Microsoft Ignite: Finding community

Microsoft Ignite is a special occasion for Microsoft and Microsoft lovers. Numerous new features, products, and updates are showcased and demonstrated. Last year was my first time attending the event, and I came away filled with knowledge and inspiration. Unexpected things happened this year. I still gained knowledge, inspiration, but it wasn’t about all the shiny, new tech they were showing. I left the conference this year with a full heart from another source.

A few months back, I joined Microsoft’s Tech Community. It is made up of smaller groups with different interests so there is something for everyone. There are many great groups that do amazing things for women coders. But I rarely found a place that focuses more on infrastructure until #WomenITPros caught my attention. This group is exactly what you were looking for! This inclusive group, founded by Cathy Moya and focusing on Microsoft infrastructure, deployment and management, connects women and their allies. #WomenITPros, a sub-group of the larger #HumansofIT group led by Shona Bang, is a subgroup.
#WomenITPros hosts monthly presentations by industry leaders, similar in format to TED talks. These speakers may be public speakers who have given TED talks, such as Dona Sarkar, Chief #NinjaCat from the Insider Program at Microsoft. These talks had a profound impact on my professional and personal life. I found them inspiring and motivating, which carried over to other Ignite sessions. I was so excited that I signed up for more community sessions and added them to my already full scheduler.
Haben Girma and her guide dog Mylo. The Washington Post. I’m glad that I did. I arrived early to get a seat in Haben Girma’s session, Disability innovation: The universal benefits inclusive design. I was able to find a copy of her book on each table setting. I was unaware of the profound effect this woman’s message would have upon me as she approached the stage, accompanied by her guide dog Mylo. It wasn’t until the Q&A section that I found myself in tears, but I will be honest. I was watching two deafblind people communicate with each other using a Protactile device called BrailleNote Aprox. Two people who faced adversity but persevered and found a technology-driven way to overcome it.
As a techie, it was natural to start thinking about how technology could improve people’s lives. A simple adjustment such as adding closed captions in audio could make the Web more accessible to people with hearing and sight impairments. Haben Girma gave me her book, but I came away with so much more.
I attended some Microsoft “unconference sessions” and was able to learn more about the company’s new session format. It focuses on human-focused topics, rather than tech-focused. My first unconference session was about overcoming obstacles faced by working parents. This session allowed me to meet people from all walks of life, with diverse cultural experiences. We split up into small groups to share our experiences with mom guilt and other challenges. It was eye-opening to learn about the home dynamics and solutions of so many cultures.
These events have led me to wonder what I can do to positively impact my community.
One of Cathy Moya’s quotes that resonated with us during our chats was “You can’t be what you don’t see.” This struck me as a great way to increase my involvement and ramp up my efforts. I share my story here. I encourage you to listen to the sessions linked above to find out what resonates with your experience. Next, go out and share your experiences with others, even if it’s just virtually. Lead the conversation and build new relationships that foster technological innovation.
Again, I’ll start. Do you want to connect? Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin
You can learn more about me and get online IT training for Microsoft by checking out my courses.