It’s been almost a month since arriving in Orlando for IBM Connect 2013. It amazes me how time flies. I thought I would just give my 2 cents worth on the week, for entertainment purposes.
SATURDAY. THE FIRST DAY
It was one of the toughest days I’ve experienced in a long time. After a 16 hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, I arrive in Atlanta around 5:00am. I spent almost 1.5 hours just trying to get through Customs and then had to spend another 30 minutes getting past security. I literally ran all the way to the Terminal where my flight was waiting for me to take me to Orlando.
From there it was much more relaxed. I arrived at the All Star Movies Resort around 9:30am. The only thing I can say about Disney World is WOW!!! What a beautiful place to spend a week at, even if it’s attending an event most of the time.
By 11:00am I arrived at the Dolphin & Swan. I decided to Register early and get it out the way. Thank goodness as well, because there was no queue. I was in and out in less than 5 minutes. It suddenly struck me like a ton of bricks: “I could do with a beer”. So I made my way to the Outside Bar and treated myself to a “Miller Lite”. This became my beer of choice for the duration of the Event. Many did not agree with this decision (Marky, David, Serdar to name a few). I had the pleasure of meeting Frank Tonn from IBM at this Bar. He officially became the first person I started socializing with since arriving at the Event.
I’m sure Miller Lite has a “Lucky” effect on me, because I had this feeling to go back into the Hotel. Low and behold, there stands Nathan Freeman and Peter Presnell. So I joined them and together we made our way to the Boardwalk. Outside on the Boardwalk I meet Serdar and Tim Tripcony (And someone else I can’t remember who…Sorry). So that’s 6 introductions in a span of 1.5 hours. From there, we all went to the get together at one of the Restaurants on the Boardwalk (I can’t remember it’s name…they Brew their own Beer apparently). This was pretty much where the ball dropped. Inside you had a the likes of Dr Marky “I love jQuery” Roden, David “Videos Rule” Leedy, Gayle Elgort, Matt “Hey David, that’s my line!!” White, Mat “Give me a hug” Newman, Darren “I don’t remember saying that” Duke, Stuart “Let me start a fire ” McIntyre, and a bunch more that I just can’t remember at this time. It was a who’s who of the Online Community and it was AWESOME!!!. A few drinks later and we were off to ESPN for something to eat. One thing to mention about ESPN. I’ve never been to a Sports Pub where in the Toilet each cubicle had its own LCD TV. All I can say is…..Kudos!!
I forced myself back to the hotel room around 11:00pm and thus concluded my first day at IBM Connect . I was exhausted.
THE IBM CHAMPION PROGRAM
It goes without saying that if you have the chance to be an IBM Champion, do everything in your power to make it happen. IBM really make a lot of effort to make you feel welcome and congratulate you continuously on your achievement. Joyce Davis and her team are absolute ROCK STARS!!! The Red Carpet was pretty much laid out for all the Champions. We got mentioned during the OGS. We had special seating in the front which was very nice. We had our own Private Room/Suite during the week to be used for meetings or just a place to relax. We had Blue ribbons attached to our Badges for people to recognize us. Games were running during the week where people could take photos of them with Champions and win prizes. A lot of us got video interviewed which was pretty cool. iPad covers with IBM Champion branding, lunch with the Execs, Gift packs with Shirts, caps and all kinds of goodies. The list goes on and on. In short, imagine attending IBM Connect with a tank full of Nitro.
I really need to take my hat off and thank Joyce, her team and the rest of IBM for making it an absolutely awesome week. You guys really outdid yourselves. The best part of this is that everything I’ve mentioned is only related to the week at IBM Connect. There is so much more to look forward to behind the scenes and I don’t know where to start. I think it deserves its own Blog Post and I will publish one very soon so that others can at least learn from me and do what they can to be IBM Champion next year.
Finally, a big shout out to all the IBM Champions for 2013. You are an awesome group of people and I am honored to share this Title with every one of you. I’m glad I got to know most of you during the week (About 60 of the 76 Champions attended IBM Connect).
SESSIONS DURING THE WEEK
The OGS was not bad. I got frustrated with the lack of Wi-Fi during that time. I really don’t have too much to say about this. Sorry.
I have to say that pretty much every session that I attended was of excellent quality and well presented. I remember attending an Event about 1.5 years ago (Not IBM) and for that Event, each session had it’s own personal disaster that took place, whether it was loss of internet, Demos crashing, speakers who I felt didn’t deserve to be on stage, etc. It was a nightmare.
With IBM Connect, It was completely the opposite. Yes, there were a few sessions where the Speakers were a bit too nervous, but having said that, every demo worked and pretty much every session was entertaining.
