Hello CUGC Community!
This year I was lucky enough to attend my first Citrix Synergy event! This is something I have been looking forward to for a long time. However, my family has been in a season of growing, and having little kids at home makes it very difficult to get away for extended periods of time. I'd first like to thank my wife for playing super-mom at home the entire week that I was gone. I know it was challenging for her to do all the work alone. Thank You Malissa!
For the last three years, I have been engaging with our community. First, on the local level by co-leading our Omaha CUGC group (along with four excellent leads) and having some success there. Then about two years ago, I began to recognize the value of the larger community–the global piece. I fired up my long-dormant twitter account. I was already aware of the Citrix CTA and CTP programs, so the first thing I did was to immediately follow all of those folks. Over time, I began to recognize and understand who contributed and how they contributed to our community. From my humble city in the middle of the USA, I watched, learned, and interacted with the community. I read the blogs and used the content to solve real challenges in my IT organization. I began to recognize the sub-communities of the EUC space, and began to branch out who I followed to include those sub-communities. I further engaged and shared the useful content put out by these EUC experts and evangelists.
Flash forward to 2018. I'm a Citrix CTA and I get to go to my first Citrix Synergy event! I was on cloud nine! When the opportunity came about to volunteer to lead the Lunch Table Tech Chats, which coincindentally allowed me to save some costs, I jumped on it. I was so excited to have an opportunity to help people solve technical challenges as well as meet the people I follow on Twitter.
In April, my local group, along with Kansas City and Central Iowa, held our second annual CUGC XL Event (see the recap blog post and video here). I was asked if I'd be willing to share on-camera what I was most excited about for my upcoming trip to Citrix Synergy:
The content team for CUGC also decided to do a series of short videos while at Synergy, and asked me to participate, since it was my first time attending, I'm a local leader, and a CTA. I knew this would push me out of my comfort zone a bit, but I agreed because I like to lean into things.
Arrival To Anaheim
I arrived on Sunday evening. Because of our community, I was able to coordinate a ride share from the airport to the convention center. My first interactions were with fellow CTA Donald Wong and CTP Program Coordinator Perrine Crampton. (Thanks Perrine for the ride!) This is going to sound lame to some, but I was mesmerized by the view in California, as sadly, this was my first visit to California. Where I come from, there isn't anything exciting except Husker Football! Go Big Red! California has palm trees and mountains! Mountains! It was beautiful. I've lived a sheltered life I guess. I digress now.
I checked in and met up with longtime friend and fellow CTA, Scott "Ozzy" Osborne. We headed to the nFuse Bar and Grill for dinner and drinks. There I also met CTA David Gautney. When we walked out to the patio area, I was a bit star-struck to see Citrix CTO Christian Reilly, having a drink with someone. Without hesitation, I walked over and quickly introduced myself. I felt like a goob for interrupting him, but hey, I didn't know if I'd have another chance to introduce myself or not.
While enjoying our dinner and drinks, we came upon a local brew named Barley Forge ‘The Patsy’ Coconut Rye Nitro Stout. Now I'm not much of a stout beer fan, but this stuff was amazing! The hint of coconut coupled with nitro made it so smooth and delicious! We affectionately referred to it as #nitro for the rest of the week. That night, I ended up meeting many other fellow CTAs and CTPs, including Trentent Tye, Rory Monaghan, Chris Schrameyer, and Saadallah Chebaro, just to name a few.
As a CTA, I was invited to a briefing with the CTPs from David Henshall, PJ Hough, and Jeroen van Rotterdam. Upon arrival, I was overwhelmed by all the familiar faces in the room. I felt like I knew them pretty well, but wasn't really sure many knew me, and I was on a mission to change that. Since I knew their names, I made sure to introduce myself to as many as I could. I sat down for breakfast next to CTP Fellow Carl Webster and Ozzy. After breakfast, I met CTP Gareth Carson, and we had a great conversation while getting to know each other. Little did I know, we would become fast friends and hang out many times that week.
Our meeting was about to begin. I found a seat next to Tim Mangan. "Holy crap! This dude is a legend!" I thought. David Henshall began his briefing with the group, and I remember sitting there, looking around, and wondering to myself, "How did I get here? I'm so lucky to be in this room with all of these people." David briefed us on the announcements taking place at the Keynote the next day, and the CTPs, in particular, were giving him very candid feedback about various issues and challenges they have already experienced, or could anticipate, with these new announcements. The conversation with PJ and Jeroen was similar. It was fantastic to watch the executive leaders listen to feedback, ask probing questions, and try to understand the issues. The room was full of a lot of very smart and passionate people who all want the same thing: a better user experience for customers!
Monday Afternoon and Evening
I attended most of the first UpCon user group meeting for ControlUp. It was a great experience to meet the passionate staff at ControlUp and have an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. I headed over to the CUGC Pregame next. I arrived about 15 minutes early, but the party was already well under way. I met up with several people during the pregame including fellow CTA Benjamin Crill, who took the Automation Framework Master Class with me in Chicago last year. I met a group of guys from the Netherlands, and had a long conversation with CTP Jim Moyle about his thoughts from the executive briefing earlier that day. I also got to meet CTP Esther Barthel. She's also one of the mentors for the Women in Tech Program. She's a hoot!
