Friday, June 20, 2008

A New Microsoft Approach to User Groups

The Waterloo Wellington IT Professionals is getting geared up for the end-of-season community launch this coming Monday evening, hosted at Conestoga College. We'll be highlighting new features in seminal products like Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and specific technologies like Hyper-V. We needed the larger venue provided by the college and an extra hour's time (starting at 6:00 pm, instead of 7:00 pm and continuing to 9:00 pm) to accommodate those registered for this event.

We might want to save a few moments in our announcements to give our user group community of IT professionals a "heads-up" on Microsoft will be supporting user groups in the future. Working cooperatively with Culminis, Microsoft will be establishing a volunteer-based organization similar in structure to INETA with regional advisory boards. In the first year of operation, board members will be appointed, but within that first year, expect to see board members elected by their regional user group communities.

The structural change and alignment of models with INETA is significant in itself. It means that Microsoft will be stepping up directly in the provision of services such as

  • event support
  • development of the user group community
  • delivery of content
  • recognition and reporting to/from user groups
  • support for newsletter publication

While the newly structured Culminis and continuing INETA will benefit from this reorganization, other user groups like PASS and those just forming that don't fit the mold of IT Pros or developers will now have potential support from Microsoft directly for their endeavours.

Personally, I think this is a win-win-win scenario for Microsoft, Culminis, and the user group community in general. Volunteer-based boards are adaptive and driven directly by the issues which surface from interaction with members of user groups. They tend to have their fingers on the pulse of the community and are responsive to their needs. They move quickly, usually democratically, and provide immediate opportunities for professional development and leadership.

I look forward to this new development and supportive structure.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jerry Stiller Offered Me A Job

Not really. It was all a dream...actually a kind of comedic nightmare, the kind that occurs after the nightly 4:30 am trip to the washroom.

I was asked to come to provide some IT help for a former employer after regular hours with my current employer. Being the helpful kind of IT guy that I am, I dutifully went into the building that resembled no building I have ever worked in before. Again, unlike any place I know of today, there was no security - no sign-in, no name tags, no being escorted to the data centre, no "least privilege" permission settings on a "need-to-know-only" basis. Nothing except, "Hi, Don. How are you? How's the new job going? Man, do we ever need your help with this antiquated system."

So, I head over to a stand-up terminal that is comprised of nothing other than a miniscule monochrome green screen - about 4" x 4" - and a glorified calculator entry pad that keeps slipping down a tilted desk, losing about 60% of the keystrokes I make.

People keep walking by, interrupting me continually with good natured "Hello, how are you", "How are your sons?", and "I bet you miss us, eh?". Eventually, after at least 30 minutes of farting around with the useless keypad, I've fixed the anomaly and am heading out. One person stops and asks if I used the command menu or the new shell to fix the legacy operating system (which will mean nothing to you unless you have used something like DOS in a prior life and old command-line screens). "No, that station's OS didn't have access." Clearly, I'm feeling frustrated and so glad that I don't have to handle issues like this anymore.

But as I get prepared to leave, Jerry Stiller calls me over to a sliding window. He is the company's accountant and acting HR manager and he wants to offer me a job.

Now, if you've ever watched Seinfeld or The King of Queen's, you'll know precisely the kind of character he presented in my dream. Slightly obnoxious, a bit of a mean streak, loud, inattentive, driven by his own demons, not really involved in anyone else's world. Comic, yet the stuff of nightmare encounters as well.

He hands me a one-page summary of the offer, scribbled out on a hand-written document summarizing the salary and "benefits". The salary is modest, but one of the benefits is a full tank of gas for my car each week. I didn't have the heart to tell him I was now driving a hybrid.

We argue about the terms of employment while other employees walk back and forth around us, absolutely no privacy, all the while Stiller becoming more and more agitated that I am actually not too impressed with the offer. Finally, he decides he's had enough of not being appreciated for his magnanimous offer, takes back the job offer, and hands me a certificate of appreciation for my past service at the company. The only problem is that the certificate is torn about half way down the page.

"Sorry, there was a problem with the printer and I didn't have time to fix it or print another copy." Half-hearted, inconsiderate, totally without meaningful intent...again, true to the character he often portrays in TV sitcoms.

I laugh, taking the certificate with me waiting to tell my wife about my job offer. That's when I wake up for the next trip to the washroom.