My Experience At NCC 2013 continued

The spring semester is well on its way, and the NCC is right around the corner. Our AITP meetings continue to meet, but now with a spring in our steps. We have added a second meeting per week to train for the competitions, now it was feeling like a computer club. I have a lot of expectations for myself (I do that a lot, they usually turn out to be humbling experiences when they are not met) in PC Trouble shooting and Microsoft Office Solutions, the two competitions I am going to compete in. I also plan on taking the ICCP and MTA certifications; these will look good in my portfolio.

It is now Wednesday April 3rd, 9 P.M. My fellow colleagues Tom Ogren and Danielle Rill will be here in one hour to pick me up for the conference. I am full of anxiety and fluttering excitement, yet a sense of reality that if I do not place in any of the competitions or pass any of the certifications, then I will have still had a great vacation from the everyday routine of school and homework. I have posted on Facebook for everyone to say prayers for me and my travel companions, that we may have a safe and enjoyable time. With my packing all done, I now spend the next hour checking, double checking, and even triple checking that I have everything I need and that the house is secure. I would have hated to be one hundred miles away from home and thinking, did I turn the stove off?

The car ride there was very uneventful for me, I slept. I mean I slept the whole way there. If I am not driving, I get car sick, and my natural defense to avoid making a mess is to sleep. So for me, it was a very quick drive to Missouri. Sleeping does have its benefits.

On arriving at the Hyatt Hotel at 9 A.M., euphoria settles over me. This is real, this is happening, I finally made it. All of the meetings, fund raisers and training are over and now it is time to show them what I got (those crazy expectations). I was happy with the room and my roommate Tom. I had a good feeling that he and I would work well together. Tom is very mature and has his priorities straight. People like that help me to be better in my life. We settle down and unwind a minute knowing that our first competition is just a few hours away. We start out around 1 P.M., taking a long scenic route to the Millennium Hotel, checking out some of the beautiful buildings and very interesting parks St. Louis has to offer. If one thing stood out about the city, it would be how clean it was. I was very impressed and pleased.

We arrived at the Millennium Hotel a little after 2 P.M., it seemed nice. We made our way down two floors to where the conference was being held and started looking for the rest of our team. One by one and small group by small group the Kent State Ashtabula team assembled in the commons area leading into the main conference arena. A representative from our team went and checked us in and got our welcome bags, which included some little trinkets, our badges and a schedule for the conference. We then went to the computer check-in station and downloaded the necessary files for the competitions. It was time to put on the game face.

It was now 5:30 P.M., time for Microsoft Office Solutions competition. Jennifer Wagner, my partner, and I head out to stand in line for the competition. There must have been at least 100 other students in line for this or the IBM development challenge. What a rush! I was overcome by the friendliness of all the other school teams. It was not like a high school rally, but a very professional competition. Everyone that I talked to or overheard was wishing each other good luck. I felt pleased to be a part of this organization. After finding our seats, Jennifer and I quickly decided who was going to do what on the project. The anticipation was killing me, and then the words we were all waiting for, “You may begin.” All said and done, I felt that we did a good job. We did not finish the project in the time allotted, but this was our first conference, and we really did not know what to expect. I’ll tell you right now, expect a challenge. They do not give these awards away for free, you have to earn them. Even though we knew we did not place, I truly felt happy just to have tried. It was now getting close to 10 P.M., and the conference was winding down for the day. It was a good first day, and I knew that tomorrow would be even better.

Friday morning I woke up at 6 A.M. I got showered and dressed and headed out to the Millennium for breakfast. There was a very nice spread of fruit and pastries complemented with dark roasted coffee and juices. It was the perfect start to a beautiful day. Not all of our team made it to breakfast, but the ones that did had a wonderful conversation. I had a chance to talk to Robert Logan, a Professor from the Kent State Salem branch and the faculty advisor to the Kent State Columbiana Student AITP chapter. It turns out that his chapter has been hosting many webinars that I have been participating in and he remembered me right away. It was at that point I was really starting to feel a connection with this idea of networking, and, no, I do not mean the networking of computers, but of people.

