Earlier this week I was in Orlando, Florida for TechEd 2008. 


I was able to participate in a few events that were quite memorable for me.  The first was participating in the keynote with Bill Gates, the very first Microsoft employee and developer.


A few hours later, I hosted a group of influential community members to chat with Bill Gates over lunch.  This group was a set of MVP’s, Regional Directors, INETA leaders and other people who were all selected because of the great work they do in supporting others in the community.


To be honest, I wasn’t sure what the topic of conversation was going to be and what was top of mind for these folks with all the various challenges that they face with technology today.  At the end of it though, I thought it was a very fascinating conversation and a humbling experience for me.


I left feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the passion that people in the room had for a single topic that took up the majority of the conversation.  The conversation centered around how we can better marry IT skills and expertise to non-profit work in the areas of healthcare and education.  All of the conversations and comments focused on how each of the people in that room could step up and bring their expertise in technology and IT to help people that are less fortunate. 


Something that Bill said during this lunch really struck a chord for me “It is great how much people open their hearts, minds and wallets and dedicate their time when a tragedy strikes.  However, the work that has an even greater impact is the work that is done a year or two years before a crisis that puts a framework in place so a response can happen more quickly.  This isn’t something that we all think about in our daily lives until we are bombarded with news of a tragedy.


Kate Gregory, who was at this luncheon, mentioned an organization out of Canada that pairs IT professionals with not-for-profit organizations called MatchIT.  I learned that folks from Microsoft Canada already participate in this organization.  I really like the idea of this and hope that other similar organizations are available or start to sprout up in various communities.


Like I said, the passion and conviction around this topic was very moving to me.  I love the fact that the influentials that support our Microsoft Developer community are also passionate about supporting the needs of the less fortunate.