As I write this, I am on a plane 35,000 feet above the earth flying from Denver to Indianapolis, returning from VMworld 2013 in San Francisco. Since my experience was somewhat different (I HOPE) from most of the 22,000 attendees, and possibly somewhat humorous in some sort of twisted way, I wanted to share my experience with you.
Let me back up a bit, first though. Several months ago, I was approached by one of our partners, Bluelock (thanks John, Diana and Alicia!) to submit an idea for a presentation based on conversations we have had about leveraging the hybrid cloud to elevate IT in an organization. I thought the idea was great and immediately agreed. Together, we developed a synopsis of the idea and submitted it to VMware for consideration and voting. Honestly, I didn’t think we would get voted in.
Word came several weeks later that we had, in fact, been selected, a very cool honor IMHO. Later that same week I received an email from Kurt Milne of VMware asking if I would be interested in also serving on a panel to discuss the evolving role of IT into a service broker. Again, I immediately agreed.
The weeks fly by as we work on our presentation and attend various VMworld speaker webinars. I am going to add here, if you are a conference planner, you should study the way VMware prepares its speakers. The support and guidance provided was top notch!
So fast forward now to late July, the last week in July, in fact. That week I had two employees from my team separate from the company, one of which was one of my direct reports. So now, I am pulling double duty. Friday that week we get the call that my terminally ill mother’s time has come, thus cutting my blog readership by a third! (OK, sorry for the poor attempt at humor, that is the way my family has always dealt with tragedy…making jokes, if you really want to know about my mom read “Mary Ellen Ton 1933 – 1980 – 2013: The Woman with Two Dashes”). The next two weeks were a blur, sometime during that time, we submitted our final version of the presentation. Needless to say, I was stressed out to the max!
We are now one week away from VMware. What better time to have your ten month old grandson visit from Kentucky. Now I don’t know about you, but it has been about 29 years since I changed a diaper, gave a baby a bath, and went without sleep. By the end of the week I was exhausted. (Ok I can hear my wife Carmen now, “YOU were exhausted? I was with him all day while you were at work!”…she makes a good point). Regardless, by the end of the week I was coming down with a sore throat and a sinus infection. I thought for awhile it was the wasp sting. Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the wasp sting. I have not been stung by a flying insect in over 30 years. In the eight days leading up to Braxton’s visit, I was stung, not once, but twice. My hand swelled up to the size of a baseball mitt and my shoulder looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame.
Anyway, I was sick. Started downing DayQuil and NyQuil. Monday comes and it is time to head to San Francisco. Has anyone reading this ever flown with a sinus infection? OMG, I thought my head would explode! By the time I got to Frisco, I was a mess. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was now late in the evening. The restaurants at the hotel were packed (22,000 people eat a lot of food!), I walked around the neighborhood endlessly and couldn’t find a spot that wasn’t packed. I settled for a room service hamburger. Do NOT ask me what that burger cost!
Tuesday…ready to take on the world! Not! Still feeling like crap. I had an 8 AM conference call with the team back home (pulling double duty remember). At my wife’s suggestion, I called my family doctor to get a prescription called in to the local pharmacy. I then attended the General Session. It was excellent! VMware is doing some great things in the area of automation of many of the tasks of running a data center. Feeling a little bit energized by the session, I headed out for my 11 AM appointment with VMware Global Services. According to my GPS, just an 18 minute walk from my hotel.
Well, my GPS must walk faster than I do because I barely made it. The problem? I was at the WRONG Westin. Getting directions from a human, I took off (at this time I can hear Jeff Allen laughing and my wife is probably rolling her eyes) toward the RIGHT Westin. I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone to let them know I was late and lost. I thought about just bailing, but I really didn’t want to give that impression to VMware.
I arrived at the right place at the wrong time, 20 minutes late. The representatives from VMware were very gracious and we had a GREAT conversation. (Though I probably talked their ears off about Goodwill and what we are doing there!). They even order in lunch since we were now running late…or rather because I was running late. Many thanks to Marty Messer, Matt Stepanski, and Steve DiLiberto. I am looking forward to continuing our conversation and exploring ways to further our partnership. Funny story, later in the day, while speaking to my wife Carmen from my hotel room. I realized I was gazing out the window at the next building over…it was THE WESTIN…should have been a two minute walk, not a 40 minutes one!
From there I dashed over to the Solutions Exchange floor to check in with Bluelock. I was stunned by the scale, an unbelievable number of vendors and solution providers. I was also stunned by the noise. Ever walk into a casino with a sinus infection? THAT is what it sounded like. Excusing myself as quickly as was polite, I found a quiet place to have two more conference calls back home.
