Community Support Comes in Many Forms

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I’ve talked before about how the sponsors help make Spousetivities happen by offsetting some of the expense of the events and keeping costs as low as possible. While I (and the Spousetivities participants) appreciate the Global Gold sponsors, there are a bunch of other sponsors that also make Spousetivities happen.

Being an owner of a small business in Spousetivities, I can appreciate the challenge of supporting the community but doing so in a way that is consistent with the financial health of the business. This is why I feel it’s really important to provide a “shout out” to some of the smaller companies that support Spousetivities. These may not be big names that you see and hear all over the conference, but they support Spousetivities in so many ways.

For many years, The Virtualization Practice (TVP) has supported Spousetivities. This support comes in financial contributions as well as volunteer support. Specifically, Ed Haletky’s wife, Romy, has personally gotten involved and helped in the planning of the events for the last two years. Romy graciously led a couple of the tours at the 2014 activities. Sponsors that add this sort of personal touch are valuable because they help “crank it up a notch.” If you are looking for a company to meet your business needs, TVP is worth a look. Make sure to drop an e-mail or comment thanking them for their support of community activities like Spousetivities.

Next up is another small company that you may not know. Thinware (whose product is vBackup) is another faithful startup supporting Spousetivities for several years. Thinware is another company with a personal involvement in Spousetivities—Thinware’s owner, Jeremy Brown, introduced his wife Natalee to Spousetivities several years ago. She’s been instrumental in keeping the activities running smoothly over the years. Natalee routinely helps research activities, reviews some of the gift bag items, and leads the tours when I am not available. If you have a company on a budget with backup needs, please take the time to check out vBackup by Thinware. Also, I’m sure they’d appreciate it if you could drop them a note thanking them for their faithfulness in supporting Spousetivities over the years and for being a part of the community. Right now, Thinware is also offering a discount on their solution to those who participate in or those who follow Spousetivities. Enter “Coupon Code: Spousetivities-VMworldUS2015” when you purchase any of their solutions and a 25% discount will be applied when you are invoiced. Just another way Thinware is showing its support for Spousetivities and those who support Spousetivities by participating, sponsoring, and even just spreading the word to help it grow and stay visible.

Finally, let me introduce you to a relatively new startup in the community. Ravello Systems is making a name for themselves in the industry with some very interesting technology. At the same time, they are setting the tone for what it looks like to be a part of the community, not just another company in the IT world. For the first year, Ravello has come on as a sponsor of Spousetivities and is looking forward to being welcomed into the community. Please make sure to stop by their booth in the Solutions Exchange for more information on their solutions. Shruti and the rest of the Ravello Systems team will take excellent care of you. While you are there, thank them for their support and welcome them to the community. If you aren’t going to make it to VMworld. Drop them a message or even a tweet and let them know you appreciate their community support.

Support for Spousetivities also comes from Arkin Networks, another relative newcomer to the VMware community. We appreciate their willingness to support the community by offering some cool giveaway items for Spousetivities participants.

If you haven’t had the chance to register yet, please visit the Spousetivities registration page today. Events will sell out, so don’t wait!

On behalf of Spousetivities (and all the participants): thank you to all these companies!

Salad and Wine Experience at Legendary William Hill Estate

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Do you love Napa Valley? Maybe you’ve visited Napa Valley before and love the atmosphere, the climate, and all things wine (like I do!). Perhaps you’ve only dreamed of visiting Napa Valley, or maybe you’ve been before and want to go again. Wherever you are on the spectrum, this tour will be an entertaining and satisfying day in the beautiful Napa Valley, CA.

This tour, sponsored by Unitrends, will depart from Marriott Marquis on Wednesday morning at 9:00am. Our private tour bus and local guide will take us through the streets of the city and out toward Napa. Our final destination is the exclusive William Hill Estate. Like Frei Ranch, William Hill Estate is not open to the general public. The only way to tour and taste here is through an event like Spousetivities. (You should be feeling pretty special right about now!)

