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VMblog Expert Interview: Doug Brown on Building Communities

interview-controlup-brown 

If you're part of the EUC industry, it's a safe bet that you're already very familiar with the name Doug Brown (think Citrix or DABCC fame).  Doug's name has become synonymous with building relationships amongst the tech and EUC community, and most recently, with establishing an extremely popular and passionate community program at IGEL.

Now, Doug is off to his next adventure - this time with ControlUp as its new Vice President of Community where he hopes to strike gold yet again.  VMblog reached out to Doug to find out more about this new community building opportunity.     

VMblog:  You started your career as an engineer.  How did you find yourself running a community?  Some folks might think it seems far away from engineering.

Doug Brown:  Oh, David, my career has taken many turns, and I'm far from where I imagined when I started my journey. As a kid, I wanted to be a programmer. Now I guess they call them developers. Though I quickly realized that as much as I like writing code, it was not for me, so I ended up moving into IT with a desire to be a software/network engineer. It was my main focus for many years. 

It all changed for me when I received that call from Citrix in early 2001. I was hired as a Systems Engineer but did not know this meant I talked for a living and did not 'fix things.' Though I must confess, the Citrix SEs in those days stayed pretty technical. But this was the start. I found that I loved it too. Sharing with others and helping people is very rewarding. Hence I went down that path and have not looked back. I do enjoy every day. 

As far as 'community' goes, I joined IGEL over five and a half years ago, wanting to build a community. I've been in this Citrix/EUC thing since the late 90s, before people even used the word community. I saw the benefits for others and me. I had been playing with the idea of finding a software company to try my luck at building something for them. Long story short, I was blessed to join IGEL, and we built the #1 community in the EUC space! Now I'm off to a new adventure at ControlUp, tasked with the same role, to create a stellar experience for ControlUp partners, customers, and anyone who wants to learn more about ControlUp's solution. 

VMblog:  I know first hand that the IGEL Community has experienced excellent results.  Can you share the story?  How did you build it? 

Brown:  I must confess it's been the most fantastic experience. 

IGEL had recently hired Jed Ayres as their CMO and the CEO of the Americas. What a blessing that was. Jed is a great guy and understood the value a community could bring and allowed me to "make it happen." 

Five years later, the IGEL Community had just under 9,000 members, with over 335,000 messages posted. Many posts are technical, but some are just fun chats between the members. It is a fantastic experience. I advise your readers to join here https://www.igelcommunity.com/.

Now how did I build it, that's a long answer, but I'll shorten it by giving you the four rules I learned. 

The first is to find the right platform. We used Slack, thanks to Shane Kleinert's recommendation. Slack works. It might not be the perfect platform, but it provided that magic spark. I also feel Slack brings a community to the people vs. making the people come to us! As many folks already have Slack accounts, we added another workspace to their list. It was indeed the best platform. 

The second and third rules are to find your champions, both internal and external. I was lucky. IGEL has great employees; on day one, we had much help that never stopped. From the customer side, you want to find the passionate ones as they will share their stories and enjoy hanging out with other like-minded folks. 

I think of it like walking past a pub. If you walk past and nobody is in there, you keep moving, but if you walk past and they are chatting, excited, passionate, and raising a bit of hell, then you stop in for many drinks. This is how I see the IGEL Community. We created a fun, helpful place and kept showing love. The outcome was 330,000 messages and a hell of a lot of fun, but also a wealth of knowledge being created, archived, and used daily to help each other.  

The fourth rule is simple, LUCK! But in life, you do make your luck, but not all of it. We were lucky in many ways, one, and maybe the biggest, is that I had the steadfast support of IGEL and Jed Ayres. They allowed the IGEL Community to grow without corporate corruption. Do you want to know why most "communities" fail, fizzle out, go stagnant, etc.? The head bosses don't get it. They abuse their members by trying to hard market and sell to them and rush it along. Jed allowed us to do it the right way, which is for the techie, by the techie, in the time it takes, without pressure. The results speak for themselves. Now that's lucky to find a fit like that. Very few think that way; hence, most fail and very few succeed at our levels. Jed is awesome. 

VMblog:  Do you feel the IGEL Community played a part in IGEL's growth? 

Brown:  Without a doubt, I do. I know so. Of course, when your customers and partners love you, this directly results in better retention. But it also results in advocacy. Our members told the company story in their words, their experiences. We did not ask them to tell their story. They did it as they loved us as we love them. This love is infectious. Not to mention, and I hear it repeatedly, our customers knew they were not paying for a product and then being dropped until it was time to renew. They were not alone, which was/is a tremendous value-add. They have a place to get a fast answer., meet like-minded techies, and have some fun. Yes, David, the IGEL Community, in my mind, played a massive part in IGEL's growth and is today one of the big reasons someone would want to use IGEL over the competition. It's huge! 

