An Evening with Yossi Vardi: Thursday, September 24th

Yossi VardiYossi Vardi, according to Wikipedia, is one of Israel’s high-tech entrepreneurs and for over 40 years has funded or helped build over 60 high-tech companies in the fields of software, energy, internet, mobile, electro-optics and water tech. If you’ve used ICQ or the services of my old company Tucows, you’ve used something he helped fund. He’ll be speaking tomorrow evening in Toronto at the Velma Rogers Theatre.

Here’s what the event page for Yossi Vardi’s speaking engagement has to say:

Yossi Vardi is one of the leading individuals in the Israeli software/Internet industry.  

Yossi has extensive experience in the public and private sector. In the private sector, he is probably the most respected investor in Israel; has served on many boards including Amdocs, Maariv, Elite, Scitex, Bezeq, Arkia, Elisra. In the public sector, he has extensive experience in technology, including helping to set up the VC industry in Israel via Yozma. He serves on the board of governors of Weizmann Institute and the Technion. He was the chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation, council member of the Open University of Israel and serves on the board of trustees of the Hebrew University. Vardi acted as an advisor to the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program on issues of energy policy and strategy in the developing world. He is a member of the World Economic Forum, serves on the Research Visionary Board of Motorola, and on the Future Trends Forum of The Bankinter Foundation of Innovation. He serves on the advisory board of Blackberry Ventures in Ontario, and served on that of 3i, was advisor to the CEOs of AOL,, Allied-signal, Siemens-Albis and others.

Yossi was the founding investor of Mirabilis, inventor of ICQ – the well known Internet-wide Instant messaging product. Among the companies he invested in, or helped to build are, Gteko (sold to Microsoft), Airlink, Tivella, Scopus, CTI2, Foxytunes, Tucows (Toronto based), and Starnet.

In recent years Vardi has been active in fostering a culture of innovation and creativity in Israel and abroad. He founded the Kinnernet conference, an annual, three days gathering of creative people from all over the world.

Vardi won the TechCrunch Europe 2009 "Best investor personality" award; He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Technion, Honorary Fellowship from the Open University, and twice received the Prime Minister award for life achievements in the high tech area; he was nominated as one of The Most Influential International Executives by The Industry Standard.

Yossi, most recently, is an Angel investor in many Israeli startups and is now focusing on unique models of investing in startups. He is  currently invested in many startups. Yossi is just returning from San Francisco where he attended the TechCrunch50 conference as one of the Panel of Experts.

This event is sponsored by a number of groups:

An Evening with Yossi Vardi takes place tomorrow night, Thursday, September 24th at 6:30 p.m. at the Velma Rogers Theatre, which is inside the Rogers building at 333 Bloor Street East (at Jarvis).

The free student admission tickets to this event are sold out as of this writing, but the regular admission tickets are a dirt-cheap $5 and some are still available – go there to purchase a ticket.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Scott Hanselman on This Week’s “Ignite Your Career” Webcast: “Selling Yourself – Are You Using All Your Resources?”

Photo of lit match: "Ignite Your Career Webcast Series"

Scott Hanselman

This Week’s Ignite Your Career

On this week’s edition of the Ignite Your Career webcast (it happens tomorrow, Thursday, September 24th – see below for details), we’ve got author, evangelist, developer, speaker and Principal Program Manager of Microsoft’s Developer Division Scott Hanselman to join our panel of experts to talk about making the most out of your developer or IT pro career.

This week’s panel discussion is titled Selling Yourself – Are You Using ALL Your Resources?. Here’s the abstract:

Expressing the right level of details on your personal and professional accomplishments can come in very handy when talking with your manager as well as a couple of levels up within your company. What’s your CV or Resume looking like these days? How’s your offline and online personal brand maintenance coming along? Are you doing yourself justice when someone asks you in the hallway "what have you been up to lately?" Now take this to the next level – would you be prepared if the unexpected happened and you were now out in the wild looking for a new job? We’ll be talking with industry experts who have successfully marketed themselves and helped others. We’ll also cover the other side of the coin by talking with HR professionals and recruiting experts to find out how they evaluate and choose candidates.

