For VMworld this year I decided to pack heavy. I spent the week in suits rather than my typical IT polos and jeans, slacks and shirts type attire. No particular reasoning for the change although the factors were along the lines of: change of pace, stepping it up, and ‘It’s Vegas Baby!.’ To say the least it was an interesting experience being at VMworld in a suit for the first time.
The IT community is typically a dressed down society, we toil away in data centers, call centers, and cubicles and have no need for dress up. Jeans and a polo is business and flip flops put us in business casual. This means a suit is out of the norm. VMworld only amplifies that as the walking, back-to-back sessions, and being away from the home office make the case for casual. This means wearing a suit is not necessarily unique but noticeable, especially on the show floor.
Like spinach for Popeye the suit had its benefits. I’m a firm believer in you can’t be overdressed (even if I don’t heed that often) and Vegas is no exception. During customer engagements, partner meetings, and vendor video shoots the suit boosted my confidence and professional appearance. It even had benefits on the gaming floor as pit bosses were much more accommodating of special requests such as opening new tables, raising maximum bets or lowering minimums than I recall in t-shirt and jeans. You definitely can’t overdress in Vegas.
Like Kryptonite for Superman while working the booth or having discussions with vendor engineers I found that the suit downgraded my status as an engineer. By that I mean I had to prove I was technical, rather than sales, business development, etc. the immediate assumption of customers while I was at the WWT booth was that I was the sales guy and they needed to find the engineer. It was definitely an interesting experience. I had a lot more high level sales pitches, marketing fluff etc. thrown at me while walking the floor than I have in past years. Even more interesting was that I did not get harassed by the ‘booth babes’ as much. That brings me to my next point.
I’ve always enjoyed the attractive models known as booth babes that many vendors hire to scan badges and attract attention at trade shows. IT is a very male heavy industry and I looked at it as harmless marketing. I didn’t however think of it from the big picture perspective. Matt Simmons enlightened me with one of his post show blogs: http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com/blog/2011/09/seriously-stop-with-the-booth-babes/. The booth babes themselves may be harmless but the way in which they train us to stereotype women in a booth is not. In a similar way to the way in which my suit identified me as non-technical, booth babes cause us to look at women working trade show booths as non-technical or eye candy, that is a very bad thing (quick note I’m not equating the suit discrimination to sexual discrimination only drawing a parallel to the way our brains begin to stereotype.) There are some amazing women in IT and we should be encouraging more to join the ranks, not making an inhospitable atmosphere.
I encourage you to read matt’s blog and take part in ‘Operation Eliminate booth Babes.’