As I see the Spring event season starting to pick up, MWC starting in Barcelona, WLPC in Phoenix, IWCE in March, Interop snowballing into May, and of course WFD9 dates announced in April, I start to get excited about what I can see, what I can learn, and how it will change me and the way I do business.
I have been to so many tradeshows throughout my career and have worked every side of them; presenting, speaking, paneling, working a booth, and as a plain ‘ol “EXPO PASS ONLY” guy. No matter in what manner I attended, there is always something to learn from these events, but you have to be open to it and participate in the event, before, during, and after the exhibit hall is open. This is what started my @Wirelessnerd Twitter handle and led to this blog. Actually, it was Tom Hollingsworth (@NetworkingNerd) who led me to this at WFD7.
Which brings me to the point of this post..
What has Wireless Field Day done for me lately?
When I first started paying attention to Wireless Field Day, I thought it was a pretty incredible thing to be able to get a peek into the types of sessions that *I* wanted to see. When I saw that the people at the events were people who worked in the same field as I did, were at the same level as me, and who were asking the same questions as I was, it started to get exciting.
When I got the chance to present to the group at WFD about a technology I thought was fantastic, I got to experience first hand the other side of the table, and to be honest, it was AWESOME. There’s something about sharing your passion with people who are just as passionate about it as you are, and then being able to field questions and thoughts that are relevant and sincere.
A year later, I got chosen to be a delegate at WFD8 and was totally stoked about it. What an awesome experience: Interact online, share your thoughts, and you have a chance at getting picked up to get a seat at the table.
So Wireless Field Day 8 came and went, the #WFD8 tweets and conversation flowed strong, and afterwards, blog posts and reviews got sprinkled across the internet. Now, 4 months later, where do we stand? I asked myself that this morning while thinking about WFD9. What was the *real* impact of WFD on my job, me as a person, and what I do? So lemme dive in!
The Impact of WFD Vendor Demos
Note: instead of being a Negative Nancy, I am leaving out a few visits that I don’t feel took advantage of our time out there and as such had little to no impact on my view of the products and services they offer.
We got a great view into the Cambium line, but the impact for me was way more than the slideshows. We were provided 2 ePMP units each. I handed these to one of my guys as soon as they came in so that he could get hands-on with them and familiar with their operation on his own schedule. Being able to pass gear off to someone so they could create a link between their grandfather’s house and barn may not be what Cambium had in mind when they sent me those two units, but that is what they got. What I got out of that was a network tech who knew the product intimately because he got to use the demo units and it has now made him a stronger individual.
Another item that we all got was instant access to the Cambium Cloud Service, cnMaestro. This allowed me to on-board 21 basestations and 35 sm’s (as soon as we got the kinks worked out on the Cambium forum) and show off the product to a number of different people in the industry. Overall the exposure to the product line and the products placed in my hands led me to familiarize myself, my company, and our customers with the product line.
Quite arguably one of the best vendor presentations I have seen; cheesy props, juggling engineers, and most importantly demonstrations that made a huge impact. We learned alot about the products and what they could do, the company and what it stands for, and real examples of how we could use their products to create solutions once we got home. When we got the demo units shipped to us, we were able to immediately hit the ground running. I used mine to facilitate routing and wireless internet access to a mobile classroom on wheels that provides tech and programming lessons to economically challenged areas. I got to learn about the product, how it works, what it is really capable of, and I got to share that with customers, the community, and the world. It has made me a stronger partner to Cradlepoint and a more educated VAR.
One of the coolest things that happened at the Cisco presentation is something that we couldn’t even talk about. That in and of itself is radical and the reason why events like this are so awesome. Embargoed information.
Although it was a little past me as a non-Koolaid drinker, I still got something out of this: a new found excitement over the Cisco product lines. The demos of ME and how easy it was to use made me want to plug in APs and try it myself. When I got home and these ridiculous boxes covered in cat wrapping paper showed up, I got the chance. I feel like this is exactly what was supposed to happen as a delegate at WFD: You get the dog and pony show, the ability to interface at a high-level with these companies, the technical information to understand what they are trying to do and how, and then the opportunity to do it yourself.
I took my 2 APs to the local Junior League office and donated the gear to a place that was going to use them everyday and with a ton of clients. I get to install it, monitor how well it works, and show it off to people that it makes a difference to. It was just as easy to install as they made it look in the demo at the offices the day of our visit and it has made me a more informed solutions provider. Even though I don’t sell Cisco products, I know exactly what I am dealing with.
Aside from an amazing outing to Levi’s Stadium that gave us a nice change of scenery, I think the Aruba vendor time was time very well spent. We learned a ton about their products and services, not from a sales and marketing team, but from the people that had built the software, installed and managed the services, and in short were our counterparts. This personal approach was well received and gave me an honest feel for what to expect from the company. When the presenter opens up the CLI to get into the nuts and bolts of the products and has no problem showing off every crease and roll, regardless of what the output is, it says alot not just about the company but about the overall confidence of the product. The impact that the presentations had on me was only amplified by taking a walking tour of the deployment. Understanding specifics about how and why this manufacturer deployed what they did, why they did, and how they did it made me feel like I really understood what they were trying to do, and how I could apply that to what I did everyday. Again, a pinnacle WFD moment: Talk to the right people, get the right information, and then get to do it yourself. Before the APs had even arrived at home I was signed up as an Aruba partner and funneling the next 8 deals over to them. (Vendors take note: learning the right things about the products makes us want to sell them more!)
The Impact of a Trade Event & the WFD Event
And yes, I even ended up getting a MacBook Pro, which I just wrote this blog post on. 🙂