Upon our arrival, we will have a private tour of William Hill Estate and get some background on this legendary 200-acre property. William Hill offers three distinct tiers of wines: Napa Valley, Napa Valley Reserve, and Winery Exclusives. Spousetivities participants will have the opportunity to participate in several tastings of these elegant wines.

After our tour of the property, guests will then take part in a whole new Spousetivities experience: the art of making your very own salad dressing from fresh William Hill Estate olive oils! Guests will have a choice between chicken and seafood on top of their gourmet salads, along with their custom blend of salad dressing. Finally, guests will receive a bottle of William Hill Estate olive oil to take home.

The tour ends with plenty of time to return to the city and get ready for Wednesday night’s VMworld party.

Like most of the other Spousetivities events, this is an exclusive event that’s not available through other channels. Take a moment now to register so you don’t miss out!

San Francisco Bike Tour

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Having VMworld in San Francisco every year makes my job with Spousetivities both easier and more difficult. It’s easier because I’m able to form lasting partnerships and relationships with companies in the area, which in turn enables me to offer Spousetivities participants some awesome activities. On the flip side, it’s difficult because I want to keep offering new and different activities for spouses who attend in multiple years.

This year I think I’ve found something that meets the criteria of something both “new” and “different”. On Tuesday, Spousetivities will offer a San Francisco bike tour, brought to you in part by Rackspace.

This is your chance to see the city while getting in a bit of exercise. However, don’t let the term “exercise” deter you, as this will be a fun and entertaining event. After all, you’ve probably already ridden the cable cars (or have plans to do so soon). Chances are you have been to Pier 39, and maybe you’ve even seen the city by bus. Perhaps you’ve seen parts of San Francisco on foot. This is your chance to see the sights by bicycle.

“Yikes! All those hills?” you might be thinking.

No need to fret! This tour has been specifically designed to go around most hills in the city and certainly all the big ones. You will be able to see the majestic city of San Francisco with plenty of breaks to rest your legs and grab a few great photos. The tour is offered in both an easy version and a moderate (slightly longer) tour. During both tours you will see some of the highlights that San Francisco has to offer including:

  • Golden Gate Park
  • Haight-Ashbury
  • funky street art in the Mission
  • Victorian architecture
  • and much more!

A lunch stop will not be made on the easy tour so make sure to have a good lunch before arriving at 12:30pm for this adventure on Tuesday, September 1. Remember, this tour will depart from the Marriott Marquis (look for the Spousetivities sign).

The moderate tour includes a lunch stop so bring a little cash so you can select the lunch of your choice from the food trucks of San Francisco. Some additional sights/stops on this tour vs the easy version include:

  • Castro and SoMa neighborhoods
  • a variety of other signature SF neighborhoods

So sign up for Spousetivities San Francisco bike tour and take in the beauty in a whole new way.

Exclusive Outing to EJ Gallo’s Frei Ranch

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How about an upscale day in beautiful Sonoma Valley? If that resonates with you, then you are going to want to sign up now for an exclusive tour at EJ Gallo’s Frei Ranch. This is a very special event–brought to you in part by Brocade–that you won’t want to miss!

Here’s some background on the property, courtesy of EJ Gallo:

Ernest and Julio Gallo’s history with the Frei Ranch vineyard dates back to 1934, when they first purchased wine from the Walter and Louis Frei Winery. That winery was built in 1885 by Charles Dunz and purchased by Andrew Frei in 1890, later to become one of only four wineries in the Dry Creek Valley to survive Prohibition. In 1977, Ernest and Julio purchased the vineyards and winery outright from the Frei family. The Frei Ranch House was built with redwood staves from the original casks of the Frei Winery. Zinfandel vines weave through the outdoor trellis, and beautiful riddling racks form the foundation of our glass dining table.

Do I have your attention yet? Great! Let’s talk about our adventure at this amazing property. (An adventure, by the way, that is only available to Spousetivities participants!) Our day will begin with a private motor coach transporting us from Marriott Marquis to the Frei Ranch property. Along the way, our local guide, Ira, will tell us all about the famous and maybe even best kept secrets of San Francisco. On previous trips, some of the notable spots Ira has shared with Spousetivities participants include the “Mrs. Doubtfire” house, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Painted Ladies. Who knows what Ira has up his sleeve this year?

