I’ve always been a huge fan of RPG & DB2 Summit. It’s definitely one of the best conferences that I attend, and I attend a lot of conferences! In fact, I’ve participated in all twelve of the previous RPG & DB2 Summit conferences. However, the thirteenth one which was held in March 2013 had a good chance of being different. You see, I am still recovering from a serious spinal cord injury that I sustained in January, that has left me a paraplegic. That means that my wife and son will have to come to take care of me, and since they aren’t RPG developers, this conference might not be much fun for them. Furthermore, my colleague David Russo would be attending this conference, as an exhibitor, for the first time. If he didn’t enjoy it, I’d surely hear about it every day at work.
Thankfully, things went very well. The conference was held in Atlanta, which is a good travel destination. Since the airport is a major hub for Delta Airlines, you can get direct flights from almost anywhere. And, with Atlanta being pretty far south, the weather is good, even though it’s a cold March where I live in Wisconsin.
“Summit, in comparison to [a larger, well-known conference], had a more ‘close knit’, and ‘homey’ feel to it, which was kinda cool.” - David Russo
I agree. This has always been one of my favorite things about Summit. It’s a smaller conference, so we (the speakers) have more time to spend with the attendees. We see them at all the meals, and in the hallways, and in the sessions. We get to know each other. One of the comments I hear the most from attendees is that the speakers are very approachable and friendly.
“Jon and Susan did a nice job on the show and even came around several times to ask how it was going and if I needed anything” – David Russo
This conference is organized by Paul Tuohy, Jon Paris and Susan Gantner, who are the “dream team” of speakers. They are not only good speakers, but extremely experienced conference hosts. These folks work hard to make the conference seem like it’s fun rather than hard work.
“The jokes and stuff after dinner were fun, so was the prize give away. I thought that Paul was funny and made that fun.” - David Russo
On the first night of the conference there’s always a welcome reception (i.e. a party with door prizes) where you get to know people better. The conference organizers always inject a lot of humor and fun into this event, and by the end, we have a warm, positive feeling about the conference. Because the attendees make friends and get to know the organizers, by the next day, the attendees are much more talkative and friendly. I enjoy speaking, but I also enjoy spending time talking to the attendees, and they feel comfortable approaching me and talking to me, and that makes the conference really enjoyable.
David’s comments do a great job of highlighting why I love this conference so much. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy other conferences. In addition to RPG & DB2 Summit, I’m very involved with COMMON, and I love it as well. But there’s a different flavor between Summit and COMMON. RPG & DB2 Summit is small and intimate, and focused entirely on developers working with RPG or DB2. COMMON covers all IBM i topics including hardware, administration, security, and also development in virtually all programming languages. COMMON is much larger, but not as intimate. Both conferences have their pros and cons.
But, I’ve always loved the atmosphere at RPG & DB2 Summit, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is an RPG and/or DB2 developer.
But how was the conference to someone who had suffered a spinal cord injury in January, and is bound to a wheelchair, in a body that is still not functioning at 100%? Well, it was hard. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the conference, and I’m very glad that I went. I discovered that I’m still able to be a good speaker, just as I was before the injury, and that was a wonderful feeling.
However, it was hard on me. I was very tired, and often nauseous, because my body is not back to normal yet. I had to have my wife come to the conference and help take care of me. She carried things for me, got food for me (since you can’t carry a plate in a buffet line when you are in a wheelchair, you need your hands to operate the chair) and also took care of me in medical (and more personal) ways when we were back at the hotel room. I also could not handle the distances between the hotel rooms and the session rooms, so I had to have someone push my wheelchair. Since Summit is a small conference, I shudder to think how hard the distances might be at a larger one! Without my wife, I would not have been successful at RPG & DB2 Summit.
Here’s my wife’s take on the conference:
“The traveling was hard, but once we were there, I really enjoyed it. I met several people who I knew only through comments they had made on Scott’s posts, and who have rooted for him in his recovery. I made some new friends there as well. Once we got to the hotel, and were settled in our hotel rooms, things were easier. Even though I don’t work with the IBM i, I found it to be interesting. Jon, Susan and Paul knew that Scott wouldn’t be able to travel without me, so they made sure that my son and I were included in the events of the conference. I can certainly see why Scott enjoys this conference so much. And, I would go again, if needed, if they’d have me.“ - Tracy Klement
Despite the difficulty, I’m very glad I went! I really enjoyed meeting people, and catching up with old friends. The speaking went very well, and it gives me hope for the future, when my body is stronger, and I’m able to handle things better.
And, above all, it was really good to be back doing something “normal”, instead of focusing on medical concerns all the time. I feel reconnected to my “old life” again.