Kscope18: Conference Chair Tales

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Kscope18 is already over. It’s crazy how you can spend a whole year working so hard towards something, just to have it over in the blink of an eye.

First, a big thank you to all of the people who have given their blood, sweat, and tears over the past year to make this happen.

To my conference committee – without you, there would be no Kscope. We had a lot of bandwidth challenges this year and some days seemed more mad than others, yet we all made it through and mostly unscathed. Also, big thanks to the ODTUG Board for their assistance and organizational guidance. To the track leads and content selection teams – content is QUEEN! Without your strategic eye, our content would fall short of our attendees’ high expectations. Thank you for making these important content decisions in a short amount of time. To the presenters – without you, Kscope would cease to be educational (which is the whole point)! Your hard work and dedication to share knowledge and present in front of demanding audiences is fantastic! To the YCC team (ODTUG’s management company) – you are awesome! Thank you for being there to catch ODTUG when we fall and also for keeping the house in order! Your passion is top notch! To the vendors – without your financial support and innovative booths, our conference would be dim. To the volunteers that make up the other aspects of Kscope and ODTUG (community leads, Minie Parikh for the WIT event, Henry Robin for the Ambassador Orientation, Geek Game Night coordinators and hosts, the Kscope Twittersphere for your help promoting the conference, the leadership group, and anyone else I may have forgotten) – thank you for putting forth your precious time. To interRel Consulting – thank you for giving me the time and freedom during Kscope week to take care of my Conference Chair duties, and for putting your best foot forward as the Titanium sponsor. Finally, to Oracle – you get a special shout out for your constant commitment to our conference and going the extra mile in more ways than usual this year. The Sunday Symposiums, demo grounds, demo pods, hands-on labs, Oracle Developer Community and Community Service support, and everything else you do really makes Kscope stand out. We appreciate all that you do!

And to my personal friends and buddies – you know how chaotic Kscope can be. Thanks for being patient and knowing that I did my best to catch up with you. Special shout out to my best conference bud, Danny Bryant, for watching out for me at the late night parties and ensuring no crazies were lurking in my closet once the suite parties closed down.

So what was it like being the conference chair? Here’s an insider look on how I spent my time at Kscope. True or #alternativefacts? I’m not telling…

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Friday

Arrival day. Got in and took a few pictures of my view. #winning

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(Don’t look into the clam shell…don’t look!)

Then I immediately got to work. My Friday afternoon mission was to stock up for various events in my suite. I also needed to complete my “Kscope survival kit”:

  1. Breakfast bars – for those days when you just need that extra hour of sleep and can’t make it to the formal breakfast
  2. Sleep aid – for people like me who require 6-8 hours of sleep a night (how I survive any fun Oracle user group conference, I don’t know)
  3. Water – before realizing that my room was stocked with free, multiple bottles of water every day. At my age, hydration is key. I now drink water at most happy hours instead of alcohol. (Yay to getting older!)

On Friday night, the Board and conference committee met for their annual get together of cocktails in the Conference Chair’s suite and then dinner at a nearby restaurant. It’s an opportunity for us to socialize and talk shop. Then I took a few folks to the store to grab necessities. Since I knew it was important to load up on sleep, I went straight to bed afterwards. That was the most sleep I got all week. It was glorious.

Saturday

Bright and early Saturday morning, we all got up the make the annual pilgrimage to Kscope’s Community Service Day. Earlier this year, we renamed this awesome event to the Kathleen McCasland Community Service Day, to honor Kathleen when she stepped down from YCC. Kathleen is a huge supporter of giving back to the communities, so it was fitting and very honorable. I look forward to this event every year.

This year, Kscope18 and the Oracle Developer Community supported UP Orlando, an amazing organization who helps lift locals out of poverty. There were quite a few tasks available for us, so we split into groups and away we went. I went with the pantry group – our job was to clean the shelves, reorganize the goods, and remove products that were past their expiration date.

Here’s the Community Service group photo:

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(pic from the Twittersphere – thank you!)

And here’s a picture with the Oracle ACE crew:

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(pic from the Twittersphere – thank you!)

On the way back, one of our 2 buses broke down. So the bus I was on turned around to go pick them up. Comradery, folks!

Next up, we went straight into bag stuffing and managed to knock out over a thousand bags in just over an hour.

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Next, I actually got a workout in. What? I sure did.

Then I raced upstairs to shower and get dressed in preparation for the welcoming of the first registration attendees. The Board and Conference Committee generally go to the opening of registration on the Saturday night before Kscope to meet the eager attendees, explain the Ambassador program, and answer any questions about the conference.

Then, Danny and I grabbed dinner and did our regular oyster tradition, this time at Todd English’s bluezoo restaurant onsite.

