Kscope16: Awesomeness Redux

It’s now the American Independence Day holiday, 4 days after the annual ODTUG conference known as Kscope. After a weekend of rest and relaxation, I am almost fully recovered. Almost.

This year’s Kscope did not disappoint. Knowledge sharing, networking, and fun – all of the elements of a great conference were present. I’m mighty proud that our team managed to pull off another memorable event.

(The famous Chicago Theatre!)

Recently, I started making a list of personal goals for each Kscope conference. A few of my goals for this year:

  • Say “hi” to all of my ODTUG friends in attendance, especially the folks in my Twitter circle (I think I saw you all – if not, apologies and next year then!)
  • Meet new ODTUG friends
  • Learn at least one new thing
  • Surpass the boundaries of my introversion

Luckily, I exceeded all of my goals this time. Given the minimal availability that I had, I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t make it. For those of you who may not know what it’s like for someone who wears multiple hats (quadruple this year for me personally: ODTUG Board, Kscope16 Conference Committee, interRelite, and presenter), it’s a bit of a juggle during conference week. Actually, that’s a gross understatement – it’s all juggling. And I’m not the only one to do it – Natalie Delemar, Danny Bryant, and myself all have similar responsibilities in our dual Board and Conference Committee roles, as well as obligations as speakers and representatives for the firms that we work for. We, with other members of the Board, Conference Committee, and YCC, all work together to keep the conference running smoothly. We attend meetings, events, and rehearsals most of the week during and after sessions, while putting out any fires that might arise. In addition, we interview wonderful ODTUG folks on video, have ourselves interviewed, and network as much as possible. Sleep becomes negotiable. Fun is paramount to our sanity.

For this year’s blog post recap, I thought I’d do something different and give you more of an insider’s look into the conference. Here’s a recap of my amazing week:

Due to some pressing Board activities on Thursday, Natalie, Danny, Mike, and I arrived the Wednesday before Kscope. We had meetings and events (joined eventually by the rest of the Board and the Conference Committee) through Friday night, including an impromptu IOUG-ODTUG Board meet-up at this awesome place called SPiN – a ping pong social club. Myself and a few others from the ODTUG Board got to spend some quality time with several members of the IOUG Board.

(Danny, Tim, and myself getting our ping pong game on with members of the IOUG Board: Michelle Kolbe, Troy Ligon, and Mark Farnham)

We then officially commenced our conference committee duties the Saturday before Kscope bright and early with the Community Service event. Hosted every year on the Saturday morning prior to Kscope, this event is ODTUG’s opportunity to give back to the local community. This year we helped Cornerstone Community Outreach by providing a variety of services related to food prep, restocking, organizing donations, and freshening up their outside decor by putting fresh plants in their planters. Cornerstone is a great organization and it felt wonderful being able to give of ourselves our time and money – two vitally important elements that would directly benefit the Chicago under-served population.

(Our Kscope16 community service group picture!)

On Saturday afternoon, as is the usual ritual, I participated in Kscope bag stuffing. This is an opportunity for ODTUG’ers to directly help out the conference committee by assisting with the stuffing of each of the 1,000+ attendee bags with the sponsor promotional items. Anyone can help out and with the growing number of volunteers each year, this process only takes a couple of hours now. Usually two long, organized mass production lines are created and we stuff until we run out of items.

(Image borrowed from Natalie Delemar – the mass production line!)

(Image borrowed from Gary Crisci – the pile of bags that need to be stuffed!)

Late Saturday afternoon and evening are the only “free times” that I encounter during the conference. This year I had an awesome dinner planned with my buddy, Tony Scalese. We are both foodies to the max and at Kscope15 we decided to dine at a Michelin rated restaurant while in Chi-town in 2016. We had to make reservations months in advance. America only has a handful of these top tier restaurants and two of their 3-star rated restaurants happen to be in the Windy City.

The experience at Grace was unique and I’m glad I got to experience it with a fellow foodie.

(Me and my buddy Tony during the kitchen tour after our meal at Grace!)

Saturday is also one of the few nights that I can turn in somewhat “early”. It was the first night that I got some sleep since arriving and I was in bed before midnight! Yay!

I started Sunday early with some chi gung, hosted by the benevolent Kent Graziano. He hosts chi gung every morning at Kscope. Kent is a great guy and we are fortunate that he’s willing to give back to ODTUG in this way. Based on past testimonials and my own personal experience, chi gung is a great way to start your day. Afterwards, I felt at peace and energized.

(It even rained that morning but that didn’t stop us from getting our morning warm up in!)

Sunday is a day of fantastic education by Oracle. Their sessions run all day and they use this opportunity to discuss product strategy and roadmap publicly. Product managers within each major technology track are there to present as well as answer questions. This is an offering unique to Kscope and it’s one that I know many get a lot of out of. Understanding where the company and technology are going helps both customers and partners know where to and whether or not to invest.

