Meet NEW VMUG Board Member, Steve Athanas

By Lori Donaldson posted 02-17-2017 01:13 PM


Steve Athanas

Director of Platforms & Systems Engineering

University of Massachusetts


What is your life like outside of VMUG and VMware?

Truthfully, right now I am trying to re-discover what I like to do for fun, as for the past 15 months I have been in a sprint to get my Master’s degree – and that took all of my free time – and then some.  My wife, Danielle and I are in the red zone of parenting with a four-year old son Will and 2-year old daughter, Evie. I’ve recently figured out video games are restricted to kid friendly racing and flying games, so I don’t get to play my beloved first-person shooters like I used to. We love traveling as a family, and I teach classes and counsel families on personal finance in our local community.


Tell us a little about your background with VMware.

I have almost twenty years of experience managing technology, teams and projects in IT, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. On the technology side, I have always been a generalist, working with virtualization, applications, networks, storage, hardware and almost any component you’d find in a datacenter. Early in my career, I “bet the farm” on rolling out VMware’s ESX (there was no ESXi) platform to virtualize part of our datacenter, and it paid off in a huge way. Since then, I have extensive experience with designing and deploying VMware-based cloud and End User Computing solutions, and have done a fair amount of speaking as an evangelist for virtualization and cloud technologies.

In my role as Director of Platforms & Systems Engineering at UMass Lowell, I have broad responsibility for systems and applications in the cloud, data center and on client devices. I function as both the strategic leader and technical architect of the team, which is a fun blend of roles that keeps it interesting.


How did you get involved in VMUG?

I started using VMware software in 2005 or 2006; there was not a lot of information out there about using it well, and my sales rep suggested I go to a VMUG meeting. I did, met great people and got a lot of great information and became active in the VMUG community.  In 2011, I stepped up to be the Boston VMUG Chapter leader. Today Boston VMUG is one of the largest VMUG chapters in the country, and regularly holds conferences with attendance of 600 or more technologists.  I am passionate about VMUG – what I love about the organization is the intersection of cool technology and people’s careers.  We focus on helping people take the next step in their skillset and their career – it is a community of people willing to share information. What I enjoy most is connecting the community – helping others build friendships, professional bonds and networks. VMUG membership is transformative both personally and professionally.

I was thrilled to be nominated to the VMUG Board in January 2017 and look forward to serving this community and facilitating these important connections.


Why is VMUG Important to You?

It is very easy to draw the link from where I was in my career to where I am now.  Before I went to VMUG I was in a systems admin role.  With the skills I learned and the support I got from VMUG community, I moved from Admin to Engineer to Associate Director to Director. Today, I am responsible for the entire compute environment – from cloud to data centers and servers to end points and end user computing. I attribute much this success to VMUG.

VMUG enabled me to build not only technical skills, but also the soft skills that are required to move up the management chain; building presentations, public speaking, collaboration and organizational skills. Being a part of a collaborative community where people are on your side, helping you and helping them in return creates a mindset and a skill set that reaps rewards personally and professionally.

VMUG met my needs early in my career and today continues to help me grow.  I continue to learn new things, meet new people and build new skills.  I believe it is critical, especially in this fast-changing industry, to continue to learn and grow. VMUG is an unparalleled community to do that.

What do you hope to achieve as a VMUG Board Member

First and foremost, I want to focus on continuing to build the community. VMUG technical content and training is phenomenal and is of course a critical component – but the core of VMUG is the community itself.  Connecting our members and building a dynamic, collaborative community is key to the success of the community and the members that make it up. It’s this connection that makes VMUG special -- the ability to connect, learn together and from each other, and build collaborative relationships.

What advice would you give to VMUG members?

GET CONNECTED.  Don’t show up, sit through an event and then leave.  I’ve said this at every meeting I’ve ever led.  You are going to get some of the best technical content available from anywhere, and from the best experts – the people writing the software, leading the company writing the software, but the best thing you can do for your career is to turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself. The connections you make here will return 100 fold in your career.  Don’t count success by how many sessions you attended or how many notes you took, but by who you met and how many business cards you collected.

If you have thoughts about VMUG, I’d love to hear them. It’s important to me that you know that VMUG is YOUR user group. Let me know your thoughts and ideas on building a dynamic, collaborative VMUG community in any or all of the following ways: