MVP 2013 Global Summit

In my previous posts I provided a couple of tips based on my experiences from previous Summits. I already mentioned that not all things are the same for each of the Summits. This is also the case for the 2013 edition of the MVP Global Summit.

One of the things that struck me most this year was that for me and a huge group of others there are no sessions scheduled at Microsoft Campus. Instead this year they decided to keep a large group of MVP’s in Bellevue and scheduled a lot of the sessions in the Hyatt conference rooms.

So what does this mean for MVP attendees? Well first of all, you won’t see a single thing of the Microsoft areas. For me that’s not so much of a problem, I’ve seen most areas and been to many of the developer buildings, lunch areas, conference rooms etcetera.

For new MVP’s it is however a sad thing, a setback maybe. You probably expected to see a lot of Microsoft’s working areas for the first time in your live and now they just ‘canceled’ that for you!

To solve that, and you probably wanted to do some shopping in the Microsoft Company Store (the store where employees and guests can buy Microsoft hard- and software at cost price, not the Microsoft Store in the mall) you now must pick your time to leave the Bellevue area and hop on one of the shuttle busses to the Campus area. The bus will stop at the education center, building 92 from the top of my head, close to Commons The Mixer lunch area.

By doing so you opted to cancel some of the sessions and probably spend your time on driving to the Microsoft Store, do some shopping and use the option that allowed you to spend YOUR OWN money in the Store and drive back again. Downside is that you lost two to three hours of your sessions time by doing so.

The education center (store and guest visitor center) is still not in the center of the ‘real’  campus area. If you want to explore more of the Campus area you can hop on to one of the shuttle busses that go to Building 36, the other conference center more in the middle of Microsoft Campus.

Driving over there will give you a good impression on how buildings are arranged and their environment. Without sessions scheduled -inside- the work areas you won’t however get the ‘feel’ of it.

Despite the relocation of the sessions to Bellevue for many of us the MVP Global Summit still is a great place to be, to meet your ‘old friends’ and connect and make some ‘new’ friends. But most of all, sharing all sorts of technical geek stuff just is the best!

Oh, and a new tiny -but important- tip:

Check the time on your alarm clock in your hotel room! This morning I woke up one hour early as the clock of the alarm was one hour ahead of time. I never noticed it last night when I set my alarm time. Maybe it was still set to Daylight Savings Time. Oh well … there is a benefit to that and that is that I now had an extra hour to slowly get up and do some extra things and read some more before the breakfast room opened.

What we learned: … Check your alarm clocks for the correct time!

Enjoy the remaining days at the MVP 2013 Global Summit!

PS: Another sad thing is that, as I can see it so far, there probably are not enough Surface Pro 128 devices available to bring one home 😦

2013 MVP Global Summit Tips IV

So far we have seen in the 2013 MVP Global Summit Tips series what it is in general in Part I, a very important section on how to get around and what to use for transportation when you arrive at the airport in Part II while Part III covered some information about hotels, where to stay and how to get at your locations where the sessions are planned.

This section, part IV, is trying to cover some topics around finding your way in your ‘free’ time. Where to go and maybe get something to eat if you didn’t already get enough from eating the session snacks, welcome party food etc. etc.

Party Time

Besides interacting with your Product/Program Group the MVP Global Summit is all about networking, meeting new people. Other MVPs or Microsoft employees and maybe some local contacts.

The first and most obvious option at the MVP Global Summit are the scheduled evening events put together by the MVP Program. In general at an MVP Summit there are three types of evening events where you will get the opportunity not network and meet others that you can find in your schedule planner:

Welcome Reception

The Welcome Reception is in general planned at the first evening of the Summit. They will provide you with enough food and drinks to get around so although it is not staged as a full dinner you probably won’t feel the need to get out and have -another- eating event that night. This first event is mainly meant to be a social event to find others from your country, expertise or whatever works for you.

