Last weekend I was in Florida for a work conference (yeah, over the weekend). I meant to do a lot of personal work (emails, posting, sort through NY pictures) while I was there, but I forgot my laptop power cord and I really had no free time.
The flight to FL was kind of exciting since our flight got canceled. Normally I would be quite annoyed by this but I kind of enjoyed the added twist to our work travel plans and I was in no hurry to get to work. When I used to travel to NM for work all the time, my flights on Monday morning were always on time but getting home on Friday afternoon was usually a nightmare. We ended up having to take a taxi to San Francisco to catch a later flight and we arrived about 1.5 hours behind schedule. On my flight from San Francisco to Dallas, I sat between two very friendly but somewhat obnoxious porn producers. That’s right, porn producers on their way to Dallas for a production. Our conversations ranged from what they look for in actors/actresses to what goes on in a typical shoot to coaching kids’ hockey. But the best part of our changed travel plans was flying first class for the second leg of our trip. It was nice. I never new warmed nuts could be so yummy!
So every two years my company hosts a conference for all their engineers and scientists to come together, get some training, have a good time, and network. We have offices all over the US and I often work with people I’ve only met through email and phone. So it’s always nice to put a face to a name. Our conference gets started with an ice breaker which is basically an adult science fair project (everyone showcases their projects and there’s lots of food and alcohol). On Friday we have classes all day (like how to manage projects, market, etc.) and are free on Friday evening. On Saturday we have technical sessions in the morning, a keynote speaker in the afternoon, and a nice banquet in the evening with lots of alcohol and awards (company stock and money). For a bunch of engineers and scientists, everyone is pretty social and has a good time. And they can drink. Which is probably a bit of a dilemma because while the alcohol is free, your boss is there so you probably want to display some self control. One guy behind me in line at the bar was so drunk, he was swaying and having trouble keeping the beer in his glass.
This year I took an advanced project management class which was only ok and that's because the instructor let us out early. They were pushing Microsoft Project which sucks, even for Microsoft products. Most of the technical sessions I attended were really cool. My company does a lot of different things and the projects in robotics are awesome – my favorites were the talks on robotic landmine detection, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), and water UAV’s. And I even got in a question during the talks. I try to get in at least one good question at a conference, which is pretty good because I tend to have lots of questions, but I usually talk myself out of asking them because they are stupid. But half the time someone else will ask my question. Our keynote speaker wasn’t very good. We had Burt Rutan as our guest speaker at the last conference and he’s a hard act to follow. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Rutan is the guy who designed and flew SpaceShipOne, the first commercial craft to go into orbit. They won the X prize.
Usually I love going to conferences because I like to network (exchange business cards) and I tend to get inspired and motivated to work harder both in my professional and personal life. This time around I didn’t get inspired until the technical talks and then it was mostly – “Cool! How do I get on their project?” But in the least I got to meet lots of people, eat lots of food, and drink lots of wine.
For our free night we went to Ragland Road, an Irish pub in Downtown Disney. I had salmon wrapped in smoked salmon and then baked. It was quite good. I also tried Grolsch and Boddingtons Ale. Grolsch is light and a good summer beer. I can drink it without eating food. Boddingtons is a neat beer because it looks just like Guinness (you get a lesson in fluid dynamics watching a pint of Guinness) but it's white. It doesn't taste much like Guinness, but I would probably need a burger to balance the beer.
I got home on Sunday afternoon and we immediately started packing and moving our stuff. It’s going to be a long week.