Sunday, April 01, 2007

TechCamp Survival Guide

It's that time of year again, Reseller AEs! We have been called to the mothership for our annual pilgrammage to someplace-warmer-than-Anchorage for TechCamp (the Event Formerly Known as Bootcamp). This will be my fifth time attending TechCamp, so I figured I would share some highlights from Camps of Yore as well as some Tips for the First Timer.

February 2004- Regional Bootcamp Baltimore
I was about 20 days from delivering Panorama and I had the flu. People looked at me with a combination fear (timebomb) and digust (germ machine). Sheet sets were new and in about 2 years I would actually understand them. The Civil software (LDT) wasn't ready or something so I was dismissed early the second day.

October 2004- Civil 3D Mid Year Release in Chicago
This odd little bootcamp was over a weekend. I left PHL at 6AM and arrived just in time for the start of the first class. I would have been ontime if the cab I found actually took Visa like he had said he did at the airport and I didn't have to pace the hotel looking for an ATM. At lunch that day, I wound up sitting with Nick Zeeben, which is how we met and in about 2 years I would remember his name, despite meeting him at every AU and TechCamp in between. I still don't understand him.

April 2005-Civil 3D 2006 Release in Orlando
This is the camp where I learned: 1) Civil 3D changed my life 2) A burger in downtown Disney costs $40 3)There is an amazing salon at the Buena Vista Palace

April 2006- Civil 3D 2007 Release in Dallas
My first (and only) Bootcamp with Beth as my roommate. I learned it is less fun rooming with a technical person because you aren't interrupted at 3AM by someone coming in giggling, and you have no one to make fun of at breakfast the next day because they are currently sleeping through the alarm. I learned Civil 3D Rocks, and _almost_ remembered Nick's name this time. I didn't meet Jason at this Bootcamp, but he learned about snagit (thebest $40 ever spent) at this Bootcamp and a few weeks later he told me about it. So that is important. Also at this Bootcamp I had my first conversation with James Wedding.
"Hi, James, I'm Dana Probert"
"Dana, nice to meet you. I have to go troubleshoot a Vault install.

April 2007- Civil 3D 2008 Release (Prediction)
While the Tech sessions at Bootcamp could barely qualify as business causual, having sales folks around meant that there was a little bit of pressure to match their typically sharper duds, perfume, white teeth and good hair. So I predict that people show up for class this year in frayed jeans, stained sweatshirts and $0.99 flip flops.

There will also be decidely fewer women around, so the male AEs will probably leave with some money left in their expense accounts. It just isn't as much fun to buy six rounds of Bud Lite for a bunch of guys. This kind of plays into the fashion thing too... and I imagine we'll see some three day beards by Thursday.

Now for those of you that are new to the glam world of being an AE, you might need some pointers. Most of us Civil AEs came from engineer firms that didn't do work outside of a 10 mile radius of the office, so the idea of flying to an exotic location may be intimidating at first. Fear not. Here is your guide:

Don't bother installing the latest build before you get to Florida. When they say you should have it installed, it is just like they said when ICE had the pre-req of having installed XP from scratch.

They just have to say something.

In fact, don't bother to install software during the software loading party, either. It would be such a buzzkill to babysit "Install Express Tools? Yes" while you could be loading up on munchies and gossiping about how much weight Dana has gained since AU ("Dude, it's like she's pregnant*** or something!") and shedding a tear or two about how much you will miss AG's animated classes. ("I don't think anyone can take a swig of water midsentence like him, sniff")

Besides, there would be nothing to do during the first half hour of the first class if you had your install ready to go, because you know nobody else will.

As soon as you enter the hotel, before you even check in, sign up for the wireless service. Don't cheap out and try to piggy back on a free connection, after all, the company is paying for this! You need to make sure you can stay in constant communication with the home office, the sales staff, your mom, your gtalk contacts and the Swamp. Troubleshoot any VPNs, exchange server connections, POP accounts, etc. You won't be able to enjoy a second of the Florida Sunshine if you are worried about your wireless.

Choose your chair before you go in to fight the crowd for breakfast. Pick a row towards the back and a seat on the end. Arrange all of your stuff. Then remove at least one chair from your row and line it up with the extras in the back of the room. Go back to your seat and spread out a little. This will prevent anyone from sitting too close to you and will leave room on the table for the manga you brought with you to read during the lecture. If you can't stomach breakfast, go down in your pajamas with some of your gear then go back to your room and sleep until the very last minute. This seat you pick on this first morning is yours FOREVER. Unless of course you want to move seats tomorrow. Then the person whose seat you are taking needs to get over it.

Always leave at empty seat at your table at Lunch in case Lynn Allen wants to sit there. I even set an empty seat at my dinner table at home just in case... But last year, she actually did sit down with us. We, of course, were star struck and embarassed and silent. Althought I did say something that scared her away after she finished her meal. She may not be at tech camp this year since they separated it from the Sales Camp, but you never know.

Spend some time before you go reading the Civil 3D and LDT discussion groups and Blogs and familiarize yourself with peoples REAL NAMES. Don't make the mistake of picking on BlackDog7 when his real name is Johann Smith from CADtastic in Tulsa and actually sitting across the table from you.

It is also rude to address people by their blog name. At AU, I actually called Matt Castelli "Tapping into Civil 3D". How embarassing. You will probably need a guide for this. Latch on to some wizened old AE who knows everyone and have them point them out. Or better yet, we all wear name tags, sharpen up your reading skills.

On the flip side, it is handy to help people figure out who you are if you say something like "I'm Sandy Satchel, from LippiCAD in Memphis. I write The Civil 3D Files blog", but don't be surprised if it doesn't have the same ring as "I'm Anderson Cooper from CNN"

If a man from Florida wearing shorts and suspenders and a camoflague hat tells you to bring your pet potbellied pig to his pig reserve- DON'T DO IT. I'll let him tell the story, he does a much better job.

And this one is serious...

Do all of the prework and attend all of the sessions. I am planning on it- even though I helped write some of the material. Why? Because you can always learn something. The folks that are teaching the classes have a different spin on things than we do, the people sitting next to us also have different experiences to share. I know there are things I know nothing about (new features of AutoCAD, plan production, survey, etc) and things that though I may have banged on it a lot, I am still missing a lot of pieces (pipe rules). Though the material is designed to appeal to a broad cross section of AEs- from beginner to experienced- it will be easy for many of us who have been down this road before to say "There is nothing for me to learn here". But I personally know that I will learn a whole lot. I always do.

Now if I could just remember the name of that nice Canadian boy with the nice shoes who has a way with Part Builder.....

***Yes, I am.

1 Comment:

Sarah said...

Tech Camp Fashion 2007:
Give an AE some credit. At Tech Camp, we'll have the chance to see very latest collection of polo shirts, button downs, and other corporate logo wear that dominates the fashion catwalk that is Boot (now Tech) Camp.

Where else will you see the biggest assortment of shirts that are non-iron and made of 100% naturally synthetic fibers, all in colors that NEVER flatter my midwinter pallor.

Good stuff. Hope to see you there!