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3 Tips to Enrich your TechEd 2010 Experience

Shawn AndersonShawn Anderson
  1. Avoid Tunnel Vision

  2. Schedule Unscheduled Breaks

  3. Network

Avoid Tunnel Vision

Ron is one of eight Windows administrators for his company. He oversees 1,250 workstations and 30 servers spread among 5 regional offices. His job is to deploy software patches to all of his systems.

During TechEd he notes several (tons, actually) sessions devoted to SharePoint. Ron knows that his company is already evaluating  SharePoint and may be using it soon. Realizing that he will likely be sitting in on change control meetings when Sharepoint comes alive he decides to devote time for one session. 

An hour later Ron is has an understanding of some key Sharepoint features and benefits. He understands a little (emphasize little) more about the underpinnings of the application. This is good. Unbeknownst to Ron, his company will be hiring a Sharepoint administrator in the coming months, and Ron will be asked to conduct a portion of the interview since his boss thinks that he knows everything. (He doesn’t… but at least now he can fake it with authority).

Unscheduled Breaks

TechEd is nuts. His hotel was advertised as being 4 blocks from the convention center, but it’s obvious that this distance was measured by a crow. The hallways are full of people and tables. Cell phones are pasted to peoples ears and he notices that a lady, half standing, half leaning against a wall, is balancing her laptop on one knee while precariously typing her password and establishing a VPN connection to put out a fire back home. Ron counts no fewer than six Windows Administrators doing the same thing, the least experienced of them speaking loudly into his cell as if to emphasize his extreme importance to passersby.

The next session is starting in three minutes but Ron is calm. While the next scheduled conference break is in just over an hour, Ron is taking his unscheduled break now. He won’t be hitting the expo hall quite yet. He finds as a quiet a spot as he can and he relaxes. No pounding out emails or texting instructions to the jr. Windows admin he left in charge. Nope. This is Ron’s time. He’s learned from hard experience that as the convention wanes on, information overload sets in.

While relaxing, his mind starts to wander. Some thoughts of the last session, his hotel, the upcoming party, and the shuttle schedule come into his mind, linger for a minute, and then leave as quietly as they came in. He just relaxes. If the same thought continues to enter his mind, he’ll make a mental note. For now, this is his time.


Fifteen minutes later, more refreshed than he would be after taking an hour long scheduled break, he gets up and heads to the expo floor. He wanders between the booths, not watching the booth representatives, but watching fellow attendees as they enter and leave booths. He spots a group of three guys, likely from the same company, in a booth that is selling backup software. 

He walks by slowly and notices that the three TechEd attendees leave the booth. Ron now does what many, many admins have a tough time doing. He introduces himself, but not in the conventional way. He simply states something about the booth they just left, saying “do you think that XYZ backup software would work for your company?”  A quick reply comes, while everyone is still walking, something like “maybe, but we already have a backup solution for our 80 servers, so we were just looking.”

Ron replies, “oh, we backup maybe 25 servers in our company, but we are outgrowing our solution. May I ask the solution that you are using?”

This conversation may last one more sentence, and it may last 40 minutes. It all depends on the value that Ron brings to it. 

Don’t look now, but Ron is networking, which is much more than trading business cards. Ron will walk away knowing more about backup software than he currently knows, and if the conversation included trading Twitter handles or LinkedIn connections, he now has a source that he can use.


TechEd is over. Ron is heading home. He’s met maybe a good two dozen fellow admins. He’s covered topics on the newest versions of products he uses, as well as Sharepoint and a few other areas that were of broad interest. He knows more people and they know him. 

Ron is ready.

Follow me on Twitter @ShawnAnderson.

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