Atlanta, GA is home to this year's Microwave Theory & Techniques Society (MTT-S) symposium and exhibition, popularly known as the International Microwave Symposium (IMS) or Microwave Week. In many ways, it is a "microwave week," since the event literally takes a slice from many people's schedules and gathers together an interesting combination of RF/microwave industry representatives, including friends and enemies. It is a week that "stops the world" and allows colleagues to share some of the old "war stories."

The MTT-S IMS offers a rich variety of formal educational opportunities in terms of its technical presentations, workshops, and panel sessions. An attendee can choose from among hundreds of presentations. IEEE member volunteers who review the submitted papers for presentation at IMS do an excellent job of selecting work with true technical substance and value to the industry at large. This may be the industry's best continuing-education program in terms of advances in different aspects of RF/microwave technology, not only from the formal presentations themselves, but during coffee breaks between sessions and in the hallways before and after each technical session.

But the education process is not reserved for the technical presentation rooms alone. The MTT-S exhibition floor serves as another form of "classroom," as word of mouth filters about the usually crowded show floor. Although the IEEE has formally frowned upon the use of the event for job-search purposes, the MTT-S exhibition floor has long worked as a form of verbal "message board" for those in need of a job or simply seeking a change in professional venue.

The MTT-S show floor is also a wonderful opportunity to perform a mid-year assessment of their own company and their own professional goals, simply by looking and listening. Just by standing near certain booths, it is often possible to overhear comments about companies represented at the booths, about the merits of newly introduced products, and even about the management style of a particular company. For anonymity, eavesdroppers may choose to flip their attendee badges face down, or swap badges with someone else (which may work against them).

Of course, a mid-year assessment at the IMS could be as simple as standing back from one's booth and watching the flow of traffic. Are visitors spending any time at your booth, or just walking by? In any case, the IMS is a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect, and to collect ideas for the second half of 2008.