I’ve been home for about 24 hours after a great week at Microsoft’s Ignite conference in Chicago. For those who don’t know (or know me more from my IBM/Lotus world), Ignite is like Lotusphere on steroids. It’s not just SharePoint content… it included SharePoint, Office 365, Exchange, SQL Server, and a number of other technologies. One-stop conference experience for everything Microsoft…
In my opinion, Ignite was perfect for what I wanted and needed (yes, those are two different things). My current role is as a SharePoint developer/designer/no-code solution resource for my company. I’m the type of person who deals directly with the business, translates their needs into solutions without them having to be technical experts, and answers the questions they have on a daily basis. I needed this conference to both teach me new things and connect me with people who do that same type of work. I got a lot of that all week long, and I have a lot of new material to sort through and new things to learn.
However, there was something much more important that happened. Between sessions, talking with colleagues, and brainstorming with Sandra Mahan (aka my SharePointBuddy), I now understand that Office 365/SharePoint 2013/SharePoint 2016 isn’t simply a technology choice or decision. Watching what Graph/Delve does to connect people with information (findability and discoverability) really does change the way that people can do their jobs and leverage what they know.
Yes, I did drink the kool-aid…
I was a big believer in what Notes/Domino could do for an organization. I did the whole evangelist “Lotus is good/Microsoft is evil” thing. But as my technical world started to change focus to SharePoint, I shifted to more of a view of “it’s just technology to build solutions.” I don’t get into detailed arguments over what is right and wrong with technology X. I just focus on what I *can* do with it (mostly out of the box) and what I can do for my business customers. This has served me well for a (very long) number of years, and it’s certainly less stressful.
The bad side of that shift was that I lost that “something special” that I used to have. I’m still good at what I do, but I tend to react and do instead of thinking ahead and leading. I get too bogged down in being busy (and productive) instead of being effective and leading. I stepped away from the IBM/Lotus community where I wrote, blogged, spoke, and co-authored. The problem is… I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed helping people, being on stage, knowing who was who and who did what. I loved traveling to conferences (often on my own dime) and presenting in user group settings that changed the way our community viewed tech conferences. I got a lot of personal satisfaction helping others take their first step in the conference community, co-presenting with them when they first stepped on stage, and then watching them go on to speak internationally.
This week at Ignite has “re-ignited” that passion that’s been buried for far too long (sorry, I had to use that pun). Microsoft has a vision for the workplace that makes sense to me, and they’re doing things that are coming together nicely. I’m excited to see how this plays out, and there is plenty of opportunity at my place of work to make incredible things happen. I meet the people who are part of this community, and I’m excited to be part of that. I want to start pushing myself again, and passing along those things to others. And to top it off, I get to work with incredibly talented people on a daily basis, and we are going to make some awesome stuff happen.
Back in 1997, I sat among 10000 people at the Lotusphere Opening General Session, totally overwhelmed by the music, the videos, the lasers, and the buzz of the crowd. I had no idea what I was doing, but I said to myself “this is what I want to be good at… this is what I want to be an expert in.”
It’s time for that to play out again, starting now.
Afore you get too wrapped up in the “I lost my way” narrative (which can be a horrible back story for those prone to being occasionally less than completely charitable in their treatment of their own sweet selves), I’d like to point out that the product looks a lot more like the picture on the package in the Microsoft world these days. There was a time when evangelizing Notes/DOmino, for all of its frustrations, quirks and limitations, was downright easy when you compared it against something that was either simple (and amounted to little more than shared directories on a file server) or something that took three months of heads-down in Portal, another couple of months with VSTO, configs that were never ever quite right, out-of-channel messaging, etc., and still couldn’t quite give you in production what the demo/mock-up promised. Preaching *that* gospel needs an Elmer Gantry, Tom, and you’re not the type.
You know I’ve been away from the game for a while; that was what the stack looked like when I left, and I haven’t experienced the “meh” incremental changes over time, except at third hand. I do know, though, that what’s happened in the last handful of months marks a much bigger change to the platform and integration – to the possibilities – than most of what’s gone on in the previous decade. It could just be that your familiar solid road has finally come up to meet your feet. And maybe it took the big show, a little excitement, and a lot of in-your-face to make you notice that you wouldn’t have to squish through the muck and mire to walk that path anymore. Hey, sometimes it takes a long time and something somebody said to make you realise that your feet haven’t hurt lately.
As always, you have a wonderful way with words, Stan…
Well done Tom, time to get back in the saddle and do what you enjoy, get on that stage next year!