Tips for building your Ignite schedule, from IT Pro and conference veteran Scott Ladewig

Opening day of Microsoft Ignite 2015 is only four weeks away, and there is a lot to accomplish between now and then. One of the most important things that you can do now is to plan your schedule for the week using the Schedule Builder which went live recently on the MyIgnite site. That's what I worked on over the weekend, and I've been asked to share the approach I used along with the "finished" schedule.  I put finished in quotation marks because a schedule is never truly complete. It's just a draft, one I'll be revising in the coming days and all throughout the conference.

A little background for those who might not know me. I'm an IT Pro working in Higher Ed and living in St. Louis. I've been a generalist during that time covering everything from servers to desktops, Exchange to System Center, and most of whatever else Microsoft has brought to market over the 20+ years. I'm a veteran of Microsoft TechEd, having attended every year starting with the 2003 conference in Dallas. I've also attended the last three MECs and even managed to make it to MMS for its final year. My point is I've built a lot of schedules, and how I put together the schedule for Ignite is pretty consistent with how I've done it all along.

  • My main focus is on breakout sessions. Even though I can watch sessions on demand after Ignite is over, the reality is I rarely find time to watch all of the sessions I wanted to see. Someday I'll get better at making time, but I aim to see my top-priority sessions live and in person.
  • I split my sessions between what I'm doing today and what I think I'll be doing when next year's Ignite conference rolls around. A session that answers questions about issues I've had setting up Hyper-V networking with VMM? Sign me up.  A discussion of what's coming in Server vNext? Let's do that one too.  Look around and look forward too.
  • I try and see my favorite speakers. Everybody has their list of not-to-miss speakers, and some of these are probably on your list too. Some of mine are Mark Russinovich, Johan Arwidmark & Mikael Nystrom (both awesome individually but together... priceless), Paula Januskiewicz, Jeffrey Snover, and Michael Niehaus. It usually works out that the sessions I want to attend for content are usually the same ones these people present, so no need to make tough decisions here.
  • I always double-book... triple-book, quadruple-book... well, you get the idea. There are always more sessions that I want to attend than there are open timeslots on my schedule.  So I select all of the sessions I want to see, knowing that I have one or two top choices, and the rest are backup. Maybe my top choice is full by the time I get there. Maybe the room is way on the other side of the conference center. Maybe that 300 level session turned out to be a 100 level and I need to bail. Maybe I have a question, and the Microsoft guy is free at the booth. Maybe my stomach is growling and they just brought out a tasty snack right over there. Whatever the reason, I try to stay flexible.  The nice thing about having all of the sessions listed on my schedule is I have a list ready of sessions to download and watch later (assuming I find the time!)

Nothing revolutionary or all that enlightening, but it's how I make my selections. This year the actual process of building the schedule was made easier with the top notch Schedule Builder that went live recently. It's responsive (a.k.a., fast), lets me filter by all sorts of criteria – speaker, product, target audience, etc., and lets me view my schedule in multiple ways. We've had some mediocre builders in the past, but they nailed it this year.

Here's my schedule for Ignite 2015. Note that I'm only listing my top choices for a time slot. If I listed all the sessions I added, this would be a very long page.

Sunday, May 3

9:00 – 10:00 AM

  • Ignite 101 – I may be a veteran, but there's always something new to learn (especially with a new conference), and an hour with Rick and Joey is guaranteed to be a fun hour.

Monday, May 4

9:00 – 11:45 AM

  • Microsoft Ignite Keynote – We've been asking for it, and they finally listened. Satya Nadella is coming to Ignite! Not going to miss this one.

1:30 – 2:45 PM

3:15 – 4:30 PM

  • Azure Operations: Enabling IT Organizations to Leverage Microsoft Azure – I've been dipping my toes into Azure for production use at work, and the University is just starting to sniff around the edges as well. I'm seeing firsthand how challenging it is to add Azure to your toolset and make it work for the entire organization. We have some serious challenges ahead, and this session should hopefully spark some ideas.
  • Evolve Your Network Infrastructure for Microsoft Azure Connectivity – One of the biggest challenges for our adoption of Azure to extend our datacenter is connectivity. Networks are managed by our Central IT, and our network isn't exactly the typical corporate network. We have challenges.

