This is the eighth and final post in our Black Hat Attendee Guide series—you can start from the beginning right here.
Big gulps, if you've made it this far in the guide—you've arrived, this is the last post. When you get back from Vegas, you'll probably have a couple of reports you're staring in the face.
First is the expense report. (Pro-Tip: Take cell phone pictures of everything you spend a dime on!) Before you leave, double check the minimum dollar amount requiring receipts, and know how long you have to get your reports in… but you can't start until you're on the road.
Second is your trip report. Not all companies require them, but sending something to management is a smart move, and helps the company derive maximum benefit from the money invested… and you can start writing this right now. (Open a text editor now before you forget!)
Plan now (before the trip) or panic after, as details blur. This report must cover the Three Golden Questions, as it is going to management, so be answering these questions as you write:
- What do I need to know?
- Why do I care?
- What do you need from me?
We've given you a strategy for picking the can't-miss-talks, so move them into your report now, Speaker, Bio, and Abstract—capture links too.
- Whittle these down to explain the value or relevance to the business and team- and how you plan to pass on your learnings and observations.
- Highlight What research you found most interesting or exciting personally, inspiring growth and personal development on your time.
You should have picked some of these out as well. Black Hat affords you opportunities to gain hands-on skills, helping you when you get back to work. Perspective, tips, tricks, lessons learned, and better ways to execute workflows will all come from those workshops. Take some notes, share them.
Open source tools in the Arsenal may be things your team uses daily, or things you should start using. You'll have met the developers/maintainers or representatives of the teams that do. You also have a direct pathway to pass on feature requests for the team (knowns are heard with priority over unknowns.)
You also have an opportunity to learn about features you didn't know existed, in a tool you already have, and might actually pay for, from a vendor you work with.
You know the products you use today—meet your account rep, meet the sales engineer, and try to catch the product managers at the booth. Have an idea of what features are coming down the roadmap, and find out what is new or recent in products you already have. Odds are you are not using everything available, this raises return on investment (ROI) for dollars already spent.
Technologies you will be looking into—check those products out as well. Have them scan your badge, get information sent to you (white papers, data sheets—who wants to carry paper around?) and catch some demos.
Ask point blank what their strengths and weaknesses are, who they compete with, and how to differentiate them. (Pro-Tip: Know when your budget cycle is for those technologies so you can discuss meaningful time-frames for demo and testing!)
Check out the startup space on the show floor. If you've never heard of a company, find out who they are, and what they do.
Report back on all of this, use it for additional notes to discuss with your engineers and architects.
Does your organization have headcount? Do you know folks that are actively hiring? Are there referral bonuses for those positions? Know before you go. Have draft emails or at least links in your mobile notes app, be ready to connect and make referrals—and who to connect them with back home.
Talk to the team, identify key challenges or problem-areas you don't have solved. Take notes during the day—the people you meet with similar challenges will have ideas and experience on how to overcome them—don't spend the energy re-inventing the wheel.
At the vendor booth, ask for introductions to other folks that use the tools you do, compare notes on deployment, usage, or partnership.
Remember: The trip should be seen as an investment, that you've executed in spades honoring the time and money spent for you to be away, so share the success stories. Make it a point to capture a few “I wish I would have” and “if I had another teammate to coordinate with” type items. Document things you didn't expect or hadn't prepared for, anything you would do differently next year. Experiences are best shared— refer back to this document so you will achieve and experience more next year.
These notes and observations, by themselves, will pay for your trip next year.
Plan early, execute quickly, profit.
So that's it for this guide series. Thanks for reading it, and for your kind comments and additions on Twitter and beyond.
I hope at least some of the knowledge download here proved useful for you.
I'm tapping out, it's time to start packing. Travel well, I'll see you next week in Vegas!