A Call for Community for the VMware Digital Workspace

The Mobile Jon blog has been known for a few things over the 5 years it has existed. One example is Workspace ONE vs. Intune articles. Another example and the reason for this article today is my writing about career development. I’ve written a few articles about the Life of a Mobility Engineer and its sequel. As an evangelist within the VMware community and VMUG, some people aren’t quite aware of how vocal I am around advocating for new and existing mobility/UEM engineers. Today we’re going to discuss a few things:

  • How it feels being a UEM person in the VMware Era (Post-AirWatch acquisition)
  • Some of the experiences I’ve been a part of as a UEM person
  • My conversation with Brad Tompkins at VMware Explore
  • What we’re trying to do/hoping to do now
  • The Call to Action

Without further adieu, let’s get started on this important conversation.

What is REALLY like being a UEM person in 2022?

So, next month it will be the 8-year anniversary of AirWatch being acquired by VMware. For me, this really came full circle at VMworld 2017, which marked the death of AirWatch Connect. Still to this day, my favorite conference ever just from the close-knit relationships and fun we mad at the Hyatt in Atlanta for a few years.

How our Conference Landscape Changed

Let’s delve into that a little bit. So, at AirWatch Connect it was a week-long mobility conference complete with our own expo and everything. Let’s list some of the cool stuff we had:

  • A EUC Expo with vendors that mattered to us
  • Parties hosted by some great partners like Vox Mobile
  • Plenty of UEM sessions
  • Parties at places like the Atlanta Aquarium and Coke Factory
  • A safe space to engage with others

Comparatively, let’s check out the Expo Map for Explore 2022:

Good luck finding something that is UEM focused on that map! But that’s okay. This is just to help you understand the culture shift. In 2017, we went from being a major focal point to a side character. Truly the VMware EUC stack is massive with UEM being just a small part of things and the new kid on the block. That has been a major challenge for many of us.

We became small fishes in a big pond as the old adage goes. It’s been good for me as that was the birth of the Mobile Jon blog, but I remember how frustrating it was to have about 12-ish vendors at VMworld 2017, but at least I got to go to Vegas woo! Not to mention, I spent time with my now ex-best friend at some really cool places. It was very daunting, but I rose to the challenge in 2018 and spoke at VMworld. A bit of my process mentioned here, which forced me out of my comfort zone to become an expert at Identity and Access Management. Anyways enough about me!

From Conferences to Industry Gatherings

The conferences were really just the start of things changing for many of us. I started going to VMware events like VMUGs and encountered some continual sticker shock. I had expected that since VMware spent 1.5B on the AirWatch investment that people would think we’re “kind of a big deal.”

To put it simply, the LAST VMUG I went to in Boston, I was told this:

AirWatch is not an EUC technology

I won’t call out who the person is, but that was the LAST time I went to a VMUG event. Some people may not realize how hard it is for UEM/Mobility people to build respect or worthiness in our companies but it is FREAKING hard. We’ve spent a long time proving that we do more than activate iPhones. I mean jeez, people don’t imply that VDI people just activate VMs, but that is the sentiment around mobility.

This is coming from someone who was told by an employer:

Stop wearing your AirWatch shirts, they’re holding you back

The biggest gap that UEM people have is they just lack the confidence because of being beat up so much. We spent years just proving we were worth an FTE position let alone that we aren’t garbage. The sentiment continues to plant that seed of doubt for many. Luckily, I have a big mouth and I fight back.

Some of my Experiences Leading Up to My Decision

Many people know that I am a member of the vExpert Program and an EUC Champion. My membership has not been without strife being transparent. One of the things that I have been fighting for around 3 years up until Brian Madden made his explosive departure is better support for UEM people. Like many things my comments here will probably be divisive and less than popular.

Ever since entering the program, we have struggled a bit as UEM people to carve out our spot among established vExperts. I mean honestly its understandable. You have people who have been vExperts for a long-time on the EUC side focusing heavily on Horizon, NSX, and many other technologies. AirWatch/WS1 was late to the game, but we still struggle overall. Our biggest challenge has been finding a proper advocate that could help us.