Product Group Dining

Another event is highly depending on the Product Group of your expertise. Over the years we’ve seen a lot of different events, some smaller events if your PG is a small team. Maybe going to a restaurant and have a PG dinner with members of the team. Or bigger dining areas are shared among more than one Product Group. You can imagine that groups like the Developer Division or the Windows group are large enough to fill up places like The Commons Mixer building and have a huge social event with just the developer geeks or the Windows dudes. It’s hard to tell you anything around these events as they are all in different locations, on and off campus, and with complete different groups of people. Just wait and see what is going on in your expertise area. Maybe nothing … if that’s the case there are plenty of other options to get around in the Bellevue area.

MVP Party

The third, and main event is often the MVP party. A large venue to go to with -all-, yes -all- attendees and a lot of PG members from Microsoft. These events are never the same, sometimes (how can’t it be after 20 years of MVP) the same venue but food, music and fun things to do are never the same. This is the main planned event to have fun after a full day of information and listening.

Party Transportation

So, you had a couple of drinks while eating … should you hire a cab? No! Same as with the sessions transportation between the event venues and hotels (at least the hotels available and booked through the MVP site) are all arranged for. You can just drag your tired body into the bus and wait for the driver to call your hotel. Hop off and go to bed! Easy as that.

Unofficial events

Besides the events arranged and scheduled by the MVP Program Group there are several other events going on outside the scope of the MVP Global Summit. There are MVP’s organizing their ‘own’ events like the famous Party with Palermo or events by the big software and courseware boys Telerik, Pluralsight and lots and lots of other events. Some of the events are restricted to smaller groups of ‘Insiders’ others are available on a first come first serve base where only so much tickets are available.

For a quick overview of events identified there is a small website available called MVPSummitEvents. A long list of events, where the art is to find someone to get you an invite. Best option to get is is often to ask a veteran MVP, someone who has been there for years already. Maybe he/she has another ticket left and you could be the lucky one!

Parties Only?

So if you read all of this you may think that the MVP Global Summit is all about partying, eating, drinking and sleeping. I can tell you it is NOT. The main part of the Global MVP Summit is still hard work, interacting with your product groups, discussing technical issues, giving your view of what you think is completely wrong and should be changed or showing the areas where they really did the right thing in your opinion. The Product Group wants to hear from you in this week stuffed with sessions. It’s all about feedback and learning from your peers and Microsoft technicians.

But be careful, if you are asked NOT to share information on specific items, topics or subjects not ready to share to the outside world you just can not talk to anyone about it.

If you break that trust there is a big chance this was your last MVP Global Summit you ever visited. But even worse, you also spoilt it for the ones privileged to be invited for the -next- MVP Global Summit because the team might be holding back on information until the group of MVP’s earned a new level of trust. So don’t do it, keep it to yourself, study the information you received and learn from it.

What’s Next

I am quite busy, so not sure if I can write you another post before I’ll be flying over the ocean but I want to try to at least share another post on shopping in the Bellevue area. So hang in there … and if not … have fun at YOUR MVP Global Summit in about a week from now!

2013 MVP Global Summit Tips III

This week I am giving you the third part of the 2013 MVP Global Summit tips, first for MVP’s going there the first time but also for the ones who have been there before and maybe pickup some thing they did not know. Part 1 was more or less an intro and explained my background a bit related to the MVP Global Summit but in Part 2 “2013 MVP Global Summit Travel Tips” I went over the travel options, especially from the airport to the hotel venues but also pointed you to important things like the ESTA form. As I write this third part in the series we are just two weeks away from the 2013 MVP Global Summit so if you haven’t checked your transportation options go back to part 2 and start doing that!

Your place to stay

The MVP Global Summit organization provided you with an impressive list of hotel venues to stay: Courtyard, Hilton, Hyatt, Red Lion, Sheraton, Silver Cloud and Westin. Prices vary from $114 to $240 a night excluding taxes and it is really up to you to select the hotel of your choice. I have been in the most expensive ones, close to the Bellevue central shopping area, and this year I am in the cheapest as I experienced at the \\Build 2012 conference when I selected the same hotel that, besides the distance to downtown Bellevue, the quality was really OK and as I explain later you won’t be there much.

