5:30 AM at #SourceCon

It’s 5:30 AM on Monday on the first day of whatever time zone this SourceCon might be located and I’m walking the halls of the event. The venue looks so large before sunrise before most of the attendees have left their homes to head to the airport for flights to wherever this SourceCon is being held.

I’m sweaty because I’ve already finished my morning workout – hey, I’m already up in New Yawk where I’m based, and once again, I didn’t win Time Zone Bingo. With coffee in hand – you have to know where to score fresh coffee this early in the morning when in road warrior status – I open the door to the ubiquitous main ballroom.

Before long, 800 or so people will be on the edges of their seats; under faint purple and green lights, the room is still bare and cavernous. There are no SourceCon banners on the walls. I jump on the stage and pretend I’m Jim Stroud doing the opening keynote – but I keep my sneakers on for now. I practice my arms-wide-open “Welcome to SourceCon” line, throw my head back, close my eyes, and breathe in the life of all the Souls of Sourcing sitting in the audience. I can also see Shannon Pritchett off to the side, smiling in the shadows.

It’s still only 5:35 AM.

I walk around the venue for 15 more minutes, creating a mind map of which rooms will be holding the five different sourcing tracks. Feeling like a rat in Tolman’s Maze, I also walked around to address answers to other vital questions: Where are the bathrooms? Where are the elevators? Where’s the Exhibition Hall? Where do we eat? Where’s the Hackathon being held? Where’s the Happy Hour area? Is that Dean Da Costa over there? These are questions that are frequently asked by SourceCon attendees when they swing by the Welcome Wagon area – which didn’t exist two years ago but is now a foundational element of our conference.

Finally finding the registration area, there’s a room off to the side where eight-foot-tall schedule and roundtable placards are lined up against the wall; their bases are huddled together pleading for attention. It’s about 6:00 AM, and I hear the faint sounds of the venue staff stirring in the commercial hallways outside the view of the attendees. These are the people who move the chairs, brew the coffee, and serve the food. You might not even notice them but if you do, remember that they too have names and appreciate handshakes and smiles.

It’s still a few minutes before Shannon, Amy Suits, Kate Wilson, Erinn Jacobson, Vu Thai and Brent Baker begin filtering down. Suits is usually first (and whom I now rely on for my second cup of morning coffee) followed by Shannon (to have her hair and makeup done – this is one of the real SourceCon secrets), and the rest to finish the final set-ups for the conference. Danielle Moseley, Kevin Plantan and Todd Raphael usually sashay in “later”– Danielle no doubt because conferences are a respite from motherhood and sleeping in is a rarity; Kevin, well, because he’s Kevin; and Todd, the person behind the ERE Conference, I dunno, because he lives in California.

Sometime before the registration area opens, Ann Wilkerson smiles her way into the venue to help set up SourceCon Academy area (sourcing taught by real sourcers). Finally – and it’s only because I turned around for no special reason – I see Josh Jones snickering as he places his telephoto lens three inches from my face.

Smile.

I smile for his camera. For sure, a future blackmail play – no doubt payback for SourceCon Denver 2014.

The signs are now up outside the session rooms, the round tables are adorned with sourcing topics, and the main ballroom is awash in purple and greens (the purple fetish you read about is real and you cannot escape its gravitational pull). It’s starting to feel like SourceCon.

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Pretty soon you’ll come to the registration area to collect your badge and adorn it with smart and snarky sourcing banners (Dean Da Costa is my favorite tool); you’ll pick up the conference tee which will one day have its own dresser drawer filled with other clothing cousins. During SourceCon, I’m pretty sure that Ronnie Bratcher will uphold conference tradition by posting a picture of all his SourceCon t-shirts.

I’m not on their payroll but am considered to be an honorary ERE employee. It might be a reward for being part of the ERE and SourceCon communities since their humble beginnings in 1998 and 2007, respectively. On second thought, no – I’m not the only person from our community who helps strengthen it from the inside. There are many legendary sourcers you know by name who also put in countless hours advising Shannon and the SourceCon team: Aaron Lintz, Amybeth Quinn, Cyndy Davis, Da Costa, Glen Cathey, Jim Schnyder, Jim Stroud, Maisha Cannon, Mark Tortorici (we’ll miss you Dad), and Teresa Colquitt.

These people are more than sourcers to me – they are my friends. We were once you but somewhere along the way, as social media was becoming “a thing”, we were inspired to help each other; to share ideas, successes, and failures; and finally to assist the larger community to become so much bigger and better than we could have envisioned. We do this because we value so highly what the community has given us, and servitude is how we’ve chosen to pay back what we have learned.

What I’m very comfortable saying on behalf of the people I’ve met mentioned above and all the folks serving on all the committees, is that your success as a sourcer is wholly dependent upon how much you share with and care about the greater SourceCon community. Everyone who speaks; everyone who serves on the Conference/Community, Hackathon, Grandmaster, Technical, and Welcome Wagon committees; and everyone who posts learnings, tip, and tricks under the #SourceCon hashtag on social media – all are collaborating to make SourceCon stronger by the day.

Derek Zeller frequently says that there’s no sourcing elite – no special kid’s section – within this community. He’s so right. For first time attendees, everyone is approachable and yearning to help you – with anything. All you need to become part of it is to use the most important social media tool you possess …

Your voice.

Steve Levy is the VP of Customer Success at Crowded.com. Within the SourceCon community, he serves on the Conference/Community, Hackathon, Grandmaster, and Welcome Wagon Advisory committees. His email is steve @crowded.com.

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