The line in the abstract that really gets me where I live is “Now take this to the next level – would you be prepared if the unexpected happened and you were now out in the wild looking for a new job?” Regular readers of my personal blogs, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century and Global Nerdy will know that this is exactly what happened to me a year ago tomorrow. I know from personal experience that this sort of thing does happen and it’s best to be prepared.

Along with Scott, we’ll have these folks on the panel:

Andrew Dillane

Andrew Dillane, Group CIO for Randstad Canada. Andrew’s management experience in business and technology has focused on client-centered technology solutions. His leadership role in Sapphire Canada’s CONNECT™ technology solutions has resulted in the company being a two time recipient of a Canadian Information Productivity Award (CIPA). Andrew holds a BCOM from Ryerson University, is the National President for the CIO Association of Canada, serves on the Program Advisory Council for Ryerson University’s Information Technology Management (ITM) degree programs and is an expert member of the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills. Andrew also serves on the Advisory Board for Kids Internet Safety Alliance (KINSA).

Nick Corcodilos

Nick Corcodilos. Nick is the host of Ask The Headhunter® and author of How to Work with Headhunters (2009). Nick is also the author of Ask The Headhunter: Reinventing The Interview to Win The Job (1997), the #1-selling interview guide on Amazon for 26 consecutive months. Nick started headhunting in 1979 in one of America’s most competitive job markets: California’s Silicon Valley. Using the methods described in his book and on the ATH blog, he has helped people win management and staff jobs in companies including IBM, GE, Hewlett-Packard and Merrill Lynch. Nick Corcodilos is president of North Bridge Group, Inc. He holds a Bachelors Degree (Phi Beta Kappa) from Rutgers College where he was a Henry Rutgers Scholar, and a Masters in Cognitive Psychology from Stanford University (where his academic bent was quickly corrupted by the Biz School and Silicon Valley).

Heather Hamilton Heather Hamilton, Global Competitive Programs Team, Microsoft. Heather manages Microsoft’s Global Competitive Programs Team responsible for competitive research and programs. In this role, she leads Microsoft’s efforts aimed at enabling global research centers to monitor the competitive talent landscape and leverage opportunities to recruit the best technical talent through deliverables such as competitive intelligence, training and opportunistic recruiting programs. Aside from managing a talented team of staffing professionals, Heather is probably best known as a blogger. She is a requested speaker on topics related to candidate outreach and community building and her blog, One Louder, has resulted in significant press interest including The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Fast Company.

When, Where and How Do I Catch This Webcast?

The live webcast takes place tomorrow, Thursday, September 24th, from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. Eastern (that’s 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Pacific). To listen to this live webcast, register here. You’ll need a Windows Live ID to register, which you can get for free.

If you have a question for the panel, you can submit it to this email address.

If you can’t catch the live webcast at its scheduled time, it will be recorded and you’ll be able to access it in the Archived Webcasts section of the Ignite Your Career site at a later date.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


One Web Day

One Web Day logo

Today, September 22nd, is One Web Day, the day on which we celebrate the awesomeness of the web and try to make it even better! As the One Web Day folks put it, think of it as “Earth Day for the Internet”.

Here in Accordion City, we’re having One Web Day Toronto, where there’ll be many independent events as well as a big one tonight at Cafe Taste (1330 Queen St West, at Brock) from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.. It will feature:

  • Talks by Us Now, Little Geeks, the Mozilla Foundation and my old company, the good guys of domains, Tucows!
  • Free wine, snacks, buttons and t-shirts
  • The “I Love the Web” poster wall to which you can add your own art
  • A used computer drop-off organized by Tucows and Little Geeks
  • General celebration of the World Wide Web, which we know and love (and without which I wouldn’t be me)

If you can make it, drop by Cafe Taste and celebrate the web, and if not, make sure you celebrate it wherever you are.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


11 Months as a Microsoft Man


While Kris Krug was taking photos of me for TechDays, his assistant Danielle was holding up a light reflector and remarking that I seemed to really love my job. I hadn’t yet told her that I really loved my job; I was just doing my thing, running my track of the conference, chatting up the attendees and missing most of the lunch break to play accordion and pose for a photo shoot. I’d been up since before sunrise on the morning of the first day of the first of seven conferences where I’m acting as track lead for the first time and she knew it – it’s hard to fake enthusiasm under those circumstances. I was “on” because I love my job.

