In the realm of technology and innovation, there are exceptional individuals who shine brightly for their expertise, passion, and commitment to knowledge sharing. Christoph Villnow, Lead Consultant Tanzu at ITQ, is undoubtedly one such standout professional. With an impressive career spanning over 15 years in the IT industry, Christoph has emerged as a prominent figure within the VMware community. His contributions as a presenter and active participant have left a lasting impact on the community. In this blog, I had the privilege of interviewing Christoph, delving into his personal and professional journey, exploring his motivations for presenting, and uncovering the profound influence he has had on the VMware community.
Personal and Professional Journey
Christoph's journey in the IT industry began in 2006 as a System Administrator. Over time, his interest in VMware's core products, particularly the vSphere stack, grew, and he specialized in these technologies. As an IT consultant responsible for VMware and Storage portfolios as a service provider, Christoph honed his skills and gained valuable experience for a decade. His curiosity led him to explore the Pivotal and Tanzu portfolios, eventually landing him in his current role as a Lead Consultant for Tanzu at ITQ.
During my conversation with Christoph, I learned about his extensive career in the IT industry spanning approximately 15 years. It was during his time as an SA that he first encountered VMware products such as "VMware Virtual Server" and ESX 3.5. Additionally, he gained experience working with various storage appliances and products. Over the years, Christoph's fascination with the vSphere core stack grew, prompting him to pursue specialization in these products. His focus became even more refined when he transitioned to a service provider role as an IT consultant, where he has been responsible for managing the VMware and Storage portfolio for the past decade.
When asked about his background and the path that led him to his current role, Christoph expressed his deep interest in VMware core products, which began when he was first introduced to VMware. His fascination with the technology continued to grow, and in 2018, he turned his attention to the Pivotal portfolio. During this exploration, he became particularly captivated by the Tanzu portfolio. This newfound interest ultimately guided him to his current position as a lead consultant for Tanzu at ITQ. Christoph's passion for VMware and his eagerness to delve into the Tanzu portfolio have shaped his professional journey and allowed him to contribute his expertise in this field.
Motivation for Presenting and Knowledge Sharing
Christoph's motivation to become a presenter and share his expertise with others stems from his involvement in the VMware community. He actively engaged with the vCommunity, attended VMUG USERCON events, and built a strong network through platforms like Twitter. By speaking internally about products, conducting workshops for customers, and applying for the vExpert program (which he eventually became a part of), Christoph's dedication and passion for knowledge sharing started to take shape. Attending events like VMware EMPOWER and VMware Explore further fueled his desire to present and contribute to the community.
When asked about his motivation to become a presenter and share his expertise at VMware Explore, Christoph revealed that it's part of a larger story, one he is excited to share at events. He initially reached out to the vCommunity on Twitter, seeking help for his first steps. His journey began by attending VMUG USERCON in Germany, where he actively engaged with various individuals to expand his professional network. As he immersed himself in the VMware community, he started speaking internally to coworkers about products and conducting workshops for customers, thoroughly enjoying the experience. Obtaining his vExpert, marked the start of his blogging journey and the organization of events such as vBeers and local meetups.
In 2018, Christoph's dedication and contributions were recognized when he received a ticket to VMware EMPOWER. By chance, he crossed paths with Brad Tompkins. During the event, he was able to share his idea of establishing a local group in western Germany. Brad enthusiastically supported the initiative, helping Christoph to create the group in no time. Since then, his engagement within the community intensified, resulting in rapid network expansion and valuable connections.
Attending VMware Explore provided him with the opportunity to meet numerous individuals he had already connected with through social media, leading to memorable encounters such as capturing a selfie with Pat Gelsinger at the vExpert party. Christoph's active involvement extended to speaking engagements at various VMUG local events and USERCON, creating lightboard sessions, participating in webcasts, and more. These contributions can be explored on his blog page.
Simultaneously, as Christoph deepened his exploration of the Tanzu portfolio, he became part of the VMware Tanzu Vanguard community over four years ago. This community provided a platform to connect with colleagues from the Tanzu BU and resulted in an opportunity to take the stage at VMware Explore 2022, alongside two colleagues, to discuss all things Tanzu.
Christoph's journey is a testament to his dedication and active participation in the vCommunity. Through his continuous efforts in creating and attending events, as well as his engagement in the VMware Tanzu Vanguard community, he has not only expanded his knowledge but also forged meaningful connections.
Past VMware Explore Experiences
Christoph had a positive experience presenting at VMware Explore in the past. He co-presented on the topic of "Bring Dev and Ops Together with Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations" alongside Darin Zook and Ryan Conley. Although nervous at first, Christoph found his co-presenters to be cool and professional; they delivered a successful session.
