Conference Mixes Work, Games

The thousands of people at the Computer Associates World 2004 conference have heard from industry leaders, seen new technology, and caught up with colleagues, but they're also finding plenty more to fill their time in a city that's like an adult version of Disney World.

"If (Computer Associates International) wants your attention, this is not the ideal place," jokes Eduardo Ibanez, director of IT operations of the Americas for Flextronics International in Mexico, who says he has enjoyed seeing old friends at the event. "At the same time, I think more people will come to the convention because it is in Las Vegas."

Clearly, the event is a merger of entertainment and education. Comedian Bill Cosby opened the event. The conference itself featured a trade show including partner products as well as technical sessions and speakers.

Meet and Greet

Skye Rogers, a technician for Trans Corporation Communications Services who attended CA World last year, says Las Vegas is a great place to unwind.

"These conferences are a good chance for people to recharge, cut loose," she says. "Last year, I met people from Australia. We went out drinking to Blue Man Group. We still keep in touch. They should be here this year; I have to call them."

Caroline Cerval, a project manager at Societe Generale Investment Banking in France, agrees that Vegas conferences are good opportunities to meet people and network in a less formal environment.

"We can communicate with people we don't know in France," she says. "Communicate in a cool way, around a beer, not around a table in Paris."

While Cerval thinks the relaxed atmosphere is great for getting to know people, she finds "the professional conference mixed with city is very controversial."

Many attendants wanted to get their work done so they can explore the city and all its offerings.

"I have to figure out my company's needs, to look at new products," says Constantin Mihalache, a 27-year-old "IT guy" at Mobifon, based in Rumania. "I would like to relax, but I don't have much time. Maybe I'll take a night to relax, to work on the street and take on the bars and spend some money--because I am in Las Vegas!"

CA Staffers' Plans

For David Turcotte, a Computer Associates federal marketing employee, this conference is his first trip to the West. He had hoped to visit the Grand Canyon, but CA employees have no rental cars so he is stuck in the Venetian Hotel, in front of a Wheel-A-Fortune slot machine.

"Everything was going well until I got in front of this stupid machine," Turcotte says, adding that he and friends were having fun in the casino. "On Saturday we drank here (at the Venetian) and watched the tables, mapping out my strategy."

Attendee Rogers says that CA was well aware of the distraction the city causes and planned the convention schedule accordingly.

"Stuff in the morning is stodgy and not well-attended," and that's no coincidence, she adds.

Ibanez, 33, says he plans to visit a strip club with some guys from work and his wife.

"I know there is one with men and women. So we can have fun in the same place: men downstairs and women upstairs," Ibanez says.

Alan Bornas, an employee with the Land Bank of the Philippians, sums up his CA World Las Vegas experience: "It is what you see is what you get--all fun and relaxation, but don't forget in Vegas . . . you win some, you lose some."

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