May 2015

Volume 30 Number 5

Editor's Note - Introducing Upstart

By Michael Desmond | May 2015

Michael DesmondThe times, they are a-changin’.

At the 2000 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 15 years ago, the new Microsoft .NET Framework and the managed languages C# and Visual Basic .NET that went with it were revealed. The announcements reflected an urgent need for Microsoft to appeal to business developers intrigued by the managed Java platform and programming language, and quickly grew into a wildly successful platform serving a broad range of development scenarios.

Fast forward to 2015, and Microsoft faces a new sea change. Web, mobile and cloud have redefined large swaths of the development space. Shops that relied solely on Visual Studio and targeted rich Windows client PCs and servers today build smartphone apps, hybrid Web applications and cloud-savvy services. For Microsoft, the transition to this complex world is reflected in its support for platforms like Apache Cordova, Xamarin and universal Windows apps.

As Keith Boyd, Microsoft principal director and editorial lead at MSDN Magazine, told me in an interview: “Microsoft is changing—rapidly. The cultural forces that are shaping our business model are leading to significant changes in the way we run our businesses, and in the kinds of people we hire to help propel us forward.”

In fact, says Boyd, young programmers entering the development space might have little knowledge of Visual Studio, the Microsoft .NET Framework or Windows. At the same time, many veteran .NET developers are seeking new skills and tools as they transition to mobile, cloud and Web development. He says Microsoft, and by extension MSDN Magazine, must reach out to these coders, which is why this month we are launching a new column, called Upstart, to reflect the challenges and opportunities that face developers entering the field or transitioning into new arenas within it.

In our inaugural Upstart column, Ryder Donahue offers a glimpse of what it’s like to step aboard the Microsoft mothership. An accomplished young developer before he arrived at Microsoft, Donahue was a member of the team that won the 2013 U.S. Imagine Cup programming competition and earned a bid to the Worldwide Imagine Cup Finals in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Today, Donahue is a member of the Xbox on Windows team, where he’s working on the Xbox App for Windows 10. He’s loving the challenge, but those first few months in Redmond were tough. As he writes in this month’s column: “For me, it was humbling to go from writing thousands of lines of code a day to just a handful, and sometimes spending half a day trying to get an application to compile.”

His advice for newly minted developers is equally relevant for veterans migrating to new skill sets. Rein in your expectations, he says, and be prepared to go slow the first few months while you get your bearings. The good news? Those moving into modern app development will benefit from recent tooling advances.

“I feel like one major change that has come to modern app development, compared to how it was even 10 years ago, is how you can create something really great and high quality in a relatively short amount of time. The tools that are given to developers, and the resources available, empower anyone to really make their dream app a reality,” he says. “Given my passion is mostly centered around modern app dev, I hope my writing will inspire readers to go out and create their own awesome apps.”

Boyd shares that hope, and believes MSDN Magazine can play an important role for developers moving into new areas of development.

“Our goal is to continue to use MSDN Magazine as our conduit to professional developers—both young and old, experienced and unproven,” he says. “I want recently minted grads to be just as excited about receiving the magazine in their mailbox as their more seasoned colleagues.”

Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.