We had a number of Sunday Symposium tracks planned for this year and I attended the first half in my technology sweet spot, Oracle EPM. After introducing my esteemed colleague and Kscope16 & Kscope17 EPM/BI content lead, Tim German, I sat in on the “on-prem” half of the EPM Symposium.

(Borrowed from Cameron Lackpour – Tim German and I kicking off the EPM Sunday Symposium!)

Matt Bradley usually does a great EPM Symposium keynote (and this year was no exception). He and I were chatting prior to the kickoff when I noticed that he had his iPad displayed in front of him. He admitted to me that he was trying to catch the UEFA Euro 2016 games between sessions. I couldn’t help but laugh.

This year was a special one for the Kscope EPM Sunday Symposium track – we smashed all of our previous year’s numbers for attendance. With ~400 people in just this one track, it became standing room only and we had to bring in extra tables and chairs.

Sunday afternoon was filled with various meetings for the ODTUG Board and Conference Committee members. It’s sometimes hard for people to wrap their heads around this when I explain that I’m unable to attend many sessions at the conference due to my meeting schedule. Kscope is the one time a year when multiple groups get together face-to-face and we make sure to take advantage of that time. Our Board meets strategically with all of the heads at Oracle, other user groups, each other, etc. In addition, the Conference Committee for the following year gets together for the first time. Yes, planning for the following conference year starts the week of the prior year’s conference. It’s a big undertaking.

Sunday early evening was filled with the Ambassador meeting, Speaker Reception, and the crowd-pleasing Welcome Reception. I attended each one of these events…in costume (see below).

With much pressure to put on a great show at the Welcome Reception, the interRel team did not disappoint. We unveiled our steampunk-themed booth and donned our steampunk costumes. It was a grand time and I think we provided a great backdrop for one of the best networking events at Kscope. Sunday night’s Welcome Reception featured the tastes of Chicago, as well as the debut of each sponsor’s and exhibitor’s Kscope16 booth.

(The interRel team showing off their steampunk side!)

In addition, the location of Kscope17 was revealed: we’re headed back to the Lone Star state (and my personal home state), Texas! If you missed the jaw-dropping events from San Antonio in 2012, you have a chance to make it up. And bring your cowboy spirit! Next year will be incredible and memorable!

(Danny and Natalie showing off some Texas threads to announce the Kscope17 location!)

Sunday night I attended some meet-ups and after parties. Luckily, I wasn’t out too late – I chose to get some additional sleep (my last night of “good” rest). I was in bed by midnight once again. Woot woot!

Monday is when the formal abstract presentations start. The morning started bright and early with two special breakfasts: one for newcomers and one for the graduating ODTUG leadership group.

Monday is also our ODTUG technology community day. With tables marked for each ODTUG community at lunch, a happy hour in the early evening, and night-time community events by technology, there is a place for everyone. ODTUG first introduced the communities 2 years ago and since then they have really taken off. As an organization, we have a goal to become community-driven – this makes sense as each technology community has their own unique culture and goals.

This year at Kscope we introduced a new #GetInvolved campaign to spark interest in the ODTUG communities. Folks who agreed to promote their community on social media and launch a local meetup got a cool #GetInvolved shirt with their community listed. In addition, ODTUG will reimburse these folks for starting up a new meetup account. ODTUG wants to ensure that there are touch points during the months between Kscope to keep the knowledge and communities strong. It’s an amazing offer and I’m personally thrilled to see us make this type of investment.

I peeked into the EPM, BI, and APEX community nights and got sucked into the stellar APEX open mic night! The APEX community is really an open and inviting group, led by some of the best Oracle advocates that I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

(The EPM carnival – complete with a man on stilts, carnival games, prizes, and fun!)

(Look at these great looking guys! Just a few of the super cool Oracle EPM folks that came out to support the EPM community night – thanks to Hari Sankar, Matt Milella, Matt Bradley, Gabby Rubin, and Al Marciante (not shown)!)

(Words can’t even begin to explain the insane “trivia” event at the annual BI community event. I have some video too, but I think I’ll save that for blackmail nostalgia…)

(The APEX open mic night – this annual event is worth attending. The passion and love emanating from this community is indescribable!)

Monday night I participated in my first ever game of Kscope Werewolf. Although I’ve been playing this popular party game with family for nearly 2 years, it was my first time playing with fellow ODTUG’ers. And it was an experience. With a split group due to sheer size, my half had 26 people in it. Our one game lasted over 2.5 hours and I made it to the final round of six. Note that I’m not the best player (although people tend to disagree for some strange reason). I’m accused of being a werewolf every single time because I spend so much time watching everyone. But it’s an exciting game that is both hilarious and mind-bending. I hope to participate again next year!

