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From the #4 rated session of the entire conference to a crazy job offer to unreasonably spicy crustaceans, Northwest Cadence went big at TechEd NA 2013!

Sunday: The Pre-Con

Bet you didn’t know Lean principles could be this much fun.

Our pre-conference session is the big story, of course, and it’s why we went to TechEd NA in the first place. Steve and I were selected to co-present our one-day workshop, Enterprise Agility Is Not an Oxymoron, which as far as I know is entirely nothing like anything TechEd has seen before.

Steve, Andrew, and I overhauled this session after giving a similar one at ALM Summit 3 in January. Build-measure-learn! Once again, we refined, we practiced, we got feedback, we checked our timings, we tightened up our anecdotes for maximum impact; I have to say we were more ready than we’ve ever been.

Well, almost ready. We scrambled shortly before the conference to arrange round tables and whiteboards, having forgotten that the default seating arrangement is theater-style and oriented around a stage! The TechEd facilities crew and A/V experts really came through for us.

I can’t say enough about how awesome the pre-con was and how jazzed we were about presenting it. We knew we were on to something when our attendee count (officially 48) started creeping up in the afternoon, as students bailed out of other pre-cons and started quietly crashing ours! Both the registered and rogue attendees left us awesome feedback at the end of the session.

I'm pretty sure the TechEd cleaning crew has not seen anything like this before.

I’m pretty sure the TechEd cleaning crew has not seen anything like this before, either.

I even spent the lunch hour teaching an impromptu session on queueing theory in a (failed) attempt to pick up my Surface Pro and Surface RT from the onsite Microsoft Store!

Every time we teach this course, something surprises us. In this case, it was the response we got to a section at the end called Safe for Build Bunny. We’re at a technical conference, we’ve wowed them with math (U-shaped decisions! M/M/1/∞ graphs! Steve whiteboarded these the best he’s ever done!), and yet the topic we got the most specific and positive feedback about was the culminating message on getting your culture right. Nearly everyone in the room was a “middle” manager of some sort, and all of them face a specific challenge that they helped me understand better: they’re sandwiched in the middle, and upon them rests the responsibility of communication both up and down their org tree. They have to speak fluent developer and fluent executive, when only one of those is their native tongue. It felt great to share specific suggestions with them and see them nodding: this might actually help me

By far the most surprising and best news from TechEd NA 2013 was this: we finished the conference with our totally out-of-the-ordinary (non-technical, no demos, no Microsoft product placement, discussion-based) workshop ranked #1 out of all 13 pre-cons, and #4 overall session at all of TechEd!! A few sample comments:

This session was able to boil : Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, and Scrum into one simple and easy to understand format that can be used as a starting point for any one new to Agile, or a stepping block for those that want to move it to the next level. This is a must keep for Tech Ed.

Absolutely great! Best I’ve seen at TechEd so far.

Probably the single most useful part of the entire conference for me.

Very good session. Could be more days.

Great session on bridging the gap between team agility and enterprise agility. They are not the same, and Steve and Cheryl explained the difference and provided guidance on taking team agility all the way to the executive level.

Attendees, thanks for your feedback and support! We’re so glad you found it useful, and we hope you’ll all keep in touch and let us know how it’s going.

Monday: The Surface Queue; Speaker Idol

I arrived early and stood in the Surface queue for two hours: one hour waiting for the Store to open, and one hour percolating through the line after that. I got my allocation, but my feet, back, and neck spent the rest of the week reminding me what a bad idea that was.

Sure enough, Steven waited until late Wednesday to claim his, and only had to wait about 45 minutes. On Thursday, I was pretty confident in my calculation that the line I saw was probably only about 20 minutes long!

But I got my RT, and I got my Pro, and so did nearly everybody else apparently. Well played, Microsoft Store.

I timed my purchase perfectly, and emerged from the Store just in time for my debut at TechEd Speaker Idol!

In spite of my successfully building a marshmallow spaghetti tower live in front of the TechEd viewing audience, I did not win my heat and did not advance to finals. Congrats to @ubergeekgirl, the eventual and deserving 2013 champion!

