Upping The Game

Every year of our existence we have tried to come up with a theme that represents our mission and goals for the year. Having a focus has helped us define the chapter and continuously drive us forward. It’s interesting thinking back on where we’ve been and where are at a now.

Year One

To be honest, year one was quite frankly “what are we doing and please someone show up”. It was a simple goal in that even though we didn’t know how to or with what money, we would find a way to put on great events and hope folks came. To our amazement, even in massive snowstorms, people did show up and through all the growing pains, it worked. Those of you who sponsored and those of you who attended our first events, we are forever grateful for what you did for us to help us get started.

Year Two

Our second year of existence was a time of growth and expansion. Our audience was getting bigger, our events were becoming more popular and thankfully sponsorships were getting easier to come by. We knew we had proven out the value and vision of the organization and we started to see what we could become. The CSA of West Michigan was really hitting its stride. We even came up with this ambitious idea that we would hold a convention aptly called CloudCon. It was going to be huge, amazing, incredible…

…then the entire world changed with the Covid pandemic.

Everything shut down, we couldn’t gather in person, which was devastating for a group that basically held events. We needed to decide, move on somehow or shut it all down. Fortunately, the board was full of amazing people with good hearts and so the decision to refocus and move forward was made. The reality of the pandemic and the needs of everyone around us gave us a chance to become a more community focused organization than just a security organization. I believe it helped us find our true calling in helping others. Sadly, our dreams of an in-person CloudCon were an impossibility. To our credit we also decided would push through with CloudCon virtually no matter what! We held that first CloudCon and our theme was “Inaugural”; the start of something. Little did we know how prophetic this was as so many folks showed up and we had a great event! By the end of the year we were blown away by our successes both as a charity organization as well as the quality of security events we continued to hold virtually. And hey, the Parking Lot Parties we held at Brewery Vivant that year will forever be part of our folklore.

Year Three

While challenging, the pandemic year of working with and supporting our local community with fundraisers, benefits and training has defined our group ever since. Out of all of this came our never-ending dedication to the West Michigan community and to diversity in our industry. This helped us develop our Women In Security mission which defined our year three. As the pandemic rules loosened a little bit, we decided we would be able to have CloudCon in-person we just needed an outdoor location. A phone call to LMCU Ballpark asking about a single outdoor space led us to renting the entire ballpark. Something magical happened when folks were able to be back together, in a beautiful park, with amazing sponsors and presenters, great swag and yes…day drinking. Add to the magic of the ballpark we showcased two amazing women as our opening and closing keynote speakers. It was something special to stand back and behold this event and made all the work worth it when we could see what we had created.

Year Four

In our fourth year of existence, we started to see something happen. Small Grand Rapids was quietly but rapidly emerging as a technology hub for the country. The public and private sectors were starting to plan out the next 10 years of building this out and the rest of the country was starting to take notice of what we have all known for years, West Michigan is an incredible place to live, work and raise a family. So, our theme for the year became a Celebration of West Michigan, the people that work here and the incredible community that we are all a part of. We wanted everyone to know that they were a part of something bigger than themselves and to be excited about the future. Having learned a lot from the first year, the second in-person year of CloudCon was a huge success. Our opening keynote presentation at CloudCon from Randy Thielen, from The Right Place reflected what we going on in the area in terms of growth and potential. However, Randy also told all of us that we needed to roll up our sleeves and get to work to make it happen.

Current Year

That brings the West Michigan CSA to our current year, 2023. We’ve spent the past 4 years laying a firm foundation on which to build and grow and that’s exactly what we plan to do. We are busy reaching out to new members to grow the audience, we are busy working on many different training opportunities for folks, we are getting further engrained into the various community and government organizations and we most definitely will continue with our fun and informative events and CloudCon23 is going to be bigger and better than ever.

Our theme for this year is “Upping Our Game” as we know the time is now to uplevel everyone’s knowledge, talents and abilities. The folks currently working in our many great companies are going to become the IT and Security leaders of the future as we see the explosive growth in our sector in West Michigan. We will work tirelessly on helping everyone do exactly what Randy told us at CloudCon last year, roll up our sleeves and get to work.

We are so grateful for everyone that has supported us over the years, we are grateful for every single person that has attended our events, we are grateful for the facilities, entertainers, breweries and restaurants that have put up with our crazy requests. Without everyone working together none of this would have ever happened. We’ve accomplished so much but there is still more to do. We hope you join us in the adventure and where we go from here!