Some of the stuff we’ve gone through:

  • We’ve gone through VMworld’s where a single vExpert had more speaking sessions on VDI than all of the mobility people combined (6 to 1 I believe specifically).
  • Lack of visibility
  • Overlooked for various things like awards

Honestly, I’m not complaining even though it might get viewed that way. I make my own successes and I’m very lucky to be part of the groups that I am part of. I am just setting the stage for what we will be talking about shortly (my conversation with Brad Tompkins). That’s foreshadowing folks!

See, I’m pragmatic. I know that I can’t expect to compete with a technology like Horizon which today has such a dominating force on the VDI market whereas WS1 is facing major pressure from Intune/JAMF. Part of being a technologist is being self-aware and understanding the role you have to play in our industry. I took up that challenge and got my VCP in Desktop Mobility and I am currently working toward my VCAP. However, I know of some people who can feel a little frustrated at the landscape as it is for VMware UEM people.

My Interview with Brad Tomkins

This year at VMware Explore, I spoke with Brad Tomkins. You know this guy:

Anyways, I told some of these stories to Brad. I talked about how UEM people really need a safe haven. Core VMware people just don’t understand them. Some of them either don’t think our technology is in UEM, its relevant, or that we should sit in the corner. Hey, it’s okay. I’m used to it.

I talk to many engineers and all I really want is for people to be happy and feel like they matter. Support has been a challenge throughout my career like some people know. I had to fight and claw my way from being a retail manager, to a mobility administrator, to someone who could be an agent for change. I spend much of my emotional capital today advocating for other UEM engineers. We all need a voice and I try to do my part there.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect in talking with Brad, but he was so nice and accommodating. Brad totally bought into the idea of a UEM-focused chapter of VMUG that could provide a safe space for the agents of the Digital Workspace to gather like the island of misfit toys that are are.

Where Do We Go From Here?

At this point, Brad has committed to helping me get together with the PSC Chair at the VMUG to help flush out some of the details. My vision for this is a VMUG that meets monthly, with community-driven content, Slack channel, and a dinner/party at VMware Explore 2023 in Vegas. This is something that has really become a passion project of mine.

I’m very grateful to Brad for his engagement and support on this, because dammit we’re people too! I want to be a bit different and offer things in additional than your standard VMUG with career coaching, development, Lunch and Learns, etc if time and support allow for it. I will be working diligently on this over the next few months.

My Call to Action for the VMware Community

I wanted to leave you all with a call to action after you took the time to read this. Firstly, thanks for indulging me and my nonsense. Always appreciated!

If you’re interested in this, please reach out to me and we can start some dialogues and conversation. I really want to help support the entire UEM community VMware or otherwise. My focus here is to help everyone evolve as engineers and people. My public bouts with ADHD have made me endure my share of criticism and doubters over the course of my career. I want to help and I’m here anytime day or night to support my peers. You’re never alone and let’s move forward toward something special for the future.

In closing, thank you Brad for listening and supporting this idea. It gives me the drive and passion to build something special that lifts a small but mighty community from the ashes of despair. I KNOW I’m dramatic, but I’m not THAT far off.

–Mobile Jon

3 thoughts on “A Call for Community for the VMware Digital Workspace”

  1. All this resonates with me as an ex AirWatch, Ex VMware employee. I felt for a while the VMware did not take MDM/EMM/UEM seriously. While in VMware the empty feeling of attending VMworld’s year after year to see session on session about VDI troubleshooting and VCenter Sizing….

  2. EUC in general doesn’t get much love or interest at VMUGs. So why not make it EUC general? As we don’t have the geek events at explore anymore.. Happy to support it.

  3. I would love to help out. I spoke to Brad about this when he was in Dallas at the UserCon and gave the same feedback. Glad I’m not the only one!

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