Hindrances and Hangups

On this last, dismal and drizzly day of February, I attempted to continue to edit the Microsoft notes.

Alas, it was not to be for a long time.  First, I slept poorly.  Didn’t get up early to work out.  Couldn’t get Ruby to go to the store with me before school, an errand I couldn’t put off another day.  Dropped her off at school, rushed to the bank where I took out $400 instead of $40.  Got a little happy with the 0s.  I punched the Cancel button frantically, to no avail.  Yikes!  The machine spit out a wad of 20-dollar bills.  Made the rounds at the grocery store, then somehow awkwardly used self-checkout, thinking it would be faster.  And it would have been, except the bleepity plastic bags kept sticking together and the machine jammed giving me my change.  Quickly loaded my car in the downpour, then deposited the remaining $360 back to the checking account.

Note to self:  No accounting activities or withdrawing money when barely awake.  Driving’s okay, though.

Came home to ingest another cup of coffee to prop myself up.  Considered cleaning the bathroom and put it off for at least a few more hours.  Somehow, in Ruby’s latest foray into outdoor forts, she managed to bring in a lot of said outdoors.  The tub looks like low tide, a ring of dirt rimming the edges of the white porcelain.  All that’s missing are the broken shells. Yuck.

I got cleaned up for a shelter meeting with the city.  I got there a little early, before 10:30, when the meeting was supposed to start.  Others gathered, and we waited an extra half hour for the main participants to show up.  Seriously?!  Yes, it’s raining.  It’s raining all the time here.  This is no storm.  I left at noon with an abashed smile and quiet apologies (a self-imposed deadline) and finally, finally got back to my notes.

In the past, I would have been really frustrated by now, vexed and fuming at how little time I’ve been able to dedicate to the enormous task of getting the notes ready for my boss to view.  My deadline is Saturday morning.  My PAC host emailed me yesterday and asked for the raw notes.  Gulp.  How raw do you want ’em, buddy?  And what does sldkhfsldkhfISDE mean, anyway?  Your guess is as good as mine.  My supervisor sent him my notes, with the understanding that they are in draft form only.  Kinda felt like I was caught standing outside with just foundation garments on, but oh well.

I know God has even the smallest details of my life in His hands.  At the end of the (very long) day, I am finite.  I will do my best and stay on task and trust Him to take care of the rest.

I am 2/3 of the way done with the first edits. Miles to go before I sleep.  Unless I’m sleeping now…

Aftermath

The spring PAC, held in winter, is over.  I am officially done taking notes.  Ninety-seven pages of the partners’ real thoughts and Microsoft’s best attempts at directing them are held within those pages.

So very tired.  I managed to make it to kettlebells this morning to get the juices flowing again but it was brutal.  My shoulders are a bit tight and my neck feels like it’s molded of one muscle.

I am starting to know the guys on sight and by name.  They tend to sit together, the Netherlands, German and U.K. on one side, Brazil and everyone else scattered around the room.  Makes it feel a little like a mini United Nations.  Had two new women this time who were very nice.  Generally, the women at these things look down on me.  Or maybe they’re just not happy people.  Not this time. One of the new gals introduced herself to me and commented on how fast I typed.  Very kind.

In fact, the whole group was a lot of fun.  Some hilarious things happened.  During one of the breaks, the guy from Germany said to me, “You never talk.  We never hear your voice.”

Uh…yeah.  that’s the point.  “I’m supposed to be invisible,” I replied.  Like I have *any* real feedback to add.  I’m still trying to figure out if CRM is the same as Serum.  It’s all in the mouth of the speaker.  It sounds different when the Brazilian guy says it from when the gal from China says it.

My PAC host is a great guy. He’s funny and is able to keep the group from imploding on the hot topics.  He speaks well of me and treats me like I’m part of the group, within reason.  This time we scored a huge room.  I told him it was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  He laughed.  Last time our room was like a shoe box.  This time, you could have a breakdancing party in it.    He had the Hyatt folks remove two tables.

We had a new member from Australia this time.  In fact, about half the participants were different.  Same companies, new faces.  The Australian guy talked a lot and had several axes to grind, legitimate beefs, actually, with Microsoft.  He got a reputation as a rabble-rouser within the group.

When called on his garrulous nature, he said to his critic, also a big talker:  “Well, we have an expression in English about a pot and a kettle.”  Oh snap!

