioned that my article on my certification experience helped them pass the test as well. Another great example is meeting someone that you’ve spoken to on Twitter at an industry event like VMworld or Re:Invent. It doesn’t have to be limited to #vCommunity recognition though. Sometimes your work in the #vCommunity will be recognized by your employer as well which will lead to getting paid more money. Last I checked, people usually like money. 🙂

As you can see, these are just a few of the many benefits that being part of the #vCommunity can provide you. I’m sure that I forgot a bunch but I’ll make sure to keep this updated as they come to me. In part three of this series I’ll dive a little deeper into VMUG and how you can get involved.

2017 – My Year In Review

Wow, a lot has happened in my life in 2017. A. LOT. I don’t even know where to start. I’m going to share my experiences with you all and hopefully inspire you all to do bigger and better things for yourselves in 2018. The easiest way to do this is going to be chronologically so I’ll do my best to keep these in order. It was definitely a year of firsts and new beginnings for me.

#1 (and most important) – Family

Last December I guess technically it was 2016 but since it was late December, I’m counting it. (My Blog, my skewed timeline. Ha!)

My wife Cara and I were fortunate enough to have another beautiful, healthy boy, Rocco Xavier Scuola. We just recently celebrated his 1st birthday. I don’t think the impact of this needs an explanation but I will say that definitely helped put things in perspective for me. My family is the biggest reason I do what I do and strive for success. They are the greatest motivation anyone can ever ask for. The support that they have given me over the years is unmatched and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.

#2 – vExpert Award


The year started off with a bang. I was award the title of vExpert by VMware for the first time. It is truly an honor to be on this list. It’s still surreal to me that I made the cut. I’ve already written a post about what it meant to me that you can find here.


Coming off being named a vExpert, things got even more exciting. My good friend Ariel Sanchez Mora and his lovely wife Amy decided to leave NYC for Pittsburgh. I was (and still am) sad to see them go. I wasn’t the only one though. Ariel was a co-leader of the NYC VMUG and left a HUGE void with his departure. The remaining co-leaders thought that I would be a good fit and asked it I would help out. I immediately accepted their gracious offer and I’m really happy that I did. We’ve done some amazing things in 2017 and 2018 is looking just as great. More on that coming up later.

#4 – Zerto


The hits just kept on coming after that. After years of being on the customer/partner side of IT, I decided to make the jump to the vendor side of things. Boy, am I happy that I did. I tell everyone that will listen that I should have gone into pre-sales years ago. Zerto has such an amazing culture and only hire top notch people. I’ve been using the product for over 3 years as a customer so it was an easy transition to an engineer role for me as I can speak from experience. Here is more about the move.

#5 – vExpert NSX Award


August was a big month for me as well. I was included in one of the vExpert sub-programs for NSX. I’ve been a fan of NSX for a long time. It’s nice to see that my contributions to the NSX community were recognized. It’s a great fit for nearly any VMware environment and works even better when the customer is using Zerto too. 🙂

#6 – vExpert


So I know what you’re thinking, I already talked about this. This time, I’m not talking about me though. This one is even more special because I was able to take someone under my wing and coach them on what they needed to become a vExpert. Best of all, THEY MADE IT! I was so proud. I still am. I literally did none of the work, I just aimed my friend in the right direction and answered the questions that came up during the process. This touches on something that has been discussed on Twitter a lot recently. Mentoring. It’s such an important part of all of our careers. If it’s not currently a part of yours, you should change that. It’s not just about being mentored by someone else, it’s about what you can do to give back. I’ll touch on this again in a few.

#7 – VMworld/VMUG Extra Mile Award

Going with the theme of firsts, 2017 was the first of hopefully many times that I was fortunate enough to attend VMworld in person. What made it even more special was the fact that the NYC VMUG was awarded the Extra Mile Award. We started doing Whiteboard Meetings in NYC with our members where we would dive deep into current technologies, projects we’re working on, home labs, etc. We presented the concept on a VMUG Leader Call and they thought that it warranted recognition. I was so proud to be there to accept in person.

