EUC Unplugged

By Rory Monaghan

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I am privileged to be an in elite group of people who have attended every iteration of EUC Unplugged over the years. The first two were pretty easy for me to get to, they were just a two hour drive away in Prescott Valley but as the event moved to Scottsdale, I also moved. My family and I moved to my home in Ireland but even with an eight hour time difference and over 7000 km as obstacles, I have continued to attend the ‘unconference’. I haven’t blogged about it in a few years and I know others have blogged about their first time attending in recent years but I thought it would be interesting to share my opinion and my experiences as someone who has attended every event.

One clear difference from the first year, is that the event has become larger. I believe there was about 111 attendees this year and about 50% were first time attendees. A trend that has been occurring over the last few years for events is that, the audience has been made up more of consultants working for MSPs and people working for ISVs. I was happy to meet people at this year’s event who are doing the actual work as day-to-day IT professionals. 

At the first event, Roy made some incredible custom signs for the which I felt were remarkably creative, the sword fighting session to assert confidence and the entire format of the event where attendees set the agenda on day 1 rather than having only pre-planned prepared sessions was also so unique and different. Since then the creativity has only increased. The best badges of any conference, seat assignments at dinner using colour coding applied with each attendees’ badge and unique token collectors game to encourage socializing with other attendees plus incredible optional activities like trail hikes, off-roading in the desert, ebike tours and more.

Video from Beer and Build during the 2018 Event

The creativity is not just limited to the actual organisation of the event either, attendees and sponsors have contributed to making the event unique. Giri and Datrium once brought a bunch of hardware so we could have a beer and build event, where a few of us got drunk and built a lab using some of the best technology on the market that was supplied by the sponsors. Numecent held a Drones and Donuts event where we got to eat some donuts and fly drones around Scottsdale, Remko brought hardware and helped attendees build retro gaming pods using Raspberry Pi devices and on Saturday night, our host of the event Steve Greenberg takes to the stage with a full band to perform some live music.

The sessions themselves cover a broad set of topics. Over the last couple of years there has been excellent technical sessions around AI by Jaymes Davis, this year we had a great technical session around Evergreen delivered by Aaron Parker, there have been panel discussions on the topic of application management, there has been PowerShell and automation related workshops and so many more technical sessions but not just that. The event has also hosted sessions on mental health and mindfulness, sessions on promoting diversity, sessions about living in an RV, sessions on buying your first home, sessions on financial planning and sessions on career planning and building resumes. This is the beauty of the unconference format. If you have skills other than tech, you can share those too. Attendees are also encouraged to do what feels right for them. if you feel like skipping a couple of sessions to go around Scottsdale, maybe go to the pool, read a book or just take a nap in your hotel room, it is encouraged. Steve wants everyone to have the best experience possible and what is best for me may differ to what is best for you and others.

Steve has also emphasised that they keep a policy of requiring sponsors to send technical resources rather than just sales and marketing teams. The result is less elevator pitches, less combativeness between vendors and sponsors plus positive contributions for sessions. Such as Jaymes sharing his container and AI experience without making it a sales pitch and the App Management sessions remaining mostly vendor neutral. 

The greatest strength of the event is of course it’s people. I have attended events in the past where there were plenty of “hurlers on the ditch” who tried to sabotage sessions for their own ends. I have attended events where there was a level of toxicity at the social gatherings and where organisers seemed to encourage that. There has also been large vendor events in the past which have infamously thrown sponsors out if they were perceived to be competition in any way to the organizers. Whereas at EUC Unplugged, the whole chill vibe of the event leads to a much more positive wholesome group. 

I know organising the event takes a Herculean effort and a lot of time so I don’t want to assume there will be another event next year but if there is, this should be the event that is at the top of your priority list. Keep an eye out for information and be sure to register as early as possible. Thank you Steve and team for another unique and remarkable experience.

Photo by Robert Murray on Unsplash

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