Last week I was in Seattle, Washington to attend my first Microsoft MVP Global Summit. This was a great opportunity for me to meet with fellow MVP’s from around the world. This years summit hosted over 1,500 Microsoft MVP’s from 80 countries in 90 Microsoft technologies. After flying for nearly 24 hours, I made it into Bellevue at 2:35 AM February 27th.
Sunday was an opportunity to register early, pick up my badge and attend a couple pre-summit sessions if I wanted. I used the opportunity to get some food and well needed rest for the few days ahead.
Another key aspect of the MVP Summit is an opportunity to meet with product teams and engage in discussion with them about your experiences and to really provide feedback at an intimate level. Most of the summit was covered by Non-disclosure Agreements, although my first breakout session was not.
Day 1 – February 28th
In that session a lot of the scenarios associated with Windows Live and the synergies with other Microsoft products such as Windows 7, Windows Phone 7, Zune and Microsoft Office were discussed and demonstrated. It was great to see a first hand experience of how powerful these products are when used together. Of course, they are great on their own, but you can get some amazing experiences when you use them with other Microsoft products and services.
L-R MVP JonPappa (Digital Media MVP), Rob Brown Windows Expert Consumer MVP, Andre Da Costa, Hal Hostetler Windows Expert Consumer MVP, Jake Grey MVP Lead.
Another great experience at the MVP Summit was the chance to meet my fellow MVP’s from around the world. The Attendee Party is a great opportunity to socialize and network with MVP’s and to also talk with your MVP Lead.
MVP’s network and enjoy great food
This was an amazing opportunity for me, along with the great food, it was really cool to meet MVP’s I follow on Twitter or read their blogs everyday. Some of these MVP’s I got meet include @WinObs, @Manan and @Edbott Being able to share that vision, enthusiasm, advocacy and passion for great products and services was truly a great experience. I tweet with a lot of MVP’s over the years and what I keep saying, it is so surreal to actually be able to finally meet them in person and have a conversation. It is one of the most valuable experiences you get out of the summit.
The Microsoft Campus
Heading to Building 92 to get my summit badge!
The Microsoft Conference Center – First day of break out sessions took place here
Visiting the campus for the first time was of course an exciting experience, you always hear about it and what its like there. The first impression is, its HUGE! Its not a campus, but more like a city as my good friend and fellow Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Answers participant Rob Brown describes. Located in the town of Redmond the campus is the headquarters for the Company where the bulk of product development takes place. A total of 40,000 employees work there which is just astounding when you think about it.
A view from within the Mixer located on the Microsoft Commons
Day 2 – Keynote
On day two, we headed to the Meydenbauer Center for the keynote which was opened by Nestor Portillo [Director Microsoft Community & Online Support]. Nestor talked about how the MVP program is more than just a technology meet-up. It was great to see MVP’s making huge impacts in their community outside of the technology industry. It was a great feeling to see MVP’s helping with rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.
There were additional keynote speeches by Microsoft Executives such as Steve Ballmer, Toby Richards and Ron Markezich. This is my second time seeing Steve Ballmer in person and he is always passionate and energized about Microsoft and this keynote speech was no exception. He spoke about his enthusiasm for Microsoft and his strong confidence in the company’s product strategy along with the belief in MVP’s as a key part of that effort to help communicate Microsoft’s products and services to customers.
Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer
Toby Richards keynote focused on improvements to community services and some of the exciting technologies and services that are coming in the pipeline to help customers get answers to problems and get the most out of their technology investments.
Toby Richards, General Manager for the Microsoft MVP Program
The last keynote was provided by Ron Markezich who talked about the Cloud and how much of a critical investment it is for Microsoft and how the Company is committed to it and is seeing a tremendous amount of up take from popular industry brands around the world. I was lucky to have one of my questions answered during the Executive Q&A, which was cool hearing my name called.
Me with two Windows Expert – IT Pro MVP’s, David Nudelman (above) & Elias Mereb (below)
Friendly Microsoft Access MVP’s, I somehow ended up sitting at their table
After the keynote, we went for lunch, then headed back to Campus. During lunch, I had the opportunity to meet a fellow MVP who I participate with on ActiveWin.com, Kenneth Vansurksum who is from the Netherlands. That was another great moment for me, since I have known Kenneth virtually for years, so it was great to finally chat with and meet him in person.
Me and Kenneth VanSurksum [MVP]
After a another day of breakout sessions, we headed back to the Microsoft Commons for our product group evening event which is another opportunity to socialize and network with fellow MVP’s. One of the perks of an event like the MVP Summit is getting the chance to meet industry professionals or what some would call the stars, like Ed Bott. Meeting Ed was truly one of those great moments, we had a long discussion about our views on Microsoft, its role in the industry and its key competitors. Ed is truly a nice guy who really knows his stuff and is not a ‘fanboy’ as some persons might think. A lot of persons were surprised to know he is an MVP, but if you have been to Ed’s personal blog you will know why.
Ed Bott and Andre Da Costa
One of things I have to point out, Microsoft knows how to feed people, there was no shortage of food throughout the summit, with a variety of dishes catering to the many cultures Microsoft hosted for the 3 day event.
Just a sample of some of the great food!
Day 3 – Last day
My last day of the MVP Summit started off with more Break Out Sessions.
I got the chance to play with some cool Windows 7 slate devices and I was very surprised how usable some of these form factors are. I am not gonna say they are just as intuitive as the iPad since I still believe, Windows 7 is not Touch Centric enough with its point and click UI. The scenarios though make it more powerful in terms of having a device that can be used not only for casual needs but for real productivity office work and even serious play time if you need it.
Fellow Windows Expert Consumer MVP’s from around the world
Before leaving building 31 for the last time, I had a pleasant surprise visit from Windows Communication Manager Brandon Leblanc who I first met in 2007 at the Windows Vista Product Launch. It was great to see Brandon again as were fellow MVP’s some of whom were meeting him for the first time.
Brandon Leblanc, Windows Communication Manager and Me
My last day in Seattle ended with a bang! A special Attendee Party was kept at the Safeco Field Baseball stadium which gave MVP’s additional time to talk and socialize with fellow MVP’s, Microsoft Product Managers and eat great food.
At the Safeco Field Baseball Stadium
MVP’s enjoying themselves and listening to great music from the Beatniks
My pal Rob Brown
So, all ended well. For me this trip will be forever etched in my memory. The MVP Summit is such an amazing opportunity to interact with cultures from around world and learn so much from each other.
A little sun started to come out in the evening on my last day
My room mate Alan Burchill Group Policy MVP from Australia
I want to give a shout out to my room mate, a cool guy from Australia named Alan Burchill. Although we are at opposite spectrums of MVP Expertise’s, we share that same love for Microsoft products and that passion for technology. It was really great to meet you!
To the Microsoft MVP Community, thank you for making my first Microsoft MVP Summit special. You enabled me to meet amazing people from all around the world, meet product teams and have conversations with an impact. I am already seeing changes based on feedback I provided. That’s amazing! Also, your concierge staff was very helpful and friendly. The food was excellent, there was so much of it, not to mention the free sodas at the Campus. I have to come back next year, the Hyatt Regency was a great place to stay too, will come a little earlier next time.
I was especially pleased to really understand that Microsoft values our input and our commitment to help making the products you and I use everyday even better. I learned a lot about synergy and how the focus is on making software not only easy to use but able to really add value in a variety of scenarios and change lives for the better.
You can check out the MVP Photo Gallery I created on Flickr here