TechEd New Orleans banner

Wow! What a week! I remember the first time I saw a TechEd backpack was back in 2003, where the words “New Orleans” caught my eye. And after 7 years of waiting, my career-long dream came true of attending a Microsoft conference back home.

Earlier this month, TechEd returned to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, bringing 10,500 attendees to the area. And now considering the oil disaster in the gulf (I must admit I agree with The Daily Show that something is trying to kill N.O.), there was no better time for an economic boost for the city. TechEd even caught the attention of the major local newspaper (The Times-Picayune), describing cloud computing and the technical in-depth training TechEd provided. But Visual Studio 201? Opps! =D

The best part of TechEd for me was being a local among the locals. I’ve said for years that “Community is walking among the people”, but having this sense of Community^2 was incredible. I felt like I’ve known local attendees all my life, and for non-locals, I found myself with every conversation playing tour guide, making sure they had the most enjoyable TechEd experience possible. Fortunately, a local told me about http://www.nomenu.com/ which was a lifesaver in giving people French Quarter restaurant recommendations.

Highlights

Lowlights

  • N.O. was under a heat wave advisory for that week. Heat index was between 110-115(!) most days.
  • On Tuesday, there was a city-wide Internet outage for nearly 30 minutes. I never heard what caused outage.
  • The convention center food wasn’t quite Cajun. “Cajun meatloaf” just isn’t right. But, I said it was to encourage folks to support local merchants by eating at local shops across the street. =D
  • The effects of the Oil Spill were readily apparent. Just a few blocks away from TechEd was the annual Oyster Festival, where locals held a jazz funeral. Additionally, on that Thursday, a 134-year old Oyster bar closed .

GeekGive.org Habitat build

Last year at TechEd, MVP Steve Andrews, MVP Mark Rosenberg, INETA members and I chatted about what we could do to help New Orleans. We came up with a concept similar to GiveCamp, but instead of donating code, we’ll donate volunteer hours. Driven by Steve Andrews, he created GeekGive.org for conference attendees to volunteer their time at a local charity before the conference starts.

GeekGive.org volunteers

Takeaways

  • At the first GeekGive event, we had 18 Microsoft MVPs and several Microsoft employees donate 126 labor hours, saving Habitat for Humanity up to $4,000
  • This first GeekGive event received press coverage, including a worldwide press release by Microsoft:

Nestor Portillo, director of community and online service at Microsoft, was one of the volunteers. "When Steve asked us to be involved, it was an automatic yes," Portillo says. "For us, it’s a privilege to be able to contribute."

I’ve always wanted to help on one of those type projects but never really figured out how to.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity, and also, since some of my friends from around the country would be there also, I thought it would be a great time to catch up.  What a great time and a great feeling to help.

me and peter kellner

  • Special thanks to DEs Dani Diaz, Jennifer Marsman, and Zain Naboulsi for finding a sponsor from within Microsoft to help with the event. And the water bottles from Paulette Suddarth from the MVP Award Program were a huge hit, if not a lifesaver.
  • GeekGive.org is confirmed for more projects, so stay tuned!

Bytes by MSDN interview

I did an interview with Zain Naboulsi for the Bytes by MSDN discussing what’s new in Visual Studio 2010. I’ll let everyone know when it goes live.

Bytes by MSDN sign

Women in Technology Luncheon

I nominated my undergraduate advisor Dr. Donna Reese, Associated Dean of Engineering from Mississippi State, to speak on a panel on how to retain Women in Computer Science.

Dr. Donna Reese presenting

Takeaways

  • It was great to watch my advisor speak about her passions. It also made me realize how much she’s inspired me to be outspoken about my own passions as well.
  • One interesting statistic she shared is that less than 40% of women who enrolled in a CS program do not finish their degrees
  • There were 400+ women at the event.

Women in Tech luncheon

GNO.NUG evening event

Local .NET UG leader George Mauer threw together an ad-hoc meeting on Tuesday night during TechEd.

Takeaways

  • 2 MVPs and I presented short sessions to about 10 attendees.
  • My biggest takeaway was Alan Stevens’ session Does Your Code Tell a Story comparing writing code to writing books. He quoted one author who said, “Write a terrible first draft.”  I thought this was great advice on how to get started. Also relates directly to the agile methodology as well.

Booth duty each day at the MSDN Booth

My “actual” job at TechEd was to work the MSDN booth, which ironically is my former team, so I took the liberty of doing CodePlex demos as well. Hey, old habits die hard.

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Takeaways

  • We had nice business cards for quick references for all the MSDN links we were demo’ing. We also gave away Mardi Gras beads, which definitely attracted a lot of people to the booth who wanted to bring some home for their kids, etc. I also made some “Mardi Gras dogs” by twisting the beads together as if they were an animal balloon. Made for nice decorations at the booth.
  • I wore my Vibriam Five Fingers shoes one day (I was trying something creative to attract folks to the booth, and it worked). Although I hate the pink color – will blog about that tomorrow.
  • Anyone wearing anything from the local area I invited over to the booth to introduce myself as a native, and chat about whatever was on their minds, how teched was, etc. That’s how I found nomenu.com. again, what a lifesaver that site was for me!

What we demo’ed:

Our primary focus was on the following tools and sites:

We also made sure people were aware of 

Habitat for Humanity Build with DevExpress

Instead of purchasing a center-stage booth, DevExpress decided to purchase the smallest booth possible and donate the rest to a Habitat for Humanity build. It was the same house as the first Habitat build, so we got to watch the process first hand.

As the primary sponsors for the house, DevExpress and Habitat did a wall-raising ceremony to kick off the day.

wall raising ceremony w dev express

By end of the day, the concrete slab we first started with during GeekGive now had exterior walls up and all interior walls built.

house with externior walls built

You can see more photos on the DevExpress Community Blog post about the build.

Attendee Party

Attendees were treated to *the* Zydeco band Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr, and the Zydeco Twisters. New Orleans locals and I flocked immediately to the front of the stage to enjoy the absolute best Zydeco performing band.

Rockin' Dopsie, Jr

And maybe we got a little too close. Thanks to my LSU shirt, Beth Massi and I were invited to dance on stage.

Thanks for reading and Geaux TechEd!!!