Mixing Tribes

Last week I attend the Canterbury Tech Summit, a conference run by the organisation to represents our local tech industry. One presentation stood out to me, it was about navigating you way though the various communities and cultures we belong to.

I’m a Kiwi and my ancestors are Swedish with a bit of English, Scottish and Prussian mixed in to make me interesting! I am actively researching and documenting my ancestry, and the more I learn the more understand myself. I grew up in a rural farming community where the only Scandinavian I had heard of was Roald Amundsen, first person to reach the South Pole. He was never as famous as Scott (who sadly died trying). Most of my friends were rugby players, but our family sport of choice was hockey. Everyone mispronounced my name and I often felt self-concous because I didn’t have a common surname, like Smith, Jones or Brown.

The talk has resonated with me because while I look like most of the people in the room, my ancestry and culture are different. I’ve spent my life navigating this without really knowing it! Isn’t it strange how you can reach 50 and only just start to understand who you really are?

In my career, I have worked in many roles. I started as a developer, worked in infrastructure, I’ve been a part-time DBA and worked as a technology consultant for a wide range of clients. This helps me to talk the different languages of IT and learn how to work with a diverse range of people.

The IT community has many tribes and subcultures, usually oriented around the types of work people do. Each of these groups has different languages, different behaviours, different needs and focuses. For example, if you speak to an infrastructure focused IT Pro, you will hear someone who cares deeply about networks, security and Windows build you are using, where-as a data analyst might be much more focused on what information we keep, the insights you need and privacy requirements.

Skip forward a few days and I arrived in Auckland for the Difinity Conference, a great conference for people who are interested in Microsoft’s Data Platform and Business Intelligence technology. Wait a minute, aren’t you a Microsoft MVP who loves SharePoint? YES! Why are you meeting with a completely different tribe to your own? Short answer is because that is when the magic happens.

The slightly longer answer is this. In our industry, we all deal with similar issues, but we look at them through a different lens. The different tribes that make up the IT Community, are often discussing the same topics. Our subcultures don’t tend to mix often and so we do things in parallel. I wanted to mix with them and hear what they had to say? What makes these people different to me and what do we have in common?

I was intrigued to listen to a couple of talks that I could relate to from a Microsoft 365 and SharePoint perspective. The same challenges I have are also present for people in the Data Platform space! Why didn’t we talk about this earlier!? I guess also that this extends back in Redmond, different product teams working on the same or similar problems for different products. Are these teams trying to resolve the same things in parallel? Only Satya Nadella will know for sure.

We talked in the breaks, went out for dinner, and shared stories. That’s when I discovered another thing. Some of us belong to more than one subculture. I had several conversations with people who own their own consulting businesses. Guess what!? We also have the same challenges, our businesses operate in similar ways, it is just the services we consult on that are different. We also have our own language, yes, we are a subculture in our own right!

Before heading home from Auckland, I had one last activity. A group of Microsoft MVP’s from Auckland planned an end of year catch-up. A few out of town MVP’s including some of the international MVP’s here for Difinity, crashed the party! Now we were all in a room together, from Dynamics 365 to Identity, Data Platform to Microsoft Loop and everything in-between. How awesome! We are another subculture, geeks committed to community! The night was filled with great discussion and getting to know each other over a good food and beverages.

Someone much smarter than me once said, learn from people outside your immediate circle. They will teach you how to look at things from a different perspective. So that is exactly what I did, and it was rewarding.

In Canterbury Tech Summit presentation, one of the key messages was to embrace all of your cultures and engage with those around you. Take the time to listen and understand others will not only make you a more interesting person, it will also get you invited to do more interesting things.

Thank you to the #SQLFamily tribe for taking such good care of this #M365 tribe member. You lot are alright!

and now in Swedish – “Tack till #SQLFamily-stammen eller att du tar så väl hand om denna #M365-stammedlem. Du mår bra!”

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