Recently, I was afforded the opportunity along with Mike Martino (@wildcard78), and Ariel Sanchez (@arielsanchezmor) to present on the latest VMUG Leader call. We were speaking about a topic near and dear to our hearts, that being Whiteboard Meetings. This is something that we started at the NYC VMUG with tremendous support from Niran Even-Chen (@NiranEC) and Prabhu Barathi (@prabhu_b) from VMware as well as Azarya Shaulov (@az_ny) from Touro College. Azarya was gracious enough to provide us with the space free of charge.
I’m sure that your next question must be, “What the heck is a Whiteboard Meeting?”. Well, I’m glad you asked.
This meeting is designed to be:
- An informal and intimate technical meeting of NYC VMUG members with an emphasis on the QUALITY of the content.
- A place where we could get together and share ideas about technology, projects, issues and learn from one another on the best way to move forward.
- An opportunity to get in front of a room and work on your presentation skills. Not everyone is comfortable with public speaking and this gives our members a judgement-free forum to do so. We’re here to encourage one another
- A safe zone free of sponsors or being bombarded by sales guys (We love you sales guys, we just need a little space). We welcome anyone to these meetings no matter where you come from as long as you are there to share ideas in a positive manner.
- Most importantly, it’s not about free food or giveaways or anything like that, it’s about geeks being geeks and embracing the vCommunity.
So, how did it start? To quote Ariel, “At a bar, of course!
We were having a typical discussion about the VMUG Meeting we just had. You know what I’m talking about. After the meeting ends, there is that group of people that just can’t get enough and are super excited to talk to people who speak their language. They were just so blown away by the topic that they never want the discussion to end. Our conversation then morphed into how great the discussion we were having was. We said, “You know what? We should have more meetings like THIS!” In a nutshell, that’s how this idea began.
What do you need to get started with your own Whiteboard meetings?
- A (few) Whiteboard(s) and dry erase markers. Duh.
- A space that can hold 12 to 15 people. We try to keep these meetings a little smaller so that everyone has the ability to participate. If you can use a classroom-type space, even better.
- Local product experts who would like join is usually very valuable for members who are looking for answers and insight. Having local VCDXs, VCAP, VMUG Leaders, vExperts, etc. participate is very helpful.
- Someone to break the ice (a VMUG Leader, typically) and some relevant topics to discuss. (Current Technologies, New Product Releases, Home Labs, Automation examples, etc.)
- If there is money available in your budget, try to order some take out for the group. A couple of pizzas is usually sufficient.
What advice can I give you?
- Invite people that you think would appreciate it. This doesn’t have to be limited to virtualization admins. Bring co-workers. I’ve personally brought one of my network architects out and now he’s more involved with virtualization than ever before.
- Be outgoing. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Remember, this is a judgement free zone where we are all trying to improve.
- Do not limit conversation to just VMware, these meetings are about technology in general. VMware is usually the focus but related technologies are often discussed. We’ve spoken about networking, Public Cloud, AD, Email, Backups & Replication, you name it, it’s probably come up in some form or fashion.
- Try to capture the session to a blog post with pictures to help promote the individuals presenting on social media and future vExpert applications. That usually helps bring more people to future meetings. We post under the hashtag #VMUGWB.
- Try to have breakout Whiteboard Meeting at UserCons, or sponsor-driven VMUG Meetings
- Have topic focused Whiteboard Meetings. Have a meeting around NSX, vSAN, VMware Cloud on AWS, you can even poll your members for topics that they’d like to talk about. Try to get your local VMware SEs to attend as well. You may even be able to catch a traveling SME if they are in town.
- If you have the ability to do a video conference or a WebEx of some sort, go for it. I’ve actually taken advantage of this myself after the birth of one of my kids.
- Try to really have an understanding of what people are looking to learn and why they are there. Make it as collaborative as possible. Try to bring in an expert on a particular subject if you keep hearing about it.
- Keep the conversation going after the meeting ends. Go grab a beer and a bite afterward. Sometimes the shy ones that don’t get up and present will open up a bit more after a few cold ones.
With that said, I hope you try this out in your area. It tends to have a really positive impact on those who attend.
Here’s some feedback that we received from one of our attendees:
“The whiteboard sessions hosting by NYCVMUG community have been an excellent forum for engineering and architecture discussions. Unlike larger conferences, the whiteboard sessions are small and each participant has an opportunity to present something – anything – to the room.
For myself, the WB sessions have been a great opportunity to accelerate VMware training, an opportunity to work through complex problems regarding production issues, lab infrastructures and vetting/sounding out future plans.
Another big aspect for me personally is the ability to practice presenting in of itself. Being small & unrelated to employers or vendors in combination with great community members, the sessions have help increase my overall confidence when standing before peers & colleagues.
Overall the WB sessions are a great experience. I look forward to attending more and seeing the concept grow beyond NYC.”
-Brendan Peterson (@petes_revenge)
I’m looking forward to hearing about Whiteboard Meetings all over the world. Hopefully, this catches fire and the vCommunity continues to grow.
If you have questions, we’re here to help. Feel free to reach out to any of us if you want more info. Our contact info is listed below. We can be reached through the vExpert Slack as well.
- Nicholas Scuola – @NScuola
- Michael Martino – @wildcard78
- Ariel Sanchez Mora – @arielsanchezmor
- Niran Even-Chen – @NiranEC
- #VMUGWB on Twitter
- NYC VMUG on Twitter – @nycvmug
- NYC VMUG Blog Posts on Whiteboard Meetings
If you think that this could be helpful, let your local VMUG leaders know! We always announce these
A special thanks to Mike, Ariel, Niran, Prabhu, Azarya, Brendan and the whole NYC VMUG Whiteboard crew for building an awesome vCommunity and helping to make this such a success.