So here I am at the Microsoft MVP Summit, sitting in a room filled with faces I recognise from blogs I’ve read, Twitter accounts I follow and conference speaker lists I’ve browsed. It didn’t take long to realise I was in the right room, everyone as engaged in conversations around SharePoint and Microsoft Teams with the occasional Yammer or OneDrive mention. I was a little bit star struck at first!
While I can’t tell you anything about the things we are being shown due to NDA, I can tell you about the experience of being a first time MVP at the global MVP Summit. This is an opportunity for the product teams at Microsoft to engage with community to get feedback on ideas, gather suggestions and have an open and frank discussion.
As an MVP I have the opportunity to be the voice of my clients and local community. I can contribute to the ideas being discussed, give feedback and make suggestions to help Microsoft build a better Office 365 and SharePoint for everyone. It is good to hear others articulating their needs, issues and ideas. It’s also great to hear from the product teams themselves drilling into the suggestions to get further detail or clarify a point.
The Microsoft Campus
My excitement levels started rising as I caught the summit bus from a hotel in Bellevue. Fifteen minutes later I arrived at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond. This place is big (500 acres), buildings, a conference centre, visitors centre, football fields and trees. It reminded me of a University campus with better quality cars in the parks (spot the Tesla is very easy here).
It feels like a great place for techies to work and while you don’t see lots of geeks (takes one to know one) on experimental forms of transport, you do see a diverse workforce with the same goal, to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Microsoft really is a global company not only in terms of sales territories but also in the people it employees. Brilliant!
The company store is in Building 92, the same building I was in for SharePoint and Office 365 related sessions. I looked long and hard but couldn’t find a Clippy t-shirt, but they did sell a lot of clothing with Azure, Windows, X-Box and Microsoft Office branding. You can also buy lots of things like mugs, caps, notebooks (paper variety), Minecraft and a variety of hardware and software products.
Meeting me in the Trees
A few weeks before the Summit I joined a mentoring initiative organised by Microsoft. This lead to an invitation to a meeting at the Microsoft Treehouse, a meeting room in the trees. This venue has no power, no WiFi, no whiteboards and not heating (it was a little chilly), the perfect place to focus on a human to human conversation without distraction.
The meeting was a very small group, just 12 of us with Laura Hunter, Principal Programme Manager for Security CXP at Microsoft. The discussion was insightful and I came away with some new ideas and contacts. You can learn more about the day in this Microsoft Blog on International Women’s Day.
More than 2000 people from 80 countries are attending the MVP Summit. This brings real depth and different perspectives to the feedback sessions. The importance of remembering not everyone speaks English as a first language and how we need to consider this when delivering technology solutions. It’s also quite funny when as a Kiwi I had a language issue of my own trying to communicate with an American outside a homeless shelter in the old part of Seattle, we both spoke English but honestly had no idea what each of us was saying!
I’ve met MVP’s from all over the world. Pakistan, Singapore, UK, Netherlands, India, Brazil, China, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Belarus, Israel, German, Canada and of course the United States. These people are all passionate about both technology and community.
Last but definitely not least, the Microsofties . They are really easy to engage with, they take time to listen and you never feel like you’ve asked a dump question. During the networking events, I had the opportunity to have conversations directly with people from the Product Groups and the MVP community team. These girls and guys rock!
The toughest thing about this event is that you see a lot and then have to keep what you’ve seen to yourself. All I can really say is that I am excited about what I’ve seen and look forward to seeing some of these things being available over the next year. Microsoft really are listening to their users!
The Office 365 Roadmap site is a good place to learn about upcoming features not covered by NDA.
Thank you Microsoft for inviting me to this amazing event. It really has been a great opportunity filled with inspiration, insightful talks and great networking opportunities. I feel inspired and we haven’t finished yet!