5:00 – 6:00 PM

Tuesday May 5

9:00 AM – 1-:15 AM

  • Microsoft Office 365 Groups Overview and Roadmap – Groups are something I've glad to see come to Office 365, but they're frustrating the you-know-what out of me at the moment. Microsoft designed these as if only small groups want to use them, but I want to make use of them as a replacement for a list server for our different academic classes. Unfortunately the PowerShell cmdlets are inadequate and limits on subscribers and more make it unusable at the moment. Need to quiz the product team and see whether they feel our pain and can relieve it.
  • Platform Vision & Strategy (2 of 7): Server Virtualization Overview – I haven't spent any time with the Server Preview yet, and doubt I will have much time do so before Ignite, so this will be an intro.

10:45 AM – 12:00 PM

1:30 – 2:45 PM

3:15 – 4:30 PM

5:00 – 6:15 PM

Wednesday, May 6

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM

10:45 AM – 12:00 PM

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM

3:15 PM – 4:30 PM

  • What's New in Windows Server Hyper-V – Hyper-V in Server 2012 and Server 2012 R2 made some huge leaps forward. I can only imagine what they add in Server vNext.
  • Building Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – Another session, like the earlier design session, that should prove to be educational and eye-opening, albeit not directly related to what I need to get done at the office when I get back from Ignite.

5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

  • Malware Hunting – A Mark Russinovich session. That's reason enough to go.
  • Evolving Distribution Lists with Office 365 Groups – I talked previously about my hopes for Groups (which were recently dashed). This session may shed some light on what I've run into and highlight ways around or possibly hope for future improvements.

Thursday, May 7

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM

  • Expert-Level Windows 10 Deployment – Deployment + Johan + Mykael = Deployment Knowledge Firehose. As you can tell, these are some of my favorite sessions.
  • Experts Unplugged: Outlook, OWA, and Mobile – These Experts Unplugged sessions were a big hit at MEC, and I'm glad to see them replicated here. There's no predicting just where the session will go because it depends on what the audience wants to ask.

10:45 AM – 12:00 PM

  • Mark Russinovich and Mark Minasi on Cloud Computing – Entertaining as always with some great insight (from different perspectives) willing to tell it like it is. What do you want to bet Mark M asks Mark R about the latter's comment at ChefConf about the possibility that an open source Windows could be possible some day?
  • Provisioning Windows 10 Devices with New Tools – The comment about being able to configure general purpose devices (i.e., non-corporate) without reimaging intrigues me.

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM

3:15 PM – 4:30 PM

  • The Case of the Unexplained: Windows Troubleshooting – The classic Mark Russinovich session. It seems no matter how large of a room they pick for Mark, it's always filled to the brim. I don't go to this one every year because there is some repetition, but I try and make it every other year. You can definitely pick up some techniques to use when you get back to the office.
  • Windows 10 Deployment: Ask the Experts – This session gives us not only Johan and Mikael but also a whole panel of deployment experts. I'm not sure who the other panelists are (Niehaus I'm sure will be one), but I'm confident it will be a great forum.

5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

  • BlackBelt Troubleshooting Windows Performance Issues – We don't see them as often as we'd like, but happy users are an IT Pro's best friend. I promise that if you can speed up the users' PC and make it possible for them to spend less time waiting and more time doing, you will have a happy user.
  • Windows PowerShell Unplugged with Jeffrey Snover – A 400 level session about PowerShell with Mister PowerShell, Jeffrey Snover, himself? That's ambitious for the last session before the Ignite Celebration.

Friday, May 8

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM

  • Writing Windows PowerShell DSC Resources and Configurations – Desired State Configuration (DSC) is one of those things that I have zero experience using. I finally feel like I've reached the point where I've finally incorporated PowerShell into my daily environment of choice for most things. Time to start paying attention to DSC.

10:45 AM – 12:00 PM

12:30 – 1:45 PM

And that's my schedule. I hope you found this preview of my Ignite schedule and the walk-through of the process behind it to be either interesting or useful. Now it's time for you to take a stab at it and share your plan for Ignite. See you in Chicago!

Scott Ladewig

blog: http://www.ladewig.com/ | im: scott@ladewig.com | twitter: @Ladewig | about.me: http://about.me/ladewig

 

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