(Note: this article was originally posted on the Canadian IT Pro Connection)

People I chat with wonder what it is we do when we’re on the road with a series of activities that encompass a number of events like EnergizeIT. I’ve been peckin’ away at this post while were were on the road a week or so ago and finally made all the pieces fit and reordered in a chronological order (Yeah – I’m a little late – I know).  I wanted to share with ya how the first week of EnergizeIT has rolled out to date from a “Team East” Perspective. If this is news to you – EnergizeIT is representative of how our team uses travel time to connect with as many audiences, professionals and students whenever we’re on the road.

I thought I’d give you a taste of what it’s like and renew the offer to connect with us when we come out to your neck of the woods. You can “hit the whole team” by emailing energizeit@microsoft.com or drop me a personal note to rick.claus@microsoft.com

Monday, March 22nd – travel and connection.

I set my out of office message to set the stage to what would be our farthest Eastern reach of EnergizeIT. Based on the email responses I got from it, people liked the tone and information – I probably got around a dozen internal and external comments like this one I got from Shawn Duggan – Usergroup leader from the .NET user group “Dev East” in Halifax.

One of the best Out of Offices I have ever seen.  Well played sir.

S

On Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 11:04 PM, Rick Claus <Rick.Claus@microsoft.com> wrote:

*Team East - EnergizeIT*
Travel alert. I be down home d'ere b'y - and I ain't accessin' the fancy e-mail t'ingie as fast as she likes. Halifax at the top of the week - the Rock bringing up the behind.

That being said - I'll still be connected for urgent responses using my freakin' awesome Samsung Omnia II Windows Phone 6.5, but my responses will be delayed.

Long may your big jib draw.

Rick Claus
Senior IT Pro Advisor

The weather outside in Ottawa was a precursor to what to expect in Halifax. I pulled out the FlipHD cam to grab a shot from the PorterLounge prior to boarding. uneventful flight – Christian griped at the lack of TV in the headrest – I quite enjoyed it listening to podcasts on my Zune. Upon arriving and picking up the Rental Car from Avis, for some reason Christian would not let me take a video while I was driving the car. He said he didn’t want to get that realistic with the EnergizeIT Insurance footage and that it was out of the question to have a real Car Crash (I did get the extra insurance with the rental). He did oblige me by grabbin’ the HD Flip from me and catching a quick snippit as we did the lovely drive from Halifax Airport into downtown Halifax. En route – we also documented the Special TimHorton’s Spill Resistant Cup Modification/hack that I shared with the team after learning about it from a friend on the Saint John Police force a while back (for those of you interested – it’s around 2:30 in the video). 

 

Halifax had our first example of the power of connection and Social Media. I tweeted a comment to some friends (@charlesberry and @rowser) who were driving up from Fredericton that we were going to the Elephant and Castle for a pint and a bite to eat and they should join us. As we’re watching the Hockey Game – two OTHER friends who were already in town from Sydney NS (@derb and Rob) decided to pop over as well. Good company and conversation followed by calling it a night after the hockey game in order to get ready for Tuesday’s workshop.

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Tuesday March 23rd. – AM - Technical Presentation Workshop.

What’s this – a Technical Presentation Workshop? I didn’t see that on the registration page for EnergizeIT. That’s true – because it’s not part of EnergizeIT. In order to maximize our time on the road, we do a number of things while traveling. In this case, our team is putting on a special “Presentation Skills Workshop” in certain geographies where individuals have connected with us over the last year and indicated they were interested in working / delivering content / presenting to their LOCAL community / user groups / professional associations and even events we put on like TechDays.

This workshop is our way of “giving back” to the ICT community and doing what we can to help the local technical professionals refine their presentation skills. It’s not open to the public – you have to contact me (interested? send me an email - rick.claus@microsoft.com) to be added to our list of possible presenters in order to get an invite. In Halifax we had just over a dozen people attend – with over 50% being net new to presenting, but had a desire and a passion to share their knowledge. The great thing about doing something like this is seeing the diverse background of  people that come from consulting firms, in house technicians / help desk staff and independent developers / IT Pros taking time off to develop their professional skills in order to give back to the community and to invest in their career.

In the PM – we were gearing up for the delivery of the first EnergizeIT event internally known as “the main event demo scenario”. Without revealing too much – we take a the audience through the process from idea to completion of a company who goes from concept to prototype to multi-client all the way up to cloud infrastructure – all from the perspective of a developer and an IT Pro within the company.

