Interop is one of the few remaining independent tech conferences, which makes it a unique opportunity for IT professionals to get training, education, and insights that aren’t driven by a vendor’s agenda.
The conference stretches over five days, you’ll want to plan ahead because there’s so much to choose from, including multi-day workshops, individual sessions, special events, and the Expo.
I’ve been going to Interop for years, both as an attendee and employee, so I thought I’d share a few tips to help people make the most of the experience.
Pick Your Sessions
Whether you’re going for a couple of days or the whole 5-day enchilada, there’s so much going on at Interop that if you show up cold, the choices can be overwhelming. Maximize your time by picking classes, sessions, and workshops ahead of your arrival.
If you like deep dives, there are half-day and full-day workshops on Monday and Tuesday.
With full knowledge of the shameless self promotion, one recommendation is the Future of Networking Summit, hosted by the Packet Pushers. Greg and Ethan are assembling two days of talks on where networking is going over the next five years so. They’re bringing in experts and practitioners to provide both a view over the horizon and some practical guidance on how to get there.
And of course, Greg and Ethan will share their own views. The Future of Networking Summit will also have panel sessions and live podcast recordings.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the conference are shorter sessions across 10 tracks. More on those below.
Get Outside Your Silo
Interop’s roots are as a networking event, and it still boasts some of the best learning opportunities for network pros, but the conference also delves into other key technology areas, including security, storage, cloud and virtualization, and IT leadership.
So whether you’re on a quest to become a fabled ‘full-stack’ engineer, or you want to expand your skillsets, or you’re just curious about other disciplines, Interop presents you with a buffet of technological dishes from which you can sample.
For example, Chris Wahl is tackling Virtualizing Workloads on Next-Generation Storage Platforms, which will cover server-side acceleration, all-flash arrays, tiered storage and more.
Or check out the security track, including Evaluating Essential Advanced Security Options for Your Business, which drills into effective security products.
Besides technology, Interop has launched a dedicated IT leadership track for managers who need to transform their organizations, and for tech pros who want to take on leadership roles.
One session that jumped out at me is Batman Is Not a Career Strategy: Building Robin about how to add force multipliers to your IT team. Another option is Becoming an Innovative IT Organization, which will cover key issues around technology and organizational models that can lead to more innovation.
Check The Labs
InteropNet is a production network built to provide network connectivity for everyone at the show, including exhibitors and attendees. What’s exciting about InteropNet is that it’s built through the collaborative efforts of vendors and volunteers to demonstrate competing products working together in a live environment.
InteropNet will host Demo Labs on the show floor at Interop 2016 so you can see applications and capabilities being run. InteropNet sponsors and volunteers also offer classes and tours, which are included with a free Expo pass, during show floor hours.
If you like to talk gear, speeds, feeds, and designs, the classes and tours are a great opportunity to scratch that itch.
Hit The Floor
The Expo floor at Interop will host hundreds of exhibitors, including big-name hardware and software vendors alongside nimble competitors and brand-new startups.
You can see product demos, talk to experts, gather product information, and stock up on stress balls, t-shirts, and other swag.
You can use the Exhibitor List to target specific vendors you want to talk to, or simply stroll the aisles and see what catches your eye.
One irreplaceable benefit of a live conference is the opportunity to meet and connect with other people.
When you interact with your peers you’re likely to encounter people who face the same challenges as you, or might be using a product you’ve been considering and can give an unvarnished opinion. Or they just might be interesting to talk to.
Interop facilities lots of opportunities to connect in person. On Monday May 2nd, the Packet Pushers are inviting folks to join them at Ri Ra, a pub in the Mandalay Bay Shoppes starting at 6:00 pm. Come by to say hello, have a beer, and hang out.
Other social events include Happy Hour on the Expo floor on Wednesday the 4th, and the official Interop party at the Light nightclub in Mandalay Bay.
And of course, you can start a conversation over lunch, during a coffee break, or on the long walk from your hotel room to the convention center.