Here I am at the MVP summit it’s both myself and Stephane Budo’s first MVP summit. My original thought of coming to the summit in the weeks prior was that is was all based at Microsoft HQ and everyone was grouped in together into one building and it was an unplanned casual catch-up with MVP peers with drinking involved and food provided.
It was told to me soon after and before coming to the summit that it was more like an Ignite/TechEd where there were sessions in which you had to register. Just like Ignite/TechEd, there were tracks, e.g. myself being an Azure MVP there was an Azure track which covered all of Azure over the course of a week. I have been to many Ignite conferences before and this doesn’t really excite me the fact that it’s inputs only, there’s no output from the audience. A weeks worth of pure inputs only takes its toll on your brain, it’s information overload! In fact, at normal events like Ignite/TechEd, there’s not even any questions really asked until the very end and even then, the questions are limited and very short.
Welcome MVP. The perks of being an MVP does pay off. The MVP summit hosts about half the total MVPs from around the world, this is about 1.9K people Vs 20K people at a large Ignite event. You can imagine already that the smaller amount of people makes it a perfect and more intimate group to host on the Microsoft campus itself. The other major factor of an MVP is the fact that we are all under strict NDA, we are not allowed to talk about anything that is mentioned or announced at an MVP summit, like new and pre-release ‘stuff’ coming to Microsoft products and services.
Due to these perks, the Microsoft folks really do treat us like royalty, after all, we are the ones that spruik and evangelise Microsoft to the world and are essentially ‘free’ marketing people for Microsoft. They all welcomed us with open arms, they looked after us very well, gave us the time and it didn’t feel rushed at all. They tell us all the juicy details of new things coming in advance of the public roadmap, inside information and it is all a fully two sided discussion with the MVPs in each session. Not like Ignite, the MVP summit is literally a two sided conversation with everyone and the Microsoft product guy on stage. It’s more like a public forum where the MVPs can shout out not only questions, but more so ‘advice’ and ‘feedback’ to the Microsoft product teams on things they are doing well and things they are doing not so well. They really do give the MVPs the time of day to take our comments on-board, like we are the front line of Microsoft and the glue between Microsoft and customers.
All the Microsoft folk that presented at the MVP summit weren’t just anybody, we’re talking about all the big names, the leaders in each of the product teams. E.g.:
- Jeffrey Snover & Natalia Mackevicius – Azure Stack
- Corey Sanders – Director of Compute, Azure
- Drew McDaniel – Principal Program Manager, Azure Compute
- Scott Guthrie – Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group
- Leon Welicki – Group Portal Program Manager, Azure Portal
- Sam George – Azure IoT Director
- James Whittaker – Distinguished Engineer
There were many others that presented which I have not put on this list.
Being at the MVP summit for the first time also meant that it was the first time visiting the Microsoft Head Quarters where it all began back in the 70’s. However, it was Friday November 4 before the 2016 US elections and Stephane Budo and I were having breakfast downstairs in the hotel lobby. We were asking each other, what is the address for Microsoft in order to order an Uber. Then Stephane mentioned 1 Microsoft way, Redmond. Of course! Microsoft is well known for having the address of number 1 at most of their offices around the world. So this is the address we used for Uber.
However, 1 Microsoft way, Redmond (pictured above) wasn’t exactly the correct building by the looks of it, it was a small and plain building which was clearly not their main reception. In fact after entering, we found out from the friendly lady inside that Microsoft don’t have a main reception and that each building has their own reception desk.
As an example, below is a photo of reception at building 25.
Just so you understand the complexity and size of the campus, they have around 100 buildings all spread out over Bellevue and Redmond. In fact each building uses a building number as the name, e.g. building 23 or building 33 etc.
Above is one of several maps showing the East Campus. There is a full list here http://campusbuilding.com/building-list/. To add to our confusion, each numbered building wasn’t numbered in order. As an example, building 43 wasn’t really guaranteed to be next to building 44 and so on. It turns out that the buildings are all numbered in the order of when they were built. Some buildings were in order of each other in certain ‘pockets’, it tells me that some buidings were built in groups.
