The UK IT Pro team are giving away four trips to TechEd Europe 2014, 28th – 31st October in the brilliant, bustling Barcelona! It is really easy to enter, all you need to do is upload a video demonstrating your technical talent to see if you’re Cloud Ninja and Rackman combined to control the Hybrid Cloud, the device management mastermind Dr Desktop, the DevOps discoverer Captain Code or the Kick-ass female IT Pro! To find out more visit.

TechEd Europe is Microsoft’s premier technology conference for IT Professionals and Enterprise Developers. It is a fantastic and extremely valuable opportunity to access deep technical and product training at the available sessions, as well as become a part of the TechEd community and spend one-on-one time with Microsoft and other industry experts and peers.

But don’t just take our word for it

Picture of Zeshan SattarZeshan Sattar, is an IT Professional and Head of Curriculum Development at Agilisys Arch, who is responsible for designing the learning and development for Digital and IT Apprenticeships and is a Microsoft Certified Trainer delivering technical training to a variety of audiences around the world.

Zeshan tells us about how he took his ‘technical expertise to the next level’ by attending his first TechEd Europe in 2010, and the value he saw that year, and every year since. 

As IT Professionals, every so often we reach a plateau. Of course, there is always more to learn and the industries that we operate in are forever changing, however, there are long stretches of time where everything is pretty much “business as usual” and before we know it we are stuck inside our own technical bubble.

Like other avid readers of the TechNet UK blog I was fascinated with the sheer amount of knowledge exchange offered by TechEd but I thought that if I wanted to learn anything I could easily read a blog, perhaps do a virtual lab or buy a book. In short, I preferred to stay in my bubble.

After talking it over with some colleagues and with the support of my boss who was keen for me to “experience the next level”, I took some furtive steps to venture outside of my technical bubble and attended my first TechEd in 2010.

Oh boy, it was an unforgettable experience! Everything that I wanted to learn was just waiting for me behind a set of conference room doors – I was definitely spoilt for choice. Surely, I could have done the same with a search engine but sometimes you really need to know where to start and TechEd provides that first point of knowledge with Level 200 sessions. If you’re already an authority of a topic, then a Level 400 session would really blow your mind away. In short, for a geek like me, it is like being a kid in a candy store.

So, if you are still considering how TechEd can benefit you, here are the benefits that I get from attending TechEd:

Horizon scanning: One of the most common complaints that I hear from fellow IT Pros is that the technical landscape changes rapidly and it is difficult to keep up with. At TechEd, you get to hear about vNext versions of technology and can experience it first-hand.

At TechEd Europe 2013, Windows 8.1 was announced at a midweek Keynote. Within minutes of the announcement the Microsoft Solutions Experience booths had switched over to the latest version of the OS so attendees could understand how it would operate in their environment in a range of scenarios.

Hear it from the horse’s mouth: I'm sure we've all used the excellent Sysinternals tools at least once in our careers. At TechEd, you get to hear from the creator - Mark Russinovich. Sure, his sessions are at Level 400 but he starts easy before he pushes up the level of difficulty - so everyone learns something. Be warned: Mark’s sessions are extremely popular so arrive early to avoid disappointment. As well as Mark, the people behind the Microsoft Solutions portfolio are either presenting or available at the Microsoft Solutions Experience to answer your questions about pretty much every element of your infrastructure.

Technical knowledge galore: Microsoft is pushing ahead with its vision of ubiquitous computing with an array of solutions to support it. This is the chance to understand more about the technology sitting in your datacentre (or Cloud) and how to push it to the next level. All the speakers are excellent as they are handpicked by Microsoft and have to undergo vigorous competency assessments before they are invited to speak. With an array of sessions to choose from, planning each day in advance is highly recommended!

Networking: IT Pros like to work hard and play hard. And afterhours events are a great way to build relationships that extend beyond the conference. I've made lifelong friends post event and I know that I can call on them for advice and guidance at a moment's notice. It’s better than just simply connecting on LinkedIn as you are able to have meaningful conversations that transform colleagues into friends.

Reflection time away from the office: TechEd is an important time for IT pros to hone and develop their skills. Yes, it's work and it's a short period to consume everything. But since we are away from the daily grind, we have time to reflect and consider the big picture. I've got to admit that just by being at TechEd and through a series of random and seemingly unrelated conversations; All of a sudden I had pieced together a solution to a problem that had been plaguing with me for several weeks.

Hands on labs: The sessions are great, looking at the latest and greatest in the Microsoft Solutions experience is fantastic, but what makes it all better are the hands on labs. Here you can crack open the technology that the speakers have been talking about. It’s delivered in a virtualised sandboxed environment so if you make any mistakes you can simply start-over. If you need assistance, Technical Learning Guides are on-hand to help you and put you back on the right track.

The Swag! So, it won’t be a conference without all the giveaways. At the TechExpo, you can grab a whole bunch of freebies that you can take back to the office (or family) so everyone feels better about you being out of the office for a few days. Who knows, you may even win a Microsoft Surface!

So, that’s the value that I get out of TechEd. Feel free to comment and share your experience. If you haven’t been to a TechEd, then don’t forget you can register now to attend TechEd Europe 2014 in Barcelona. Hope to see you there!

Have you been to TechEd Europe before? Are you going this year? Let us know your experiences and what you are most looking forward about TechEd Europe this year in the comments section below, or via @TechNetUK. Also, don't forget to apply for the TechEd competition.