‘There is a first time for everything’, as the saying goes. Last Wednesday it was my first time I attended a conference thanks to my company. Being a Gold Standard Microsoft Cloud Partner sure has its perks, not only because we can take part of the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) benefits but also being part of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), we are first to know of the latest developments, upcoming conferences, insider news and all things Microsoft as with the case of this conference.

This was the fourth year Microsoft have held their annual Cloud Conference ‘Future Decoded’. I had only heard about such large-scale events; always aspired to attend had I got the chance, and I was just really glad that I could finally go. I didn’t’ quiet know what to expect in terms of content (apart from it being really informative) but was looking forward to the freebies (especially stickers).

To begin with, the day had a manic start; the venue was 132 miles from my house (a 2 hours and 20 mins drive) which turned into a 4-hour drive. Yes! 4 hours. I left my house at 4:30am in the morning (I’m a morning person so I’m always an early bird) and was expecting to arrive in London at 6:50am. I ended up arriving at the venue at 8:30am. You may say, having stopped over the night in a hotel the day before would have been a lot easier, but I love my bed too much :P.

The drive felt tedious especially waiting in stand still traffic for 30 mins on the M1 (Motorway). Luckily I had one of my close friends attending as well, so I made a pit stop first at his place to pick him up and then we arrived at the venue together. The drive itself was an experience, felt very like I was actually driving to the Airport (as I always leave at such early hours when I have a flight to catch to India).

Having arrived at ExCel London at 8:30am, my friend and I competed registration and made our way down to main conference centre where the opening Keynote took place. Seeing the room full of tech nerds all of different levels was truly buzzing, I look around and see the conference hall jam packed with people. Just then the lights dim down and the spotlight shines mid stage on the Microsoft Logo plate assisted by two cinema size projector screens on either side of the stage. I’d only seen this stuff online till now, but now I was actually here. This was so cool.

The opening Keynote was super interesting and I was gripped. I’m not going to go into the actual details of what was discussed, that’s rather too technical, and I also don’t want to bore you, so will keep it to the point and short.

Having my mate there was a bonus; exploring the Expo together was awesome. Following the Opening Keynote, everyone then split up into their relevant workshops, luckily we had already arranged our agenda beforehand so knew where to go and when. The workshops didn’t all turn out as good as I expected, out of the two I attended one wasn’t as informative as I had advanced prior experience of the API however the first workshop was great. Lots to learn and very informative. Good thing I went prepared, I took my notepad and pen with me to scribble down an overview and breakdown of the workshops which I then fed back to my CEO who was also present there along with my colleagues.

I was disappointed as there was no freebies that were being given away but to compensate that the Expo included free professional photos taken by LinkedIn themselves; I remember queueing up for about 40 mins to get mine taken, and it was well worth the wait. Alongside the free photo booth, they had Adobe, and other various media and cloud organisations present, and not forgetting my company was also there representing the Azure User Group UK and Inspiring Women in Data Science user group. Though I didn’t speak my colleagues ran the UK Azure User Group workshop. This was a huge success so to thumbs up!

Whilst exploring the Expo I managed to get my hands on the Holo Lens. This was a superb experience; having the opportunity to play with Virtual Reality, funny enough I had not done so till date (which I myself find extremely weird seeing how much I love tech).

Without going on for much longer now, the day ended with a closing keynote from some more Microsoft Employees (some who had flown in especially from Redmond) and Gary Neville, former Manchester United footballer. You may ask, as did I when I first found out that he was speaking at the conference, what can a footballer possibly have to say about Tech? It turned out he was here to promote a new partnership venture with Microsoft and the University of Lancaster called UA92 (University Academy 92). A new incentive to train pupils between 16-21 with 10 core principles that were deemed as crucial for making good future leaders.

All in all, the day was a fruitful experience, I got to learn a lot and was continuously buzzing from the tech atmosphere. I would definitely consider going again next year. The future surely is decoded.