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The Journey Begins

SharkFest 2023 in Brussels was more than just a conference trip; it was an adventure through Belgium and France and a journey into the heart of my professional passion. As a long-time user of Wireshark and Ethereal, attending SharkFest felt like a destined chapter in my career. This year’s event was particularly special because it symbolized a significant transition in my career, from a software engineer to a more customer-focused role in sales enablement at LiveAction.

A Personal Touch

At SharkFest, I was not just another attendee. My connections to the industry, especially with my friends Sheri and Janice, who now spearhead SharkFest, added a personal dimension to the experience. As a “Jack of all Trades” at LiveAction, I’ve seen the evolution of network analysis tools from the inside. This event was a perfect blend of my technical background and my newfound love for customer engagement and communities like Wireshark

Brussels: A City of Wonders

Arriving in Brussels after a long flight, the exhaustion (and loss of luggage) was quickly replaced by awe. The Marriott Grand Place, our base for the event, stood as a beacon of modern comfort amidst the historic charm of Brussels. After checking in to the hotel, my wife Tej and I enjoyed our first walk of the trip through some cobble streets and allies, to a local restaurant called Grimbergen Cafe, an experience that was just the beginning of our gastronomic journey through the city.

Discovering Brussels

We arrived on Saturday night, and with the conference starting on Monday, we had all day Sunday to explore. Our trek through Brussels took us to the majestic Royal Palace and through the vibrant streets and parks. Highlights during the 7-mile hike included the grand place market square, the central park full of metal statues, and the European Commission building complex. The city’s cold breeze was a refreshing contrast to the warm hospitality we encountered at every corner. Along the way, we had plenty of Belgium chocolate, espresso, and good beer.

The Pre-Conference Experience

SharkFest officially kicked off with two days of pre-conference training. During this time I also met many new friends, and took lots of pictures, like this one with the man who started it all, Gerald Combs. For the training, I joined Phil Shade’s session, rekindling connections and gleaning insights from his vast experience in network engineering, especially in security forensics.

At the Heart of the Event

As a platinum sponsor, LiveAction had a prominent presence. Our exhibition space became a hub for engaging discussions, especially during the treasure hunt event, where we posed a challenging question about DNS TTL values, and what it means the value is 0. Answer: Do not cache this response.

Breakthrough Sessions

The conference sessions were enlightening, particularly those focusing on AI and ChatGPT. Roland Knall’s session on writing WireShark dissectors using ChatGPT was a standout, blending technical expertise with accessible explanations, some in the mode of a Shakespearian sonnet. It was insightful and funny.

The Panel Discussion

Participating in the first annual panel on the future of packet capture and Wireshark was a highlight for me. Roland was an an amazing host, seamlessly balancing the topics between the panelists, while weaving in the questions from the audience. The discussion delved into the impact of AI on network engineering and training, sparking a mix of opinions and visions.

Social Connections and Culinary Delights

The event wasn’t just about learning; it was about connecting. The camaraderie built over shared meals and discussions was invaluable. Our last night in Brussels felt like a gathering of long-time friends, rather than a professional network. This is clearly a tight group, and I look forward to seeing them again at the next SharkFest.

A Journey Beyond the Conference

Our adventure didn’t end in Brussels. Afterwards, Tej and I took a train to Paris and then to Toulouse, adding even more chapters to our journey, filled with new experiences and memories.

In Retrospect

SharkFest 2023 wasn’t just an event; it was a pivotal point in my career and personal growth. It was a blend of technical learning, cultural exploration, and building lasting connections. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who made it an unforgettable experience.

Written by Chris Bloom, LiveAction Senior Product Sales Specialist