Once we arrive at Frei Ranch, we will begin our private tour and tasting. The tastings will be held at various points on this breathtaking property. The day is only beginning, though.

Next, we will visit the Gallo of Sonoma’s Barrel Cellar which actually has an Olympic-sized soccer field on its roof! Here we will indulge in the art of wine blending. In this highly interactive activity, guests will learn the techniques and artistic style of blending by creating their own bottle of wine. Each guest will leave with his or her own bottle of blended wine. It is sure to be the experience of a lifetime. But wait, there’s more…

Your Frei Ranch experience would not be complete without a fabulous luncheon. Guests will work side-by-side with local chef extraordinaire, Gia Passalacqua, to build their own wood-fired pizza in Gallo’s very own pizza oven. Lunch will include time with the chef, a hands-on pizza making experience, pasta, salad, pizza, and dessert.

At the conclusion of the luncheon, guests will be returned via private motor coach to the Marriott Marquis. This is an incredible experience that would normally have been over $300 per person! Spousetivities is able to offer this at a far lower cost, thanks to the support of great sponsors like Brocade.

If you want to secure your spot at Frei Ranch, head over to the registration page now to book your ticket!

Celebrating Our Global Gold Sponsors

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Spousetivities would not be where and what it is today without the generous support of sponsors, including this year’s Global Gold sponsors (in alphabetical order): Brocade, Cisco, VMware NSX, and VMUG. But why does Spousetivities have sponsors? To understand the answer to that question, you need to look at this history of Spousetivities.

Spousetivities originated in 2008, at VMworld in Las Vegas. I decided that I was tired of the typical business trip with my husband, Scott Lowe. He loved having me travel with him, and I loved going. Being there alone, though, was not my favorite thing. Long story short, Spousetivities was born! (The name came from the community and is a shortened version of “spouse activities”.)

As the idea grew, it became apparent that I could no longer keep offering public tours having everyone buy tickets separately. What if someone missed a bus? Or accidentally purchased the wrong tour? There were too many potential issues. Once again, the community supported me and gave me the idea that I find companies (sponsors) willing to not only “talk the talk” but actually “walk the walk” when it comes to creating a family friendly environment and supporting work-life balance.

Because of these incredible companies, Spousetivities has been able to offer activities to the friends, family, and loved ones of those attending VMworld for 8 years. To thank a few of them, this is a spotlight post on our Global Gold sponsors for 2015. Here they are, again in alphabetical order:

  • Please welcome Brocade this year as a fantastic new sponsor of the Spousetivities community. Brocade’s support means that you get to enjoy time out in the wonderful city of San Francisco without breaking the bank.
  • Also welcome Cisco Systems to the family of supporters that faithfully support Spousetivities each year. Cisco’s support has allowed these activities to be offered at reduced cost, while still allowing them to be both exclusive and private (like our wine tour outings this year!).
  • For the second year in a row, VMware NSX is supporting Spousetivities in a big way. As the sponsor of the ever popular “Get to Know You” breakfast, VMware NSX continues to promote a healthy perspective on work/life balance to families.
  • Finally, for the 5th year in a row, the folks at VMUG are continuing their support of Spousetivities. Their support is not only via funding to keep your costs low, but also by providing “behind the scenes” support as well to help enhance the experience of Spousetivities each year. Being community-minded themselves, VMUG understands the need to support the IT community as a whole.

In short, Spousetivities can only do what it does (offer fantastic activities at reasonable prices) thanks to the support of some great sponsors. If you’re traveling to VMworld this year, either as a spouse or as a conference attendee who is bringing your spouse, please take the time to thank Spousetivities sponsors for their commitment and dedication to community, family, and a healthy work-life balance.

Finally, don’t forget to register for Spousetivities before the events sell out!