Having said the above, there was 1 BOF session I attended that I felt was almost a waste of my hour. I was ready to leave but stayed thanks to Mr Russell Maher walking in. The person facilitating the session seemed a bit upset that his Abstract to speak at one of the major sessions was declined and indirectly made the audience aware of this. As bored as I was, I still felt this BOF session was not a true waste of time, because I was able to share some of my experience and motivate a few people who attended the session to take on some new challenges with regards to XPages Development.
I remember getting sarcastic comments from a Mr David Leedy when I attended his session, asking me what I’m doing there and that there’s nothing for me to learn. Well Mr David, both Marky and I walked out your 1 session with at least 2 features we weren’t aware of. So thanks for teaching me something and next year I will attend your session again .
I also enjoyed the OpenNTF Session. Bruce Elgort is an awesome Presenter and just had the crowd ignited. Bruce, next IBM Connect we need to organize some on stage music, just for kicks. I’ll play the Electric Symbols .
The Closing Session was very entertaining. John Hodgman had me laughing from start to finish. I won’t look at Math the same way again . It was a great way to end IBM Connect.
MY BIRDS OF A FEATHER SESSION
So I submitted an abstract to speak about XPages and Mobile Development. Sadly, my abstract was declined, but I was allowed to submit again for a BOF Session. I was overjoyed when this was approved. It gave me a chance to strut my stuff at my very first IBM Connect/Lotusphere.
I also enjoyed the idea of a BOF Session versus a normal Track or Show and Tell Session. It gave me a chance to not only speak about something I’m passionate about, but to engage with the audience and turn it into an awesome discussion. For the next IBM Connect, I would really like to present in one of the main sessions, but I will no doubt still be submitting for a BOF Session.
Even though my session was 7:00am on Tuesday morning, I had an attendance of 14, to which I say, “THANK YOU” to everyone who attended. For those who aren’t aware, coffee is SCARCE that time of the morning, which really impressed me more when I saw people entering the room. My business partner, “Dawid van Heerden” was there for emotional support . Sean Cull and Graham Acres also attended. Even Mr Marky Roden made it and he’s session was immediately after mine.
Based on overall feedback it seemed like most enjoyed the session and for that I am very grateful. I remember I was so nervous before the Session I found myself doing stretches and breathing exercises whilst waiting for everyone to show up. After my session I had enough adrenalin to last me the entire week .
THE UNDERGROUND EVENTS AND ONLINE COMMUNITY
So looking back, between Saturday the 26th and Thursday the 31st, I managed about 3-4 hours sleep per night. The sessions at IBM Connect kept me busy each day from about 8:00am – 6:30pm. Each night after 6:30pm began the IBM Connect Extra Mural Activities. I never really knew what was happening each night (Mr David Leedy did help me a bit), but I did discover a cool trick. The secret is to go and hang around at the Dolphin Bar (Local Watering Hole). I will almost guarantee you that after about 15 minutes you will be downing your drink to attend whatever party or get together you just got invited to. It was like clockwork and there were so many events to choose from. Having said that, you can’t expect this to work if you yourself don’t put in the effort. With that mean…..DON’T BE SCARED TO SOCIALIZE!!!
I had a simple rule: If I’m walking around and I find someone staring at me for more than 2 seconds…..it will be too bad for him/her…because I’m going to introduce myself . Don’t get me wrong I’m still a level 3 Socialist. My goal is to level up for next year and be on par with the big boys. Mr Mat Newman is already Level 10 I think. He hugs everyone he sees. No handshaking of any kind. He Bleeds Yellow everywhere he goes. Mat Newman you are worthy of your yellow Boxing Gloves.
One of the best parts of the week was getting to meet many who form part of the Online Community. Over and above the names I’ve already mentioned in this Post, I got to meet Per Lausten, Mark Leusink, Niklas Heidloff, Mikkel Heisterberg, Paul Withers, Sharon Bellamy, Monika Mora, Brian O’ Niell, Sarah Wise, Mike McGarel, Declan Lynch, Thimo Jansen, Paul Hannan, Rene Winkelmeyer, Dan O’ Connor, John Head, Chris Miller, Kathy Brown, Paul Calhoun, Ed Brill, Colin MacDonald, Mitch Cohen, Tim Clark and many many more. (If I forgot your name here, I am truly sorry)
With facing exhaustion and traveling to and from my hotel put one side, it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I feel that arriving on Saturday before the event starts was a good idea. Next time I’ll try to make it Friday already just to get some sleep and get over some of the Jet Lag. I also feel that leaving anywhere from the Friday onwards is recommended (This is aimed at you Marky). Many still stick around after IBM Connect and it’s a great opportunity to recap and have a few drinks with friends.
I got on especially well with Marky, Serdar, Graham, David and Mark Leusink during the week. It was great to get to know you guys and thanks for all the laughs.
Thus concludes my Week at IBM Connect 2013. I will do everything I can to go again next year. I hope this Blog Post was at least a bit entertaining.
Cheers for now