About the Blog

Its about anything and everything. I, Steven Hancock started this blog for a variety of reasons. I want to start documenting my life and sharing that with others, whether that's family, friends, strangers or my future self. I also want to start sharing my experiences with others in hopes that others can learn from me. Perhaps I can help someone set up an Ubuntu server, write a Django Web Application, or setup a Phonegap Mobile App.

That's it. I'm hear to share. Nothing more, nothing less. I will be covering a wide variety of topics so feel free to browse for the blog entries that interest you most.

IBM Insight 2015

November 26, 2015

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of attending IBM Insight 2015. It is IBM's data and analytics conference with hundreds of sessions. The conference was held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. There were thousands (tens of thousands?) participants. The conference focused a lot on IBM solutions (of course). However, there were many sessions that were relevant to someone who doesn't use a single IBM product.

Why Insights?

Vendasta, my current employer, sent me for a learning experience and as a perk of my job. I had my pick of conferences, but I decided on Insight mostly because of costs. Including hotel, transport, food, and the conference fee the trip cost was about $4,000 CAD. Not bad for a 5 day conference. When I compared it to other conferences, Strata + Hadoop world, it was at least $1,000 cheaper.

Logistics

I flew direct to Las Vegas, which coming from a small Canadian Airport is a welcome treat. I landed at 7:30 pm and went straight to the conference center via taxi. The taxi may not have been the best choice. The ride cost me $45 USD to travel a short distance (look at it on a map). I bit the bullet because I wanted to register for the conference before they closed up shop for the night at 9:00 pm. I checked into the Luxor hotel shortly after. The Luxor was a great option for this conference. The Luxor is connected to Mandalay Bay by a shopping center called Mandalay Place. So I had a 5 minute walk to the convention center compared to those who stayed at the hosting hotel. I saved over $100 a night by staying at the Luxor.

I spent the entire duration of the conference between the two hotels. I realized on the last day of the conference, that I had not been outside since I arrived in Vegas 5 days prior. The conference and adjoining hotels had everything I needed. Insights provided breakfast and lunch each day, and I had my choice of at least 30 different options for supper. I often stuck to the food courts. Each night I didn't usually get back to my room until 5:00 or 6:00 pm. I'd rather get some Facetime with my newborn than sit in a nice restaurant.

If you have ever been in the Mandalay Bay conference center you will know that it is large. There are 4 floors (with North and South wings) and hundreds of thousands of square feet of space. That means a lot of walking. IBM even had signs posted making fun of how much walking people had to do. Luckily I had a pair of great shoes.

Atmosphere

The conference handbook stated that the conference's dress code was business casual. Maybe I was slightly under dressed, maybe others were over dressed. Either way I felt the conference was too formal. IBM was suppose to have lost the Tie & Coat dress code back in 1997, but they still have a suit culture. Most IBMers wore a suit, or at least a sport coat. Coming from a work environment where I am more formally dressed than most and arriving in an environment where I stick out was a little bit of a shock.

The attendees were at least half IBMers, with an additional quarter being IBM partners. So it made sense that a lot of the conference focused on using or selling IBM products. That being said, I didn't get a single sales pitch. I talked to some engineers, a product manager, partners, but not a single salesperson. Only the general sessions seemed to have a use our product slant. Yes I attended a few where IBM products were front and center, but they didn't feel "salesy".

Sessions

Most of the sessions I attended were great. However, there were times during the conference when I couldn't find a session that I felt like attending. During those times I would usually sit in on a keynote and listen passively while I got caught up on email. I took lot's of notes, some of which I have posted to GitHub if you feel like diving in.

Was it useful?

I was glad that I attended IBM Insight. I learned a lot. Got some great ideas. And really enjoyed myself. It was tiring, the conference was a week long, 8:30 - 5 or 6 most days, and because work was paying for it, I thought I had to do the same amount of work for my job as if I was back home. So by the time I got home I was ready for the weekend. It was a great experience and one I would recommend to others.