I was lucky/thrilled to get to spend a few minutes chatting with Dr. DeWitt this afternoon (and thanks to PASS for the opportunity!). I’m struggling to decide what and how to write, feeling a bit awestruck.
I walked away thinking that in person he’s just a quieter version of the presenter we’ll see tomorrow morning. Quiet and thoughtful. He looks forward to the presentation and dreads it at the same time. It’s a lot of work to prepare – three months total effort for the 75 minutes you’ll see tomorrow. It’s tough to find a topic that he is passionate about and thinks the audience will want to see. He’s super conscious of someone taking his efforts as ‘plugging the product’. Clearly he’s a Microsoft guy, even has a Microsoft Windows 8 Phone, but – and this is my take – he knows that if it feels like a sales pitch the whole tone changes, yet new features are the places where he is most involved and most passionate.
He wasn’t sure what he would talk about this year, finally choosing Hekaton. He has a bunch of slides ready, but he doesn’t practice! He’s spent his career teaching, often in 75 minute blocks, and has a good sense of how long it takes – and he said that practicing often hurt his final presentation because he would worry so much about not making the same mistakes in practice. No practice isn’t the same as no preparation, there is 3 months of preparation that gets him through that 75 minutes. He talked about getting over the fear of talking to 4000 people, something I think we can all understand if we never get to that level.
I asked about the impact of his involvement with PASS. He said that it has been hugely gratifying and somewhat stressful. He loves when his work is used to teach students (with proper attribution). He stresses over the work and the super high expectations, but loves putting his time into an organization he considers to be very successful – PASS. But, and this surprised me, he said that his PASS involvement hasn’t really changed his career at Microsoft.
So, what about tomorrow? I got a preview and you’re not going to think it’s a plug for Hekaton. It’s a lot more and a lot better than that. And while I’m not sure Dr. DeWitt will appreciate me raising the stakes, I’ll say I think this will be the best presentation he’s done for us so far. You don’t want to miss this one!
Thanks to Dr. DeWitt for making time for the chat!