Erbil Iraqi Kurdistan

SharePoint in Iraq? Community Building in Iraqi Kurdistan

In my research on building community and travel, I found that I could get a visa on arrival to Kurdish territory in northern Iraq.  When I chatted with Michael about this idea, we agreed we needed to be careful about how we promoted this event.  We needed to work on building participation through social channels, but without the normal openness of our previous events in building IT communities.  We reached out to Jim Bob Howard, the friendliest guy online you’d ever meet.  He is an awesome networker.  He has a great approach at contacting people in a way that is inviting and un-invasive.  He is an expert connector… you have to read his experience with getting Nairobi SharePoint Saturday to happen and the craziness that happened on the Miracle of the second SharePoint Saturday in Nairobi.  You need to read his blog about Nairobi to understand how divine intervention plays into all of this connecting.  It does.  I’m 100% sure that we aren’t alone in our pursuits.  Connecting people around the world has changed lives and will continue to.

In the searches performed, we had many that simply fell on the floor, but then we had a few breakthroughs and finally found the one contact with a connection at the University of Human Development  (UHD) in Sulimanie, Kurdistan.  While this wasn’t Erbil our intended destination, it looked like an incredible opportunity that would meet all our goals. We were cautious about any travel we’d be doing and wanted to make sure we were traveling through Kurdish controlled areas for our own safety.


Erbil (Also referred to as Irbil or Arbil) is an ancient Assyrian city from the 5th millenium BC.  7000 years old or even older.  The citidel that sits atop the hill is one of the longest continuously inhabited city in the world.

Citadel Iraq


Ako Jafaar organized a meeting for us to meet the faculty and students in the computer science department at UHD.  Our normal SharePoint presentations weren’t going to fit the needs of the students, so I took a modified copy of my recent presentation on Finding Business Value in Social Media with the intention of helping the students understand the new market of employment around the needs around cloud services, development in enterprise social, and how to “sell” enterprise social networks with emphasis on “engaging” employees and armed them with dozens of thoughts around business value.




The questions we got were quite fascinating.  Some asked about cultural challenges of hierarchy and concerns over the empowerment of employees.  Others brought up thoughts around open platforms and open source development in and around concerns over Microsoft’s proprietary SharePoint and yammer platforms.  We then talked about sales around services and the open APIs that could be developed against.  It was obvious that there were some Google and Linux fans in the crowd of 70 or so faculty and students.  Discussions around Google Drive and the contrast of consumer services with enterprise platforms was discussed around the topic of security.


After the sessions, we talked with the Dean of the school who was impressed with the topics discussed and the engagement with the students and faculty.  He invited us to present to the entire school on the following day, but unfortunately our schedule wouldn’t support that.  We were flattered by the offer and agreed “next time” was the right answer and appreciated the open invitation that was extended.

We had dinner with an associate professor from the school.  Interesting menu.



We were able to have some local kurdish foods and talk more about living as a Kurd.  I couldn’t believe how every person we met was affected by the genocide committed by Saddam Husseins army.  It wasn’t distant relatives either.  When we first arrived in Sulimenia our taxi driver asked us where we wanted to go.  We looked at Virtual Tourist, one of my favorites for recommendations on crowd sourced Top places to go in most cities around the world.  One of the suggestions was the second largest museum in Iraq.  Closed.  The next suggestion was of a prison turned museum.  THE Infamous Prison… Amna Saraka.




This prison was infamous for the torture that went on there.  It has become the thing that foreigners talk about when visiting Iraqi-Kurdistan.

There are amazing things to see in the Kurdish region, the history of this place is amazing.  The world’s Abrahamic religions all appear to have roots here. Old testament prophets Daniel and Jonah are both buried in Kurdistan.  The people were really quite open… we made some great friends.  I’d love to go back.



In the end, we did meet some faculty who had supported SharePoint and were very anxious to learn more, but both Michael Noel and I were more than satisfied with the people we met and the experiences we had.  We made some friends and the region really made an impression on our minds.  Next time I hear about the Kurds, I will think about my friends.

Uruguay SharePoint Community Launch

What an amazing Community! Uruguay comes across as such a laid back family centric country. Everywhere we went we saw families enjoying each other and enjoying the weather and ultimately stopping to smell the roses.

This was not only the largest SharePoint event in Uruguay, it appears to be the first! A new SharePoint/SQL Technical Solutions (TSP) at Microsoft was just hired into a new position. Exciting timing that the STP crew comes right in time to partner with Microsoft to LAUNCH the SharePoint community here in Uruguay. Ricardo Szyfer is fired up. I can imagine he will be very anxious to hold onto the great momentum and spark that just began.

As well, you need to get to know Fabian Imaz @fabianimaz . Fabian is SharePoint MVP who brings together the worlds of Argentina and Uruguay. Why that’s important is because he is connected. He’s very connected with not only what’s coming from Microsoft, but he has a pulse on the community. He’s a great guy and very approachable. Definitely follow Fabian’s SharePoint blog, excellent resource.

Gabriel Lopez @gabouy Executive Director from South Labs has been a great local Montevideo resource for me. He’s a key strategic vendor asset here in Uruguay. I recommend watching what happens with SharePlus and the awesome creations that come out of their efforts. He believes in Microsoft and is also connected with what happens in the mobile space in a big way. He’s been very responsive and really has great grasp on global enterprise business and IT growth.


Comunidad Usuarios Microsoft Uruguay – I highly recommend connecting with the Larger Microsoft Uruguay community: CUMUY

SharePoint Community Argentina

Sharing the Point South America and Antarctica is in full swing. Here in Buenos Aires it’s not just HOT from being in the middle of summer. The tango is HOT, the beautiful people are HOT, and the SharePoint is HOT.  

The Punisher SPCommunity Argentina

In between sessions I was talking to Alejandro, the guy shown above with a punisher shirt, he and another guy travelled 300 KM to meet up with us. It was so cool to find out that he started following my blog after the Bjorn EPIC battle of SPTECHCON 2011. There were more than a few people that were more than confused about that whole thing, but knowing that some good came out of it and actually met.

A couple of other guys I met this morning said they as well travelled in over 300KM to attend the event. One guy mentioned he hadn’t ever met another SharePoint person, so he was not only excited to meet the STP crew, but also to meet others here in his country who had similar passions and challenges. I love hearing those stories. That’s the real value I feel in this is reaching out to SharePoint people that otherwise have little to no connection to the community. SharePoint Latin America is coming together, and it’s great to be part of helping build the infrastructure. 

I feel a little like Magellan as he circumnavigated the globe finding new cultures and helped map out the world.

We can never really know the impact of our deeds, but I feel like in some ways this SharePoint without borders project of Sharing The Point has some great momentum and gets all of us excited about the possibilities.

SharePoint Argentina and SharePoint Uruguay do have Microsoft Offices, but don’t have the staff that the US Offices have. More with less… The pressure is on partners who don’t necessarily have the experience. Hence there is a stronger need for being connected with the greater community is even more important. Most if not all of the attendees have never attended a SharePoint event. There is a couple of SharePoint MVPs here and they should definitely be given credit. Join the community…

Connect with the Argentina Community

Join the Argentina SharePoint Community group on Facebook Comunidad SharePoint de Argentina | Facebook

Join the Communidad de Argentina on Linked in with over 450 members! Ariel García Sobrino, Maxi Sorlino, Hugo Ramos, Rodrigo Biazzo, Leandro Iacono, Mauricio Grimberg, Ariel Kirsman