This is my story about the most incredible time I had at VMware. I want to tell you about the most valuable experience I had; it’s the one thing that I can never thank VMware enough for.
A bumpy arrival
In early 2012, I was the CTO of a failing start-up that I co-founded. Money had dried up; I had to let go of everything.
I had recently emigrated to the USA from the UK, and my (ex) wife was divorcing me because she had fallen in love with another man she had met while I was trying to build a business.
Flat-broke, burned out, heartbroken, abandoned, and generally feeling quite sorry for myself.
I needed something completely new in my life; I needed a new career.
A search for hope
I saw a job posting that I thought I would be good at on the VMware careers website, and I applied. VMware was a brand I knew well, and I used consumer products as a developer for a while.
Weeks and weeks went by without hearing anything. Having built recruitment and candidate management systems before, I just knew my application had gone into a black hole.
Giving up hope, I started looking elsewhere, and then one afternoon, I got an email from a VMware recruiter. It was about a completely different role, but after a couple of interviews with some duff companies - it was most uplifting.
My interview experience was great; I was grilled by eight people over eight hours on the phone.
I got a coding test from (who is now) one of VMware’s most respected Principal Engineers, and then I was flown to Palo Alto for a whole day of interviews.
I wore cowboy boots and tried to style my facial hair like Wolverine. I wanted people to at least remember me.
I was offered a Staff Engineer position a few days later.
My Journey at VMware was about to begin, and my mutton chops must have been the key to landing the gig.
Dave, meet Dave.
I was flat broke. VMware told me to fly to Cambridge, MA, for my first day to meet my new (remote) team.
I had to borrow the money for the flight and the hotel; I didn’t want VMware to know I was on my knees.
On my first day, I was introduced to a giant man named Dave Gress.
A Senior Staff Engineer and old-school assembly and C hacker, I watched this man debug software by literally watching the processor. I had never seen such a skill.
That evening, Dave invited me for a whiskey. We talked long into the night and enjoyed multiple rounds of liquid fire. I was not used to spending company money; it was a real treat.
I really liked Dave; he understood me.
The beginning of my life.
Dave has a daughter. Her name is Michelle, and she also worked at VMware.
My first introduction to her was when Dave told me to message her on Skype and ask her about something to do with a ‘Mechanical Bull at a bar in Palo Alto’.
Michelle promptly responded:
“Who are you? do I know you?”
And then she blocked me.
Welcome to the gang.
Dave and the team were laughing their asses off at me.
As the new guy, I had been pranked! And most likely (unknowingly) committed some kind of HR violation on my first-day, no less.
A few weeks later, I was in Palo Alto, and we had gathered for an on-site all-hands with my new team.
One lunchtime, I was preparing to leave the conference room we were sitting in, and then I saw Michelle for the first time as she walked past me.
She smiled at me.
Wow, that girl, that’s the girl!
My eyes lit up, and my heart skipped a beat; She was beautiful.
Flying home, I could not get her out of my mind. I could not stop thinking about my co-worker’s hot daughter.
I wanted to be with her, and I didn’t even know her, and I just had a feeling she would understand me. She grew up with a hacker for a father, and she too worked in high-tech. She knew the game and understood the universe I lived in.
This conclusion was assuming she would be interested in me back, so this is all me daydreaming like an arrogant and egotistical fool at this point.
Nonetheless, I was going to try and win her heart.
At VMworld San Francisco 2012, I got to talk to her face to face for a few minutes. We talked about our dogs, and I had two pups, and she had a big beautiful Doberman named Magnum.
I was enraptured with her.
We didn’t see each other again after that for a couple of months, not until VMworld in Barcelona.
Time to make a move
After drinks on the roof-top pool and lots of all my (most excellent) lines, I asked Michelle back to my hotel room for a whiskey… she agreed to.
I kissed the girl. And she kissed me back.
The adventure begins.
We were convinced we were being discreet. However, the entire team had seen us disappear together and re-appear together the next day. This included Dave, her father.
I must admit, it was more than a bit awkward walking into the NOC (Network Operations Center) that morning with Dave, he knew, and I knew that he knew.
Dave Gress is a big, solid man, 6 foot 7 inches tall. I am literally a foot shorter than him.
I nervously fumbled the words:
“Dave, I want to…”
He interrupted me:
Stunned, I stuttered:
“Are… Are you OK with…”
He interrupted again:
“You two are perfect for each other.”
A giant grin rose from his face, and then he gave me a friendly ‘pat’ on the back.
However, due to the man’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph-esque’ stature, it can often feel more like being hit with a tree trunk.
That day was the moment my life began.
VMware had given me more than I had expected and more than I could have hoped for.
I asked Dave for his permission to marry Michelle at RADIO (VMware’s annual internal R&D Conference) in 2014.
Michelle and I got married in 2015.
We invited all our VMware friends and colleagues to celebrate in Las Vegas with us.
Our daughter Melody was born in 2018,
Our son Maddox was born in 2021.
Dave is now my Father-in-law. We spend holidays together, he’s an incredible grandfather, and he still loves to hack code and break things.
I was alone and broken as a new immigrant to the US; VMware gave me a home and offered me a chance to build a new life.
The most valuable reward for my service and time at the company was our family.
Time for a new beginning
I will miss you and all the incredible people that work there. You have a special place in my soul.
Be seeing you around.