Not only could I not fathom that I would ever be attending a tech event of the magnitude of TechEd, neither could any of my co-workers. As the least technical person in the history of Information Technology ever, I felt as though I were walking into the belly of the beast, fearing I’d not be allowed out until I could write SSIS packages, program in Visual Basic, or at least arm wrestle a DBA. Most of my fears were unrealized.
But I made it. I was here. I even got to wear the Mark of the Geek neck package with schedule, eyeglass cleaners, name badge (company name obfuscated so they don’t fire me), and a pen. The name badge was seemingly the key element, as every vendor in the place wanted to scan it to capture name, email address, and numbers to show their bosses back home. It also let me eat the food and drink the coffee so that’s a fair trade.
A recurring theme throughout the presentations and vendor demos was “the Cloud” and BYOD (bring your own device). The below was a common site throughout the week, as attendees from all over the world brought their own devices and were able to (seemingly) seamlessly connect to the Worldwide Innerwebs. Apparently proof that Microsoft and the event organizers were practicing what they were preaching.
“Cavernous” is one way to describe the downstairs facility itself. “Freaking cavernous” might be more accurate. Work sessions were held in classrooms on the second and third floors but the real action was happening downstairs. Microsoft bookstore, blogger hub (shoutout to Geekswithblogs.net), The Wall (sans Pink Floyd, sadly), couches, recharging stations…
…a game zone with pool and air hockey tables, pinball machines, foosball…
…vintage video games…
…and a even giant chess board. Looked like this guy was opening with the Kaspersky parry.
The blend of technology and fantasy even went so far as to bring childhood favorites to life. Assuming, of course, your childhood was pre-video games (like mine) and you were stuck with electric football and Rock ‘em Sock ‘em robots:
And, lest the “combatants” become unruly or – God forbid – afternoon snacks were late, Orange County’s finest was on the scene to keep the peace. On a high-tech mode of transport, of course.
She wasn’t the only one to think this was a swell way to transition from one concourse to the next. Given the level of support provided by the entire Orange County Convention Center staff, I knew they had to have some secret.
Here’s one entrance to the vendor zone/”Technical Learning Center.” Couldn’t help but think of them as the remora attached to the Whale Shark that is Microsoft…
…or perhaps planets orbiting the sun. Microsoft is just that huge and it seemed like every vendor in the industry looks forward to partnering with the tech behemoth.
Aside from the free stuff from the vendors, probably the most popular place in the house was the dining area. Amazing spreads every day, multiple times a day. While no attendance numbers were available at press time, literally thousands of attendees were fed, and fed well, every day. And lest you think my post from earlier in the week exaggerated about the backpacks…
…or that I’m exaggerating about the lunch crowds. This represents only about between 25-30% of the lunch crowd – it was all my camera could capture at once. No one went away hungry.
The only thing missing was a a vat of Red Bull but apparently organizers went old school, with probably 100 urns of the original energy drink – coffee – all around the venue.
Of course, following lunch and afternoon sessions, some preferred the even older school method of re-energizing. There were rumors that Microsoft was serving graham crackers and milk in this area. But they were only rumors.
Cannot overstate the wonderful service provided by the Orange County Convention Center staff. Coffee, soft drinks, juice, and water were available always. Buffet meals were delicious with a wide range of healthy options available, in addition to hundreds (at least) special meal requests supported every day. Ever tried to keep up with an estimated 9,000 hungry and thirsty IT-ers? These folks did. Kudos to all of the staff and many thanks!
And while I occasionally poke fun at the Whale Shark, if nothing else this experience convinced me of one thing: Microsoft knows how to put on a professional event. Hundreds of informative, professionally delivered sessions, covering a wide range of topics set at varying levels of expertise (some that even I was able to follow), social activities, vendor partnerships…they brought everything you could ask for to inform, educate, and inspire an entire IT industry.
So as I depart the belly of the beast, I can both take pride in the fact that I survived the week and marvel at the brilliance surrounding me. The IT industry – or at least the segment associated with Microsoft – is in good, professional hands. And what won’t fit in their hands can be toted in the Microsoft provided backpacks. Win-win.
Until New Orleans…