Tales from my job search: You need a Tyrion Lannister on your side!

by Joey deVilla on April 4, 2017

Those of you familiar with the Game of Thrones TV series will recognize the guy in the photo above: he’s Tyrion Lannister, one of the most-loved characters, if not the most-loved character on the show. A good part of his charm is his ability to get results by forging unlikely alliances and winning over people despite some very long odds.

If you look online, you’ll find many tributes to Tyrion’s genius. Here’s one of my favorites: Charisma on Command’s video, Why Tyrion Will Win the Game of Thrones. It’s just under 15 minutes long, but it’s fun to watch, and you’ll find some tips that you can use in your working life:

If you’ve got another 11 minutes to spare — hey, watch both during lunch! — here’s another Charisma on Command video showing Tyrion’s ability to take control of a situation:

There’s a reason for all this Tyrion Lannister preamble: I’m here to tell you that I’m the Tyrion Lannister of tech. And I’ll do it by citing examples.

Winning over an free software / open source crowd at a student conference and trolling Richard Stallman

The odds were very much not in my favor at my appearance at the 2009 CUSEC (Canadian University Software Engineering Conference). Look at what I was up against:

  • Mine was the last presentation of the day.
  • I was following a presentation by the amazing, brilliant, and entertaining Giles Bowkett, who put together a rapid-fire 400-slide extravaganza, which included stories about carrying a gun because he was in actual danger of being mauled by a cougar (here’s one of his presentations that’s pretty close to the one he gave there). Giles is a stunningly good presenter, and it’s deadly to follow him.
  • I was the most “corporate” speaker there, as a representative of not just Microsoft, but Ballmer-era Microsoft (it was 2009) .
  • The audience was made up entirely of university engineering and computer science students with a strong preference for free software and open source, who also invited Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman to speak.

You’d think that I shouldn’t have been the breakout speaker of the event, but that’s how it turned out.

First, there was my presentation. I won over the crowd by opening with the unexpected — an accordion number — and then proceeded not to talk about Microsoft technologies, but about finding ways to harness your love for technology to create a great career and great life, telling amusing stories along the way, and appealing to the collegiate sense of humor. (You can watch the entire presentation — it’s the video above.)

If the presentation established me as a trusted and liked speaker, my actions the next day cemented my status as a CUSEC “One of Us” and got me invited to subsequent conferences. It’s what happened when I, as a Microsoftie, attended Richard Stallman’s talk the following day, participated in his auction for overpriced (especially for students) Free Software Foundation trinkets, won the auction for the stuffed GNU (mascot of the Free Software Foundation), and uproariously paid for it with a Microsoft credit card, much to the audience’s delight.

The story spread, so I won over not just the conference audience, but a whole new audience of developers who wouldn’t have paid attention to anything that Microsoft did as word of what happened spread, established Microsoft Canada as regular CUSEC guests, and until later incidents with a pair of rented chaps and a gong, made one of Microsoft Canada’s strangest expense reports.

You can read the entire amusing story here: Winning the GNU.

Getting Microsoft to sponsor an Android conference when Google wouldn’t

In October 2010, Toronto’s AndroidTO conference needed a couple of big sponsors to help ensure that they could hold their day-long, hundreds-of-attendees event without losing money. I’d heard that Google wasn’t going to sponsor them, and asked: Why doesn’t Microsoft sponsor them instead?

I used the event as an opportunity to showcase Windows as a great development platform for Android, by demoing an HP touchscreen computer set up as an Android development station running Eclipse (which at the time was the preferred Android IDE) and also showing the Windows Phone development environment, which looked a lot less confusing and more aesthetically pleasing than Eclipse (although that’s easy), and showing the C# language (similar to Java, so it seems familiar) and Windows Phone in the process.

Our unexpected presence there got us a lot of attention, and as with the CUSEC crowd, I got people who ordinarily wouldn’t give Microsoft any thought to take a closer look…and hey, if Google got shamed along the way, it’s only because I was quick-thinking enough to seize upon an opportunity.

Calming angry air travellers

The hours-long line at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, March 2011.

Air travel can be bad at the best of times, but when people from a several planes who’ve just debarked are stuck waiting in the hallway that leads to customs for hours, it’s downright terrible. That’s what happened in March 2011, as recounted in my blog entry, The Crazy Customs Line at YYZ.

The mood was getting ugly, and despite the fact that there was a bona fide rock star there…

…it was up to Yours Truly to lighten the mood…

…and not only did it help, but it made the news:

It’s not the only time that I’ve used the accordion to make delays a little more bearable, and memorable in the good way:

And now, I’m available to make my Tyrion Lannister-like powers to turn lemons into lemonade for your organization!

If you need someone with both technical and communications skills, who loves a challenge, can rally people, and knows how to turn disadvantages into advantages, you need me! Find out more:

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