The London VMware User Group has been running for I believe 11 years which is a remarkable length of time and has arguably been at the forefront of the global VMUG movement. I have been involved as an attendee and regular presenter for a number of years. At the National UK VMware User Group in November 3 of the 4 leaders dropped the bombshell that they have decided to stand down. There was no coordinated reason, they just felt that they’d had their turn and it was time to bring in new blood and new ideas.
First of all I would like to publicly thank Alaric Davies, Stuart Thompson and Jane Rimmer for the sterling service they have performed over so many years. It takes time, effort and commitment to run a VMUG and over so many years this is a remarkable achievement. Simon Gallagher stays on as chief to continue their sterling work.
I would also like to highlight some of the reasons the London VMUG has been so forward thinking over the years
The VMware User Group ideal is actually all about the Users, hence “U” in VMUG. This isn’t just about gathering users to hear from vendors but making users active participants in the VMUG process. Hearing what your peers have to say, their successes and troubles is hugely valuable. I’m pretty sure every single VMUG I’ve attended (and that’s quite a few) I have learned something by talking to or hearing from another attendee, an idea for a script, a better way to apply some firmware, an interesting tool to add to my collection, a different way to approach a design. Sure, the vendors are important, they sponsor the event as a marketing opportunity and have experts on hand to tell you about their products but tapping the resources of fellow attendees is as important if not more so.
This user participation isn’t actually easy to achieve though as people need to be convinced to stand up and present in their own time, possibly without their company’s backing or even knowledge. They need to move outside their comfort zones to share knowledge and may sometimes be highlighting issues in vendor products which vendors don’t often want to hear. Tip for product managers, go to a VMUG to hear the truth from presenters and speak to other users! It takes time to find people to present and this isn’t something that can be mass produced. The London VMUG has always made this a high priority by always having community tracks to encourage users to present and for it to be independent information. They have also started mini presentations of 10-15 minutes called lightning talks to allow users to get involved without the commitment of a full presentation which can be intimidating. This means more organisation for the committee but they’ve gone ahead and done it for the benefit of users. It saddens me when I see the agendas of some other even big VMUGs around the world with little or no non-vendor presentations. Bring back the U into VMUG!
VMUG now has a global organisation which deals with some of the sponsorship opportunities and organisation of the local events but this wasn’t always the case and I know that there are sometimes conflicts where the VMUG organisation would like to prescribe how certain things should be done. I know the London VMUG leadership have had to face these conflicts and as far as I know have always sided with what the users want rather than what the global organisation would prefer. Same has happened with VMware, obviously a rather important supporter but still not the boss, a community presentation on a product has been scheduled rather than someone from VMware doing it. I applaud this independence and hope it continues.
The “virtualisation” industry is changing, sometimes even having the virtualisation tag puts people off, witness the change of the Virtualisation Field Day series of events to generic Tech Field Days. Cloud, cloud-native apps, DevOps etc. are all things IT practitioners are dealing with on a daily basis along with virtualisation, storage, networking and VDI so User groups are going to have to evolve to take this into account.
New chair, Simon Gallagher, is now joined by Dave Simpson, Chris Dearden and Linda Smith who are fantastic additions. I can’t wait to be involved with the new team to carry on and advance the great community the London VMUG provides. Next meeting is on 21st Jan at the new venue called Tech UK, sign-up!
Simon, Dave, Chris and Linda, good luck and thank you for stepping up.
Alaric, Stu & Jane, thank you so much, you’ve given us a huge amount, now enjoy the extra time!