Six-Time WES Attendee on How to Get the Most Out of WES 2008
John Stalsworth, Technical Analyst at State Farm, is ready to attend his seventh consecutive Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES)! In this interview, John explains why he keeps returning to WES year after year and shares advice on how to get the most out of WES 2008.
BlackBerry Connection (BC): Hi John, can you tell us about the BlackBerry support team you have at State Farm?
John Stalsworth (JS): Sure, I work in message and collaborative technologies at State Farm, in our enterprise email area. We have about 9,000 BlackBerry® users across the company, and seven people supporting the solution.
BC: You’ve been to WES 6 years – what do you remember about the first WES conference you went to?
JS: That’s right, six years of attending WES events! And I’m still looking forward to this year’s conference more than ever. Thinking back I remember it was a fairly small conference compared to what WES is now. I remember one of the things that piqued my interest was that they offered some BlackBerry® Training and I learned a lot there. I always try to get a lab pass if I can. And one of the reasons why I’m looking forward to WES 2008 is because I’m going to try to get BlackBerry Certification.
BC: Have you ever learned something at WES that you were able to apply immediately at your company?
JS: Yes, I remember one year we were preparing to do a big migration, cutting over ten servers at once. One of the case study sessions at WES that year was on the topic of migration. It turned out the presenter was a BlackBerry customer who had done the migration while running exactly the same hardware as State Farm, with a similar email set up. I even chatted with him after the presentation, so I was really able to ask questions and leverage his experience. As a result, our own migration went smoothly a few months later.
BC: Are those connections a favorite part of the WES conference?
JS: Yes, I really like connecting with people. WES is a fantastic place to network, to see what other companies are doing with their mobile deployment, and to leverage others as a sounding board for your ideas. I always learn something from other attendees, and over the years I’ve developed some good friendships that began at WES.
BC: Do you keep up these relationships in between conferences?
JS: I sure do. I keep in touch with colleagues at other companies and several people within Research in Motion (RIM). It’s nice to be able to reach out with a call or an email to talk to a friend who might be facing the same issues as me.
BC: Do you do any preparation work ahead of time?
JS: Oh yes, for a conference of this size, you have to go in prepared. It’s a once-a-year opportunity to get answers on absolutely anything to do with the BlackBerry solution, from the top-level right down to the details of daily administration with the Blackberry solution. I usually look closely at the agenda, and I rely fairly heavily on the WES agenda builder to map my schedule. I’ll also speak with our contacts from RIM, and say, here’s what I want to talk about, and can I meet with certain people from RIM, if they’re going to be available. I also like to plan to meet with the carriers each year to see what their road maps are.
BC: What’s your hot topic for this year’s conference?
JS: I’m interested in compliance within the mobile space. I think compliance remains a big issue everywhere. I’ve got some ideas I’d like to bounce off other people, and I’m interested to see how others are handling compliance and mobility, specifically within the BlackBerry solution.
BC: What advice would you offer on how to get the most out of WES 2008?
JS: You know, one of the funny things about this event is that everybody is walking around with their head down, tapping away on their BlackBerry smartphones! So my advice is a little tongue in cheek but I would say, put the BlackBerry smartphone down while you’re walking around and introduce yourself to somebody!
In terms of preparing, I would say plan ahead so you can get the most out of it. For example, I get a lot out of talking with the third party vendors in the Solutions Showcase, but it’s so big to tackle alone. You really must go for several days, and go with a team if you can so you can divide and conquer.
BC: Is that what you’re planning to do with your colleagues – divide and conquer?
JS: Absolutely! You know, there are about 30 different things that are relevant to what we’re doing at State Farm, far more than any one person could possibly absorb. So there’s a whole team of us going – our extended BlackBerry virtual team, a security person, a network person, some client service people and perhaps some business analysts from our agency side. We’ll get together, map out who’s going to what sessions, and we’ll share notes.
BC: How would you sum up your experience and the benefits you get going to WES?
JS: I think WES does a great job of keeping you right up to speed in the mobile space, and specifically, the BlackBerry solution. The social events always seem to outdo those from the year before, so it’s a really enjoyable environment, great for meeting others and networking.
It’s just so eye opening when you go there, from the standpoint of what’s possible in wireless. And the range of what WES has to offer now is huge. I mean, if you wanted to talk to vendors, you could hang out in the partner showcase alone for the whole week! And I’ve already mentioned how much info they pack into the conference sessions; that’s why so many of us are going this year!