VMworld 2018 is just around the corner, which got me thinking about my history with the conference, some tips I’ve learned along the way and what I’m looking forward to this year.
The very first major IT conference I ever attended was VMworld 2012. I was just over a year into the job with my new (and still current!) employer. One of the reasons I made a career change was the opportunity to get more hands on experience with VMware. My previous position was a Microsoft Project Engineer, but I knew that I needed to get on the virtualization train sooner rather than later. Even though my new role gave me more exposure to VMware, that was just one part of the ‘jack of all trades’ requirement of the role. By the time I made it to VMworld in San Francisco, I was still pretty green with VMware and the world of virtualization in general. On top of that, VMworld happened to be one week after returning from my wedding/honeymoon, so I was extremely unprepared for what awaited me. Needless to say, I felt like a fish out of water at my first VMworld! Navigating between the different buildings and 20k+ people at the Moscone Center didn’t help much, and there were lots of issues with the hands on labs during that week. By the end of the conference I finally settled in a bit, but certainly felt like I hadn’t fully taken advantage of my time time there. I did get to spend some good team building time with co-workers I had just met for impromptu bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, which helped raise my spirits a bit.
I’ve since been to a number of big vendor conferences during my career and feel a bit more seasoned in how to prepare for a long week at VMworld. Here are the insider tips that work pretty well for my agenda:
- Look at the Content Catalog / Schedule Builder early to guarantee a seat in the must-see sessions
- Search for sessions based on presenter rather than topic if there are certain speakers you’ve seen before or people you follow online that have provided great insight in the past.
- Skip the Hands On Labs at the conference. I know VMware doesn’t want you to do this, but they can take up a lot of time and are available online once released post-VMworld. The 2012 version of myself would scoff at this, but that is because getting my hands on the stuff was very high up on my priority list, so certainly this can also depend on your agenda.
- Hit the vendor floor and talk to people! Yes, swag is cool and you can win prizes, but many times the people you really need to talk to are at the booth just waiting to have an insightful conversation.
- Spend some time at the vBrownbag Tech Talk area. You will find a variety of shorter sessions covering the gamut of data center technologies, and it is a great place to meet with members of the vCommunity.
- Network as much as possible. There are few times that this many like-minded professionals are together in the same place, so take advantage of meeting new people and creating relationships that will last beyond the conference.
- Have fun! Sure it can be overwhelming to be surrounded by tens of thousands of people while walking over 20k steps per day. There is so much to do and you definitely won’t be able to squeeze it all in. Don’t feel bad about missing a session (chances are it will be available on-demand later) or some other thing you couldn’t find or didn’t have time for. Soak in as much info as possible but also enjoy your time away from the traditional day-to-day grind.
I’m certainly looking to my time at VMworld 2018 and am already trying to plan for the trip to make sure I get the most out of it. I’ve been dabbling a small bit in NSX and will be interested to see the developments with NSX-T and get some further insights into developments in edge networking for both cloud migrations and running hybrid clouds. I also want to learn a bit about AppDefense and other security related topics, as that will always be a big IT focus in years to come. Most of all, I’m excited to meet up with others in the vCommunity and take advantage of my first year at VMworld as a vExpert! If this got you excited in any way about the possibility of attending VMworld and you have yet to register, you can do so here. See you in Vegas!