• Baker Institute Team

LSV++: Externship at VMware


Nicole (second from right) with LSV++ externs and VMware SVP/GM, Tom Gillis (second left)

Nicole Bolton '21 | VMware Extern

Major | Computer Science

Minor | Applied Mathematics, Entrepreneurship


Prior to my first day externing at VMware I felt completely out of place and in over my head. My knowledge of networking and security was limited to a robust “research” session of several long Wiki-spirals and numerous YouTube videos. Though, while we quizzed one another on the subject matter at hand, I don’t think we truly knew what was in store for us arriving on Day One. Yet, what started as nervous energy quickly transformed into an excited relief as we were given one task: follow Tom.

Alex, Rafaela, and I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to shadow Tom Gillis, SVP/GM of the Network and Security Business Unit at VMware. Together we were welcomed into meetings, met with other NSBU Directors, and even attended a Women in Tech Fireside Chat. Our three days at VMware allowed us to become fully immersed in the inner workings of a massive tech giant with the ultimate goal of learning.

So, what had intimidated me at first turned into an amazing experience to further explore an area and career field that I had little prior education in. Aside from my newfound understanding of networking and security, I have a few broader takeaways and teachings to share from time at VMware:

• There are no stupid questions – Being completely candid, the mix of acronyms, business talk, and technical terms went totally over my head in the first couple of hours. We simply were afraid of interjecting and admitting what we didn’t know with fears of looking ignorant. It wasn’t until one admitted that even they have to ask those clarifying questions at times for us to feel more confident with not knowing. In the end, it is impossible to learn if we don’t ask.

• Communication matters – As a computer science major we have the habit and reputation of becoming engrossed in our own technical work. However, in order to manage a business at this scale communication cannot be emphasized enough. When it comes down to it, technology may change but those soft and interpersonal skills stay with you forever.

• The importance of innovation – Perhaps most surprising was the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that persists at this 25,000-employee company. Although tech giants may move slower in comparison to startups, VMware constantly seeks to remain up-to-date and relevant in an ever changing tech landscape.

Overall, I am very thankful for the collaborative efforts between the Baker Institute and VMware for providing me with this unique and explorative opportunity that opened my mind to a new career path, and of course a special shout-out to Tom Gillis for letting us be his “entourage” for the past 3 days.

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