In April 2006 I organized the first VMware User Group in Belgium. It was the beginning of a long journey.
After 15 years of being a VMUGBE leader, 29 VMUGBE events, being a vExpert for 13 years, getting the VMUG extra mile award , recently the VMUG services award and organizing 2 successful virtual events during COVID19, I decided that it is time for me to move on to new challenges. Time to make place for a new generation.
The VMware User Group Belgium has grown in those 15 years from 40 users to more than 230 users, which is amazing.
It was a pleasure to see all those happy faces at all the events. The numerous and warm reactions of a lot of users in my group kept me going strong. I made sure that I kept myself in the background and avoided to be in the spotlights although it would have been easy to (mis)use these spotlights. For me it was all about delivering content , delivering the opportunity to learn and to connect. Not only for me , but for all who shared the same interests (and for some even love) for the VMware product(s). And on top of that, I only wanted to organize VMUGBE events if they were free, which was surely a challenge in the beginning to cover all the costs.
In 2013 this became easier and I decided not to stop when all costs were covered, but to continue and to donate the remaining money to a charity project! I added a + to VMUGBE where the plus stands for its social responsibility. For every event, VMUGBE+ choose a social responsibility project that we supported. I donated the remaining amount on the account of the chosen project. This way we supported more than 15 donations. (Rozemarijn VZW, Mobile School, Café Anoniem, Missing You, Blindgeleidehonden, Albertfonds, Animal Care Society, Over de Brug, Kleiraven, Sint-Lodewijk vzw, Zorghuis Limburg vzw,….)
A warm thank you to all the sponsors during all these years. They made it possible to make these donations, but also to keep our events free and we also had very good free BBQs at the end of our events thanks to all the sponsors.
We also gave the opportunity to new users, to participate, to speak. We had a coaching program for speakers and it all resulted in something beautiful that was even bigger than the group itself. So VMUG Belgium was more than just a VMware User Group.
In 2020 , when physical events were no longer possible, we faced a new challenge. Going virtual or not. Most of the people I spoke with advised me not to do it. But I decided to do a virtual event anyway , of course trying to tackle the disadvantages of virtual event, which resulted in 70% of the attendees of our last physical event…. A huge success… But let’s be honest, there’s nothing like a good physical free VMware User Group event with free content, free food and free beer…. Let’s hope for the best for 2022 !
What will happen now? Things will surely change and only time will tell. I do hope that VMware and VMUG in the next years don’t lose the focus on the core of their existence.
Although I spent most of my private time in organizing the events , I want to thank my employer, UZ LEUVEN, for giving me the opportunity to do this all these years. Next to this, I want to thank Mieke from emplus.be , freelance conference producer for delivering very high quality and professional services while organizing VMUGBE events together with me the last 6 years. I will surely miss this.
I also want to thank the long list of speakers we had in all these 15 years, as they all did it for free. I want to send out a special thank you to 3 speakers.
Luc Dekens, a real product of Belgium. He had his own community, not only in Belgium but all over the world. He is more than a statistic, more than a number. He was the Hendrik Conscience of PowerShell/PowerCLI as he taught his people to write Powershell/PowerCLI.
Next to that , Valentin Bondzio, who came at some point to our VMUG Belgium and taught us what a real deep dive session is. I always say, if you just learned 1 thing on our VMUGBE event, it is worth it…. With Valentin’s sessions, we learned more than just one thing. Was it our community or our beer, or both? From that point on , he became a permanent fixture and taught our community about performance and resource management. Although he was most of the time one of the last speakers at our events, he had the most attendees in his sessions.
Last , but not least. My sincere thank you to Joe Baguley. When I heard his first keynote, I was sure he was one of the best VMware speakers I had ever heard. And he repeated that many times. I think, I even drove him nuts, by asking him again and again for our VMUGBE events. I only met a few speakers in my life that could match the quality and the style of his sessions, as he had the great ability to share his desire, his passion, his dream and VMware’s vision. So thank you for that !
I want to thank you, all ‘my’ users, some of you being there from day 1. I will surely miss you. You gave me the feedback to grow, to step out of my comfort zone. I want to thank those who were always there for me. I’m not going to mention any names as I’m afraid to forget someone, but hey, you know that I’m talking about you.
“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Dear Erik, I got to know VMUG through my interest in VMWare products more that 10 years ago now. From that moment on I attended many fantastic events, I remember the first events I attended with maybe 40 people in the room, I remember the ones at San Marco, the one at Colonial Palace (which was awesome in my opinion, even though maybe not enough people attended) and many others at Lamot obviously. I want to say a big thank you for organizing all of these. I/we as a community had a wonderful time and were blessed with such a great VMUG leader. Take care!
Thank you very much for the kind words! What made me come back year over year wasn’t only that you’ve let me (and the pub across the bridge 😉), it was your genuine interest in educating people, building a community and supporting worthy causes, it just felt good. I really hope whoever will attempt to fill your shoes will at least succeed half way. I wish you all the best and hope that our ways will cross another time!