IBM Think through Maria’s eyes – although I forgot to bring my sunglasses

IBM Think

First a disclaimer. This is a long post. But what do you expect of a report from a conference with 30,000 attendees, 2,768 sessions, loads of Champions, activities and such.

I wasn’t going to go to IBM Think. It was not even in my plans. Would this be the year since 2011 I would miss out on that yearly energy boost I normally get from IBM Lotusphere/Connect? The boost that keeps me going with high spirit long and well into the summer.

Then a sudden flash stroke and a window of opportunity opened. I could go!  I couldn’t believe it.

Arriving in Vegas

Some of you might know I have been booth staff for many years talking to customers, demonstrating products and solutions. And last years I have had the luxury to also be able to go to sessions and bring home knowledge.

This time around was going to be a calm one. No booth to work in, no mission to attend certain sessions. Oh oh oh so wrong I was.

It all started when the amazing Wannes Rams and I decided to do a session about Watson Workspace on the Community Day. Yes absolutely.

Then our fabulous and ever energized Leader of the Champion Program Libby Ingrassia asked if we could join a User Group Panel, talking about “why a user group”. Yes definitely.

After that the lovely, and talented Gabriella Davis asked me if I were interested in joining her soft skill sessions. Yes of course, I’ll have 2 please.

Suddenly I realised I had 4 sessions to do and I asked myself how all that happened and if I could manage it. But someone (Femke Goedhart) told me once “take the plunge Maria” and her words was ringing in my ears.

I also knew my no 1 supporter Wannes would be there and boost me whenever I would need it.

So what about that gigantosaurus conference IBM Think? Was it any good?

It was more than good! It was fantastic! Energizing, inspiring, massive, focused and fun in a way I couldn’t imagine. The biggest conference IBM ever threw. Impressive!

Think showfloor with WatsonTo walk the show floor, seeing all the campuses like Watson, AI, Cloud, Security etc. One smart solution side by side with an even smarter invention. They showed off their quantum computer IBMQ, which can be a life changer, a world changer. Technique implemented in Formula 1 cars, aircrafts, robots. Software that can hear you and understand you and help you do a better job and evolve. Just to name a few.

Me and many I talked to were mighty impressed with the big, shiny muscles IBM put up to show for us. All together under one roof.

The show floor also held several theatres, big and small for break out sessions, several lounge areas, cafés, a book shop and the welcoming Champion lounge hosted by none other than Libby Ingrassia.

For me it was an eye opener. How big IBM is, and how much they do in so many areas. How small “my” area Collaboration Solutions is. But also, how well we fit together in with the other brands.

For example, a Security Operation Center needs to have a communication platform yes? = Watson Workspace. It was fantastic to learn more about other areas and how we can work with each other.

My sessions then? Did I manage to do them all? I did! All with a little help from my friends

Why User Groups are the Key to Your Success

This was the start of the IBM Champion and User Community Day. 12 User Group Leaders in a panel moderated by our Scotsman Alan Hamilton. Here we explained why attend a User Group, what we do and how we aim to enrich the lively community. I was glad to see the diversity amongst the User Groups and also how strong and devoted we all are.

This was the biggest audience I had spoken to so far, and I didn’t drop the mic, fall down the stairs or was too confusing. I think. High five!

Why We Should All Use Watson Workspace and Connections Community

This session I did with the one and only Wannes Rams. My partner and companion in almost everything. We have done similar sessions about Watson Workspace on 2 other occasions, but this was an updated version as it was more focused on how we as Champions and how User Groups can use it as a planning tool together with for example IBM Connections and Kudos Boards.

We showed real life example on how we work in the Social Connections team when planning our conferences. I always love to speak about Watson Workspace. I really like the product and it can be the go to tool for businesses needing a communication platform for teams and departments.

Think Academy Soft Skills Pop Up – Managing the Noise
Gabriella Davis, me, Tony Holder, Theo Heselmans and Francie Tanner

This was a very interesting session to do as it was more on a personal level. Each of us gave our view on how to handle multiple communication channels, both online and offline. All information that flows over you just in one day. And all the places you are expected to participate in. We all had different ways of tackling it and it was very interesting to hear my co speakers’ experiences.

Think Academy Soft Skills Pop Up – The Imposter Syndrome
Gabriella Davis, me, Jon Schultz, Julian Robichaux and Tony Holder

The Imposter Syndrome affects nearly everyone in one way or another and can make you feel that you don’t belong or underqualified. In this session we shared stories on how the Syndrome has taken it shape for us and how we have tackled it. Me for one have felt it several times in my work life. And also there on that stage! What am I doing here?! The outcome is that it is good to be aware of that it exists in order to handle it.

Last but not least: did I have fun? Oh yes!

This is my 3rd year as IBM Champion and one of the most fantastic things with the Champion program is all the new friends I got through it. We help each other both work wise and privately, we look after each other and just are as friends are. And we also have a lot of fun!

Being an IBM Champion also gives you some benefits as a thank you for all the work you do in the Community throughout the year.

We got to sit front row on Chairman’s Address with Ginny Rometty

Ginny RomettyI have never heard her speak before and only had a vague idea on how she was and if it would be interesting. I was impressed right away by her presence on stage and how good she was in keeping the big audience spell bound. Very charismatic.

The topics were interesting too. She presented 4 customers who told their story on how IBM has helped them get ready for the future.

We got floor access to a concert of your choice. I chose Chainsmokers

This was a blast! Front row here too. Drinks and food and a crazy wild concert with 2 djs. Spectacular! We had a lot of fun and danced (well some of us, no names mentioned) throughout the night.

Endless row of receptions

One fun thing was that there were several receptions going on during the conference. For different branches, countries, customers, interest groups etc.

Most were open to all attendees which ensured a lively mix of people from different parts of the IBM sphere. Customers, IBMers and business partners in a good mix.

The end

In this post I haven’t even touched the subjects of product news, meetings with customers, partners and IBMers, roadmaps, sessions etc. I’m sure I will come back to that in another post.

I had an awesome week in Las Vegas and IBM Think. I have learned a lot, worked a lot, had fun a lot. And that I can do all that with my amazing Wannes is the cherry on top! Love you!

Vegas baby!

I’m going to IBM THINK

I’m very excited because next week is IBM Think week in Las Vegas, and I’m going to be there!

The first time I attended a big IBM Collaboration Solution conference was in 2011, at Lotusphere in Orlando. I was immediately hooked! The vibe, all the people, the things I learned and experienced. A blast!  I have been fortunate to be attending Lotusphere/Connect  every year since that.

Lotusphere/Connect is no more and this is the first time the IBM Collaboration scene is part of a bigger conference, IBM Think in Las Vegas. Exciting times!

I really look forward going there and also have the possibility to take a sneek peek in the other areas IBM are BIG in, such as Security, IoT and Analytics.

When I attended these conferences in the past I have been on 100% booth duty demoing solutions and products, but now I will have time to build my agenda and go to sessions, which will be a new experience.

Although I really love the vibe on the showcase floor, chit chatting with other exhibitors and working like crazy 24/7, it will be fun to wander where my nose points for a change.

I was exaggerating there a little tiny bit. I already have full schedule! For example, you can find me as speaker in these sessions:

Why we should all use Watson Workspace and Connections Communities
MGM Grand Conference Center, Level 1, Room 103
Sunday March 18 10:35 – 10:55 am

Managing the noise
Tuesday March 20 11:00 am

The Imposter Syndrome
Wednesday March 21 9:00 am

See you there!