What did I think about the Pregame and my first day in Anaheim? I grabbed a beer shared my thoughts:
I had breakfast outside with Carl Webster and Tim Mangan, and then headed to the keynote with Ozzy. Along the way, we ran into some more Omaha CUGC members, Darrin and Kody. These guys work for a large local bank and have been great supporters of our local group!
After the keynote, I shared my thoughts about it:
The rest of the day I spent volunteering. CTP Tobias Kreidl and I were discussing, while at the Great Plains XL event back in April, that if you want to network, volunteering is one of the best ways to accomplish that. Otherwise, you're sitting in a session watching the presenters, and likely not able to have much of a conversation. Sure, you may make comments or spend a few minutes before and after the session, but that's not enough time to get to know someone.
I talked a little bit with CUGC about how networking is one of the most valuable parts of Synergy:
Next, I volunteered at the CUGC Hub for an hour. I met several people there as James Ma and I talked with new and existing CUGC members or people who were interested in starting their own local group. I also had a chance to meet Christoph Kolbicz in person. For those that don't know him, he contributes to our community. One such example is his SetUserFTA application, which is really helpful for setting file type associations on Server 2012/2016, and Windows 10.
Battle Bots was up next. As volunteers, we had to help high school students assemble, program, and test their bots. It was a lot of fun! I wish I had opportunities to build bots in high school! My biggest take away from this was recognizing the imagination of our youth. They were fearless to share and try different ideas for designing their bots. I think over time, as adults, we have a tendency stop using our imagination (or at least we mute it) and just stay in the daily grind of life. Here is a pic of the two young men on our team.
After hanging out at the Welcome Reception, eating some great food, and drinking a few beers, we headed back to nFuse for more #nitro beers! Our local Citrix rep Matt Geiger was entertaining some Omaha customers, so we joined them for a while.
You just never know who you are going to meet at events like these. I was lucky enough to meet Brian Madden! Most of you know him or at least know of him. We've all read his blogs over the years. I just couldn't believe I actually met him! We had an approximately two-hour conversation about how our careers got started, have progressed, and what the future holds. We talked about the power of community, and what some of his plans are in the community. He's a really down-to-earth guy and it was a real honor to speak with him. I also had a very brief interaction with his brother Jack, as well as Shawn Bass from VMWare. "Holy crap! I shook hands with the CTOs of two very large tech companies during this trip!" I thought.
The night gets even more interesting after that. I met up with CTP Gareth Carson, CTA Kevin Howell, David Wilkinson, and CTP George Spiers, and CTA David Gautney. Of course, my buddy Ozzy was there with me. All of us drank #nitro the rest of the night, and had a great time talking about everything that wasn't technical. Ozzy always says, "there are two types of people in this world: one you can sit and have a beer with, and the other, well, you can't." Everyone in the #nitrocrew are the type of people you can have a beer with.
My biggest takeaway from the Super Session with Dr. Condoleezza Rice was when she said, "don't take on other people's prejudices." She said her father told her, "if someone doesn't want to sit next to you because you are black, that's fine, as long as they move!" WOW! When considering those two quotes, it empowers you to think about conflict a little differently than you might normally do so.
I didn't make it to many sessions this day. I had Lunch Table Tech Chats shortly after the Super Session. In the afternoon, I had a Match.Geek meeting with Shoaib Yusuf regarding SDWAN. This was the most exciting technical session I went to because, it was one-on-one and directly related to our implementation of SDWAN. Next, some of the Omaha CUGC Leads met up with the Indiana, Ohio, and St. Louis CUGC leads to share things we learned when planning XL events. I did get a chance to catch the last half of the Tech Target EUC buying trends session hosted by Jack Madden. After dinner, the #nitrocrew met up again at nFuse for more networking and comradery. That night, I also met Steve Noel, Craig Harmel, Hal Lange, James Kindon, and many other super stars in our community!
Each day, I volunteered to facilitate Lunch Table Tech Chats. For those that don't know about it, there is a section at lunch where attendees can come chat with other attendees and a designated community member. My topic for all three days was Application Virtualization and VDI. It was a really great experience helping people connect solutions to their problems. Because of my engagement with the community, I had resources such as blogs and community members that I could share with people asking questions. Special thanks to Rory Monaghan, Jarian Gibson, Tobias Kreidl, and DJ Eshelman for coming to my table to serve as a resource for some of the questions that I could not answer.
I spoke briefly with David Gautney about volunteering at the tables throughout the week:
Thursday was a chill day. My favorite session of the day was "Multi-Site Scenarios Best Practices" (#SYN236), hosted by Jarian Gibson, Shane Klieinert, and David Brett. After lunch, I attended a fantastic session for CUGC Leaders. A facilitator was brought in who gave us tools and techniques to better facilitate our local CUGC meetings. I'm really grateful that the CUGC Steering Committee was willing to invest in the local leaders like that.
I talked with David Gautney again to share my final thoughts about attending my first Citrix Synergy:
It was a blast attending Citrix Synergy! I met so many people and had such a great time learning, connecting with people, and drinking #nitro with new friends. I look forward to seeing everyone next year!