PDC2008: A Day in the Life #3

PDC2008: A Day in the Life #3

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Before I forget, be sure to check out the latest videos on Channel 9 in our weekly Countdown to PDC2008 series (or just look for anything tagged PDC08). The 10-minute-or-so shows are fun to make, and Jennifer and I would love your feedback, questions, and suggestions. Plus, we’ve been introducing a new Hard Hat Challenge on each episode, and winners receive a very limited edition PDC2008 t-shirt. Note that these are not the official event shirt (especially, since the event shirt hasn’t been selected yet)…these are the shirts we give to the internal Microsoft team.

Okay, let’s get to A Day in the Life #3. I’d been thinking about possible topics for this third installment when the obvious answer popped into my head. How about a literal diary-style account of an actual day at work? It might seem a bit mundane, but it would truly be in the spirit of the series. So, let’s give it a go.

To start, there’s nothing abnormal or atypical about this past Thursday, August 14, 2008. It was the day I had the idea to write this post, so I jotted down an outline of my day and started filling in some of the details. Unfortunately, there are some details that I can’t share, and I hope you’ll indulge a bit of obscurity.

Like clockwork, I almost always wake up one minute before my alarm is set to go off at 7:00am. It takes me about 30-40 minutes to make myself presentable, and I drive from my home in Sammamish, WA to the main Microsoft campus in Redmond. On the way, I stop by Peet’s Coffee & Tea and pick up a large, non-fat latte. I usually arrive on campus around 8:15am with coffee in hand and head to my office in building 18.

Since this was a Thursday, my first order of business was to put together a slide deck for my two-hour PDC2008 Track Team meeting. I have Track Team meetings every Tuesday and Thursday morning for two hours all the way until PDC2008 in October. The team focuses on PDC content, and we have about 30 members from across the company that actively participate (there are many more on supporting virtual teams, but I don’t interact with them as frequently).

While preparing my slides, Steve Cellini, our General Manager (“GM”), popped-in to my office and asked if I could make a last-minute 10:00am meeting with Technology X (apologies for the obscurity). Unfortunately, without me, there isn’t anyone to run my track meeting, so I asked if he could move the meeting to 1:00pm and cancel the other meeting already occupying half of that time slot. An unfortunate side effect of this reschedule was that I would lose the only “free” 30 minutes of my day. Oh well. I like working on stuff I love!

For the morning track meeting, I had prepared a Wordle of August PDC2008 content for my slide deck. Fellow friend and evangelist, Thomas Lewis, had pointed me to Wordle awhile back…and it’s addictive! It basically takes words, counts how many times they appear within text, and creates a “word cloud” that represents the relative frequency of each word with its font size. Because Wordle doesn’t perform stemming, and because I wanted our technology and product names to be counted as single units, I wrote a small application to “fix” some of the word duplication and generally clean-up the cloud (i.e. “Visual Studio” instead of “Visual” and “Studio”). Here’s the result of running the current list of titles and abstracts from our PDC2008 sessions (note that we’ve published less than half of the sessions we’ll ultimately have at PDC2008, so this word cloud will change as we get closer to October):

 

I was very happy to see that the word cloud didn’t reveal any surprises. Indeed, we use the words Microsoft, application, learn, new, and service very frequently. And as a matter of fact, those words do a pretty good job of summing-up the kind of content we’ll have at PDC2008. As I mentioned, other words will “pop” as we reveal more of the unpublished sessions over time (there’s that obscurity again). :-)

I also pulled data for the top 10 sessions based on the number of people who have added them to their My Sessions list. Without revealing the whole list, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that The Future of C# by Anders Hejlsberg is tracking at #1. Anders is always a highly rated speaker, and I’m sure that this session will be packed. By the way, if you haven’t added your favorite sessions yet, please do. It’ll help me create a master agenda that allows you to see more of your favorite session in-person. Thanks in advance.

I didn’t think I’d be able to make a 9:30am meeting with Technology X, and I had marked myself “tentative.” But, I finished my meeting preparations in time and ran to the conference room. Thank God it was in the same building. We had a productive discussion about PDC2008 sessions, and I had to leave a few minutes early to start my 10:00am Track Team meeting.