The food, as usual, was phenomenal.  Two types of main dishes each day for lunch, plus a couple of kinds of vegetables and a casserole, luscious desserts and all the coffee, tea and soda you can suck down.  And this time, I didn’t mistake a partner for a notetaker.  Whew!

Lastly, after the group was dismissed, the Dutch partner came over to my table.  Keep in mind I don’t talk to any of them unless I have a question about what they said.  This time, during a break I tried to get the soft-spoken guy from the U.K. to speak up a bit.  So much for that.

“For the person who has been working very hard, and I can’t take it on the plane”, he said and handed me a bottle of Columbia Riesling.

I was stunned.  I shook his hand and thanked him.  I didn’t expect anything.  It was nice to be remembered.  Never mind that I don’t drink.  It’s the thought that counts.

Now the real work begins.

P.S.  Forgot to mention that my computer locked up. Twice. Figured out, with the help of my boss, that it was overheating due to the tablecloth. Sigh.

Friday Frolic

This is how I feel!

I wasn’t going to post today at all, seeing how much time I’ve spent interfacing with this machine in the past week…

But…

I finished the notes!  I edited 107 pages in 8 hours over 3 days.  It’s a record for me!  The first time I did this, I think it took around 16-18 hours to edit everything.  I was so afraid of making mistakes and I was new to the whole laptop setup.  I kept erasing paragraphs with the side of my hand. I treaded water in a sea of Microsoft-specific acronyms. In addition,the formatting was unfamiliar and I wanted to make sure I typed things (mostly) correctly.  Grr! My shoulders felt attached to my ears. Writing this blog has helped.  I can make all the mistakes I want – and fix them – on my own time.  Huzzah!

Fall is sauntering into Shelton on soft padded feet.  The sky is clouded over and it’s drizzled a bit already.  We never hit 60 degrees today.  Sigh. I am a little sad, as the transition is on.  Summer is my favorite season.  We had a particularly nice one this year. My run yesterday morning featured the fresh air of late summer, laden with the aroma of blackberries, petunias and cut grass.  Glorious! And now, time to start to think about pumpkins, turning the gas fireplace on and layering. Oh, and baking, my favorite! So it’s not all bad.

And now, the weekend is straight ahead, no work to weigh me down.  Even after all these years, I *still* heart Fridays. Ahh…

Happy weekend, everyone!

Mistaken Identity

So far, the PAC is going swimmingly.  I’m with my old group and a few new faces added in.  Today, we had at least 9 nationalities represented.  Go world!

This year, unlike the last two which were on the Microsoft campus, it’s at the Bellevue Hyatt.  It’s very schwanky. 

My host I met last year.  He’s a nice guy, East Indian.  But so far every session has run a little late and started late.  My shoulders were mincemeat by the time lunch break arrived.

I took the elevator down, not trusting myself in heels.  I walked down a flight of stairs and into the hallway for the ballroom, where all the meals are served. I should mention the chandeliers look like a jellyfish mated with a bubble machine, but in a cool way.  I found my compatriots at a very full table.  There was only one seat left.  I squeezed in to join the other notetakers chowing down on grilled chicken, pasta and exotic salad. Pudding and poached peaches with vanilla creme fraiche for dessert.

I looked around my table.  Most of the notetakers are kids from Northwestern University.  They’re all fresh-faced young people.  A couple of the gals are older, like me.  The guy on my left was about my age. He was clean-cut, khakis, button-down shirt.  The guys next to him, too. Huh.  The economy must still be rotten. I guess men have to take what jobs they can to support themselves.

I asked him about the soup.  It looked good.

“It’s tomato-bean”, he told me. He had a slight Scottish accent.

Strange.  Didn’t know we were outsourcing.

I chatted with some of the other team members.  I don’t know anyone except my boss, Jill,  that well and only see them here.  We talked about our PACs and the food.

I turned back to my seatmate. 

“Which PAC are you in?” I asked.

He said he was in the O365-Intune PAC.  Cool!  That’s a new one, created just this session. He pointed out that he and his two friends were in the same PAC.  One said something about still being on East Coast time.

“So all of you take notes on the same session?” I asked.  “How does that work?”

He looked incredulous for a second. “Take notes?  I don’t take notes!”

He got a little red.  He seemed a little flustered. 

“Oh, I’m sorry!  Uh…my mistake.”

I had to laugh.  He was a participant, one of Microsoft valued partners.  Sigh.

Making friends around the world, one table at a time.

Belonging

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.