So is the distance really an issue? No! It isn’t as each of the hotels included in the MVP Global Summit offer is providing you an excellent bus service (if you know how to handle it, that is, but I’ll explain that later to you in this post). The MVP Global Summit sessions and events are this year either located at the Hyatt Regency Hotel or at the Microsoft Campus near Microsoft Visitor Center or the Conference Center, Building 36. The organization will provide shuttles, big busses or smaller ones depending on the volume to move people between these locations.

When you arrive at your hotel you need to register at the counter, bring your registration records with you that helps finding your reservations and get the keys for your room. Most hotels require you to have a credit card at hand or cash if you don’t have a credit card to make a deposit covering damages or incidental charges in case you cleared the mini bar or rented some in room movies. If you don’t do anything of that sort, taking your credit card will not be charged other than the agreed room rated according to the regulations as posted on the MVP Global Summit website on the hotels section.

As experienced Global Summit attendee I can tell you that your hotel room will be the place where you won’t spend much of your time during the MVP Global Summit week! You will either be at one of the technical sessions or your Product Group (PG) arranged an event you should not miss. Between the technical sessions and PG events there are the social events (Party at Palermo, Insiders events, Sponsored Events and of course the Welcome event and the MVP Party Event!). More on the events in my next blog post!

Busses, Shuttles, Cars

It is important to know that while there is enough transportation to move everyone from point A to point B there are some tips here to be told by the experienced MVP’s the help you on your way and not miss out too much of your content.

Lesson 1: Prepare! Make sure that you prepared everything for the next day. Look at your schedules and BingGoogle the locations if you are not sure where to go to. Prepare your bags –and charge your devices for the next day before you go to sleep to avoid running out of battery power!

Lesson 2 is: BE on time! The earlier you arrive at the bus stop (usually just outside your hotel) the quicker you get to your point of destination. You can jump on the last bus if you like but be prepared for some heavy queuing if you do. The best option is to try to get on the first bus. It is just the average workweek for everyone around us so commuting at high traffic hours will not help you to get to your destination on time. Another thing is that a bus can only have so much seats as there are in the bus. There is no option to stand in between or sit on the floor. When the bus is fully seated it is leaving your venue, no matter what, you just have to wait for the next one.

Lesson 3 i: TAKE  your time. As you, in lesson 2 you learned to be on time, you now have enough time to get around when you arrive at your destination. There is often coffee and some additional food items to consume so take some of that if you haven’t had breakfast at your hotel. Now you are all relaxed and ready to go and listen to your sessions slowly move to your session rooms and enjoy!

What’s next

So much about your stay at the hotel and moving between the hotel and events. As there are only two weeks from now until the Summit I’ll add some extra posts over the week as it won’t be enough to cover things in the weekend (only one weekend left between you and your 2013 MVP Global Summit!). Things to discuss are food, shopping and what not. Oh and if you haven’t started to fill out your schedule planner go over there and select the sessions of your choice. The program management needs your input to select the right room sizes and plan transportation between the session rooms.

If you have comments or more tips … just add them in the comments below and share them with the community!

2013 MVP Global Summit Travel Tips

In my previous 2013 MVP Global Summit Starter post I provided an intro announcing to publish a couple of posts that could be of help to first time MVP Global Summit attendees or maybe even for the other more MVPs. Even I am learning new things each time I fly in. I attended six Summits before this one, the  2013 MVP Global Summit, and I am sure there will again will be something that I didn’t know.

Today I’ll be focusing on the travel part of the Global Summit. Most MVP’s probably fly in from all over the world. Some fly in from within the US, others arrive from larger distances and are up to long flights, flying for over 24 hours.

ESTA

If you are an ALF (alien life form, aka non US inhabitant) the US authorities want to know who you are before you hop aboard so they can check all about you and arrest you as soon as you touch ground in the US if there is a need to it. If you however, like me, are just the Average Joe there is nothing to fear but you are still required to fill out the form online as “International travelers who are seeking to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are now subject to enhanced security requirements and will be required to pay an administrative fee”. Simple as that. This used to be the ‘green form’ you filled out on your way to the States and was attached to your passport going through security at the airport. To fill out the online ESTA form you go to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ to read all information on why the US Department of Homeland Security thinks this is a good idea and to help you with the form and read about what is expected from you. It really isn’t that complicated but you certainly should not forget to fill it out.

