Name: David Hulbert

David Hulbert is a Vice President at VMware responsible for the Global Premier Support Services organization.  This team is accountable for proactively supporting and servicing VMware’s most strategic customers. David’s organization is comprised of 400+ people spanning 3 Global Support Centers and is responsible for an annual operating budget of ~$50M.

David is an accomplished senior leader with 20+ years of experience in the consulting, technical services, and software industries.   He began his career at KPMG as a Business Intelligence consultant using MicroStrategy products. He then moved to Business Objects and SAP where he held several roles in a customer-facing, project management, and leadership capacity.  David’s strong organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills along with his ability to execute have helped advance his career. He is passionate about customers, solving problems, and managing people.

David currently resides in Burlington, Ontario with his wife of 17 years and their 2 boys.  He is an avid sports fan, loves playing golf, and enjoys coaching his sons’ football teams.


It was a lot of fun to interview David. He and I have known each other for a couple of years, and for a short time, while his manager was off doing a “Take 3”  (after 3 years at VMware, you have the opportunity to take on a temporary role for 3 months in another organization before coming back to your job), David worked for me. To make a long story short, I had agreed to cover for David’s manager while he actually did more like a Take 7 (a temporary seven-month role). As a result, David and I got to know each other pretty well!

As you see below, and as you will hear in the interview when I post as a podcast later this year, David has filled a number of different roles and lived both in the United States and Canada, both in what he calls front-line and back-line roles. These experiences have played a key role in helping David to become a great manager and leader.

What are the most important factors you consider when hiring someone?

This question was easy for David to answer as he builds amazing teams that work hard, have fun, and deliver.

I look at work experience and how they go through the interview, but I put team fit at the top of the list. ‘Do I see this person fitting in with the rest of my team? Are they going to be an asset in areas where we have gaps? Are they going to really get along with the team?’

Who was your most effective boss, and what made him or her stand out?

David talked in depth about a manager that he had at VMware. She made a huge impression and helped to shape the person that David is today.

She was very focused on interpersonal relationships. She used to always stress this it’s all about the relationship. She would tell me, ‘David, first and foremost is the relationship you have with your customers, your team, and with the internal field.’

The second thing she focused on was competitiveness – striving to be the best. She believed that nothing was going to stand in our way. We’re going to the top. She evangelized everyone around her to be the best, raise the bar, and never settle.

The third thing she focused on, in any decision or change, was to be very clear on the “Why”. She would always say – ‘Go back to the Why.’

What was the most difficult transition that you made in your career?

As with most of us, David has gone through some challenging transitions during his career. His most challenging was moving into a role that he was not fully qualified for, and one where the approach or structure was very different from what he was used to. He made it through, and those experiences shaped the roles he took moving forward.

My most difficult transition was when I was working for KPMG in consulting. I was doing a business analyst type role. I made the jump into the software industry where I worked for a company called Business Objects as a technical account manager. I went from a very process oriented consulting firm where I had very clear deliverables and very clear objectives, with a very strong team of consultants around me that supported me as well. To a technical account manager role, where it was a very small technical management team so there wasn’t a lot of support. I probably wasn’t as technical as I needed to be with – for the role, which made it very challenging. I didn’t really (have) the team support structure in place to allow me to be successful, and my manager wasn’t as supportive as well.

Ultimately, it took me a little bit longer, maybe nine months or so, to really get comfortable. But after that year, that’s really what set me up for the direction that I have taken within my career – helping customers and being an advocate. I think that experience shaped the future career that I am in right now.

How do you approach helping someone with their career development or path?

David first gave his perspective on how he makes career development for his subordinates, their responsibility. He then jumps into how he helps provide opportunities for his subordinates that are good for them as well as for the team.

The first thing I start with is – I challenge them to own their career development path and direction. I can’t choose for them. It really is a personal decision.

They need to do some reflection and look at what they do day in and day out. Look at what drives them. Look at what they are truly passionate about. I try to help them to boil it down to simply likes and dislikes.

That’s the reflection that I think people need to do. ‘These are areas that I really have energy and passion for. These are the things I love to do. I want to do more of this.’ That then spills into – ‘Okay, what potential opportunities exist?’

A good manager will harness that and maximize their team. They will put people in the right positions rather than making sure everyone is doing the same thing.  Putting people in the right seats in the vehicle, I think it is just super important to team success.

What tools and tricks do you use to find work-life balance?

When I first met David, he was struggling with work-life balance. Being in a support organization can mean you are called in to help at any time. As a result, David has worked hard to develop a model and some tools that help him find the right work-life balance.

I think first and foremost about awareness and perspective.

One of the things that I do to bring everything in perspective for me is to use a scenario. When someone gets injured or someone gets sick, all those worries and all those things that you were focused on – they just go right out the window.

When I have a million things to do and I know I need to leave, and it’s just so hard to turn the computer off and go, I just ask myself that question ‘What if someone was sick?’. You know what you need to do and what doesn’t need to be done today.

The other thing is a little more tactical, but I if you looked at my calendar in Outlook,  everything is planned perfectly. I plan it to a T, and I live by that calendar. It really helps me to manage my day. I find that if I don’t have that setup, things get more chaotic.

How do you go about building relationships with your peers and other leaders in the company?

We have more and more people working remotely from headquarters, many of them working from home. David is an example of this. He runs a large team while working out of his home office. To be successful, he has developed strong relationship-building skills. He is very thoughtful in how he uses his time when he is at the office, attending a meeting or participating in an offsite.

Being a home office user and not and being in a remote office, I have to over rotate on those times when I’m actually in an office or if at a planning session with my peers or other people within the company.  I really maximize that time. Be the proactive one – be the one that reaches across the aisle first.

[For example,] during breaks it is easy to go out and get on your phone and look at all your emails that have come in. Sometimes you have to do that, but if you have the time, put the email back in your pocket, go out and talk to someone. Just make a start. Start a conversation. Ask them about their personal life, just to know them more. I think those will serve you long term much better than looking at the 10 emails that you can’t do anything with anyway.

I find that proactive outreach, just a small email offering to help them out – it shows them that you are there to build a relationship. From there it then it becomes a two-way street and you scratch their back or they scratch yours. You build this two-way relationship that fosters a great partnership into the future.

What advice would you have for others who are considering the consulting versus business route, or even doing what you did, starting in consulting and then moving into the business?

I wanted to ask David a question about going the consulting route vs going into the business as it is a decision that many of us have had to make in our careers. David took this question in a very different direction, sharing his view on the importance of finding a job that you really love, and how he regularly changes his role in order to keep his energy level high.

I find the people who are the most successful are the people that just love what they do. It just comes naturally for them. I think focusing on what drives you, what gets you up in the morning, is the most important thing.

I like learning new things. I’ve found in my career, that I go back and forth three-four years at a time. I’ll do a back-line role and then I’ll do a front-line role, and then I’ll go back to the back-line.

If Sunday morning or Sunday night is coming around and you are dreading going into work, you really need to kind of take a look at what you’re doing and ask yourself if this is something I am truly set up for success to do.

See Also

How to Ensure Your Hire is Successful!

Become Way More Productive

Silvana Torik – Amazing Journey with Work-Life Balance and Giving Back