Part of what I have an interesting time is discussing the influence and factions in the data center industry. It is hard to discuss the specifics in a blog entry especially when I want to build on a public disclosure. I started writing this post a couple of days ago and didn't decide to publish until Chris Crosby threw up his inbreeding post.
For our industry to continue to grow and mature we need to better understand the needs, not the buzzword wants, of our customers. At a time when we should be more open as an industry, it seems that we are only becoming more insular. While this may make us better banjo players, it doesn’t help us improve the product that we offer to our customers in any meaningful way.
So, let me discuss ideas from my own observations and general concepts.
I just posted on my 10 data center journey. And one of the top criteria for attending an event is how is easy it to network. Most conferences I exchange maybe 20 business cards at the most, many times only 10 or less. When going to sessions, I'll quietly watching from a corner spot or if I want to really focus on the presenters I got up front where I can take pictures and I am not distracted by the audience.
One of the principles I use is to focus on location. When I go to bfast I look for who is there and where is a good spot to see the people coming in for Bfast. This allows me to see many people coming in and connect with people as they scope where to sit. When I go to the bar I look for friends already there and where is a good place to get an overall view of the people. When I go to receptions, I go early and look for the best table to sit/stand to watch the people. If you try to wander around to talk to the people it can be frustrating and draining. My strategy is to find the best spots to hang with some of the best people and just watch what happens.
The funny thing about this strategy is when you apply it to social situations it can look like you are uncomfortable as you don't move around and mingle. You sit/stand and watch. I've been lectured by my wife and her friends that I am introverted and it is hard for people to know me. At 7x24 Exchange I was telling one of my friends this story, and he laughed so hard that I was being accused of being anti-social, introverted, and hard to talk to. Well the truth is sometimes when I do get in social situations and I am not in a conversation, then I'll start working on thought experiments designing new features, iterating on different ways to solve the problem, more information I need, and I am perfectly happy just sipping on my wine watching people.
Back to data center conferences, part of the observation is seeing those groups who stick together as a company. I went to one social in LV at a hotel suite during Data Center World. I got there mid party, which made it hard to find the right spot to watch people. I saw a friend by the food in the corner away from all the people and chatted. The host came on by and we were poking of fun of the guys who were wearing the company polo shirts all collected together. <ALERT: possible inbreed group.> Then he said it was really hot as he came over to try and turn down the thermostat which was already set to 60 degrees. I figured out I was in the 2 x 4 ft section of the suite that was comfortable as I was right next to the air conditioning vent. New lesson, sometimes the best spot to be in a crowded party is where the air conditioning vents. The cool air can work well to get people to come by and cool off.
When a large group of company employees from a vendor are together, then the thing to watch is their clients are most likely close by or their suppliers that they favor. Seeing who interacts with who and spends time together gets you an idea who can work together. One of the biggest mistakes made is when suppliers are picked that really don't get along with each other. Sometimes worse case they really hate each other, and given the client has made the choices, they can't do anything about it.
There are those who are hunting for new business which is rarely successful, but often enough that some sales people will interject themselves wherever they think they have something they can. This is when I am glad that I don't buy anything which means people leave me alone. And, being a blogger it can work to scare off people who don't want to talk to press. Sometimes I wonder if my friends use my press shield capabilities to keep people away. :-) Notice how the press badges are usually red. Warning. Don't talk to this person unless you are press trained and be careful what you say.
Some people are looking for new jobs. At some point there are conversations on who has changed jobs, who is looking, who is hiring. Do you see the talent? <squirrel> Who has had a reorganization which disrupts staff and execution.