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Finally, it was time to get the conference suite ready for the annual “fine spirits” party – hosted by Jake Turrell this year. Folks who like a fine spirit and are at Kscope on Saturday night are invited to bring a special bottle and present it to the group. We had some interesting choices this year, including a super expensive bottle of WhistlePig!

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The crowd for this event changes every year. It’s nice to get together, one up our liquor education in a meaningful way, catch up with old friends, and sip fine spirits together.

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(Ladies representing – thanks for the pic, Neviana!)

The crowd with their liquor offering in hand.

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(Thanks for the pic, Neviana!)

Afterwards, I got to catch up with two of my close buds, Tony Scalese and Sarah Zumbrum (a little) late into the night.

Sunday

Sunday Symposium day! Yay – except that I only got to attend the first hour of the BI Sunday Symposium. This year we combined the EPM and BI Sunday Symposiums so that attendees wouldn’t have to compete (they cross over in both communities frequently). It was a welcome change, and both Oracle and the attendees appreciated it.

Sunday is also the day that I start going off into “strategic ODTUG meetings”. We meet with various folks behind the scenes all week during sessions. Unfortunately, we miss sessions, but, fortunately, we get some much needed face-to-face time with important folks.

By the way, if you’ve never gotten a true behind-the-scenes look at Kscope, take a look at this. This is the YCC secret room, where they store all of the important signs and decorations and keep their sanity between the madness.

 

After lunch, the ODTUG Board, Conference Committee, and Edward Roske (our Titanium sponsor CEO, who gets to say a few words at the General Session) went into our General Session rehearsal. We use this time to practice all of the slides and cadence. We may occasionally make a few jokes about how long it takes (this practice takes hours). We also start to suffer from early Kscope delirium.

General Session Rehearsal - Natalie and Opal

(Natalie and I laughing at the rehearsal. Thanks to Jorge Rimblas for the pic!)

After the rehearsal and a quick costume change, I got ready for the Sunday night events – the Ambassador Orientation that Henry ran, the Newcomer’s orientation by Mike Riley, Natalie, and myself, and the Welcome Reception.

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(Presenting at the Newcomer’s Orientation. Thanks to Twittersphere for the pic!)

This year, the costume theme was to dress as your favorite character. Since I was busy at the interRel booth, I don’t have many pics of the Welcome Reception. And believe it or not, I was dressed in costume but it was the costume for interRel’s booth, which was to dress in either all black or white business classy.

We had a number of attendees come to the Welcome Reception dressed in their best for a chance to win the costume contest. It was fun seeing the folks get into it! They stopped to pose for photos with attendees.

Kscope18 Costume Contest

(Thanks to ODTUG for the pic!)

Next up was the annual Geek Game Night. There are just no words for this event. It is pure insanity. You never know what you’re going to get.

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(Prepping – thanks to Twittersphere for the pic!)

This year, Stewart Bryson and the rest of the “community wiseguys” coordinated a “Kscope Squares” game night, based on the long-time hit TV show Hollywood Squares. Scott Spendolini created an awesome board in APEX. Edward, Scott, Stewart, and Bjoern Rost were the “wiseguys” representing each ODTUG community. And the super cool and witty Maria Colgan hosted. Jeff Smith supported the APEX tic tac toe board and hyped up the room with his choice of 80s YouTube music videos (I still don’t understand his obsession with the song “867-5309/Jenny”).

We held 3 different games. It was hilarious and off the cuff.

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Then Sunday night the EPM lip sync teams raced to their secret practice rooms for the first formal in-person practice as a team. I won’t show the practice video the interRel team took as we tried to get our stuff together. I think we practiced for 2 hours. (Side note: it was a complete secret that I was competing. Although asked multiple times, up until that point I had refused to commit, especially to something that involved coordinated dancing and singing. I decided the Thursday before Kscope that I would join the interRel team…but really because I liked their song choice and because I loved the white wig I ordered so much. Sometimes a good wig is all it takes.)

The rest of Sunday night is a bit fuzzy. I think I went straight to bed knowing that I had to get up early for another General Session rehearsal…

Monday

Monday was the first of 3 very long days. That morning I had to get up bright and early. The Board, Edward, and I met an hour before the General Session started to do one last rehearsal with all of the new changes in the program.

This year’s General Session was very special for me. Not only did our conference committee select a female keynote speaker (the first in Kscope’s history!), but Dr. Heather Knight also had robots in her presentation! And comedy!

 

In addition, Tim German and I were pleasantly surprised to be announced as newly minted Oracle ACE Directors! People asked if I knew – no, I truly didn’t. And neither did Tim know that he was being promoted. There was a hint thrown at me the day before about mine, but I missed it.

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(Thanks to Twittersphere for the pic!)

