Boot Camp: No Pain, No Gain

Posted on by Sandra Toms

So what does the RSA Conference team do post the US event (besides work on our RSAC Unplugged and RSAC APJ events)?  We prepare for boot camp!

Boot camp is aptly named. It is our RSA Conference design kick off meeting – an intense three-days of actively planning, breaking and rebuilding programs, ideas and concepts to develop the next RSA Conference experience. By the end of the three days, we have Excedrin® size headaches, but a positive outlook of the task ahead of us.

Prior to boot camp we get into mental shape by reviewing the results of the surveys you took, all speaker scores you provided, and every verbatim comment you provided us. And I mean ALL OF IT! It is great to understand what you liked, what you didn’t and where we missed the mark. The goal is to keep improving – and pondering: is a new experimental program we tried during the 2018 event worth improving to a 2.0 version, or should we let it go? We try to understand the hearts and minds of our attendees and challenge ourselves to create the event that you just can’t miss for the next year.

Having hosted this meeting for well over a decade, we have essential tools: 

  • The largest collection of stickie notes and stickie poster boards ever assembled in one place
  • Index cards—in every color of the rainbow
  • Sharpies of every imaginable color
  • Multiple colors of “dot” stickers (yes….there is a theme here….we like color!)
  • Rubber bands (good for shooting)
  • And squeezy toys

The squeezy toys are indispensable, and each has a unique meaning:

  • Squeezy Cheese – thrown… whoops, I mean gently tossed… to a person who is whining too much (cheese is best with whine).
  • Squeezy Brain – one of the most coveted – given to those who come up with a brilliant idea. 
  • Squeezy Heart – given to someone who demonstrates a lot of passion for a program or idea.
  • Squeezy Cow – also known as the “Sacred Cow” – usually is a way of getting someone to understand that the program they love, and worked on year after year, is no longer serving its purpose.  We need to recognize it as a Sacred Cow, and be comfortable letting it go.

While I would personally like to claim ownership of the Brain during most of boot camp, after 20-years, I’m more likely holding on to the Cow. But the process of holding the Cow, “owning” my feelings about a program and then letting it go, is freeing. And this process, informed by your feedback, guidance and encouragement, enables us to build a better experience for you each year.

Last year a Squeezy Brain went to the group that developed RSAC onDemand which we launched this year. And, previous Squeezy Hearts have been given to people involved in creating the RSAC Security Scholars program and the addition of a Humanitarian Service Award to our awards roster.

This year’s boot camp is next week in beautiful Los Gatos and I can’t wait to see what transpires. The outlook is for sunshine, amazingly dedicated RSAC team members, and plenty of new ideas for 2019. We’ll be sure to report back on how it goes!

Sandra Toms

Vice President and Curator, RSA Conference

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