VMworld: Day 4 – The "Unofficial" Summary Guide

As VMworld 2013 came to a close, I found myself reflecting on the vast experience. Did I make the most of it? Was it worthwhile? What should I do differently next time? None of these questions had simple answers, so I took the time to summarize my thoughts and feelings on VMworld.

Making the most of it.
If you’re going to VMworld, you’re probably already planning on sessions, group discussions, labs, etc. Attending these things goes without saying. However, what I think is nearly as equally important are all the unofficial or underground things you can participate in at VMworld. Do some of these things and have some fun while you meet/greet with some of the great minds in the industry.

  • Meetups, Tweetups, and parties.
    From #VMunderground to #vBeers, there are plenty of community and vendor sponsored activities to check out. The comprehensive list can be found here: http://www.vmworld.com/community/gatherings. Even if you didn’t make it in time to sign up for one officially, crash one! Many times, they scan your badge and still let you in (I’ve heard). 😛
  • Start a conversation.
    I’m totally an introvert by nature, and so are most of the people attending VMworld. At mealtimes, this resulted in many people sitting and eating by themselves at tables for 6. My introverted nature begged me to do the same, but I forced myself to sit at a table with somebody else and start a conversation. In literally every case, just saying “Mind if I join you? … So, where are you from?” resulted in great conversation. So, take the initiative and be the one to break the ice! Whether sitting at a meal, or if you happen to see one of your favorite tech bloggers – I found it very worthwhile to say hello.
  • Embrace social media.
    Social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Facebook sometimes elicit a negative connotation or response. Granted, these outlets are used for some of the more annoying things our human race has to offer. This shouldn’t stop you from using them though. I found Twitter particularly helpful – using hashtags for my sessions, finding new ideas, and overall interacting with colleagues was a really positive experience. You can ask about a good place to eat, trade ideas/thoughts on new products, and get in on running jokes. Social media gives you a whole new level of interaction detail within VMworld, and you really should use it.

What would I do differently?
My rookie foray into the enigma that is VMworld was bound to be a learning experience. As noted before, I don’t travel very often. I tried to counteract that lack of experience with planning and using available technologies. But there are still some things I would do differently next year.

  • Register early.
    I got a confirmation that I was going to VMworld pretty late in the game. I think schedule builder kicks off in May, and I finally registered in early August. By then, many sessions are filled up. I still got into plenty of great sessions, and you can always get in the standby line for ones that are full. Not to mention I had to stay up at Fisherman’s wharf because all the other close hotels were booked. This did give me the opportunity to ride the city’s impressive public transit system though.
  • Branch out.
    My tendency was to pick sessions for products that I use every day and am familiar with. What is the point of that? Learn a little bit more or hope for one new feature you may not have known about before? It’s probably better in retrospect to look for sessions or products you don’t use or don’t know anything about. That way, you can learn ALOT and you will find yourself brainstorming of ways you could leverage these new products.
  • Be a session detective.
    The sessions available offer clues to the announcements that will be made at VMworld. “What’s new in vSphere” sessions available? Well then they’re going to announce a new version of vSphere. Keep an eye out for new products or what may be updates to existing products and you can have a head start on your session scheduling.

Was it worth it?
Absolutely. It was an awesome experience. I’m sure part of that is it being my first time, but I found myself coming up with new ideas and feeling inspired to learn more during and after VMworld. You end up hearing how another enterprise solved a tough problem, or how a cool product helped an organization expand or take a next step and you can’t help but take that enthusiasm away with you. It re-energized me in my career and I felt great about my industry and skillset. VMworld 2013 may have been my first, but I sincerely hope it is not even close to my last.