Feedback from Halifax was very positive – I was concerned at first that this “scale” might be too large to be relevant to the marketplace – but I was wrong. We had lots of interest from developers who were exploring OData and restful services and loved to see it integrated into this comprehensive solution. On the infrastructure side – lots of interest in the integration of LabManger into the Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and how it really brought virtualization / lab management into the ALM process. For any IT Pro who has to work with Developers constantly asking them for servers / test platforms and QA solutions – this piece is for you! I particularly liked the questions and observations being made about how managing services in the cloud is still going to require IT Pros to monitor and manage the applications AND that their existing skills will be repurposed to do this. 

Thanks for coming out Halifax – it was great to connect with you.

Wednesday March 24th – AM – College visit to NSCC

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As I previously mentioned – we try to reach out to as many different audiences and areas of ICT ecosystem when we’re in town. We started the day in our favorite coffee shop in Halifax “Just Us! Coffeehouse” holding a Coffee and Code. By “workshifting” in a coffee shop and encouraging people to come on down for a coffee and a chat – it gets us out of the boring hotel and lets us meet IT Pros and Devs someplace convenient to them. If ever you hear that we’re going to your town – you’ll be sure to hear that we’re going to be holding one of these. If you’re nearby – come on down. We’d love to hear what you have to say or hang out with you and talk tech / gadgets or whatever is on your mind. I’ve fielded tech support issues from guys having problems with things in their work or at their customers environment as well as explained how Windows Deployment Services / Microsoft Deployment Toolkit / Application Compatibility Toolkit can help identify application compatibility issues as well as deploy images to systems. Basically anything is game – you just have to be there to ask the question.

After the coffee and Code – we packed up and headed out to NovaScotia Community College to meet with 60+ students and talk to them about how to Energize their career and make the most of their time to better position themselves to get a job as their program is underway / nearing completion. Christian took this one on and lead the conversation as I was playing more of a supporting role.  The room was nice split between developer/designer types as well as networking/it students. Best part of talking with students is when a group of them “get it” and start to interact more with us and start to create their professional digital persona on LinkedIn. Props go out to Ryan, Deanna, Michael, Colin, Nathaniel for quick requests to connect!

On our way back downtown – we decided to take up an offer from a consultant friend of ours to come and visit one of the T4G offices. We couldn’t find the doorbell and Christian had to look up a phone number to get someone to answer their door.

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They are in some newly renovated space in a building that survived the Halifax Explosion. Check out the "”balcony” view of their main space and the orientation of the cubes.  You can see Kevin Bechard in the bottom right workin’ away as Darryl Dutton gave us the tour of their diggs. We had a nice chat with some of their consultants and talked with their office manager about our school visit and EnergizeIT event the night before. Interested in having us stop by next time we’re in town? Drop us an email and we’ll see what we can do to set something up. It’s important for us to connect with partners to see what projects they are up to as well as hear what their customers are saying about technology trends and what keeps them up at night.

After a quick lunch – we’re back on the road to the airport – this time en route to Newfoundland.

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You’ll notice we’re flying PorterAir this time around. I must say that it’s been a very good experience so far.  Check out my snack as I took a break from editing some of the video I used here in this post. One downside? No plugs for computers or seat back TV/Entertainment. Luckily the laptop battery on my Latitude E4300 lasts about 3 hrs – plenty of time for the 1.5 hrs per segment involved with this leg of the journey.

video of landing

As you can see from this video I shot from the airplane - we were well greeted with a dose of Atlantic weather – cold, windy and very wet. Once on the ground – we grabbed a taxi to the hotel (Blue on Water), had a concall with our team back in Toronto and out west in Edmonton to debrief how things were going so far with Energize. Because it was late, cold and wet – we just grabbed a snack and a drink in the hotel bar, watched the end of Republic of Doyle on the TV and headed to bed to catch some rest.

Thursday, March 25th – look – it’s foggy.

