My first trip to Redmond, the 1997 Microsoft MVP Summit

May 7, 2019
Microsoft

The Invitation

As I mentioned a couple articles ago, my first MVP award was on July 8, 1996.  At that time, I had no idea  such a thing as an MVP Summit existed, I was just really happy to be an MVP.  Life in the Usenet newsgroups was going along just swimmingly, and I was having fun answering questions.  My first “MVP Buddy” (Community Program Manager or CPM as they’re known these days), Wayne Cook, had moved on to bigger and better things at Microsoft, and I had a new one, Thomas Montefusco. On February 21, 1997, I received this email from him:

Welcome and congrats!  (Formal notice below :)

This year’s MVP Summit will be held in Redmond, WA - May11-13.  Summit will offer three days filled with technical briefings, training, breakout sessions, global program direction on upcoming Microsoft products and technologies.  A new addition to our MVP summit this year is an opportunity to visit Seattle outdoors which will be on Sunday May 11.  For this reason we are asking all participants to arrive by Saturday night, May 10th.  Other highlights include a visit to Gift shop, Microsoft Museum and an opportunity to meet with top Microsoft executives.

Participation in this important, once a year, almost all expenses paid-event (travel-hotel-meals) is by invitation only.  We select top MVP program contributors who have supported their peers during the last year and invite them to be a part of this important recognition. As one of the top contributors to Microsoft MVP program, you are hereby invited to join your peers for the MVP Summit - 1997.

I was thunderstruck, to put it mildly!  I accepted immediately and then called my sponsor, Sue Mosher, to find out what I’d just said yes to.  Sue happily filled in the blanks, telling me what a Summit was, what a BIG DEAL an invitation represented, that I really had to be a top poster to be even considered for it, and, as such, why it wasn’t spoken of much, out of respect for those not invited. About 100-125 MVPs were invited this year out of around 300 total.

Seattle or Bust!!

As a small town Arizona boy, I had never experienced high roller, VIP treatment before…what an eye opener!  I had a travel agent, plane flights, hotel reservations, and transportation all provided FREE!  I would be arriving May 10 and leaving May 13, we would be staying at the Bellevue Red Lion (now the Hilton Bellevue, just off.the 405 freeway), and I had two full days of training coming.  That, by the way, is one thing that has NOT changed, there is always way more stuff to see than there is time to see it.  I had hoped to post my 1997 Schedule Builder list at this point, but I can’t.  As I’ve stated a number of times before, the fastest way OUT of the program is to violate your Non-Disclosure Agreement.  Since this schedule was under NDA when I received it, I decided to ask first and I was told that the NDA still applied to it, so, no schedule.  Suffice it tos ay my list contained, by my count, forty sessions on fourteen different tracks including Memphis (code name for Windows 98, Wolfpack (code name for Windows Cluster Server), NT5 (Windows 2000), Exchange, Outlook, and SQL Server – way too much stuff for one person to see in two days.

May 10 was a Saturday and the training sessions at the Campus were Monday and Tuesday, that left Sunday, the 11th as an unknown.  Sunday was fun day, we learned, we went on a five hour cruise to Blake Island and the Tillicum Village.  At this point, I revisit that “small town Arizona boy” statement – this was a big boat and a whole lot of water!  Anyone want to guess the nature of that “Traditionally prepared fire-roasted fish meal”?  (Seriously? Seattle/Pacific Northwest = Salmon. 😊)

Lost and Found

Summit 1997 was the year of the lost driver.  Monday morning, we all filed int our buses (all two or maybe three of them) and headed off to the Campus.  We got lost – I mean LOST!  After a couple hours of driving around the countryside, I got out my shiny, new Phillips Velo 1 (WindowsCE, purchased just for the occasion) and we used Microsoft Streets and Trips to find our way to the Campus.  I heard from one of the other MVPs present that one of the other buses suffered the same fate and was rescued by the MapPoint MVPs aboard.  This made for a fairly short first day, but we got an excellent tour of the Redmond area countryside.

Socializing

The format here was a bit different as well.  As I mentioned, Microsoft took us on a boat cruise Sunday which consumed the entire day.  Monday night, we had a sit-down dinner (I believe) at the Red Lion – wonderful food, live music, the whole enchilada.  Nothing was planned for Tuesday since it was the last day and many folks were heading home that evening.  At this point, I was invited into another “tradition”, the Outlook MVP Dinner.  This was put together by the Outlook MVPs and remained a tradition through at least 2008. At some point after that, we lost the MVPs (weren’t renewed, were hired full time by Microsoft, left the program for whatever reasons) who did the planning and there hasn’t been onefor a number of years, now, plus, all the evenings are mostly spoken for in the current Summit agenda.

Home we go!

After a wonderful weekend and two days of training, Wednesday comes along and its time to go home.  I probably didn’t need the airliner, being on Cloud 9 since the prior Saturday morning, but took it anyway.  That pretty much applies to every Summit I’ve attended since, there’s just nothing like the feeling of spending time with folks you consider to be raving geniuses and having them tell you they fully consider you to be one of them – truly humbling and a good segway into the next article, the 1999 Summit and the invention of the MVP Pocket protector.

Stay tuned!!

Hal Hostetler
I am both a Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer, an IT Professional and now a published Author.

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