It’s the most wonderful time of the year, I’m not dancing down the aisles, but I do have to stop myself from bouncing up and down in my seat, which would probably really irritate the guy sitting next to me on the plane. Tomorrow is the first day of TechEd. Now that I think about it, TechEd is already underway, there are pre-conference sessions going on even as I type. TechEd really is one of my favourite times of the year, I attended my first at Boston in 2006, and I haven’t missed one since!
Sometimes it may seem hard to justify attending a conference. In this era of fiscal responsibility, the travel costs and conference fees can be quite a deterrent, but don’t underestimate the value of attending an in person conference. Watching a video on channel 9 or reading an MSDN article can be very helpful for learning a specific task, but it doesn’t replace the energy and knowledge you gain from an in person event. When you are in a building surrounded by thousands of people who are all passionate about technology, you can’t help but get excited! A conference provides you with two great takeaways: learning and a network.
Conferences are one of the best places to learn. It is easier to focus on learning without the usual distractions at work, and there is so much to learn! Learn what’s new, learn how to use what’s new, learn how to better use the technologies you already know. There are few conferences that match TechEd for learning opportunities.
Networking is a big part of TechEd as well. There are lots of opportunities to network at the show: the hallways between breakouts, the exhibition hall, breakfast or lunch, the Women In Technology Lunch, and of course the parties . It is important to remember that one of the huge benefits of attending a conference is the people you meet. When you are at work and you hit a technical snag, sometimes you feel very isolated. This is your chance to meet fellow geeks who are using the same tools as you, programming the same language as you, people you can reach out to for help and guidance when you hit road blocks. Networking opportunities abound. You can start before you get to the show! I already met a new canuck, Chris Ross, a system administrator from Moncton New Brunswick working for Blue Cross. Chris attended TechDays and recognized my seatmate, MVP Mitch Garvis, on the plane. This is Chris’ first TechEd and he is pumped and ready to go! Because this was his first TechEd I wanted to give him some suggestions on how to get the most out of the show. Which brings me to this today’s My 5.
My 5 “Don’t Miss It” aspects of TechEd
- Hands On Labs – In the hands on labs you can actually sit down at a computer and play! There are lab manuals and virtual machines which give you a chance to try out the latest and greatest. Build a Windows 7 Phone App, send an app to the cloud with Azure, there is something for everyone.
- Technical Learning Center – Talk to experts! The staff in the Technical Learning Center are experts with the products. I am always amazed how few people take the time to talk to them. Got a question about a new feature? You may be able to talk to someone from the team that actually built the feature! Get the explanation straight from the experts!
- Breakout sessions – Of course I love the breakout sessions. Breakouts are where I learn the most, but I know the recordings will be available after the show, so I focus on those sessions where I think I may have questions for the presenter and I need to be there in person.
- Certification – I am a strong believer in the value of certification! If you have been toying with the idea of taking an exam, TechEd is the perfect place to do it! The certification area provides cram sessions to review specific exams + free practice tests + Microsoft Certified Trainers to answer your questions. You can even take the exam at the show. Just think by the end of the week you could have your certification!
- Parties – Remember a big part of the show is networking! Going to a party gives you a chance to unwind after all those hours of cramming your brain with information and a chance to compare notes and exchange e-mail addresses with like minded people. There’s nothing quite like sharing a drink with a bunch of developers making jokes about garbage collection, that’s when you know you found the right conference
By the time TechEd is over I always have a slew of things I want to try when I get back to the office. TechEd gets me all revved up. My boss used to say TechEd was worth the money just because I came back to work so keen and eager! On that note, I am off to pick up my badge. Can’t wait to meet my fellow Canadian developers. I’ll be the one walking around in the hockey jerseys all week! Stop me and say hi! For those of you who can’t attend I will do my best to give you a sense of what’s going on through the blog and twitter.