I remember it was very late last year / early this year when I had a conversation with Martin Kulov, who is the Director .NET Development of the National Academy for Software Development in Bulgaria.
Basically, Martin pinged me and we talked about his idea and dream of bringing a PDC/TechED-style event to the Balkans, where he sees an increasing demand.
He then proceeded to invite me to present in this conference in Sofia, Bulgaria this year. I cannot tell you how honoured I was to receive this invitation. However, I had to put this on hold due to heavy work and family committments. Lest you dont know, while Sofia is generally only 2 spots below Singapore in the usual Country dropdownbox due to its alphabetical legacies, both countries are very spaced apart geographically. To compound this, airlines dont usually fly direct between these 2 countries and therefore, the end-2-end flight map (that routes you to so many different places) will be a lot more mileage than what it appears on a point-2-point straight line on a map. Ultimately, this trip for me alone will cost the National Academy for Software Development in Bulgaria a lot of money and cost me a lot of time (which still equates to money)
I am a person trained and educated in Economics and this, obviously, doesnt make much economic sense. It is not like they have that much money in their coffers anyways since there were no sponsors. So I told him that if I could hook him up with other influential speakers nearer his region, it makes much more sense. With great content comes great value for the participants and that ultimately means that it will be a well-attended event. Who knows - someone may come along and drop their golden coin to sponsor it.
I then proceeded to ping my peer _MS RD_s / Speakers I know who would be interested in speaking in the Balkans. Of course, there were many. Sofia, is afterall, a beautiful city, so I was told. People like Richard Campbell, Stephen Forte, Ted Neward, Goskin Bakir, etc gave their full support.
My wonderful friend in New York, Stephen Forte, deserves full mention as an ultimate leader who was passionate enough to make sure this event becomes a success in the Balkans. He tried all ways, including trying to negotiate with the airlines for a cheaper fare in exchange for more travel awareness to the Balkans. In the end, his passion and hard bargaining and negotiation skills shone through and he won over _MSFT_ to be the main sponsor for this event by convincing them that this is THE event for Microsoft in that part of the world and this is THE time.
With Microsoft declaring themselves to be the main sponsor, other vendors, like Telerik, follow suit as well and voila - We have the birth of DevReach in the Balkans.
If you are interested, you may want to sign up here. The PR of this event can be found here.
I believe years later, when I move on to a new career path and DevReach becomes the de-facto PDC/TechED of the Balkans, I will look back at this episode and smile. I had a big hand to play to make this event and dream come for Martin and all the wonderful people of Bulgaria. The bulgarian software industry will grow, develop and mature and keep abreast of time and everyone is better because of it.
How did this happen: Through 2 friends who have never met (one in Sofia, the other in Singapore), using the power and the reach of the global community at work (and MSN Messenger), through extensive and collaborative networking, this event became a concrete reality.
Dont underestimate that power of reach and the community - It may make or break you.
Now, if you ask: "How did you and Martin know of each other again?"
Easy - through another reach for the community by the community, via my article on MSDN, he posted a comment on this blog (another collaborative community-driven tool) and we hooked up. The rest is history.
Martin, I am happy for you. You have done a great deal for your community and it is only fair that you see this dream of yours come true.
Make some time for me, I am sure we will catch up over coffee in beautiful Sofia one day.