We've enjoyed our association with the folks from the Professional IT Community Conference (PICC) the last couple of years. It's nice to see local IT sys admins taking control of local conferences.
Local conferences are great, and I'd like to see more of them pop up. It's always a plus to network with local sys admins who are facing some of the same challenges that you are. Plus, it's just plain nice to attend a conference without needing to jump on a plane or pass a kidney stone when you see the hotel room mini-bar prices.
I had the opportunity to exchange some info with John Boris, a past attendee who will be making it to PICC 2012 in New Brunswick, NJ.
Q: What are the three reasons you continue to attend PICC?
1. Low cost Training in my back yard. You can't beat the price. Getting a full day of training runs twice that much and you can get two days. The instructors have been top notch so it is a no brainer for me.
2. Community experience. Besides the training and presentations there is the Hallway track and dinner. You get to meet a lot of people during the breaks and meals. It is neat to have exchanged emails with a person for a year and then meet them face to face.
3. To learn new things. I live my work life at a command prompt on an operating system that is way past end of life. So being able to get somewhere and see what is going on is a plus. Getting to see how someone else solved a problem or handle an issue is something that you can find at PICC.
Q: Do you feel that there are differences between local sys admin
conferences and national conferences? If so, will you list one or two?
The one big difference between a national conference and a local one, in my opinion, is the closeness of the venue. The training sessions may not be as diverse as a week long conference but at PICC you will most likely meet and speak to every attendee at the conference. That is something you would not do at a big National conference.
Q: As a sys admin, what have you learned from past PICC conferences that
you implemented into your daily workflow?
One main thing I have learned at PICC is Time Management through Tom Limmoncelli's Time Management for System Administrators class. From his class and his book I implemented a Request Tracker (RT) system at work to handle my Tecj support calls and practically everything that I need to track goes into that system. The use of RT in my work has streamlined my desk and has kept me on track. This is coming from an person who has to support 500 users, 25 servers over a five county area plus an office of administrators.
Thank you to John for taking the time to share his thoughts on PICC. If you are interested in attending a conference in your local area check out The League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA) which lists local IT conferences.
William Bilancio is on the program committee for the Professional IT Community Conference (PICC) 2011. He was kind enough to answer some questions about the upcoming conference.
SA (Shawn Anderson): What will attendees learn at PICC '11 that they didn't already know?
WB (William Bilancio): Well that depends on what they already know. We have classes that are for the jr admin all the way to the seinor admin. What I really hope they learn is that there is a whole community of admins that are always ready to help there fellow admin.
SA: Based on what you learned at PICC '10, what changes did you make for this years conference?
WB: We have added a vendor area and we have increased the amount of classes offered. We are also offering more windows classes then we did last year. That is one of my goals with this conference, to make the Windows admins feel welcome and to let them there is a space for them in the LOPSA world.
SA: What is LOPSA?
WB: LOPSA is the League of Professional System Administrators. It's a non-profit organization for System Administrators. (www.lopsa.org)
SA: Thinking back to last years conference, what were some common comments or compliments?
WB: Last years attendees really enjoyed the hallway track. It's a great place to meet new people and talk with your peers and just network with other admins.
Of course the price everybody liked. It's low cost for 2 great days of training and talks and papers. We try to keep the price low and still give the attendees there money's worth in traing, talks and food. All meals except breakfast is included in the price.
SA: What process would someone in another location need to follow to start a PICC conference in their area?
WB: Funny you should ask that. The LOPSA local group in Seattle just put on there own conference Cascadia IT. It was a big success.
The first thing a group needs to do is get the volunteers to help plan it and put it on. Both PICC and Cascadia were put together by volunteers. Once you get the volunteers and put together a budget and find a location, it's all about marketing and getting the word out that you are having a conference.
SA: Would you be willing to provide some pointers to other System Admins who would like to organize a PICC conference in their area?
WB: Actually a few of us who put on PICC have formed a company to do just that. We can take care of all finances and getting the contracts together for the venu and food as well as tap the LOPSA education committee to get you trainers.
SA: Any final thoughts on PICC '11?
WB: Yes PICC '11 will be better and bigger then PICC '10. Matt Simmons, the Program Chair, has done a great job getting great talks and keynote speakers. The LOPSA education committee has gotten a great batch of trainers and classes. The price can't be beat for 2 days of training and conference with food included. The early bird pricing ends on April 4th and then the price of admission goes up $75.00.
I'd like to thank Mr. Bilancio for taking the time to answer some questions.
The national conferences are great, but it's too easy to become a wallflower (something that sys admins have always exceled at).
