End of the year recaps are about as clichéd as they come. However, I do feel it’s important to see where we start the year and how we end the year. Needless to say, 2017 has been a rather interesting year. When I recapped 2016, I talked about establishing my voice. 2017 was about amplifying my voice. From a personal perspective, I know I’m not the brightest individual out there in the technical communities that I frequent. However, I don’t feel that’s an absolute requirement to have a voice and use it. 2017, can be summed up in a couple of words: community presenter.
For those playing along, no, the header to this paragraph is not a product of a sneeze while typing. Instead, it’s the summation of the mileage I drove to present at multiple VMUG UserCons this year. Three thousand, five hundred, eighty-four miles from my residence to the locations where I presented. Granted, it was only a total of five UserCons, but the road trips with friends and the thrill of honing my skills as a presenter were well worth the experience.
Unfortunately, everyone has that one event they wish they could do a little differently. I try my hardest to ensure I don’t do a horrible job with my presentations. However, sometimes they get away from you. So, this special session is for those that saw me at the St. Louis VMUG UserCon in March. I tried to pare down a 50-minute presentation desk to 15 minutes and it did not go well. For that, I will forever feel I owe the St. Louis VMUG leaders a do over.
Outside of St. Louis, I presented in Minneapolis, Kansas City (my own backyard, essentially), Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. I was involved in plenty of discussions about other UserCons, however, they didn’t seem to work out in the end.
One of the biggest compliments I got from my presentation (which was a return to my IT Culture and DevOps presentation I did for vBrownBag’s Commitmas 2016), was that with a little TLC to the slide deck, I might have a keynote session on my hands. To be honest, I was perfectly content getting a community slot, but there’s something to be said about pursuing something a little higher than where your skills are right now.
My Favorite Podcasts
Podcasts have become a very powerful medium in our industry and within our technical communities. It was an awesome experience to be able to participate in some well-established podcasts as a featured guest. While I might have laid a clunker on the presentation in St. Louis, Keith Townsend resurrected his dormant “The CTO Advisor” podcast where I was able to talk about DevOps as a cultural movement for 15 minutes. Later in the year, at the Indianapolis VMUG UserCon, Keith, Mark May, Tim Smith, and myself recorded a part of an episode chatting about the power of community in our day to day technical lives.
One of the more interesting podcasts I got to be a part of happened on the exhibit floor in Orlando at Microsoft Ignite 2017. Clint Wyckoff had me on as a guest for the Veeam Community Podcast where we talked about Microsoft Azure Stack, DevOps, and many other topics. Clint and I have run into each other at plenty of technical events, however, this was the first time we were able to actually record anything. It was nice to be able to talk about things well outside of the VMware-based wheelhouse we knew each other from.
Lastly, my crown jewel appearance was as a guest on the Packet Pushers podcast. Ethan and Greg are more known for having networkers as guests, but this time, my topic of choice about IT culture ended up being a good enough topic for a full episode. Sprinkle in a little bit about paralleling Nietzsche with ITIL, and we had ourselves a fantastic discussion that probably could have gone on for multiple episodes. I can’t thank those gentlemen enough for allowing me to be a guest.
The Moment of 2017
In my 2016 recap post, I went on to tell a story of how I brought some good ol’ Kentucky bourbon to VMworld 2016 and had a fun couple of hours just talking with Josh Atwell. It wasn’t necessarily technical, which is why it stood out the most. For 2017, I have another good story that doesn’t deviate into the technical realm either.
To set the stage, I travelled to Boston in May 2017. This was a combination week, as I was going to be attending OpenStack Summit (my first time) and Tech Field Day 14. The week turned into a rather hefty logistical nightmare, as I had to get my pass for OpenStack Summit well in advance, along with setting up lodging outside of what the Field Day family sets up for their event. I scheduled an airbnb stay about 15 minutes from the convention center that OpenStack Summit was going to happening at. Unfortunately, as Stephen (Foskett) will be able to tell you, Tech Field Day 14 had some issues with presenting companies.
Originally, Tech Field Day 14 was supposed to be three days, with upwards of seven to eight different companies presenting to the delegate panel. As the event drew closer, the schedule changed drastically and the event was whittled down to four presenting companies and one of the days was dropped from the schedule. As I had already reserved my airbnb location before all of this happened, I was stuck with a night in which I was lacking lodging. I offered to pay for my own room for that gap night at the hotel we, the delegates, would be staying at. Stephen informed me that it was all right and that he would pick me up at the conference and take me out there, as he was already going to be doing some chatting with prospective companies for the Field Day events.
Now, all of this setup leads me to my favorite moment of 2017. As OpenStack Summit was drawing to a close, Stephen wanted to know if I would be interested in heading up to one of the restaurants at the top of the Prudential Tower. While the company he wanted to talk to escapes me, the view was awesome and the food, drink, and conversations were really great. Normally, it takes me a while to warm up to these types of conversations, but it felt rather natural to discuss some technical things with the folks hosting the event.
As the evening drew to a close, Stephen wanted to stop by one of the shops in the shopping district around the Prudential Tower to buy something to discount parking, which lead us to a sports wear store. Inside, Stephen, being a huge Boston Red Sox fan, chose to pick up a Boston Red Sox shirt or two. This lead us to having a rather lengthy discussion about baseball.
You see, baseball is a passion for me. I’ve been a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. I remember the days before Wrigley Field got night time lights, so all the afternoon games were available to watch on a local channel where I grew up. At the same time, currently residing in Kansas City, I can easily spend an evening at Kauffman Stadium. As long as I live, I will always be able to remember October of 2014 (the Royals lost in Game 7 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants), 2015 (the Royals returned to the World Series, this time winning it in five games), and 2016 (the Cubs finally ended 108 years of futility and won the World Series).
On the drive from downtown Boston out to the hotel in Waltham, we talked each other’s ears off about baseball. Stephen pointed out how well the Red Sox looked. I talked about whether they had a bullpen that would be able to get them over the hump and into the World Series again. We talked about rookies with hot starts. We even chatted about the various experiences we had with our teams getting to and even winning the World Series. It was a great evening of talking with another fellow baseball fan. It’s something I’m going to remember for quite some time, even if I end up jinxing the Red Sox, Cubs, or Royals from not winning another World Series in either of our lifetimes.
The Next Steps
The next steps are going to be rather interesting ones. I’m currently at a multi-path crossroads that feels like it’s going in hundreds of different directions. I’ve started to get involved in more cloud-native efforts, especially in the Microsoft Azure ecosystem (public and Azure Stack). I’ve gotten on radars for more community programs (like the Microsoft MVP program, although, I still haven’t been able to focus on obtaining it like I’d like to). I’ve been given options to jumpstarting user groups for Microsoft Azure in my local area. I’m even having discussions with VMUG people about putting in another presentation to make the rounds for UserCons in 2018.
The main point is that it seems like I’m rather content to keep doing what I’m doing. Keep interacting with the technical community. Keep branching out to those I can call as friends and having excellent conversations about tech, life, and everything. At this rate, I might be able to cut and paste this post for 2018!
So, here’s to 2017! While I may have never met many of you directly, you helped shape my last 12 months. I can only hope that I’m able to return the favor and help you shape your next 12 months in the same fashion!