VMworld itself was a blast as well. I learned a lot about what’s new and what’s coming next, I got to see a lot of my old friends that I haven’t seen for a bit and best of all, I was able to see my Twitter timeline come to life. Seeing people that I talk to on social media in real life was the best. I got to meet some people that I’ve only chatted with online, make some new friends and finally put some faces to names. There were also some awesome parties. I attended the Zerto party, the vExpert party and of course the closing party with Blink 182 which was nuts. I also got to take part in my first vBrownBag video. Overall, VMworld was an experience that I’ll never forget

#8 – vBrownBag

During my first NY/NJ VMUG UserCon as a co-leader, I was fortunate enough to do a lightning talk on the #vCommunity as the importance of it as a whole and also to me individually. I expanded on the talk in a blog post here (it will be part of a series) and the link to the video can be found here. I think vBrownBag is really important as it’s technology by the community for the community. The content is always fresh, current and focused on things that matter. I’m currently going through their API series to try and learn some automagic, errr, automation. 🙂

#9 – vExpert Cloud Award

My contributions to the community continued as the year went on. I was honored for a 3rd time to be named an inaugural member or the vExpert Cloud sub-program. I never would have guessed in the beginning of the year that I would end it as a triple vExpert.

#10 – #vCommunity/The Level Up Project 


I’m sure that you’ve seen a trend here. The majority of what I’ve talked about has been around the #vCommunity. I personally would not be where I am today if not for the help of others. I always try to do the same for others where possible. Whether, it’s sharing technical knowledge, giving career advice, or even trying to help friends find new jobs, I’ll do my best to provide assistance where I can.

That’s why I was drawn to the Level Up Project. It’s everything that I love about VMUG and the #vCommunity but it’s not just limited to VMware. Take a look at the website/Twitter and you’ll find the vTrail Map. This was an awesome resource I found at VMworld. It’s only going to get bigger and better next year. The people that are involved are really some of the top talent in the industry and I’m still wondering why they keep letting me hang around them. 🙂 Hopefully they never catch on.

2017 has been a phenomenal year for me and it’s going to be tough to top it but I’ll do my best. My focus for 2018 is going to be spreading the knowledge and helping to mentor anyone who’s looking for help. I won’t limit it to just technology as there are a lot of people out there that are much smarter than me. I can share career experiences in both large and small companies, as well as what being in sales is like now. If you’re looking to get more involved in the community, I know just the guys and gals that you should talk to. If I can help you, I will. That’s my promise to you.

I’d also like to say thank you to everyone who has helped me get where I am today and supports me everyday.

First off, my wife Cara. She’s the real MVP. None of this is possible without her love and support.

The NYC VMUG crew, you guys are the best. Not just the leaders but our regular whiteboard crew too. Ariel, Niran, Prabhu, Azarya, Anton, thanks for setting the bar so high and making me want to get better every day.

To my team at Zerto, thanks for showing me the ropes and making this an unbelievable experience so far.

To everyone in the #vCommunity, just keep being awesome as you inspire me to do better every day.

Happy New Year everyone! I’m really looking forward to what 2018 is going to bring us.


P.S. Bea Arthur was a Marine. 🙂

The Importance of the #vCommunity – Part 1

Back in September I did my first solo vBrownBag talk at the NY/NJ VMUG UserCon on the importance of the #vCommunity. Since that day I’ve wanted to translate and expand that discussion into a blog post. It was a lightning talk so I know that I missed a few things. The link to the video can be found here. I’ve been a bit busy with two little guys at home so this post has been a bit delayed but I’ve found new inspiration after reading a post from the great Rebecca Fitzhugh. Rebecca wrote about the #vCommunity as well, I’m not going to spoil it for you, you can read it for yourself (Hoping I make the cut next year!). So… of hands, who knows what the #vCommunity is?

Oh right. Blog post. Not a presentation. 🙂

So from my perspective, the #vCommunity is a collection of resources around the virtualization community. The most important of these resources is people. Community starts with people that are looking to share their experiences with others. I always say, why go it alone when you can roll with your buddies?

