Official Launch of the Tunisian SharePoint User Group

Photo: First Official Launch of Tunisian Community Group

I have travelled to some pretty wild places.  In fact I shared a few stories about my crazy travel in a recent post on my travel blog.  This last trip has to take the top in trips that most would not be able to stomach, but I know my sacrifice does not go unnoticed by the community and especially those in Tunisia.  What started with a side trip from the European SharePoint Conference which was FANTASTIC.  Well done!  Largest SharePoint Conference in Europe, so glad I was there.  I know we had a blast in my sessions and the social lab was well received. 

That aside, this side trip to Tunisia was going to be one I had wanted to do a couple of years ago, but was delayed by the Arab Spring events.  I had been talking to Michael Noel for a couple of years about my facebook friends in Tunisia that worked on SharePoint and how I’d love to visit.  It all was coming together with a fascinating road trip. We’d fly from Copenhagen to Malaga Spain, and then rent a car and drive to Gibraltar, and from near there take a ferry to Morocco where we’d spend the weekend.  From Morocco we’d take a flight to Tunis.  Morocco is fabulous.  It’s one of my favorite countries in the world.  Just walking around feels like you’re part of a Bible, Torah, or Qur’an story.  I feel when I’m going through the old medina like I’m back at the time of Christ or Mohammed.  They bake their bread in the community oven, you bathe at the community hammam or bath house, and eat out of clay pots.

Right before the trip we found out that the opposition leader had been shot and killed.  There was protesting in the streets, and in the next few days there was definitely unrest that made for chaos.  At the same time the attendance for our event was shooting through the roof.  We went from a dozen to thirty and when we reached 50, I wasn’t sure if I should close off attendance.  I finally set the cap at 80, not knowing what we’d do with everyone.  The event sold out, and we didn’t know what was going to happen or what we’d do.  In Copenhagen, I asked Michael what he thought about all this.  We were both wait and see.  Watching the news and keeping in touch with our friends in Tunis. 

As the day approached, the news was that things had settled down and things had returned to normal.  At peak, flights had been cancelled, and events rescheduled.  Microsoft with support from MVPs in Paris was to run a TechDays Tunisie, but had rescheduled.  We kept it on to the delight of our hosts.  We were anxious to meet up with our host Mahmoud Challouf.  Mahmoud has been organizing the user group and trying to build a sense of community over the past few years.  He started the Linked In Group and Facebook group which now has hundreds of consultants and developers.

The User group was a great success.  The room was nearly full, and Microsoft was great.  They volunteered to support the newly formed physical user group and support them in their efforts to meet on a more regular monthly or bi monthly basis.  I’m looking forward to the next time I can see my new friends.

Mahmoud works at Netsystem, a SharePoint focused consulting group.  Many at his company especially Sefora and Abir.  I don’t know best how to articulate how grateful I am for their friendship.  They have a sincere interest in better understanding the United States and the way we work.  They want to visit New York and meet Americans.  Michael and I got a tour of Carthage when Mahmoud took a half day off.  The other half I took a break to catch up on email and then went to a museum with some of his fellow employees.  We had an awesome time. 

I like this picture of some of the women in technology in Tunis.  This was immediately following the user group at the Microsoft Innovation Center. 

In Tunis they don’t go out for a pint.  They go out for a coffee after work, but they also have excellent hot chocolate. 🙂  Tunisian work is 8.5 hours per day.  They work till 6pm and have 42 hours in the work week.

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