Recently, I was invited to a unique experience called Tech Field Day. I really had a good time while given a great learning experience. This is something I can recommend to others – I really hope that I get the opportunity to do it again.
What is Tech Field Day?
It is a one-of-a-kind service offered by Gestalt IT (https://gestaltit.com). They bring together a small group of people in the technology field, that they call delegates. The delegates interact with different companies in a presentation style event. It is both live-streamed and recorded for later viewing. The companies that come to the event are the ones paying since they can use it as a marketing tool. However, the delegates are not paid by the companies as that keeps them independent. I put out less than $100 total for my time, which was for food outside of the event (really during travel time) and parking at the airport – everything else was picked up by Gestalt IT.
What happened before?
I was offered the opportunity less than two months before the event. At that point, all I knew was that I was going and Gestalt IT would be paying for the “flight and hotel and a drink or two along the way.” Shortly afterwards, I get an email that gave me the overall description of the event time. It included a link to an online form that asked questions about my professional life. This included my Twitter handle, Web Site, LinkedIn URL, and a professional/personal description. This was used to create web pages that they could use to advertise the delegates. Mine can be found at https://techfieldday.com/people/evan-mintzer/.
A few days later, I received another email with a link to answer some questions. These questions were about both professional and personal information. It is the same questions for all the delegates and they use it to create web pages that offer further details. Mine can be found at https://gestaltit.com/exclusive/zuramel/meet-field-day-delegate-evan-mintzer/. This is where creativity helps. Answers should be a little complex; definitely more than a simple yes or no. I really liked the question on ice cream since it offers a quick viewpoint of the person.
Not too long after that, their travel agency reached out to me to setup my travel. The actual presentations were three days but they wanted me to travel the day before and allowed me to travel back the day after. That makes 5 days that were mostly paid for by Gestalt IT. The hotel is the same for everyone because most of the presentations are there. There is no direct flight for me to San Jose, CA, so I booked a flight to San Francisco and they took care of getting me down to the event hotel. With travel arranged, I waited patiently, although anxiously, for my next communication. In the meantime, I could go to https://techfieldday.com and see each delegate that was getting added.
About 3 weeks before the event was when I received the next email. It was addressed to a mailing list that included all of the delegates for my event. The email described that it was a closed mailing list and it should be used for us to communicate with each other for non-public communication like asking questions to the other delegates. Gestalt IT made it clear that any discussion about presenters or event content should be done in public as they would prefer the transparency. They made it clear that we should remain independent of the companies and that included negative comments when they are deserved. Also, the email included links to the delegate pages for the group – this allowed me to see what the other delegates wrote about themselves. Ok – so now it is getting real but still a few weeks to go.
The week before the event was the next email. It provided a list of the companies presenting, with links to their web sites, and a detailed agenda of when each presentation occurs and where. Remember I wrote that most of the presentations are at the hotel? Well, a couple may be at offsite locations. For instance, we were traveling to Palo Alto Networks on Wednesday and VMWare on Thursday. One thing I noticed was how busy the agenda felt – we were starting at 7AM each day and there did not seem to be any time to rest till after dinner. Another thing mentioned was the meals plus a comment that we needed to bring a gift (about $30-$50) for a swap during our first dinner. Personally, I went to Amazon and searched for “geek gifts” until I found one I liked. With gift in hand, I packed Tuesday morning and got on the plane to start my adventure.
What about during the event?
I was lucky enough to ride down from San Francisco with another delegate so we talked about different things, which made the ride go quicker. We checked into the hotel and got ready for dinner. Before dinner, each of us was given a welcome bag with different snacks and some drinks like water, soda, and Red Bulls. However, there was a hidden agenda with the bags. They told us that they were forced to use the hotel food service for any food and that it was not cheap. However, they could not stop delegates from bringing in food.
Dinner that night was really nice – I had a great steak with a fried egg on top. In addition to drinks, appetizers, and desert, we got to know each other using the gift swap. There was even a round of stealing gifts before they were opened – each gift was wrapped differently so it was interesting to see why some were stolen. After a couple of hours of getting to know each other, we went back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest.
Wednesday was three presentations with one being off-site. There was a get-together that night that included some of the vendors (including ones yet to present) and some friends from the area. Thursday started with an offsite presentation and then another back at the hotel. Since we arrived back at the hotel with some time before the last presentation, I was able to be part of a podcast panel. This was something that gets recorded and we discuss a topic – my topic was if security was improved as companies move to the cloud. We were able to do two of these during the week but they will not get posted till sometime after the event.
After that, we went to a fun dinner and then a team building experience. They told us that they have had different experiences in the past such as laser tag and bowling. They chose an escape room for us. I was on the team with the CEO, Stephen Foskett. He is a really nice guy but competitive – he named us the Winning Team before we even arrived. Unfortunately, we had the hardest room and did not finish in time; however, we all agreed that we had a fun time, even Stephen. It was a good way to recharge our brains for the last day.
Friday was another two presentations in the morning. Once they were done, our responsibilities were over but Gestalt IT was not done with us. We had some time to discuss the presentations before getting whisked away to the Apple campus. After spending some time there, we came back to the hotel and had an informal dinner. We then said goodbyes and left on different planes to rejoin our normal lives.
For starters, go to https://www.techfieldday.com to learn more. If you would like to be a delegate, find an event that you think you would be good fit and there should be a link to apply. Here are some other tips if you go:
- Do some research before you go. The Tech Field Day site has videos for all the previous events. Review some to see how they go but realize that there are other things happening.
- Check out the blogs and postings about the other attendees. It helps to see how their viewpoints can add to the conversations. People are different.
- Realize that you may not be the smartest person in the room but that is not what they are looking for – they want people that can add value. If you have a question during a recording, there is a good probability that someone else is curious. Ask the question.
- Sometimes a vendor shows up and acts like it is just another presentation. Do not be rude to the vendor!! It is better to ask questions to try to help them. If it gets too bad, someone from Gestalt IT will handle it.
- There is a private Slack room setup for the event. Use it during the presentations to talk to other delegates. Do NOT actually talk to other delegates as it will get picked up by the microphones.
- Tom Hollingsworth (@NetworkingNerd) will probably be your emcee and main point of contact. He is a CCIE and runs a lot of the event – kind of an important guy. However, during the filming he will act as a gopher so if you need anything just reach out using Slack. You want coffee? He will get you a coffee. You want tea? He will get you a tea. You want a mocha cappuccino frappe with a half twist of non-fat soy milk? He will get you a coffee. You just have to ask.
I recommend this experience highly. If you have any other questions about it, please feel free to reach out to me about my time doing Security Field Day. Also, check out #XFD2 on Twitter to see our tweets during the event.
***Disclaimer – Gestalt IT paid for my airfare, hotel, and most of my meals. Some of the vendors gave me some small gifts like t-shirts, pens, and a solar charger. I was not paid to write this post and it was based completely on my experiences during the event.