EnergizeIT

EnergizeIT Academic Visits

by Joey deVilla on April 19, 2010

Ah, student life. While waiting to do a presentation at Fanshawe College in London, I had a quick student lunch, pictured below:

Slice of pizza, glass of coke and a flyer for a "Rock/Paper/Scissors tournament"

Damir and I have been touring all over the country over the past couple of weeks for EnergizeIT. Two weeks ago, we were in Kelowna and Victoria, last week we were in London and Kitchener/Waterloo and this week, we’ll be in Fredericton and Moncton. We’re “Team Rover”, one of three teams visiting 20 cities, large and small, across Canada, with John Bristowe and Rodney Buike making up “Team West” and Christian Beauclair and Rick Claus comprising “Team East”.

EnergizeIT’s main presentations are about what’s possible with the Microsoft platform, with a focus on those parts that lots of people use to help them get work done and make their businesses go: Visual Studio 2010, Azure, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. In those presentations, we’re demoing these tools and technologies in action with live code and live data, and yes, we’re promoting Microsoft stuff.

In addition to the main presentations, we’ve been doing academic visits, which are quite different. They’re about helping students make the transition from school to the working world. In these presentations, I make very little mention of Microsoft, leaving it just to:

  • Hey, I work for Microsoft!
  • A quick story about how I landed my job at Microsoft
  • At the very end, I point them to a couple of sites:

The academic presentation focuses on the sorts of things that one should do to have a career in technology that’s rewarding in every sense of the word. The core message is that you, the student about to enter the working world, are in charge of your own future, and that in this industry and time, there’s a lot you can do to shape it.

Each of the teams has been working from a presentation created by Qixing Zheng, who used to be with the Microsoft Canada Developer Evangelism team and has since gone on to join the Windows User Experience group, but we’ve been pretty free to add our own twists to it. Our team’s version features a lot of interesting stuff, including:

  • The story of my first client meeting, which was a disaster
  • The importance of an online presence of some sort
  • How to get experience when you’re not yet in the working world
  • The value of “soft skills”
  • Why operating on just your “left brain” isn’t going cut it anymore
  • Ideas from a number of books, including:

So far, Damir and I have done presentations at:

and we’re going to present next week here in Toronto at:

I’d love to do these visits to universities as well as colleges, but the EnergizeIT tour takes place just as universities are going into final exams. I hope that TechDays, which happens from September through December (fall semester in universities) gives us a chance to present at universities across Canada, including my beloved alma mater, Queen’s.

I enjoy doing presentations of all sorts, but I have to admit that there’s a special place in my heart for presenting to students. It’s partly because students are a fun crowd to present to, and partly because there’s the notion of me – of all people, given my checkered academic history – standing at a college or university lectern, presenting ideas to students is rather funny. I love doing the academic visits, and I still have trouble believing that I’m getting paid to do something that’s this much fun.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Visiting Victoria

by Joey deVilla on April 13, 2010

Victoria, Day 1

The day after Damir and I did our EnergizeIT presentation in Kelowna, it was time to go to our next destination, Victoria, by way of Vancouver.

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The Vancouver-to-Victoria flight is so short that you spend almost as much time taxiing as you do in the air. The actual flying time is 15 minutes, while the gate-to-gate time is just under half an hour (if you’ve ever done flown from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, this flight is similar). It’s short enough that it’s done using a Bombardier Dash 8, which is essentially a bus with turboprop engines and wings, right down to the bench-style seat at the back of the plane. If you peek into the seam in the wall behind the last row, you can see the ground crew loading the luggage into the cargo area.

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The Dash 8 has tiny overhead bins; they’re so small that my travel accordion won’t fit in them. This required reversing my normal carry-on approach: my laptop bag went overhead, while the accordion went under the seat in front of me:

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Victoria’s got a nice airport. I wish more airport waiting areas had trees in them:

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The trip from Victoria’s airport to downtown Victoria takes twice as long as the flight in from Vancouver. We were fortunate to get a lift into town from Ron Demedash from the local Microsoft user group. Thanks, Ron!

One of the perks of being a Microsoft employee with a lot of travel in your schedule is that we have a deal with Fairmont hotels. Fairmont buildings are often a nice change from Mies van der Rohe-esque filing-cabinets-in-the-sky, tending to be grand old-school ones like Toronto’s Royal York, Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier, Calgary’s Palliser and Victoria’s Empress, pictured below. Better still, their service is excellent.

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We settled into the hotel, and later that evening, Ron picked us up and took us to rabbit-rich University of Victoria. We did our EnergizeIT presentation – two hours and forty-five minutes of pure actual-working-code-and-infrastructure demo with no slides until the very, very end – in the Engineering and Computer Science building. The room was packed; Ron had to bring in extra chairs to seat people at the back.

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We handed out the usual raffle prizes at the end of the presentation with a special bonus prize provided by Ron: a budget tablet computer, with four built-in apps. The icons on the tablet are easy to read, and the screen is readable even in bright sunlight. To sweeten the deal, we threw in a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate:

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On our way in, we noticed that the elevator featured something that looked like a button labelled “EARTHQUAKE”.

