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You can hear about a lot of interesting things in the vCommunity (for us, mostly via Twitter and LinkedIn these days). From vLadies and vBeards to vExperts and VMUGs, there’s no lack of virtualization subcommunities to hold one’s attention. It’s almost like a real-life version of subreddits have infiltrated the world of IT.

Our favorite stories are when the community pulls together to help a fellow vCommunity member in need. Or when an individual does something really awesome, whether it be news of a major achievement or sharing mental health advice to help others avoid burnout (or sometimes both).

One story that caught our attention this year was this late September VMware blog feature on Michelle Goossens, who upon first attempt – and at the impressive age of only 19 – had just earned VMware Certified Professional (VCP) status. We eagerly reached out to Michelle to ask if we could do an interview for the Runecast community. Here is the conversation that we had:

Runecast: What first attracted you to virtualization and VMware?

Michelle: It started years ago, I was about 12-14 years old (not sure what age exactly) and I was already getting my feet wet in the more server related things, such as Active Directory. Until that point, I’ve had a very, very old PC that I used for a little bit to tinker around with Active Directory Domain Services on Windows Server 2008 R2. However, I also needed a client, so I was looking into how I could do that, to try to see if there was a better way than repeatedly dumpster-diving for old PCs. I then came across virtualization, and played with VirtualBox as it was free. Then I read about VMware Workstation and all other products VMware had and I thought “I want to learn these products”.

We heard that you did not do any special preparation for your VCP-DCV exam, but just relied on your experience from your homelab. Is that true? What was your biggest motivation to go for the exam? What did you find most challenging about the exam?

That’s true. I did not learn anything specifically for the exam. In fact, I barely did any extra reading before taking the exam, the only thing I looked up, like 10 minutes before I had to show up, was the difference between two things. I read it twice and that was it, but even that was more to verify what I was already thinking, which was correct. I took the knowledge I had from years in my lab and went into the exam with that knowledge, which proved to be sufficient. I broke my lab so many times over the past years, so I had to do a lot of troubleshooting, which helped.

What is the biggest benefit for you personally in being VCP-DCV certified?

I like to think that it will help people, possibly future employers, see that I have the knowledge that I claim to have.

What do you think could motivate other young people to get professional certifications like VCP-DCV?

For as much as people don’t want to hear it, it’s hard, but not on the motivation side. From talking to other people around my age, the motivation is there, but the financial part isn’t there. However, for those where motivation is an issue, I would definitely encourage people to try if they can, and of course if virtualization, especially VMware’s SDDC stack, is a great interest that they want to pursue a career in. We’re past the day and age where employers will look at what education you had in the IT field. Now it’s about what you have experience with, and a certification will help prove that.

“We’re past the day and age where employers will look at what education you had in the IT field. Now it’s about what you have experience with, and a certification will help prove that.”

Michelle Goossens – vExpert by age 18, VMware Certified Professional (VCP) by age 19

Why did you decide to run your own blog?

The first idea of my blog came when I wanted to have a vent for the interesting and problematic life issues I encounter. However, soon that grew into also placing my gender transition story on there as well, for people who are interested in that, and for the persons who have questions about it. Then, I read about the VMware vExpert program which I wanted to join, so I decided to make blog posts of VMware products as well. After 3 or 4 attempts I made it to the vExpert program in 2020, the year I turned 18 years old. So, when I became a vExpert, I was 18!

What are your readers mostly interested in?

I’m not sure. I think the most interest is more related to my life-related blog posts, especially since the unique combination I have of being transgender and working on transitioning, paired with having autism and most annoyingly (and limiting) another condition called hyperacusis, which is hypersensitivity to sound. And no, for those who are thinking “then wear something noise cancelling”, that only makes it worse. In the technology area, I think my homelab blog posts are the most popular.

What do you enjoy most about your homelab and what would you like to change about it?

I really like my homelab. I have spent most of the day, every day for the past few years, tinkering around in my homelab. It’s a lot of fun, but also it has issues. I really need to get upgraded servers. I’ve looked at three servers to replace the current four I have, but it comes with a price tag of €1,890.63 which would take a long time to save up for, but on the other hand it is a great upgrade. That is priority one, it’s going to take a while. 

A shot of Michelle's homelab
Are there any other technologies besides VMware you enjoy playing around with?

Yes. I have been trying to get to play with the Azure Stack Hub Development Kit, however that is very difficult seeing the resource requirements it has (16+ physical cores with 192GB+ memory minimum). Outside of that also tinkering around with Active Directory Domain Services and some other products.

What are your future career plans?

I do not know yet. I’ll have to see what the future holds; it’s difficult to try to get a job with a government breathing down your neck.

How do you describe what you do to new people you meet?

“I play around and learn enterprise software on my servers” is how I usually describe it.

What are you most excited about in the future of virtualization/computing?

It would be great when the time comes that the better high-end server hardware becomes more affordable.

Anything else to add?

The pictures I added show three servers, one switch, one router and a server below that router, that is my equipment. The white cable bundle are internet uplinks, the black cables are all internal network cables.

A shot of Michelle's homelab
A shot of Michelle's homelab

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