Our Track Team meetings generally start at around 10:08am, because it takes that long for many of the attendees to find parking and make it up to the conference room. Most of them come from other building across campus. Topics of the Thursday meeting included:

  • General registration update – I quickly cover how registration is doing overall, and we touch on what percentage of attendees have signed-up for pre-conference sessions.
  • A reminder that internal employees need to sign up soon – we have internal deadlines too. :-)
  • A reminder that our internal Session Suggestion Box would close at end-of-day Friday – this is an internal SharePoint list where anyone inside the company can recommend sessions that we should consider for PDC2008. It’s quite a list.
  • A reminder that the team needs to identify their Lounge Owners - these are the people who are responsible for making sure that the right experts are staffing the Lounge and Hands-on Lab areas at the event.
  • An update on lunch sessions – nothing obscure here…these are the sessions that happen during lunch.
  • A discussion about the Microsoft Pavilion booths and the Lounge layouts - we decided to include an additional monitor in each Lounge for demos
  • The aforementioned top 10 session list

We had planned to review the status of our Hands-on Labs and talk more about staffing, but around 11:15am, an unscheduled fire alarm very rudely interrupted us, so we all picked up our laptops and filed outside…into the bazillion degree temperatures we had in Redmond on Thursday. We met in small pockets as we waited to return to the wonderful air-conditioned building; some of us talked about our ideas for a PDC2008 poster and others brainstormed about the best way to track staff. I was sweating the whole time. Because we were getting near the end of our meeting time, we decided to call the meeting and follow-up via e-mail.

A bit before noon—when we were allowed back into the building—I ran into Steve Cellini in the hall, and we quickly debriefed on the 9:30am meeting that I had with Technology X. Henry Hahn, one of our Track Team members, happened to still be around, and he joined us to report his perspectives.

At noon, and without lunch (my wife doesn’t like it when I don’t eat…and neither do I), I ran to a meeting about MIX09. For those that don’t know, the Evangelism organization at Microsoft is responsible for both our PDC and MIX events. We talked about the questions we want to ask on the registration form you use when you sign-up for the conference. If you can believe it, the fire alarm went off again…yes, again…and I was in the same conference room as before! So, we all went outside and continued the meeting in the shade. To help us better dial-in the content at our events, we try to track the kind of attendees we get, and we never seem to be completely happy with the prior year’s taxonomy. In other words, each year, we try to do better. This meeting was to discuss exactly how we do it. We think we’ll ask about tasks instead of having everyone put themselves into pre-defined buckets (like Developer/Designer/etc.). A lot of people have blended skill sets, so this sounds like a good idea to me.

I had to leave the MIX09 meeting early to travel to another building on campus for a 1:00pm discussion on Technology X. We talked about how we got to where we are and what we needed to do for our next series of steps. This meeting was all about PDC2008 preparation, and we talked about keynote presence and the amount of content that we could feature given our current session budget.

We then drove back to building 18, and I had about 20 minutes before a few of us had to leave for a meeting in yet another building. With laptop in hand, I never made it back to my office. Two people stopped me in the hall and pulled me into their offices for questions related to PDC2008.

So, at 2:30pm, I went with a few people to another building to talk about the long-term strategy and reveal plans for Technology Y (obscurity again, but a different technology this time). We discussed long-term roadmaps, upcoming features, core messaging, overall concerns, how we would address specific business problems, and how we could feature Technology Y at both our PDC and MIX events and within Evangelism overall. It was an inspirational talk with one of our great Vice Presidents.

By the time we returned to building 18, our weekly PDC2008 Core Team meeting was already underway, and I joined about 15 minutes late (I hate being late). The team was already talking about wireless network coverage in our big keynote room, some quotes we had received, concerns about obscuring views with wireless “towers,” etc. Like a NASA launch, we continued with things like registration status, marketing status, content status, press and analyst status, keynote status, and the status of the many other sub-groups and people who drive various aspects of a big conference like PDC. I gave my typical way-too-long update on content, covering: sessions, publishing plans, keynotes, slide templates, room signage, our Microsoft Pavilion area, the Lounge area, and Hands-on Labs. By the way, I don’t own most of these things, but content ends up touching just about everything at the event. I eventually just decided to shut-up, since I could talk for hours on PDC2008. You can probably tell by the length of this blog post. :-)

When the meeting ended around 5:00pm, I was asked to stay to talk about a few outstanding issues. Then, on the way back to my office, I stopped in Thomas Lewis’ office to talk about MIX09 keynotes, our evangelism organization, and a lot of other things. Thomas and I think quite a bit alike, and he’s one of the few people that I trust implicitly…and we go to lunch almost daily.

To top off my Thursday, Joan Hoshino, our PDC2008 Business Owner (who you can meet in this Countdown to PDC2008 video), caught me to ask for my help to re-layout the Microsoft Pavilion booths. So, I wrapped-up with Thomas and helped Joan for about 15 minutes. We try to locate the booths near other related technologies to make navigation of our big room easier and more productive for attendees, so this was a very worthwhile exercise.

Uncharacteristically, I finally left the office around 6:30pm with no lunch or time for e-mail. I normally try to get out of the office by 5:00pm or so, but meetings that take place later in the afternoon can cause me to stay a little later.

And that was my Thursday! The day was a little longer than average for me, but the mix of activities and meetings were pretty typical. If you’ve followed this post to the end, I congratulate you!

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