The Windows 10 Devices event at New York City this week was one of the finest Microsoft events in recent times. Not just the devices that were launched, the demos and the presenters too got a big thumbs up from most people – including the ones on the other side of the fence.
While Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft was the star of the overall presentation, a brief appearance by Bryan Roper for a demo earned several fans. It's not typical to do a stage appearance in a fedora hat with a uniquely sculpted beard and leave the audience with a pretty neat catchphrase – "I can be productive like a boss wherever I am now."
For years, Microsoft has touted productivity as a key driver for some products, but no one had put it that way. Like many of Windows enthusiasts, we at Windows Central found it so good that we created t-shirts of the same – the fedora hat not missing.
Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Brian started as a Web designer, earning an associate's degree in interactive media development before his peers had even earned their high school diplomas. He started making money doing freelance design and, around the same time, was teaching himself to play the piano and guitar and sneaking into a blues bar at the end of his street. From freelance Web designing to becoming a musician and a cruise ship veteran, to finally landing a job at Microsoft is a fascinating tale that could well be the screenplay of a movie.
Roper got back to school at the University of Tampa pursuing a degree in music, writing dark classical pieces, and playing blues gigs around town. He paid the bills with freelance Web design and a job at a sports bar. Shortly after earning his music degree, he met a bass player who invited Roper to play keyboard on his cruise ship rock 'n' roll band named The Dirt Poets.
On the cruise ship, he watched the lead singer of the band intently – how the guy warmed up a room, how he got people dancing, how he cooled the room down again. Before long, Bryan had mastered just about any song people could throw at him as well as the subtle science of crowd psychology, which he calls the piano lounge edition. He believes that there's a mathematics to the whole thing, a series of 'if x, then x' equations designed to get people in the seats, ordering drinks, having fun and tipping well.
"That was a pivotal point. There's no better place to learn about consumers than on a cruise ship."
While on a gig for Holland America, a friend told him about the Holland America Digital Workshop Program, which offered similar benefits as being a cruise musician. So Roper left the frenetic energy of the piano to become a Microsoft-trained 'techspert' teaching cruisers how to use Windows computers. There, Roper learned how to work a very different room. One day, Lisa Sikora, Microsoft's director of partnerships and experiential marketing, discovered Roper. She was managing the Digital Workshop Program at the time and was on the ship to make sure everything was going well. She attended several of Roper's classes and was wowed by his ability to connect with people. The two kept in touch for about a year, and eventually Roper took a job as a lead trainer, teaching the people who would be teaching Microsoft technology.
Bryan Roper has been with Microsoft for about four years and has trained thousands of Microsoft brand ambassadors, the people who go on to staff Microsoft Retail and pop-up stores, and holiday and launch experiences. He's 'secret shopped' his way across the country, driving 5,000 miles and visiting 60 retailers posing as a customer while taking notes on how to improve the Microsoft experience in large tech stores.
Roper has honed his skill from years of playing for the toughest of crowds at Florida blues clubs and from years of presiding over a cruise ship piano lounge packed with rowdy vacationers. His je ne sais quoi is his ability to work up an audience like he did the other day on the stage at NYC.
Knowing what you know now, what do you think of Bryan Roper? We hope to see more of him at future Microsoft events.