That evening was a Bluelock and Zerto sponsored event. I don’t care that I felt like death warmed over, I had to go! I was really glad I did. First of the bus ride was both beneficial and entertaining. I sat next to Christopher Clapp, the CEO of Bluelock. We had a great conversation about big data and analytics, and the potential for companies to leverage it to further their businesses. The entertaining part, was getting out of the parking lot. It took us 20 minutes because of the rush hour traffic. It got to be funny to watch people squeeze between the bus and the cars in front as the driver tried to nudge his way into the line of traffic. Finally, one of the guys from Zerto walked out in the middle of traffic and blocked lane by lane until we were finally free. It was kind of a bonding experience for all those on board.
The event itself was at the Calfornia Science Academy. If you are ever in Frisco, you have to go to this place. Very cool exhibits including a “biodome” rainforest (come on, admit it, you thought Pauley Shore was funny too!), and an earthquake simulator (I KNEW there was a reason I lived in Indiana!).
OK, If you are easily grossed out, skip this paragraph. At one point in the night, I was talking with John Qualls of Bluelock. All of a sudden he walked away, went to the drink table, and grabbed a napkin. He came back and handed to me and said, “you have something in your eye”. I thought he meant my glasses, so I took them off and started to clean them. He said, “no, your eye”…sure as shooting, the “stuff” that was clogging up my sinuses was now coming out of my eye! Jeeeeeeez could it get any worse. I think I spent the rest of the night looking out of only one eye!
The next day started with breakfast with the panelists. What a great bunch of guys! I was feeling a little out of place because the moderator and three of the four panelists were from VMware, including their CIO. I love it when the moderator gets the panelists together beforehand. I find it really improves the quality of the discussion on the panel. Heman Smith, Rich Pleasants, Kevin Lees and Paul Chapman, it was an honor to be on the panel with you all. I enjoyed our conversation over breakfast.
After attending another great session on Blending Boundaries of Applications and Infrastructure, it was time to get ready for the panel. Now, one of the lessons I have learned from public speaking is to always have a bottle of water on hand. There weren’t any in the room, so I went out to the hallway. No water there either. I did find warm Pepsi. Yeah right…warm Pepsi and then get up in front of a room full of people and try not to burp! (So I have two suggestions for WMworld 2014…one is: provide bottles of water for all the speakers. Two will come later in this diary).
The panel presentation went great (IMHO). There was great dialogue among the panelists and the audience about how DO you position IT to be a service broker, what are the challenges and what are the gotchas. I will explore that deeper in a future blog post. For now, I think my key take away was the concept of a “Shameback” as an alternative to a Chargeback. Publish a list of the top consumers and the costs associated with their consumption. We tend to call those folks “frequent flyers!”
Later that afternoon, it was time to circle up with John and rehearse our presentation for that afternoon. We decided to meet up in the “Hang Out” area set aside by VMware to “escape from the conference, take a break, relax and unwind.” Here is suggestion number two for VMware: have an alternative hang out space for those of us over 50! Remember the saying “If its too loud, you’re too old?” Or as Huey Lewis said to Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future”: “You’re music is just too darn loud”! After our run through, I took another tour of the Solutions Exchange floor. Very impressive array of vendors. I was able to make a lot of connections and came away with a plethora of new ideas.
It was now time for our presentation…the last one of the day before the HUGE WMworld Party…nothing like standing in the way of a bunch of techies and the party! As I was heading to the room, I ran into a couple of guys I used to work with in a previous job. It was great to spend a few minutes catching up. Of course Jarod Stone and Mike Harris you know I am going to call you out for NOT attending my session! Oh well, it was probably all stuff you had heard before! LOL.
The session went very well (again, IMHO). John and I talked about leveraging the hybrid cloud to move your IT department to being a value generator for you business. The audience was very engaged and asked a lot of great questions. Again, look for a blog post on this in the near future.
With the presentations out of the, I opted to head back to the hotel instead of attending the party. Crap, did I miss a great event. They had rented out the entire AT&T Park, where the Giants play their home games. There was a stage set up and a band. Not any no-named local band, they had hired Train to perform! I think I really disappointed Carmen by not going! It gets worse, and this is where I disappoint my son Brad. The batting cages were open and you could take some swings, one of the guys I spoke with later actually got to stand on home plate! Me? I was back in my hotel room, sound asleep by 8.
So, not your typical conference experience. I WAS able to dig through the fog in my head enough to know the content was fantastic, not only the handful of sessions I attended, but everyone I talked with could not say enough good things about the content. The networking opportunities were tremendous. I came away with several new connections within VMware and its vendors, b
ut also with several conference attendees. VMware knows how to put on a great convention.
My goal for 2014 will be to attend the conference again…and not be sick…and to be able experience the entire conference.
And a final thought, one of VMware’s competitors is so on the run…they had an ice cream truck branded with their familiar logo and drove around the convention center giving away free ice cream. Guess they thought IT professionals can be bought through ice cream…don’t they realize its beer and pizza?
If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.