Wow! What a week! I remember the first time I saw a TechEd backpack was back in 2003, where the words “New Orleans” caught my eye. And after 7 years of waiting, my career-long dream came true of attending a Microsoft conference back home.
Earlier this month, TechEd returned to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, bringing 10,500 attendees to the area. And now considering the oil disaster in the gulf (I must admit I agree with The Daily Show that something is trying to kill N.O.), there was no better time for an economic boost for the city. TechEd even caught the attention of the major local newspaper (The Times-Picayune), describing cloud computing and the technical in-depth training TechEd provided. But Visual Studio 201? Opps! =D
The best part of TechEd for me was being a local among the locals. I’ve said for years that “Community is walking among the people”, but having this sense of Community^2 was incredible. I felt like I’ve known local attendees all my life, and for non-locals, I found myself with every conversation playing tour guide, making sure they had the most enjoyable TechEd experience possible. Fortunately, a local told me about http://www.nomenu.com/ which was a lifesaver in giving people French Quarter restaurant recommendations.
- In my opinion, the unsung hero of TechEd was Tiffany Ingargiola, an IT Pro at New Horizons in New Orleans. She was the go-to local person for so many of us trying to organize events, but needed a contact on the ground. And she’s awesome to follow on twitter.
- Instead of purchasing a center-stage booth, DevExpress decided to purchase the smallest booth possible and donate the rest to build a house
- GeekGive.org ran its first successful event by participating in a Habitat for Humanity build the Friday before TechEd, where I got to work side-by-side with my local area MVP Peter Kellner.
- I successfully nominated my undergrad professor from Miss State, Associated Dean of Engineering Dr. Donna Reese, to speak at the Women in Tech luncheon about how to retain women in CS programs. Over 400 women attended the event.
- The attendee party hosted *the* Zydeco band of New Orleans Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr, and the Zydeco Twisters. I don’t think the attendees realized how much of a treat it was to have the band that plays during the Lundi Gras cerebration every year, where a United States Coast Guard ship delivers The King of Rex to the Riverwalk stage for the Mayor of New Orleans to hand over control of the city to for Mardi Gras Day. Afterwards, I got a chance to shake his hand and let him know what an honor it was to meet him.
- N.O. was under a heat wave advisory for that week. Heat index was between 110-115(!) most days.
- On Tuesday, there was a city-wide Internet outage for nearly 30 minutes. I never heard what caused outage.
- The convention center food wasn’t quite Cajun. “Cajun meatloaf” just isn’t right. But, I said it was to encourage folks to support local merchants by eating at local shops across the street. =D
- The effects of the Oil Spill were readily apparent. Just a few blocks away from TechEd was the annual Oyster Festival, where locals held a jazz funeral. Additionally, on that Thursday, a 134-year old Oyster bar closed .
GeekGive.org Habitat build
Last year at TechEd, MVP Steve Andrews, MVP Mark Rosenberg, INETA members and I chatted about what we could do to help New Orleans. We came up with a concept similar to GiveCamp, but instead of donating code, we’ll donate volunteer hours. Driven by Steve Andrews, he created GeekGive.org for conference attendees to volunteer their time at a local charity before the conference starts.
- At the first GeekGive event, we had 18 Microsoft MVPs and several Microsoft employees donate 126 labor hours, saving Habitat for Humanity up to $4,000
- This first GeekGive event received press coverage, including a worldwide press release by Microsoft:
Nestor Portillo, director of community and online service at Microsoft, was one of the volunteers. "When Steve asked us to be involved, it was an automatic yes," Portillo says. "For us, it’s a privilege to be able to contribute."
I’ve always wanted to help on one of those type projects but never really figured out how to. This seemed like the perfect opportunity, and also, since some of my friends from around the country would be there also, I thought it would be a great time to catch up. What a great time and a great feeling to help.
- Special thanks to DEs Dani Diaz, Jennifer Marsman, and Zain Naboulsi for finding a sponsor from within Microsoft to help with the event. And the water bottles from Paulette Suddarth from the MVP Award Program were a huge hit, if not a lifesaver.
- GeekGive.org is confirmed for more projects, so stay tuned!
Bytes by MSDN interview
I did an interview with Zain Naboulsi for the Bytes by MSDN discussing what’s new in Visual Studio 2010. I’ll let everyone know when it goes live.
Women in Technology Luncheon
I nominated my undergraduate advisor Dr. Donna Reese, Associated Dean of Engineering from Mississippi State, to speak on a panel on how to retain Women in Computer Science.
- It was great to watch my advisor speak about her passions. It also made me realize how much she’s inspired me to be outspoken about my own passions as well.
- One interesting statistic she shared is that less than 40% of women who enrolled in a CS program do not finish their degrees
- There were 400+ women at the event.
GNO.NUG evening event
Local .NET UG leader George Mauer threw together an ad-hoc meeting on Tuesday night during TechEd.
- 2 MVPs and I presented short sessions to about 10 attendees.
- My biggest takeaway was Alan Stevens’ session Does Your Code Tell a Story comparing writing code to writing books. He quoted one author who said, “Write a terrible first draft.” I thought this was great advice on how to get started. Also relates directly to the agile methodology as well.
Booth duty each day at the MSDN Booth
My “actual” job at TechEd was to work the MSDN booth, which ironically is my former team, so I took the liberty of doing CodePlex demos as well. Hey, old habits die hard.
- We had nice business cards for quick references for all the MSDN links we were demo’ing. We also gave away Mardi Gras beads, which definitely attracted a lot of people to the booth who wanted to bring some home for their kids, etc. I also made some “Mardi Gras dogs” by twisting the beads together as if they were an animal balloon. Made for nice decorations at the booth.
- I wore my Vibriam Five Fingers shoes one day (I was trying something creative to attract folks to the booth, and it worked). Although I hate the pink color – will blog about that tomorrow.
- Anyone wearing anything from the local area I invited over to the booth to introduce myself as a native, and chat about whatever was on their minds, how teched was, etc. That’s how I found nomenu.com. again, what a lifesaver that site was for me!
What we demo’ed:
Our primary focus was on the following tools and sites:
We also made sure people were aware of
Habitat for Humanity Build with DevExpress
Instead of purchasing a center-stage booth, DevExpress decided to purchase the smallest booth possible and donate the rest to a Habitat for Humanity build. It was the same house as the first Habitat build, so we got to watch the process first hand.
As the primary sponsors for the house, DevExpress and Habitat did a wall-raising ceremony to kick off the day.
By end of the day, the concrete slab we first started with during GeekGive now had exterior walls up and all interior walls built.
You can see more photos on the DevExpress Community Blog post about the build.
Attendees were treated to *the* Zydeco band Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr, and the Zydeco Twisters. New Orleans locals and I flocked immediately to the front of the stage to enjoy the absolute best Zydeco performing band.
And maybe we got a little too close. Thanks to my LSU shirt, Beth Massi and I were invited to dance on stage.
Thanks for reading and Geaux TechEd!!!