Microsoft’s conference returns in great style!

November 23, 2010 at 10:31 am 4 comments

As I sat in the ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi surrounded by 600 technology-addicted young people (and some of us who were not that young), there was a buzz, a feeling of anticipation, a sort of thrill and excitement at the return of the newly-named Microsoft Pakistan Developer Conference – Microsoft Open Door.

Interesting theme. Very well put together by BBCL. I had dressed appropriately in black to fit in with the theme. No it was not a requirement. Just thought it would be cool to do so :).  Ran into a lot of people I hadn’t seen for a while. It was good to catch up.

As we waited for the proceedings to begin, the MC went around and spoke to various people about the event, about why they were there, about the local industry, about the opportunities that were out there for us to capitalize on, about various Microsoft technologies, expectations, etc. etc. All these interviews were run live on the many screens within the hall.

Microsoft’s Country General Manager Kamal Ahmed had been sitting at our table playing host, cracking jokes and generally networking, but when his name was finally called so that the proceedings could begin, there was no sign of him. As we scanned the room for him, the door on the stage opened and he walked through Microsoft’s Open Door – quite cool Kamal! Quite cool!

Kamal talked about the key innovations in Microsoft technologies and development tools and gave a birds eye view of the MS technology space and the sectors in which they were being used to make life easier and allow for processes to be smoother.

Ihsan Anabtawi from Microsoft’s regional office) then took all of us on a journey of the Future of Productivity. He showed us some of the ways in which technology is already being used and how it was likely to be used in the immediate future. Ihsan’s presentation made people like me pine to live and work in the kind of digital environment he showed us through the videos. It all looked possible and plausible – and seemed an absolute dream for gadget freaks like me.

My friend Naveed Bajwa from Microsoft had asked me to talk about the innovation in the Pakistan IT sector at the event – a subject that I can never say enough about. It thrills me to relate the stories of the many successes from across the country. Slide presentations being what they are, and time being limited to 30 minutes, I could only talk about a limited number of companies. However, obviously it was enough to excite the visitors from Microsoft’s  regional offices. They were amazed at the kind of product development that was taking place in Pakistan and the kind of high end services being offered by a number of our companies.

As often happens with me, a CEO from a member company whom I didn’t talk about, came up to me afterward to congratulate me on a great presentation and to say (very sweetly) that he wanted to come and see me and excite me enough about what his company was doing, so that I would include him in any subsequent presentation. True to his word he came over to the P@SHA office the following day and told me the story of his professional life and his company’s accomplishments. I was thrilled to learn of his achievements and there is no doubt that the company will be added to my innovation stack. 🙂

One of the new Microsoft executives whom I met was Asli Bilgin, Web Strategy Lead for Middle East & Africa. A bubbly and passionate young woman born in Turkey, brought up in the US and living in Dubai. Asli was so excited about the talent that exists in Pakistan and the many opportunities that young technologists here need to grasp. We talked about several initiatives that we could embark upon and I am certainly looking forward to working with her. There are few people who enjoy what they do and whose work puts them on an absolute high. Asli is one of those people, and anyone who met her was totally caught up in the excitement she exuded.

Stephane Consalvi is an old friend from Microsoft whose dedication and commitment to making a difference, has always impressed me. He travels so much that I am surprised he can call any place home. We are fortunate that he has a special love for Pakistan and the development community here. Over the years he and I have met several times and there has never been a time that I have not wondered where he gets all that energy from. It is always great for young developers to interact with this man who not only has a great deal of knowledge but is ever so ready to share it with others.

As the inaugural session was coming to an end, our MC Faizan informed us that there was a surprise awaiting us. Out popped someone you would never expect to see at a technology event – Ali Azmat! Yes yes the singer! Do you know any other Ali Azmat? And a surprise he certainly was.

As Ali Azmat performed number after number, it was funny to see the room full of formally dressed young executives, and the older ones too, not quite knowing how to react. You know how people compartmentalize events? So this was a conference – not a concert. They had come to hob-nob with technology gurus, not listen to Ali Azmat sing. So most of them just sat there not reacting at all, prompting the singer to say: If you were any more stiff, you would be in a morgue. Aeiiiiiyah! He didn’t make many friends with that remark – and I won’t repeat what Kamal Ahmed said in response to this ;-).

Anyway, if the purpose was to wake people up before they split up into tracks and got into the serious business of learning, then it worked. Everyone was wide awake and raring to go.

Events such as this are important from several perspectives – the knowledge sharing, the networking and simply the excitement around technology. Well done Microsoft. We hope this will become an annual event – and hopefully it will be held in more than one city.

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