Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Windows Connections – how I escaped monsoon!

Writing is a muscle that must be exercised. The other day, my son reported strong performance in mathematics but weaker results in his writing in 8th grade on Bainbridge Island, WA. This is especially concerning because (a) Bainbridge Island is home to many famous authors including the “Snow Falling on Cedars” dude and (b) I built my company SMB Nation on the written word. I shared a story with my son from long ago when I was younger and writing some of my first technical tomes and articles. One such endeavor was for a 1999-circa Small Business Server newsletter produced by Duke Publishing in Loveland, CO (best known for Windows NT Magazine). I wrote about the SBS 4.0 original release and passionately proclaimed this product would save the world (it did as we are all still here!). I can trace my early training in developing my writing muscle to this journal.

Fast forward a decade and I recently received an invitation from Penton (which acquired Duke) to attend it’s Windows Connections conference this week at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Having spent last week in Florida at the ConnectWise Summit, I saw this as an opportunity to continue to avoid the monsoon season in the Seattle area. I’m glad I attended this robust show with 2,500 attendees and outstanding, deep technical content. In the end, it wasn’t about avoiding rain but visiting with a few old friends from my early days and making heaps of new friends.

Here are my top takeaways from Windows Connections.

  • All together now. This event is actually several events in one with Windows, Exchange, SharePoint, ASP, SQL and Don Net Nuke (DNN) included. That gave attendees (IT Pros, Architects, Developers, Enterprise folks, et al) a chance to sample a full technical buffet.
  • Cross-cultural experiences. Chatting with folks at lunch, I realized that everyone in our beloved SMB channel partner space started somewhere. Many folks are from the “big leagues” of enterprise in-house IT and either (a) hit 49-years old earning a buck fifty in IT and got laid off at a Fortune One company or (2) wanted to run a SMB technology consulting practice/be a business owner. I repeatedly saw this storyline play out. I really valued these conversations.
  • Robust, capable, filling. This conference is a WIN in 2009!
  • Shadowing Roy. One of our leading SBSers, Roy Mendoza from SoCal (who attended SMB Nation Fall 2009), was at the Windows Connections event. Each evening Roy and I got together to recap the day and analyze the results. Roy was very keen on the Exchange Server 2010 track and repeatedly shared that the IT needs of a small business are exactly the same as the IT needs of an enterprise. That is, we have more in common than pulls us apart with our big brothers.
  • Is the future Fortune One or SMB? As I sit here writing my blog summary, I am grateful the general economy is rallying into recovery. But I believe, as do many attendees I spoke with at Windows Connections, that the future will be very different from the past. Will the greatest IT job creation be at the Fortune One level or in the small and medium business sector? Will you work for someone else or work for yourself. I’ll meditate when I return to Bainbridge Island and continue this conversation with you.

You can view my on-site Flip vid summary HERE from Windows Connections in Las Vegas.

You fellow Geek and gonzo journalist – cheers…harrybbbb

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