People aren’t just limited to the women and men that you have conversations with at a VMUG (More on VMUG later). People can be found in many different places, whether it’s online on a community forum such as VMTN, Reddit or Experts Exchange or on social media like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, there’s also Slack and the many groups there as well. People are eveywhere and they want to learn, teach and colloborate.

My personal favorite venue though is VMUG. I love the social interaction that I get going to these events. They usually involve discussions around technology that I am passionate about with a bunch of like minded individuals who speak the language. Now granted, I may be a little biased since I am a co-leader of the NYC VMUG. VMUG is a volunteer driven organization so the people that are organizing the meetings are doing it in their spare time because they want to be there. I’m actually going to elaborate on VMUG specifically in a later post.

Another great resource out there are blogs. You can learn everything you could ever want to know by using a friendly neighborhood search engine. Trying to deploy new software? Studying for a new certification? Can’t decide what gear to buy for your home lab? Someone has written about it, if not, you could. The thing that I love about blogs is that they are usually written by a person not a company. I love getting a perspective from people like me. Here are some of the resources that I use. I know that I’m forgetting some but it is not intentional, there are just too many good ones to list.

VMware Blogs Page, VirtuallyGhetto, Wahl Network, Ariel Sanchez’s Blog, TechnicloudVirtuallySoberVirtualHobbitPunching Clouds, Yellow Bricks

Blogs are great but they are mostly static. What if you’d like to have a conversation with someone? That’s where social media and online forums come into play. There are a ton of these as well. There’s old faithful: Twitter. There is also the VMware Technology Network (VMTN) which has a ton of resources for you to indulge on. Reddit is awesome as well, and there are also a ton of resources on LinkedIn. All of these sites and resources are great to reach out and talk to people that you can get direct, accurate answers from. I’m not talking about just the average admin either. Just take a look at #vExpert on Twitter. There are a ton of great blog posts as well as awesome conversations about current relevant topics.

There are some other great resources where you can not only learn a lot but talk to people just like you. Seek and ye shall find.

Forums – Reddit, GitHub, VMTN, VMUG communities, LinkedIn, Slack, etc.

Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, Slack

Podcasts – Datanauts, VirtuallySpeaking, vBrownBag, The Geek Whisperers, The Full Stack Journey

This is just the beginning of the journey. Being a parent, I hear the phrase, “It takes a village…” quite often. It’s true when it comes to raising kids but it can be applied to life and work as well. I spent six years of my life in the Marine Corps and it really was an amazing experience. The sense of community was so strong that you wind up embracing those around you as family. I find a lot of parallels between the Marine Corps and the #vCommunity. Everyone who takes part is there to lift one another up. When one of us dives into something, the rest of us give our support. Or when one of us is down because of a layoff, or a failed cert or whatever the case may be, we are all there to lift them up and make sure that they are not down for long. It’s a lot easier to succeed when you’re not trying to do everything by yourself.

I’m going to do my best to provide you with additional resources as well as my own personal experiences with the #vCommunity. In part 2 of this series I’m going to dive into the benefits of the #vCommunity and how it can help you in your career, the quest for knowledge or just meeting new, awesome people.

VMUG Whiteboard Meetings #VMUGWB

Recently, I was afforded the opportunity along with Mike Martino (@wildcard78), and Ariel Sanchez (@arielsanchezmor) to present on the latest VMUG Leader call. We were speaking about a topic near and dear to our hearts, that being Whiteboard Meetings. This is something that we started at the NYC VMUG with tremendous support from Niran Even-Chen (@NiranEC) and Prabhu Barathi (@prabhu_b) from VMware as well as Azarya Shaulov (@az_ny) from Touro College. Azarya was gracious enough to provide us with the space free of charge.

I’m sure that your next question must be, “What the heck is a Whiteboard Meeting?”. Well, I’m glad you asked.

This meeting is designed to be:


  • An informal and intimate technical meeting of NYC VMUG members with an emphasis on the QUALITY of the content.
  • A place where we could get together and share ideas about technology, projects, issues and learn from one another on the best way to move forward.
  • An opportunity to get in front of a room and work on your presentation skills. Not everyone is comfortable with public speaking and this gives our members a judgement-free forum to do so. We’re here to encourage one another
  • A safe zone free of sponsors or being bombarded by sales guys (We love you sales guys, we just need a little space). We welcome anyone to these meetings no matter where you come from as long as you are there to share ideas in a positive manner.
  • Most importantly, it’s not about free food or giveaways or anything like that, it’s about geeks being geeks and embracing the vCommunity.

