Twin Cities SWUG – Hangover Edition: New places, familiar faces, same reservations

If you know anything about me, you know that the SolarWinds User Groups are my favorite part of my job.  As the THWACK Community Evangelist, I want people to interact on our wonderful community forum.  What you may not know is that going on stage and speaking in front of people is also one of my greatest fears.  Let me explain.

If you’ve seen me on stage in the past few years, you may call out “hogwash”, or “humbug", or something less flattering, but I can tell you that the fear is true, nevertheless.  As much as I enjoy speaking with individuals at a SWUG, speaking to a room of people at an event still petrifies me to this day.  Even after nearly 10 years with SolarWinds, I still feel the sense of doom.  It’s not stage fright, it’s the dreaded impostor syndrome.

Like many IT people, I know when my opinions are based on facts, when my assumptions are rooted in likelihood, and when I make a SWAG estimate (scientific wild-@$$ guess).  But none of that translated to being able to speak the same things in front of people.  After all, I’m just one IT pro.  Who am I to pass off my knowledge as if I’m an authority?

At this SWUG, a previous attendee and frequent consumer of SolarWinds media stopped me.  He was kind enough to say that I’ve shown a marked improvement over the years as I’ve been presenting.  I was flattered, but I was also shocked because I have never seen it myself.  Cold sweat still trickles down my spine when I see a podium.  The same self-denying thoughts creep in: “Am I going to make a fool of myself?” “The people in this room are smarter than I.” “Someone is going to call me out as a fraud.” “How did I get myself into this?” The Twin Cities SWUG was no exception.

I’m no expert in psychology, but IT jobs just feel like they would breed other people also harboring inklings of impostor syndrome.  The job changes daily. What was right last week is categorically wrong today. What you built meticulously doesn’t work, even though you followed the instructions to the letter.  None of us should be surprised that someone might feel this way.  My “thinking” brain knows that it’s irrational.  But I find myself in the same place every time.

One of the ways that I’ve tried to combat impostor syndrome when speaking before an audience is to arm myself with as much information as possible.  I do this by taking copious notes and committing them to memory, verifying and validating everything I say or put on a screen, playing with the solutions, and making sure I’m comfortable saying “I don’t know.”

This information doesn’t get transferred via osmosis, nor does it come by sitting quietly in meetings.  I must make a conscience effort to learn more, do more, and have conversations with persons outside my sphere of expertise.  It comes by actively seeking knowledge.  And that, my friends, is what you all did when you chose to attend the SolarWinds User Group in the Twin Cities, MN.

SWUG isn’t my story: it’s your story.  You are the reason why this program exists, why we pull long nights building presentations, and testing our demos and code samples.  The attendees, the THWACKsters, the community; this is why the SolarWinds User Group program exists.

Like many recent SWUGs, a preponderance of attendees was joining their very first SolarWinds User Group.  To those who were at their first, welcome.  To those who have shared time with us previously, welcome back.  I could provide platitudes like “a THWACKster is just a friend you haven’t met yet,” but when it comes to SWUG, it’s not a platitude, it’s a fact. The IT professional community is smaller than we ever realized and building connections and knowledge is how you stay relevant.  Thanks for letting us play a part.

SolarWinds User Group - Twin Cities, MN Attendees Group Photo

SolarWinds User Group - Twin Cities, MN Attendees Group Photo (including Val)

Regardless of if this was your first SolarWinds User Group or your twenty-first, please accept my heart-felt thanks.  Personally, I wouldn’t be where I am without the community members providing valuable feedback to me over the years.  I’m not alone in this desire: we all want your feedback because it’s how we all grow and mature – both as individuals in our respective roles and how we evolve the user groups to continue to meet your needs.  And yes, someone does read every survey response.

I’m going to keep my parting words monosyllabic: thanks.  Thanks to the excellent event support staff, thanks to my co-presenters, and thanks to you all for attending.

Next up for us Solarians is Charlotte SWUG in August and we’ve already started counting down the days.  For myself, I’ll welcome the feedback from all attendees and try to stay out of my own head.  Until next time THWCKsters.

P.S.: if the Twin Cities, MN event was your first SolarWinds User Group, what would you tell people who are on the fence about joining us in Charlotte?

  • Sadly not.  For the first time in many-a-year, I won't be attending Cisco Live.  To be honest, the trade show circuit was exhausting for me last year and I'm glad to have a (slightly) more manageable travel schedule.

  • Kevin,

    Any chance you are going to be at Cisco Live in the next few weeks? I just got registered and booked myself.

  • It was great having you.  Maybe we'll make Madison a stop on next year's list of SWUGs.  Regardless, thanks for taking the time and engaging with us and everyone else. Every interaction can be a positive one if you are open to it.

    Now that I've dropped that country cottage wall art phrase you can pick up at any Pottery Barn, I will show myself to the door and let it slam soundly behind me.

  • Kevin,

    You guys did a great job of presenting and engaging us. When I set out to drive from Madison, WI to the Twin Cities I had planned on being a fly on the wall for two days but, you folks were so entertaining and engaging I didn't feel the need to "blend in". This was my first SWUG and since then I have found myself more active in the Thwack community, more interested in poking around the tool itself, and really excited to expand my knowledge.

    This was my first true IT conference and I really enjoyed it. I'm still laugh at the fact that you were shocked by my swimmingly statement in your opening remarks and it was from that very moment I knew I was going to enjoy the next two days of my life.

    Thank you for taking the time to be so engaging, putting together solid material, and hosting all of us. I look forward to the next SWUG.

  • I appreciate the positive words, , but no matter what I tell myself before, during, or after standing in front of people, I can 100% say that the sweat begins, and the questions proliferate in my mind.  In my head, I'm frequently my own worst enemy.

    I'm glad you enjoyed yourself and I, too, tell people they should go to a SWUG.  Since I'm a Solarian, it might just seem like self-serving, but as a technologist and monitoring professional, there really is no better place to interact with other like-minded individuals.

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