Reflections on VMworld #12

As I spend the weekend after VMworld reconnecting with the family I haven’t seen in a full week, I can’t help but occasionally think about the week away and the community I’ve immersed myself in.  I think it’s fair to say that this community is as strong as it has ever been. Most of us started off as customers and I’ve watched many move the needle on their careers considerably. This has resulted in heavy dispersal into the manufacturer space, and not all of us into the same company. But this hasn’t harmed relationships in the least. Oddly, as we’ve all dispersed into different competing companies, I’d say that I see less concerns with conflicts of interest in community events then ever before.

I’ve also witnessed the willingness community members have to step up for one another. When a series of bad events happened to Shane Williford (@coolsport00) on his way home from VMworld, a small posse of community members in KC jumped at the opportunity to help him clear out a tree that fell on his house. This was less than a day after we all got home from VMworld!

Then there are those of us who throw community events around VMworld. Some vendors do it to grab attention (and yes, usually leads), but some of the independent events (vBeers, VMunderground, vBreakfast, v0dgeball, Spousetivities, etc.) do it simply to gather us together. Speaking for myself, it brings me no lack of joy to see everyone having a great time together. It’s as simple as that. The work to get it done is stressful and weighty at times, but those three hours at VMunderground always set VMworld off on the right note for me.  The introduction of Opening Acts was a huge gamble on the part of VMunderground and vBrownBag, but it will now become a regular thing at VMworld (I was actually told we can’t avoid it at this point).

It is a humbling experience for me, spending the rest of the week hearing how amazing everyone thought it was and how they look forward to the event every year.  The feedback and advice is always welcome so we can improve, especially for Opening Acts as we try to mature that concept.

I had no point to this posting, other than to put into words the gratitude and awe at what we all can accomplish for one another.  But as I wrap this up, I have discovered a point I would like to make. People are always shifting and new concepts are constantly evolving. Both provide opportunity. Take advantage of these opportunities to both support and make your name in our community.  Theron Conrey originally started VMunderground and involved me in the planning a few years later. Due to a job change he made in the last year, he was unable to attend VMworld, and left the event in my and Jim Millard’s hands. Josh Atwell has announced that he will be stepping back from all the activities he’s been involved with, leaving a leadership hole in several community activities. Matt Vogt and Jim Millard chose to go to the VMworld concert instead of organizing the UnParty. All are places that happened just this year to step up and give back to the community.

Opening Acts and Virtual Design Master are two examples of community events that never existed before 2 years ago. They resulted from people getting together and simply saying “what if we did this?” Now they are real things that get people together to grow both their personal relationships and their technical knowledge. Both were crazy ideas, but after taking the risk of utter failure, turned into amazing things.

Finally to my point.  Take the chance. Risks are usually rewarded in this community of ours. Even if the event or idea never takes off, people will notice and appreciate the effort. If you can’t get over the nervousness of the idea, pull in someone with some experience in the community to bounce ideas off of or help you along the way.  Get involved in an existing event or group. Contribute where you can. Assist when you can. Do it for others, knowing it can’t hurt your career in the end.

By the way, yes, this has been my 12th VMworld (11 in the US and 1 in Europe).  I have been with this community since the very opening of the VMTN forums (at VMworld 2004) and I personally wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for this community.  For that I say to each and everyone of you: