Lotusphere 2009 is my 6th or 7th Lotusphere that I have attended.  And with each attendance, I came away with a new experience. 

I remember my first year of having the honor of going to Lotusphere.  I worked at GWI Software and was so happy that I got to go!  I had heard how much fun and exciting it was…I just couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like.  They didn’t tell me how much work it was going to be.  Being on the showcase floor was hard work.  I had lost my voice the first day and my feet felt like they were on fire.  Lack of sleep with late nights and early mornings definitely put a toll on you.  I didn’t know very many people within the IBM/Lotus community, but had heard buzz names such as “The Turtle” and “Wild Bill”.  I didn’t know who they were or how they were related to the IBM/Lotus community.  I only saw glances of them as they walked through the conference.  Needless to say, my first Lotusphere experience was from a “working” man’s point of view, with the concentration of bringing in business and sales with some fun intermixed with your co-workers and some customers.  It definitely was a good time and great experience.  But it was just another “fun” conference to attend.

Over the next few years, Bruce and I attended Lotusphere together.  Bruce was slowly getting involved with the IBM/Lotus community by starting Openntf and was gaining respect within it.  Our circle of friends were growing and with it a broader sense of community.

As Openntf became more and more popular our circle of friends began to expand.  So, going to Lotusphere was no longer viewed as going to just another “fun” conference, but instead, it was a place to be able to see our circle of friends that we saw once (maybe twice) a year.  It was a sense of “family” and community.  A unique closeness that tied us together through a common goal and interest.  And I finally did become friends with the infamous “Wild Bill” and “The Turtle” who I only knew as names a few years before.

Attending Lotusphere this year brought even more special meaning to us.  With starting our own software company and becoming an ISV, the stakes were a lot higher for us.  We had to act like a real company and work seriously for the business.  The preparation and strategy to making this conference successful was hard work on all of us, but well worth it.  Going into this conference we had no idea what to expect as an official ISV.  We only knew that we had a great product and that we had happy customers.  We also had a great support system from our “family of friends” that we built over the years.  We went into this conference with confidence.  However, we did NOT expect the recognition that we received from the IBM/Lotus community by winning the Lotus Breakout Technology Award, the Lotus CTO Innovation Award and becoming a finalist in the Lotus Best in Showcase Award.  Winning these awards are a great honor for us, not only because it gives us the exposure and respect that a start up company needs, but also because it gave us pride that we have the support of the IBM/Lotus community. 

Bruce and I (as well as Matt) have always lived our lives (business and personal) with a sense of family, community and collaboration.  We believe that this provides the foundation of being successful, in all sense of the word.  

So, as I reflect back on all my experiences of attending Lotusphere I ask myself what Lotusphere means to me and why I keep coming back.  To me , I can honestly say that Lotusphere means not only a great time at a great conference with a lot of hard work, but more so, it means family, friends and community. I enjoy coming back to Lotusphere every year because of the latter.  Sure Lotusphere is a great place to have fun, network and learn new things, but it is even more rich in the family of friends that you create while you attend.  You can never substitute that experience with anything else as you will carry this with you no matter where you go.  The family of friends that Bruce and I have developed over these past Lotuspheres are priceless.  We want to thank all our family of friends and the IBM/Lotus community for making this and every Lotusphere special for us!