26 September 2012 12:00:00 AM
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I’m going to go out on a limb here – I’ll bet that your work has been crazy busy lately, worse than last year, with tighter budgets and constant demands to do more with less. Did you even find time to take a decent vacation this summer, or were you too busy checking email every day? In fact, how did you even find the time to read this blog? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way; you’re invested in it now, a full four sentences in, so you may as well keep going.
Seriously, I don’t need my razor sharp blogger’s insight to know that all of us in the technology field are working harder than ever before, whether you’re a university professor, developer for industry, working for the government, or making your mark as an entrepreneur. So who has the time or budget to worry about spending a few days away from the office at a technical conference like OFC/NFOEC?
Well, I do. And you should, too. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a handy list of count down my top reasons for going back to OFC year after year.
5) I had a paper accepted. OK, that’s an easy one, but think about it…aren’t you doing good work in your field, work that deserves to be seen and appreciated? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that conferences are just for executives or quantum physicists. Whatever it is that you’re doing, I can almost guarantee that there’s somebody else out there who wishes they knew about your solution. OFC is a good way to find that person, and others like them; it’s a broad community that covers an amazingly wide range of topics (check out the conference program online). It’s not too late; submissions are open until October 9, and post-deadline papers on hot topics are open until early March. Last year, I gave a talk about networks for cloud computing that led to two other speaking opportunities; this year, look for my tutorial on 100Gbit/s optical links.
4) I want to stay current in my field. Don’t neglect technical vitality just because you’re on a budget; your hard-earned know-how will go stale unless you get out of the lab or office & learn something new every year. Sit through a symposium on a topic you’ve always wondered about, take in a tutorial or short course. You’re more valuable to your employer (or your next employer) if you keep up to date with the latest developments. I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning, and fully expect to discover something new about cloud computing, software-defined networks or other fields during my trip this year.
3) I want to innovate. I don’t want to just stay current; I want to be inspired, creative, and take in some thought leadership from the leading lights in my field. Want to open your eyes to what’s possible, re-ignite some passion, and come back to the office ready to change the world? There’s no better place than the world’s largest conference on optics. Some of the patents I filed in August 2012 were inspired by talks I heard at OFC in March.
2) I want a bargain. If you only go to one event this year, why not pick the largest and most successful one? I know it sounds like a cliché, but attending events like OFC/NFOEC is part of the cost of doing business in this field. Even if you only manage a few days and follow the rest through online blogs or Twitter, the cost of attending really isn’t that bad. For some of us, it’s not about money, but time away from work. Even so, I think OFC is a great way to invest a few days out of the year because of what you get back in return. And that brings me to my number one reason for going back to OFC…
1) I want to network. Not run fibers through walls; I mean network with my fellow engineers, scientists, CEOs, and professionals. A wise mentor once told me this was the best reason to attend a conference. Make plans to meet a customer, suppliers or business partner at OFC; chances are, they’ll be there for the same reasons you are. Or make new contacts by checking out the invited speakers, or walking around the trade floor. Last year, I met a client who ended up doing significant business with my company, found somebody to write a chapter for my new book, renewed an old acquaintance that I hadn’t seen for 10 years, and talked someone into sponsoring the charity event I run each year. Polish up your networking skills, grab a stack of business cards, and get out there!
I hope you’ll agree that OFC/NFOEC is a great place to publicize your work, learn something new, get inspired, and make some new contacts. That’s what I’ll be doing next year; maybe I’ll see you there. Check out www. ofcnfoec.org, or if you want to talk more about optical technology drop me a line on Twitter @Dr_Casimer.
Disclaimer: Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by IBM.