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A quick check confirmed that it was not a button that took you to a penthouse club or restaurant named “Earthquake”, nor was it a button that summoned seismic activity:

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I assume it lights up in the event of an earthquake, which I also assume is a warning to the elevator’s passengers to get out. Does anyone know if such elevators have other built-in safety features, such as stopping on the nearest floor in the event of a quake?

Victoria, Day 2

Damir flew back to Vancouver to do an academic presentation at Douglas College, while I stayed in Victoria to do an academic presentation at Camosun College’s Interurban campus. I didn’t get a picture of my academic audience, but did get a shot of this ad for Camosun later that night in downtown Victoria:

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The academic presentations are part of the EnergizeIT tour – we do them at colleges close to the place where we’re doing the main EnergizeIT sessions. Unlike the main session, where we talk about what’s possible with the Microsoft-based platform, the academic session is all about helping students make the transition to the working world and plan their careers in high-tech. Unlike the main EnergizeIT session, which is a Microsoft-technology-specific “do these things in the right order or the demo doesn’t work” affair for working techies, the academic presentation is conversational, not specific to any tool or technology, and has plenty of room for dialogue with the audience.

The Trip Home

The next day, I went back to Victoria’s airport…

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Back on the Dash 8:

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Here’s the obligatory “art shot”. Propellers are great photo subjects:

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And half an hour later, I was in Vancouver’s airport. (Memo to Toronto’s Pearson airport: would it kill you to offer free wifi?)

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…and a few hours later, I landed back at home.

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Coming up this week: Damir and I hit the road and drive to our EnergizeIT presentations in London and Kitchener.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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EnergizeIT Goes to Kelowna

by Joey deVilla on April 9, 2010

On Tuesday, Damir and I flew into Kelowna to do an EnergizeIT presentation for their software developers and IT Pro types. I must say that the Okanagan Valley, where Kelowna is situated, looks gorgeous from the air:

Okanagan Valley, as seen from my plane window

Okanagan Valley, as seen from my plane window

Okanagan Valley, as seen from my plane window

Okanagan Valley, as seen from my plane window

We landed, checked into our hotel, took a quick peek at the conference room where we’d be doing the presentation and then headed downtown for lunch. We ended up at a barbecue place called Memphis Blues, where we both had the “Big Daddy”, a sandwich combining pulled pork and brisket. It came with coleslaw and some really nice beans on the side, and we washed it down with Boylan’s diet root beer. Had we not had work to do, I would’ve gone for some “Lynchburg Lemonade” (Jack, lemonade and other stuff) and a shot of Bulleit (they have a decent selection of bourbons).

Pulled pork/brisket sandwich, coleslaw, beans and a bottle of Boylan's diet root beer

There wasn’t much time for sightseeing – we wouldn’t be in town even 24 hours – but I did manage to snap a couple of shots of the local scenery near the hotel, including the “Sails” fountain:

Kelowna's "Sails" fountain

And a view of the lake:

View of Okanagan Lake and boats

We went back to the hotel and started setting up for our “From the Client to the Cloud” presentation, a giant demo in which we present a grand tour of what’s possible with Visual Studio 2010, SQL Server 2010, Office 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Azure. I do developer-y things, Damir does IT Pro-y things and we show you – with actual working code, data and infrastructure – the sort of system you can build to help you get things done. And by “get things done”, I mean a real, working, employ-real-people, provide-real-service kind of business (we like tell-the-world-where-your-cat-is-right-now applications as much as the next person, and you can build that sort of thing on the Microsoft platform too).

Here’s Damir doing the setup for the presentation on his machine (that’s my laptop in the foreground):

Damir setting up the EnergizeIT demo computers

And here’s a shot of the room about an hour before the session started:

Damir setting up the EnergizeIT demo computers

We played to a full house. And I’m not kidding when I say “play”: unlike many other tech presentations, there’s no PowerPoint in this one until the very end. Instead, the EnergizeIT session has me and Damir telling a story about starting our own online insurance company and building the applications and infrastructure right in front of the audience. It’s all storytelling, live demos, actual working code and data, and of course, jokes (including me telling Damir to “Dance, server monkey, dance!”).

The audience at the Kelowna EnergizeIT session

The feedback we got from the audience was great. Many said that they loved watching an all-demo presentation and were blown away by what Visual Studio 2010 could do. A couple of people said that watching the presentation made them want to delve into Visual Studio a little more, as we’d shown them many features and capabilities they didn’t know our IDE had. A number of people were also impressed by the breadth of the Microsoft platform and how easy it was to move applications from on-premises servers to the cloud.

With the presentation done, Damir decided to take it easy, while I went out with some of the attendees for burgers and beer at the nearby Tonics Pub. I had to make it a (relatively) early night, though: we were bound for Victoria the next day.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Where I’m Working Today

by Joey deVilla on March 25, 2009

Here (click the photo for the full story):

Entrance to the Cantata Lounge at the Delta Armouries London Hotel

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