I had the fortune of travelling to Ukraine and Russia accompanied by my colleagues Don Smith and Grigori Melnik. The two weeks trip was primarily for the p&p event at Kyiv, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. Our itinerary also included several customer meetings and press interviews. This is one of the best trips I have been on in the recent times and suspect it will remain that for a while. Obviously many thanks go to the phenomenal hosts at Ukraine and Russia. Couple that with a great event we had, that is a recipe for one funtabulous trip :)
We arrived in Ukraine on the 15th afternoon. The weather was surprisingly sunny and warm for the most part. We had a chance to walk around the city a little bit to fight off jet lag. One of the first things we saw within few yards from our hotel is the golden gate. After spending couple of hours walking around the city and a quick drink/bite at a pub, I resigned to the hotel to get some sleep before the big event the next day.
The event had gotten a tremendous response from the developers/architect community in Ukraine and Belarus. The event was sold out with a long waiting list.
Event Venue: Microsoft Ukraine team had rented out a beautiful theater to host this event. With its fantastic architecture, gorgeous interiors and auditorium style seating, it was already a great start to the event.
Here is the link to the agenda and you will also find the links to recording of the sessions from this event. I had the first session of the day and the first question from the attendees came 10 minutes into my session. And that was a start to a very interactive day. We were very pleasantly surprised by the amount of interaction we had during the event. Scores from the event indicate that it was useful for the attendees as well.
Kudos and big thanks to all the attendees.
The next two days, we spent our time doing several press interviews (link to a press coverage) and customer meetings. Most of these were held in the Microsoft Ukraine office.
On Saturday, our great host Viktor took us on a tour of Kyiv on foot. We walked for about 4.5 hours around the different landmarks and historical sites in Kyiv. Big thanks to Viktor for planning the day and spending the time with us.
It was great to have a local giving us a tour of the city. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Our itinerary included the friendship arch, love lock bridge, dynamo stadium, presidential complex, street market and many cathedrals. Amazing tour.
The day was capped off with a night out at an Irish bar. Viktor (again!) did a fantastic job of inviting local Microsoft team members, MVPs to join us as we complete our Ukraine visit. Viktor got us an autographed CD of the band that was playing that night at the bar (very nice band BTW). What a blast that night out was. A great way to say good bye to Kyiv.
After only couple of hours of sleep, we were on our flight to Moscow.
We arrived in Moscow on Sunday. It was a bit cooler in Moscow than it was in Kyiv and occasional rain showers. Our hotel was built prior to the Moscow Olympics and hence was next door to the Olympic stadium and the pool.
Event in Moscow was sold out with over 100 on waiting list. We are thrilled by the reception the p&p event has received. The event was held at Microsoft Moscow office. We had synchronous translation arranged and that took some getting used to. Hats off to the two translators that did a brilliant job throughout the day. Attendee interaction during the sessions were light but we were mobbed by attendees after every session with questions. And such was the case during the evening social event. Feedback from this event is phenomenal and needless to say we are pleased by that outcome.
Big shout out goes to the Microsoft Russia team, Career Lab team and everyone else involved in putting such a great event together.
We spent two days doing press interviews and customer meetings. It was interesting that in one day we spoke to three journalists from three different magazines targeting project managers/technical decision makers, developers and IT specialist/Hardware enthusiasts. Talk about diversity. It was a very educational experience.
On the day we arrived in Moscow, we went to Kremlin and the Red Square with an English speaking guide. She was overwhelming us with so many facts. The armory chamber museum has tons of artifacts and there are stories behind every one of them. It felt like I took a post graduate course on history with the amount of facts we were gathering during that visit.
Kremlin was interesting with the government buildings and gorgeous churches all nestled together. (See pictures below)
Red Square was breathtaking. We went back to Red Square a couple more times. St. Basils Cathedral is by far my most favorite. I can keep staring at this building for hours together. It is just simply outstanding. (the one on the right below)
We made it a point to take the subway trains a few times during the trip. Guess what. Some of these subway stations are museums by themselves. Simply outstanding. And you don’t want to get stuck in one of these stations when the escalators are not working (see the picture on the left below).
We took a cruise on the Moscow river with the stunning view of the city from the river. One thing I missed to visit (but really wanted to) is the Lenin’s Tomb at the Red Square. May be next time.
Food: I am a vegetarian so a little trying and communicating the fact that I am looking for vegetarian dishes got me more than enough to eat. Usually the menu had one or two vegetarian dishes. My favorite dish is the “Vareniki”, kind of like a dumpling filled with potatoes or cabbages and a sprinkle of fried onion on top. Yummy. I really wanted to try “borshch”, it looked and smelled good. But unfortunately didn’t find a vegetarian version of it. And then, there is vodka. Of course. In one of the souvenir stores, they greeted us with a shot (tiny qty) of Vodka :). I also got to try the horse radish vodka and cranberry vodka. Nice!
There is already discussion underway for next year’s p&p event at Ukraine and Russia and I am starting to countdown already! :)
Thanks to everyone (Microsoft teams at Ukraine and Russia, partners, event organizers, press and attendees and of course, the great company of Don and Grigori) for making this such a memorable experience.
See you all next year!