VISA

Another group of MVP’s will need VISA’s to get approval to get in to the US. To get a Visa is a bit more complicated if you compare it to filling out an easy ESTA form. And probably if you read this for the 2013 MVP Global Summit I think you may already be too late to apply for an Visa. At http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1265.html you can find more information related to temporary Visa’s.

The official 2013 MVP Global Summit site also added information on both the ESTA or VISA so if you need help with regards to either one I recommend going over to http://www.2013mvpsummit.com/VisasandESTA or contact the Summit Registration Team

Local travel options

Next thing you need, as you now arrived at the airport – most likely SEATAC airport – , is transportation from SEATAC to your hotel or other place to stay. Most of you selected an hotel venue either in Downtown Seattle, Bellevue or Redmond. One thing you should keep in mind and that is, although Microsoft is said to be located in Redmond most of the Summit events are located in around Bellevue. This of course except for the events on Microsoft Campus. Microsoft Campus is however a huge area just outside Bellevue and Redmond.

So, SEATAC to Bellevue would be the best option but you can swap out Bellevue and replace it with Downtown Seattle or Redmond if you like. Most options will be available for all of these but only differ in direction. I start with the most expensive options and from that go to the most affordable options.

Rental Car

The first option you have is easy and can be arranged when booking your ticket or go to sites like Expedia or just access the rental car divisions online such as Hertz, Alamo, Budget and whatnot. The rental car area is either just outside the airport in the parking area. You can simply follow the signs to the parking lot (often with the rental car logos next to it) or in case you selected a rental party not located in the parking lot, there is a shuttle service right outside the airport on the right (next to the public transportation bus transit area) to bring you to the rental car location of your choice. Rental cars are relatively expensive and for the MVP Global Summit there is no need to get a car as there is a shuttle service available to move all MVP’s from one place to the other during the week so it will probably be there in the parking lot next to your hotel of choice.

Taxi

Well, taxis, there is not much to say about that. You can walk over to the taxi area and ask your taxi driver to bring you to your destination address with all your luggage in the back of the car. Going from SEATAC to Bellevue will be about $50 + tip so if you don’t mind paying the max this is your choice.

Shuttle Express

The next option will be the Shuttle Express. This is basically somewhat similar to a taxi with the difference that it is a ‘shared’ transportation. Chance is there are more MVP’s going in your direction and will join you on the same ride. Going from the airport to your hotel pre-booking is recommended but not required. On your way back, from hotel to the airport pre-booking -is- required. As the service is shared it may take a little longer to reach your destination as there is a slight possibility that you are last in the route and visiting the other hotels first. You can expect to pay about $20 for the Shuttle.

Downtown Airporter

In the same category and pricing as the Shuttle Express there is the Downtown Airporter, but as the name implies this service is going to Downtown Seattle.

Public Transport

The last option I want to mention, and people who have been traveling with me know this is my personal favorite, is to go by bus. Yes… the plain old bus, public transportation. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond area there is the Metro Transit. As you are on your own you need to investigate to find your bus stop to hop off and maybe walk a little bit from the bus stop to your hotel but the nice thing is that you’ll be around ‘real American people’, whatever that may be, and on the way from SEATAC to your hotel you can see some things from the neighborhood, drive by the Boeing plant and actually enjoy the ride. And most of all … IT IS CHEAP! Only 2 to 4 dollars going from the airport to almost next to your hotel!

First, if you are heading to Downtown Seattle, you will take the Central Link light rail … so no busses for you, you’ll go by train. And again, cheap, cheap, cheap! Only about 2 to 3 dollars to go Downtown Seattle! Here you can find the walking directions to the light rail station just outside the airport: http://www.soundtransit.org/Rider-Guide/Popular-destinations/Airport-service

Back to the ones to the other locations, like Bellevue … Sound Transit Bus Route 560. This bus leaves from bus stop ‘Sea-Tac Airport Bay 2’ and will drive all the way to Bellevue Bus Transit Center Bay 7. End stop for the bus and you can’t drive too far, can’t miss it. Bellevue Transit Center is about in the middle between hotels such as the Hyatt, Marriott and Red Lion. On my last trip (to the //Build 2012 conference) I found out that there is also a bus stop earlier, just before the Red Lion so if that is your hotel ask your driver to give you a sign when you need to jump off.

