"Lost" and found

Where have you been? Assuming I haven’t lost all my readers by now, due to my silence, this seems to be a reasonable question.

Does anyone out there watch “Lost”? I ended up getting hooked in the beginning and now I can’t avert my eyes.

As I wrote this blog, I felt the “Lost” series seemed to be analogous on a few dimensions ;-) The story line seems to do this Present, Past, Present (and now Future) transition. The show seems to be popular enough, so why not use the theme.


The Present

· Beginning in December 2008 (a few months ago), I was fortunate enough to land one of the best jobs I have ever had (and hope to have/retain – scary times we live in).

· I am now back in a managerial role as the Product Unit Manager for the Technical Strategy Engineering team reporting to the office of the CTO. The SVP CTO, David Vaskevitch, has quite a distinguished career spanning the creation of MCS (i.e., Microsoft Consulting Services) to building many teams in SQL (e.g., MTS, COM+,..) and I believe he was also Bill Gate’s first TA. At this juncture, I have had only one meeting with David, but I was impressed on many levels. David reports through Ray Ozzie, who is the Chief Software Architect, and is someone that most people think of, as the “new” Bill Gates.

· My new role is typically called a Product Unit Manager. I have a team of Program Managers, Developers, and Testers. More on my new role later. Remember the “Lost” analogy.


The Past

· First I would like to apologize for my absence in the blogosphere but I was busy wrapping things up on the CLR team wrt Extensibility and the System.AddIn BCL.

· I suppose I could have started from my last blog post in time, but I think I’ll back up a bit in order to give a little context and some insight into my life’s journey and how my blog reflects that journey. Zen has returned to my life J. Side note – highly recommended reading: Zen in the martial Arts, a great concise book with pearls of wisdom I use often in my life and career.

· As I decided to try this blogging thing years ago, I was looking for a theme, a subject, something with continuity. I first started with “Smart Client”, then everything .Net. I wrote about Tools, Extensibility, Add-in’s, Versioning, etc..

o OK, so I have finally realized what my blog is really about. Drum roll please - And it is…. This is where a “Lost” episode would end. Keeping you in suspense. Oh, and there would be some hard pounding beat of music as well – dunt, dunt, da.

· Maybe it’s with maturity, experience, time, age (arg, age) that I finally realized as of this writing that my blog is about my career and life’s journey. I guess in some respects it is a journal or diary of sorts. I often wondered why anyone would care what I’m doing or have done, but I think there is value in sharing ones experiences so that others may (?) benefit. I’m still not sure about that Twitter or Facebook thing though. But I didn’t get blogging in the beginning either. Sure, I understand the Social Networking value, but honestly, who would care what I’m doing right now. <tweet> I’m on a plane coming back from London after visiting MS Research in Cambridge (cool stuff) and I’m writing a blog post </tweet>.

· As evidenced by my time as an Architect on the CLR team (i.e., .Net framework, Common Language Runtime, BCL – Base Class Libraries) I was pretty focused on the difficult Computer Science problems of; Extensibility, Versioning, Isolation, reliability, Security, etc.. And thus my blog posts reflected this period and passion for helping customers (i.e., primarily ISV/VAR/SI) who wrestle with these issues. It was a very challenging set of subject areas that I pursued, beginning when I was the Group Development Manager for the Visual Studio for Office/Applications group.

· So what brought me to the CLR team? Inquiring minds want to know. And that’s how that whole “Lost” thing works – Pieces parts you need to tie together. When I decided I was ready to leave the VSTO/A product unit I began looking around the company for challenging opportunities. In one my interviews with the SQL team, I spoke with a wise (now retired) man who asked what I believe in. Aside from my religious beliefs, I said “I always ask myself, what can I do to make our customers lives easier and what can I do to have the greatest impact for Microsoft.” Of which he replied, “so what are you doing about that?” Damn, those wise people (Zen). They get right to it, don’t they. Bring me a problem *and* a solution. As I discussed my recent work on trying to resolve these hard CS problems I mentioned I felt compelled to drive them to some level of conclusion for our customers but it was clear that the solution and current VSTA implementation needed to be available to a customer base beyond the VSTO/A products. He agreed 100% and said this was one of the biggest .Net issues and concerns for SQL (relative to .Net). He then told me I had an obligation to Microsoft and our customers to drive this effort. He told me I needed to speak with David Treadwell, the then VP of the CLR, in order to transfer this charter to their team. Right, I’ll just phone up a VP! Well, to make a long story short, that’s what I did. David was very approachable and along with moving over the charter, I also moved from a managerial role on VSTO/A to an Architect role in the Program Management discipline on the CLR team. To be clear, it took more than a phone call J


Recent Past

One of the benefits of working for Microsoft is the breadth of opportunities available within the company. To be clear, internal hiring/recruiting is pretty much treated the same as external hiring. That is, you might think your experience within the company would stand on its own, but you still have to apply for the job, go through several interviews for each job, just as though you were new to the company. After all, you’re new to the new team. I think it’s important to know this, as I often get questions about what it’s like working for Microsoft (everyone says I should write a book). To give you as sense of what it’s like, I can tell you that I had somewhere in the neighborhood of ~40 interviews for various jobs during my last/recent search. And around 9 interviews for my current job. These interviews ranged the gambit of the old, “What is your greatest strength” to “write me a doubly linked list at the whiteboard”

Ok, I’m sorry, but I have to go off on a tangent here - For crying out loud, aside from writing a linked list in school, who has ever had to write one since graduating? If you can’t explain the importance of data structures then there is a reasonable concern. But, I have forgotten more than most will learn in their careers. No, I’m not any smarter, I am just seasoned, mature, experienced. Ok, ok, I’ve been around a long time ;-) </rant>.

But I digress.

Where was I?

Right. I was searching for a job when I decided to leave the CLR team.

A season ending episode.

Time Sequence ( Season recap)

Ok, so “Lost” periodically brings together the time line, so let’s do that before we lose our sanity.

1. Jack moves from the Development Manager of the MSN platform team to VSTO/A.

2. Jack was Group Dev. Manager of VSTO/A when he decided to start blogging.

3. Aside from the VSTO/A products, he discovered the need for .Net versioning, Isolation, etc..

4. He drives moving the VSTA extensibility technology/charter to the CLR team and moves over to the CLR team as an Architect working with ISV’s on the Add-In model.

5. Blogs a lot about the subject.

6. Then moves to the Technical Strategy Group.


Hey, wait a minute! What happened to the System.AddIn stuff you left behind?

· This whole “Lost” theme gets confusing doesn’t it? Definitely the last time I use it. Or is it? I think the “Lost” writers make it up as they go along.

· So what happened to all the ISV and Add-In work we heard so much about? What are you actually doing now?

o Stay tuned J