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We weren’t in this building, but close enough.

I spent my last two days taking notes at Microsoft.  Their biannual Partner Advisory Council meetings took place on their campus. We had lovely weather, much like last time, but in a different season.

I wasn’t sure which group I’d be assigned to; I never heard any feedback from my contact and meeting host at Microsoft from the lasts PAC. I got the same group I had the last time. Yay!   My meeting host is a woman and she’s really nice.  Even funnier, the participants sat in the same places they did last time and I know all their names – Mandy, Andrea, Peter, Dieter, Carsten, Victor…They are starting to feel like “my” group.  I’m getting to understand all the accents. And they’re a pretty decent group.  Oh, they get contentious about some of the aspects of Microsoft’s programs, like billing in The Cloud, but generally, they get along and state their opinions tactfully.  One of my other counterparts’ groups have almost an angry mob mentality.

It’s a swanky conference.  The dress is somewhere from business casual to suits and ties.  There is food around, all the time.  Little snacks like cut up vegetables and hummus, little fussy cookies and petit fours. Soda, requisite coffee and tea, ice.  An espresso stand in the building.  WiFi is available with the right code.  Meals always include a gluten-free and vegetarian alternative.  All that’s missing is alcohol.  I suspect that would perhaps change the feel of the conference quite a bit.

I noticed this time that I wasn’t as nervous as the last time.  Sure, I’d done it before, taking the notes and getting my head around the acronyms that crop up like weeds in a flower garden.  But this time, the leadership group really embraced me.  Not like, “Susan!  Glad you’re here!  Finally, talent in the room.” But they knew who I was and what I was doing there.  Well, except for the financials presenter with 17 slides who kept looking over his shoulder at me, nervously, and clicking through his slides like they were on fire. I barely got the titles inserted into my notes. It was all I could do to not start laughing out loud.  Yes, buddy, I’m with Homeland Security.  I’m on to you!

My name and email appeared in small type at the top of the two-day agenda.  Gulp!  Nothing like instant accountability.  I can just see the emails from the Swedish contingent.  “Susan, I did not say that about the DISDEs.  And you captured my thought about Saas all wrong!”  Ugh.

There was one part of the conference I was not allowed to take notes on.  The upcoming release of some Windows software that they wanted to preview to my group of partners predicated no notes, despite the fact that we were all under NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).  I was under two, one with my employer, Emerging Trends IT, and one with Microsoft.  Incidentally, my Microsoft NDA said that I could make contributions during the meeting.  Really?  And what contributions would I possibly make?  But it also said, in the four-page document (!), that they might not take my suggestions.  Thanks anyway.

What I am trying to say, in a roundabout way, as my dried-up brain tries to form sentences, is that I felt like I belonged.  I really like these people in the SMB group.  They do good work and they work well together.  I miss being a part of that world.  I belong in corporate America, darn it.  Jonathon said it’s something about being in the same room with the same people for 2 days, directly communicating, that bonds people. Maybe so.  Or it can go the other way, like my counterpart’s mad-at-the-world group. It kinda felt like the end of camp, but with less sand in my sleeping bag. The next conference is in six months.  I can’t wait.

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