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Once again I went to the Microsoft Ignite conference, hosted annually for over 30,000 technology professionals. Once again, I expanded my network by spending time with some remarkable people from around the world. I learned valuable new skills, I gained new insight as to how I can make most of the various Microsoft platforms I work with in the year to come, and I came back to my home and work with new energy, inspiration and drive.

Learning new ways to use new technology is always incredibly valuable, but for me the primary benefit of the Microsoft Ignite conference is the people I get to spend time with, and how they continue to teach me valuable lessons about creating community online and in person.

IMG_1688.jpegI can’t start talking about all the wonderful people I have met through my Microsoft and Yammer work without telling you a little bit about Noah Sparks, Product Development Manager at Brainstorm, Inc. I first began to communicate with Noah even before he and I met. As part of my very first Working Out Loud circle experience, I was eager to connect with other professionals who managed Yammer networks for non-profit organizations. I posted about my goal in various platforms, and Noah was the very first person to respond with an introduction to someone who continues to make significant positive contributions to my work (more about that later). Noah and I got together for lunch at Ignite last week, and I enjoyed learning more about his work, his family, and how he is able to use social networking platforms to such great effect and impact. I look forward to continuing to learn from Noah for a long time to come.

From left: Amy Dolzine, Lonya French, Kevin Crossman, Melanie Hohertz, Martina Grom

This is a terrible picture I took of some truly wonderful people at a session featuring a panel of Yammer Most Valuable Professional (MVP) speakers.
Amy Dolzine, Global Knowledge Awareness Advisor for Ernst Young
Amy and I first connected online through our Yammer community, and I finally met her for the first time at the 2016 Microsoft Ignite conference. Amy has been an invaluable resource as we have introduced new engagement strategies in our URJ Yammer network by generously sharing her time and expertise. She has made it abundantly clear not only through her words, but more importantly through her actions, that she is always available to help however she can.
Lonya French, Digital Internal Communications Director for Guardian Life
Though Lonya and I only met last year at the 2017 Microsoft Ignite conference, I already felt like we were old friends. She has been a consistent presence in the Yammer community, always there to help, always there to teach. I look forward to our continued connection, and to being able to learn more from her experience and expertise in the years to come.
Kevin Crossman, IT Manager at Juniper Networks
IMG_1743Kevin, like every other Microsoft MVP I have met, is eager to share what he knows, and to help however he can. Though seemingly quiet by nature, Kevin is an excellent teacher and excellent connector. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from Kevin during a great workshop he lead about Yammer and Teams, he was also kind and thoughtful enough to reach out to me before the conference to find out what size t-shirt I wear. Even though I am not a Yammer MVP, Kevin made me feel like part of the Yammer family, or in other words, the #YamFam.
Melanie Hohertz, Digital Productivity Lead at Cargill
I think for many people, Melanie is the oracle of enterprise social networks. Melanie is the professor of online engagement. Melanie is the source of knowledge of Microsoft collaboration platform implementation. As one of the early corporate adopters of Yammer, Melanie has passionately and breathlessly shared lessons learned through the years about user engagement and collaboration at conferences, workshops, and even once over lunch with me at her offices in the Minneapolis area. Mel has so much to share, and she shares it in a way that has truly benefitted the entire Yammer community.
Martina Grom, CEO at AtWork IT
I had never met Martina before introducing myself at the end of the workshop pictured above, but just like every other Yammer MVP I have ever met, Martina was immediately warm and gracious. Although we met for this first time in a bustling crowd, it immediately felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend.

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Becky Benishek, Yammy and Larry Glickman

So who did Noah Sparks (see above) introduce me to? Luckily, he introduced me to Becky Benishek, Manager, Online Communities for Crisis Prevention Institute in Milwaukee, WI. Becky and I both manage Yammer external networks to engage our members and customers. We happen to work and live relatively close to each other. After a friendly introductory phone call, we began to meet semi-regularly with other area Yammer professionals for lunch. We share information and expertise, we share challenges and frustrations, and we enjoy darn good French fries.

Becky is a Microsoft MVP, and she is also a published children’s book author, a generous networker and professional connector, and a good friend. Becky always goes out of her way to make sure I am aware of Yammer news and developments, and she introduces me to people in the Yammer universe she thinks I should know.

Most meaningful for me, when attending conferences together, Becky makes sure I am never left behind. Whether walking the conference expo floor, attending workshops or going to dinner or an evening event, Becky always makes sure I have plans, or an invite to join her group. Though I am usually the first one to call it a night, Becky does her best to make sure I am never alone in a crowd of 30,000 people.

I’d like to think that these are things Becky does especially for me, but I know her too well. If you meet Becky, you are immediately her friend. You are the beneficiary of her knowledge, her network and her energy. Do yourself a favor. Meet Becky.

In a way, it all makes sense.

Yammer networks thrive when people are connecting and sharing information. In order to provide such a robust space, Yammer network managers need to be, by nature, people who are eager to introduce people to each other, and to make people feel welcome and comfortable.

Thank you, Noah. Thank you Amy, Loni, Kevin, Mel and Martina. Thank you, Becky. I would be honored to join your Yammer network anytime.

NOTE and Mea Culpa: I reserve the right in a future blog post to also tell you about even more truly remarkable people, like Steve Nguyen, Angus Florence, Cai Kjaer, Dean SwannScott Ward, Simon Denton, and Lesley Crook (my Working Out Loud Yammer pal) to name just a few (oh geez…I am so afraid I am forgetting people in my post Ignite conference stupor!). Just like the great people discussed above, they all play a significant role in my ongoing education and development in the world of Microsoft, Yammer and enterprise social networks.

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