Monday, July 20, 2009

Sometimes even corporate giants do the right thing (who cares why).

On July 12th I headed down to New Orleans for my 3rd Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). This is where all of the companies who sell Microsoft products or ancillary services come from all over the world to learn how they are all going to make more money next year. Each year, the WPC organizers offer up a variety of networking opportunities for that Sunday – golf, field trips, etc designed to encourage some professional bonding but also to make the attendees feel important – dare I say, elite.

Well, this year, Microsoft threw in another option – one that I was not expecting - but one I was grateful to see. Microsoft called it “a day of giving” and then broke it down into a bunch of options so that attendees could opt-in at their comfort level. For the timid, you could work next to local artists at the convention center where we would be spending our week to help finish out murals for schools. There were a number of other options leading up to taking a ride out into the 9th Ward to help build houses for habitat for humanity. Not that this took any kind of heroics or stoicism by any stretch – we were bused in and bused out and we were assigned very discrete tasks – virtually no skills required.

But we actually framed two homes in a day. We worked alongside some of the people that would be moving into those (or similar) homes. We saw firsthand how much more work still needs to be done. We saw homes that still bore the National Guard markings indicating dead bodies were found in the attic all these years later. The heat, the scale, the smells - it was real - not reality TV.

Did the computer geeks (us) make a material dent in this national tragedy? A tiny dent maybe – nothing more on that day (in my opinion). But I know that our collective consciousness was raised, the connections, however fleeting, were far more memorable than any round of golf, and I for one am actually grateful to Microsoft for setting this considerable project in motion.

Now having said this, I will not be at all surprised if I see MSFT PR trumpeting this project and promoting itself to some absurd degree – but that won’t change the experience of those that were there. I can’t believe I am writing this – but thank you Microsoft.

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