So, how did it start? To quote Ariel, “At a bar, of course!


We were having a typical discussion about the VMUG Meeting we just had. You know what I’m talking about. After the meeting ends, there is that group of people that just can’t get enough and are super excited to talk to people who speak their language. They were just so blown away by the topic that they never want the discussion to end. Our conversation then morphed into how great the discussion we were having was. We said, “You know what? We should have more meetings like THIS!” In a nutshell, that’s how this idea began.

What’s next?

What do you need to get started with your own Whiteboard meetings?


  • A (few) Whiteboard(s) and dry erase markers. Duh.
  • A space that can hold 12 to 15 people. We try to keep these meetings a little smaller so that everyone has the ability to participate. If you can use a classroom-type space, even better.
  • Local product experts who would like join is usually very valuable for members who are looking for answers and insight. Having local VCDXs, VCAP, VMUG Leaders, vExperts, etc. participate is very helpful.
  • Someone to break the ice (a VMUG Leader, typically) and some relevant topics to discuss. (Current Technologies, New Product Releases, Home Labs, Automation examples, etc.)
  • If there is money available in your budget, try to order some take out for the group. A couple of pizzas is usually sufficient.


What advice can I give you?

  • Invite people that you think would appreciate it. This doesn’t have to be limited to virtualization admins. Bring co-workers. I’ve personally brought one of my network architects out and now he’s more involved with virtualization than ever before.
  • Be outgoing. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Remember, this is a judgement free zone where we are all trying to improve.
  • Do not limit conversation to just VMware, these meetings are about technology in general. VMware is usually the focus but related technologies are often discussed. We’ve spoken about networking, Public Cloud, AD, Email, Backups & Replication, you name it, it’s probably come up in some form or fashion.
  • Try to capture the session to a blog post with pictures to help promote the individuals presenting on social media and future vExpert applications. That usually helps bring more people to future meetings. We post under the hashtag #VMUGWB.
  • Try to have breakout Whiteboard Meeting at UserCons, or sponsor-driven VMUG Meetings
  • Have topic focused Whiteboard Meetings. Have a meeting around NSX, vSAN, VMware Cloud on AWS, you can even poll your members for topics that they’d like to talk about. Try to get your local VMware SEs to attend as well. You may even be able to catch a traveling SME if they are in town.
  • If you have the ability to do a video conference or a WebEx of some sort, go for it. I’ve actually taken advantage of this myself after the birth of one of my kids.


  • Try to really have an understanding of what people are looking to learn and why they are there. Make it as collaborative as possible. Try to bring in an expert on a particular subject if you keep hearing about it.
  • Keep the conversation going after the meeting ends. Go grab a beer and a bite afterward. Sometimes the shy ones that don’t get up and present will open up a bit more after a few cold ones.

With that said, I hope you try this out in your area. It tends to have a really positive impact on those who attend.

Here’s some feedback that we received from one of our attendees:

“The whiteboard sessions hosting by NYCVMUG community have been an excellent forum for engineering and architecture discussions.  Unlike larger conferences, the whiteboard sessions are small and each participant has an opportunity to present something – anything – to the room.

For myself, the WB sessions have been a great opportunity to accelerate VMware training, an opportunity to work through complex problems regarding production issues, lab infrastructures and vetting/sounding out future plans. 

Another big aspect for me personally is the ability to practice presenting in of itself.  Being small & unrelated to employers or vendors in combination with great community members, the sessions have help increase my overall confidence when standing before peers & colleagues.

Overall the WB sessions are a great experience. I look forward to attending more and seeing the concept grow beyond NYC.”

-Brendan Peterson (@petes_revenge)

I’m looking forward to hearing about Whiteboard Meetings all over the world. Hopefully, this catches fire and the vCommunity continues to grow.