I'm very excited to work with the ControlUp team to bring 'community' to ControlUp, customers, partners, and the world. In just a few weeks, I've realized everyone is genuinely excited and wants to help to make the ControlUp Community even bigger and better! Game on!

VMblog:  With the IGEL Community thriving, what made you decide to leave IGEL?

Brown:  Oh, such a good question. Simple, I came to IGEL to build a community, and I did. It's full speed and way past crustal mass. I've trained my people. I created the community culture. My job is done. I could have sat back and watched it grow and collect a paycheck, but that's not my style. I was getting bored and I wanted to do it again. The world needs more communities! 

Plus, I had known ControlUp before they were ControlUp the company and had just come out of the Smart X consulting company. I liked the company, the culture, and the product. I also had a very good old friend that I met at Citrix named Barry Flanagan. Barry had asked me to help them many times with building a ControlUp Community, and it just seemed to be the time to do it for real. I'm excited about this opportunity.  

VMblog:  Now that you're at ControlUp, what are your new goals? 

Brown:  I have one big goal, to build the ControlUp Community to share, connect, and help educate the ControlUp customers, partners, and anyone who wants to learn about the many fantastic products ControlUp creates. This will consist of, of course, an online community but also in-person events, web meetups, videos, blogs, etc. 

I'm just getting started. I'm looking forward to it. It will take a bit to get it all set up, our ducks in a row, and ready to open the doors. Stay tuned. 

VMblog:  What excites you about the future with ControlUp? 

Brown:  ControlUp has a long history, since day one of being a community-centric company. It makes me happy to see they will formalize this and that it will be my job to build it. I can't wait; so much great stuff to share! I feel fortunate for this opportunity, and it truly excites me. 

From the company perspective, If you think you knew ControlUp, you will soon think differently. Today, ControlUp enables you to observe, analyze and optimize digital employee experience end-to-end for VDI, DaaS, physical endpoints, Windows & Saas apps, and Unified Communications. The coolest part about working for a software company is learning what is coming next, and the ControlUp roadmap is impressive! The more I learn, the more I'm impressed and excited about what ControlUp brings to the customer. It is a tool every company should own. 

At VMware Explore, we lit the rocket and showed the world what we could do. It was so great to see. Over 2,000 people visited the booth, and many returned a second and even third time. It is all due to the ControlUp solution. It is amazing. It even includes sentiment analysis. WOW! I guess this is why they all stopped by a few times. 

I'm also very impressed by the people and the ControlUp culture. They are friendly and intelligent folks who want to help each other. This is always a worry when joining something new. I have met so many nice people, all willing to help.

I highly recommend your readers visit www.controlup.com to learn more, and, of course, stay tuned for the ControlUp Community! 

So what excites me? Simple, my job is to organize the partners/customers/anyone who wants to learn, have some fun, and then share the fantastic solutions the fine folks at ControlUp provide. What is not to be excited about is a better question.

VMblog:  What is your plan for the ControlUp Community?

Brown:  As I mentioned prior, I'm a firm believer in Slack. It is the perfect platform for our members as it provides that real-time, person-to-person experience where we can all discuss any topic and keep up to date on what's new and even on the horizon with ControlUp software. Hence we will build the community using Slack. This will be the place for folks to join, learn, meet, and share. It will be the meeting spot, the hub for ControlUp technical. But, as always, it will be for the techie, by the techie! Stay tuned and join us. 

From here, there is so much more we can do. In a very open discussion, community-style fashion, you will find live Q&A, interviews with key players inside ControlUp, deep dives into the technologies our members desire most, and much more. All in an open, laid-back community fashion. Feel free to ask anything. Stay tuned for the ControlUp Community Meetup Series. 

Ultimately, we hope to build a place where people want to join, log in, learn, share their ideas and knowledge, meet others just like you, and leave better off. 

How do I do that? Well, that is the secret sauce I have started working on. ControlUp has lit the rocket, time to get busy! Please stay tuned.

VMblog:  Thank you, Doug.  It does sound exciting, and we look forward to the future.  That said, any last words? 

Brown:  I thank you, David. We go way back, my friend. I thank you for allowing me to share this story. It's a great one. Community for the win! I get a lot of credit, but the people make a great community. I'm one of many, just one of many. 

I will also say, again, stay tuned. The train has left the gate, and the rocket is in the air. Please email me at douglas.brown@controlup.com to learn more, and stay tuned. Download our software, give it a try, and you will understand why I left my happy home to join ControlUp. It is a great solution.

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Published Monday, September 19, 2022 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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