As I write this — September 20th — it’s been exactly eleven months since my first day as a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft. I suppose I could have waited another month for the traditional anniversary to talk about my time with The Empire, and were I a little less enthusiastic about my job, I probably would have done just that. But I can’t wait, so why bother?

Inspirational poster: 'Unemployment: Sucks when your job gets blow'd up.' with sad stormtropper sitting on a subway train.

It hasn’t even been a year since I got laid off from my last job: that anniversary doesn’t happen until September 24th – this Thursday. The insult-added-to-injury of getting laid off on my own wedding anniversary (they didn’t know, but the layoff was still worse for it) makes the event a little more memorable. It also gave me the choice of viewing the days to follow as a trial or an adventure. You already know which one I chose.

Thanks to the help and referrals of a lot of a readers of both The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century and Global Nerdy, I had a job interview or job-search-related meeting on nearly every day of the three weeks between my getting laid off and my signing the offer letter from Microsoft. These meetings were all quite different: I had a great interview with a great small company, an interview with a company that I thought would be great but turned out to be scatterbrained, and even an interview with a company I expected to be a Mickey Mouse outfit but turned out to have surprising depth. I also had interviews with Microsoft: six of them, in fact.

I'm a Mac, I'm UNIX, I'm Vista poster

I have to admit that I had some concerns about joining The Empire. After all, for the previous 6 years, I’d been using Python and PHP, and then working my way into becoming a Rubyist. I used open source tools to write software and either Mac OS X or Ubuntu in my day to day work. I was deep in the culture and the scene of the “I work on a Mac and deploy onto Linux” crowd. Could I work for Microsoft? And could I work in an office park out in the burbs?

(The last time I interviewed for a job in an office park in the burbs, this happened.)

You already know the answer, but you might not know the reasoning behind the answer. “It’s the money!” is everyone’s first guess, and it’s a good one – just not the right one. Yes, a company like Microsoft would be able to give its workers decent salaries. It certainly played a factor in my decision, but a couple of the other potential jobs were offering roughly the same number of ducats. However, if money were the primary factor in my career choices, I’d have gone for one of the programming jobs at a bank or insurance company that were available to me right out of school instead of starting at $12.50 an hour at a CD-ROM company run by art school grads. But I suspect that you wouldn’t be reading this blog – probably because I’d be neck deep in a mid-life crisis.


For starters, the job isn’t out in the burbs. In fact, I haven’t worked in a situation as flexible as this one since I was a self-employed consultant. The field people in Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team are classified as mobile workers and most work out of their home offices, with occasional visits to the office for meetings. I split my time between the home office, cafes (where I’m surprisingly productive), the Hacklab (a “hackerspace” in Kensington Market to which I have 24/7 access) and the Microsoft office out in the burbs, where I show up to gain access to the most important network: not the corporate one, but face-to-face contact with my non-remote coworkers in various departments.


Another perk of the job: considerably more control over my own destiny than one might expect. A Microsoft evangelist’s role is pretty broadly defined, specifying the what of what we do. The how part is defined in our commitments, a document where each of us writes how we’ll fulfill our role, on both an individual and team level and then gets agreed upon with our managers. I happen to report to John Oxley, an exceptionally understanding manager, so when I threw away the suggested “hows”, wrote my own from scratch and set a couple of rather ambitious goals, he approved them.


I wouldn’t have joined Microsoft had I not seen the signs of some course corrections, the cumulative effect of which I like to refer to as “The Sea Change”. There are lots of factors, including an increasing willingness to “play well with others” – embracing standards, an emphasis on interoperability, participation in community events, the hires of unlikely people including my friend David Crow, and a lot of good tech, ranging from great developer tools to platforms like Silverlight and XNA, to the then-upcoming technologies like “Red Dog” (which became Azure) and ASP.NET MVC (still in beta back then) to the fact that they were starting to look at what an open source approach could do for them. Yes, the company still is a bit hung up on desktop computing and its old  approaches – it’s hard to walk away from the goose the laid the golden egg for two decades – but there are signs that change is afoot.


