Personal Retrospective - February 2021

My first personal retrospective, February 2021. Includes customer work, vExpert, OCTO and more!

Personal Retrospective - February 2021

I'm going to try and post one of these retrospectives every month and look back at what I've been doing (this being the first it does include some January stuff as well). I've taken the name from one of the ceremonies of the agile / scrum methodology. The goals are fairly similar:

  • I want to keep a better record of what I've been doing
  • I want to understand where I've spent my time and how I can use it better going forwards
  • I'd like to have a way of looking back at 2021 and knowing that I've done something meeaningful to me

I can't claim any credit for this idea. One of my colleagues, Nico Vibert, inspired me to start doing this. He posted his first monthly roundup last month and I was struck by how much he had been doing. The dark imposter side of my mind woke up at that point and started pumping negative thoughts out.

Photo by Chris Yang / Unsplash

"Nico's a clever chap", it said. "You won't have anything much to write about!"

Guess I won't know until I try...

VMware / Customer Work

February saw the departure of Pat Gelsinger as VMware's CEO. I was initially saddened when I first heard the news, but if you look back at how he's lead VMware over the past 8 years - a period of phenomenal growth and change - then you can't help feeling that he's more than earned a change and a return to his roots. VMware has many great leaders and it's a company that's more than just one person. Pat leaves VMware in great shape, with a bright future and he leaves with the thanks of many, including me.

This year I have returned to working with one of my past customers. They're pretty big and have a few challenges that we're helping them with. I can't say too much about it, but it's been an absolute pleasure so far to re-engage with them after a couple of years away. There's a great blend of technology, discovery, education, enablement and strategising. I'd love to be able to get a little facetime with them, but for now it's all zoom and webex.


I never imagined that when I first applied to the vExpert program in 2011 that I would get in. (That darned imposter again!) Even when I did, I never imagined that I'd be accepted for 11 years in a row. And yet, here I am.

The vExpert award announcement came out on February 11th and I got my 11th award. Chuffed with that.

11 stars - count 'em!

Exam Development

This month saw the conclusion of my involvement in the development of the next VCAP-CMA Design exam. Late last year Christopher Lewis got me involved in some development of the VCAP-CMA Deploy exam, which is now live. Following on from that most of the same team regrouped to work on the equivalent design level exam. Question writing and standard setting is done now so it shouldn't be too long before it's ready to schedule.

Creating some of the questions has been quite tough. They have to be pitched at the right level, be phrased simply enough for non-native English speakers, follow specific style guidance and try to identify a minimally qualified candidate. It takes a lot longer than you might think and most of the meetings are in Pacific time (GMT -8). It has been satisfying though.

vRealize Automation Experience Day

In January 2020, at the London VMUG, Christopher Lewis, Katherine Skilling and I were discussing some 1-day technical enablement that we could run for potential customers of vRealize Automation (vRA). Those discussions became a vRealize Automation Experience Day, complete with a number of modules and labs covering vRA Cloud and vRA 8.x. We were going to run them in person at our office in the UK, but then the 'rona hit and we had to go virtual, like so many other events.

Fast forward to February 2021 and we've had about 15 such days since April last year. We had our first one of 2021 on February 10th, this time with Dean Lewis joining our crew. Sadly I had a scheduling clash that meant that I couldn't do all of my modules. I'll be better prepared for the next one.

We've also had some discussions about running a "Part 2" event covering off some more advanced topics. Stay tuned for news about that.

Note: If you are interested in attending one of these days (we run them for UK and Ireland customers), get in touch with your VMware SE, Account Manager or TAM.

Automation User Group

Together with Robert Jensen and Mark Brookfield, we organised and ran a successful Automation User Group virtual meeting at the end of January. The first one to be held internationally. Just shortly before the event itself we hit our limit of 250 registrations, surpassing our expectations.

Aside from a small snafu with someone applying some virtual grafiti to Robert's presentation, it all went very well. We're well in to planning the next event, it's scheduled for April 29th at 5pm (GMT).

Presentations etc. from the January event are available on the AutoUG website.


GFIP Conference

Often referred to in the past as the "CTOA conference", the last week of February was the Global Field and Industry Program conference. Normally that would involve a trip to VMware's Palo Alto campus for about 140 people to squeeze in to Elastic Sky, the largest room on campus, but this time it was all virtual. The program sits under VMware's Office of the CTO (OCTO) and is comprised of several groups of people:

  • Chief Technologists
  • Field Principals (e.g. Nico Vibert, Martin Hosken, Bjoern Brundert to name but a few)
  • CTO Ambassadors

This last group is where I fit in. Ambassadors are selected annually from customer-facing technical staff and have a tenure of two years in the program. I was privileged to be selected for 2019/2020 and have also been selected again for 2021/2022. The goal of all members is to be the voice of VMware's customers inside our engineering teams, to innovate in areas not covered by other parts of the business and be advocates for VMware with our customers and partners. As such, the conference provides us with a focussed opportunity to hear about future strategies and roadmaps, ask questions of BU, engineering and VMware leaders and provide feedback.

Photo by Phil Goodwin / Unsplash

The whole week is just like drinking from a hose in terms of the volume and rate of information and conversation going on. But I've enjoyed each of the the three that I've been lucky to attend. It's exhausting, invigorating and inspiring in equal measure.

I wish I could share some of the highlights in detail, but I can't yet. Partly because I need to hit "Publish" and partly because a lot of it is NDA!


Finding the time to write articles can be hard, but I have posted a few so far in 2021:

If I can keep up that momentum then I'll be very happy. One of my key goals is to document everything that I'm working on, create or do in my homelab. Either in my confluence site, in a repository (e.g. GitHub) or in a blog article. All too often I do something and then don't do the final 5 - 10% and document it properly. "I'll remember that!", I think to myself. Yeah, I never really do. I still have a way to go to make the behaviour automatic and instinctive but I'm working on it.

One plus point around the middle of the month was discovering that one of my articles was linked to from the HashiBits February newsletter (kudos to Mark for letting me know).

Snippet from February 2021 HashiBits newsletter

Personal Stuff

Life isn't all about work, or technology. Sadly with times being like they are, there are limited opportunities outside the home at the moment. Archery has been on hold for a while. I have ventured in to some new territories though.

In my job, it's too easy to spend all day at a desk, in front of a screen and not moving too much. Lately I have been trying to make sure that I get out at least once a day and close the exercise ring on my Apple watch. Some days are easier than others. When it's not so cold, windy and icy out I look forward to getting back on my bike. Perhaps I'll have to look at a Peleton or something similar...

I've been using Duolingo this year to try and pick up French and German from scratch. I actually studied both of them at school but that was a long time ago. Having colleagues that reside in both France, Germany and Austria and having extended family in two of those also, I thought it was a good time to improve my linguistic skills as well as my programming skills!

My family and I have been participating in a clinical study run by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the University of Oxford since late last year. We're now being tested for Covid every month as part of the study. Still negative! Both sets of parents have had their first vaccination. I don't expect to get called up for some weeks yet.

That's All!

In your face, imposter!