Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Inland Empire .NET User Group

Three months ago I moved from Temecula, California to Wylie, Texas, which is in the Dallas area. I took some time recently to write down my thoughts reflecting on my time as a member of the Inland Empire .NET User Group.

Joining the Inland Empire .NET User Group was probably the best career decision I've ever made. The exposure I got each month to new techniques and technologies pushed me ahead by leaps and bounds. I remember several times heading up to a meeting (it was about an hour drive) thinking that I probably wouldn't have much use for what was being discussed that evening. Then after being inspired at the meeting, I would drive home thinking of all the ways that I could benefit from what I just learned.

Stephen Rose's talk about virtualization is probably the best example of that. I had just rebuilt my machine and that afternoon had carried another machine up to my desk with the intention of installing some software that I didn't want on my main development machine. Now I do 100% of my development on virtual machines. Using base images with Office and Visual Studio installed means I very rarely need to re-install those tools and I haven't installed (or reinstalled) XP or Vista on a new machine in months! I just grab the virtual machine that is closest to what I need next and copy and paste it to a new vm.

The other talk that was very inspiring was Matt Penner's discussion of keeping the passion in what you do. After that talk I asked him what podcasts he listens to and then I subscribed to Hanselminutes and .NET Rocks! Between those podcasts (and a few more that I've added since then) and the user group meetings I can almost feel my brain expanding!

The first meeting I attended was the Most Valuable Member (MVM) award event for 2007-2008. I love the challenge of a competition, so I decided that night that I would go for it. Getting the MVM points was a huge motivator that prompted me to get on the calendar and give a talk myself. Presenting to the group was very fun and I got a ton of great feedback from members of the group. After that I gave basically the same talk at the SoCal CodeCamp in San Diego, but refined it a bit. One of the user group members (I've forgotten his name) was at my CodeCamp talk and told me that I made good improvements on it. I think every user group should do a MVM award program!

The last meeting I attended before moving to Texas was the MVM award event for 2008-2009 where I was recognized as the 2nd Runner Up winner! I was blown away by how much stuff was part of the prize package. I still haven’t installed all the software I won and haven’t even ordered all the free books of my choice from the 3 different publishers!

I am very thankful for all the hard work James Johnson does in putting together and coordinating the user group. It has had a huge impact on me as a developer and was a great way to gain exposure to the larger developer community.

I have attended a few other user groups and none of them even come close to the quantity and quality of the sponsor provided giveaways each month -- let alone the MVM prizes! I know that is due to James' diligence in contacting those sponsors and telling them what a great group of developers there is in the Inland Empire.

I miss the friends I made there and I hope that the next time I'm in Southern California it can be around the 2nd Tuesday of the month so I can go back and visit the group.

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