I’m here to tell you a 2-part story, perhaps one you haven’t heard before. Yes, we all saw the announcements at Build 2014, the beautiful additions to our favorite OS’: Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox. But this story isn’t about specific features or timeframes of when to expect all these goodies on our devices folks. This is a story of a man, not any man…but me, Sean Johnson, aka, TheWinPhan. This is a story of my journey, a self-reflection, a coming of age, and perhaps the most influential moment in my life: Attending the //Build/ 2014 Conference.
March 17th, the day my wife and I formed the strongest bond and union I know of, marriage. Some use this day to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. My wife and I however, celebrated our anniversary on this day…this year was no different. While out enjoying this particular afternoon with my wife, I received an email that represented the gratitude for every ounce of effort, work, and time I have given, that we all had given, to the WinPhan movement and the promotion of Windows Phone.
Follow me for a moment as I look back two months prior to the “The Email”. I’m nearly 41 years of age, a hard working woodsman, and all things considered…a greenhorn(rookie) in technology compared to most of my online colleagues. What I lack in knowledge and experience, I make up for it with creativity and enthusiasm, hence WinPhan and its growing popularity. So badly, I’ve always wanted to leave something behind, a legacy of sorts, something I could always point out to my children someday and say to them, “Yep, your dad made that and look how good it’s doing!”. I view our community as this marker, as it grows, I become less the focal point and the WinPhan concept takes center stage and that to me, is AWESOME! How does one thank so many for making a dream come true? Gifts, gratitude, and a commitment to excellence: Enter the WinPhan Scavenger Hunt.
In order for it to work initially, I knew I’d need Windows Phone support, either openly or behind closed doors. I didn’t really care, as my ultimate goal was to give back to the people who have given me so much in return, my beautiful prospering community. I suppose this is when I realized that in fact, things were changing. Not only did I receive a positive response to my request for some goodies, but Windows Phone wanted to actually help the hunt to succeed because “they love their WinPhans”! At that moment I knew without a doubt, we are here and we are here to stay.
Now back to March 17th, “Email Day”. The gist of the email from Nicole, an enthusiastic member of the Windows Phone team who I’m now proud to consider a friend, was this:
As a token of appreciation for your community efforts, your WinPhan community, the hunt, and promoting Windows Phone, would you like to attend Wednesday’s Keynote at the Build 2014?
Well…who the heck wouldn’t…right!? Emphatically, “Yes”!!!
Skipping forward again…we find ourselves 2 days away from the greatest show on earth in my opinion, //Build/ and a freak storm emerges on the west coast. We went all winter with very little rain and virtually no snow, I’m in a higher elevation so the occasional 1-3 feet snow storm isn’t uncommon during the winter, however we’re now in spring, so I’m feeling safe. Wrong buck-o, better think again! The meteorologists are predicting a legitimate Monday and Tuesday snow…damn! I’m not willing to miss this event because of snow! Having experience in getting kids to and from school in these types of conditions, I plan ahead and park my truck nearly 2 miles from my home with every intention of walking to it on Tuesday, to drive to BUILD!
As it turns out, the meteorologists finally got the weather right. Yes it snowed just under a foot and I found myself lugging my WinPhan SWAG bag and an overnighter on foot through the snow. Yes, I AM DEDICATED AND PROUD OF IT! In my world, what better time to reflect upon the past 3 years, the positive changes Windows Phone and WinPhan have brought to my life personally…than on this journey here in the peace and tranquility of snow?
This is when I realized how far “it” has all come. Sometimes we spend so much time with our heads down in the pursuit of a dream or goal we forget to come up for air and appreciate what “is”. Windows Phone’s gesture forced me to stop, look, and be honest with myself. I’m very humble in my role as the leader of a community and in all honesty, sometimes I struggle with being considered the leader out of guilt. No one person is truly responsible for any team’s success. It’s each of us working, it’s all of us supporting, and it’s all of our passion that makes our community what it is today: one of, if not the most engaging, active, and passionate Window Phone communities you’ll find anywhere!
Tuesday as I walked, the magnitude of my entire Window Phone experience, my personal WinPhan journey, and the changes that represent me as a person…struck me in a dizzying surreal moment all at once. Over the crunching sound of snow beneath my feet, even I could hear myself saying out loud, “WinPhan as a community has made it and without a doubt, I am the proud founder, leader, and figurehead of this INCREDIBLE community”! It was in that moment, in all honesty, that I was caught off guard and began to laugh uncontrollably, finally being able to say as much out loud. I walked with a new sense of confidence.
Making it safely to my truck, SWAG bag and all, I peeled off my snow clothes unveiling my hidden Windows Phone shirt as if transforming from Clark Kent into Superman…Sean Johnson was giving way to The WinPhan, who, by my own admittance…had arrived! Into the truck, a turn of the ignition, and off to an event that would have 5000(5 times larger than my town’s population of under a 1000) excited and interested folks like myself!
Down the hill, full tank of gas, and a big cup of coffee sets me smooth sailing for at least 3 hours at which point I decide to let the event know who I am. I make a pit stop and using my Lumia 1520, I’m able to locate a shop by the name of Lids where I’d be able to have a personalized WinPhan hat made.
20 minute wait time for a custom hat…make it so! Venturing off to get so more coffee while I waited, I see a gent using a Lumia and a Surface and begin to feel as if the WinPhan stars are aligned because I’m surrounded by greatness everywhere I go!
Hat in hand and I’m back on the towards San Francisco to check into the hotel room Windows Phone was providing because of the long travel and early start time on Wednesday but mostly because of Windows Phone incredible generosity.
Once checked in, I ventured out and find myself at the Microsoft Store in the Westfield Mall. Yep, someone looking to buy a Windows Phone, so I move on it and see if I can help. 10 minutes later, he was a proud Lumia owner!
At this point it was late in the day and I was tired from traveling, I headed back to my room to talk with my ever supportive wife and children. Along the way I picked up dinner and stopped at Union Square to snap a few more pics which you can view in the gallery below.
I refer to this as the first leg of the journey and I’ll end part 1 here. Tomorrow I will finish with my experience at BUILD 2014.“