Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My first two weeks at Microsoft

Two weeks ago, I started working at Microsoft as an ALM Solution Specialist (also called DevTools Sales Solution Professional) in the Developer Experience team. I'll get back to what that actually means in a bit, but for now I'd like to leave you as clueless as I was before I started this job.
I knew what my job would be, of course. Well... Kind of. I'll try to rephrase that: I knew what my responsibilities would be and what my purpose at Microsoft would be. However, I had no idea how I would achieve all those things I'd be in charge of. To some extent, I still don't know and I've heard that's what it'll be like for the first 6-8 months of working there. 
Because Microsoft is a very confusing place to start working at. You are overloaded with information from so many sources you have no idea which ones will be of use to you later on. You receive about a trillion e-mails a day, and everyone you meet seems to have forgotten their entire vocabulary except for the first letter in each word. I started talking to a guy in the elevator today asking him what his job was. His reply? "I'm an ATS in EPG"... And I'm like: "You know the YMCA?" Nah, I didn't actually say that, but now I wish I had.
The good news is that you are supplied with a map that guides you through the jungle of information, showing you where the treasures are hidden. I've attended mandatory on-premise and online "onboarding sessions", where all the new employees get together, ask for help and receive all the support they need. I've been assigned two mentors, one higher up in the organization who can guide me on my career path, and one who has the same position as me in another country. There's required training you have to do on everything from "What is Microsoft" to "Legal affairs" and Sales. Last, but not least (and this was a huge surprise to me as I've always mistakingly thought Microsoft would be a very competitive environment), everyone you meet is delighted to help. Because the truth is: If you succeed, you are contributing to the success of a lot of other people as well.

So, you're saying Microsoft doesn't have a competitive environment?
I'm saying it doesn't have an unhealthy competitive environment. Of course, everyone is very focused on making their scorecards green, but that doesn't prevent collaboration. Your colleagues have your back and they support you, even if you've only ever talked to them in an e-mail. One of the realizations I've had is that Microsoft is such a huge organization that someone always knows the answer you're searching for. I don't know how many "Hi, I believe you and I can make great use of each other, want to grab a coffee?" emails I've sent these past weeks, but so far every receipient has been positive and able to help me on my quest to find the correct answer. The excitement of working with so many brilliant minds is quite overwhelming! 

What do you do then?
As mentioned earlier, I'm an ALM Solution Specialist which is also called a DevTools Sales Solution Professional. I can't believe "Sales" is now a part of my title, but yes it is. 
What this means is that I'm in charge of developer tools in Norway. Think Visual Studio, VS Code, Visual Studio Team Services and TFS. My job is to demonstrate these tools to developers, making them want to use them, and to convince their managers that buying licenses for these tools will be worth their while. I will advice developers on how they can improve their development process by taking advantage of continous integration, automated testing and release management. I will present at conferences and user groups, and cooperate with our partners to educate developers about their possibilities when using these tools. And I will become a licencing expert.
I currently spend a lot of my time preparing demos and presentations. I have four different presentations coming up in May: 
1) News, updates and our favorite features in Visual Studio
2) Building a Java app with Maven in Visual Studio Team Services and deploying it to Azure
3) Creating OSS applications in Visual Studio Code and deploying them to Azure
4) The agile testing capabilities in Visual Studio Team Services
Is this cool, or what? 
I've heard all about Microsoft being open and focusing on all languages on all platforms. You know the drill. I never really understood the extent of it all before I joined the company though. So far, I've focused more on OSS development than anything .NET specific and the support all these tools have for non-.NET developers is simply awesome.

What has your biggest challenge been so far? 
My biggest challenge is to stop thinking like a consultant. I've been a consultant for my entire career, and there's no doubt consultants are always keeping count of their billable hours and how much they've billed so far this week. The consequence of thinking this way for so many years is that I feel stressed whenever I feel like I'm not "billing". For example, I was asked to attend an event we had last week, which was basically a meet and greet with a bunch of customers. Suddenly I found myself feeling stressed because having great conversations about tech made me feel guilty for not "billing" and I had to tell myself over and over again that this in fact is my job now. I've talking to others who have had the same experience as they left the world of consulting and I suspect the feeling will pass eventually. 

Are you happy with your new career move?
Are you kidding?! I get to talk about and play with the newest pieces of technology all day, while at the same time seeing the industry for a completely different angle. I'm used to viewing the IT industry through the eyes of a developer, but now I have to view it from two angles at once: Through the eyes of a developer and also from a business perspective. The business perspective is a completely new area for me, so I'm have a very steep learning curve ahead of me. But that's exactly what I wanted, so I couldn't be happier.
I haven't said anything about how I got this job, but that story is so good I'm saving it for later. You will get a sneak peek of it next week on The Developers Life podcast, but I'm saving the full story for a blog post when I'm ready to give it all the oompf that it deserves. Let me know if you have any questions because there are about a thousand things I haven't mentioned at all yet!