Global MVP Summit – Thursday

So the final day dawned early, again at 6:20. Staggering somewhat sleepily, I still managed to get ready and drag all Deanna and I’s stuff to Zack’s room at 7:00. (I’d used my four days from Sunday to Wednesday nights, but he booked Monday to Thursday nights.) This at least meant we didn’t have to haul everything to campus and back.It was another day of sessions, of which the last was just awesome. And then, sadly, it was over. Deanna and Shane Devenshire’s wife shared a cab out to the closing lunch on campus, and we met up with them about a half hour late. (The last session ran long.) It was then a good buffet of mexican food and, at long last, time for the bottle…

Bob and I had arranged that he’d bring a special bottle of Scotch with him. For the past three days, Bob had dutifully been carrying it around with him, just waiting for the appropriate place to sample it.

I scooped a half dozen plastic beer cups (necessity begets sacrifice, okay?) and we settled down in the farthest region of the lunch tents. (Actually, that was coincidence, as it was the only table left.) The moment Bob fanned out the cups, though, the busser lady was over, asking if they needed to be cleaned up. LOL! With a big smile, she left when she saw Bob pull out the bottle. I will say, that after a sniff of the scotch, Andrew was the most awake we’d seen him all week. :)

And here’s our final group photo from that day:

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All in all, this was a great event, but way too short. Nick made a great post at Dick’s Blog on what he learned about the MVP’s, and I have some stuff of my own to say on that.

First off, there really is a secret decoder ring for the initiates. Without it, you won’t get into the bathroom at the pub, so it’s pretty important. :)

Second, I think it’s a natural thing to wonder how the heck you got in to this club, and how well you’ll fit in when you get there. I will say that I was pretty nervous about meeting these guys (and gal), but at the end of it I felt very warmly accepted by them. I cannot describe the feeling of being in the Excel sessions, discussing the issues and potentials of the product that I love, with the people whom I respect. It was very cool.

Catching the bus home sucked, to put it bluntly. And while the next summit is only a year away, I can’t wait to get back there. I had so much fun, and learned a ton.

If you’re looking for more summit info, you can find some at the following links:

From the whole event, I can say that I only have one real regret, and that is that I didn’t take enough pictures. (I know that I don’t have a single picture of Ron Coderre, for example, as well as a few others.) But despite that regret, I did leave with one overwhelming feeling…

I feel inspired. :)

Global MVP Summit – Wednesday

Wednesday morning started, again, at 6:20 AM, and by 7:30 I was on a bus to Microsoft’s Redmond campus.  And from there, any locations are under NDA, so I can’t tell you anything about where I was.  ;)

After a catered breakfast, we were bussed to a top secret location for the day’s Excel “deep dive” sessions.  Of course, those also were under NDA, so I can’t tell you much from there.  Dick Kusleika has already said that he’s not afraid of the future of VBA, and I’d have to agree with him there.  I’ll also say that I’m excited to see some of the stuff that they are looking at for the next version of Excel, which will be Excel 14.

After a full day of sessions, we hiked over to the Microsoft store, and stood in line with about 1000 MVP’s to get in.  After an hour, we were finally able to have a quick shop, although there really wasn’t much that I was interested in.  I bought some pens, and a mouse for a friend, and that was it.  From there, we headed off to our product group dinners.  Unfortunately, we’d been in line so long that by the time we go there, all the food that was left was salad and dessert.  No main courses at all.  This was not good, as we were starving by then.  Fortunately, though, the Excel team was ready to start drinking networking again, so we caught a bus back to the hotel.

We picked up my wife, who according to Bob Phillips is more fun than me anyway (love you Bob!  LOL!)  and headed off to our usual haunt.  In truth, this was probably one of my favourite parts of the summit.  The chance to sit over beer and get to really know some of these guys was something I won’t forget.  I had the chance to sit with Stephen Bullen that night, and got some great advice, as well as things to pursue.  This was after spending lunch discussing best practices for working with text files with Damon, and discussions of OLAP cubes and SQL Analysis Services with Charley Kid during session breaks.  My wife also had a blast during the whole event.

This is a picture of the bar that night.  From left to right here are Damon Longworth (with his back to Colo, who took the photo), Debra Dalgleish, Dick Kusleika and Bob Phillips.  If I recall correctly, Jon Peltier is next, between Bob and myself.  My wife, Deanna, is at the head of the table, next to Stephen Bullen and Zack Barresse (both hidden by John Walkenbach.)  Next is Nick Hodge, and finally Niek Otten.
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This next picture is of Nick Hodge trying to keep an eye on everything that is going on.  Honestly, I have no idea how this started, but knowing Nick, it only took a moment to get to this point.  :)

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It was a great night at the bar, that ended when they turned the lights on.  So off we meandered to the hotel bar, and resumed the conversation.  It was sometime during that time that Dick decided that it was a good time to write his next blog post.  So off he ran to his room, returning with his laptop.  The picture below is Dick, Colo and Damon trying to get connected to the wireless hotspot in the lobby:

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And finally, this is Dick on the phone, trying to find a Windows Wireless Networking MVP to get the issue resolved.  Sadly, they were all asleep, or something, so he never did get hooked up that night.  :(

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For me, this was the latest night of all.  We had to check out by noon, and we were going to be at the Microsoft campus all day.  That didn’t stop us from closing down the Westin bar, though, and I found myself packing all my stuff until about 2:00AM, dreading the 6:20 start that was looming…

Global MVP Summit – Tuesday

Tuesday was a day full of “platform sessions” at the summit, where they tell you about all kinds of things that you don’t usually work with. Not to be ungrateful, but I found that those sessions were so high level, that they really weren’t useful. While there were some “ooh, ahh” moments in a developer session, I’d really rather have focussed my time on what they call “deep dive” sessions where they get right in to technical content.

