What an IT Pro Learned From Working at the Olympics

Last night, 80,000 of my closest friends and I sat in BC Place and experienced the closing ceremonies of the XXI Winter Olympics. It's always an emotional experience, to watch the games come to an end, to see the city empty of its throngs, and to begin the process of tearing down this little enterprise of 2000+ employees at NBC Olympics. I know how lucky I've been to experience six Olympics, and it's been great to share this one with you.

I appreciate the hundreds of notes I've received over the last weeks from friends and followers who have enjoyed my tweets and photos from Vancouver. It was a hard-working, but rewarding time, and I did get "out" of the International Broadcast Center to attend a couple of events, including two-man bobsleigh, which I enjoyed with SharePoint colleagues from Colligo, Metalogix, and Quest. I've posted one last batch of photos to my SkyDrive.

I'd also like to thank the people of Vancouver, who threw an incredible, friendly, exciting party for hundreds of thousands of people. Vancouver is a beautiful place, and the beauty is definitely more than skin deep. This is a vibrant place that really came alive last night after the thrilling hockey gold medal game. I've never seen a city come completely unglued with euphoria before! It was amazing, and I never thought maple leaves could be painted with such accuracy on so many faces and bodies!

Of course, the Olympics are a mammoth undertaking by everyone involved, starting with the organizers and the athletes down to those of us in the I.T. trenches. I like to use the Games as an opportunity to reflect on lessons that apply to my personal and professional life, and this week I'd like to share some of those "life and I.T." lessons with you.

Learn from the best, and dedicate the time to train
It astounds me just how many athletes, even those representing distant lands, make great sacrifices to spend time learning from the best in their sport. In IT, that means doing what you can to keep learning from the best in the business. There are so many opportunities to learn more about SharePoint: the SharePointPro Summit in Vegas next month, The Experts Conference  in Vegas in April, and TechEd  in June are the best "live" events out there, and in an earlier newsletter I presented a comparison of these events. There are also numerous virtual, live online and on-demand events including Connections Online. And there's a big, wide Internet full of expertise. Be sure to dedicate time to train your brain, to stay on top of your field, whether it's a few days at an event or a few minutes each day catching up on line.

Surround yourself with people who push you to be better than you think you can be
Canadian ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue made no bones about it: they wouldn't have won the gold without their daily training and competition with American silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White. I'm a huge believer that, to be better, you must surround yourself with people who believe you can be, and push you to be, better than you are and better than you think you can be.

That's one of the things I value most about my Olympics experience: being surrounded with a team that is the best in the businesses, and who asks more of me than I think I can deliver. Give some thought to what you can do to surround yourself with top-caliber peers. Attend events, such as those mentioned above or your local SharePoint users groups, but also look "up" from whatever your job is. If you're an IT Pro or Dev, find ways into events attended by directors and CIOs-get a feeling for the strategic and financial issues they are concerned with.

Focus on the task at hand and tune out all the noise
We all watched the intensity with which Olympians focus, and how they are able to set aside thoughts of anything other than the race they're in. We saw athletes overcome painful injuries, family tragedies, and much more. And yet sometimes it is easy for me to get "caught up" in silly nonsense that distracts me from being my best. Next time you sense that you're getting caught in a quagmire of distraction, turn on your focus, and get the job done.

Know your equipment, know its limits, keep it in shape, and have a back up
Equipment succeeds, equipment fails, equipment breaks, equipment must be replaced. Are you prepared for slips, slides, and crashes of your SharePoint infrastructure, all the way down to the hardware level? I learned some lessons the hard way over the last two weeks. As I've been in Vancouver, I've been doing all my work on a "pimped out" laptop. Remember my rant against Hyper-V as a personal solution?

Unfortunately, one of my other client projects forces me to use Hyper-V, meaning that I have to use Windows Server 2008 R2 as my own "desktop" OS. Well now I am ranting even more strongly: Hyper-V made it downright impossible for me to deal with digital media (photos, videos, and streams) which, at the Olympics, was a big part of my job.

And I learned that SSDs are not guaranteed to last "forever." My six-month old, $800, 256GB OCZ Vertex drive just froze solid, leading to painful loss of data and time. And I was under the "spell" of SSDs and did not have an image of my system drive. Lesson learned! What are the single-points of failure in your technology ‘stack'? Make them redundant!

I'm proud to say that the Vancouver Games have already surpassed Torino's ratings, and we're hopeful that when yesterday's numbers come in this could overtake even Salt Lake 2002-that these might be the top-rated winter Olympics since the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics which were, you might remember, the center of the Kerrigan-Harding spectacle. I hope you were able to share some of the Olympic Games with your friends and family. And if you did, I hope you also found some lessons and some inspiration for your professional and personal life, and to share with your friends and family! Thanks for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to next week when we return to "tech" in the next issue of SharePoint Pro Connections Update.

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