TechReady is an internal conference for Microsoft field employees. As far as I can tell, field employees are those who do not work for a product team in Redmond, which is still a lot of people.
Well, I am now a Microsoft employee and my group (Developer Platform Evangelism, aka DPE) does not build products, so I was able to attend TechReady for the first time this week.
What an experience! I attend a lot of conferences and my habit at these conferences is to only attend a few sessions, electing instead to find smart people in the hallways or speaker room or lunch room and pick their brains to learn as much as I can about real world software experiences. This conference was different - in part because I didn't know a lot of attendees and in part because so much of the content was not available anywhere else. I attended as many sessions as I could and even watched recordings of a few sessions on the flight home.
Before attending, I promised I would not share the content of any sessions (much of it focused on features that may or may not be in a future product release); so I'll share my impressions and experiences here.
First, this conference was a great opportunity to meet others inside Microsoft. A number of evangelists from the west region attended and I got to know them. One night, my team had dinner with Sanket Akerkar, the Vice President in charge of US DPE. I was impressed with his openness and the frank exchange about the future of evangelism within Microsoft.
At most meals, I sat with strangers and got to know people from all over the world in many different roles at Microsoft. Microsoft is a very diverse company with all kinds of people doing all kinds of things and this week really underscored that fact to me. I also had a chance to meet up with some old friends, such as Josh Holmes, Kevin Pilch-Bisson, Dani Diaz, Chet Kloss, Mark Grimes, Jeff Wilcox, and Ted Neward. Ted doesn't work for Microsoft but he invited me to dinner with his family when he heard I was in town. I had a long conversation with consultant David Chappell, a Microsoft consulting partner who has written extensively on the impact of the cloud on businesses. Part of that conversation was recorded and I'll share it in a few weeks.
I heard a lot of talk about technologies that I want to explore later - in particular Project Siena and Unity.
I listened to many people smarter than me discussing product feature decisions. I was impressed by how much of Microsoft product features are driven by customer requests. A frequent exchange I heard was: "Why did you decide to implement Feature A and not Feature B?" "Because many of our customers have requested Feature A and we hear very little demand for Feature B, so we deferred B for a later release." Microsoft is sometimes perceived as a walled tower that unilaterally pushes products on customers but this week showed me emphatically that is not the case.
Overall TechReady gave me a greater appreciation for my new company. The conference is bi-annual, so I hope to get back to it shortly.