I got a great opportunity from Denise Begley from the Microsoft TechEd planning team to talk about my session selection process. She wanted to hear from several returning alumni (including Harjit Dhaliwal, and Michael Bender) about their process to help brand new attendees or others reading the official Microsoft TechEd Blog. I felt it was an honor and wanted to give back to the TechEd Community that has taken me in to offer my view on schedule building. Head on over to the Microsoft TechEd Blog to read the other posts with Harjit's and Michael's process. Here is my full process:
Going into TechEd 2014 in Houston, my selection process has changed for this coming TechEd due to many factors. In the past, I spent a lot of time looking through the schedule and trying to select which sessions I want to go to. To give a little bit of reference here, I have attended the last 3 TechEd North American conferences: Atlanta, Orlando, and New Orleans.
In the first year at Atlanta, I tried to get to every session at every offering. I had listed in my schedule one session per time period and spent my time running as my sessions were so spread out. If you stayed in one vertical of sessions, you didn't have to go too far. I was choosing sessions from all over. By the time I made it to many sessions, the rooms were full with no real empty seats to be found. I spent a good amount of time sitting on the floors with my back to the wall. I was shooting pictures of the slides and trying to scribble a ton of notes.
I learned many lessons from Atlanta and had a different plan of attack for Orlando. I also had the notion of taking more tests for my certifications. The sessions I went to were more focused on technologies I was investing in and I spent a lot of time in exam preps and taking exams. On top of that, I was doing more meetings in the hallways, Alumni area, and the Expo floor. I knew I was going to be able to get videos and slide decks from all the sessions when I got home. The focused sessions got me great content and I was very happy with the results of the sessions, just not of my test taking.
- Having learned my lessons, I head into New Orleans with two thoughts in mind:
- I wanted to focus on content of areas that really caught my interest like SharePoint, Private Cloud with System Center, and Windows 2012 R2.
- My time in sessions was important but I didn't feel like I had to attend sessions in every block so I had time to spend chatting in the Alumni Lounge and the Expo floor.
I went through the schedule planner and blocked out the specific sessions I did not want to miss. Then, I went through finding the presenters I really like to listen to. Lastly, I filled in my schedule with other sessions that caught my interest. In my OneNote, I noted which items were "had to attend", "nice to attend", and "just filler". I used this to block out my time to meet and stroll the Expo floor. I also planned multiple sessions per time block if I couldn't get to the room due to logistics or the room being full. All in all, I was impressed with the strategy.
So, you have heard my thoughts about prior years. Now, I will let you know about this year's TechEd. I am looking at some changes again for a couple of reasons:
- I attended SharePoint Conference earlier this year so I have learned a lot of SharePoint.
- I am in a new role that is SharePoint focused but I need to also get more of the Microsoft Stack under my belt, like System Center, Azure IaaS, and SharePoint integration into Exchange.
- I am using the new schedule manager to indicate which sessions I want to attend and which are my backups.
So, starting my journey to Houston, I started my session planning by finding all the presenters I want to hear. Yup, that's right, I am starting with the Speakers. I looked for sessions from Rick Claus, Joey Snow, Pierre Roman, Mark Minasi, Mark Russinovich, Jessica DeVita, and Ed Horley. Some of these are friends I want to support and have great material to present; others are presenters I want to see in person. Next, I went through by Topic/Product and pulled up items like SharePoint, IaaS, System Center, Windows Azure, and more. Once that filled up my schedule, I looked at timeframes with zero or one session. In those blocks, I looked at the specific offerings at that time. Last thing in my schedule build is the Hand On Labs. In years past, I either did not take advantage on-site or took very little advantage. This year, I might look for more HOL work to try and learn some things that way. I will be keeping my schedule flexible as well but the items marked as primary are going to get me there.
Here are some of the sessions I have selected:
OFC-B220 - Stop, Collaborate, and Listen - Jessica DeVita
Jessica is talking about how to think about collaboration even before acquiring tools to do that collaboration. As she says in the description, "Before you start down the path of selecting a tool, you have to determine your organizational readiness and understand the what, why, and how of collaboration systems." With my current job in SharePoint, this is food for thought.
DCIM-B325/326 - The Real-World Guide to Upgrading Your IT Skills AND Your Infrastructure (parts 1 & 2) - Rick Claus, Joey Snow
Are you an IT Pro scared about what "The Cloud" really means for you? As they say in their description, "Two self-proclaimed “Server Huggers” will take you along their journey of how they overcame their apprehension of Cloud technologies to level up their IT Skills. In other words bringing clarity to the role of the IT Professional in a cloud world." I am starting to see where "The Cloud" integrates into my future as an IT Pro but think more folks can get a lot out of this session.
DCIM-B359 - TWC: Pass-the-Hash: How Attackers Spread and How to Stop Them - Mark Russinovich, Nathan Ide
I have heard about this presentation as it was given at the RSA Conference earlier and want to see it myself. Security is a theme for IT Pros in the future, regardless of The Cloud or on-prem. Mark's talks at TechEd always give you the best insights to Security.
WIN-B354 - Case of the Unexplained: Troubleshooting with Mark Russinovich
This session is always full! This session is always fun! I got to attend my first year in Atlanta and Mark returns every year with new cases of the unexplained. He goes through, showing how SysInternals tools were used to find either bugs in products or malware hidden away on user systems. While it is a full house every year, try and get into this one or watch it later.
OFC-B333 - Microsoft SharePoint on Microsoft Azure VM and Virtual Networks: How the Cloud (IaaS) Changed the Way I Work and Improved Customer Productivity - Patrick Heyde
At the same time Mark has his Case of the Unexplained, Patrick is giving his session on SharePoint on Azure IaaS. Knowing that Mark's session will be full, I am giving major consideration on passing it this year for listening to Patrick talk about this topic. As a SharePoint Engineer, I need to understand this as an option for hosting SharePoint to a group/company in an isolated space while the servers are in the cloud.
DCIM-B373 - How IPv6 Impacts Private Cloud - Ed Horley
Sign up for this session now! Go on … go put it in your schedule. IPv6 is coming for all of us and Ed is here to help all Windows Systems Admins understand its impact on us. Ed has written the book on IPv6 for Windows Systems Admins. This is going to be coming sooner than you might imagine so pop in and learn all you can.
Those are a few of my selected sessions. How are you planning your schedule for TechEd in Houston this year? Looking forward to seeing everyone there? I sure am. See you in Houston!