I have been fortunate again to fly to Seattle, Washington late July to early August to attend an internal technical conference for employees in our company and a series of accreditation trainings the week after.
Before I knew it, I was up on the air again, breezing through another time zone and adjusting my body clock to challenges ahead. It was Saturday, July 25, 2009 and I realized that I already got used to doing this after a number of times crossing the international date line and trying to combat jetlag. This is my 4th trip to Seattle in 2 years time so it helps that I already got accustomed to the city and its vicinity. My two trips to Seattle then was to attend the Microsoft MVP Conference back when I was still a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional awardee. I had to give up that title when I became a full-time employee to avoid conflict of interest.
This shot was taken at Narita International Airport in Japan. This was the plane that brought me from Manila to Narita. I boarded a connecting flight from Narita to Seattle hours thereafter.
For this trip, I stayed in Grand Hyatt Seattle hotel. I shared a room with a fellow Filipino Microsoftie whom I've met in Kuala Lumpur a couple of years back when I was a contractor and he was an intern. He is employed in the Singapore subsidiary so we're technically from different offices (I'm a Philippine office employee). I met with him, together with his friend at the airport and proceeded to the hotel.
Our room. I stayed on the bed right beside the window.
As soon as we settled, I immediately went out to do some shopping and exploring while my roommate went to rest for a few more hours. We arrived in the city at morning time so I had to have my lunch somewhere. On my way to the outlets, I grabbed a roast beef and cheese sandwich to-go from a coffee shop which I happily munched on as I waited for a bus in Marysville, Washington, a city just outside Seattle.
You've read it right - outlets. I made it a point to visit Seattle Premium Outlets despite doing a commute using the public transportation of 2 hours. Driving to the place will take around 45 minutes but that would mean I have to rent a car for a day. Just after a few hours, I left and headed back to Seattle once again carrying some clothes and stuffs for my family and friends to take home.
One thing I was not accustomed was that during summertime, the sun goes down later at night. It is usually dark in Manila already by 6:30-7:00PM but on late July in Seattle, sun goes down around 9:00PM. When I reached Seattle by around 6:00PM, there was heavy traffic due to a Torchlite Parade. The streets were jampacked despite a slight downpour of rain late that afternoon.
I spent the rest of the night at the hotel room to try to adjust my body clock and get some good sleep and just went out to have dinner at a local fastfood with my roommate.
The next morning I woke up to attend to a pre-confernece training and certification which lasts the whole day from 8:00AM - 5:00PM. This view greeted me as I woke up around 7:00AM-ish that Sunday.
I had to walk a number of blocks (around 15 minutes) to reach Renaissance Seattle hotel where the training and certification was held. I am supposed to attend to other sessions that afternoon but since there was a conflict, I had to stick here and make up for the other.
Pasta! For lunch I had this creamy pasta at Maxwell's Cafe located on the 2nd floor of the hotel.
After taking the certification exam, which was administered to us right after the training, I hurriedly went to the convention center where registration to the event, as well as the session I am supposed to attend to that day were being held.
For dinner, I joined my colleagues from the Philippines in one of my favorite restaurants whenever I'm in the US - The Cheesecake Factory! I'm a chocolate lover so it's a must for me to try almost every chocolate cheesecake they have in the menu but nothing beats the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake for me! That evening, I didn't even had to eat dinner just to make room for the cheesecake! Yum!
Early the next day (Monday) was the official start of the conference. Attendees went to a hall inside the conference center where breakfast was served. It was then I realized that there were lots of contingents from all over the world, and I'm not good in estimating but there must be at least a couple of thousands of us!
TechReady 9 stage
The plenary started and as soon as the keynote ended, people scattered to different rooms for the breakout sessions. For us employees with only a few years of experience in the industry and are part of the Microsoft Academy for College Hires (MACH) program, we were led to a small room where we met Kevin Turner, the Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft. Throughout the week, a number of executives met with us to share their experience, give us inspiration, explain the company directions and show their passion towards the organization. It was definitely a thrilling and exciting experience for us to see these executives that even most of the employees who have been with the company have not met this close yet!
me, and the blurred TechReady 9 banner
Later that night, our group had a MACH party/welcome dinner somewhere separate from the rest.