At PICC '11 you'll be face-to-face with sys admins who are fighting the same fires that you are. Pick their brains, and let them pick yours.
It's all about networking.
Follow me on Twitter @ShawnAnderson
The Professional IT Community Conference (PICC) 2011 is prepping for it's second year. The location is New Brunswick, New Jersey and it's time again to see what happens when sys admins organize a conference for their fellow sys admins.
When we learned of PICC last year we were excited because it's rare that sys admins come up from their dungeons long enough to meet a new office worker, let alone venturing out to organize a conference.
Matt Simmons (of StandAlone-SysAdmin fame) is one of the organizers, which is how we learned of this conference. We were so impressed last year with Matt and William's organization of the conference that we wanted to help them in any way that we could. So we sweetned the pie, so to speak.
All attendees of last years conference received AA Console (formerly Admin Arsenal) at no cost. This year, we're doing the same, but also throwing in PDQ Deploy Pro, our new software deployment tool.
If you're in the Northeast I recommend registering (early-bird special ends April 4). You'll be rubbing shoulders with sys admins who have felt your pains and found ways to work through the messes. You'll also be networking with others who need to know what you have learned through your blood, sweat, toil, and tears.
Remember, attendees walk away with Admin Arsenal tools at no cost. No strings attached.
Follow me on twitter @ShawnAnderson
I'm a fan of technical conferences. The two that I like to attend are Microsoft TechEd and IBM Pulse.
I've written in the past about the importance of ponying up your own cash for these conferences. Today I want to hit another aspect; the people.
If you decide to attend TechEd 2011, make one more leap and commit yourself to something that geeks have a tough time with... networking.
I'm not talking about laying cable. I'm referencing the act of speaking.
Other people that you don't already know.
(I'll be happy to pause for a moment if some of you feel the need to reach for your inhalor.)
For some reason mingling with the masses is tough for dweebs to do. However, mingling at tech conferences has a plus; you can actually mingle. (Can you imagine trying to network at a national convention of inspirational speakers? You wouldn't get a word in edgewise.)
So here's a tip. It's easy to do and costs just a few bucks. Stick with me.
Hold tight. I'm not talking about the your Dad's cards that list name, title, address, phone number, facsimile, email, web address, and the obligatory 4-color logo.
I'm thinking more like:
Remember, you're not applying for a mortgage. You're meeting like minded people. If they can't figure out what your email address is from this card then you probably don't want them contacting you.
Now obviously if your domain name isn't a dot com or you have an abbreviated domain name, then you'll need to stir your own creative juices. Just make your card memorable, and remember the following business card advice.
A business card performs three very basic functions:
- Help them remember you
- Help them contact you
- Help them by providing a bit of paper for jotting down grocery lists and dental appointments.
So here's a tip. Go to Over Night Prints. You can make your own business card online in minutes (use their advanced designer).
Don't get caught up with over the top backgrounds. I actually prefer no background. I love white space because it leaves so much to the imagination (if this were an interactive blog I'd have the imagination song from South Park start playing right about... now).
You'll get great customer service from the folks at over night prints. We've used them several times over the years and have been pleased with the results. On one order they actually made a printing error. We contacted them and they overnighted a double order of the corrected cards at no extra cost to us.
Oh, one note from the trenches. Once, when ordering a batch of cards for our company I decided to do the retro thing and get glossy cards. I never heard the end of it from Adam, Shane, or Gwen. So take it from me - don't order the glossy paper. It looks sharp, but you can't write on the cards. A card that you can't write on quickly becomes useless (see list above).
Remember that business cards aren't Mom's nice china, and while they'll eventually be forgotten and discarded, you won't be.
Follow me on Twitter @ShawnAnderson
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Sys Admin Calendar
Matt Simmons, creator of Standalone-Sysadmin.com has created a Sys Admin event calendar. The purpose of this calendar is simply to provide a "one-stop" shop for you to find Sys Admin events in which you may wish to participate.
You may also submit events to be be posted. Don't worry about spam or other noise on the calendar as there are some good ground rules to prevent the calendar from becoming cluttered or just an advertising dumpster.
Also, as I have mentioned in other posts, I strongly suggest that any sys admins out there become a member of the Sys Admin network. It's nice to have a great resource of like minded social outcasts if you love, as I do, all things sys admin.
Fulfill your Sys Admin duties with Admin Arsenal. Remote Software Deployment, Inventory, Monitoring and more. Check us out.
The session planner for TechEd 2010 is now live. Which break out sessions will you be attending? I have three suggestions.