At any rate, the day actually started with Bill Gates’s keynote speech… most likely the last one he’ll ever deliver to an MVP summit since he is retiring soon. My Canadian MVP lead, Sasha, had organized an official Team Canada hockey jersey for each Canadian MVP to wear at the keynote. so almost all the Canadians sat together, which looked a little like this:

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When the event actually started, the chants of Can-a-da started, and we had a great time. If you’re an MVP and can get your hands on the recording, you might just hear us a little bit. ;)

After the keynote, we went into the afore-mentioned platform sessions, then headed out for the day, to prepare for the big MVP party at the Boeing museum of flight. Before I left, though, I snapped this picture:

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This is one of the things that amazed me most about the summit… Microsoft spent huge dollars on the summit. Every street pole on the Redmond campus seemed to have an “MVP Summit 2007″ banner on it, and the size of the super banners like the one above are, as you can see, massive. Microsoft did not skimp on the “Thank you” message at all, which was pretty cool, and really made you feel appreciated. Since most of us would do what we do regardless of the MVP status, this is truly an appreciated thing.

Anyhow… on to the party…

Microsoft organized buses to drive us the 30 minutes from the hotel to the Boeing museum of flight. Since Anne Troy was with us, though, and had a rental car, Bill Jelen offered to drive us there. So five of us piled in to the car. Bill drove, Anne in the front, Zack, Deanna (my wife), and I piled in the back. No sooner do we get in than Bill pulls out a GPS unit and sticks it to the windshield, and off we go.

So here we are cruising along I-whatever, marveling at the cool toy that Bill is using. It’s telling him which turn, how far ahead and everything. Zack asks Bill if it’s ever steered him wrong. “Absolutely not”, he says. So then something weird happens…

Here we are, traveling along at 60 mph when the GPS suddenly indicates a hard right, and Bill slams on the brakes and veers off… Zack’s face is pressed against the glass, and I’m trying hard not to end up in his lap, despite the seatbelt. Once things right themselves, and the centrifugal force dies down, we can see that we’re now drivign down a sleepy country road. There’s no buses anywhere, nor any sign of the museum of flight. I’m looking around, thinking to myself “this is a very scenic route…” Bill tells us that he thinks that he might have missed a turn, and that the GPS is forcing him into a U-turn. At that point he turned on the sound.

A few more turns, and we’re back on main roads, with the GPS telling us… “your next turn is coming up in .5 miles”. We had to ask… “Bill, if you miss the turn, does it call you a moron? No? Does it have a mean voice at all? It doesn’t? Can you download an add-in that gets nasty, cause we really think you need one.” The ribbing would continue all the way to the party. :)

If you’ve never been to the museum of flight, it’s pretty big. Microsoft had rented the whole thing for us. One of the rooms held an entire XBOX lounge, there was a Jam session room, but the most impressive thing was the museum floor itself. I had to lighten these, so they’re not the best quality, but check this out. yes, that is the bar underneath the jet:

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Here’s another of the floor:

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And another:

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And what you see here wasn’t the whole thing, either. The main floor was sunken, and the surrounding floor was the display area for many war planes. (Just to give you an idea of how big it was.) There was a karaoke area upstairs (which was frightening), and food tables everywhere. My wife and I, amongst others, had a blast wandering around, and drinking networking with all the other members of the Excel group. We eventually said goodbye to Anne (she had to fly home), then ended up downstairs with the rest of the Excel crew. Here’s a picture of how the round table started, although we were joined by others as well.

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Above are Zack Barresse, Bob Phillips, Dick Kusleika and Damon Longworth. Clockwise from bottom left below are: Damon Longworth (in green), myself, my wife Deanna (although you can’t see her here), Debra Dalgleish, Stephen Bullen, Nick Hodge, Zack Barresse, Bob Phillips and Dick Kusleika in the hat.

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Last shot from another angle shows Dick Kusleika (still in the hat), Damon Longworth, myself and Deanna. With that many pictures, hopefully you can get an idea of how the table set up. :)

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The conversation at that table was great. We talked about stuff from Excel, to the potential Excel Down Under tour, to Canadian Tire money until some polite security guard came over and informed us that the last bus to Seattle would be leaving in about 5 minutes. So off we went, and headed back to our hotel. I actually can’t remember if we stuck around and closed down the Westin bar after that or not. Some of the nights started to blend together. ;)

Again, still more to come…

Global MVP Summit – Monday Night

Well, I’ve been missing in action for a few days on the blog, but due to the fact that I was having a great time at the summit. I will say that there were some pretty long days involved in this, but they flew by. I think the earliest I crawled into bed was 1:00AM, and I was up at 6:20AM every morning to get ready and head off to the various events.

