Successful DFW VMUG Odyssey Competition Dec 2019!

“I’m still learning.” –Michelangelo

The DFW VMUG Odyssey Event

Thanks to everyone who was apart of this awesome event! We held our first ever DFW VMUG VMware Hands-on-Lab Odyssey Event in Dallas on December 12th, 2019. It was a blast, lots of learning, networking and having fun!

Thanks to our DFW VMUG members for taking 4 hours out of your busy day to spend time with us from 10am – 2pm. Also, I would like to thank our 2 Sponsors, thank you Dallas Arista Team ( Bryan Reinke/Paul Petersen) for buying our lunch, and thank you Rod Wetterskog and the University of Dallas UTD for hosting us in the UTDesign Studio which is a part of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. We were so lucky to have both a conference room and a lab for this lunch and learn event. Big shout out to a rather special young group from the VMware Academy, who helped coach our DFW VMware User Group members to a successful learning experience.

The DFW VMUG Odyssey Idea

When I attended VMworld 2019 in San Francisco this year, I became familiar with the Odyssey Competition and the top prizes of Mac Book Pro’s, this is a link to an interview with Nick Morgowicz (@nmorgowicz) – Odyssey Winner. I was so impressed by Odyssey I reached out to the VMware’s Hands-on-Labs head geek, Mr. Pablo Rauch (@heyitspablo)! He gave me some great ideas to think about how I might do an Odyssey Event. Pondering this after VMworld I began thinking about how do we make Odyssey happen in Dallas. So as a VMUG leader I thought, I will reach out to my local VMware VMUG sponsor Joseph Griffith (@Gortees) and also contacted my VMware SE Nick Korte (@Networknerd_). In late October we began discussing amongst ourselves and Nick contacted the VMware Odyssey Team right before VMworld Barcelona. Then the week after they returned from Barcelona we started planning. We had a short timeline so I jumped into my marine corp mode of ““Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”, to make it happen this year. As a passionate community guy, I really wanted to share the Odyssey experience with my DFW VMUG Community in 2019. Unfortunately, dark clouds rolled in and the stars were no longer aligned. Things looked grim and it looked like we were going to have to cancel everything at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances, and have to wait until next year. Thankfully the optimist and being persistent, I believe in the proverb, “Where there’s a will there’s a way”. Just glad to say, thank God, it all worked out and we were able to make it happen.

The Event

Our event was different from that of VMworld, and in that our open competition this was more of a learning journey experience that included people familiar with hands-on-labs and people that had not taken labs. So we paired up teams like in a hackathon, we pair experience and nonexperience persons to balance out team and make it a cool learning experience.

Another thing we did to help get new lab users familiar with the Odyssey Platform and the gamification of the Hands-on-Labs was to perform an initial walk-through. We selected vSphere as our first module, and the first module was more of a warm-up and did not count. Once we completed this introduction we started the competition. In our competition we selected the following 3 modules, 1) vSAN, 2) NSX-T and 3) vRA. We also had a dashboard up where we could see all see and keep track when teams finished tasks for a particular module. After the last module was completed we aggregated all scores for each module to calculate the fastest times to select winners.

The top 2 winners got DFW VMUG Bragging Rights and a Google Stadia Pro. Everyone was a winner as we provided a variety of swag such as pens, stickers, sunglasses and Odyssey T-Shirts. For our last big Stadia prize give away of the day we did a random drawing for our group of VMware Academy kids who helped make this a very fun and exciting event.

This was an awesome event and I want to give special thanks to VMware’s Tim Koishor (@TimKoishor) as he was our lab captain leading the teams through their Odyssey journey. We are also very grateful to our DFW VMUG Volunteer’s Paul Bryant, Brandon Graves, and VMware SE Rusty Hale supporting our NSX module. Lot’s of thanks and gratitude to the outstanding Odyssey Team who set up the lab environment and supported us remotely with the event planning and the Odyssey swag.

Photos reflecting the day’s fun-filled activities.

Lessons Learned and Next Steps

The lessons learned and our post mortem to help improve the Odyssey Labs.

  • Yes, we can send out pre-work and homework for participants, but the reality is not everyone has time to do labs beforehand. We all want to learn and sometimes we intend to do pre-work, but the reality is life gets in the way.
  • Another thing is maybe most users are familiar with vSphere, and do a little vSAN but might not have much experience with NSX-T or something like vRA.

So to help remediate the above and to help make this a more educational experience, the next time we will do an Odyssey Lab Event we will perform a 30-minute introduction on module topic and then do the 30-minute lab module. For example for vRA, we will explain what it is and how you would use it in the real world. The idea is to provide a better context before doing an Odyssey Lab module.

I also think it is very important you have a lab captain to run the show

I urge you to invite the local VMware SE’s that have expertise in the different lab modules you will be performing during the event.

To avoid game day lab issues it is strongly recommended you do a dry run to ensure labs works as intended and you have good network connectivity.

The dry run also provides a great opportunity for first time Odyssey lab helpers to get familiar with the labs before the real event.

If you would like to set up a VMUG Odyssey Event for your local VMUG, I strongly suggest you please reach out to a VMware SE assigned to your local VMUG chapter and have them reach out to the Odyssey Team. The key to the successful event is to have fun, learn and network!

More Odyssey Information and Links:

About wmichel

Cloud Architect, NetApp A-Team, vExpert, VMUG Leader, AWS-SAA, TOGAF, ITIL, CISSP, USMC, Mariachi, Gaucho-Texano & Dad A seasoned architect and technologist at heart that loves innovation and playing with cloud computing, data center virtualization, operating systems, and information security.
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