Friday, December 16, 2016

Looking Back on 5 Years and Forward as an IBM Champion


"We've got five years, what a surprise
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot"..David Bowie, Five Years

IBM has granted me another year as their ambassador. Well, me and 122 other friends and colleagues. You can read the announcement here. Congratulations everyone!

This will be my 5th year as an ICS Champion and I was a Websphere Champion for 3 years.

I was not part of the first class. A friend told me at the time, "the people elected in the 2nd year are the ones to watch, so stick with it, your time may come". He was right, in time I was elected.

The people from that first year, 16 are still Champions today, are the pillars of this community. When someone asks me how to become a Champion I point to some of the 16 or any of the 100s of past and current Champions as guides.

It is interesting to note that IBM said there were over 630 nominations for over 170 unique nominees. Think about that for a minute. On average each nominee had just over 3 nominations, no doubt many had more, as well as some who had only one.

Looking at this from a world view, we represent many countries, see this post.. I think I am p[art of EMEA so we make up 52% of this year's Champions. In some cases, IBM Business Partners have multiple IBM Champions on their team and there are also many customers represented as well.

To be upfront and honest, I am still in disbelief I was reelected. I appreciate it and hopefully, some clients wrote me in and said some nice things. I felt this year was a weak year for me. I need to get cracking on 2017.

I get asked by many friends and family what is an IBM Champion? How does one get to be one?

Here for your review is my "maybe don't follow my lead entirely" examples and my thoughts in the hope it gives people some insights. Keep in mind much of this is the same no matter what vendor you have in mind to reach such status. I have no idea what really determines the judging and if you read the post referenced above, many IBMers voted so it was not just "knowing some people".

So here we go:
My blog posting last year was all of 4 posts. 4! Although I have over 1,000 posts, so if you search for me, a long tail of posts travels well I guess. Hint, blog more than 4 times a year especially if few people know you.

Speaking events, I was limited in travel so had to make do with attending only one IBM event ICON UK. Although I did speak at various other business events, mostly here in Israel, not sure this won it for me this year. However, I did speak at several IBM related events in Q4 in 2015 which counts to this year. Moral of the story is to get out there and speak and you shall be found(and post slide decks to Slideshare, your blog, on SocMed).

I did help IBM with some webinars, internal ones and for Business Partners on messaging migrations and Cloud Migrations for the #newwaytolearn sessions. So if you are a Business Partner, help IBM, it goes a long way. Here is a hint, DeveloperWorks has a search and I found numerous references to things I have posted, like my Sametime 9 Spreadsheet for documenting your environment referenced by other people. This post did get updated in 2016. So IBMers read things we post online and it helps to get your name seen inside.

No tests, for the 2nd year in a row I did not get to create any tests for certification. But this, I felt, always helped.

Social Media. I cut back on retweeting every IBM message and focused on what was important for me and my clients. Whatever SocMed you use, keep in mind there are gripes and there are legitimate complaints. Choose wisely how you do it is all I will say, as I have over the years said and posted a few things that bit me and hurt some people, which I apologized for afterward. However, over 10 years of it has 98% of the time gone well, and brought me quite a few clients, so think about your posting.

User Experiences, Beta codes, Council Memberships, Advisory Meetings. If you don't participate then the people who need to know you, never will. IBM is huge and time is precious for them so if you are not on one of these, if not all of them like I am and other Champions, you are missing out on another angle.You do not need to be a Champion to be part of these, all you need to do is ask and watch for announcements about them. User experience labs used to be at Lotusphere IBM Connect.

But Keith, isn't being an IBM Champion about public displays of affection for IBM? No, it is about PR yes, but we don't have to love all their choices and as I said at ICON UK, Domino is cooler than Pokemon Go to me. Laugh all you want, but in the room at the time it made sense.IBM, like any other company, need all the help they can get on the public side, so while internal things are helpful, external are many multiples more important.

Take a "public" stand. I don't care which, but love Connections or Cloud or Watson or whatever development coolness and make it your own. I spend my time fighting off Microsoft, Gmail, Jive and numerous "messaging systems" ESN and also do the same for CRMs. Some people think I am Don Quixote but it is what I love and enjoy. I think it works for me and if you look at many Champions they have their stake in the ground. What's yours?

