I have been a VMUG Leader in Rochester NY for 5 years, and recently became a leader of two other groups, Syracuse, and Capital District which collectively covers a large portion of Upstate New York. Did I mention that I love being involved in my local communities?
At its basics, VMUG leaders coordinate the activities for their local VMUG communities and being a leader is an amazing opportunity to give back, build awareness of VMware products, while building your resume and sharing your knowledge. The requirement to become a VMUG leader is that you must be a VMUG member and serve in a technical role with a VMware Customer Company. VMUG is a global organization as you will see from this blog.
Being in this role for sometime now, I decided to reach out and talk with leaders from around the globe to get an idea of what they thought it means to be a VMUG leader and gain some insights into how they run their groups. If you are a current VMUG member looking to become a leader and are wondering what is involved, I hope to answer any questions you may have within this blog.
I have a passion for technology, and for VMware technologies to be more specific. Joining VMUG as a leader has been a great opportunity for me to take my love for VMware products, and have a platform to evangelize within my communities along with the social aspect of it.
I love bringing technologists together to build a strong technical community, and I always think about the collective knowledge we have as a community, and how we can utilize that to help us through the projects we find ourselves working on.
Think about it, you attend a VMUG on a subject like VDI, because you are working on a VDI initiative at work, and now have an opportunity to gain some knowledge along with making local connections with other technologists that are working on the same project or have completed their own project. That is what's great about attending local meetings, you can learn from others or step up to assist others within your community. Of course, this is only one aspect of the benefits of joining VMUG as a member or a local leader.
One of my colleagues at Rolta Advizex runs a very successful VMUG in Cleveland, Ohio. Patrick Stasko works as a Solutions Architect and like me has a passion for technology. I decided to reach out to him to discuss being a VMUG leader.
I started out asking him about why he became a VMUG leader and his response was similar to my own. Patrick said, "I wasn’t filling fulfilled or challenged in my current role at the time. I recently moved back to Cleveland for a new opportunity and I was trying to determine which way can I make an impact. In my quest to wrap my arms around the Cleveland’s IT Community, it lead me to the Cleveland VMUG community which was going through some troubles. I’m passionate about people and technology. This is a perfect platform for both of those."
That passion for technology and community seems to be a resounding theme that I found when talking with leaders for this interview and really hit home with my own experience too. This was also true for another leader I interviewed, Valdecir Carvalho from São Paulo, Brazil.
When I asked him the same question Valdecir responded, "First of all, VMUG it's all about community and I’m a community lover. I'm from São Paulo, Brazil and when I first heard about VMUG I've rushed to vmug.com to look for a São Paulo chapter and that place was dead. Then I start to talk to some other friends and vendors to find out why, but long story short I sent a mail to VMUG HQ and applied. And I'm really glad I did!"
There are some great benefits to becoming a VMUG leader and for me, one of those benefits is exposure to the communities I lead, as a thought leader within the industry.
I also spoke with the New Jersey VMUG Leader, Ben Liebowitz and he mentioned that, "It has gotten me many more contacts in the community, all over the world!" That is so true and I have also experienced this. As stated above, VMUG is a global community and because of that you can meet other technologists from around the globe.
VMUG has many opportunities to connect with and get to know other leaders from around the globe, like through the VMUG site. Each group has its own community page where we can come together to share knowledge and discuss VMUG, along with other opportunities. VMUG also has online event meet-ups and opportunities, along with events like the annual VMworld members party, and Leaders meet-ups at VMworld. VMworld is also a great place to gain knowledge and meet our local leaders at the VMUG booths located throughout VMworld.
As mentioned there are many benefits to becoming a VMUG leader. I asked Patrick what he thought was the benefit and he said, "The biggest impact is the rapid ability to connect and network within the local community and other VMUG circles across the world. I especially enjoy and look forward to the VMUG activities at VMworld. " As mentioned already, connecting at VMworld is another great benefit not only to leaders but to all members. Some other advantages or benefits are things like, receiving a VMUG Advantage subscription.
VMUG Advantage is the best way to gain the technical skills to accelerate your success with exclusive access to VMware applications and discounts on training, certifications, VMworld registration and more! You are also given access to the EVALExperience, which gives you exclusive access to 365-day evaluation licenses for a selection of VMware solutions, for personal use in a non-production environment and includes these products:
This leads me to how we run our local groups. I have found that most leaders run their groups in very similar fashions but that we all learn from each other. When I asked the leaders how they run their local groups, Valdecir replied, "I do not run it alone. I'm happy to have other leader who is a great partner and together we are doing our best to make VMUG more and more relevant to our members. VMUG São Paulo, is a new group, we have "revamped" the group 8 months ago, so we are still learning from others Leaders, from VMUG HQ and most of the time, discovery things by ourselves by trying and error. Also, our focus is our members, so we try to hear what they want, what they need and they feedback, so we can improve our chapter more and more."
Of course talking wth Patrick, he has taken is skills as a Solution Architect and really formalized how his group is run as you can see from the layout he created below.
One of the challenges we have as a leader is how we drive attendance to the meetings and grow our groups. I use things like social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I can setup my groups and send out information about events along with utilizing marketing features from Facebook to bring awareness to the communities I lead.
Every leader has their own challenges which can be things like location as Valdecir mentions, "It's difficult, mostly because VMUG and other technology groups are not so well deep in our culture. First of all, we are trying to get people understand what VMUG is, what are the VMUG values and benefits. We choose to start small and delivery only the best, so when people realize what VMUG is and start to talk about it things will be easy."
Another example from Patrick was, as he mentions utilizing VMware. Patrick mentions that "The local VMware TAMs and SEs have done a terrific job relaying meeting information to their customer base which has been a game changer." I have found this to be helpful too and always make it a point to invite VMware to our events.
Choosing topics for our events is arguably the most important thing you can drive as a leader. It is imperative to listen to what is happening in the industry and to your members and as Patrick mentions, "We encourage the community to provide topic ideas. We make our best attempt to listen and provide a platform for those topics. Our leadership and ambassador weigh the agenda, location, costs, potential attendance reach and sponsor into consideration determining whether that topic idea has the ability to convert to a formalized meeting."
Standing out from other technology groups within our communities is always a challenge. Technologists only have so much time to pick which events they can attend due to time restraints and time away from work. Patrick mentions that, "Within the VMUG circles, I believe we were one of the first groups to develop our own brand & logo. Secondly, we created software (http://github.com/tkrn/pivmugc) for all VMUG communities to use upon meetings to help track check ins, attendance, reporting and printing of name tag labels." As you can see Patrick has been busy and this is driven from his love for technology and community.
The last point I want to discuss is why you as a technologist should care about VMUG. The resounding response from the interviews was that VMUG is about community and as Valdecir mentioned, "VMUG is all about people. Be part of and care about VMUG is a great opportunity to learn and get connected with other people from the industry. It's a chance to meet new people, learn, teach, hire someone, find a new job, be promoted in your current job, make new friendships for life, and the list goes on."
If you are interested in becoming a VMUG Leader or a VMUG member I have posted some resources below. I highly recommend getting involved and if there isn't a VMUG in your local community, think about starting one.
Thanks to all the VMUG leaders that participated in this blog.