Quick guest post from Mitch Garvis – someone I met at a user group in Montreal, before there was a user group for IT Professionals over 6 years ago. He was literally the guy who hung his hat (not a Tilley, unfortunately) at the chair of being the guy to get things started AND to create a support network of individuals to ensure the user groups success at MITPro.
Get’s me thinking of folks like Marco and Chris down in Moncton – trying to get something started along these lines as well. here’s to hoping that MariTUG.CA kicks off and gets some local support!
I am a PC, an IT Pro, and a member of a local user group. On average one night a month – sometimes twice, often once every couple of months – I attend a meeting where I meet my peers. Some of them are further ahead in their careers and might be able to help me, others are just starting out, and maybe I can help them. That help can be in the form of introductions, advice, mentoring, tips, sometimes just encouragement that I (or they) are on the right track. The payback? long memories, a feeling that we’ve done a good deed, often new friends and associates.
Because I am a member of my community, because I attend these events, I have learned about topics ranging from Home Server to High Performance Computing. I have attended sessions on Small Business Server and on SQL Server and System Center and Exchange. I learned how to build a deployment infrastructure to deploy my operating systems and applications to thousands of PCs, and a better way to install two or three PCs at home. I have learned how to virtualize servers and applications, and how to design and maintain a secure, well-managed infrastructure; I have learned how to save money by deploying Hyper-V and System Center to my existing VMware infrastructure. I have learned how to do nearly anything I want using PowerShell from a funny little man with a lot of passion. I have learned about the optimized desktop and the virtual desktop, and I’ve learned all sorts of stuff about the cloud.
At user group meetings I have gotten to meet peers and colleagues, Microsoft evangelists and Microsoft MVPs, all of who bring their own distinct personalities and styles to events; all of whom are extremely passionate about what they do. I have learned that the only real difference between them and me is that they are standing and speaking while I sit and learn about one topic… and that chances are I know something that they would love to hear me speak about. I’ll bet there’s even someone in that them category who would be willing to help me to do that because just like them I am an expert in something that others will want to learn about, even if it’s as quirky as ‘how I learned the hard way how to not do something.’ After all, experience is the best teacher.
I am a member of a user group and I may be from Ottawa or Niagara or Perry Sound or Kitchener or Kingston or Toronto, because wherever I am they probably have a group that suits me, whether I am an infrastructure specialist, a database administrator, a developer, a scripter. There are even user groups for me if I live in the cloud, and there are virtual user groups for me if I live in a remote area or travel and cannot attend meetings in person.
I am a member of a user group and sometimes we have pizza and sometimes we go out for drinks and socialize but I am always welcome because user groups are about community. Because I am a member of a user group I get cool benefits such as early invitations and discounts to events like TechDays and TechEd and Springboard Tours! I get newsletters that tell me about new technologies and upcoming events, whether they are from the user group or from vendors. At some point I may be asked to step up and volunteer as a board member, speaker, ticket taker, representative, and if I say no then everyone will understand. If I say yes it might lead to great things – becoming a community leader, an Influencer, an MVP. None of the titles will matter though because I will have learned what people like Sean Kearney, Todd Lamothe, Cory Fowler, Barry Gervin, Brad Bird, Mitch Garvis, and over a hundred and twenty Canadian MVPs have already learned – that giving back to the community is its own reward.