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

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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.

#3 – NYC VMUG

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

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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

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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

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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 

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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.

Nick

P.S. Bea Arthur was a Marine. 🙂

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:

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  • 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!

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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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.