Biker shorts, M&Ms, and BigDogs

Biker shorts, M&Ms, and BigDogs

By CWNP On 10/18/2010 - 11 Comments

I spent the end of last week (6th-8th, that is) at Ruckus’ BigDogs partner and customer conference in Atlanta, and I have two words to describe it: fun and irreverent. In fact, I met David Callisch (VP, Marketing) at the reception on Wednesday night and that was the word he used to describe the event: irreverent. I’ll keep this blog short, but I do want to mention a few things about the conference and the company that hosted it.

It’s only fair that I first tell you about Ruckus’ antics--though “antics” may be too mild. During what’s referred to as the “hangover slot,” (Friday morning) Callisch made good on a lost bet with the CEO by stripping down to his biker tights in front of everyone. If you’re at a loss for imagery, just imagine Scooby’s (yeah, Scooby Doo) friend Shaggy in, well, biker shorts. That scarring experience balanced out the overwhelming joy of peanut M&Ms in excess. They were served on the conference tables in Ruckus branded doggy dishes. I couldn’t keep my muzzle out of the peanut M&Ms, so I didn’t pay much attention to the oddities of the stage show. :D Actually, it was very funny, even during the hangover slot (though I will qualify that I was not hungover).

Prior to the event, I’d heard much about Ruckus’ corporate culture, but only experienced it vicariously or indirectly via phone calls and the web. You’d never believe the openness and honesty of this company. They have a lot of confidence in their products, which is why they encouraged their customers and resellers to openly criticize any and everything about the company and its products for the sake of continual improvement. That’s what I appreciated most about the whole event. It wasn’t controlled and managed in such a way as to keep Ruckus in the hero spotlight. They weren’t shy about asking and answering tough and competitive questions. I had several conversations with their resellers, product managers, marketing team, engineers, and even their CTO, and as I asked them competitive questions, they embraced and acknowledged any of their weaknesses and stayed authentic and honest to the extreme. They admitted areas where they don’t excel and they admitted it right in front of their current and potential customers.

If I’m being honest, I think those are virtues on a personal and a corporate level and they’re especially rare at the corporate level. This is like a core lesson in Humanities 101 and Business 101 at the same time. Customers are turned off by consistent spin doctoring and side stepping. If you always don the competitive hat and continually defend your solution, “one-upping” every technical point of argument, it begins to expose an insecurity that is telling. There’s a classic quote in Hamlet that says, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” How’s that relevant? In this light, vendors can argue so much that they lose credibility. They expose the fact that they’ve been drinking so much kool-aid that they can’t even think straight, and by exposing their mindless bias and defensiveness, they lose respect. I suspect that Ruckus could have played that card as well as any other vendor, but they didn’t. In so doing, I think they maintained and gained their customer’s respect by treating them like humans instead of treating them like brainless wallets. I like that.

I should probably add that GT Hill and I co-presented a wicked session on WLAN security and mobility that caused attendees’ eyes to glaze over like a pair of doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. Knowing what we were stepping in, we had the forethought to title our presentation “Mystifying Wi-Fi Security.” :) Good times. I’ve known GT (CWNE #21) now for a few years, but this was the first time I’d seen him as a presenter in this context. I’m not sure that my words can do proper justice to his skills, but suffice it to say that he is the most entertaining and engaging technical presenter on the planet. His ability to get a group’s attention and keep it is absolutely uncanny. He’s humble too. GT for president!!!

We (CWNP) attended as a partner/guest and worked with Ruckus by passing out CWNA books and CWNP Dictionaries to attendees too. A little education goes a long way. If only we could teach everyone to have fun, break the rules, and, as my friends Devin Akin and Mike Hoberg say, “keep it real.”

Anyone that serves me peanut M&Ms by the dishful is alright too. My compliments to Ruckus for their behavior…during business hours. ;)

Tagged with: Wi-Fi, Ruckus Wireless, BigDogs, conference

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