The Microsoft campus is massive and you can’t possibly walk between buildings the entire time, it could be too far or it could be blowing wind and rain. Although in saying this we during our meetings, we walked between the buildings, we were lucky with the weather, plus sitting down for much of the time it was good to get some exercise. It’s very easy to navigate around the buildings and I used Google Maps navigation for walking from building to building, it was surprisingly accurate. The only concern here was the fact that it’s known that Microsoft and Google aren’t the best of buddies and navigating around a Microsoft campus using Google maps might be a bit risky, it might send you in complete the wrong direction – lucky this wasn’t the case.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Microsoft have their own bus service! Both big buses and small buses, all shapes and sizes including a fleet of Microsoft cars! It’s a free service for all the employees and visitors alike. Microsoft staff catch Microsoft the bigger of the buses to and from home as per a schedule. Or, smaller buses and/or cars can be called on demand from any building and you’re only waiting for no more than a couple of minutes. All buses have a GPS and is always the closest bus/car that is free that picks you up – the system works really well and the drivers were welcoming and friendly.
Microsoft literally have everything!
There is the Microsoft company store. The company store is a store open to the public where they can buy all Microsoft branded merchandise. They sell heaps of things, shirts, tops, polos, shorts, pants, pens, soft balls, mugs and much much more! Everything you can imagine and all with the Microsoft brand on it or any other Microsoft product brands, e.g. Office 365, Azure or Xbox.
Just to prove that they really do sell anything and everything, they even have Microsoft socks! It’s amazing the amount of stuff they have in the store, I say no more.
A company the size of Microsoft definitely needs to be maintained. Everywhere you walk around the Microsoft campus you see these ‘Real Estate & Facility’ vehicles scattered around and/or driving all over the place. I am not 100% on what they do, however you can definitely notice that the campus is very well maintained.
Microsoft has a full fleet of Real Estate & Facilities vehicles. Microsoft maintenance crews are seen all over campus looking after the place and making sure things keep running and maintained. With over 100 Microsoft buildings, they’d have to have ‘something’ to keep it all looking in top shape. Just by being there it’s very obvious to the amount of work these guys do, it seems like a logistical nightmare, but they seem to have it totally under control.
One of the days we were there, Redmond Seattle turned on a stunning day, full of sunshine and not too hot or cold. The photo above shows the quality of the grounds at Microsoft, very neat and tidy and very well kept. They are well setup to give employees a good mix of work and leisure and really shows that Microsoft is definitely an activity based work environment by giving their staff the best balance of everything -work, rest and play.
As you can see from the photos, the grass is the best quality grass I have ever seen in my life. I am not too sure as to the type of grass it is, but the grass throughout the entire Microsoft campus is lush, green and top quality. There are no blemishes at all and we didn’t really see any weeds in the grass, it’s literally flawless grass.
Microsoft Commons is an area around campus which has a pub/restaurant which is strictly for Microsoft employees only. Then there is also a small shopping mall. The shopping mall has a food court and a variety of shops. There is a bike shop where employees can buy bikes to help ride around the campus. The bike shop also offers a maintenance service to fix bikes. While on campus we saw riding bikes with no helmet, as a result, it’s an easy way to get around the campus from building to building.
Inside the Microsoft commons shows there are a variety of eating areas with plenty of choices to eat. There are massage places, an AT&T shop, displays of Microsoft devices, lounge area’s and private meeting rooms.
Other services on offer are a bank, hair dresser or sprint phone shop. The Microsoft commons is fairly new, it has been around since 2009 and is on the West campus. It is situated near to where the Xbox team’s building is.
A visit to the Microsoft campus in Redmond wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Channel 9 studio. We went to building 25 and had a couple of sessions booked in to do some demo recordings. I say we had a couple of sessions, it was one session booked in originally however the ‘demo gods’ can be very evil indeed and seem to strike out at the worst times. As a result, we had to book a second session and prey the demo gods would stay away – they did.
Microsoft in Redmond/Bellevue is massive (500 acres) and our experience really drums it into you just how big the company is. On our last day at Seattle airport while checking in for our flight, we even spotted a ‘Microsoft Check-In‘ counter you can see in the photo below, in the middle of the photo. Microsoft obviously fly Delta by the looks of it and Delta is really setup for ‘tech’ companies. Delta have power points in each and every seat throughout the plane including economy, they even offer WiFi while in the air above 10,000 feet.
Best experience ever visiting the Microsoft campus Redmond US for the first time. Thanks Microsoft!