Category Archives: Personal

On Leaving VMware and Creating a New IT Community

I’m leaving VMware in a few weeks. I’m starting a new community, TechReckoning, where the broader IT community can come together and figure out where things are going with technology, the IT industry, and even their own careers.

ilovevmwareMy time at VMware — almost 9 years — has been the best professional experience of my life, so this is a bittersweet time for me. I started at VMware in 2005, intending only to stay for a year or two before setting off on another startup. Along the way, I got drawn in by VMware’s employees, its products, and especially the community of people surrounding the company. I feel lucky and privileged to have had a home here for so long.

I’m proud of what we accomplished during my time at VMware: building VMTN, Planet V12n and the Virtual Appliance Marketplace in the early days, creating the blogging program, growing our social media programs, hosting the VMware Community Roundtable podcast, and creating the vExpert Program and working with its amazing members.

I want to thank my manager, Eric Nielsen, and the rest of the members of the team, Tony Dunn, Karri Chamberlain, Corey Romero, and James Warmkessel, for making it a rewarding and creative environment, and thanks to Robert Dell’Immagine for originally hiring me. VMware as a whole is an amazing place to work with such smart and good people, and I am excited about the innovations still to come. (Disclaimer: I remain a stockholder!)

But I’m most proud of the community we’ve built together. You might think it was a community that is just centered around VMware and its technology, but somehow the relationships seem to transcend it in a way I can’t quite explain.

Which brings us to TechReckoning, my new project.

The IT industry is going somewhere interesting, and I want to create a place where the IT community can collaborate to figure that out together.

The last time I started a company we raised millions of dollars and had really nice chairs. This time we’re starting small; in fact, just with a newsletter. Each week I’ll share an update on what the community is thinking about and working on, ask a question or two, and recommend a few things to read. I figure if we gather a group of interesting people, we’ll come up with some cool stuff to do.

John Mark Troyer
Photo: Sean Thulin

To fund this little adventure, TechReckoning also has a consulting arm. If you are wondering how to build your community and influencer marketing programs, I can help. I don’t promise to have all the answers, but I can tell you what I’ve seen work. Contact me at jtroyer@techreckoning.com and I’d be happy to talk.

And finally, I’d like to thank my wife, Kathleen, for supporting me throughout this journey as a true partner and for listening to me tell endless stories about the Amazing Adventures of the vExperts.

With much love,
John

Help co-create the TechReckoning community with me. Get weekly updates on what we’re up to, what the community is talking about, and what they’re working on. Sign up below.

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Don’t predict; create the 2014 you want to see

I don’t like year-end predictions, but we get so many of them in tech and IT. They’re slightly entertaining, but, like Christmas cookies, they’re empty calories. If you eat too many,  you probably regret it. What if instead of predicting the way that others are going to change the world next year, we instead envision the changes we ourselves would like to see and create? What if we created New Year Creations instead of New Year Predictions? (There’s a too long: didn’t read section at the end for the attention-impaired.)

mariah_doge

Why New Year Predictions Suck

New Year Predictions exist because they’re easy to write and easy to consume. December is dead for news in general, and publications have to have content to show ads on. New year predictions are standard in the editorial calendar and don’t require a lot of thought.

New Year Predictions are a game to see who can justify the most outrageous prediction. A 2014 prediction article is pretty boring if it says that Things Will Go On Pretty Much Like They Did Last Year. The trick is to figure out a justification for the most outrageous prediction. Apple Will Come Out With A TV For Your Car! Microsoft Will Split Up, Then Buy VMware!

New Year Predictions are about things outside our control. Predictions are often observations of inexorable forces that we can’t stop. These are either mysterious entities that apparently do things, because “strategy” (Amazon will buy UPS!) or the collective action of groups that no one can control (Teenagers Will Amputate Their Hands for 3-D Printed Replacements!). Predictions rarely involve individual people who have hopes, dreams, and fears.

New Year Predictions are obvious.  Even when they’re being outrageous, they’re usually predictable. This year’s will be around Cloud, Mobile, Social, NSA, Ad Targeting, and Drones; and for IT we’ll get Converged Infrastructure, the Role of the CIO, and of course the Year of VDI.

New Year Predictions are self-serving. Look at the byline, then go look at the bio of the author. Would it surprise you if a company executive predicts that the trends in the new year will validate the company’s vision?

Why New Year Creations Rock

Instead, why don’t you envision things that you would like to exist in the new year? This can be something you’d create yourself, or it could be an inspiration for others. For lack of a better term, let’s call these New Year Creations.

New Year Creations are the things you’d like someone to create in the new year.

New Year Creations are realizable. Because our framework is about creating a thing, we can envision concrete ways to get to the end states we want. “Better IT” isn’t something you can create per se, but you can foster better IT by, for example, forming a brownbag lunch and learn at work, contributing to an open source project, or teaching at a local school.

New Year Creations scratch your own itch. They’re an expression of your needs and represent the way you want the world to be. Instead of predicting this will be the Year of the Itch, just invent your own damn scratcher.

New Year Creations inspire and connect with others. If you broadcast your New Year Creations out into the world, you’ll likely find others who share your vision and your itch that needs to be scratched.  I wanted to listen to these podcasts, and in response vSoup started to produce podcasts more regularly. Voila! The world is a better place!

New Year Creations have infinite possible outcomes. With Predictions, you just wait to see if you’re right or wrong next year. With Creations you never know what you’ve started.  We had a fun little Twitter game last week listing our #FiveWordTechHorrors, but when folks tried to start #FiveWordTechFantasies, it didn’t catch on. But don’t think that creation can’t start with a Tweet. Look at Twitter itself. Who knew?