Other directions, if you are going to Redmond or some other area check the Sound Transit bus route schedules in all other directions here: http://www.soundtransit.org/Schedules/ST-Express-Bus. And now we are addressing directions also be aware that Sound Transit Bus route stops at SEATAC are often in the ‘middle’ of a route and you need to be sure that you select the bus in the right direction! If you don’t you may be heading in the wrong direction and may calculate some extra time to switch busses to go back in the right direction, the other way around. I did that once and it’s no shame, just an opportunity to see what is on the ‘other side’ of SEATAC.

How to pay your bus/light rail tickets? There are two options, you either pay cash (there is no money return so make sure you have a couple of $1 bills available) or you can get an Orca card. Even if this is your only trip it may be useful to get such a card as it gives you the opportunity if you arrived early to hop on the bus to Downtown Seattle without the need to use cash. The easiest way to get such a card is to go to one of the vendor machines. There is one at the light rail station but that is not in the direction of the SEATAC bus stop area so what I did was to buy a ticket cash to Bellevue and picked one up at the vendor machine at the Bellevue Transit Center to accommodate my trips later on.

The Sound Transit option may seem to you the most complicated route to take and you may be right going over there the first time. If you are somewhat adventurous you will discover that in fact it is a lot easier and cheaper than a taxi. Especially if you like to discover the area and take a couple of rides in the direction of Downtown Seattle. No taxi calling, just walk over to the Bellevue Transit Center, find the bus to Seattle and enjoy the rides.

End notes

Overlooking all what I wrote down it may scare you away but if you are a traveler you know you always have a lot of options wherever you are going. Just pick the one that suits you most. If you are more comfortable to select a cab do so and if you are up for the adventure do what I did, take the bus and learn that it is easier than you first though. If you have questions, or even better, tips to add to the already long list of options … let me know and share it to the world.

Next … what is next? Information on hotels? Shopping? Microsoft Campus, I don’t know yet, there is so much to tell you. I probably run out of time to put it all down before going over there. It is only 3 weeks away from now and I’m looking forward to it!

2013 MVP Global Summit Starter

mvp-header

2013 will be my 8th year to be awarded as Visual Studio Tools for the Office System Most Valuable Professional (probably the most lengthy MVP title and therefore shortened by the acronym VSTO MVP) and for the 7th time around I’ll attend the MVP Summit.

In my first year as VSTO MVP, 2006, there wasn’t an MVP Summit planned as they just had one in the last months of 2005 and at the time a Summit was held with about one year and a half between each Summit. Accordingly my first Summit was in 2007.

You may think that if you have seen one Summit you’ve seen them all but that is not the case. Not all Summits are the same. We had Summits with SDR’s (Software Design Reviews), Summits with a lot of Executive keynotes, Summits without keynotes at all and just PGI (Program Group Interaction) sessions, Summits with lots of NDA information and Summits where they didn’t tell us a thing as it was too sensitive at the time of the Summit.

Best thing about the Summits in my opinion is the interaction with the ‘real’ people building the software, interact with the guys who designed and created it all from start to end (or state it is currently in). These guys (I say guys but there really are a lot of smart girls, sometimes smarter than the guys, too but its just easier to say ‘guys’) are in general very open to listen to comments of ‘outsiders’.

What I like to do, in a couple of blog posts, is to discuss some ‘smart’ tips that might benefit the ones going to the MVP Summit for the first time (and maybe also the ones who have been going there for before). How to get there, especially if you are overseas, what to do and where to go. What are the things you should be looking for and where to go to if you have questions.

So keep your eye on my blog the upcoming weeks before going to Microsoft and don’t hesitate to jump in and give me your comments if you thing it is completely off or thing I’m totally right! Let’s hear your opinion on the MVP Global Summit. Did you like it or maybe you didn’t for some reason and what was it what you liked or wanted to see changed this year. I want to hear it all!

Hopefully you will get some useful tips from it or just enjoy reading about it.

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