Tuesday is dedicated to education. It’s the “hump day” of the Kscope week and a slight break from the jam-packed craziness. It includes sessions all day and several technology-specific OTN-sponsored lunch & learns mid-day. Tuesday night included another happy hour, as well as partner-sponsored events, and the Oracle ACE dinner. interRel offered a yacht cruise for its customers, and we sailed out onto Lake Michigan, ate an amazing buffet, gambled with fake money, and danced the night away.

(Due to the kindness of the Blackjack table dealer, Jeff, I ended up earning $3,200 in funny money!)

(Those of us in Oracle EPM industry often comment about what a small world it is. Here are 4 of us ex-Thinkfast’ers on an interRel boat: Matt Gilchrist, Doug Bliss, and Shane Eckert!)

Due to a late night rehearsal for something special Wednesday night, I was out a little late, but back to my room by midnight. Just in time to get some shut eye before my presentation day.

Wednesday included the final packed day of the week. It’s also known affectionately as “costume day” for some of us. We (especially those from interRel) wear our Wednesday night special event costumes all day to get into the spirit. My presentation was Wednesday morning and I was ready to present in my first (of two) roaring 20’s getup! I think my session attendees enjoyed the outfit.

In addition, on Wednesday the superb and uplifting Women in Technology Roundtable Event occurs during lunchtime. This is a classy affair and an opportunity for both women and men to come together to talk about the challenges that women in technology face. Men often attend to support their spouses (or other family members or ODTUG friends) and/or to understand the challenges that their daughters might encounter when taking the technology path. I had fun and learned a lot from my fellow table members.

(It was a packed house this year at the WIT event and instead of turning away the additional 30+ unregistered folks, we found a way to bring them to the tables!)

After lunch, I was honored to attend the ODTUG Leadership Program Graduation. Since I was on the Board starting this year, I was invited to several of the monthly meetings in 2016 and got to attend their special ceremony party. I was not involved in prior years (so I don’t have much to compare to), but this year’s group and program were really outstanding. They were responsible for creating the new Career track, promoting the Kscope16 Scholarship Program, in addition to many other fabulous accomplishments. Several great ODTUG leaders presented to them during the monthly calls. The ODTUG Leadership Program has turned out some fantastic folks!

Wednesday night is home to the creme-de-la-creme event of the week – the one night when people really let go and celebrate our coming together as an organization. It’s the special event. We have a dress up theme every year for those who really want to get into the spirit, and we serve up food and drinks at a very special venue. This year we celebrated our ODTUG awesomeness at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) – one of the best museums in America.

One of my favorite parts of the week is greeting our special event attendees. It’s our one chance to say hi to those folks we might have missed during the week, as well as thank them for supporting our great user group.

(Your 2016 ODTUG Board of Directors – sans Tim Tow, he was able to join a short while later – & Kscope16 Conference Committee! We were ready to party!)

The MSI is really something else. Not only were there special exhibits for everyone to interact with and learn from, there was also a live band and dance floor, amazing food and drink options, and several desserts (including a fully operational ice cream parlor). One of my favorite activities was the flight simulator. It’s a moving “box” meant to simulate flight battle. With two people operating it, one person steers the aircraft while the other person shoots missiles at enemies. Danny and I made a questionable flight simulation team – I spent most of the ride laughing hysterically and shrieking since we were upside down for at least half of it. Anyone watching us on video from the outside must’ve agreed based on the looks we got.

(From the Lego Brick by Brick exhibit – one of my favorites – the Hoover Dam recreated!)

(Stepping into the tornado simulator!)

(Great photo op on an old-fashioned trolley car with my buddies Natalie Delemar and Gary Adashek!)

This year a few of us ODTUG’ers decided to do something special for the attendees. A “Kscope dance crew” was assembled to perform two dances. With Edward Roske and Danielle White (our Titanium sponsor representatives from interRel) kicking us off after the first band break, we started with the whip nae nae and then moved into the cha cha slide. Kudos to all of those in our dance crew for putting in the time and effort during the week to attend late night dance rehearsals and most importantly, putting themselves on display!

(Our Kscope dance crew getting crazy for the audience!)

Then we danced our butts off. There was a superb crowd of hard core dancers. Much thanks to Kent Graziano and the other distinguished gentleman who literally swept me off of my feet by twirling me around the dance floor. I haven’t danced that hard since last year’s Kscope (and my feet are still feeling it!).

In addition, several announcements were made during the second band break, including three special winners:

(Nice photo op with our “serious” dancing lady group! We. Love. To. Dance.)

