Austin’s famous for a number of things: breakfast tacos, live music, a thriving startup and tech community and the number of places one can go with virtually no clothing and not get arrested.
But the city’s first SharePoint Tech Conference took place in the other part of Austin, in the northwest suburbs, close to Microsoft and Dell’s corporate headquarters and number of upscale retail chains.
This is the Place
Austin Renaissance Hotel was remodeled in 2013 with artistic, sophisticated furnishings and colors and unusual light fixtures and the latest technology. It sits in a major shopping area for the city that is — like so much of suburban Austin — camouflaged by ubiquitous Live Oak trees that are green year-round. The terrace looks out over a bit of hill country that locals believe resembles Tuscany. And the weather is a balmy 70 and sunny.
Still, it’s about 20 minutes — 40 in traffic — from downtown Austin and much that marks the iconic city including the Capitol, the University of Texas, food trailers, the Continental Club and Broken Spoke, and the Austin Museum of the Weird on the famous Sixth Street.
Checking Out Austin
Stacy Burris, vice president of BZ Media in New York which puts on two SPTechCons a year, said participants got discounts to Lyft, Uber and other transportation services so they’d have an opportunity to check out the city. They also received gift certificates to spend at local merchants to help support the community. For the first two days of the conference, she said, little was planned outside the day sessions to give participants the opportunity to explore Austin.
She and several of the speakers had made the 20 minute trek to Salt Lick Barbecue in Driftwood, Texas, founded in 1967. Sitting in the Texas Hill Country surrounded by Live Oak trees, Salt Lick is a limestone and cedar establishment that looks like it could have been constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Antje Lewald, SharePoint Business Systems Analyst for Ideas, a Minneapolis based company, said she’d arrived in Austin a day early, took a tour of the Capitol and ate at a Thai restaurant on “the drag,” a portion of Guadelupe (pronounced gwad-a-loop) alongside the University of Texas campus.
“I usually inform myself about the town I am going to at least but I had so much work I didn’t have time and I was on the airplane thinking ‘I don’t know anything about Austin.’” Lewald said. Fortunately event organizers included a book about the town.
“There is lots of bad traffic,” Lewald observed. “One thing I noticed, coming from Minnesota, the roads have no potholes. And people are very friendly. Everybody is very welcoming.”
Something About the Weather
Tom Tajmajer, AVP content systems manager for Eaton Vance Management in Boston said it hadn’t worked out for him to go to the SPTechCon there, but when he was shopping for conferences, the Austin weather definitely played a role in his choice. He was aiming to connect with a cousin who lived locally and tour the town starting Tuesday.
While BZ Media did not plan evening events for the first two days of the conference, encouraging participants to explore Austin, it did have a Tuesday networking event planned at the hotel, followed by a Meetup of the Austin SharePoint and Office 365 User Group.