Why should anyone attend VMware Explore?

Also known as VMworld, like it used to be called for the past 17 years…

I still remember my first VMworld attendance back in 2015, the year of “Ready for Any”. It all started with a buddy of mine talking to me about attending, and convincing me to ask my employer to see if I could go. I was hesitant to ask since there was not a big training budget where I was employed at the time, and these types of conferences were not fully considered training either. Part of the advice I was given was “If you do not ask, the answer will always be no” (something that stays close to me at all times since then). So simple, but so true. Long story short, my manager did not shut down the idea of my going to VMworld like I expected, and it seems like his boss and his boss’ boss did not either. I felt like a kid feels when they are told they are going to Disney World. Immediately I started researching things to do, places to go to, people to talk to, booths to visit, etc…

From the moment I got to the airport in my local city, I noticed there were other VMware professionals going to the same conference as well. Even more of them when I got to the airport in San Francisco. At that point, I did not know as many IT professionals as I do today, but I could tell that they were IT professionals because they were wearing certain t-shirts, or backpacks, or tennis shoes, or all of the above. San Francisco airport was also full of IT advertising, something I had not witnessed before.

I took the train from the airport to San Francisco since it was the cheapest way to get there (Uber was not around back then), carrying only one decent size bag and my backpack with me. When I got off the train, I checked the location of my hotel immediately and I decided to walk since it was less than 1 mile away. Big mistake! The maps application did NOT specify the fact that I had to walk the steepest hills I could have imagined to get to my destination, with a backpack on my back, while rolling a bag too! Arrived sweaty to my hotel, even though the weather was amazing (coming from Florida’s humidity) and lesson learned.

Once I took a shower and changed my clothes, I walked over to the Moscone center (this time down the hill, of course!) to get all registered for the event. I received my first VMworld backpack which immediately replaced whatever other backpack I had brought with me. Got a badge that contained my name, and allowed me access to all the VMworld perks. Stopped by to check all the places that were open on a Sunday prior to the show (VMUG lounge, Hands on Labs, VMware Store, and much more!).

The event was filled with un-imaginable surprises…One of them being the vendor section. I never imagined so many IT vendors in a single place. T-shirts, cups, raffles, games and all sorts of swag everywhere. I do not recall if it was during that year or a different VMworld, but some of the vendors were even raffling cars (probably leases, but still…can you imagine coming back home and telling your family that you just won a car at the IT conference you just attended!? haha).

And then there was the general sessions…huge rooms, amazing audio/video setups, with thousands of IT professionals trying to get a good seat to watch some of the people in the tech world that we look up to. It is hard to explain, but I would try to describe it trying to compare watching a movie at a theater vs. at home. Completely different level of engagement if you are there live!

I could go on and on about this for hours as you can see, but the last surprise I did not expect was the VMworld party that takes place on Wednesday. What a blast! I remember I had made a couple friends by then and it was going to be my first time going to the San Francisco Giants stadium. We were playing fair games like little kids, while listening to bands playing some good music in the background and enjoying amazing conversations. Oh, and the food…so many options available, there were so many stands open for us in the stadium, that it was hard to decide what to eat that day.

So after reading all of that you are probably wondering, what did VMworld do for my career? Quick summary would be …Everything!

It connected my with other like minded individuals that I met there over the years. It allowed me to attend sessions with some of the brightest minds out there in the field, and listen to their stories. It embraced me to get out of my bubble and speak about my experiences in my IT career, understand much more what the VMUG community was for, also what the vExperts were and how they would mentor others, and simply so much more. Now that I think about it, it is hard to explain all the benefits that come from attending VMworld, but if you truly take advantage of the experience, the benefits are endless!

Are you considering attending your first VMware conference this year? Please send me a note. I would love to connect out there.

VMware Explore link here

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