Friday, January 8, 2010

Conference locations

OK, this is a bit of a rant, but please bear with me.

I'm an IT guy.  IT is pretty heavy on self improvement and continual re-learning of your job.  I do everything I can on my own to learn about new tech and methods, but occasionally it's nice to just go somewhere and spend dedicated time learning.  I definitely get more out of training when it's away from my laptop, desk phone, and constant stream of meetings.

A good answer to these is conferences.  There are classes, break-out sessions, and demonstrations that I can learn from.  SANS makes their conferences into classes with a conference thrown in.  That's my favorite way to do it.  You go to conference stuff from 6 to 8 AM, go to class from 8 to 5, and then do conference stuff from 5 until about 10 PM.  Yes, after a week you're kinda psychotic from lack of sleep, but your head is buzzing from all of the things you have been exposed to.

Problem is, conferences and good training tend to happen in really nice places, such as San Diego, Los Vegas, and Orlando.  I'm not complaining.  I like going to nice hotels and nice places as much as the next person.  It probably makes it easier for the vendors to attract people to their event if it's in a resort type destination.

However, there are a lot of people who go to conferences in those places abuse the situation and skate out for an afternoon or three.  I never have, but there are those who do. When I was new in IT, I was always being told about the partying that went on when the more senior guys went to conferences and training.  Lots of guys took the opportunity of being away from work and home to revert to frat boy status. When I got to the point in my career that I was sent to training and conferences, I tried hard to resist that urge.  I didn't want to get a reputation for blowing off expensive training to have a paid vacation.  And to be perfectly honest, I didn't want to be that guy. 

My very senior manager has a problem with paying for people to go to destinations where their work ethic might be compromised.  And that's understandable.  Money doesn't grow on trees in IT anymore, and he's being scrutinized on what he's getting for every training dollar.  Why spend money to send someone to a class or conference if you're worried they might spend the whole time drunk on the beach?

But I do want to go to these events.  And since I don't have an extra five thousand dollars a year to pay my own way, I have to get my managers to authorize the expense at work. And it's difficult to get that authorization from a skeptical manager when conference based training is held at places like Disneyworld.

I'm going to send a message to my training vendors and ask them to start holding conferences in places like Buffalo, Toledo, Barstow, or maybe even Louisville.  It will make it easier for those of us who have to work hard to get an OK to go if our managers don't have to worry about us going to DisneyWorld or the Bilagio instead of training.

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