MVP Summit 2019; the future of Azure is bright!

Last week I visited the annual MVP Summit at the Microsoft Campus (Headquarters) in Redmond, WA. During a whopping six-day (!!) program I could attend a lot of technical and soft-skill and organizational sessions. Now, almost all content of the technical sessions cannot be disclosed due to the sensitive and strategical nature of the content. The only thing I can share about this is that we live in exciting times where innovation has never been implemented so fast, as it is today.

NDA Sign, at least visible before each session….

With this blog I’d like to lift a bit of the mystery surrounding the MVP Summit and show that although there are a lot of really, really smart people in the program, by the end of the day we’re all just fun, but nerdy, people. Before publishing I involved Tina Stenderup-Larsen and members of the MVP Program to ensure I’m not publishing anything I shouldn’t…. sorry… 😉

Sunday – Day Zero

The Sunday traditionally starts with organizational and soft skill sessions, brought by Microsoft PM’s and MVP’s alike. This is considered as the pre-mvp-summit-event and often is hosted at the Hyatt Regency hotel with their massive capacity for these events at scale. This year one of the main topics was diversity and inclusion in the workplace with brilliant sessions by Geri Ann Baptista, Lindsay Rae McIntyre and Megan Lawrence. Other sessions discussed how to run global events, Public Speaking and even some impromptu tech talks arose. All and all a nice day for first-timers and MVP veterans to get into the MVP Summit motion of things.
The day ends at approximately 5:30 PM, when sessions end and everyone disperses to their hotel.
Now the hotel accommodation is an interesting phenomenon; Microsoft accommodates the hotel facilities for MVP’s completely when you share a room with a fellow-mvp for a period of 4 days; from Sunday to Wednesday. The last three MVP Summits I considered myself very lucky to share my room with Ben “Roomy” Gelens.

Monday – Day One

This day is, in my opinion, one of the days a year in the same excitement-range as Christmas, New Years’, Easter, Springbreak, Summer Holiday, etc… Everyone has been eagerly looking out for this day from when the registration process started for the MVP summit, all the way back in November 2018. The day starts with a great breakfast, provided by Microsoft, served at the Hyatt. After breakfast we’ll make our way to the busses which are taking us to the Microsoft Campus, to be more precise, building 33 on the Microsoft campus which, next to host Azure-related sessions also is the transportation hub for this week.

Fellow MVP Adnan Hendricks, posing at the Building 33 sign.

During the MVP summit about 2000 MVP’s from all over the world visit the Microsoft campus, so to accommodate them Microsoft facilitates knowledge sessions all across the campus. And for those of you who can’t think of something called a “campus”, it’s like a small village or city.

Microsoft Campus

Walking from building A to B is sometimes do-able, but when you find them to be spread to far apart, Microsoft offers shuttle service between the hub building, Building 33, and the other buildings where sessions are held.

Back to the sessions, first sessions start at 8:30 and as said before, the content is absolutely secret. Just know that for all sessions the following combination of topics could be valid.

  • What did Microsoft do in the last 6 months in that specific field?
  • What do the MVPs think about those progressions?
  • What is the roadmap for that field in the coming 6 months?
  • Getting MVP feedback

The topics are nicely contained in 1-hour based sessions, so you can imagine that you can digest quite some information in a single day, between 8:30 and 18:00 hrs. The good thing is that the organization also provides means for relaxation. Catering during the day is unbeatable, soda’s, coffee and snacks are available throughout the day.

MVP Coffee

Monday night is quality time with your PM-time. For me this means that I attend a gathering with all Benelux, Nordic and Baltic MVP’s together with our PM, Tina Stenderup Larsen.
This is again organized in the Hyatt Regency hotel, so afterwards I could just roll into bed. (Figuratively speaking of course.)

Tuesday – Day Two

The sessions continue, and with the breadth of the Azure platform, you can understand that there are a lot of sessions to attend.

Also, Senior Management of Microsoft has their part in this event, since there is a lot of respect between MVP’s and the likes of Scott Guthrie, Mark Russinovich and Jeremy Winters. The three of them hosted an individual “Unplugged” session, which can be a little daunting with near 700[GU1] critical, empowered users of their products in the room. During these sessions the audience was invited into an open discussion to address topics not covered in the sessions with the product teams.

When the sessions ended this day, it was time for more time in a room with the product teams of your specific award category. Any questions not covered in the formal sessions, could be asked here while enjoying some drinks and finger-food. 

Wednesday – Day Three

After breakfast and a quick bus-trip across the 405 and 520 highways we’re back at campus for the last formal day of the MVP summit. The “formal” part means that the hotel-room compensation ends after today, and most Product teams don’t offer sessions/workshops after today. Luckily enough, Azure is so jam-packed with new features I get to follow sessions until Friday-afternoon!

Even after three full days of sessions the excitement is hard to contain, that’s why I decided to accompany @Mark Scholman in his walks to and from campus to the hotel. That would prove to be a nice walk of aprox. 7.7 kilometers from Redmond to Bellevue, near Seattle, WA. I did need a long shower after the walk, since the terrain proved to be less flat as we’re used to in The Netherlands. A little sweat never killed anyone, did it?

In the evening Microsoft organized the attendee party for all MVP’s that attended the summit, with a silent disco, music, drinks, games, food and of course 2000 MVP’s and program management it proved to be a great event for knowledge sharing, networking and re-acquainting with newer and older peers.

Thursday and Friday – Day 4 and 5

Now, since the sessions for a lot of MVP Award categories finish somewhere Wednesday afternoon, the Thursday morning is about saying goodbye to befriended peers leaving to go home, but also making sure you’re still in time for your first session of the day on campus.

After three days of celebrations it is kind of a black-hole in the evening without a central activity, but luckily there are all of these smart people around from all around the world and even some Program Managers from Microsoft. This evening I spent dining with some other MVP’s and the product team from Microsoft Defender ATP.

The hackathon on Friday took up most of the morning but gave me new insights in the product. After lunch in the Microsoft Commons, the food-court area of the Campus, to put it bluntly, we decided to meet up with the Azure Stack Product Group in their offices. After that meeting I finally packed my bags, for the next trip; to Experts Live US in Austin, Texas!

See you at the next blog, y’all!


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