Journey to Presenting at Conventions with Al Rasheed

Welcome to episode 73 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss the journey to presenting at conventions with Al Rasheed.

Original Recording Date: 03-29-2020

Topics – The Journey to Presenting at Conventions

01:54 – Al’s Contact Info and Background

02:48 – A Brief Career History

  • About 15 years ago, Al stepped down from a management position at a local grocery chain.

    • The hours were brutal, and he had small children.
    • Working weekends was required.
    • Al decided to take a risk after getting support from his wife.
    • He remained with the grocery chain part time while adapting to his new career in IT. This helped supplement the difference in pay of his new role and enabled him to get a severance after a few years.
    • Al has no regrets on the decision now, but at the time (late 90s / early 2000s), he was desperate for something else (regardless of cost and sacrifice).
      • The adjustment to IT from retail was certainly challenging.
      • His first role was in phone support working the help desk. Al had little experience and happened to find an employer who was willing to take a chance on him.
    • Al mentioned it was not hard to move from manager back to individual contributor.
      • Even while being a manager, he liked working with others toward a common goal and did not feel he had all the answers. Because of this, the transition back to individual contributor was easy.
  • Al remained in the help desk position for about 2 years. When he left that company, his retail role had come to an end. The next role was working for a federal contractor at the Department of State.

    • This is the one Al feels he enjoyed the most and where he was able to learn the most. The team culture was one of support and encouragement, and it was a place where folks were not penalized for mistakes.
    • In hindsight, Al regrets leaving this organization.
    • Interesting fact – Al was with this employer on 9/11. His security clearance was being processed but did not go through during his time there.
  • Al’s next role was for a local university that was closer to home. He was there about 10 years.

    • At some point the role began to lack challenge.
  • About 7 years ago, Al made a change to work for a federal contractor (his current employer). His commute is still very short (15 minutes each way).

    • Al received a security clearance within one year of being hired.
    • There were very few technology changes at the university. Now that Al is working for a federal contractor, the technologies are always changing, and the expectations are raised.
      • John makes a great point about how each of these environments aligns / does not align with how someone values stability and challenge.
      • "If you’re ready for it, take it. If you’re not ready for it, you’re going to probably fail." – Al Rasheed
      • Al works on a team of 4 and supports 260 corporate employees and about 2000 contractors / external clients.
      • The month before a semester began was the most challenging month at the university, and the level of challenge wasn’t quite there during other times.
      • Al feels he became a little stale during this time and is glad he made a decision to change.

15:47 – Technology Community Involvement

  • Al’s community involvement began in his current role. He got involved prior to VMworld 2017 and won a contest to receive a free conference pass that year.
    • Jorge Torrez and William Lam helped give Al a chance to attend. He was blown away by the attitude of this community that was already supporting him.
    • After returning from VMworld, Al reached out to his local VMware User Group (VMUG) to let them know he wanted to become a leader in the Washington, D.C. area.
    • This move propelled him to new heights, and he continues to give back to the greater community in any way possible.
    • John references Al’s approach to meeting people at VMworld (spreadsheet of people he wanted to meet).

19:18 – Al’s Experience at the Dallas VMUG UserCon 2019

  • Nick wanted Al to be on the show as a follow up to Episode 41 on presentations.
  • Why submit a speaking session?
    • The exposure gives you the chance to meet people in other organizations you would not have been able to otherwise.
    • Al wanted to challenge himself. This is a priority for him to push down a dynamic path.
    • Despite doing presentations for co-workers pretty often, Al’s desire was to speak on an elevated platform. He initially had fears about being accepted.
  • How did Al select a topic?
    • As part of the Veeam Vanguard program Rick Vanover, gave Al the opportunity to speak on the topic of combatting ransomware.
      • Al was extremely nervous before the presentation. "All we want is for you to be Al."
    • In order to make the transition to speaking at a VMUG easier, Al chose to stick with this topic and extend it instead of starting from scratch.
    • When Al’s talk was accepted, he was extremely excited to start preparing.
    • Nick was at the Dallas UserCon but was filling in for a presenter at the exact same time.

23:50 – Preparing for this presentation iteration

  • Al did not want to speak word for word and stare at the laptop. The goal was an effective, polished presentation that engaged the audience. He wanted the attendees to be able to take something useful from it and wanted feedback on how he could improve.
  • Al chose his dress for the presentation like he was going to an interview.
    • Go back and listen to John’s soapbox moment from Episode 9 on how to dress for an interview.
    • Part of gaining credibility and relevance is dressing in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
    • Present yourself professionally. What if the audience contained people looking for someone just like you to fill an open position?
    • Al reflects on the way he dressed for VMworld 2017 (this time more for comfort).
  • Al’s final draft of the presentation was not complete until the morning of the presentation.
    • Being a perfectionist got the best of him. Most of it was ready, but there were small details he wasn’t quite happy with.
    • Al approached his preparation so as to have no regrets looking back on it.
    • There is a fine balance between preparing thoroughly and overthinking.

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