I remember my first SourceCon conference as if it were yesterday – except it was almost four years ago in Santa Clara, California. The leaves were finally changing color, the weather was beginning to cool, the Rangers and Tigers were battling in the ALCS and technology legend Steve Jobs had just passed away. With the release of the iPhone 4s, Silicon Valley was both booming and mourning. It was a time of excitement, nervousness and thrill.
Back then, I was not very well known by my peers. I had a few articles posted on SourceCon and an invitation from Shally Steckerl to speak at the Sourcing Labs. My only interaction with the conference speakers and attendees was through Twitter – I had only known this crowd by their Twitter handles. I was still learning faces, real names and even employers.
The night before the conference, I had so much adrenaline, I didn’t sleep at all. It was a feeling I had only experienced before the first days of school and the nights before a new job. I didn’t know what to expect. I was so excited; I even purchased a new dress and booked an appointment to have my hair styled. I was certainly ready to impress.
I was the first to arrive at the conference. In fact, I was so early, I had to wait outside. When the ERE staff finally arrived, I played off my premature arrival as “early riser syndrome.” Full of anxiety (and caffeine), I paced the halls for hours, anxiously waiting for the conference legends to arrive. Shally was the first one I met, followed by Amybeth Quinn, Kay Kelison, Master Burnett, David Manaster, Mike Notaro, Mark Tortorici and Teresa Colquitt. I was extremely eager and ecstatic to personally meet as many people as I could. I was a kid in a candy store.
To my advantage, I had my good sourcing friend in attendance, Matt LeBlanc from Nashville. Since we had known each other for years, we thought it would be best to separate so we could maximize our time and network with others we didn’t know. (It’s a tactic he and I still deploy today.)
Shortly into the conference, I realized I wasn’t a newbie. Everyone I met was friendly, personable and passionate about sourcing. This was a close community, very welcoming of others. I felt as if I was the guest of honor at a family reunion. My experience was so surreal, it felt like a dream. I couldn’t believe I was at one of our largest industry events shaking hands, telling stories and laughing with leaders I’ve been following online for years.
The memories from my first SourceCon conference will never leave my mind. It’s what has motivated me to prosper in our industry and share my knowledge with many others. SourceCon is family. We share, we challenge, we inquire, we love, we learn, we geek out and we respect. You always come home to your family, and I can’t wait to be “home” this week.
To make the most of your own SourceCon experience, here are some words of advice and favorite memories from the pros that will be attending (and are looking forward to meeting you!):
“Absolutely go to the hacks, there’s always plenty to take away. Also, don’t feel like you can’t leave a session if you quickly realise it’s not for you. Better to get the value out of the conference rather than spend time in the wrong session ‘being polite!’” – Johnny Campbell, @SocialTalent
“Don’t always sit with people you know, especially in the lab or at lunch. Meet and mingle. Introduce yourselves. Stalk people ahead of time.” – Amybeth Quinn, @researchgoddess
“Attend the after-hours events – great networking and a way to help find solutions to common problems. Also, bring something to take notes.” – Mike Wolford, @Mike1178
“A personal favorite SourceCon memory: Geeking out at the International Spy Museum in D.C. and learning really cool LinkedIn hacks at that SourceCon After Dark. Always great to be able to learn tricks from people better—and smarter—than you!” – Jim Schnyder, @jimschnyder
“I would recommend familiarizing yourself with the agenda and speakers, and attend the sessions that are most relevant to you. Buffet everything you learn; take what is useful and will work for you and disregard what won’t work in your environment. Also, don’t be shy. The audience is open to sharing ideas.” – Jackye Clayton, @jackyeclayton
“Sit with different people whenever you can to meet as many people as possible. Try to actively not sit with your colleagues or friends. We’re all friendly – we don’t bite! Force yourself to meet new people.” – Randy Bailey, @RandyBailey
“If you’re coming from out of town, you will probably get there the night before. Don’t sit in your hotel room and order room service; come to the lobby bar, as you will be certain to meet up with some of the amazing people who are there. Also, in this case there is also an unofficial happy hour you can go to at Saint Anne’s restaurant. Don’t miss out!” – KC Donovan, @UpwardlyMe
“For each session, think of one takeaway you’d like to have.” – Steve Levy, @LevyRecruits
“SourceCon After Dark is probably one of the highlights of the conference every year. It’s a fabulous time to network with other sourcers – but don’t forget your laptop, because I’ve learned some of my favorite hacks working alongside these great people.” – Kameron Swinton, @kamoswin
“Spend some time meeting new people. You’ll learn about some great tactics other people are practicing now, which will only enhance what you take away from the sessions.” – Pete Radloff, @PJRadloff
“My recommendation is you should pre-plan which sessions you want to attend. Also, follow the Twitter hashtag to see who is going, and seek them out and introduce yourself. Take a lot of notes and share your knowledge with others as well. Attend all the socials, meet people and make new friends. My favorite memory was being in charge of the Atlanta 2012 After Dark session; we had more than 200 attendees and ended up closing the bar down at 4 a.m.! Tons of learning, and the fun afterwards made it a great event!” – Ronnie Bratcher, @ronniebratcher
“My advice is act like a sourcer! Talk to anyone and everyone. The whole purpose of any conference is to share ideas. One of my greatest takeaways was in Atlanta where I got to not only hear Glen Cathey speak for the first time, but after his session I met him and asked if we could chat. He was and still is a hero of mine. He taught me so much through his blog. He was both humble and entertained by the comments I made. He then asked if he had done a good job and did I think everyone got what he was talking about!! Amazing time and I made amazing friends and was able to put faces to so many names.” – Derek Zeller, @Derdiver
This picture is with Teresa Colquitt from my first conference in 2011 and the last conference in 2015.