- Avoid Tunnel Vision
- Schedule Unscheduled Breaks
Avoid Tunnel Vision
Ron is one of eight Windows administrators for his company. He oversees 1,250 workstations and 30 servers spread among 5 regional offices. His job is to deploy software patches to all of his systems.
During TechEd he notes several (tons, actually) sessions devoted to SharePoint. Ron knows that his company is already evaluating SharePoint and may be using it soon. Realizing that he will likely be sitting in on change control meetings when Sharepoint comes alive he decides to devote time for one session.
An hour later Ron is has an understanding of some key Sharepoint features and benefits. He understands a little (emphasize little) more about the underpinnings of the application. This is good. Unbeknownst to Ron, his company will be hiring a Sharepoint administrator in the coming months, and Ron will be asked to conduct a portion of the interview since his boss thinks that he knows everything. (He doesn't... but at least now he can fake it with authority).
TechEd is nuts. His hotel was advertised as being 4 blocks from the convention center, but it's obvious that this distance was measured by a crow. The hallways are full of people and tables. Cell phones are pasted to peoples ears and he notices that a lady, half standing, half leaning against a wall, is balancing her laptop on one knee while precariously typing her password and establishing a VPN connection to put out a fire back home. Ron counts no fewer than six Windows Administrators doing the same thing, the least experienced of them speaking loudly into his cell as if to emphasize his extreme importance to passersby.
The next session is starting in three minutes but Ron is calm. While the next scheduled conference break is in just over an hour, Ron is taking his unscheduled break now. He won't be hitting the expo hall quite yet. He finds as a quiet a spot as he can and he relaxes. No pounding out emails or texting instructions to the jr. Windows admin he left in charge. Nope. This is Ron's time. He's learned from hard experience that as the convention wanes on, information overload sets in.
While relaxing, his mind starts to wander. Some thoughts of the last session, his hotel, the upcoming party, and the shuttle schedule come into his mind, linger for a minute, and then leave as quietly as they came in. He just relaxes. If the same thought continues to enter his mind, he'll make a mental note. For now, this is his time.
Fifteen minutes later, more refreshed than he would be after taking an hour long scheduled break, he gets up and heads to the expo floor. He wanders between the booths, not watching the booth representatives, but watching fellow attendees as they enter and leave booths. He spots a group of three guys, likely from the same company, in a booth that is selling backup software.
He walks by slowly and notices that the three TechEd attendees leave the booth. Ron now does what many, many admins have a tough time doing. He introduces himself, but not in the conventional way. He simply states something about the booth they just left, saying "do you think that XYZ backup software would work for your company?" A quick reply comes, while everyone is still walking, something like "maybe, but we already have a backup solution for our 80 servers, so we were just looking."
Ron replies, "oh, we backup maybe 25 servers in our company, but we are outgrowing our solution. May I ask the solution that you are using?"
This conversation may last one more sentence, and it may last 40 minutes. It all depends on the value that Ron brings to it.
Don't look now, but Ron is networking, which is much more than trading business cards. Ron will walk away knowing more about backup software than he currently knows, and if the conversation included trading Twitter handles or LinkedIn connections, he now has a source that he can use.
TechEd is over. Ron is heading home. He's met maybe a good two dozen fellow admins. He's covered topics on the newest versions of products he uses, as well as Sharepoint and a few other areas that were of broad interest. He knows more people and they know him.
Ron is ready.
Follow me on Twitter @ShawnAnderson.
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Every year you have an opportunity to see the latest & greatest Windows administrator tools that can help your career.
This begs the question; what's your career worth to you?
Reading blogs and articles may keep you in the loop with what's happening in our industry, but it those alone are not enough. You need exposure, hands on, and networking.
Microsoft TechEd is a good forum to learn what Microsoft and their partners are up to.
You'll join Microsoft's Platinum, Gold, and Certfied Partners as everyone converges for the four day event to pimp their goods, share information, and keep up with where technology is moving.
If you're in a normal IT job then there is a good chance that you're locked into the same products & versions at your work. You may be slow to adapt and that can spell trouble for your IT knowledge.
Remember, it's what you know that keeps you in the green.
If your company won't pony up the cash to pay for you to attend, try telling them that you'll pay the registration, transportation and lodging costs, but ask that they still pay you for your time when you're out there. Let them know that your attendance will benefit them.
Your company will probably be impressed that you're willing to pay the registration and expenses. I've been a contractor to many organizations and while I have always paid my own way to conferences, I've never been denied payment for my time. If I'm batting a thousand in this game then I'm sure that others are too.
Take advantage of early bird registration and plan to attend:
- December 31, 2009 ($1,895)
- February 28, 2010 ($1,995)
- March 1, 2010 ($2,195)
You and your career are both worth it.