Registration, Cooking, and Thanks

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You’ve been asking for it, waiting for it, and anticipating it. Registration is now open for Spousetivities at VMworld 2015!

This year, on opening day, Spousetivities is offering a cooking class with Sur la Table. This will be an opportunity to learn to cook some local flare. The tour will take place after the breakfast. We will take a private bus to the venue and learn to cook some delicious dishes. There will be time to visit the store to buy various spices, cooking gadgets, and other supplies.

The remainder of the week is also filled with some exciting activities including exclusive tours at some of EJ Gallo’s most pristine properties. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming days. In the meantime, check out what some of our sponsors are doing to innovate the technology world.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors for making 2015 a great year of family friendly events at VMworld!

Global Gold Sponsors 2015

VMware NSX

Cisco Systems

Brocade

VMUG

US Gold Sponsors 2015

Unitrends

Infinio

SolidFire

CloudPhysics

Rackspace

Global Silver Sponsors 2015

The Virtualization Practice

EMC Elect

US Silver Sponsors 2015

Thinware vBackUp

Ravello Systems

Prize Sponsors

Arkin Networks

Cumulus Networks

Wine Shop at Home

VMworld 2015, Here we Come!

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It’s happening again! Currently in the final planning stages is Spousetivities at VMworld 2015. This year holds more fantastic opportunities for outings, but don’t worry, we will still have amazing wine tour adventures and city excursions as well. I am finalizing sponsors and confirming contracts, but registration should open VERY soon so keep checking back here to this page or follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Want a sneak peek at activities this year? (Of course you do!)

  • “Get-to-Know-You” breakfast, otherwise known as “Come and Win Prizes” breakfast
  • Two exclusive wine country excursions not available to the general public
  • Fun afternoon cooking class

…and more! See you on August 31st!

More About Spousetivities

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Since Spousetivities started—unofficially in 2008, then more officially in 2009—there has been a lot of speculation about what the program is and what the participants do. I’m writing this post to give a little insight to those that may not know much about Spousetivities and the purpose it serves in the larger IT community.

First, I think it’s important to talk about what Spousetivities isn’t. Spousetivities is not a bunch of women getting together to gossip and go shopping while our husbands/boyfriends/significant others go to technical conferences.

First and foremost, Spousetivities is a community-focused and community-driven program designed to help to promote healthy work-life balance. Spousetivities allows couples (and families) to travel together for business while ensuring that accompanying partners and family members not attending the conference have fun, safe activities to do. This ensures the conference attendee doesn’t have to worry about those traveling with him or her, allowing him or her to fully take advantage of the all the conference has to offer.

Second, Spousetivities is an opportunity for networking and friendship. Many of the participants over the years have remained friends long after the events. Personally, I’ve made a number of good friends through the activities, and I know others have too. Similarly, in some cases, we have been able to support small businesses that are run by participants as we share our companies and ideas with each other. This is a productive and supportive environment that participants have come to love and appreciate over the years.

Third, Spousetivities is a great way to experience the conference’s host city. In an effort to make these activities unique and successful, I update the activities and plans every year. Starting out on tours in individual rental cars in 2008, Spousetivities enjoyed group rates on public tours over the next couple years, and now participants enjoy private tour buses and sometimes even limousines for transportation!

Fourth, Spousetivities is a unique way for IT companies to show they support the community and work-life balance. Spousetivities allows companies to sponsor the activities and show that they believe that the support of one’s spouse/partner and family is important. This year at VMworld 2014 in San Francisco, Spousetivities is thankful for the support of our sponsors: VMware NSX, The Virtualization Practice, VMUG, Xangati, HyTrust, vBackup, Origami Owl, and Wine Shop at Home. The support of our sponsors helps keep costs down and allows Spousetivities to offer private transportation and exclusive tours.

