Program Management – Thinking about PM != PM and Visual Studio ALM Rangers (Part 2)

18 days ago I posted Program Management – Thinking about PM != PM and the PM role in Microsoft which explored my understanding of the Program Manager and the associates roles and responsibilities, based on the PM course I attended.

Well, since then I have been digesting the information further (my background threads are not the quickest) and I started thinking about the overlap (if any) of the typical full-time Visual Studio ALM Ranger and the PM. There is a reason behind this madness, because I want to achieve a number of objectives:PM_1

  • I want to determine if my role is more aligned with Program Manager or Solution Architect, which are my two roles within MSFT, and/or if other roles are involved.
  • If I am more aligned with Program Manager, I want to re-align and focus my future commitment and career plans.

Am I doing this all on my own and isolated from the rest? No, I am transparently sharing my thoughts (hence these posts) and listening to the feedback. I am also privileged to work with an army of competent and passionate colleagues and am mega-excited that one architect, one test lead and two program managers are willing to listen to me and to be my mentors.

Let’s start by exploring what my job (I am looking for a better term, because I love my job, I am passionate about what I do and calling it a job just does not sound right) and conclude my post with another set of questions that I am pondering over.

So, what does a typical week in the life of Willy, the Ranger, look like?

The week has a fairly regular daily pattern from Monday to Friday, whereby the weekend is too chaotic to visualize. Leading by example, I try and focus on my family on the weekend, occasionally sneaking off to my Windows phone or Laptop to continue the ongoing catch-up. “I have a dream”, that one day I am done on Friday 17:00 and am able to use my weekend to focus on my family, my hobbies, the winning weeds in the garden and to occasionally sneak off to my laptop to tinker with “fun” coding.

What I have done is I visualized my average Visual Studio ALM Rangers day, which I either spend at the Vancouver Development Center, Building #41 in Redmond or my home in Ladner.

image  … my home, surrounded by farms and the ocean.

My average day …


  1. What should be evident immediately is that a Ranger adventure is not an 5 working day, 8 hours a day adventure. Our days start anywhere from 4AM to 8AM and typically end between 7PM and 22PM, occasionally running over into the next day.
  2. The reason for the odd start and end times is that we are working with Virtual Teams which are scattered across the globe (see Visual Studio ALM Rangers - Reflections on Virtual Teams) and occasionally we have meetings in the early morning or late evenings as well, which may be the morning, day or evening for other Rangers. This is why we start most meetings with a Good Morning, Afternoon and Evening greeting, I often have to think of “Good Morning Vietnam” when we start a session at some ungodly hour.
  3. I typically start the day staring at an inbox from hell, even with the gazillion rules filing a lot of emails based on Controlled Vocab and other attributes. The first few hours are spent emptying my inbox, which is a combination of the daily work (which we will cover in the next point), support, community queries,CLIPART_OF_17585_SM unsolicited advertising, and many other categories. In Communications ... common sense, challenges and objectives (mine) I mentioned a 13 cap goal on new email threads I start per day in an attempt to reduce the ginormous email wave we face everyday … the good news is that I am below that goal, the bad news is that the incoming wav of emails is still quite daunting, especially if I miss one or more catch-ups due to travel or the unthinkable vacation.
  4. For the rest of the day I operate within what I often refer to as the Rangers Sandbox … should really be the Rangers Bitbox. My main focus CLIPART_OF_16337_SMis currently on team orchestration which includes mentoring project leads, observing project teams, analysing observations and status feedback, reacting to and dealing with impediments. In essence the orchestration supports and keeps a variety of skills, personalities and (hidden) agendas under one “Ranger” roof, leading by example, adding value to the teams and allowing everyone to operate under the tough Rangers conditions. A huge task involves prioritization and deciding what is urgent, what can wait and what needs to be thrown into file 13 … the shredder. There are simply not enough hours in a day to deal with all issues, act on all emails and still have time to de-couple yourself from the digital world.
    Apart from the orchestration I am also actively leading projects as dev or test lead, developing, testing and reviewing bits and bridging the divides between organizational boundaries, such as services, community and the product group.
  5. Between 16:00 and 19:00 PDT I “try” and focus on my family, going to soccer games at the school, supporting mom’s taxi, having dinner and helping the boys with assignments, homework and projects. Once they are finally tired and the academic work is done, I often sneak back to my laptop.
  6. If you are a BlackOps game player, you may meet me in battles when I occasionally decide to give my system a break, while virtually running around airports and other battle fields.
  7. To stay awake and to keep my kidneys busy, I consume an average of 10-13 mugs of coffee, selecting decaf when I get a bad conscience or if my better and more beautiful half is selecting the coffee brand.

So, do I still like my job?
NO, I absolutely LOVE it and am probably addicted to the world of bits and bytes. The Visual Studio ALM Rangers ecosystem allows me to explore and work in many different disciplines,  to make the frequent error and learn from it, to have the many senior moments I have (what was it I was working on 3 seconds ago?), to watch teams create phenomenal solutions under the most extreme conditions and to simply be part of the competent, passionate and supporting family of the Rangers.

To conclude, what new questions and puzzles am I working on?

  • How can I become more effective in step 3 and reduce the time it tales me to catch-up on email and associated tasks that queue while I sleep?Willy
  • How can I become more effective as a program manager?
  • How can I reduce my need for sleep … it seems that I am wasting a lot of time switching off from the world and keeping everyone awake with my snoring.