Now that March Madness is finishing, it's almost time for the other primaveral jamboree, the RSA Conference April 20-24th. "Sundance for Ugly People" as we used to call it at Forrester - but of course now I'm an RSA employee I wouldn't dream of calling it that. I'll be there this year, albeit in a different role from previous years. Now I'm vendor scum through and through I'll probably have to behave myself a little better too.
Anyway, this is my 5th RSA Conference, and over the years I've noticed some personas:
- The Industry Veteran. These guys have been around for a long time and probably invented something security-related a while ago - nobody can quite remember what, though. They now draw a salary from some startup or other and get to play around with cool stuff. Paid to give sage advice to the product marketing and management folks, occasionally being wheeled out when said startup needs some credibility. Wears: Sandals, long hair, backpack. Hangs out at: The Thirsty Bear
- The Celebrity CISO. The true celebrities at this shindig, since there's at least an outside chance they might have some money to spend. Has been pulled in by many vendors in a vain attempt to make their session more than a thinly veiled product pitch. In return they get a free ticket and get to hang out with their CISO buddies without blowing too much budget. Wears: Sport coat, casual slacks. Hangs out at: Private dining room, desperately trying to avoid...
- The Consummate Vendor. This event is the highlight of the vendor's year. Meeting old friends, courting new partners (corporate or otherwise), scoping out potential new employers - if there's a customer or two out there, then all the better. Actions largely driven by oneupmanship - bigger booth, larger plasma screen, better tchotchkes, more extravagant parties are all common aspirations. Expect to see some wailing and gnashing of teeth among this crowd this year due to dearth of budget. Wears: Exhibition floor attire - button-down shirt or - if unfortunate - a vest ...with logo of course. Hangs out at: The W bar. Where else?
- The Pundit. The "influencers" float from booth to booth, session to session, shaking hands, sharing pontifications, loudly proclaiming how "it's not as good as last year's show". Often useful to compare different subjects from the "former Gartner/Forrester/IDC/Meta analyst" species to determine how successfully they've managed to cling onto influence established during the salad days. Wears: The closest RSA attendees come to "something cool" (shiny shirt where possible, soul patch). Hangs out at: The W bar, trying to score drinks out from the Consummate Vendor in exchange for favorable commentary.
- The RSA Vacationer. Been let out of the office for the week, and intends to take full advantage of it - especially since they're getting CISSP credits for it. Will not attend a session after 4pm or before 10am. Browses the show floor only to find out where the evening's social engagements are - and to ogle the obligatory booth babe in a two-sizes-too-small policewoman's outfit. Wears: nondescript clothing so they don't stand out when goofing off. Hangs out at: wherever the booze is.
- The Tecchie. This guy's all business. Armed with a stash of marketing material, the Tecchie laments the lack of real in-depth technical content - despite having just attended a session explaining the detailed specification of the latest rev of an obscure communication protocol. Wears: Vendor polo shirt or DefCon t-shirt, jeans, white sneakers. Hangs out at: the hotel room - they've got a day job as well as attending RSA and need to spend off hours catching up.