I am speaking to you. You know yourself. You have so much to offer this community but you do not walk with the rest of us. I went to the trouble of writing down the reasons you, Mr. Important or Ms Important, cannot be bothered to be part of us.
I do not have time to attend conferences
I get it. We are all busy, some more than others. However, if something is important, you will make time for it because you understand what it means in your life. Attending a forum with your peers is important, because you are part of a special community, charged with a very important mandate.
When you speak with colleagues from different operators and vendors, you are prioritising learning and teaching. So, do not say you are too busy to attend conferences. Instead, stop being a wimp and just say the truth – you do not care about being a responsible/contributing member of this community yet you want the respect that comes with being affiliated with the same community.
Speaking at conferences/being a panelist is for the accomplished experts
I have learnt many things from people who had only a fraction of my experience, and that is as it should be. They were all experts in the things they do. Many experts are not known because they do not always get on the stage… and even when they are on the stage the spotlight may not be on them for long enough.
If you spend time with a person, you will learn a thing or two. A keen listener always picks up something. It could be something you thought you knew (but now realise you didn’t) or it could be something that you did not even know. Different people offer different viewpoints. It also happens that sometimes, when you are teaching somebody something, you discover how much more you need to learn about it. It is the hunger that drives us. If I had a penny for every instance when I was explaining how I approach my work and somebody asked a basic question that made me suddenly realise there was a better way of accomplishing my task then I would have enough money to buy a pair of red trousers for everybody who attends RAG.
There will be too many vendors pitching solutions
Let us be honest. In the telecoms assurance space, in the past, there were many conferences organised by people who had no business organising conferences. They would not work with reputable vendors because they were only interested in the dollars rolling in and even when they picked reputable vendors to work with, they were too timid to call out rubbish representatives. However, it does not matter how well you identify bullshit if you do not call it out. The bullshit conferences will continue because crappy people will keep having the opportunity to meet in dingy places because they can claim nothing better is available. If you want to stop this kind of thing, then show up at events organised by people who know what they are doing and become part of the protective front that keeps snake oil salesmen at bay.
I find that the people who complain that a conference has too many vendors speaking are the same ones who will not put up their hands to make a presentation or even sit on a panel. Such hypocrisy is as entertaining as it is shocking. I am not a violent person but if you complain about a conference but you do not show how it can be done better, I admit I will fantasise about wringing your neck.
I cannot share what we do at my company because of confidentiality
Do not kid yourself. There is a saying – he who does not travel thinks his mother is the best cook. Why would he ever think otherwise? There are things you think you are doing (and they are amazing) but other people did them three years ago. If you truly want to advance, why not just ask your peers what they are doing now? Short of that, you will run three years behind them.
Tony Sani is well known to us in the RAG community. He reminds us all the time that there are things that give us competitive advantage as operators when stacked against each other but we should never refuse to share information with each other (e.g. about frauds and leakages) under the false impression that hoarding such information will give us any advantage.
Remember, if you do not act together to design controls against fraud, the fraudsters move from network to network, perfecting their craft. They will soon be back on your network, with frauds that are bigger than before. Guess who shares information freely? Fraudsters! At my last assignment in Tanzania, the RAFM team infiltrated WhatsApp groups and Telegram channels where fraudsters exchange information. Within minutes of a new loophole being discovered, the fraudsters would flash it across all their channels. I kid you not, I was in awe of their efficiency and dedication. It seems to me we could all learn a lot from them.
I cannot justify the travel expenses to my boss
There is a simple method I have used previously for obtaining the financial resources and time to attend conferences. Let us suppose you could not attend a RAG event last year because executive approval was not given. Find out what was discussed at that event. There is plenty of material. For example, the RAG website offers a lot of past presentations. You can even reach out to past speakers if you need more information. I am always pleasantly surprised when somebody calls/emails asking, “what did you mean when you said XYZ?” Then select three new ideas. (You will find more than three ideas but let us limit this exercise to three.) The three ideas need to be easy to implement, require no additional budget and able to show returns in three months or less. Implement the ideas and quantify the benefit. Do not be shy, let your boss know where you got the ideas. That is now your full armoury. Ask for funding to attend the next event (it will most likely be a fraction of the value you obtained by doing those three things). If your boss still says no, look for another job. Nobody will blame you. Heck, I will hire you myself.
There you have it. Let us end with the excuses.
P.S. If you, dear reader, don’t stop with these excuses, I would like to give you fair warning that I have enlisted Liam Neeson and he will look for you, he will find you and he will drag you to RAG.