If you have questions, we’re here to help. Feel free to reach out to any of us if you want more info. Our contact info is listed below. We can be reached through the vExpert Slack as well.

If you think that this could be helpful, let your local VMUG leaders know! We always announce these

A special thanks to Mike, Ariel, Niran, Prabhu, Azarya, Brendan and the whole NYC VMUG Whiteboard crew for building an awesome vCommunity and helping to make this such a success.

(Upgrade) Times are changing…..

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. It’s Monday morning, you open up your newsreader and there are 25 different articles about an exploit that has been found that is sweeping the net. It affects nearly 90% of systems out there. You know it’s only a matter of time until this news goes from being on the tech sites only to the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Once that happens, the alert level hits red. Now all of your C-Level execs are aware of the problem and someone is going to be calling you asking for a status update. If you’re Peter Gibbons, you may even have 8 different people calling you. Where do you go from here? In the old days, this would mean, any plans you had for that weekend were scrapped. You’d now have to coordinate outages with your application teams, IT staff, sometimes you’d even have to get your building’s security team involved. You’d also have to break the news to your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, kids, or whoever that you may not see them again until Tuesday (assuming that all goes well). Then you get to go through this scenario:
  • Planning and executing the downing all of your affected DEV/TEST systems.
  • Preemptively opening cases with your vendors in case you run into an issue (you would hate to get stuck in the queue without a case number while your systems are down)
  • Downloading and applying the patches to fix the vulnerability.
  • Bringing all of said systems back up and running.
  • Contacting all of your applications owners once the systems are back up and having them test all of the applications.
  • Squeeze in a phone call to your loved ones asking about how life is on the outside.
  • Notifying all of your users that the systems are back up and running and that now regular weekend work can commence.
  • Once all of this is done, and you’ve verified that everything is OK and there are no issues, you can now plan to do the same thing to your Production systems. YAY! That usually means another weekend down the toilet.
Many times, some of the pain involved with this type of maintenance can be lessened through mechanisms like vMotion, Exchange DAGs, and clustered systems in general. Typically, you patch each of the secondary nodes in the cluster, then you patch the primary node and you’re good to go. This process of upgrading different cluster nodes can take hours depending on the size of your environment and requires total concentration and focus. If you run into an issue during a failover, you’ll be happy you opened that support case.
Why do I bring all of this up? Traditionally, the one system that usually has the biggest issues during this kind of upgrade/update scenario is your storage environment. Especially if you are on legacy storage for one reason or another. In most cases that I have seen, storage code upgrades are completely ignored unless absolutely necessary. I can see why people make that argument. If your storage goes down, especially in a small to medium sized shop, EVERYTHING goes down. This scares the pants off of a lot people, with good reason. They would rather take the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” approach of yesteryear. Nobody wants to run into those kinds of problems and lose their weekends because of storage issues. This kind of thinking leads to rolling the dice and hoping that the storage environment will just keep on chugging along and that no one will exploit the vulnerabilities that are out there. I think this model is changing in storage though, along the same lines that the break/fix mentality was replaced with a proactive approach. IT departments are getting more sophisticated and are looking to get everything patched and protected BEFORE someone tries to exploit the vulnerabilities. 
What if you, the IT engineer, could avoid those sleeping in the office kind of issues and get your weekends back? Who would say no to that? As I’ve written about in the past, I’ve been a customer of Pure Storage for about two and a half years now. I started out on an FA-320 array, I’m currently using their FA-400 series and I’m getting ready to start playing with the FlashArray//m as soon as it arrives. One of the things that sold me on Pure Storage was the Non-Disruptive Upgrade (NDU) capabilities for both the software and the hardware of the array (you can see a demo of their NDU here). I’ve gone through almost every iteration imaginable. I’ve done code upgrades (both minor and major revisions), I’ve added additional shelves of disk, I’ve gone from 300 series to 400 series controllers, you name it and I probably done it. The one similarity in every upgrade was that it happened like they said it would happen. No downtime, no performance degradation, no idea that it was happening from a user perspective. They were all quick, seamless, and pain free. They also happened during the week (we played it safe and did them on Friday evenings for our Production units) but on Saturday morning I was home playing with my little boy which is what I care about most.
As I said earlier, this approach appears to be the new status quo. Many other vendors besides Pure Storage are trying to follow suit. EMC has stated that they now support NDU’s (although I’m not sure that is the case for different hardware versions). Other vendors such as Solid Fire and Nimble also support NDU’s. This is a direction that I think everyone in IT welcomes. Being able to provide services quickly to the end user without disturbing their workflow is the goal of nearly every IT staff. This new model greatly increases the success rate of achieving that goal. Pure Storage has gone one step further and changed the typical storage lifecycle model around this principle when they launched Evergreen Storage. The belief is that forklift upgrades will go the way of the dodo bird and you can just replace individual components when needed. Your maintenance never increases (unless you add capacity). Your storage system can stay the same for as long as you need it too saving you tons of money in the long run while also providing you with a solid foundation to house your infrastructure on.
If other systems start following suit and rethink how we look at system lifecycles, the end result can be great for IT Admins. What if it was as easy to upgrade the code on your core switches and routers as it is to upgrade an app on your iPhone? What if said code could be upgraded FROM your iPhone while you’re sipping margaritas on a beach somewhere (just don’t drink too many until the upgrade is done)? What if upgrading your email servers wasn’t a 6 month project? Whether it’s PC refreshes, server upgrades, or application upgrades, a pain-free process is something everyone would welcome and what we currently strive for as IT pros. It’s nice to see that not only can we make end users’ lives easier, I think it’s time that we make our own lives easier as well. Don’t we as IT admins deserve the same level of happiness and time away from the office as our users do? I sure think so. I think you all would agree with me. It’s nice to see that vendors like Pure Storage share that same vision and are doing something to achieve it.