8 A.M. rolled around, and it was time for me to get ready for my next competition, PC Trouble-shooting. This was it; this was the one I was going to rock at. We had known it was going to be on virtual machines and with the help of Prof. Carvalho I had been practicing troubleshooting Windows 7 OS on VMware. I was ready to place in this competition, only one problem. Someone forgot to tell the organizers of this competition that it had to be on Windows 7, not Windows 8. So, once again, high expectations turned into a lesson of humility sprinkled with experience for next year. The challenge lasted almost until 12 P.M., just in time for lunch. It was a very nice lunch followed by a small ceremony. It was at this time that both of our advisors, Prof. Edge and Prof. Carvalho were presented with awards. Prof. Edge received the “Going the Extra Mile” award and Prof. Carvalho received recognition for helping bring back the MTA certification exams. Great job to both of them for not only being awesome mentors but outstanding role models. After the ceremony I went and tried my skills at the MTA certification exams. I was able to get one shot at both OSs and Servers. I did not pass, but I knew that on Saturday I would be able to have more tries. In between tests I had an opportunity to visit some of the vendors who were present, such as State Farm and USAA. When I approached USAA they handed me a three question test, I filled it out and handed it back to them. I was excited when they asked me for my resume after I explained my answers. I did not have a hard copy of my resume, but had it electronically stored and was able to e-mail it to them on the spot. Later I found out from Prof. Edge that they asked me for my resume not because of my answers, but because I took the time to explain my answers. I learn a very important lesson at that moment, it is not good enough to just know something, but you must be able to convey it. I also had a wonderful conversation with John Parkinson, an AITP professional and President of Region 18. I was extremely happy to hear that he was interested in having a Regional conference next year before the national conference. This sounded like a great opportunity for us students to get some practice in before the big one, also to let those students who cannot go to the National have a chance to compete in some challenges. Friday night I had a chance to get out and see the city a little bit. I ended up at this very nice coffee shop and had a wonderful conversation with some of the locals. I also found out why the city was so clean. It happens that on Sunday there was going to be a marathon and then later that week the Arch Bishop was going to be in town. The couple told me the city is usually clean, but this week it was just a little cleaner.

Saturday morning was a repeat of Friday morning, up at 6 A.M. and breakfast with some of my team at 7 A.M. After breakfast I choose to go and see the city a little more. It truly is a nice city with some beautiful parks. I was back at 12 P.M. and ready for lunch. After lunch many members of my team went out to play some laser tag. This intrigued me but I want another shot at those MTA certifications. So I stayed behind and gave it the old college try. It turns out that I do know a lot about OSs and Servers, just not what they wanted me to know on the tests. It was OK, I gave it my best and I am only better for it. After my attempts at the tests I headed back to my hotel to get ready for the big banquet. At arriving at the banquet I was overwhelmed at seeing over 700 students, faculty, and AITP Professionals all gathered to share a meal and help celebrate the people that have stood out throughout the year and at the conference. Unfortunately, the organizers of the conference were overwhelmed as well. It seems they underestimated just how many people there were and they did not have enough seats. I have to say they handled it very well, keeping a cool head, they made quick decisions and before the people sitting had their food there were more tables set up and chairs laid out and everyone was able to enjoy this great celebration. Even though I did not receive any awards, I was very proud of some of my colleagues who did. Stephanie Edge & Rita Hennigan brought home 3rd place in the Visual Studio .NET competition, Daniel Scott won 2nd place for the professional Banner competition, and Brady Sand, Ed Drum, Jeff Hopes, Rita Hennigan, and Danielle Rill all received MTA certifications.

After the banquet, I headed back to my hotel to find comfort and peace in my room, but was side tracked when I saw other students and faculty from other schools all sitting around the lobby re-capping the events of the past few days. I felt such camaraderie with these strangers that I just had to join them and tell them how wonderful I felt about this experience. I knew we would want to head back home early and I knew I was in for another long nap in the back of Tom’s car so I took my leave from the battle stories and claims of victory from the brave computer techies, and headed to my room.

Sunday morning I was able to sleep in until 8 A.M., I then went down and got some Starbucks coffee for Tom and me. By 10 A.M. we were in the car picking up Danielle and ready to start our journey home, and my long nap.

Looking back, I have come to appreciate what long hours and hard work so many people had to have put into this conference. It was, without a doubt, the best experience I have had since I started this new journey into the computer technology field. I look forward to next year when I will shine and bedazzle everyone with my skills (darn those expectations).