Hey everyone (or anyone? hah.)
Just got back on my feet after a quick 24 hours of respite from CUSEC (Canadian University Software Engineering Conference). Worked three days missing school (yes!) at the Microsoft booth, where I walked people through the process of making apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and rewarded them with flying monkeys (or Xbox $5 gift cards if they so choosed, but only a sorry few picked those). What’s a flying monkey you ask? Yeah, I too was a bit taken a back when I found out it was literally a flying monkey. Susan who is the MSP lead at Microsoft supposedly begged her department to order these furry balls of pain and sleepless nights.
The monkeys can be slung at targets from a considerable distance with the help of their elastic arms. If you pull off the plastic tag on their posterior, they start squawking at the slightest agitation. They also come with orange capes embroidered with the Microsoft Dreamspark logo and a zorro mask. I didn’t stay at the hotel where most of the conference goers resided but apparently the things went off all night and certain floors didn’t get sleep! Poor monkeys 🙁
In terms of swag, we hands down beat all the other booths. Google and Morgan Stanley were not too far off however, with Google having a bunch of memorabilia, including some sort of cardboard “join Google” box, possibly with something inside and Morgan Stanley having a large cup with a twisty straw, which was durable and water tight enough to function as a water bottle. I got one of those and an IBM frisbee + pen, but felt that the other stuff was probably not worth it. Other companies had shirts, bottles, bags, stickers, cards and mostly annoying memorabilia crap. One company, or institution rather, didn’t have anything at all. The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) was present in all its force at CUSEC, being the primary sponsor of the event, with a booth twice the size of all the others and ditto in manpower (or womanpower rather, most of the CSEC folk were actually woman, which was pleasant to see, considering the abysmal female CS student demographic at CUSEC) and even going as far as to have the main presentation hall dubbed the “CSEC Room”. They quickly realized this shortcoming on the first day (probably when one of our monkeys hit them in the face) and resorted to attract folk through a “find the bug” contest. I didn’t bother investigating, but it seemed successful enough. The whole CSEC being there thing struck me however. It’s interesting how much they ramped up their publicity in the past months. I’ve been seeing their somewhat shoddily crafted ads all over the internets. Last year at this time, the only reason I would have known about CSEC was because I read an article in some magazine about Canada’s new billion dollar spy complex. I guess if they’ve been able to drill their name into my useless skull they’ve done something right… but they could clearly learn from their corporate counterparts, at least in terms of booth tactics.
Microsoft’s booth tactics involved a fellow MSP (Sam I think? Didn’t really get a chance to meet him), Jordan, a recruiter and SDE from Redmond (Canadian), Susan the MSP lead and Evangelist from Ottawa, Munin a Marketing Coop from Waterloo and of course yours truly, some kid from TMR. Susan did broad duties which encompassed all of our roles and much more. She was really positive and cheery and quite the crowd pleaser. Jordan was answering job questions and reviewed resumes and quickly became the most popular person at the conference. Seriously though, they were all over him and I resisted from divulging his lunching coordinates lest they mob him at the buffet. Munin was relatively new to Microsoft and had absolutely no technical background whatsoever. He helped me out with the create a Hello World app on Win 8 challenge and we made a formidable tag team, where I’d start off by boasting Visual Studio 2013 to any passerbys and contrasting with Eclipse (which generally everyone used, even the IBM folk, but not the Morganners or Oracle), showing how easy it was to develop on it and then with Munin following in with the Code Kwondo and raffle promotions. We were by far the busiest booth at CUSEC and the only one that was consistently visited. On the third day, certain booths just gave up altogether and left the conference (a certain large competitor was one of them). It was partially our synergy that made us succeed but I’d have to say it was primarily because Susan had the evangelism thing down to a science. The other booths were simply nowhere as enthusiastic as us. Often they’d be spending their time at our booth anyway. Consequently, I got to meet a lot of cool people from the industry. The hallmarks of this experience for me would have to be when I taught an MBA from IBM how to code and when a SDE from Revenu Quebec started disapproving the Marois regime and the bureaucracy in Revenu Quebec.
