It’s now 5:00 am on Wednesday morning and I’ve managed to convince myself that the 3 hours of restless sleep, like that of an over eager child on Christmas Eve, is sufficient and my day begins. The normal stuff: get ready, check-out, my truck delivered to me by valet…valet!? I haven’t even made it to Build and I’m feeling like a million bucks, Windows Phone really takes care of their people! I open Here Drive+, select favorites where I’ve already saved the Moscone Center’s coordinates, and off I go.
I’m a coffee person so the Starbucks next door to the Moscone Center is a necessity prior to immersing myself in Windows heaven.
“Are you Sean”, someone calls out while I’m standing in line. A bit surprised I’m recognized, although I did have my hat, but excited none the less, “Indeed”! “Hi, I’m Tim”…a little further explanation and I remember exactly who he is. This was moment will be logged away in my head for some time to come!
Coffee in hand, SWAG bag on shoulder, and no question I’m at the right spot! Enormous Microsoft and Windows signs plastered across large buildings on both sides of the street leave little doubt that this is not intended for the iFan or Fandroid…no, this event is 100% WinPhan! Flags waving the various Microsoft services on the outside and a large BUILD statue clearly indicate which building to enter.
To try and describe the magnificence of the tall ceilings in this 3 storied building is an injustice, suffice to say it is grand, elegant, and you know it. Mix in the overwhelming presence of our beloved Microsoft, the incredibly pleasant staff, the buzz of eager folks like myself, the sounds…everything, it just sets the stage. To be honest, it’s something I wish each of you could have experienced along side of me as it was just that powerful.
I wander around for a while before I meet up with Nicole from the Windows Phone, finally putting a voice and face to the frequent emailing up to this point. She’s as energetic, positive, and enthusiastic as I’d had hoped the team that keeps us all smiling would be. Without a doubt, she’s a WinPhan as we both fly through some activities on our phones while waiting in the eating section, prior to the much anticipated keynote. She’s sporting the Lumia 925!
Nicole and I know to be early, we head to the 3rd floor for the keynote. There’s already around 1,000 folks ahead of us and a sea of people rapidly swelling behind! So many faces, nationalities, so many hopes. It was a beautiful sight to see.
The doors open and we file in, I’m enveloped in a hypnotic blue room. 5,000 seats, rows of tables for the press, a DJ who has the crowd moving, and an intangible electricity in the air. Endless camera flashes fill the darkened room from those memorized like myself by this moment. For this moment, we all seem to transcend from the normal everyday stranger, to the important: we are all family…we are Microsoft’s family.
I’ve got the best seat in the house as I’m sitting next to the official Windows Phone account and we’re both live tweeting, pretty darn cool! I have to admit, trying to live tweet is very hard to do. I’m sure I missed some of what was said trying to tweet, look, snap, and listen…but I’d do it a million times over again!
Over the next 3 hours I watched the most influential people in our ecosystem’s hierarchy take an audience to new heights. Each team member exuded confidence, genuine excitement, a clear direction, and a certain swagger. Each new feature conjuring more excitement from the crowd than the last. I saw the culmination of 3 years of changes: the ups, the downs, the surprises, the leaks, the frustrations…but most of all I saw the real growth and maturation of our modern Windows and Windows Phone.
BUILD wasn’t just the keynote, although it was my primary interest and reason for being invited. As many of you know, BUILD is a developers conference so I was able to attend 3 sessions as well. I’ll be the 1st to admit that much of what was said went over my head in the sessions but I definitely feel like I benefited by sitting in. I got some ideas on ways to better support devs around me and I have a much clearer idea on the direction of app development with Microsoft for the future, it looks beautiful and just feels like the sky is the limit.
Between sessions, I wandered the different floors looking at trade booths hosted by some of Microsoft’s partners, meeting many of you WinPhan, looking through the different exhibits, and taking pictures. There was so much going on, it was hard to focus on any one thing. If you weren’t involved in an activity listed above, good chance you were playing with one of the countless Surfaces placed throughout the building, getting help designing your site, building an app, charging a device, or grabbing a bite to eat with the overabundance of free food and drink. Below is a gallery of these exhibits.
In addition to meeting so many of you WinPhan, I had my celebrity run-ins as well meeting both Mary Jo Foley and Ben”ThePCGuy” Rudolph. Both were overwhelmingly nice, down to earth, and had wonderful things to say about our beautiful WinPhan community! I was so proud that both of these high profile individuals recognized and complemented our community, their statements helped to solidify in my mind: our outreach effectiveness and the legitimacy of our WinPhan community in whole. Well done WinPhan community, people are hearing and seeing you, me, us…loud and clear!
The day is nearing its end for me as there’s 1 session left and I’m running low on energy…the long travel, lack of sleep, and general excitement have begun to catch up with me now. Nicole and I meet up again, she offering a similar sentiment but with one last goodie to surprise me with. She has gotten my name on to the VIP list for Microsoft’s Retail Pro Meetup where I will be in the presence of some of the top sales people as well as many folks considered to be experts in the Windows ecosystem. This is something I consider to be a once in a lifetime for someone like myself, I most graciously accept and I’m glad I did!
Last session and I’m on my way, one last glance over my shoulder to take in visually, what has been the most mentally stimulating day I’ve experienced, quite possibly every. There’s a huge wall of Xbox One’s like I’ve never seen before and this to me is such an appropriate way for me to say goodbye as the day has been filled with one extreme after another! I snap a couple last pics and venture off to retrieve my truck and head to venue number 2, the Alchemist Bar and Lounge for the Retail Pro Meetup and perhaps one of the most influential and inspiring talks I have ever been given…aside from one of my dad’s “little talks” of course!
I’ve safely arrived to the Retail Pro Meetup unsure of what to expect and a bit nervous knowing I’ll be around so many experts. I stop to take a picture for my son of Ubisoft, one of his favorite dev companies and a member from Nokia’s team notices my Lumia 1020 and we begin to talk…all is going to be fine, my worries subside.
Up the stairs I go and upon entering, see Ben doing an interview. Ben is here, my mentor, the person who has inspired so many of us to do better things, this is exciting! I put my bag down, grab a cola(I don’t drink anymore), and begin to introduce myself to people. Within minutes I’m standing near Ben and ask to take a picture with him, he’s all smiles and loves the idea. The gentleman I met outside is now inside as well and takes the picture for us. Ben introduces us, surprising me that he so clearly remembered who I am and then says let’s talk. Now I’m not going to discuss what was said, this was more of a private conversation. What I will say is that I walked away from this conversation with more motivation, intensity, focus, and direction than I had felt in years…literally years! He helped me to learn my own story. This set the tone for the evening as I met one incredible person after another, making great connections, and thoroughly enjoying myself.
The evening is tapering down and 2 tablets are given away. Ben gives a speech offering his perspective, his inspiration, and his support. Quite simple but incredibly powerful, his message: Don’t just talk about what feature is next when describing what’s in store for Windows, learn to tell the story.
I’d like to thank each of you WinPhan who came up and introduced yourself, meeting each one of you makes “it” all worthwhile! I’d also like to thank the Windows Phone Team, Nicole, Ben, Bill, Molly, Mary, The Expert Zone, and WP Retail Insider for making this WinPhan feel like family!
I’m Sean Johnson, aka The WinPhan, and this has been my story!