My Microsoft Ignite 2019 Interview with Mary-Jo Foley
I’m a Community Reporter for Microsoft Ignite this year. As part of that role, I had the huge honor/honour of being able to schedule time with Mary-Jo Foley who has covered Microsoft for over 30 years. You can watch the full 16 minute video below, or read on for the summary. A big thank you to Mary-Jo being so generous with her time.
Bookmarks for the video:
why attend Ignite: 00:31
attendee advice: 02:10
announcement predictions: 04:59
first interview with Bill Gates: 10:00
how to watch a keynote: 12:09
For Mary-Jo Foley (MJF), Microsoft Ignite is still an event that should be on every IT Pro’s calendar. She notes that Microsoft tend to store up big announcements for key events like Ignite, rolling up all new features from the previous few months and committing new future ones. This “rolling-up” of events seems to be something that’s increasing over time: based on her experience over the years, Microsoft events have become a place to go for announcements as well as just learning and networking.
I was keen to ask MJF about her advice to new attendees, based on her experiences. In keeping with what others have said, her advice centered around networking and meeting people, rather than just attending sessions. She makes a habit of taking time out to walk the expo floor, because she says that doing that means she always meets a new person of interest.
“So, the good news is, I’m not under NDA for Ignite, at all, so I can just give you my guesses…about what I think might happen”
Of course, I pressed MJF for her predictions for Microsoft Ignite. She revealed that she actually roams through the Session Builder list looking at the session titles and descriptions for clues. These are her guesses:
- calendar.help to become a GA service, renamed Scheduler
- more around Bot Framework & Conversation as a Service
- more around Productivity
- Microsoft Teams news
- Azure announcements, specifically Azure Stack
- MJF also put forward a “moon-shot” prediction, that Microsoft would start talking about the developer story for the Surface Duo and Surface Neo that were recently announced. Her reasons for this include the fact that Build 2020 would likely be too late for developers to ready apps in time for the holiday season when the devices will ship.
It wasn’t all Ignite news though – I really wanted to know about her first interview with Bill Gates in 1984, which happened just a year after MJF graduated from college. Microsoft was a much smaller company back then and much hungrier for press attention, so when she contacted them for an interview (she found their phone number in an annual report) they flew her to an event in Las Vegas to meet Bill. Things are very different now though – you definitely can’t just phone up and ask to interview Satya Nadella!
How to watch a keynote
I wanted to know what it was like for MJF to attend a vision keynote. For us non-reporters, it’s a once-a-year event and gets us excited about what we do and for the future. But for the experienced journalist who has sat through hours of similar events, what’s it like? What are the tips for not just surviving, but actually getting something useful from yet another keynote?
MJF’s answer was surprising, and interesting. She has noticed clues in the way that Satya speaks and in particular how he is very specific about the words he uses. MJF recommends listening closely for words and phrases that haven’t been used before, because they give clues as to future strategy and direction. It’s a fascinating insight into how to analyse something as prepared and examined as a vision keynote speech and still be able to extract meaning and insight from it. For MJF, it’s like a puzzle, a game almost, and means that attending keynotes remains interesting and fun.
Watch more like this
I hope this video was useful and interesting. If you’re attending Microsoft Ignite this year then make sure to check out all the other video interviews I’m doing in the run up to, and during, Microsoft Ignite. I have a dedicated YouTube Playlist for them. You can also follow me on Twitter where I’ll be providing lots of tips and tricks throughout the week on the #MSIgnite hashtag.