New Year Creations are not resolutions. Resolutions are inwardly-facing and often about acting like a better person, and we feel bad when we “break” them. The most meaningful New Year Creations are externally-facing; they are about the world and the people in it. You become a better person by working towards a world where they exist.

I see this quote a lot: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It turns out that Mahatma Gandhi didn’t actually say that. But in 1912 he wrote the following, which was later paraphrased. I think by taking the catchy slogan out of it, the original thought becomes a lot deeper. Here’s his original writing:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” -Gandhi

“We need not wait to see what others do.” That’s powerful.

In the IT field, we pretty much keep our heads down. We try to keep the servers running, to clear the the ticket queues, and to study for the next round of certs from our technology vendors. But IT is in for big changes and frankly a lot of things in the real world outside IT seem headed in a different direction than I’d like as well. What would happen if more of us worked on creating both the IT we want and the world we want in our futures?

But look, this is turning into more inspirational rah-rah than I had anticipated. Do whatever you want next year. Do whatever you can next year. The community of folks I know in IT are amazing. We have created, both as individuals and as groups, many concrete things that have made IT and the world better.

tl;dr Predictions about what other people are going to do are a shitty passive way to view the future. Instead, I encourage you to envision how the world could change to be better, and see how that rewires your brain and where it takes you in 2014. Gandhi said We need not wait to see what others do. You don’t want to disagree with Gandhi, do you?

Happy New Year!

Geek Whisperers in Action

See more Geek Whisperers – our podcast about social media and community in enterprise IT — over at http://geek-whisperers.com.  Somehow I’m not surprised I got caught talking. The laptop is Brender’s — mine has more stickers and more dents. Taken on Aug 28, 2013 at VMworld in San Francisco by Sean Thulin.
via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152142071463496&set=a.10150610782453496.474895.745783495&type=1

My “homepage” image from 1996 at UCSF. I had a really nice ponytail.

My “homepage” image from 1996 at UCSF. I had a really nice ponytail. The “still no thesis” in the corner lasted until 1998, after I’d left grad school, gotten a job at Pangea, and then come back for a pulse of writing to finish up. The design was ripped off from a Blue Note album – I forget which one.

via Facebook http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151983710528496&set=a.233163938495.175671.745783495&type=1

The record stacks in the dark attic of my college radio station

I just commented at Metafiler, giving a remembrance of my college radio days occasioned by a post about the WHPK Record Library Tumblr.

tumblr_mmwyixsdSD1rjavjvo1_1280The rabid squirrel quote is preceded by handwriting I recognize — a note from then-station manager Rick Wocjik, who has been running the amazing Dusty Groove Americasince 1996. Truly a labor of love, part of Dusty Groove’s initial stock was gathered on an epic road trip across the American South, buying old soul and funk records from the back rooms of little-town general stores and even restaurants, if I remember the story correctly. From personal experience I encourage you not to make friends with vinyl aficionados if they are ever going to ask you to help them move. Those suckers are heavy.

I have no idea what WHPK looks like today, but back in the day the half-broken studio was embedded in a dark attic-like room filled with tall metal bookcases containing thousands of LPs, all filed alphabetically by artist. By the late 80’s, the collection had outgrown the space and as more records were crammed in the bookcases, the covers became increasingly tattered and interchangeably worn white. Since record covers aren’t known for their lexical legibility in the first place, the strip of masking tape on top gave you the band name under which you were supposed to file the record after you were done with it. Occasionally for new indie bands the sleeves were so cryptic we couldn’t distinguish the name of the band from the name of the album and I suspect some of those were misfiled for years until the Internet could settle factual matters like that.

DJs would invariably not refile all their records after their shows, so the narrow aisles were always filled with stacks of records leaning up against the shelves. That made the mad 10 minutes you had to pull records before your show was going to start that much more of an adventure, because invariably the Big Black album you were going to play during your Steve Albini set was sitting in a pile somewhere.

During your show you’d race furiously into the library to find that one track that shared a producer with the track that was playing on the air now but just about to end and would make a great segue, and then next to it you’d see something you’d never heard of but it had great comments written on it and you’d pull it too, and sometimes it was Arvo Pärt and sometimes it was the Durutti Column. It was a great record library and was responsible for my entire musical education, since my parents had about 3 records stored in the cabinet in our Hi-Fi: one polka band, one gospel choir, and one soundtrack to the Jim and Tammy Show, a Christian children’s show starring Jim and Tammy Bakker before their rise and fall with the PTL Club alongside their puppet friends.

The white stickers were put on there for DJs to share their comments on the music. Most of the time they were about the quality and subtlety you’d expect from a 19-year-old college radio DJ. However, the cognoscenti running the station often used them to try to educate the younger DJs about music like Frank Zappa and John Cage and Can, because otherwise they’d just play Black Flag again. Each week they’d put out some featured albums that they wanted us to try, although there were no required playlists — we weren’t some corporate sellouts like those Northwestern poseurs!

One week, an Emmylou Harris album turned up in the recommend albums with a glowing review of her musical genius. A few weeks later the music director was laughing in the office about what a great joke he’d pulled on all the DJs by recommending an obviously shitty record and look they’d all played it and given it great reviews like sheep. Twenty-five years later I still remember this and get angry because, fuck, it was Emmylou Harrisand she is a goddamn genius and while music like Squirrel Bait or Soul Asylum didn’t stay with me over the years, anybody that can listen to something like the harmonies in Sweet Old World and not choke up is somebody I don’t want to be friends with.