In our inaugural episode of the Mavens Do It Better Podcast we speak with Tracy O'Connell, producer of the European SharePoint, Office 365 & Azure Conference.
Listen in as Heather Newman talks with Tracy about:
The upcoming European SharePoint Conference
How Tracy got her start producing events
What moment inspired Tracy and led her to her current role
Advice she has for women in technology
Heather Newman: Hi everybody, this is Heather Newman and we are talking here today at Ignite. I'm doing a little bit of mavening. We're looking at a great friend and colleague, Tracy O'Connell who is in charge of the European SharePoint Conference and I would call her an event maven for sure. Maven in tech, a longtime friend in the SharePoint community. So hello!
Tracy O'Connell: Hello. Thank you, Heather. Thank you for the lovely introduction and great to do this podcast with you. a lady, who I think, is the one of the leaders in SharePoint and has been from the very beginning, so thank you.
Heather: You're welcome.
Tracy: Thanks for having me.
Heather: Absolutely. Going to check and make sure we're doing our thing here. Oh yeah. Okay. Recording. Yay! I'm coming to speak at your event again, so thank you for that.
Tracy: Exactly, fantastic can't wait to have you in Dublin.
Heather: I know, I'm so excited to come back. Studied at Trinity for a semester a long time ago. So I'm excited to come back. So when is the event?
Tracy: The event is in November, so November this year in about seven weeks and it's 13th to 16th of November and it's in the convention center in Dublin. So we're really excited. We're inviting people from all over Europe, all over the world and to date we already have confirmed in and around 1200 people from everywhere, all over Europe to the states, Canada, China, Australia, even. Predominantly our attendees would be from the Nordics, Germany, UK, and then all over Europe.
Heather: That's fantastic.
Tracy: So, IT Pro, Dev and Business is, you know, the three tracks we cover at the conference and everything SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure. we have nine sessions at any one time, so you can kind of choose what to go to. And loads of choice. Really a strong program I think in 2017.
Heather: Fantastic. That's really great. How many people do you think are going to attend?
Tracy: I expect somewhere between 1,500 to 1,700 this year. I'd like to see us grow on our previous numbers in Vienna and Stockholm and just strengthen the conference. It is the biggest one in Europe and we've been consistently growing, so, yeah, I think we can expect to see that in 2017 in Dublin.
Heather: Yeah, that's great. Wonderful. So how about our keynotes?
Tracy: Our keynotes are amazing. We have a lineup of four really strong keynotes. I can't wait to see them. we open the conference on Tuesday morning, the 14th of November with Jeff Teper.
Tracy: So that will be amazing. We can't wait to see Jeff.
Heather: I was hanging out with him last night a little bit. He's amazing.
Tracy: He is amazing. Yeah. so, we're really privileged and honored to have Jeff open the conference for us. Then we have Benjamin Niaulin who I think everyone knows and respects as well. Also met him this morning, wonderful guy and he's really pumped about the keynote. I think he's going to really do an amazing job. So, we will have, you know, for that first morning opening the conference, we will hear from Jeff, you know, the Microsoft story and then we'll have Benjamin who will give the Office 365 SharePoint perspective from the community side. I think they complement each other perfectly. They're back to back on the first morning of the conference and then we break out into breakout sessions. So, eight to nine choices at any one time then we have on the following day we have Rafal Lukawiecki. He's amazing. Yeah. Really, really good guy. you might have seen or heard him do presentations on BI before. I'm really, I think this guy is a genius. He is speaking on machine learning and AI. So that's going to be something really special. I think he's also here at Ignite, doing a few sessions. And then the final keynote is going to be Vesa Juvonen. So, you know, a Dev keynote essentially, and PMP. Although we haven't announced it yet, that's going to be a scenario where Vesa predominantly does the keynote, but potentially with some friends as well.
Heather: Oh Great.
Tracy: So that story is evolving based on friends. We're really excited about that as well. That's the final day. So, all in all I think a really good set of keynotes and I can't wait to see them.
Heather: Something near and dear to my heart, the Women and Technology Lunch that you wonderfully had me do for the last couple years.
Tracy: Thank you Heather. You've been really awesome speaking for the last two years.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. So thank you for that. And I know that you're mixing it up a little this year, which is awesome. Are you revealing who's speaking there?
Tracy: We can reveal it now. So, I've just confirmed recently we're going to have Karuana Gatimu who is the principal engineer of Microsoft Teams, so she's going to be amazing. She's going to speak on empowering women in the age of digital transformation. It's going to be really good, really awesome person. We may also have some smaller elements of that lunch where we hear from women in tech and girls in tech, so some of those great organizations yeah. We hope you join us as well, heather.
Heather: Of course. Yes. I'll be Rah Rah, Rah and get everybody going to this. Absolutely. So that's great. So you're a woman in tech, how long have you been at this?
Tracy: I have been working on technology conferences since 2001.
