And Now, What I LOVED About Working at Microsoft

by Joey deVilla on August 28, 2013

My Job

If I heaped scorn on Microsoft’s stack ranking or 70-20-10 system and the toxic management culture it engendered, it’s only fair that I heap praise on those aspects of being a Microsoftie that I really liked.

I loved the developer evangelist role. I also loved the fact that Microsoft not only had an evangelism team, but evangelism opportunities aplenty. I enjoyed what I did immensely and in spite of my happy-go-lucky demeanor, I took the job very seriously. Most of the time, I lived in the “hooray!” zone in the Venn diagram shown above.

(If you’re curious about what my job was like, I think that this article that I wrote back in 2010 does a pretty good job of explaining it. You might also want to check out my Evangelist, Immigrant, and Shaman article.)

My Team

I may have butted heads with some higher-ups (and in a couple of cases, some waaaay higher-ups), but the people who’ll always have my love, friendship, and respect are my former teammates on the Developer and Platform Evangelism Canadian “breadth team”, including Damir Bersinic:

damir bersinic

…and he’s even more loveable in cartoon form:

There’s also Qixing Xeng, who’s since gone on to her dream job on the Windows user experience team:

And two of the best damned tech presenters in the entire organization, Christian Beauclair and Rick Claus:

Here’s Rick, me, and Rodney Buike striking a “Charlie’s Angels” pose with our netbooks:

Ruth Morton was the very first person (after my manager) to welcome me onto the team — she left a comment on this blog.

Paul Laberge was my fellow Windows Phone Champ on the Canadian team, and together we gave the greatest mobile phone presentation ever. So great that it can’t ever be repeated again:

Paul Laberge

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a TechDays conference without Pierre Roman (he’s on the right):

I’m glad I had the chance to work with Fred Harper — he joined near the end of my tenure and is with Mozilla now:

And while Susan Ibach came aboard shortly after I left, we had a couple of chances to chat, and she gave me a grand tour of the server room at the TechReady 12 conference:

susan ibach

I’m also glad to have had a chance to work with Jonathan Rozenblit (below, left):

jon and ruth

Poor John Bristowe — he had one of the toughest jobs: to be my “onboarding buddy” when I first joined The Empire. He probably still has a mark from all the facepalming he had to do during that process:

And of course, I can’t not mention David Crow, who was Butt-Head to my Beavis…or was that Beavis to my Butt-Head?

While not on my team, I worked cross-functionally with Arun Kirupananthan and Nik Garkusha on Make Web Not War:

…and with Anthony “Situation” Bartolo on all sorts of Windows Phone-related thingies:

Mark Relph (pictured below on the right), who was my skip-level — that’s Microsoftese for “my manager’s manager” — who said something I’ll always remember when I was hired: “We enter as friends, we leave as friends”…

And last, but not least, I have to mention my long-suffering manager, John Oxley, who always had my back. He was an endless wellspring of good advice, ideas, stories, and some much-needed booze on his expense account. He also let me expense the rental of a pair of assless chaps, which I’m sure that no one else at Microsoft would ever do (okay, Adam Carter and Scott Hanselman probably would, too):

The Gear

At Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism group, we got assigned a lot of gear — more than one laptop per limb, all brand new.

My favourite has to be the “Dellasaurus”: the Precision M6500, a 17″ powerhouse that was essentially a server shoved into a laptop-shaped chassis:

dellsaurus

As a Windows Phone Champ, I got to work with the early test phones months before Windows Phone 7 hit the market:

And of course, I got my own production phone once they hit the shelves:

Damir even saw fit to make sure I left with some fabulous parting gifts when I left:

The Community

I get a kick out of working with lots of other people; that’s my nature. I really loved that aspect of the job, and what made it even better was the fact that the community with whom I worked — developers and IT pros who used Microsoft tools and technology were such great people.

If you look through the archives of this blog, you find dozens — perhaps hundreds — of photos that I took at various developer gatherings, from the TechDays series of conferences…

…to “Coffee and Code” gatherings…

and everything in between.