At any rate, in my last post, I left off just before dinner on the Monday night, so here’s what happened from there…

We went off to the “Regional Dinner”. There were actually 4 of these, I think. One for Japan, EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa), APAC (Asia Pacific), and the America’s dinner, covering both North and South Americas. I joined the table of US Excel MVP’s, and got the chance to meet a couple of the guys who I had not met the night before. Bob Umlas, Charlie Kyd, Curtis Frye and Damon Longworth. (I think… there may have been others…)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of that part, but Damon does, starting right about here. (Keep clicking next, as he was very photo happy!)

While dinner was good, and the conversation was great, the entertainment was awful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more obnoxious, less funny comedian. Bob Umlas and Curtis Frye started doing magic tricks at our table, to at least keep us entertained. After a while, though, none of use could take it any longer, and escaped for a group photo that I’ll post when I get it. We hung out until about 8:30 or so, then a few of us took off to go and check out the SupportSpace party.

I’m not going deep into SupportSpace here, but suffice it to say that they are a commercial upstart that wanted to get the MVP’s and other experts in a room to pitch business at them. They hosted a party, and flew Anne Troy out to attract some of the MVP’s, which was a good enough hook to get a few of us to go. So off we went, and listened to their pitch. The cool thing about this event was that we got to have a VBAX photo! :)

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The characters from left to right are: Tony Jollans, Zack Barresse (firefytr), Gerry Knight (fumei), myself, Colo, Andrew Engwirda and Anne Troy. You might notice that Andrew is holding up an XBOX… he won it as a door prize. Now how cool is that?

For the record, while Gerry may not be an MVP in title, he was invited as an expert to the party. (As anyone who has ever dealt with him knows he is.) He went through an absolutely horrible Greyhound trip to get down to Seattle to meet us all, but I’ll let him tell that story if he likes. :)

More to come as I catch up on the days…

Some Summit Pictures

Hi everyone,

We’ve got a bit of a break before dinner tonight, so I thought I’d give a bit of an update. Sorry that all the pictures are linked, but they’re huge, and wouldn’t scale to thumbnails. As of March 17, I scaled down all the pics and put them in the post. Sorry if you’re on dialup, and I hope the download isn’t too bad. :)

My wife and I came down to Seattle by Greyhound yesterday, which was an interesting trip. We got delayed coming through customs because one of the passengers failed to declare himself as an US citizen. He told us later that he had dual citizenship (US/Canada), but had nothing to prove his US, so he decided to travel under Canadian only. I wasn’t in line right behind him, but the guards gave it to him pretty good. Overall, it delayed us by about 20 minutes.

Then we got to Mt Vernon, (I think,) where the bus driver announced… “We will be here long enough for people to get off the bus, and for people to get on the bus. That means that we will be here long enough for people to get off the bus, and for people to get on the bus.” We all kind of laughed, but some crazy woman got off the bus and went in to get a coffee. When the friend told the driver, he said “too bad”, and started to drive away. He actually did stop, but it was rather amusing to see the look of panic on her face as she came screaming out of the coffee bar, waving frantically with a coffee in one hand. Needless to say, no one tried to get a coffee at the next three stops.

The wind was just howling on the drive down, and the bus just about got blown off the road several times. In the end, though, we got down to Seattle and managed to walk the three blocks to the hotel between rain showers. We checked in to a nice hotel room, with the view of the Space Needle.

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So upon checking in, we headed downstairs and met up with the Excel group. That was pretty cool to be able to finally meet these guys face to face. The people that were there last night included (in no particular order):

  • Zack Barresse
  • Bob Phillips
  • Colo
  • Andrew Engwirda
  • John Walkenbach
  • Jon Peltier
  • Dick Kuslieka
  • Shane Devenshire
  • Tushar Mehta
  • Stephen Bullen
  • Nick Hodge

After chatting with the guys in the lobby, Zack, Colo, Bob, Andrew and myself headed out for dinner. In the picture below, we are, from left to right: Me, Colo, Zack, Andrew and Bob. (My wife took the photo for us.)

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After dinner, we headed down to the pub to rendezvous with the rest of the team. Left to right below are Bob Phillips, Nick Hodge, John Walkenbach, Jon Peltier and Tushar Mehta. (And that would be Stephen Bullen’s arm holding a beer to the left of the picture.)

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This morning, I had a couple of meetings, and then headed off to Registration for the Summit. As kind of a cool bonus, Anne Troy was flown in, (not an MS MVP though, but for another business venture,) so we got to meet her face to face as well. So here’s some shots:

Anne with Zack

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Anne with Me

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Myself and Zack (who is trying to look 4 inches taller) :)

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And now I’m off to the MVP regional dinner. :)