On 25-28 October 2016, Auckland will be hosting Microsoft Ignite New Zealand 2016. With 2,500 attendees, you would be wrong to write this off as an insignificant, local event.

Even being so far away from Redmond, it’s well supported by the Microsoft team in the USA. The keynote speakers are Dona Sarkar (Windows Insider Program Lead), Donovan Brown (Senior Program Manager DevOps) and Jennifer Marshman (Principal Software Development Engineer). That’s an impressive line-up of US-based talent just in the first session. Scott Schnoll, Rick Claus and others are also making the long journey as well as Microsoft MVPs and industry experts from Australia and other countries.

Channel 9

To make the event extra-special this year, Rick Claus will also be bringing Seth Juarez, the Channel 9 team and their recording studio with him. They’ve already started preparing with a Microsoft Ignite New Zealand countdown show, with several episodes that you can watch here.

It’s not a US-only line-up though, with New Zealand proudly showing off its own technical talent. Microsoft staff like Regan Murphy and Jordanna Murray will be on stage along with industry experts and MVPs like Ashley Stewart, Chris Auld, Elaine van Bergen and Daniel Bowbyes.

Conference format

Microsoft Ignite New Zealand stays true to the tested Ignite format, with an expo hall, exam crams, hands on labs, technical sessions, happy hours and the famous attendee party. For the first time, attendees can bring non-attending people to the party, with a limited release of party tickets for sale.

Another great initiative is the ability for attendees to choose to not take a conference bag & instead donate it to either the High Tech Youth Network or “OMG Tech!”. Both organizations work with kids in New Zealand to get them interested in technology. This is a wonderful option for serial conference attendees who already have a cupboard full of various conference bags, but it’s still going to be a tough choice because the New Zealand satchel design is very, very stylish!

Women in Technology lunch

The Women in Technology lunch session is also opening up to a limited number of non-Ignite attendees, by invitation only. These special invitations come with a $25 per person fee, which is being donated to New Zealand Women’s Refuge. The speaker panel consists of Nuwanthie Samara Kone (ICE Professionals), Damian Sharkey (Westpac NZ) and myself, Sonia Cuff. We’ll be discussing practical strategies and tactics for encouraging and supporting diversity in the workplace, from recruitment to retention. I’m also co-presenting a technical session during the event on using Microsoft technologies to enable and control Software as a Service within your IT strategy.


Topics & Sessions

As the premier event for Microsoft IT professionals, the session list is as wide and varied as the industry itself. Topics you’d expect like Architecture, Development, Operations & Management and Usage & Adoption are present, covering today’s Enterprise hot topics like DevOps, Hybrid, Cloud and Containers.

Don’t expect any new major product announcements though as these are USA-lead and already announced at MS Ignite. That’s the reason New Zealand and Australia follow the USA conference, so they can expand on the announcements and deliver related sessions to their local markets. In fact, due to the timing of the USA conference this year, Australia’s Ignite normally scheduled for September was moved to February 2017. Don’t feel too sorry for them though – it will be the height of summer in Queensland’s Surfers Paradise. If you want to join the Aussies, buy your tickets here.

I could spend the entire conference just attending the Innovation and ‘Make Yourself More Awesome’ tracks, with sessions including lie detection with Machine Learning, work/life balance, keeping your tech skills current and “Convincing people, even your partner, to spend money.” I’m a little worried but intrigued at the same time with the session “Feel the FOFU: that one time I nearly killed everyone but it worked out OK.” (FOFU apparently stands for the Fear Of Fouling Up.) But I think I’m the most excited about the overview of the Cortana Intelligence Suite, seeing how machine learning, IoT and cognitive services can be built together fast to deliver amazing solutions.


Kiwis will also get a close-up look at the Hololens, on display in the expo hall at the Microsoft stand. 22 lucky attendees will win a hands-on (or is that heads-on?) demo session during the week, to try out augmented reality for themselves.

Join the conversation

Overall, Microsoft Ignite New Zealand provides a great experience for connecting with the experts and for learning about the awesome innovation and technical skills that their country has to offer.

To see the buzz and join the conversation, follow @MSIgniteNZ or the hashtag #MSIgniteNZ on Twitter. Session recordings will be made available after the event, and we’ll follow up with a post to let you know where to get them.