In the latest issue of Eye on the i,
Pete Massiello shares why COMMON conferences are invaluable for your career. Read his full article below:
The Value is Being There
I attended my first COMMON conference during 1989 in Chicago, I can remember this like it was yesterday. Boy this is making me sound old, but over the past 30 years I haven’t missed many conferences. In fact, I haven’t missed a conference in over 20 years. If you remember, back then COMMON held 2 conferences a year so I know I have been at over 50 COMMON conferences over my career. Do you know that I still look forward to attending the conference each and every year? With that said, I understand the value of being at the conference. I was obsessed with learning, and I was absorbing information like a sponge. I still am, and that is why I continue to attend. Although, things have changed as I have been speaking now for 10 years helping others learn about IBM i, as other speakers before me have taught first about the AS/400, and now about IBM i at COMMON conferences.
Things were slightly different back then, there were about 5,000 attendees at the conference. I can remember huge ball rooms with hundreds and hundreds of seats in the room, and you had to run from one session to the next to get a seat. In some of the more popular sessions, there were people sitting everywhere you looked. I can remember sitting on the floor with people on both sides of me, we were packed like sardines in a can, but we were so happy to be there. We were learning new things about the AS/400, and that was what we were there for. You made friends quickly, because everyone was willing to talk to each other. In fact, I was learning as much technical “stuff” from the actual sessions as I was from outside the sessions.
Let me explain that more. The value of COMMON is not just the scheduled educational sessions that everyone was attending, but it was the networking as well. Something that you only get when you are physically present at a conference. When you pick your sessions you start to notice the same people in the rooms, and those people have the same interests as you. So, next thing you know you are going to lunch and/or dinner with them, and talking about your favorite IBM i topic. You can’t put a price on what you learn in those scenarios. I can remember, hanging out at networking events talking “shop” until 2 or 3am in the morning, and then next day waking up at 6:30 to have breakfast and get to the first 8:00am session. I am getting exhausted thinking about it, and no wonder I used to sleep the entire way home after the conference on the plane! Sometimes walking to a session, you could be lucky enough to be walking next to a speaker and strike up a conversation, or someone who we were together in a session, and just started discussion issues about some IBM I topic. I can’t tell you how much I have learned this way at COMMON Conferences, but what I can tell you is that the networking aspect of COMMON is just as valuable as the sessions themselves. I have made some great friends over the years, people I have gone on vacations with, been at each other’s houses, even went into business with them, but most of them I have their name, email, and phone number inside my phone. When they or I have a problem, we send each other an email or call one another. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been during my career. We all get stuck on something, or perhaps don’t know a particular area very well, but after you have been to a few COMMON conferences and built your own little network, I connect with someone to ask a question, and I get great advise. That pays back many times over. This is the value of an in person conference, building the relationships.
The sessions are amazing, no doubt about it. I have learned so much from the many amazing speakers that have spoken over the years at COMMON conferences. I would sit in their sessions and be like a sponge absorbing as much as humanly possible. In fact, I am not sure how I even did it. I was up 18 to 20 hours every day at these conferences, gaining knowledge from the speakers as they presented, having lunch and dinner with people who had similar interests, and being in the networking sessions just talking and listening to everything IBM i (AS/400 back then) I could squeeze into my ears. This is what I have missed most this year during the pandemic, going to a conference and seeing my friends. I enjoy sitting at the bar or a networking event and having a cold drink, and talking about IBM i System Administration. That is my passion, and I still learn as much from everyone today as I did 30 years ago. I have had the good luck to be very successful with my company, helping many IBM i shops. I know exactly where I got the knowledge and know how… from attending COMMON Conferences over the years and interacting with everyone there that I could. It isn’t just a conference, it is a way to improve and enhance your career. I am fully vaccinated, so I am looking forward to seeing everyone in Virginia Beach at the next COMMON POWERUp Conference October 4th through 7th .