Finally, there’s the challenge. Evangelizing at Microsoft means reaching out to a larger body of developers and techies than I ever could anywhere else, working with a platform than spans embedded systems to high-performance machines to data centers spread throughout the world – and doing so for a company facing the challenges of its size, its competitors and its own past.

To put it a little more simply: Any fool can evangelize Apple or Google. It takes a rock star, ninja and Jedi master all rolled into one to be an evangelist for Microsoft. It’s not that there’s nothing from Microsoft to evangelize – it’s just that there are lot of factors that make the job something that not just anyone can do.

I view my job as so much more than winning techies’ hearts and minds on behalf of The Empire. It’s about making big changes: changing the company, the culture of high tech, the field of software development and yes, the world. It’s a bold, audacious, chutzpah-riffic set of goals and it won’t be easy – but the most rewarding work rarely is.


So here I am, eleven months later. The work has been exciting, rewarding and challenging. I believe I’d started to make my mark on the company and hopefully someday, the industry. Every day, I get the opportunity to do the things I love to do: write code, talk to people and come up with new ideas, often in the surroundings of my choosing. I feel like equal parts Don Draper and Don Box!

It’s been great so far. I’m going stick around for a little while.

I can’t close this article without a few thank-yous:

  • To my manager John Oxley, for hiring me, trusting that I would temper my wacky ideas with solid judgement, giving me the freedom to operate in the way that lets me work my magic and for making sure the higher-ups were aware of my work.
  • To David Crow, for being one of the guys to recommend to DPE that they hire me as soon as he heard I’d been laid off.
  • To my fellow Developer Evangelist John Bristowe, for mentoring me through my freshman year at Microsoft and for being the other guy to recommend to DPE that they hire me.
  • To my former VP Mark Relph, for his support.
  • To the rest of my team, who are too numerous to name, but whom I hold in the highest esteem.
  • To the other groups within The Empire with whom I work: CSI/Interoperability, Windows Phone, Open Source and our event organizers Maritz – I hope to keep on working with you folks!

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Slice of Life: Official Photos from Techdays

For the TechDays conference’s stops in Vancouver and Toronto, Microsoft hired Vancouver-based photog extraordinaire Kris Krug to take photos of the Developer and Platform Evangelism team, which includes Yours Truly. The photos were taken during the conference, which meant that most of us were wearing the official TechDays shirts, which were colour-coded to match the conference track in which we were leading or participating. The track that I lead is Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform, and its colour is orange. Luckily the folks who made the shirts had a pretty snappy shade of orange (the label refers to the colour as “Spark”) that I can rock.

Most of our photo shoot was on the promenade outside the Vancouver Convention Centre, looking out over the water. He just had me play tunes on the accordion while he shot photos, so they’re all pretty candid shots. Here’s one of the photos that Kris took of me.


There are more of me and the rest of the DPE team in Kris’ Flickr photoset.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


A Pair Programming Article…in the New York Times?!


It’s one thing to see an article on pair programming in a a book, magazine or site that concerns itself with software development, but it’s something completely different when you see it covered in the New York Times. Still, that’s exactly the topic of an article in the Sunday, September 20th edition titled For Writing Software, a Buddy System. In it, developer and Rubyist Jim Remsik, who works at Hashrocket, does a pretty good job of explaining pair programming to an audience that is presumably most non-developers. I might have to use his Where’s Waldo example the next time I need to describe the benefits of pair programming.

hashrocket_logo A little aside: Hashrocket’s logo is a great example of a development company working closely with a design company. After some discussion about the company’s name and where it comes from, they took the => symbol, which demarcates the keys from the values in Ruby hashes, and worked it into a clever little graphic. This is what good designers do, especially when you communicate with them!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Don’t Forget About FailCamp Toronto 3 – Tuesday, Sept. 29!


FailCamp Toronto 3 is 10 days away! Come join us in our “celebration of fail”. We’ll share stories about the times when things went pear-shaped, got SNAFUed, or just plain failed — and just as important, the lessons we learned from them. And unlike many failures, FailCamp’s admission is free.

For more details about FailCamp, see the FailCamp registration page or this earlier article.