The dinner was held in Garage located in Capitol Hill.
Of course, we were carded before we all got in since many of us looked young and it was really a young group of hires. Free-flowing booze and alcoholic drinks kept everyone smiling! :)
There were also pool tables and bowling lanes for everyone to use at the ground floor. On the second level, an XBOX console with Rock Band game was ready to be played with.
Of course, what's important is the food. Pizza galore and other finger foods!
my lemonade vodka, chicken strips, barbecue ribs and pizza
It was quite amusing that on the next couple of days (Tuesday and Wednesday), the temperature in the city reached to 39c. Back in Manila, we are used to having 32c-36c temperature year-round, and occasionally it reaches 40c+ and it was nothing. Here, it caused panic among the residents who were not used to such and the government issued warning for everyone about the occurence of the "heatwave". It was bearable for me although it I was a bit surprised and it was unexpected since I thought the weather should be cooler in Seattle since it is located up on the northern area of the country.
As you can see here, I'm not taking picture of the event itself, the sessions, and the content due to confidentiality reasons. For the whole day of Wednesday went through as expected without any MACH session so we were allowed to choose and attend any session that we want.
On Thursday, we had an attendee party after the sessions that was held inside the corporate campus located in Redmond, Washington, a city 30 minutes away from Seattle. We were dropped off in Building 92 where the Micrsoft Visitor Center is located. I hastened throught the displays here for there were hordes of visitors that time and I know I can drop by the week after anyways.
me and the staff of Microsoft during its early years
Microsoft Company Store. I was shocked to see the throngs of geeks coming in to get Microsoft branded apparels and discounted software and hardware.
The actual attendee party was held near building 92 in The Commons, an area with a number of restaurants and shops right inside the campus.
Lots of activities were available and entertainment is everyone. But for me, I chose to do foodtripping! By this time, I grew tired of the blant food taste and I began to look for Asian food, especially those that are mixed with spices and similar to the ones we have back home. These are all the items I tried, all of them are free-flowing so we just had to walk up to the restaurant and choose what we want:
dimsum soup with noodles
fish and chips
choco ice cream (gelato)
pad thai noodles
Häagen-Dazs ice cream bar
On the common field, there was also a jazz band, although not to my liking.
There was also a DJ playing music and my colleagues in the sub chose to hangout here for a while at the invitation of a former colleague who is now working in a corporate campus office.
During the conference, I took advantage and sat down for 5 certification exams which I'm glad to say I did pass them all. Curiously, just outside the hall is a box of candies claiming to give luck to the test-takers. Nothing to lose so I eagerly helped myself on these candies which I consumed inside the test room.
On the last day of the conference (Friday), I also got to meet a Son, whom I consider as one of my "brothers" inside Microsoft due to a bonding our group had for a couple of weeks a year ago. I didn't know he's attending since he was informed late that he'll be able to join the conference.
On the last day and closing sessions of the MACH program, we were also lucky to meet and be graced by Steve Ballmer, the Chief Executive Office of Microsoft who succeeded the role after Bill Gates stepped aside to concentrate on philantrophical activities.
me and Mariko, our primary contact in the program in Asia
Chris (my room mate), Masaki and me
After the conference, my roommate Chris and I decided to go around the city for the last time as we are leaving the next day. We saw on a park a band playing instruments and people dancing to the music, and it was a cool scene since I thought these things just happen in movies and TV shows.
We also dropped by the famous Pike Place Market but since it was late, most of the stores were already closed.
Everything started and ended so fast that I was dismayed that time flew and the conference is now done. Although this was a business trip, I made the most out of what's around and the company of people I am with to enjoy and experience the first destination city I've been to in the US that never fails to amaze me!