Once I had discovered London VMUG but before I became a VMUG Leader, I used to attend the UK VMUG UserCon (UKVMUG) as a delegate, because it was way easier to sell my boss on me attending a day and a half at UKVMUG at the Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham than it was to ask to attend VMworld in Barcelona for a week. It helps that attending a UserCon is free! The UK UserCon was always scheduled to be after VMworld Europe, so that all the latest announcements from the US and EU shows could be brought in to play. Historically, there was also co-operation with our friends in the Italian VMUG, so the Italian UserCon would be on the Tuesday and the UK UserCon followed on Thursday, with a vCurry at the UK venue on the Wednesday night. This attracted speakers from the US who could double-dip, which was great for the vCommunity!
There’s been many great sessions delivered at the UK UserCon, too many to mention here, so I will just mention one thing. Each year, I’d get to hear Joe Baguley’s keynote, so I’d hear something on VMware’s vision each year and then it was pretty easy to go back to work and tell people what was going to happen in the future, thus appearing smarter than I am (Thanks, Joe!). Joe’s done nine of these keynotes now, which has demonstrated two very clear things, firstly that there’s been a long term vision at VMware and it’s been interesting to watch this develop over the years and secondly that Joe is a huge advocate for VMUG and sees great value in talking at VMUGs.
The three LonVMUG meetings and the UKVMUG was my annual VMware education for several years - and I like to think that it stood me in good stead.
But What is a “UserCon”?
The lifeblood of VMUG is its 200+ local chapters, who all meet several times a year. I’ve covered local groups a little in a recent post where I talked about the UK and Ireland setup. These meetings can range from an update from a local VMware Account Manager or a couple of presentations to more social meetings through to all day events with several sponsors and sometimes with a couple of tracks.
A UserCon is designed to be at a scale above that. All day events, many sponsors, four or more tracks and as such, more attendees. On the whole, everything is bigger, including the catchment area and although these events still very much have VMUG Leaders at the heart of things, they’re done in collaboration with the staff at VMUG HQ, be that in the US or Europe. It’s safe to say that the local groups couldn’t do it on their own, as at this scale, we’re into proper events management. Where we have over 200 local groups, there’s around 20 UserCons each year, mostly in North America, Europe and Australia. They’re definitely worth attending, so go see if there’s one scheduled near you…
And did I mention, UserCons are free? It’s worth reiterating, anyway.
Running the UK UserCon
The London VMUG Leaders ran the UK UserCon, so when I became a London Leader at the start of 2016, I had a UserCon to help organise too. Traditionally, as I said above, this was held at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Solihull in the English West Midlands. The traditional vCurry the night before had become something of an institution, too. With 6 tracks of content and an early start, there was a lot to fit in to a single day. It helped to get a hotel in the area the night before, so what better option after getting that done than to go socialise with other VMUG Members and eat curry?
As I discovered once I got a peek behind the curtain, there’s a lot involved in putting on a UserCon - so much so that the planning for any given UK UserCon starts before the preceding UK UserCon happens. You’re also unlikely to see a lot of the content when you’re running the thing, other than the Opening and Closing keynotes, but at UKVMUG, we record a number of our sessions, so there’s always our YouTube Channel to look back on.
Moving the UK UserCon
The 2017 UserCon was the last one to be held at the Motorcycle Museum. It had been our ‘home’ for quite a while, but there were some logistical constraints which we had to work under whilst we were there. We were conscious of the fact that the UserCon was a UK event, not a London event, so we’d decided, for better or worse, that it wouldn’t be held in London - a decision made somewhat easier given the costs involved in securing a venue of that size in one of the most expensive cities in the world! As such, we scoured the Midlands for other venues and during the course of running down our shortlist, we visited some rather interesting places! At the end of all of this, we unanimously decided on the National Space Centre in Leicester as our new venue. Quite a few IT geeks are also space geeks. Go figure. there’s all the new exploration stuff going on at the moment, the moon, Mars, Space X, it was an exciting option!
We’ve held two UserCons at the Space Centre now, ironing out a few niggles on the first one, so we can put on what we hope is a relatively smooth running day. We also got to enjoy a great (non-VMware related) closing keynote a few months ago, which you may well just be able to find in amongst our recorded sessions.
Moving On from the UK UserCon
Well, all good things have to come to an end. Given my expanding role within VMUG, serving on the Board of Directors, there was an opportunity for me to look at Succession Planning and simply mixing things up! As such, I decided to step down from organising the UK VMUG UserCon. I’m still running London VMUG and will still be at the UK UserCon of course, but I am delighted to say that I’ve been replaced by a youger model. Gareth Edwards, well known on the VMUG and vCommunity scene is taking my place on the UKVMUG Organising Committee going forward. Congratulations Gareth and good luck - you’ll do a great job!
I wonder if this means I might actually make it to one of the other local VMUG meetings near me, ever. Hmm, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here…