May you live in interesting times. – Purported Ancient Chinese Curse
Life is never boring for the independent blogger. Especially when the vendors come calling. In recent months, Sean Rynearson (@SRynearson) and Rocky Gregory (@BionicRocky) have taken up residence at Aruba Networks. Gurusimran Khalsa (@gurusimran) has headed over to VMware. Most recently, Ryan Adzima (@RAdzima) has joined the ranks of the wireless elite at AirTight Networks. There’s still more to come if my guesses are right. In many of those cases, I’ve been asked what I think about so many independent influencers heading for vendors. My response is always the same: It’s a great thing.
A Cog In The Machine
So many independent people being hired by vendors shows the value of their thinking and analysis. It’s much easier to interview for a job when your entire resume is online in the form of a blog full of deep thoughts and impressive research. If the employer can Google your name and find not only your commentary but the commentary of people that have discussed things with you then the actual interview process is a formality. I personally like it that way because I’m horrible at telling people about myself. I’d much rather let my words do the talking for me.
Vendors know that having an independent thinker on staff is a huge asset. If the independent is detached for the existing process, they can point out weaknesses or quickly adjust strengths to make things better for the vendor. A dispassionate third party view is useful when determining if marketing efforts are working correctly or if a product line needs to be refreshed or removed entirely. Sometimes you can’t get the objectivity needed from someone that’s been entrenched at a vendor for too long.
Independents worry about working for vendors. They are afraid they will lose their objectivity. They want to be sure that their opinions are their own and don’t reflect the views of their employers. I’ve been asked on more than one occasion by those folks if it’s even possible. My response: Yes, but it’s hard.
It’s Not Easy Being Free
You have to be vigilant when you want to make sure you are independent. Your thoughts and ideas should never be suppressed because someone doesn’t like them or because they don’t fit a marketing campaign. The value in having an independent on your payroll is the objectivity that person brings to the table. Hiding that objectivity for the sake of a few dollars on the bottom line is the road to ruin.
Likewise, you as the independent need to be sure you don’t cross the line when it comes to reducing your own independence. I’ve seen more than one person go to work for vendor and slowly transform themselves from an independent thinker to a corporate mouthpiece. When you put the leash on yourself and impinge you own credibility you’ve done a disservice to your employer as well as yourself. Attacking a competitor via blog posts or social media serves no real purpose. Debating salient issues is a better use of time for everyone. Don’t let yourself be dragged into the fray. Rise above and keep the discussions focused on technology and not on the logo on the device.
I’ve stayed independent because of my own stubbornness. I feel that my views are better voiced outside the vendor community. That doesn’t mean that vendors are evil and should be avoided. On the contrary, vendors are a great fit for a great number of bloggers. Any time someone comes to me and tells me they’ve taken a position with a vendor I applaud their choice. It ultimately comes down to the person making the choice. If you feel you can stay independent inside the greater organization then a vendor is a great fit. Just remember to be vigilant and stay true to who you are. Not the logo on your shirt.