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Joined the Dark Side

February 13, 2009 Leave a comment

When I joined Microsoft I joined as a Software Design Engineer, aka a developer. I had been programming since around 8 and paid professionally since around 17 and loved it. I still do. But for the last couple of years my focus has been diverted to directing, consulting, and writing specifications for features for a important subject few people understand.

In the last few months – not counting personal development projects – I’ve literally written more specifications than lines of code. And they are thorough specifications combing the functional requirements as well as technical designs, some of which I’ve received compliments on.

But even before this, it was appearing like a change was eminent. I was doing more and more management tasks to the point where I barely fit the description of an individual contributor (IC) developer (i.e., not a lead developer with people reports). As I grew I contemplated switching to what I always referred to ask the “Dark Side”: program management – not that I’m the only one that jokes it’s the “Dark Side”.

I met with management over several months and discussed my concerns, my ambitions, and what I can and had been delivering, and as of 2/9/2009 my conversion to the “Dark Side” is complete: I’m a program manager (PM).

Will I still make jokes about PMs? I certainly have no problems with self-deprecating humor. I couldn’t – not after all these years. But I will continue to provide all I can and still write code on the side for the popular Windows Installer XML project and my own project, the Windows Installer PowerShell Snap-in.

All roles are important and now I have a better opportunity to help drive focus between all those roles while filling my chosen role to its fullest. My day to day activities won’t change much, but I shall fulfill them in more of an official capacity conducive of a PM and less so for an IC developer. I believe it’s a better fit, but it’s still shocking to believe I’ve actually switched sides.

Categories: Work

New Title

February 26, 2007 Leave a comment
Almost as soon as I started working for Microsoft, I was the "go-to" guy along with another guy that left for another team. I had been working with Windows Installer – an application installation technology developed at Microsoft and used by many – since its inception about 10 years ago now. Over the last year I was involved with Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 and provided a lot of technical support for what Windows Installer can and can’t do. While some may find the release disappointing because of some of its problems, it was a major triumph for Developer Division to fix many problems and add many new features. By all rights, it should’ve been a new release, which I had mention some time back would actually prevent many of the problems those reinstalling Service Pack 1 ran into. We uncovered many new problems, and not just in our product. I’ve been working across the company to remedy those problems. I even have written some presentations and am doing more work company-wide on how to build products that support smooth upgrades with Windows Installer patches, and how to write custom actions – executable code that can do almost anything in the right context during installation, which is a problem for those that don’t know how to correctly author them for every scenario. I’m currently leading the latter effort. There’s a few other important things I’m working on I can’t mention now, but will when I can on my technical blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/heaths.
 
Because of all that and to support the function I’ve been trying to create and fill – a technical leadership committee within Developer Division, sort of an advisory board – I was given the title of "Technical Lead". Why some say titles don’t really matter, some others and I think they can help give first impressions. It can take precious time to establish one’s self as an information authority, though I strive – and now because of this role have more time to produce – to educate those I work with across the division why they need to make certain changes. After all, we can write the greatest software in the world, but if we can’t set it up correctly and maintain it, what good is that software?
 
I also educate myself about new deployment technologies, especially in the application installation arena since most of what our divisions produces is applications, and we do ship one of the most complex – if not the most complex – installations. I’ve worked with large product installations before, consulting for companies and even submitting bugs against others, but nothing quite so complex to set up Visual Studio. I do certainly support that we use the right tools for the right job, and new deployment technologies might work better in some situations.
 
And that my dear family and friends, is something about what I do. The title better reflects that, and will hopefully provide more time to write more specifications resulting in more of a brain dump to help other understand what needs to be done in the future, based on years of experience, countless of hours of community support both internally and externally on this and other topics, and familiarity of the Windows Installer source code.
Categories: Work

More Photos from My New Office

April 19, 2006 Leave a comment

Today was a bit clearer than before so I snapped a couple extra photos with a great view of Mt. Baker and some of the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades. Take a look here if you want to see the intersection in one of the photos. From there you can zoom out and move around to get an idea of just how far these majestic mountains are away, as well as the rest of the Microsoft main campus.

Categories: Work