This year’s VMworld in Las Vegas will be one I will be sure to remember. Not only did VMware once again deliver an event which surpassed all my expectations, but it was an event which I share a career highlight, with me presenting to an audience of over 500 people. It is also an event which I will remember fondly for many other reasons too.
Late last year I began working on a personal side project, to develop automated ‘as built’ documentation using PowerShell. The project was born out of my frustrations with having to manually produce detailed configuration documents for customers after each project implementation. I initially shared details of the project with members of my local VMUG who encouraged me to present at the Melbourne VMUG UserCon in March of this year. Signing up to present at the UserCon also forced me to focus on the project in order to deliver a working demonstration. The feedback from the UserCon session was positive and provided further motivation for me to submit my project for a session at this year’s VMworld.
I knew my chances of success were low, having seen many before me try and fail when submitting for sessions at VMworld. However I knew my submission related to a topic that appealed to a wide audience, and that my project could benefit many in the vCommunity, just like vCheck and Vester had done previously.
Having worked the last 10 years as an IT consultant for a leading systems integrator, I have written my fair share of documentation. From design documents, migration plans, test plans, operational guides and health checks, I’ve done it all. But nothing annoys me more than having to write as built documentation.
What’s the problem with writing as built documentation?
As built documents require a lot of detailed system information, which often takes a significant amount of time and effort to retrieve. The information then normally requires you to transpose it from one format to another, again a laborious and time wasting exercise. In rare instances you may find a tool that can do this for you, however, it is never free, and it will never be able to perform this task across all of your systems. Sure, there’s always some basic tool available which can export into CSV, however the pain lies in transposing the information into a document format which is legible and presentable to a client. Excel spreadsheets are never acceptable to clients paying top dollar for your services.
This August I will be attending VMworld US 2018 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas. This will be my 4th VMworld, having previously attended in 2011, 2013 & 2015.
Of all the conferences I have had the privilege to attend over the years, I would have to say VMworld is my favourite, and here is why;
The VMworld breakout sessions offer some of the best untapped knowledge you are ever likely to find. As many already know, the sessions are where you can gain direct access to those people who had the idea to create your favourite VMware features, or are the ones who have taught you all you know through their blogs, books and/or vBrownbags.
At my first VMworld, I spent all of my time in breakout sessions trying to absorb as much information as I could. Whilst I did learn a lot, I returned home feeling I had missed out on the full VMworld experience.
I hate to admit this, but there is no denying that some sessions can be hit and miss. In most cases, some sessions simply do not match the brief outlined in the session catalog. If you find yourself in a session where you are simply not gaining the knowledge you are seeking, politely excuse yourself and go and utilise your time more wisely elsewhere.
When I had the opportunity to return to VMworld in 2013, I went in with a totally different game plan. This time I booked up a solid agenda with all the sessions that interested me, however I simply went with the flow and never felt guilty for missing a session. If I was missing sessions it was because I was learning about newly discovered products in the Solutions Exchange, or sharing knowledge and experiences with new friends from the vCommunity.
This is how I roll at all conferences now. I always strive to get to the keynotes and the breakout sessions that interest me most, however I don’t live or die by them. My advise is to enjoy the experience and take the opportunity to meet those that you would never normally get the opportunity to meet. Seek out those people who have the information you are looking for.