Louise Bunyan, Talent Marketing Specialist with the VMware Employer Brand team gives her insights into becoming a roving reporter after winning the ‘From the Floor @ Explore’ competition to attend and report from VMware Explore 2022 Europe in Barcelona, Spain.
In November 2022 I was very fortunate to attend VMware Explore 2022 Europe in Barcelona as the EMEA ‘From the Floor @ Explore’ employee host and winner of a competition among EMEA employees. Looking back, it was a complete whirlwind and involved stepping out of my comfort zone, but it was an incredible experience at the same time.
I’m always entering competitions such as marketing awards, and short story competitions, but rarely, if ever, am I successful. But as the saying goes, “if you are not in, you can’t win”, right? With this competition, at the very least, I thought my entry would be reviewed by some people, and I would enter again next year.
I spent time crafting my entry, mentioning that I had built my own online school specialising in LinkedIn training, with over 100 videos and 6 courses and so I had experience in being in front of a camera. And I went through the content catalogue in detail and picked out the sessions that really appealed to me.
After some editing and tweaks – I hit submit.
Pack your bags, you’re going to Barcelona
One Monday evening, I got an email with the subject line ‘Pack your bags, you’re going to Barcelona’. I took a big gulp, and thought, oh no, what have I gotten myself into? But at the same time, I was delighted to have been chosen and to represent VMware Ireland, the Employer Brand team, and Talent Acquisition.
Scripts, itinerary, flights, Zoom calls
After that email, things moved at speed. I had never gone on a business trip with VMware before, so I had to navigate our internal travel booking system to get flights, accommodation and register for VMware Explore 2022 Europe, along with researching the venue and keeping an eye on the weather which would influence crucial outfit planning!
Next, via Zoom, I met my co-host Olivier, along with Doug and Anika who were going to be our coordinators throughout the event. We got talking points to review, a schedule of interviews, and suggested questions to ask in our interviews. A few days later, we recorded our ‘Meet your Employee Hosts’ video with John Watton, VP EMEA Marketing. This was our first introduction to being on camera together and having our videos shared internally.
Hola Barcelona and Instagram Takeover
Before I knew it, I was on a plane from Dublin, Ireland to Barcelona, Spain, and then walking into the enormous venue, Fira Barcelona, on a warm and sunny Monday morning. I had another job to do too which was to take videos and photos for my colleague Leona O’Sullivan who manages the VMware Careers social media team because I was doing an ‘Instagram Takeover’ with behind-the-scenes content, so that kept me busy.
Lights, camera, action. Repeat.
After a tour of the venue (which is the same size as a few football pitches and has a walkway over a road), my cost-host Olivier and I had our first in-person video recording in the Press and Analyst Centre, with the camera crew, lights, mics, and talking points. And it’s amazing what happens when that red light on the camera appears and someone shouts ‘action’. My brain went blank, more than once. And yet if you asked me to recite those lines right now, I could. It was this aspect of recording that I had to get used to, but there was absolutely no pressure and after a few attempts, we got there with a lot of humour and laughing. It also helped that it was Olivier’s birthday that day, and we had a nice surprise planned for him during recording.
The General Session
Tuesday was jam-packed, starting with the General Session at 9am. It was an incredible event, with significant attendance, product announcements, beautiful graphics and branding, and a great buzz.
I picked a good seat and got chatting with the person beside me and it turned out that he was a colleague in Brand and Advertising, and he had been involved in the rehearsals over the last 3 days. And that’s another thing that I loved about attending Explore Europe – random conversations with people and then finding out that they are your colleagues.
Becoming a Reporter
I then made my way to the Press and Analyst Centre for the first of my VMware Executive interviews with Joe Baguley, VP CTO EMEA. I quickly realised that senior executives are not fazed by camera crews, lights, mics etc. They are total professionals, and my job was to listen carefully and ask the next question at the right time. You can watch the interview here.
I learned that there is a bit of downtime before the interview actually starts while the camera crew gets things set up, and that is a great opportunity to chat with your interviewee and get to know each other better. But you can’t get too comfortable chatting about the weather, because before you know it, the director tells you they’re ready, the red light comes on the camera, and you hear ‘action!’
Interviewees and Behind the Scenes
Over the next few days, my interviewees included VMware Customer Champions – members of the VMware User Group (VMUG) – which I loved learning more about; VMware customer and AI in Healthcare expert Professor Felix Nensa from the University Hospital of Essen, Germany, and VMware Executives Sumit Dhawan and Kit Colbert.
It’s amazing how quickly you learn and adapt, and by the end of Day Three, I was enjoying every minute, finding my way around the venue easily, looking forward to each interview, and feeling more and more comfortable in my reporter role.
As a communications professional, I was also fascinated by watching the in-house video editing team and the VMware EMEA Communications team at work. I was so impressed with how quickly they could turn around raw footage into perfectly packaged videos for internal and external audiences, and seeing the process of amplifying that content to 42,000+ VMware staff and VMware influencers was amazing.
A big moment was when I was tagged in tweets from the VMware Twitter account with 333,000+ followers, and the VMware LinkedIn company page posts with 1m+ followers. For a social media person like myself, that was a real pinch-me experience.
A big highlight was meeting so many colleagues in person from a wide variety of teams. I joined VMware in January 2021 and through a combination of being based in a co-working hub in Fermoy (40 minutes north of the Cork office in Ballincollig, Ireland) and working with a global team, I have not met many colleagues in person. But through attending VMware Explore 2022 Europe, I can put faces to names now, not only for so many people across the company, but also externally for partners and customers too.
There are so many other things that I could mention – the Expo Hall, seeing the McLaren F1 car, a huge queue for the McLaren F1 simulators, 9,000 registrations, making connections, and of course, the city of Barcelona which is always a joy to visit, and in particular the weather. I’m Irish and when I was in Spain it rained the whole time at home in Ireland, so my friends were replying to my Instagram posts with words like ‘Blue skies!’, Sunshine!’, ‘No rain!’ or just ‘25c!’.
So next time you see a competition to enter, why not enter and see what happens?