Patrick Godwin's Blog-O-Rama!

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Microsoft Student Insider Kick-Off: Sara Ford

My first one on one interview was with Sara Ford, who at the time was the Program Manger for CodePlex.com. Since then, Sara has joined the DPE team. She does, however, still retain her passion for Visual Studio and blogging.

I arrived at Building 5, the building where the CodePlex team works, at around 1:00 PM. Within a few minutes of my arrival, Ms. Ford met me down in the lobby and took me up to the CodePlex office.

The office was different that most of the offices I visited throughout the day. The developers all sat in a common area, writing code in stations that had two keyboards. Ms. Ford explained that this was their unique version of “pair programming”, where two developers write code and do near real-time code reviews. This plays into their own version of the Agile release cycle.

You may be asking: What is Agile? Well, the common release cycle for a product is know as Waterfall. This is a more traditional cycle, where the product goes from specification, to implementation, testing, release, and finally maintenance. Agile is a lot more rapid than Waterfall. Agile, on the other hand, is a three week release cycle. The first two weeks of any Agile cycle are spent developing new features for the product, with a third week spent on fixing bugs from previous releases and tightening the features for the latest release. After they deploy, they start over again, figuring out what to do for the next release.

After that, Ms. Ford shared some interesting facts about CodePlex. CodePlex is home to roughly 13,000 projects, with a total of 200+ Million Lines of Code, with 100-150 projects being added weekly. They’ve recently added support for Mercurial based projects, which was seen as a huge addition to the site.

Ms. Ford also shared some interesting facts about her career at Microsoft. She attended college at the Mississippi State University, where she was a member of ACM. While in college, she refused to think of herself as ever working at Microsoft, hating the idea of “becoming a code monkey” for Microsoft. And now she’s been a key part of one of Microsoft’s best open source initiatives, and continues to contribute to the Microsoft community with her new role in the company.

I had a great time talking with Ms. Ford, and I highly recommend you read her blog and follow her on Twitter as she continues her career, moving in to DPE for a new exciting career experience.

Until next time, thanks for reading
Patrick Godwin

Microsoft Student Insider Kick-Off: Frank Arrigo

As I mentioned previously, we had the pleasure of meeting with Microsoft’s Frank Arrigo, a highly respected Australian blogger within the Microsoft Community. As a member of DPE, he aims to relate a more human Microsoft back to the users. As he put it, the job of bloggers within Microsoft is to “show Microsoft as more then a two headed beast”, and that is shown through their interactions with the community.

First, a little background about Frank Arrigo. He’s been an employee for Microsoft since 1991, and has had a substantial role in community relations since then. He’s essentially a social media whiz, having blogged since before I was born. As he put it, he was “blogging before it was called blogging”.

At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Arrigo asked us each a very interesting question: What do you think of when you think about Microsoft? A truly interesting question. What is the Microsoft experience? I hadn’t given it much thought before that moment, so it caught me off guard. Each of us brought a unique answer, like Joe Osborne’s answer: he pictured Microsoft as a sort of behemoth Pentagon-esque building. Some of us thought of the developer culture, while others pictured a typical corporate environment with cubicles and white collar shirts.

This discussion allowed the conversation to move towards what it means to be a blogger. What is a bloggers job within a corporation. That brought us back to a point raised earlier: blogging allows employees to show that they aren’t drones, brainwashed to do what Mr. Ballmer commands. Microsoft isn’t some sort of machine, hell bent on the complete domination of the world. It’s a living, thriving community of developers, businessmen, and other professionals. And we use our blogs to convey that back to the people who are interested in the topic. That’s why we see blog posts about personal issues, family, and vacations. It show’s that developers are in fact human, and do have lives outside of work.

He then presented us with some interesting facts: roughly 5,000 to 10,000 Microsoft employees write on a blog. Wow. That’s a lot of articles. But how does this help the User? What do they gain from reading about the experiences of these employees? Simple: connections. Around 2000-2001, Mr. Arrigo realized that maintaining a blog with an active community allows users and developers to network, creating an environment in which developers could receive feedback, share knowledge, and build professional relationships that would provide jobs down the line.

Mr. Arrigo was also an early adopter of Twitter. This allowed him to take his networking abilities to a whole new level. Rather then relying on traditional forms of communication like email and blog comments, he could interact with his readers in real time. This allows a higher quality of feedback and a way to extend topics beyond the blog. This essentially transformed blogs, making them living discussion prompts rather than static editorials.

We concluded are meeting with a simple idea: Blog smart. Talk about topics you would want people to read and not be ashamed about. Don’t write incoherent rants, don’t write foolish stories about how trashed you were last weekend. Blogs are a powerful tool, they can either make or break your career depending on how you present yourself online.