After the special event, folks who wanted to attend the after party were bussed to Studio Paris, a local nightclub. We then held dance party #2. Naturally, we ended up closing the place down at 2am.

After a quick “nap”, Thursday morning started with the Thursday deep dives. I attended the EPM Reporting deep dive and supported my moderator friends, Tracy McMullen and Gary Adashek. Gary showed this really cool custom Smart View add-in he created. In addition, another customer (Bill Mowle) demo’ed his OBIEE reporting solution.

Finally, to close out Kscope16, we held the closing ceremony. Here we introduced the ODTUG Board, Kscope16 conference committee, and Kscope17 conference committee. We also announced all of the speaker winners (to be posted soon on the ODTUG blog site), presented the Scavenger Hunt winners, said goodbye to Cameron Lackpour and Tim Tow, and made some closing remarks. We also showed the Kscope16 wrap-up video (to be posted to YouTube soon), which was a pretty stellar job considering the abbreviated time frame within which to make it. Finally, a promo video for Kscope17 was also shown.

Goodbye to Cameron and Tim(Image borrowed from Natalie – a big shout out to Tim and Cameron!)

Note: Cameron and Tim will be rolling off of the ODTUG Board at the end of this year, as they have termed out. They are technically eligible to run again after 4 years, but I believe they have both decided to make this a permanent situation to make room for the next generation of ODTUG leaders. Cameron and Tim were the very first EPM ODTUG Board members and they have represented our community well. I know I speak for more than myself when I say that I truly appreciate their efforts over the years and applaud them for being our pioneers and advocates and strengthening the ODTUG universe and Kscope conference.

Most of Thursday afternoon was spent saying goodbye to all of my friends. I did get to hang out on Magnificent Mile with my buddies Danny Bryant, Stewart Bryson, and Erica Harris after an awesome tapas meal at The Purple Pig. Then we unwound for a few minutes while catching the end of the UEFA Euro 2016 Portugal-Poland game before I headed off to the airport.

(The view from my Kscope16 room!)

Overall, I had a wonderful time. It was a bit different this year, as I had more obligations overall. I did my best to keep up with my friends in-between the madness, and I managed to attend two sessions beyond my own! Yahoo!

A huge thank you and many hugs to the following folks for making this event a success:

  • Kscope16 Conference Committee – outstanding work this year Danny, Tim, Francis, and Kevin! Bravo!
  • ODTUG Board of Directors – thank you all for your support and guidance this year! Special thanks to Natalie for taking the conference reins the first half of the conference year and then staying actively involved in the conference planning to ensure that Kscope16 was a success!
  • YCC (Your Conference Connection – the ODTUG management company) – thank you all for everything that you do everyday to support ODTUG and Kscope!
  • Oracle – your outpouring of support this year is one for the history books! Thanks for sending your speakers and support folks to help our organization’s customers and partners!
  • Content selection teams – you did a lot of work in a short amount of time! Thank you for holding to such high standards and making education a top priority!
  • Speakers – education is King and your content and willingness to share makes this conference great year after year! Kudos to the newbie speakers for your courage!
  • Attendees – without your support, we wouldn’t be able to make this event better every year! We were so glad to see you this year and we hope to see you again at a future Kscope conference!

In addition, during the conference I was ecstatic to be told by a number of conference goers that they were having an amazing time. When I asked them what they liked in particular, it was clear that they were learning a lot from the sessions and getting much needed answers to their burning questions. Education first – I love it! Next, they enjoyed being able to meet the experts that they’ve seen on social media and blogs/forums. Finally, they were able to round out all of the top notch knowledge sharing with fun. I was so overjoyed to hear this. Happiness folks – absolute happiness!

Next year we will be heading back to San Antonio, TX. San Antonio is the site of a very special Kscope for me, as it was my very first one back in 2012. It’s also in my home state of Texas. What awaits us there? Who knows, but what I can tell you is that the wonderful JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country resort property boasts the following amenities:

  • Built in 2010
  • State-of-the-art meeting spaces
  • Internet access
  • 36-hole golf course
  • A full-service spa
  • 7 restaurants
  • 6 acres of water parks, including fountains, waterfalls, a 650-foot rapid river ride, and a 1,000-foot lazy river
  • 100-acre nature preserve

This is a property geared for both families and adventure, if you’d like to have them tag along. If you’re curious about this property, here is one of their promo videos:

When we did our Cinco de Mayo Twitter party earlier this year, one of the most mentioned Kscope conferences was San Antonio 2012. A handful of folks have also personally commented to me that it was their favorite Kscope of all time. We look forward to seeing you June 25-29, 2017 at Kscope17!

(Borrowed from Twitter – a throwback to the 2012 San Antonio Kscope conference!)

Y’all come back now, you hear?

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