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.