When I first learned that I was going to be attending VMworld this year,  I was very excited.  Excited to be at the centre of all the new technology, excited to participate in the technical deep-dive sessions, excited to get my hands dirty with some of the new features of vSphere 5 in the hands on labs, excited to experience all that is Vegas for the first time.  Just excited as a whole to be part of this large conference.  However, upon my return from the fabulous Las Vegas and the even more fabulous VMworld I’ve realized that my initial expectations and views on the conference had somewhat changed.

Sure, I’m grateful to have experienced everything that I have listed above, but to me, as with most other conferences that I’ve attended, the most memorable, beneficial experiences have came from the conversations in the hallways.   At VMworld, this point was elevated to new heights.  After signing up for the conference I began to pay a little more attention to my twitter feeds, my rss feeds, and just began listening to the many podcasts available centred around VMware.  This proved to be the best preparation that I could have possibly done for VMworld.  I truly found out why VMware and its’ partners have always bragged and boasted about the community surrounding them.

What made my experience at my first VMworld memorable all began and ended with the community.  The community that has assembled itself around virtualization, and more specifically VMware virtualization is one of the strongest and tightest that I’ve ever seen.  It truly is a welcoming, helpful, and educational experience being involved with this community.  I can go on all day about how much I appreciate the support of all the VMware community members, but I’d rather just stick to a few specific examples of how they helped me get the most of my first (and hopefully many) appearances at VMworld.

Example 1 – The Social Aspect

We all know that there are many parties hosted by many different community members and vendors at VMworld.  When I first started to find out through social media and blog posts how to get into some of these parties I thought there was no way I’d get invites, being just a small customer and virtually unknown to the hosts.  That was until I read a post by Christopher Kusek (@cxi).  Christopher basically mentioned that if you haven’t received a ticket, whether the were tickets left or not, to just send an email….you never know.  So, I sent an email off to Christopher regarding his CXIparty and immediately got a response with an invite.  I was shocked, even more shocked when our email conversation went back and forth many times in the weeks leading up to VMworld.  To me, Christopher is the perfect example of a truly dedicated community member.   I barely know him, have only met him once, and he has gone out of his way to ensure that my experience (and even my wifes) at VMworld was truly epic.

Example 2 – Those humble rock-stars

No, I’m not talking about The Killers, I’m talking about all of those famous bloggers and tweeps out there that are consistently day after day rolling out blog posts and dedicating their personal time to speak at various events and VMUGs.   After following some of these people on twitter and reading their blogs for the last few years I made it a point to go up and introduce myself and thank them for their commitment, time, and great content that they have been producing.  Each and everyone one of them (and there are way too many to name) seemed to be somewhat humbled and appreciative to accept complements from me.  They thanked me for saying hello, and it was really nice to put a real face to all of those twitter handles!  I felt a bit awkward in a way, but quickly realized that I was not alone, as there were many other attendees there doing the same thing.  Most of the ideas and conversations throughout the community are started by one of the many virtualization bloggers and that’s what makes them the rockstars!

Example 3 – John Troyer

Does this guy ever quit?  It seemed that everywhere that I went the VMware social media evangelist was there…and with more energy than the rest of the room combined.  The man arranged many vMeetups in the community lounge (including the one that caused me to start this blog), delivers a content rich podcast every Wednesday and really knows how to make  splash at a party 🙂  Not to mention I’m sure he had many, many hours of planning leading up to VMworld.   Kudos to John (@jtroyer)  for all his hard work over the years.

These are only three examples of many that make the VMware community what it is today.  I urge anyone who hasn’t invested some time in the community to do so, as it seems to be growing stronger and stronger every day.  I would also like to thank the community for being so welcoming, it really did make my first VMworld experience one to remember.