What I Get Out Of Tech Field Day!

I find it hard to believe that another Tech Field Day has passed. It must have been the quickest 3 days in history!

I would like to take a moment to explain what Tech Field Day is, from an altitude of 50,000 feet (or so), depending on turbulence and aircraft weight.

50,000 feet – We have reached our cruising altitude

Conceptually, Tech Field Day is the brainchild of the one and only, Stephen Foskett (@sfoskett for you Twitter folks).

Technology industry conference events and seminars have become fancy/extravagant sales pitches designed to whatever agenda the hosting company has up their sleeves. You know what, though, that is their prerogative. As long as people are paying to travel and cover the entrance fees, there certainly must be some value somewhere, right?!

Stephen got an amazing idea to counter the common template of industry events. Rather than have people go to company organized events, how about companies paying to go to user organized events?! This backwards, but logical, shift in functionality started a boulder rolling down a hill. That boulder is Tech Field Day. The hill is just part of the analogy.

Fast forward to February 2011… we just finished Tech Field Day #5 (technically 6th in the series, but Networking Field Day was too cool to be numbered).

You can find more history and information on the Tech Field Day website.

Who gets to go?

Tech Field Day attendees are called “Delegates”. While this may sound a little elitist, it is an excellent description of the attendees.

  • Delegates are selected by a panel of peers based on: knowledge, respectability, online presence, intelligence, independence, personality, and community development/contribution.
  • Delegates are selected to semi-match the subject matter of the presenting sponsors.
  • Delegates are used to select future Tech Field Day delegates (hence, “selected by a panel of peers”).

I feel very lucky and honored to have been selected as a delegate for 2 Tech Field Day events! I appreciate the recognition from people whom I consider to be experts and that they see value in how I am contributing to the community.

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What do YOU (aka: me, Virtual Bill) get out of attending Tech Field Day?

Experiences in life are really what you make of them. On a very logical and “matter of fact” level, delegates receive a trip to the Tech Field Day location, meals, lodging, presentations from sponsoring companies, little tchotchkes,  and an opportunity to network with other delegates, organizers, and sponsors.

But, I am more of a sentimental kind of guy. So, while I appreciate the logical aspects, I appreciate the social rewards so much more.

We all have our own worlds we live in. But, just talk to a world traveler and they will tell you that there is so much else out there. The same goes for IT worlds. I am used to my SME (Small-Medium Enterprise) environment. I am subject to our budgets, systems, procedures/applications, and business decisions that shape my professional life and professional world. I definitely do not have an unlimited training budget and I fully acknowledge that I know what I know and have no idea what I do not know.

Tech Field Day allows me to travel my professional world. Technologies, architectures, concepts/ideas, and battle stories appear that I have never experienced. I happily take all of that information in… even if there is no direct correlation to what I am doing professionally. Tech Field Day allows me to grow as a professional. Now, my scope, breadth, and depth as an IT professional is that much deeper.

  For Example: During Tech Field Day #5, HP informed us that they are developing their own deduplication storage system. Am I going to buy one? No. But, Curtis Preston (@wcpreston) helped drive home the advantages of variable block over fixed block deduplication techniques. THAT concept will stay with me for a very long time… another tool in my tool belt.

The group of delegates is always among the brightest and intelligent in the field. Everyone is so friendly, willing to openly discuss geeky things, and represent an amazingly diverse pool of community knowledge. The delegate pool is the true physical representation of what Gestalt is all about. I feel as though I can reach out to every single delegate I have had the pleasure of interacting with and ask for help, advice, or just keep in touch. Tech Field Day delegates are one of a kind (or 12 of a kind) and a great group to be associated with.

Hard to believe that one day in September 2010, I grew a pair and asked to contribute to Gestalt IT and started a new period in my professional life/world. Definitely the best decision  I have made in some time. Tech Field Day is about community, knowledge, critical thinking, and getting the most out of our relationships with people and companies.

I am thankful for this experience and honor. I am happy to be associated with this group of individuals and I hope I can impart my new knowledge in my professional and personal worlds.

Morals of the story:

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. If you jumped down to the end, I guess you found a shortcut. The morals of this story are:

  • Tech Field Day and Gestalt IT are awesome
  • Connect with your IT community and join the Gestalt. You will not regret it!
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5 Comments

    1. Hey Conrad,

      It was a wicked cool time. Definitely hope to go again. 3rd time’s the charm, right?!

      Good luck with the new blog!

      ~Bill

      Reply

  1. Seems a bit elitist to me: look at the criteria to join. Also what this looks like are vendors paying you to shill their products and line the organizers pockets. It’s not a novel idea, it’s the way marketing works. I bet the attendees get lots of free equipment and post good reviews of all the vendors stuff too.

    This is crap on so many levels

    Reply

  2. Hey J (I love anon comments),

    As a TFD delegate, I disagree with your assessment of the idea behind TFD. I hear the ‘elitist’ epithet thrown around a lot. From a vendor perspective, would you rather invite someone who will listen to your message and tell others about your impressions? Or do you want to invite a hostile party that will go off and forget all about things? Do you invite people to your parties that are interesting and have good coversational ability? Or do you only invite the quiet people that eat all the food and then leave?

    We don’t shill products for the vendors. We are under no obligation to write a single word about what we hear. We choose to write about the things we’ve been briefed on, and in some cases they aren’t nice. I blasted Infoblox for a terrible presentation and an unclear market approach for their product. I was unkind to Cisco in my Wireless review for bringing up a topic that didn’t really interest anyone. The vendors sign up for the process knowing full well that the delegates might say something bad. And yet there are vendors signing up for event after event.

    I know how marketing works, and yes I understand that these companies see TFD delegates as marketing shills. I don’t see myself that way. I see myself as a third party that is willing to speak my peace about what I see. I don’t get paid to go out to TFD, and in fact I have to use vacation days, so I’m costing myself something. At TFD 5, I received no free equipment. All I recieved were USB drives and pens, the same kind of thing you can find at any trade show floor. I did get equipment at WFD, but I did not ask for any of it. I am using the equipment in my job function right now and if it sucks, I’ll be the first to tell you.

    The question here then becomes…is this a case of sour grapes? Or are you fed up with the way that vendors approach marketing events? Would you rather see more large opportunites like Interop or Cisco Live where everyone gets lost in the shuffle and the message is generic to speak to everyone? Do you not like the idea of getting a vendor rep in a small room and hammering them with tough questions about things like network design or slavish adherence to standards? Or are you more upset that you can’t get on the list to go to a Field Day? We aren’t picked up off the street. Peers vote on the delegates. We know each other (for the most part). We read each other’s notes and talk about industry news. We feel comfortable with the impartiality and capabilities of everyone else because we can’t hide behind anonymity. Want to go to a TFD? Stop posting comments with generic initials and take a stand. Just don’t expect me to vote on you.

    Reply

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