After 2 years of attending MMS in San Diego, my employer decided that they were not willing to pay for me to go to MMS 2008 in Las Vegas. No matter how well I demonstrated the value of attending MMS in the past, the answer simply came down as no. Fortunately, I was not easily deterred, and even more fortunately there is a great community in MyITForum.com and fantastic supporting vendors like Secure Vantage that came together to make it happen for me for this year.
For those that do not know, MMS sold out for the first time this year. When I got the news that the conference was sold out and I still had not figured out a way to convince my company to pay, or even co-pay for me to attend, my hopes got pretty slim. As I was trying to see if there was any way I could make it happen, I saw a post on the MyITForum blogs that they were given a sponsor pass from Secure Vantage and were going to raffle it off as the April prize for MyITForum donors. I immediately broke out my PayPal account and made a donation (been meaning to do that for some time, guess this was a sign) crossing my fingers as I clicked "submit" that maybe there was still hope. Days passed, and then I got the e-mail that I had been chosen as the lucky winner of the pass! My MMS admission was paid for! I immediately talked to my boss to see if they would pay for the airfare and a cheap room since the lions share of the cost was taken care of now. He ran it up the chain and unfortunately the answer once again came back no. There was no way was I going to be denied at this point so I hit the web and started checking airfare and hotels. Wow, do they take you for a ride when you try to travel last minute. The airfare that I had priced out at $130 a couple weeks ago had suddenly tripled, and "cheap room in Vegas" is something of an oxymoron as well. I was talking about the situation with my good friend and former co-worker Brian Leary, when he said " Hey man, I have a suite at the conference, let me see if I can get it set up with 2 beds and you can room with me." Amazing, the blessings just keep coming. All that was left now was to get there, and after some quick calculations, the decision was made... ROAD TRIP! I live in Denver, so Vegas is only 750 miles away and even with current gas prices being what they are, it was going to be much cheaper to drive than fly, in addition to the fact that after a year and a half of owning it, I hadn't broken my Pontiac Solstice in with a proper road trip yet. So after checking the weather and loading up my things, I headed off to Beverly... uhhh, Las Vegas.
I ran into Rod from MyITForum almost immediately after registering on Monday and thanked him for helping to make it happen and I could tell that he was genuinely pleased that someone who really needed the pass had won it. When I spoke to Jeremiah from Secure Vantage, he was happy to have been able to help and also that I was not only from Colorado where Secure Vantage is headquartered, but an active member of the local Microsoft Management User Group, which Secure Vantage also generously sponsors each month. They also had a "VIP area" at the closing party which they welcomed me to join them at. Thanks again for everything Secure Vantage!
At the MyITForum party they announced that they will be setting up a "scholorship fund" for future MMS sponsorship of a needy person much like myself this year. They will be taking sponsor donations and have an account set up to take donations in an attempt to create a fund to pay for airfare, hotel, and admission to MMS 2009. As soon as I heard that I talked to Rod, Megan, and Ron and told them that as soon as it is set up, I want to be the first person to donate to that cause and give a little something back.
Well, I certainly have rambled on enough for one post so I will wrap it by saying once again how thankful I am to Secure Vantage, MyITForum, and Brian Leary for helping me to get to MMS this year. Without the assistance of this community, its sponsors and fellow members, I most certainly would only have been able to read about MMS this year.
I'll save the sesson recaps, Rock Band contest stories, SWAG inventory, photos, and the return trip with 20" of snow looming ahead of me for other posts to come soon...