Getting Personal with LIVE Events at the Microsoft Store

Come to the Microsoft Store in Bellevue and let me talk at you about ALM.

It’s impossible for me to talk about our new Coffee Talk LIVE series without also mentioning how much I love my little brother.  He’s been in retail management about as long as I’ve been in IT, and he’s really (objectively, I swear) good at it.  So last fall when he joined the team of the soon-to-be-opening flagship Microsoft Store in Bellevue, I knew they’d picked a winner and I hoped he had, too.

(I’m still getting used to the fact that he’s got a blue badge and a address and I don’t.)

I loved learning all about the Store from an insider’s view.  I turned out for the festivities on that crazy opening night in November, with Dave Matthews playing outside the front doors and the mall overrun with geeks.  You definitely don’t see that every day.  My house filled up with handy, reusable Microsoft Store shopping bags in all four colors.

The day I had my job interview with Northwest Cadence, I swung by the Store afterwards.  My brother was just getting off-shift, and he let me decompress over sangrias at the Bellevue Azteca.  (Don’t judge.)  Then I waited, and waited, and waited for things at NWC to settle down long enough for them to call back and—by then, honestly, unexpectedly—offer me a position.

Fast-forward just a bit to my first assignments here at Northwest Cadence: delivering our ALM Catalyst series of webcasts on a variety of Visual Studio 2010 topics.  Perhaps some of you reading this newsletter heard some of my sessions.  Hi!  How’d I do?  Studying up for the series was tough, since so many of the topics are new to me.  I’m grateful for the support of the team who helped me prep, shadowed my sessions, and helped me field questions!  I’m starting to get the hang of things now, and I’ve also taken on some of our biweekly Coffee Talks focusing on process and Agility.

But, from the beginning, one of the key things that frustrated me about the webcasts was the one-way nature of the LiveMeeting format.  Even with audio and a phone conference line, I find it really limiting that I can’t see any of you.  Are you nodding in agreement or furrowing your brows because I’m not making any sense?  Am I going too fast?  Too slow?  Is the content too advanced or too basic or just right?  Where should I skim over because it’s no use to you, and where should I dive deeper because you’re eager to know more?  Here I am teaching about awesome tools and techniques to get real-time feedback on your software development processes so you can make a better product… but I’m stuck with waterfall content delivery and a QA feedback cycle that doesn’t start until after I’ve deployed myself to production!  That won’t do!

And that’s when it hit me.  The Microsoft Store has a theater space!  Non-profit organizations and small businesses can sign up to use it for their events at no charge; my brother had told me about a “girls in technology” event series that one of his colleagues helped organize.  There’s no requirement to tie in with Microsoft products, but I figured the fact that we’re a Microsoft Gold Certified ALM Partner talking about their developer tools would make it an even better fit.  The store is bright and engaging and fun, just like Northwest Cadence.  Why not put on some of our events there?

My brother put me in touch with their Community Engagement Manager, and we confirmed that the Store is a perfect place for exactly what we had in mind: Coffee Talk LIVE, an all-NEW series of highly engaging, highly interactive sessions covering a variety of ALM topics.  We’re creating all new content for this series, so even if you’ve attended our webcasts before, we hope we’ll be able to show you something new.

As the name suggests, we’ll serve coffee, and we’ll do live demonstrations of Visual Studio features on the theater’s big screen.  You, yes you, can interrupt us with questions any time.  If we catch you yawning, we’ll either offer you a refill or open up for group discussion or otherwise re-focus the content so you always get something fresh and relevant to you.  We’ll have special giveaways and door prizes to make it even more fun, and when we’re finished you’ll have plenty of time to get to the office, or stay a little longer and play in the Store before it opens!  There’s Xbox, Kinect, Surface, Windows Phone demos on the giant video wall, and lots more.

Real coffee and real ALM talk at the Bellevue Microsoft Store on October 13

I’m really excited about this new series, and I’m thrilled that Northwest Cadence picked up my little idea and ran with it so thoroughly!  We did a dry-run of sorts this week, and four intrepid early-risers joined us at the Store for a totally customized presentation on Visual Studio and, as it turned out, Scrum, with lots of Q&A.  Just what we were going for!

At our next event, you’ll see the Bellevue debut of my new extended presentation on Test Professional, heretofore given only in Tempe, Arizona (my roadshow event last week) and as a webcast that I did for just one company in Florida.  It’s 90 minutes of serious hands-on testing techniques from manual to automated, tester to developer, with just the right amount of soapbox thrown in.  I promise to live up to the new Coffee Talk LIVE tagline: “Less Deck, More Demo”.

Register here for Testers Get Professional on Thursday, October 27 at the Microsoft Store in Bellevue.  50% off if you enter discount code earlybird before Friday, October 21!

Now that my little brother’s been promoted and relocated to help open the new Microsoft Store in Santa Clara, I won’t be able to use these events as an excuse to hang out with him… unless y’all show up in droves and make it a huge success and I get to take it on the road…!  Either way, hope to see you there!


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