During the General Session, a number of folks were recognized for awards (including the Oracle Innovation award, the Oracle Contributor of the Year award, and the ODTUG Volunteer award) – congratulations to all of the winners!

After the General Session, I had to run to multiple meetings. Then sometime later in the day, I had to get ready for the Monday night community events!

I started this year’s Monday community night by walking around and surveying what was happening in each room. The communities decided to combine the BI/Database nights into a single, fun, trivia night. From what I heard, it was plenty interactive this year and they pitted Database against BI.

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The table costumes were hilarious!

Kscope18-Monday Night Danny & Opal 1

(I think it’s pretty clear that I’m the taller one. Thanks to Jorge for the pic!)

I also checked out part of the APEX Community night. My buddy Jayson Hanes presented his APEX solution second on the open mic night list.

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Then I got together with interRel to do one final rehearsal of our EPM lip sync routine. We were last on the list. Unfortunately, I missed the other teams’ performances. However, I caught partial videos of all teams on Twitter!

Natalie’s team went first, belting out an epic “All I Do is Win”. The ODTUG nerds really got into it, with Pete Nitschke even showing off some new cornrows.

EPM Community Night-Natalie Group

(Thanks to Jorge for the pic!)

About 4 groups later, it was interRel’s turn. I was very proud of what we accomplished in the short time we had together onsite to practice. Our song was top notch and fitting for our team – “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman soundtrack. We may not have won, but it was a brilliant effort and I enjoyed the audience members getting into it and joining in at the end.

Here is our lip sync video in its entirety – thanks to whoever recorded it. (Note that several folks told me that I was completely unrecognizable, being all in white and covered in my new amazing white wig!) Also, check out Joe Aultman in the back. He’s dancing…on stilts! I’m still laughing over Robert Gideon’s costume and his…upper body parts bouncing around all loose.

 

After the Monday night event, I hung out a bit in the downstairs lobby. Then I went off to bed, knowing that I had to get up super early in the morning.

Tuesday

And Tuesday started at the crack of dawn (5:30am to be precise) with the Kscope 5K fun run! For those of you who don’t ever get up that early, the sunrise is amazing in Orlando during this time and the weather was nice and cool.

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Some of us ladies represented and took a photo together – thanks to Lori for the pic!

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Luckily, we also got an ACE picture in…before the hot sweats and pained limbs. Yes, it got really hot and humid by race time.

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(Thanks to Twittersphere for the pic!)

Right after the 5k I had to run back to my room, clean up, and go straight into a series of meetings. I also went to my very first Oracle ACE/ACED briefing and got my inauguration gear!

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Next, Tim and I practiced our Wednesday session together.

At lunch, I ran into a buddy of mine, Kevin Cox. He’s a long time Essbase person and also lives in the Dallas area. Every now and then he’ll bring some vintage Essbase swag to the conference to celebrate how things used to be.

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(Remember when Oracle used to be called Hyperion, which used to be called Arbor?)

I’ve never even seen this before (this was just slightly before my Oracle time):

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Later that afternoon, I held a special networking party in my room. And then I raced down to the exhibit hall to see the puppies at the Tuesday night reception, brought by Pet Rescue by Judy. This year we had twice as many puppies, great donations, 1 foster sign-up, and THREE adoption applications! Yay!

 

Then it was off to interRel’s customer appreciation event which was a wild time at Animal Kingdom! I was fortunate to catch the first 2 hours.

 

(One of the super interesting guests at dinner!)

Then I quickly raced to the last half hour of the Oracle ACE dinner to congratulate my buddy, Adrian Png, on his new Oracle ACE Associate award!

Oracle ACE Dinner-Adrian and Opal

(Thanks for the great pic, Jorge!)

Congratulations to all new Oracle ACE promotions, including my buddy Becky Wagner!

Oracle ACE Dinner-New Associates

Afterwards, I learned an interesting new social game that the APEX team likes to play involving yelling out certain words…I’ll just keep it at that (insert laughter).

Another late night, another fun time with friends, both new and old.

Wednesday

As if my days weren’t crazy enough, Wednesday was my longest and busiest day. Wednesday is also what I like to call “WIT” (women in technology) day.

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I dressed up in my special WIT dress and raced to my first meeting of the day. Then I went to do the on-camera interview with the WIT scholar, Linda Stewart. Next, I had another meeting. Then Tim and I presented our session on how ODTUG is using OAC to do conference analytics.

For lunch, I welcomed the folks at the WIT event (my oh my, this event grows every year).

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(Thanks to Twittersphere for the pic!)

The WIT luncheon was another top notch, classy event, thanks to Minie! I enjoyed the discussion with my table.

Then I supported one of my customers in their session. Next, I took a work meeting with one of interRel’s onsite customers (yes, I do have a day job, even at Kscope).