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A shot of the morning from the hotel window gives you an idea of the weather in St.John’s today. We were up and at’em early to have breakfast and our coffee and code in St.John’s. I blogged about this one for a little more advanced notice and were fortunate enough to hold it in the restaurant of the hotel – Blue on Water. Last year we had about a dozen people come out, this time around it was smaller (about half the size) due to short notice. Jon Seary – the owner of PC-NS solutions came out with a long laundry list of questions and he brought out most of his staff for a chat.  We talked about SBS, virtualization, support issues, wonky applications misbehaving on Windows 7 as well as what his customers were asking him about Windows 7, their server deployments (virtualize with Hyper-v or not) and how we can stay in touch better when we’re not in Newfoundland. These coffee and codes are great for things like this – glad the Jon took the time to come out and bring his staff with him!

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Next stop is a visit to the College of the North Atlantic with about 40 first year students in their IT Program. I got the opportunity to deliver the session this time around and connect with the students talking about their career, professional network and technology trends to invest in besides honing their personal/professional skills. We wrapped up with some cloud conversations that ended up going into a tangent talking about bandwidth and data connectivity here in Canada and in “remote” locations like 15 minutes from St.John’s city center. Not long after wrapping up that conversation – it wasn’t long before getting another fresh batch of LinkedIn requests from the students.

After catching up on our emails back at the hotel and grabbing a “down home” early dinner at Velma’s (I had pan fried Cod with Scrunchins, Christian opted for the non fish hot turkey plate) we headed out to Memorial University where my friend Atul Anand had organized an EnergizeIT community event as part of “NL IT Pro”. It was a great auditorium with over 45 people who came out after work to attend the event. It was great to see an increase from last year as well as the 20+ on the spot registrations - some of which were students from the earlier college visit. The audience enjoyed the session and were quite interested in questions during the break and after the event. Similar lines of comments as before – Data protection of information in the cloud. Privacy of info and where it’s located – these are things that come up in conversations all the time – mainly because the people asking them haven’t had the time to investigate what it really means.  It’s a topic that I’m very interested in – but it’s something deserving of a post on it’s own. More on that later.

We rounded out the night by introducing Christian to George Street. He was looking for a TV with hockey – I was looking for some down east music. We found them both at Bridie Molloy's. If you are ever in town and looking for an open kitchen on George street after 10 PM – they are the place to go. I won’t say it’s the healthiest of foods, but it kind of depends on what you pick. Check out this West Coast poutine (fries, beef, fried onions, dressing{stuffing}, gravy and cheese) – in the back corner is some chips and curry. Nom, Nom!

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(YES - I will be paying for this at the Gym this weekend, but damn it was good).

Friday – March 26th – our return home.

With all that happened over the last week, all the people we met, places we’ve been, it’s been fun. To top it off – the sun came out and it was blue sky from the hotel window in the morning. So much so – it was time to drag Christian up to the top of Signal Hill so he could take a moment to see a bit of St.John’s from a different perspective. We hopped a cab and headed out with an hour to kill before the flight home. After stopping at TimHortons, we were on our way.

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Damn it was windy.  I make it a point to go out to Signal Hill every time I’m on the rock. Usually I walk the perimeter to get some exercise and some fresh sea air. This was too tight a timeline for that this time around. We checked out the view and some of the historical factoids as it was Christian’s first time.

Uneventful flight until we reached Halifax and started our descent. We were connecting through Halifax en route to Ottawa with Porter. For the first time ever (for me at least) the pilot aborted the landing and pulled up steeply due to visibility and overshooting the runway! After a couple of minutes of climbing, we leveled out and started to circle at which time he came over the speakers to announce that we were being re-routed to Ottawa directly due to the weather! What a surprise – here we are arriving a full hour early in Ottawa to get off the plane and see our families once again.

Great for us – not so great for the planeload of people heading to Halifax who had to be re-directed BACK to Halifax on the next flight.  Sometime fortune smiles on you in expected ways. It was a long week, so this was a welcome diversion from the plan to get us home early.

Conclusion

As you can see – we try to put a lot of activities that allow us to connect with as many technical professionals from across a diverse set of backgrounds when we’re in town – wherever we are. If you follow the blog and hear that we’re headin’ out to your neck of the woods – why not drop us a line? One of thing all of the guys on the team love to do is talk tech with likeminded people. Heck – you might even end up with dedicated access like Jon did in Newfoundland and you get the opportunity to grill us for an hour or more – free of charge! Can’t beat that!

In all seriousness – drop us an email – energizeit@microsoft.com hits the EnergizeIT virtual team – or you can hit either one of us via our regular inbox – mine is rick.claus@microsoft.com.

Rick
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