I feel that some really active participants in the community deserve special mention, including Atley Hunter:

atley hunter

Mark Arteaga:

Cory Fowler, who’s since gone on to join the company:

Bruce Johnson, Barry Gervin, and the rest of the ObjectSharp folks:

Steve Syfuhs, Todd Lamothe and Colin Melia:

Sean Kearney, Steve Syfuhs again, and Mitch Garvis. Special credit to Mitch for trying to set me up when he found out The Missus left me; the thought is appreciated:

Alexey Adamsky and Barranger Ridler:

D’Arcy Lussier:

Miguel Carrasco:

…as well as Kate Gregory, Alex Yakobovich, and so many other people whose photos I need to dig up.

The Pay

Let me just say this: the pay and perks were sweeeeeeeet.

Windows Phone

I often joked that Windows Mobile (Microsoft’s Mobile OS before the revamped Windows Phone and the User Interface Formerly Known as Metro) made me feel like this:

Sad-looking kid in a Darth Vader mask sitting alone at a fast-food restaurant table.

Photo courtesy of Alex Brown Photography.

A couple of months before Windows Phone was announced, I got assigned the role of Windows Phone Champ, which was the assignment I loved the most.

It was a challenge, starting from zero with a brand-new operating mobile operating system in 2010, three years after the debut of the iPhone, when the company was still stinging from Steve Ballmer’s underestimation of the effect that Apple would have on the mobile phone industry. In spite of all that, Windows Phone had an interesting user interface with a lot of possibilities, a great set of developer tools, and a whole lot of developers who were interested in building apps for it:

Even today, I keep the “I love Windows Phone” sticker that Charlie Kindel gave me, back when he ran the Windows Phone Champs:

My “Sesame Street” Fantasy, Fulfilled

Last, but certainly not least, for two brief shining episodes, Microsoft gave me a children’s show, where I got to teach kids about technology, complete with little puppet friend! Unfortunately, Microsoft Canada didn’t have much of a budget for outreach to grade school kids, but for fulfilling my fantasy to be on Sesame Street or something like it, I will be forever grateful.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sean Kearney August 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Joey

I’ll always remember your ad hoc tunes. You were a great example of never sacrificing who you are to live your dreams.

Any time I hear “Assess Chaps” I’ll be looking for “The Accordion Guy” :)

Sean
The Energized Tech
MVP Windows PowerShell
Honorary Scripting Guy
….and good personal friend of the “BATCHman” ;)

2 Nik Garkusha August 28, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Joey,

it was awesome to have worked together in Canada and for myself it was an honor to be a an ‘extension’ of your DPE team. I really enjoyed kicking it up at some of the events and hope to run into you again soon!

Nik G

3 atley August 29, 2013 at 12:05 am

I feel honored to be remembered among all the fantastic people and events of your storied career at Microsoft. I must say that the day you brought me a prototype Windows Phone marked the start of a very different course for me. I will always remember that day with a grin.

4 Mike Farrell August 29, 2013 at 10:40 am

Joey, i met you the first time at Humber College in 2008 i believe it was, at a seminar where microsoft allowed you to come into the college, and teach us tech nerds about microsoft and what they were doing at the time. My apologies i forget it if it was windows phone or windows 7 seminar (i lost alot of braincells there trying to pass my mobile programming exams) lol. But i will never forget your smile and the way you presented. I will always remember at the end of the seminar, you told us the story of how you played brittany spears’ rendition of Oh Baby Baby on the accordion in the cafeteria or lobby at microsoft… and how they picked you up right after that and hired you. Thanks for the awesome memories and i Hope that you always succeed. Also I learned of hacklab T.O. and i networked alot since. I still have alot of contacts in the industry since that day. I can still see you standing up at the front of the seminar standing on little platform belting out OH baby Baby with your accordian :)

Your Team at Microsoft was the best, including Demir who i met many times, and my final one i attended at Oracle’s Head office in Mississauga. Where i got to set between my Oracle Programming Professor and my Idol Larry Ellison. Something i would never have gotten to do without your team at Microsoft doing such events.

I know your the type to one day maybe, to be sitting atop a company with a new mobile phone OS. If i had my way, it would be called “accordion” to honor you.

Now that my friend would be an honor you could not pass up “windows Phone 9 Accordion” now who would say that is not catchy!

:)

Best regards

Mike T. Farrell
MCP,MCSE,SME,CCP
Rogers Canada

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