So how did it all begin? After traveling with my husband, Scott Lowe, for several years to conferences, I finally said “No more!” I was tired of his crazy schedules while I sat in hotel rooms or ventured out only to get lost or be bored going places alone. (For those that know me, I am quite the social person so being alone in a big city was not my thing.) Furthermore, finding my way around was challenging, and I once got lost in LA. Believe me, that wasn’t pleasant! I finally agreed to attend VMworld 2008, if Scott would ask if any other spouses were coming and if they’d like to meet for lunch. A flood of responses poured in and the “lunch” quickly became a trip to the Hoover Dam, a Grand Canyon excursion, tours of “the Strip” in Las Vegas, and much more. At the conclusion of the week, everyone asked me to please do it again for 2009. It was very clear there was a need in the community for such activities.

None of this would be possible without the support of the community and the sponsors. The community launched Spousetivities, including the very name. In a conversation during the 2008 activities with John Troyer, the name was born. From there, another friend (Joep Piscaer) secured the URL to launch the website. Before I knew it, Spousetivities was born. Further support came from the community podcast, vBrownBag, numerous people on Twitter and Facebook, and of course the many sponsors over the years. Clearly, the community has built the Spousetivities brand.

There you have it: a clear explanation of who and what Spousetivities is all about. I’ve listened as people make fun of “Spousetivities” and what they perceive the program is. Hopefully, this makes clear what it is, why it exists, and the importance of keeping the program alive and moving forward.

Giving Back to the Community

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For seven years, Spousetivities has been fortunate to be part of the VMware/VMworld community. Since 2008, we’ve been the only community-focused and community-driven spouse activities program, and it’s been an honor. Spousetivities exists thanks to the support of the community. However, Spousetivities also exists to provide support back to that same community.

Last week, a member of our community was tragically taken from us. Jim Ruddy died in a car accident, leaving behind his wife Stephanie and their children. This is a horrible loss, and the community continues to mourn his loss. (My husband, Scott, worked with Jim at EMC for a number of years, as did many others.) In honor of Jim and to support the family he left behind, I worked with other members of the community to establish the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund. As of this writing, that fund had raised over $15,000 to help support Stephanie and the kids in this very trying time.

No amount of money can replace Jim. However, this is a difficult time for Stephanie—not only emotionally and physically, but also financially. For that reason, Spousetivities is setting aside 10% of all proceeds raised by activities at VMworld 2014 to be donated to Jim Ruddy’s family via the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund.

If you haven’t donated to the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund yet, please consider doing so. If you (or your spouse/partner/significant other) is participating in Spousetivities at VMworld this year, please know that your participation means also helping a family in their time of need.

Being part of the community means giving back to the community.

Don’t Attend VMworld Alone

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To all VMworld conference attendees: We are really glad you’ve chosen to attend VMworld US 2014 in San Francisco. As a member of the VMware community, VMworld is the place to be to learn about the latest news, products, and trends from VMware. But don’t come alone…bring your spouse, partner, friend, or family member and let Spousetivities take care of them!

Since VMworld 2008, Spousetivities has been organizing activities for spouses, partners, friends, and family members of VMworld conference attendees. The first and only community-driven and community-oriented program of its kind, Spousetivities is back again for VMworld 2014. San Francisco, here we come!

First, let’s get some important details out of the way. Spousetivities wouldn’t be possible without the support of some great sponsors! These sponsors help subsidize the cost of the various activities as well as cover the costs of things like prizes, the ever-popular “Get to Know You” breakfast, and more. This year, Spousetivities is sponsored by:

Second, although it’s called “Spousetivities,” it’s not just for spouses! Partners, significant others, close friends, family members…all are welcome. If you’re attending VMworld 2014 and have someone traveling with you but not attending the conference, send them our way. We’ve got some great activities lined up.

Speaking of activities…let’s see what’s on the plate for this year!

  • The famous “Get to Know You” breakfast, held again at Jillian’s this year
  • Mission Street food tour
  • Kayaking on the Russian River
  • Whale watching
  • And wine, of course!

Stay tuned for an agenda of the activities and more details on each of the activities. Registration is now open; just visit http://vmworld2014-spousetivities.eventbrite.com. You’ll want to sign up right away—activities fill up quickly!

See you in San Francisco!

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