Tracy: Yeah. So around 16 years. So, I'm in the SharePoint space, Microsoft space since about seven years ago. And prior to that I was working on software testing events. Yeah. So still in technology, you know, technology events. But yeah, this community, the Microsoft community is one that I think really stands out as special. There's a tightness and closeness in the SharePoint community that I haven't experienced in other industries. And yeah, this week more than ever I think that's really apparent. You know, you can see the excitement and the energy when Jeff does his keynote, you know, everyone knows each other, respects each other and helps each other. I think even in the expo you see that there's a competitive edge, but also already friendly, camaraderie,
Heather: Co-opertition maybe?
Tracy: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. It's really nice, but I do think it's exclusive to this community. I haven't seen it as tight in any other industry.
Heather: Yeah, for sure. I'm curious about, I've been doing some writing and talking and reading all kinds of things about sort of what, what moves us and moments of awe in our lives and I'm curious, maybe put you on the spot a little bit, but can you think of like a moment that was the spark for you of like when you say, decided to kind of get into this or what, what made you go, yes, this is what I want to do.
Tracy: I think for me, the one that stands out is the first SharePoint conference I did in Berlin because there what we did, myself and the team, was that we took an idea to something real and a real life event within 12 months and there was that sense of accomplishment and wonder, you know, when all that community came together in Berlin. A community, which granted, already existed before I was in this industry, but just to facilitate those people meeting on a larger European stage was really special and since then we've been growing. It gets more special the more we can kind of grow out that event and, and bring more nuances, more elements to it. But the first one was special because you could tell it was strong and it was special. It was going places. So that was, it was hard work, but certainly a serious sense of accomplishment. And there is that, that buzz you get from a live event that I think is difficult to replicate. I love working on events and there's something about a coming together and the energy from all the people there that is really special.
Heather: That's great.
Tracy: I love doing this.
Heather: What was your first, first event that you ever put on?
Tracy: First, first event?
Heather: Was it when you were a kid? Maybe?
Tracy: Yeah. Well, yes, you know, there would have been birthday parties and school events, college events as well, you know, I was in the Kayak Club in college and then we would do fundraising events and that kind of thing. So yeah, those were probably the first ones. At that point I didn't think I would be in events.
Heather: What where you're going to do?
Tracy: I was studying commerce. So it was kind of wide open, you know, um, and I specialized in marketing, so therefore, you know, it does make sense. Yeah, and I did begin working in marketing and then really liked the events side of it. you know, attending events, organizing smaller ones and that's where that was the direction I took then, and although I'm still involved in marketing, someone else overseas that function in our company and does a great job on it and so, you know, I am involved but not to the scale I am in the event side of things.
Heather: You run the logistics and the content. I mean you run the whole show, right? As far as that goes, you have a lot of people to help you.
Tracy: A great team though. They really help. Couldn't do it without the team.
Heather: Will you tell me where are you from? I love your accent and I know where you're from, but will you tell everyone?
Tracy: I am from Ireland. So, based in the west coast of Ireland in Galway. So, next stop America really. We're on the west coast. It's lovely. Seaside town.
Heather: I Turned 24 in Galway.
Tracy: Did you? Oh, amazing.
Heather: There's a bar there, restaurant, bar, ha ha. Called is it, I'm going to say it probably incorrectly, but it's the Nockton?
Tracy: Oh, Neachtain's. Yes. Yeah, yeah. It's still, they're still going strong.
Heather: I tuned 24 in that bar.
Tracy: That's a fabulous bar. Hasn't changed. Everything inside is quaint and very old, wooden furniture.
Heather: Galway is known for that beautiful arts festival which I went to, it was all at the same time. So yeah, I got to do all of that, which was quite lovely.
Tracy: You would've been doing loads of acting around that time and everything yeah?
Heather: That was when I studied at Trinity, actually Irish plays and playwrights. So yeah. I didn't realize you were from Galway, that's amazing.
Tracy: I'm from Kerry. My parents are from Kerry, in the south, and that's where I grew up, but work and live in Galway now. I love it. Yeah. So, the conference we're running this year as it happens is in Dublin as well. Dublin is east coast. So, a few miles from Galway.
Heather: Well wonderful. So, to some of the other women in tech out there, sort of any piece of advice, inspiring thing you've seen lately or somebody that you read and follow that you're like, oh yeah, you should check them out?
Tracy: I like Sheryl Sandberg, you know? I also like the idea, and I've heard you talk on this, Heather, is that what's important is that women help each other and we're all in this together and you know, if there's someone that needs help, or you've done it before and you can give someone advice, help them along. I think that's really important and you know, I think it's important as well for us to feel more so that we're, we're all equal. Men and women, we're all doing jobs. And I like to think of it as I like to try and think of us as all equals and sort of, yes, that women should help each other, but by the same token, we should be helping men. Men should be helping us as well and like to kind of feel that it's a more even playing field, but certainly in tech and in these events, we can see, you know, that there are far, far more men in this industry than women. For that reason alone, I think we do need to look out for each other and help each other along the way. Yeah.
Heather: Lift a sister up. That's awesome. Cool, well I appreciate you sitting down with me for a minute and doing this.
Tracy: I loved it and thank you heather. So good to see you
Heather: I know, it's great to see you too. So everybody, thank you so much. And um, that was Tracy O'Connell from the European SharePoint Conference and we're going to sign off and have a great day and do lift each other up is what we need to do. So thank you.
Tracy: Thank you heather.