In preparation, they met virtually multiple times and discussed the presentation. Christoph personally went through the material, made notes, and attended similar sessions for inspiration.
The audience composition seemed to be mostly technical, possibly developers. There were no major challenges during the presentation, and they allocated time for Q&A, which led to engaging conversations with the audience afterward.
While Ryan and Darin brought their expertise from VMware Tanzu BU, Christoph provided a customer/partner perspective and highlighted how they leverage the portfolio to deliver top-notch technology. They incorporated a tech demo by Ryan on Tanzu Mission Control, enhancing the attendees' experience. Leveraging available technology, they connected to Ryan's lab and showcased the live demo.
In hindsight, Christoph would have liked to personally demonstrate a piece of technology, recognizing the impact it can have on capturing attention and interest. Presenting at VMware Explore contributed to his professional growth, allowing him to connect with new people, gain attention for his work, and secure opportunities for future sessions.
Although the community area was smaller due to the pandemic, the event fostered networking and knowledge sharing. Christoph had valuable post-presentation engagements, continuing discussions outside the room and maintaining contact with some attendees. While he didn't participate in additional activities, he attended other sessions and connected with colleagues from around the world.
Overall, his experience at VMware Explore was enjoyable, offering an in-person event after a long absence, although he wished the overall event area was larger like in previous years.
Present VMware Explore 2023
In the upcoming VMware Explore 2023, Christoph plans to participate in a panel discussion focusing on the Tanzu portfolio. While specific planning is yet to be done, he anticipates a dialogue between the panel and the audience, drawing from a similar session that took place within the Tanzu Vanguard community. With a focus on getting DevOps to collaborate and leverage technology from different perspectives, Christoph expects a composition of attendees with a strong interest in development-particularly developers.
Although he doesn't plan to incorporate interactive elements or engagement strategies in his virtual presentation, Christoph aims to facilitate an ad-hoc and interactive session with the audience, allowing them to actively participate in shaping the conversation.
Christoph has yet to explore the session catalog in detail, but he believes there will be plenty of impactful sessions at VMware Explore, particularly focusing on vSphere and vSAN deep dive and Tanzu (TKG, TAP, TMC, TKO).
In terms of advice for anyone preparing to present at VMware Explore or similar virtual events in the future, Christoph emphasizes the importance of seeking help and connecting with others in the community. He encourages reaching out to fellow professionals who are eager to offer assistance, emphasizing that the community appreciates individuals who take the time to prepare and contribute to the collective knowledge. Being part of the vCommunity provides invaluable support and guidance throughout the presentation journey.
Impactful Experiences and Lessons Learned
Christoph's approach to presenting and knowledge sharing has been shaped by his experiences at various events. Participating in VMware EMPOWER, VMUG USERCONs, and VMware Explore allowed him to connect with industry experts and learn from their presentations. These experiences emphasize the importance of in-person events, which provide valuable networking opportunities and continue to enable him to enhance his presentation skills.
When asked about specific experiences or moments in his career that influenced his approach to presenting and knowledge sharing, Christoph highlighted the significance of attending events in person. VMware EMPOWER, VMUG USERCONs, VMware Explore, and vExpert parties were particularly impactful in shaping his perspective.
In terms of his personal life and interests, Christoph shared that he enjoys working on his house and garden, spending quality time with his children, and attending concerts while immersing himself in music.
When asked about influential books, podcasts, or TED Talks, Christoph revealed that his reading choices are not directly connected to his professional life. He gravitates towards abstract subjects like physics, mathematics, and even paradoxical literature such as "House of Leaves." However, he acknowledged that presentations by individuals like Johan von Amersfoort, Valentin Bondzio, Duncan Epping, and others have significantly impacted his professional journey and shaped his career and presentation style.
In terms of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, Christoph credited his wife for playing a crucial role. Her support, feedback, and ability to keep an eye on his well-being have been instrumental in helping him manage his professional commitments effectively.
When describing his expertise and contributions within the VMware community, Christoph highlighted his active involvement as a VMUG leader at VMUG RheinRuhr and the German USERCON committee. He also mentioned his engagement as a blogger, pod-webcaster, and author of articles for various blogs. This includes VMware blogs. Furthermore, his active participation in the Tanzu Vanguard community furthers his contributions within the VMware community.
Christoph Villnow's journey in the IT industry, his passion for VMware technologies, and his commitment to sharing knowledge have made him a valuable asset to the VMware community. Through his presentations, blog posts, and active engagement, he has made a significant impact on the community, connecting with professionals and contributing to the collective growth of the community. His experiences at VMware Explore and other events have shaped his approach to presenting and knowledge sharing. He continues to embrace new opportunities to learn and engage with the VMware community. As he prepares for future presentations, Christoph looks forward to further contributing to the community and fostering meaningful conversations about VMware technologies.