Help everyone. Skype, Twitter, Hangout, Forums, Slack chats and posts are there to ask and to help. Do I help everyone? No, I know what I know and offer help where possible. As do almost every Champion I know. We all give our time, for free, to help everyone else. It is called Collaboration, among other words, and if you are not in the discussions, you are not helping IBM nor your clients.

Podcasts, Webinars, Live support tips and other similar things always get you noticed. Why? Easy, IBMers, and anyone else, can take those and reuse them in front of potential clients and existing customers. You don't have to be prolific, but you do need to be consistent. If you think the rest of us cover everything, then you have no place as an IBM Champion. There are so many things to cover, find your niche and just do it! Hint, if you can do it in your native language other than English that goes pretty far as well. Just make sure your local country sales and execs know about your efforts. I posted this in 2015 it has over 800 hits, in Hebrew for the Israel market where IBM Domino is not so strong but IBM Connections is recognized.

Clients. Help your clients, renew their licenses, expand their worlds, make them IBM references. And maybe, get nominated by them. My gut instinct says IBM prefers to see non-related nominations like a client submission, but again, just my thinking. It helps if you ask for the referral once you delivered your project on time, under budget and without a hitch.

Start and run a User Group, known as LUGs (Lotus User Groups) but nowadays go by many names. if you can run an event and bring in clients and speakers and it goes well, you are way above me in credit to being a Champion. I help a group or two in minor ways. Every bit helps. Start volunteering if you are part of one and again, put a stake in the ground.

If you are in sales or a customer then IBM knows you and probably loves you more than you can imagine. BUT that doesn't guarantee you to be an IBM Champion. You have to do all the stuff above, but inside your organization. You can do it. Others have, and it is much easier than you may think.

If you read this far you may say, but I was a Champion, I did all of that, and now I am not one, what went wrong?

I can not tell you anything except the bar, especially this year, is raised pretty high! People I have known for years finally are Champions and although I nominated some, others I really need to apologize to when I see them for not thinking of them.

If you travel frequently, you may see one of us, Champion luggage or backpack or shoulder bag or jacket. We are free billboards for IBM, but if we didn't love what we do, we wouldn't be Champions and we are proud to be out there. Introvert, extrovert, ambivert we are all of you, and more, so no matter what you think is holding you back, it is only in your mind.

So in 5 years it has been fun and filled with great memories and a few failings on my own which in retrospect I should have gone after the lost chances. It happens. Keep doing the public side whenever possible because that is what helps you the most.

At times our discussions, which are verbose, get geekly technical even when not discussing IBM things. As a non-developer I glaze over much of the dev talks but knowing even in general terms how or what to do with the tools and code is worth the feeling like a kindergartener in a University lecture.

And you need a strong sense of humor and not take yourself too seriously, once you are a Champion. We all have our hobbies and preferences of culture and country and generally have a great time when all together.

Don't be afraid to come to talk to us, we are just normal people(very loud normal people when together) and it never fails to warm our hearts to know someone read a post of ours or we helped solve some issue for you because of our efforts.

One pro tip for you, no time to blog or video or social media? Book your own time in your calendar. It works.

So what does the future hold? How will I see 2017 when it comes time for nominations?

I want to be a part of an organization that understands all of the above, is not afraid to try something new or work on ways to make IBM products easier for users to adapt and manage and let me be that front line of engagement. As a non-developer I have the luxury of knowing or at least understanding security, mobility, analytics, CRM, user psychology, executives psychology, architecture and watching the next generation of collaboration come to fruition. And it is cheaper for me to go to Europe, even the US, than some of the places people live in Europe.

If I can find this, then my nomination for next year will be so much more rewarding, and easier to believe I can get reelected because when you are doing great work, it shows in all your efforts.

Thank you, IBM, Amanda and Libby and the Champion program for another year of great opportunities!

See you all next year and hopefully in San Francisco at IBM Connect 2017.