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I was able to go to LISA in 07 and I finally get to go again this year, but only for the first two days and only for training. Some of the people I met at LISA actually had in their contracts that they go to the conference every year. The training I received was pretty good, but I learned the most from going to the talks and other related events. For example, learning how Goldman Sachs configures Nagios to monitor a 2,000 node HPC cluster and the lessons they learned from it. Or sitting in on a discussion about Puppet with the creator and the people that use it. It's hard to tell the guy that signs the check "I'm going to bring back this specific knowledge" when you don't know the details of what's going to be discussed vs. being able to show them a training outline.

How do you convince your employer that conferences also benefit the company (and get them to send you)?

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I've not been able to convince mine. I'm lucky enough to be going as a conference blogger and picking up my own hotel room. I'll be watching, because I want to go next year, too! –  Matt Simmons Oct 23 '09 at 0:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In many ways, if your employer doesn't inherently understand the benefits, you're kinda screwed. As you say, the hallway track is the best bit, and the energy and motivation you get from attending is almost impossible to quantify (but is easily felt). What you might want to do is try to identify the benefits to the company of the things you mentioned in your question (talking about Puppet, Nagios monitoring) and rattle those off to the powers that be.

Ultimately, though, like the benefits of automation and comprehensive testing, if your boss doesn't "get it", it's probably easier to find a job that does "get it" rather than try to radically mangle your company culture. You can change your company, or you can change your company -- and often one is a lot harder than the other.

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I marked this answer mostly for the massive wisdom packed into that last sentence. Excellent way to sum it up. –  CosmicQ Oct 23 '09 at 12:14

It really depends on the type of conference AND your job responsibilities. I Googled the "LISA" conference, and if your job requires you to mainly manage client installs (...and day-to-day workstation operations), then I see a pretty good reason why you'd want to attend these kinds of conferences. You could make the business case of attending these types of conferences towards gaining first-person knowledge of new and updated technologies that could potentially be cost effective for your organization.

I found a good list (from here)of reasons why someone might want to attend any kind of technology conference, they might help you come up with a good case for it:

  • Learn best practices
  • Learn new skills – How To’s
  • Learn about new trends
  • See a vision of the future
  • Listen to a “Star” speaker
  • Earn continuing education credits
  • Get New Ideas
  • Try new concepts
  • Listen to industry experts
  • Gain inspiration – from networking with peers in the industry
  • Share war stories (Share stories of difficult challenges overcome)
  • Share your experiences
  • Meet with like minded people
  • Become re-energized as you become part of the larger whole
  • Discuss common problems
  • Realize that you are not alone with your thoughts and opinions
  • Meet with several suppliers or customers in one place
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+1 for "See a vision of the future" - that is where great Systems Admin starts. the rest are good points but that one is gold. –  Helvick Oct 23 '09 at 1:04

I think you answered your question. Assuming you use Nagios and Puppet at work, you can tell them how you listened to a talk on how someone else uses Nagios and how what they did helped you do something similar, saving your company time/money/something.

Even if you didn't use the knowledge gained for something specific, you can tell them it helped you not make more mistakes than you might have when setting up or deploying that service because of being there. Listening in to specific troubles that were encountered or from audience questions and that you wouldn't have thought to ask yourself but were important things to know was easily worth more than the cost of the conference.

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