From product planner to program manager

This week I took on a newly created position at Microsoft, as community program manager on the Visual Studio Ecosystem team focusing on developer community for VSX (Visual Studio Extensibility). The VSX community includes developers who build add-ins (tools, editors, designers, languages, and more) for Visual Studio using the VS SDK found at the VSX developer center at

It was not an easy decision for me to leave the Windows Live Platform division where there are many great people I worked with and many cool things going on there. Many of those cool new things from the Windows Live Platform group will be announced at the MIX07 event in a few weeks. Most of the what I was working on in Windows Live around product planning over the last 6+ months has been under non-disclosure, and I haven't been blogging in a while. In the next few weeks, I will be doing some activities for Channel 9 content and blogging leading up to and during the MIX07 conference. In my transition back to the developer division, I'll be bringing knowledge and enthusiasm about Windows Live to the Visual Studio division which may contribute in various future efforts for Visual Studio based SDKs and add-ins for developers who are using Windows Live Platform services.

For those who don't know my past, here is my bio:

Ken Levy is the community program manager on the Visual Studio Ecosystem team focusing on developer community for VSX (Visual Studio Extensibility). The VSX community includes developers who build add-ins (tools, editors, designers, languages, and more) for Visual Studio using the VS SDK found at the VSX developer center Ken was previously a product planner on Microsoft's Windows Live Platform team working on developer community and future product planning. Before working in the Windows Live division, Ken was a product manager in the VS Data team responsible Visual FoxPro product management, the VFP developer web site, as well as sponsorship of the new XML tools in Visual Studio 2005 created by the WebData XML team. Ken is a long time recognized member of the FoxPro community and has developed many high profile applications and tools in all versions of FoxBase/FoxPro since 1986. Ken spent over four years as a software engineer consulting for Microsoft on the Visual FoxPro team from version 3.0 through 7.0 and is the author of many components of Visual FoxPro including the Class Browser and Component Gallery. While working as a consultant at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the 1990s, Ken developed many public domain open source programs including GenScrnX and other developer tools used worldwide in creating in-house and commercial applications. Ken is a former technical contributing writer and editor to many software magazines, and has been a frequent speaker at industry conferences world wide since 1992. Ken's blog is at

Some additional information about my career background is contained in a detailed blog post I made last year: Enduring adventures to Antarctica and Microsoft.

In the spirit of transparency, below is the exact job description of the newly created position I just started on yesterday which should give some insight the various new VSX community efforts that I will be focused on:

Visual Studio is the world’s leading development environment, and our large partner ecosystem helped us attain that position. Hundreds of companies extend Visual Studio with features such as new development languages, application lifecycle tools, IDE enhancements, reusable components and much more. These partner offerings help to fill the gaps in the Microsoft product line and deliver tailored end-to-end solutions to customers that we wouldn’t reach otherwise. The Visual Studio Ecosystem team is chartered with growing and strengthening this developer tools ecosystem. We ship the Visual Studio SDK, help ISVs integrate their products with Microsoft tools, and engage with the enthusiast community extending Visual Studio. We received the Developer Division’s Lighthouse award for team innovation and execution excellence in using agile development methodology, shipping frequent SDK releases, and engaging our partners for mutual success.

We are looking for a strong program manager to lead our initiatives growing the number of enthusiast developers creating Visual Studio extensions. You will work with our product and marketing teams to build a developer community from the ground up. You will coordinate and execute an overall strategy encompassing community infrastructure, team engagement, content, and product features. You yourself may also become a major presence and central figure in the community through blogs, forums, and conferences. This position leads a key pillar of our ecosystem strategy, and will receive a lot of visibility both internally and externally to Microsoft.

The ideal candidate will have prior success in growing some type of community (preferably developer-related) and the ability to manage many concurrent projects. This position offers a unique opportunity to exercise your leadership, project management, and strategic planning skills. Responsibilities include but are not limited to:
· Own the plan to establish a new, self-sustaining developer community
· Drive the product team’s community engagement
· Personally maintain a major presence in the community
· Speak at conferences and other community events
· Establish the online community infrastructure
· Launch a new MVP discipline
· Coordinate special development projects
· Find new ways to grow and enrich the community

I'm on James Lau's team, his blog is at I'll be blogging here weekly and working on other types of online content starting next week. I'm part of a team working on making overall enhancements to the VSX developer center at Starting in May, I plan to post a monthly letter there to the VSX community with information about what's new with the VS SDK, community news, upcoming events, and what's coming soon from the VS Ecosystem team. If you are a VSX developer (developer who has used the VS SDK), feel free to contact me and let me know your ideas and suggestions around improving the VS SDK and helping build an enthusiastic, passionate, and successful developer community around Visual Studio extensibility.