What was probably most noteworthy however was the hustling that was going on for jobs at the conference. We were the only booth that had evangelists as well as recruiters. People would often be lined up in front of Jordan while we stood by idly. Sometimes people would turn down the monkey and ask for a job offer instead. All animosity against Microsoft disappeared when it came to jobs and students who have never touched .NET started extolling the virtues of Windows 8 and the CLR (my favourite being “Hey, there’s a lot of hate on Windows 8, but I actually really like it!”, a very sly job prospect). All the kids (I don’t know why I say that, they were older than me) would eagerly hang on to my every word, thinking I was a Microsoft employee and suddenly drop interest and scurry off without adieu when I told them I was a mere campus ambassador. Interestingly enough, not many of the Microsoft employees or interns that I’ve known, demonstrate such behaviour and are all actually extremely polite.
There were several speeches and presentations going on during the course of CUSEC, from various industry leaders (or representatives thereof). I probably should have listened to more, but I really enjoyed helping out at the booth and therefore only visited one. A representative from Mozilla discussed how he got involved with Mozilla. Started off with how he thought he was a huge noob but decided to tackle one of the problems anyway. After 6 months pouring over some bug he finally completed his task and the commit provided him with some heavenly orgasmic climax feeling. Then he couldn’t stop. Sounds familiar. He then went on to demonstrate how easy it was to get involved. It was cool for the first few minutes, where he demoed www.whatcanidoformozilla.org. There were a lot of cool projects (the Win 8 integration interested me in particular, maybe once I learn C++), but it started getting a bit too specific and I lost interest and fell asleep. I couldn’t really tell if any of the other speakers would be any better, but I would have been down to go listen to a certain Zach Holman, probably because I liked his display picture.
During the conference, I totally pigged out. The first day I had a small breakfast of scrambled eggs and OJ, bought lunch at one of the hotel delis, but the real damage came during supper when I met my father somewhere downtown for an Indian buffet. I wasn’t really that hungry, but I figured why the hell not. Next day I found out, when I ate at a steak and cake buffet courtesy of CUSEC and the day after when I had a General Tao buffet also courtesy of CUSEC. I had significantly stretched the waist-button of my size 30 pants from the fabric and I feared that my pants would rip at the seams (something that stems from wearing really shitty pants in elementary, where I used to be really really fat). Luckily the tough Sri Lankan or Bengali stiching made it through the day unscathed and when I woke up the next morning I had only gained a total of 2 pounds. This was fine by me, as I expected to be able to burn this off in a few days. I slept through the next day and then put on 3 more pounds… Well now I’m pretty annoyed, especially because I’m really too tired to go workout after school, but I guess it’s a sacrifice I have to be willing to make.
After all this, I abhor having to return to Marianopolis. It’s just such a draining and unrewarding environment. The fourth semester more or less doesn’t count for the purposes of University application and therefore, doesn’t count for anything at all (or at least, that’s the logic at Marianopolis). I’m glad that I got all the teachers I wanted this time around, including professors Sasson, Baharak and fitness celebrity Shelly McDonald, some of the most understanding and supportive people ever. The students and the format of the education irks me to no end however. I’ll save this for another post, but balls are simply not appreciated here. It just kills me to watch people do things they really don’t want to do, especially because I’m trying to escape from this bullshit myself. It’s like being raised in the hood and trying to make it out when everyone else is getting their ass busted. I’m trying hard to rehabilitate myself however. I’m putting more and more effort into the things I really love such as code and hopefully I’ll have the balls to take the leap and ditch this stifling environment altogether.
Looking forward to CUSEC 2015. Maybe this time I’ll be amongst the straggling CS freshmen looking to land a dream position at a tech behemoth, clutching the 5th revision of “Mansib Ramen: Life and Times of a CS freshman who wants a job at your company”.