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What Will You Do for FREE in 2013?

The most frequent conversation I had this year was with colleagues that asked for advice on their "career path". How do they stay motivated? How do they take on new or bigger responsibility? How do they earn more money?

A year ago, I wrote that people looking to advance their career should have at least one (if not a few) projects that they do for "free". Something outside their day-to-day work that lets them explore new skills or new ways to address challenges in a new market. It's not an easy thing to do, as we all live busy lives, but I continue to believe it's critical for anyone wanting to have greater control over their career and their future.

I thought it would be useful to highlight a few examples of people doing things for "free" that not only helped them learn new things, but opened new opportunities for their "career paths".

  • Chris Hoff (@beaker) started the DefCon Kids camp to encourage kids to question the world around them and hack the machines to explore their ideas. Chris is someone I truly admire for the amount of time he gives back (both public and behind the scenes) to others. 
  • Josh Atwell (@Josh_Atwell) and others ran the vBrownBag program, bringing community-generated content to IT professionals around the world. Josh used that public exposure to become part of the "Roving Reporter" program for Cisco social media, allowing him to get exposed to more that his behind-the-scenes role in Cisco IT.
  • Simon Seagrave (@Kiwi_Si) learned how to use the prototyping tool called "EaSynth ForeUI" to create realistic, interactive demonstrations and prototypes of new technologies. We were able to use that technology to build a live, interactive demo that was used by EMC CMO Jeremy Burton (@jburton) in his Oracle OpenWorld keynote, but could be used for a broaded range of technology demonstrations.
  • Aaron Delp (@aarondelp) listened to feedback from our podcast listeners and transitioned about 40% of the show to have open-source technology or business models as a focus. He has since transitioned his full-time job to be focused on the open-source Cloudstack project for Citrix.
For me personally, I'm proud of two "free" projects this year. One was this series of whiteboard videos that forced me to focus on both the business and technology side of cloud computing. The other was an idea and business model that I research (and released), called Cloud Garage Labs, which is focused on the lack of skilled people to run the next-generation of cloud computing platforms.


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More Stories By Brian Gracely

A 20 year technology veteran, Brian Gracely is VP of product management at Virtustream. He holds a CCIE #3077 and an MBA from Wake Forest University.

Throughout his career Brian has led Cisco, NetApp, EMC and Virtustream into emerging markets and through technology transitions. An active participant in the virtualization and cloud computing communities, his industry viewpoints and writing can also be found on Twitter @bgracely, on his blog Clouds of Change and his podcast The Cloudcast (.net). He is a VMware vExpert and was named a "Top 100" Cloud Computing blogger by Cloud Computing Journal.