Next, I caught the end of the Leadership Program Graduation in my suite. Congratulations to the ODTUG Class of 2018 Leaders!

ODTUG Leadership Group 2018

(Thanks to ODTUG for the pic!)

And then the Board and Conference Committee got ready together for the Special Event night in my suite. This year’s theme for the Special Event was to get your ne-on! Since Andretti’s had black lighting in some areas, we thought it would be fun.

I have to say, I was a bit nervous about this year’s Special Event. A couple of people wondered why we didn’t go to Disney World. All I can ask is…have you price checked them recently? I had to remind them that we are a not-for-profit organization.

Andretti’s ended up being super fun – everyone seemed to be having a good time and people were waiting in line for the race carts, bowling, video games, VR games, the dark ride game, laser tag, and the ropes course/zipline. As you can tell from the below video, I stuck to the video games and caught up with friends that I haven’t seen in years.

One of my favorite parts of the conference to this day is when the Conference Committee and Board do the initial welcome into the Special Event venue. We form a line and hoot and holler and high five our attendees as they walk through the door. The surprise, smiles, and feeling of belonging reflected back to us make all of this worth it.

 

I also had to take care of my day job for a bit while at the Special Event. #juggling

The dance floor was a bit lacking this year at the Special Event. But we more than made up for it at the after party at Mango’s. This was probably the largest turnout of ODTUG dancers that I’ve ever seen. It was a special night and I treasure the memories.

 

Even Kevin McGinley got into the dancing!

 

This was by far the latest night I had at Kscope. I was in bed by 3am…I think?

Thursday

Due to sleep deprivation, I slept in on Thursday a bit and then met Natalie to do the Closing Session rehearsal. Next, we met with the entire Board for a few minutes of quiet time before we got started with the Closing Session. Suffice it to say, we were all pretttttttttty tired.

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Somehow, Lumpy even made an appearance at the Closing Session. We love you, Lumpy!

Lumpy

(Thanks, Jorge, for the pic!)

In the Closing Session, Natalie walked through the conference’s speaker and Ambassador drawing award winners. Then she made special announcements. At this year’s Closing Session, we made a huge announcement. Mike Riley, long, long, long serving member of ODTUG (and has probably held every position ever possible) has decided to retire from ODTUG. He will put himself “out to pasture” (if I may borrow a term from Monty) at the end of this year.

Thank you for all that you have done for ODTUG, Mike. You are responsible for so many people getting involved in ODTUG, the reason why EPM even exists as a community within this organization, and you are still our amazing go-to historian. We will miss you.

Here is his farewell video:

And here is Mike with his Lifetime Achievement Award (thanks to Lisa for the pic!):

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I managed to keep my voice good just long enough for the final send off. The one thing I remember thinking about on stage is how quickly this conference passed us by – this year more than years past. That might have something to do with my new role this year. It might be me just getting older. I don’t know, but the conference was over in a flash.

Opal - Closing Session

(Thanks, Jorge, for the pic!)

We said our final farewells to folks who were going to be checking in with family after the long week.

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(Thanks, Neviana, for the pic!)

Side note: did anyone catch the awesome Kscope19 swag in the back of the Closing Session? I need to pay more attention next year (and no, I didn’t know. As much as I try, I don’t know everything about the conference goings on). It was ODTUG Kscope19 branded lens cloth cleaners and squeezable flying fish! Whut? It was amazeballs!

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And then some of us went our separate ways. I got some much needed downtime to do my day job for a few hours.

Those who took a nap and were sticking around that night came to my suite to say one final farewell at the new annual “drink up all the conference chair’s liquor” party. We watched the 9pm Epcot fireworks from my window, with Jorge narrating the entire time (he knows a lot about the Epcot fireworks…just sayin):

 


We ordered some pizza, drank, and hung out. I made some new friends. What a good way to end the week!

Friday

Friday was the final day and a travel day for me. I took the morning to pack. I also managed to send off the remaining liquor (thanks, Kevin!). Danny and I caught up on the week before I left.

Then I went to the airport, got back to my day job on the plane, and went promptly back to work once I got into the Lyft on the way home. I spent most of the night catching up on work. Work does not stop because of Kscope! #lifeasaconsultant

Summary

It was a crazy year leading up the conference, with many ups and downs. Although this was my 5th year on the Kscope conference committee, there is always much to learn. And there is so much changing right now in the Oracle space. But if I had to do it all over again, I would.

Thank you to the conference attendees on Twitter who sent out messages of joy and happiness about this year’s Kscope. We hope to capture that magic again next year in Seattle and make it even better!

 

*Not crying*

Much love to the ODTUG Community. We’ll see you in Seattle next June!

Your Kscope18 & Kscope19 Conference Chair,

Opal Alapat

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