How To Be An Awesome IT Professional

I bet a lot of you are reading this and saying to yourself, “I’m already an awesome IT Professional!” You know what? You’re right! The fact that you would read something to try and better yourself even though you’re already awesome is one of the many things that makes you awesome. For some of the newbies to the field or the ones that may find themselves in a rut, or even those that just want to get to the next level of their careers, this guide is for you.
What makes an awesome IT Professional? How can you spot one? How can you become one? How can you tell if you’re going in the other direction? Here are some of my tips for being an awesome IT Professional.
I’m not saying you need to be a nag or that annoying telemarketer from Sirius XM who keeps calling you to renew the free subscription you got when you bought your car. Being relentless is about looking at your career as a lifelong quest to improve yourself. Keep on learning. Read blogs. Build home labs. Take and pass certification exams. Join user groups. Do whatever you can to learn everything about your field. I look at it this way, whenever someone on my team has a question or can’t figure out how to do something, I want them coming to me first for an answer. Better yet, I want to have an answer to give them. No one has all the answers but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to learn as many of them as you possibly can. Try to be the best you can be both professionally and personally. Never stop pursuing your goals. It’s never too late to get there.
I can’t emphasize this one enough. You don’t need to be super anal but you need to be close to it. Document everything that you can. If you’re rolling out a new application, have all of the IP’s and spreadsheets done before hand so you’re just reading off a prepared list. When an issue comes up you don’t want to be fumbling for information. You want it to be easy to find and intuitive. Uniformity in your environment goes a long way in this regard. If you have multiple sites and your gateway has a similar IP at each location it takes some of the guesswork out of troubleshooting. It also makes things easier for new employees to get up to speed if your environment is set up logically. Use tags, use Organizational Units, put descriptions on your router interfaces. It may be more work up front but in the long run, it will help you exponentially. This goes for your day to day work too. Organize your email into folders, use contacts, do all of the things that you know you SHOULD do but probably aren’t. Keep notes when issues arrive so you have something to refer back to if it pops up again. The best IT Professionals do the majority if not all of these things.
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
― Bruce Lee
Those of you who get the reference probably know where I’m going with this. This has been a common theme in my life. You should be able to adapt to any situation that arises quickly and easily. A similar motto is used in the Marine Corps. Adapt (improvise), and overcome. Most IT Professionals will deal with an end user or customer in one way, shape or form. Every user is different. Every user has a different personality and you’ll have to adjust to the personality that you are faced with. Some are pleasant to deal with, some can be complete and total nightmares. You’re not going to know at first until you are faced with the situation. The same goes for selling to a customer, you’re not going to know how to approach a customer until you hear what their situation is currently and where they are trying to get to. Once you have a clear understanding of what they are dealing with, you’ll better know how to assist. Be water, my friend.
A lot of IT troubleshooting comes down to identifying a problem and resolving it as quickly as you can. A particular issue may come up but have more than one reason for why it is occurring. Take for example a user not having internet access. This could be DNS related, it could be a bad cable, it could be a bad network device, or it could be a problem with the ISP. You’ll need to find a way to go through all of the possible causes and come up with a resolution while keeping an open mind that every situation is different and may require different troubleshooting methodologies. You may not know the answer at first and you may need to do a little detective work to find the solution. How do you know where to look? This comes with experience, every IT Professional has their own way of doing things but one things mostly everyone share is the use of Google. As an IT Professional you will spend countless hours searching through KB articles, blogs and obscure tech websites searching for the one page that someone created after going through the same mess you’re going through. Once you have a good way of troubleshooting any problem can be resolved. Knowing the answer is sometimes less important than being able to find the answer. No one has all the answers.