Tuesday: Coolest Job Offer Ever

I have no idea how Steve came up with this, but it's awesome. #suckitgoogle

I have no idea how Steve came up with this plan, but it was amazing. She said yes! #suckitgoogle

I didn’t see Steve much on Monday, but on Tuesday it became clear that he was still giddy from the success of the pre-con, and had devised a crazy scheme involving the semi-unauthorized use of the giant Digital Wall which I’d used for my Speaker Idol slide deck the day before.

Northwest Cadence interviewed Sachi the week before Steve and I left for TechEd, and thought she was awesome, but we knew she had a few competing job offers and we were going to need to make a good impression.

Why not, Steve said, get all of TechEd NA on our side? Let’s go big at this enormous conference, and tweet it to her!

And so, I made a lovely slide, and Steve set about schmoozing the Digital Wall’s A/V crew to get it up on the screen. It took all day, and every bit of Steve’s networking skill, but we made it happen—and serendipitously, Visual Studio’s own Aaron Bjork and Peter Provost were on hand to help us out with the photography. I ghostwrote the tweet with proper tags and hashtags, and before we knew it we’d gone slightly viral. The official TechEd account even projected our tweet back onto the Digital Wall!

Best of all, she said “yes”! Welcome to our crazy family!

Wednesday: Crawfish

This is my first TechEd as a Microsoft ALM insider, and Steve prepped me that if I was lucky enough to get an invite to dinner with the devdiv personages, it’d be an unforgettable party. He was right, but not in the way he expected!

Microsoft’s Aaron Bjork and I actually went to high school together, at the same time, in an unassuming little working-class suburb of Seattle. So I was unsurprised and totally delighted when Aaron, charged with organizing the meal, skipped the touristy clichés downtown and researched us an authentic crawfish boil, a ways outside of town, in an unassuming little working-class suburb of New Orleans.

And that’s how we came to be sitting on some totally random benches in the New Orleans City Park, sucking very spicy juices out of very many crawfish (Peter Provost and Brian Keller showed us how), wiping away tears from eating very spicy “devil corn” (boiled in the crawfish water), and trying to cool the burn with Bud Light (questionable). Best devdiv dinner ever!

Only Yankees think Louisianans call them "crawdads".

Only Yankees think Louisianans call them “crawdads”.

And yes, they say “crawfish”. Some folks call them “crawdads”, but not in Louisiana!

Thursday: Steve Breaks Out

Steve considered using a more tame agenda. Aren’t we glad he didn’t?

“So I was standing there, naked…”

The true measure of Steve’s genius is that he managed to pull off this agenda without being sexist or icky, just provocative and fun:

  • Nudity
  • Circle of Love
  • Unintended Humor
  • Simplicity
  • Forgiveness
  • Pillow Talk

And yes, he related it all back to Managing Requirements and User Expectations in Agile Projects. How on earth…? The session was recorded and it’s online at Channel 9, so you can go watch for yourself. It’s must-see TV, though I regret they didn’t capture any video of the speaker. You’ll just have to wonder what kind of visual aid he was using for Nudity…

I just sat and marveled and tried to learn. And was pretty delighted that Steve used several of Andrew’s and my slides in his presentation—with his own spin that gave me awesome new ideas about how to speak to them! Congratulations are also in order, as he finished with the #4 rated session on the dev track and #3 dev track speaker score, in the top 12 overall!

Friday: Recovery and Next Steps

As a follow-up to our TechEd session, and in direct response to everybody’s feedback, Northwest Cadence is proud to announce a new, free, Coffee Talks webcast series covering Enterprise Agility subjects in greater detail:

TechEd doesn’t provide recordings of pre-cons, but if you’d like to know more, we’ll be presenting the same content at our offices in Bellevue this summer, and/or we can bring the workshop onsite for your organization! Just contact us for details.

I'm speaking at TechEd Europe 2013!

Finally, on Monday, June 24, we’ll be presenting the same pre-conference session, Enterprise Agility Is Not an Oxymoron, at TechEd Europe 2013 in Madrid. There’s still time to register if you’d like to see what all the fuss is about!

Hope to see you on the road in 2013!

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