Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge proponent of the ‘vCommunity’. Since I upped my game at VMWorld 2015, I have been addicted to not just consuming community resources, but also giving back. I decided that I wanted to get involved and help out. Towards the end of 2015, my local VMUG group was not looking for any sort of additional leadership help, so I did the next best thing – I started my own user group.
Even though the focus of my user group is different (but a lot of overlap with VMware), I found myself dealing with problems that I had heard a lot of VMUG leaders mention. Things like finding good sponsors, ideal locations, and, hardest of all, getting users to participate. I’ve been fortunate thus far that I’ve been able to fulfill these areas. In no small part, my connections from the vCommunity have helped as well.
The point that I am getting at is that running a user group is a labour of love. It isn’t something that we do to get rich (it is usually a volunteer position). We do it because we want to help people. But like almost everything else in the world, corporate politics can get involved.
— Anton Zhbankov (@antonvirtual) December 29, 2016
A few days ago, I was shocked to see that tweet come across my timeline. I figured that there must have been more to it than meets the eye, but after going through the thread, it appeared that VMUG sacked a 7-year leader, who is also an 8-time vExpert. Very odd indeed. Maybe this was just a one-off … But then I saw this earlier tonight:
Bummed, Just told I would not be allowed to "personally" be involved as a VMUG leader based on who I work for. VMUG used to be about users.
— Nathan Cox (@jncox) January 6, 2017
Another leader being kicked out of their leadership role.
WHAT IS GOING ON?
I have the good fortune of knowing quite a few VMUG leaders. Off of the top of my head, I can probably think of dozen or so. Over the last few months, I have been hearing grumblings about VMUGs approach as of late. In some cases, this came from casual conversations, while in other cases it came via some form of online social media. The overall trend that I noticed though is that there was a discomfort between a lot of local VMUGs and VMUG (the organization).
The common theme that I picked up on is that VMUG is getting a lot stricter with how things are run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of rules. Rules let us know what we can and can’t do, but they also have to be respected by both sides. It isn’t fair to agree to one set and then come in and drastically change everything up out of the blue.
The other big point is that one size does not always fit all. What may work for a VMUG in the Mid-Western US isn’t necessarily something that will work in Eastern Canada. Each VMUG has their own style, that’s what makes them unique. If you start dictating how they are run, and more importantly, what individuals are allowed to run them, you loose all of that. It turns the event into a generic, cookie cutter event. This isn’t devops.
WHY AM I WRITING THIS?
That’s a good question. VMUGs and the communities that go with it have been huge for me. I have not only learned so much from attending, but I have made new friends and pushed myself further and harder. So, why am I writing this? I think it is because ultimately I care. I care about the concept of VMUG; I care about the attendees; I care about the leaders who pour their heart, soul, and personal time and energy into these things.
I am not a fan of slander between companies. Personally, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. With that being said, if Company A has a spat with Company B, you don’t punish Company B’s employees by not letting them volunteer for your community event. You may not let Company B speak at your event. And heck, if an employee from Company B who is running the event gets out of line, you deal with it. What you don’t do, however, is punish people for something that hasn’t happened.
Do I expect VMUG to reverse this apparent decision? Not likely. But I do hope that those who have been affected know that their plight isn’t just another tweet in my timeline.