I can’t remember I ever had so many people congratulating me with my birthday. (Okay it was on twitter but still…) Usually with my birthday coming up I take some time to look back at the past year. Coincidentally a couple of weeks ago John Troyer asked me to do a presentation at VMworld about blogging and where it can lead to. Because of my overbooked agenda (VMworld preperations, VCDX Panels and two projects) I did not have any time to prepare it but it is something that kept me busy the last week. Especially after seeing Jason Boche’s presentation at the vExpert Session at VMworld I started thinking about it again. I had some time on my hands, as I took the day off on my birthday, and decided to look back and try to convince you why voicing your opinion/views and sharing knowledge is important for your personal development and career.
I personally think everyone can benefit from blogging in terms of personal development. Of course not every will be able to produce the same level of content and/or reach the same goals.
For me the main driver has always been “documenting my experiences” and gaining knowledge. The best and easiest way of learning for me personally is “read + do + write”. This method has worked really well the last years, it makes it easier to remember the details and it forces you to get to the bottom of it as you don’t want to misinform your readers.
Of course everyone who blogs hopes their blog will be a success and is out for some form of recognition and or visibility. Recognition can be small things like being added to PlanetV12n by John Troyer, getting feedback from the top experts like Scott Lowe, Scott Herold and Steve Beaver, receiving emails which start with “dear guru”, getting quoted on virtualization.info and/or making it to Eric Siebert’s Top 10 Blogs article. Although I said “small” this does not necessarily mean that it’s easy though. Again keep in mind that blogging is time consuming. Like Jason mentioned during his vExpert presentation a good article takes at least 2 hours to write, at least.
Another reason to “why” start blogging is visibility. I did multiple projects where the customer specifically requested me as the consultant delivering it because they read my articles. Even before I entered Eric Siebert’s Top 10 customers specifically requested me. A lot of customer actually talk about the consultants with the Account Team and yes they seem to use google. Having this kind of visibility outside of the company also leads to visibility within the company. This potentially can lead to a promotion or even a job offer. Both of which happened to me in the last 18 months which I will cover in “where”.
A couple of weeks ago someone asked me how I came up with the topics. Although a lot of people tend to think that a blog article should always be an in-depth 1000 word article this does not seem to be what the average reader is looking for. After looking at my stats I noticed that in terms of “unique visits” it doesn’t really matter if it’s a one-liner or a two-page article.
Now the content does matter of course but I never paid much attention to it. I’ve got two basic rules: I blog about topics which I think are interesting and about things I like to know more about. For instance VMware HA Slot sizes, this wasn’t my area of expertise at all but after writing an article I had almost all the facts lined up. Writing blogs forces you to read up on the details, and like I already said it forces you to get to the bottom of it as you don’t want to post unreliable info. It will also definitely help during health checks and design workshops for instance. Being able to answer most of the questions from the top of the head gives you more credibility as a Consultant and increases customer satisfaction which should always be your goal on any project. This eventually will lead, and I know it did for me, to a higher job satisfaction. Of course I mentioned the Slot Sizes article for a reason, just 5 days after writing this article I had a conference call with a customer who had several questions on this topic. Normally I would have needed to come back on these questions but now I was able to answer them straight away. This definitely gave the customer more confidence about our skills and expertise.
Some key dates I will refer to later on:
01 April 2007, this is when I started working for Ictivity as a Consultant. A “small” VMware VAC Partner and this is basically where the story begins in terms blogging.
18 December 2007, this is the date where it all started. This is when I started blogging on yellow-bricks.com, only 18 months ago… Now I specifically stated “yellow-bricks.com” as I’ve been actively writing for years on AsIce.net and MOW-Zine.com, both were Europe’s leading hardcore-punk E-Zines, I knew what amount of effort was required to make it a success. To be honest though I never expected it to blow up to these proportions and especially not within these time-lines.
01 March 2008, Ictivity asked me to take on the “Virtualization Technical Team Lead” job role
01 July 2008, this is when I joined VMware as a Senior Consultant.
01 July 2009, this is when I was asked to take on the “EMEA Datacenter Practice Lead” job role.
I will cover a bit of “when” I blog in how… which is up next.
Now this is probably the biggest issue. How can I find the time? How do I stay motivated? It’s all a matter of discipline in my opinion. Although this may sound really strict you need to blog on a regular basis to make a difference and to get into it. It’s part of my weekly routine more or less which makes it easier for me and my family. Some people seem to think that my employer, VMware, gives me time to blog but that definitely isn’t the case. Don’t expect your employer to give you time to blog, keep in mind that normally your employer only indirectly benefits from this and it’s hard to measure it. Just start doing it. Schedule an hour during the evening two or three times a week and try to write at least one article during that hour. One thing that helped me is creating a short draft article when facing issues or when discovering new features/capabilities. It’s usually something that needs to be documented anyway, why not put it up on your blog as a draft and finish it in the evening or the next day and use this as feedback for the customer or directly share your experience with your colleagues. I am confident that both your customer and colleagues will value your feedback.
So where does this all fit in?
If you made it this far I guess you can see where I’m going. Although blogging will take up a lot of your time I think it’s more than worth it. First and foremost for personal development, increasing technical skills, knowledge and expertise. This should always be your prime driver. The side effect of personal development is mentioned in “when” and is definitely one of the best side effects ever. Just three months after I started blogging I was asked to take on the Technical Team Lead job role. Two months later I had a job interview with VMware and almost 12 months later I was asked to take on the Practice Lead job role. I’m not saying this is only because of the blogging but I am confident that blogging helped me improve my technical skills, knowledge, expertise and increased my confidence. This led to increased visibility within the community and within the companies I worked and still work for. This eventually led to new opportunities. As you can imagine for me personally it has been the most exciting 18 months of my life.
I guess it’s time to stop reading and start writing…