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A first-hand account of becoming a VMware vExpert

Unlike the certifications VMware offers, there is no test to take to become a vExpert. But having experience in writing about VMware products will help.

Recently I had the privilege of being made a vExpert by VMware. Becoming a vExpert is definitely a valuable string to any VMware system administrator's bow. There is no exam you need to take and for that reason alone it is worth pursuing.

By becoming a vExpert, you stand out from the crowd. It also gets you a number of goodies including free NFR (not for resale) licenses for most of the VMware products as well as licensing from other companies including Veeam, Liquidware and others. You can also gain access to other experts, events and services. However, these benefits are subject to change, so there are no guarantees on the availability of them. This also means you won't be rebuilding your home lab every three months.

Potential applicants need to know that the VMware vExpert program can take a few different tracks and it isn't all about posting to blogs, forums or being a VMware rock star. The path to vExpert can take one of three tracks. The different tracks are Evangelist, Customer and Partner and each reflects a relative area of specialization. My path was the Evangelist path despite also working for a large-scale VMware customer. It was all related to what I did outside of my day job. As I said earlier, it's about contributing quality to the discussion.

Contrary to popular belief, vExpert status doesn't mean that you are expected to be an expert in every VMware product. Being a vExpert is more about being proactive, helping other users and being an ambassador for VMware than the need to be a massively popular blogger or well-known person. Achieving vExpert status is all about being helpful and sharing your knowledge. Personally I like to experiment with various new and emerging VMware technologies and write about my experiments as well as my activities as a VMware expert in high availability and design. You can perform tasks to increase the likelihood of obtaining vExpert, including writing about your experiences

I prefer writing about my experiences using VMware products (ESXi, vRealize and other cloud-related products) for various websites. Detailed how-to guides are always seen as useful, especially in emerging technologies such as vRealize and cloud products that are quite new. With new products there are still issues to be ironed out and you have to know how to work around and fix the edge case issue. Some of this knowledge comes from my day job and some of it comes from being a VMware guy who just likes to experiment.

One example is when I had to recover a host using the Direct Console User Interface. Such an occurrence happened at work and I thought that knowing how to deal with it as well as the gotchas may be of use to others. Your contributions have to be relevant and useful.

One thing is for sure: slow and steady wins the race. When VMware reviews your application as a potential VMware vExpert, it is looking for long-term positive interactions with the VMware community at large and your ability to spread the word about VMware.

Personally I think the quality of the work -- rather than the quantity -- is the most important criteria. After all, VMware is effectively extending you a bit of its credibility and it is understandable that the company would want proven, responsible people. I recommend getting a few months of writing or blogging under your belt before you apply for vExpert status.

If you are lucky enough to work in a large VMware estate, you may find that you can use your VMware contact as a reference. An internal VMware reference goes a long way.

One of the biggest takeaways is that being a VMware vExpert is more than just another tick in any credentials box. You really need to enjoy experimenting and sharing your findings with VMware technologies.

To those thinking about applying, the application form is opened twice a year and only for a relatively short window. Notification of the opening is posted on the VMTN blog. When you apply, you might not hear anything for several weeks or even months. The announcement of those that successfully achieved VMware vExpert status is usually just prior to VMworld at the end of August or beginning of September. I wasn't even aware I had attained vExpert status until a colleague congratulated me on my status.

One thing I wasn't prepared for was the influx of followers on social media and I was caught a little short of new content to post up, so I suggest that anyone thinking about applying to become a vExpert have a stash of interesting new posts because you will find a lot of people checking you out via social media and other sites. 

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