VMware's vExpert program started in 2009 and is still growing in members and recognition within the industry. I earned vExpert status for the last three years, so I'll break down what the program is, how to earn a membership and what my own personal experiences with the program have been like.
What is the vExpert program?
VMware describes the vExpert title as going to "individuals who have significantly contributed to the community of VMware users over the past year." These titles go to individual people, not employers, and candidates for the vExpert program have to be committed to sharing passion and knowledge for VMware technology -- more than what's required to do their jobs.
The vExpert program is not a technical certification and does not require you to be the most proficient VMware user in the world to earn it. While there are plenty of smart people in the program, a lot of other vExperts get nominated due to their enthusiasm for and support of VMware over the years.
How can you earn status?
There are three possible paths to earning access to the vExpert program. These paths allow people from different parts of the ecosystem who are passionate about VMware to gain access to the program.
Evangelist path: This path focuses on public speakers, book authors, bloggers, tool builders and people who spend too much time on the VMware (VMTN) forums. The real common denominator of this path is people who are out in the public space, educating and sharing knowledge with others.
Customer path: This path is for those within the VMware customer base. Experts in this path have championed the cause within their organization, may have worked with VMware to build success stories, acted as a customer reference, spoken at public events or might be a VMUG leader. A VMware employee reference might be helpful if not all efforts are publicly available.
VMware Partner Network path: This path is on par with the customer path but focused on VMware partners who go beyond the normal job expectations. These people continue their learning, prove their knowledge through advanced certifications and share their experience with others through writing or public events. A VMware employee reference is required for this path. If you qualify for this path, acquiring a reference shouldn't be a problem.
My vExpert experiences
By now you might be asking, "So what does the vExpert program give me for my hard work?" The experience for other vExperts will vary, but I will attempt to explain what I have gained from membership over the last few years.
Professionally, vExpert status has helped set me apart. Back when I first earned vExpert status, I was looking to make a career switch. I wanted to move toward consulting and work with more customers. When I spoke with companies about making a move, a few of them recognized what vExpert status meant and seemed to value it.
Furthermore, in my dealings with customers, I think having the ability to promote myself as a vExpert has benefited my employer. Having vExpert status demonstrates to customers that we have people who are dedicated to VMware and are not just going through the motions. Reciprocally, being able to work with so many great customers provides me with a lot of ideas for writing and opportunities for public speaking.
I think I may have benefited the most personally, however. Over the years, I have met a bunch of great people through the VMware community who share the same passion for VMware as I do. At VMworld, a vExpert event brings together all the vExperts where we meet and have some time to enjoy good food and drink with one another. Other benefits include invitations to VMware beta programs, not-for-resale licensing for core VMware products, product briefings and other special events, all of which have helped further my education over the years.
Other companies follow suit
It's worth noting that the success of the vExpert program and Microsoft's similar Most Valuable Professional program has led to other companies spinning up their own community recognition programs. Large companies -- EMC, Cisco, SAP and others -- have realized that engaging with the user base can only benefit them, and are now interacting with their customers and partners in a similar fashion to the vExpert program.
If you feel you have enough passion for VMware to become a vExpert, I encourage you to submit your application to the program. The opportunities afforded to those who are admitted make the title of vExpert one that's worth having.