I have just returned from a private conference in northwest Arkansas hosted by Tyson Foods. The flight to Arkansas was quite eventful – but more about that later. It was an extremely successful event on the scale of a district level Code Camp. There were eight tracks with about 50 presentations throughout the day. Presenters came in from all over – Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Minnesota are the states I remember – and the presentations were uniformly excellent. There was also a large Microsoft presence at the event – much larger than we get at the usual Code Camp – which simply added to the fun. There were approximately 250 attendees – all Tyson employees – and almost every session was recorded, so anyone who missed the event can play them back later.
Special congratulations should be given to Devlin Lyles of Tyson for his central role in organizing this conference and promoting it internally. He was able to make the business case for the conference to his internal management, arguing that bringing a conference in-house would ensure that everyone at Tyson corporate could participate and, furthermore, exposure to sophisticated conversations about technology will raise the level of software development within the corporation. I wish more companies were this insightful about, first, the need to raise everyone’s game and, second, that there are easy, non-coercive ways to do this. Congratulations also to Jay Smith, Jeremy Sharp, Rob Tennyson and all the others who put in long hours to make this conference successful.
I was also happy to have the opportunity to get to know some of the other speakers, in particular Jim Holmes, Phil Japikse, Cory Smith, Tim Rayburn, Robert Boedigheimer, Chris Patterson, Seyed Hashimi, Betty Leudke and Tom Sanchez.
I gave three talks at the TDC: Architecting WPF for Versatility, Intro to WPF, and Advanced C#. The last talk was mostly code, so I have only attached the slide decks for the first two.
As I said, the flight to the conference was eventful. I met up with Phil Japikse and Jim Holmes at the airport, recognizing Phil from his MVP profile picture (there aren’t that many MS MVPs with shaved heads and handlebar moustaches). Our flight kept getting delayed and moved from gate to gate, and we kept emailing Devlin to let him know that we were not confident we would make the speaker dinner.
We finally embarked onto one of the smallest commercial planes I have ever had the pleasure of flying in. There was one stewardess and one pilot and before we knew it we were off. About half-way between Atlanta and Northwest Arkansas our stewardess came to the front of the plane and asked – I never thought I would ever hear these words — “Is there a doctor on the plane?” It was cliché but effective in getting everyone’s attention.
As if going down a well-rehearsed list, she then asked if there was a nurse on the plane. Finally, she asked if there was an EMT on the plane and Phil raised his hand. Two seats behind me, a passenger was having some chest pain. Over the course of the flight, this passenger proceeded to pass out twice and projectile vomit once. That familiar smell was with us over most of Arkansas. Phil had a commanding presence and immediately recruited Jim to be his assistant. Jim, in turn, helped to calm the other passengers and simply did a great job keeping his head through the emergency (at the conference he presented a session on Leadership which I am glad to hear was very well attended). As Phil became aware of the seriousness of the troubled passenger’s condition, he told the stewardess to tell the pilot to land the plane immediately and have an ambulance meet us. We were close enough to our destination that we simply sped up and quickly dropped our altitude (it took hours for my ears to finally adjust after that) and I don’t think I’ve ever landed and been taxied to the airport gate so quickly.
I already knew that Jim and Phil were impressive software people who can quickly debug and deploy applications during software emergencies. I was quite pleased and impressed to find out that their skills translate so well to emergency situations in the real world. They were both heroic and I am quite certain that their actions saved a life that day.