This one is often overlooked. How many of you know of a super smart IT Professional who always knows what the issue is but they are a complete pain in the ass to deal with? Almost as if you’re being a horrible person for asking them to their job. I’m not going to lie. This was me for a few years there. I was a nightmare. I just wanted to sit in the air conditioned datacenter and pound away at all the project work I could find but I didn’t want to interact with anyone. It may have been all of the years of support that chipped away at me, I don’t know. At the end of the day though, it was counter-productive. You need to build relationships to be successful. Whether it’s with your end users, management, your vendors, or your peers. At some point, you’re going to need help in procuring equipment, a reference, or even a new job. This also goes for managers. You want your employees to be able to come with you with issues, ideas or general concerns while having the feeling that they can have a constructive conversation. Building relationships with those around you will help you find answers in situations where looking for them yourself is not working. It will also grow your network for years and years to come.
Unless you are in the smallest of companies, you work with a team. You all have similar (if not the same goals) so why not pool your resources? If you are strong in a particular area and you know that one of your comrades is not, bring them up to speed. Sit down with them and try to explain as much as you can. Cross train with each other. If you know virtualization and the person next to you knows networking, you can both be two-trick ponies. It will also help give you different perspectives on technologies that you may not have had before. In the end you’re only as strong as your weakest link. If your team is strong, you all look good. If one person isn’t, the same holds true. You ALL look bad. I’ve found them some of the best relationships I have to this day are with people that I worked side by side with for months and months collaborating, sharing ideas, and discussing the task at hand with. Some people out there take the opposite approach and like to horde knowledge and info like a pack rat. What happens when they are not there? If you’re the only one who knows something and you go on vacation, guess who’s getting a phone call on the 4th tee. Yep. No one likes getting work calls on vacation. If everyone on your team is in the loop though, you won’t be getting a phone call because the issue will be resolved before it gets to that. Everybody wins.
As I mentioned earlier, I hit a point a few years back where I wasn’t the greatest person around. I can look back on that time now and realize that I was burned out. I was working crazy hours, I was working on multiple projects and I was re-certifying a bunch of my certifications all at the same time. That translates to not a lot of sleep and a level of irritability seen only in garbage cans on Sesame Street. One of the things that really helped me was when I realized that there are only so many hours in a day. You’re not going to finish everything you set out to do every single day. You need to manage your time wisely and learn how to prioritize your tasks. This will go a long way to ensuring that you are productive while not hitting the wall because you tried to do too much all at once.
These are just a few of the guidelines that I’ve used in my career. If you already do some or all of these things you’re probably already awesome. No matter how great you already are you can always improve. Not just in IT but in life as well. The journey is a marathon, not a sprint. BE AWESOME TODAY!!
I’m sure you all have even more great ideas that I’m forgetting or I just didn’t think of BE COLLABORATIVE and share them with the group. 🙂 As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged. Thanks for reading.