Friday, June 8, 2018

My Build 2018 Experience

I hate backpacks. Keep reading to find out why. I know its been a month since Build 2018 and I am late in writing this post but I didn’t wanted to feel guilty for not writing about my wonderful experience at Build 2018. So here you go.

I have attended 3 Build conferences one in 2013, 2016 and 2018. And I felt this was the best Build. After attending each Build, I felt that, that particular conference was the best conference. In this post, I want to reflect upon my experience attending Build 2018 conference. I traveled with family this year and so it wasn’t that lonely in Seattle. For my first conference, I was so excited to attend that I paid conference ticket using personal expense. After receiving Surface Pro tablet, I didn’t felt that bad. Past two conferences were all paid for by my company so it was awesome.

There are 386 Build 2018 videos. The content quality from Build is top notch. Every session is recorded and available online for later viewing and downloading. They have the ability to live stream sessions directly on Channel9 website. The work required to organize such a conference is beyond my imagination and I am always blown away by the scale of the conference. This brings me to one of the issues with Build this year. It was difficult to know where everything was. The build app was helpful in finding things and the app was much better than previous years. I later came to know that there were hands-on labs. Next time, I would recommend to spend few minutes just getting familiarized with conference layout so it becomes easier to find and locate a session.

Keynote

Keynote this year was about inspiring and selling us a vision about AI, Azure innovations, and intelligent Edge (ahem Windows). When you are standing in line with thousands of developers to watch keynote, you realize how big this conference is. The keynote hall was big and there were at least 8 insane size screens in the hall. So no matter where you got a seat you could not miss anything (unless you were on your phone). Over the past few conferences, I have noticed that more and more cool stuff is getting announced not in keynote but during the sessions. I feel there should be two mini keynotes detailing some common things that everyone should know.

Sessions

Sessions were action packed with high production quality content. Some of the sessions I attended and watched online are listed at the end of this post.  All the sessions are recorded and available on Ch9 and YouTube. I prefer YouTube and I want to thank ch9 team for putting it on YouTube. Due to YouTube Red, I downloaded sessions and was watching them while waiting at the airport and in flight. Another benefit of YouTube is that it will suggest you more Build 2018 videos. And because I forget to watch videos, after few days, I see a suggestion and I watch it.

Another pro tip for watching sessions

1. Download Build 2018 videos using PowerShell script

2. Use VLC media player to watch and quickly search videos. You will have to paste this link to the podcasts section and all the videos will appear on the right.

During the conference, when I was tired and didn’t felt like attending session, I was able to watch sessions on my phone that were live streamed while crashing on couch in the expo area.

Expo area

The expo area this year was huge. You are standing and walking most of the time and if you are carrying laptop in your backpack then it will wear you out. And I was tired like crazy. So that’s the reason why I hated carrying backpack. 

I was blown away by the presence of so many product/framework specific booth from Microsoft and of course from vendors and partners. I had the most fun interacting with Program Managers, Product Owners, and Engineers from Microsoft. Everyone greeted me very nicely. Some even approached me while I was just staring at the display TV or some chart saying, “Are you just going to stare at TV or ask me questions?”. Some went to great lengths—whiteboarding solutions, showing actual live demos and clearing my doubts. I learnt a lot by asking questions and talking to people. I could feel the openness, inclusiveness, curiosity in the culture. I did not wanted to leave Build because of this reason.

Since my last two Build, I have been spending more of my time in Expo area. This is the biggest benefit of attending a conference. Otherwise, you can watch keynote and sessions online. If you do not like talking to people then also attending in person has many benefits. For example, you can take picture with some legends—Scott Hanselman, Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell. In addition to that, this year we were able to pat dogs, horse and cats. I am not kidding there was an area with wooden fencing where you could pat dogs, horse and cats.

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Booths visited

Windows admin center, PowerShell and Console Team, Eye Tracking, Adaptive Cards UI, TFS And VSTS, Branching and Release Management, Containers Team, Build Recap, Git branching insights, MSIX, MongoDB, .NET Platform, AI - ML.NET, Azure Functions, ASP.NET, Azure Essentials Training, AI School, Xamarin Essentials, IOT, Windows XAML, WinForms, Azure Resource Manager, Bot framework, ASP.NET Core, Launch Darkly

Food at Build

Alright, I know what you are expecting about food. It must be great, this and that. Food at conferences is mostly a miss and sometimes hit. During Build registration, there was an option for selecting Indian Vegetarian food. I was very excited after seeing this option. For the first two days, I couldn’t find Indian Vegetarian. It was there but it was located at a place that I came to know the last day. So its my fault for not discovering it and also it should have been placed in a more convenient location.

Closing thoughts

One of the things I was interested in was getting feedback from developers, program managers or anyone who has experience in software development about my career and my resume. And Build is the place where you have thousands of developers and leaders with years of experience in the field. I was literally carrying copies of my resume and asking few people about their opinion. Sometimes I felt shy and not confident in approaching people asking questions while they were busy with other folks. Well I developed courage and asked few individuals and got valuable piece of advice. I wish and humbly request Microsoft to dedicate a section where there would be mentors from software industry giving you advice regarding your career. Simple.

Everyone may not be able to attend this conference due to various reasons, I feel very lucky to have attended this three times. It was an honor and privilege to attend Build. I am thankful to University of Michigan for sending me.

List of Sessions attended or watched online.