Returning to my roots
T.Rob 100000R8QH firstname.lastname@example.org |
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I remember my first Transaction and Messaging conference. As it happens, it was the first Transaction and Messaging conference. Since that first event, back in the mid-'90s, I've only missed 2 or 3. I was fortunate enough at my former employer that my management recognized the value in the conference. It was hard for them not to in the early days since each year I would return with some new thing I'd learned about tuning, architecture, security or internals and transform our network. Each year I'd implement something to make us either more reliable, more performant, or more secure - and sometimes all 3 at once.
It is no exaggeration to say that the T&M, and later IMPACT, conferences made my career. Sure, I have some aptitude in this area but turning aptitude into skill requires knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge is acquired as a result of trial and error, iterating over solutions and optimizing along the way. Sometimes you just buy it wholesale and skip over much of the trial and error. Is that cheating? Perhaps. I'll leave that question to philosophers. All I know is that when you bet the business on the messaging, a few thousand bucks on conference and travel is a whole lot cheaper than a single outage that is prevented and a whole lot faster than iterating over solutions looking for the right one. Eventually the bank said "You know more much about MQ than we'll ever use. You could run our networks for another decade just based on what you know now. We no longer feel that sending you to the conference is cost effective." Faced with stagnating in my specialty or starting over, I chose instead to take Option C: leave.
At IBM I was able to earn my way to the conferences by creating and presenting content, which I was happy to do. I created the first version of the MQ Security Lab, a killer set of scripts to initialize and run the lab chapters, and an illustrated guide. My sessions were always well attended and that allowed me the opportunity to continue to attend the IMPACT conferences throughout my 7 year tenure at IBM. The only down side to that was that working the conference is a lot different than attending as a paying customer. It turns out there's a lot to do if you are there to present sessions. Of course, that wasn't by any means all I was doing. There were customer meetings, panel discussions, manning booths in the solution center, setting up and tearing down the labs or other parts of the venue, or just pitching in when the conference team needed help with anything at all. It was fun and rewarding to contribute but I didn't get to attend nearly as many sessions as I'd have liked. Not complaining, mind you, just saying it was different.
This year is the first time I'll be attending as a non-IBMer in 7 years. It did mean the reassignment of most of my sessions and I apologize for that. However, I assure you they are in capable hands and I'll be in the room for the Meet the Experts sessions anyway, just on the other side of the aisle. There's a certain sadness in that for me since it probably means I won't be presenting as much at IMPACT going forward. On the other hand... I'm presenting with Avada Software this year which I'm really jazzed about, I've got a book signing Tuesday at Noon, and other than that I get to attend any sessions I want! As an IBMer the conference was valuable in that it was a way to get your feedback to improve the product, but it wasn't the learning tool for me that it once was. This year however, I truly am going back to my roots and soaking up as much knowledge as possible. I can hardly wait!
Sometimes as a product manager I would advise customers "Go attend IMPACT! It's the best way to spend your training dollars!" Occasionally those customers would doubt my sincerity. "You have to say that," they would tell me. Well, no, I don't. Before joining IBM I was very vocal in pointing out pain points and "opportunities" for product enhancement. IBM knew this when they hired me and did so not in spite of my outspoken nature, but rather because they knew I'd advocate strongly for my professional colleagues and fellow product users. There was no party line I had to pitch about IMPACT and even if there was, I'd speak out if I thought it wasn't a good value. Still some were skeptical. I was just pitching another WebSphere product as far as they were concerned.
My answer to that is to put my money where my mouth is. As a non-IBMer, the IMPACT fees, travel, lodging and meal expenses all come out of my pocket. Since I left to start an independent WebSphere MQ consulting company, when I say "my pocket" I mean that literally. There's no employer paying my costs and I don't even have any income from the business yet. I timed my resignation and set aside money because as an independent consultant, IMPACT is the most cost effective way I can gain skills that will put food on my family table and keep a roof over my head. After the conference I hope to be getting consulting work from people who have bet their business on WebSphere messaging and need to be able to trust it to deliver. To do that work to the best of my ability, I bet my family's future on IMPACT and will do so again next year, and the year after that, as long as there's a conference and I'm still in the MQ business. It's that good.
See you in Vegas! And if you want to meet me and talk about hiring me for a consulting engagement, I'll happily skip a session to have a chat. I'm enthusiastic about the conference, but not stupid. I'll make time for you. Find me and arrange meetings at the conference using the IMPACT Smart Site messaging and meeting planner software or contact me through the IoPT Consulting web site.