I just want to conclude by thanking Mr. Arrigo for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us. It was a great experience, and I thank you for all of the useful information about social media.

Next I plan on writing a post about my meeting with CodePlex’s Sara Ford. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,
Patrick Godwin

Microsoft Student Insider Kick-Off: An Overview

Wow. What a phenomenal two days spent in Redmond. For those of you who may not know, I was recently chosen as Microsoft’s Student Insider for programming. So, to kick off the program, Microsoft flew me and five other insiders out to Redmond for two days of training. Now this wasn’t your typical training. We didn’t have to sit through horrible harassment videos, there was no silly trust fall, but rather a series of meetings and activities with different people within the Microsoft corporation. The following post will give a brief summary of what happened over that 48 hour period, and then I will break down each meeting and activity in a separate post.

I flew out of Detroit Meto Airport at 3:45PM on Wednesday the 27th, which went surprisingly well. Sure there was one hiccup with baggage checking, but the travel agency, Henry V, got it taken care of right away. Thanks Johanna! The flight was a 5 hour non stop fight to Seattle, with great service and some decent space due to cancellations. I arrived at Seattle-Tacoma around 5:30PM PST, roughly 8:30 my time. Met the town car driver at Baggage Claim. Next we had to wait for Ashley Myer, the Imagine Cup Insider. Turns out, she was on the same flight as me. After finding Ashley, the driver took us to the Marriot hotel in Redmond Town Center. I walk up to my room, having already been checked in by Microsoft, and begin to unpack my stuff. I find a bag full of Swag and what not waiting for me in the room, something I found very cool. Then I log onto Twitter to announce my arrival in Seattle, only to find that Joe Osborne, the Expression Studio insider, is up for some dinner. So Ashley, Joe, and I head off to a nice Chinese restaurant in Redmond Town Center and have a very nice dinner. Once we were done eating, we head back to the hotel to get ready for the busy day ahead of us.

The next day I wake up at 5:45AM, an hour and fifteen minutes earlier than I had planned. Slightly annoyed by my childish excitement, I boot up my laptop and play some games to kill time. 7:45AM rolls around, and I head down to the lobby to wait for our ride to the Redmond Microsoft Campus. About ten minutes before our departure, the rest of the insiders make their way down. I reunite with Ashley and Joe, and I am introduced to the three other insiders, Tom Ziegmann, Jeremy Bray, and Ryan Bucinell. At 8:00AM, Jessica Anderson, the business manager for the Student Insider program, arrives to make sure we are all ready to leave. With that, we all pile into the cars and head off to campus.

We arrive at building 99, the Microsoft Research Building, where we met Hilary Pike, the other lady in charge of the Student Insider program. We then received our itinerary for the day. Each of us would be meeting with different developers and project managers across the campus. But before we went off to do our interviews, we had a meeting with Microsoft’s Frank Arrigo, an Australian blogger with a wealth of information to share. After meeting with him, we had some formalities to go over, and then lunch at The Commons with a few different developers on the Visual Studio team.
After our delicious lunch, we all went our separate ways for the afternoon. My first destination was building five, where I met with Sara Ford of CodePlex.com. I’d been following Sara for the better part of a year via twitter, fascinated by the inner workings of CodePlex, so being able to meet with her was a very exciting opportunity. I then jumped on a Microsoft Shuttle and headed over to building 41, where Ryan, the Visual Studio insider, and I met with Jared Parsons, a developer on the Visual Studio team who focuses primarily on the Visual Basic language. I’ve always had an interest in language and compiler theory, so meeting one of the guys who works on the language I started programming in was a great learning experience. We had a great hour long conversation with him, and then we jumped back on the shuttle.

Now Ryan and I had to make our way back to building five. Why was I going back to building five? Well, we had a meeting with Scott Hanselman. That’s right, Scott Hanselman. For those of you who don’t know, Scott is an influential man within Microsoft, having a very strong following on Twitter he has many resources and is very hard to meet. He happened to be in Redmond at the time, and we were lucky enough to grab an hour of his time.

After our nice meeting with Scott, I was shipped off to building 36 for a meeting with Karen Cheng, the program manager for Microsoft Excel. She gave me quite a bit of insight as to what the work environment is like around campus, and what it’s like to be a new employee, herself only working there for roughly six months.

After that meeting I went back over to building 99 to regroup with the team. Having all met up, we piled into the shuttle and went over to Joey’s restaurant in downtown Seattle, where we met Clint Rutkas. Now, Clint is a very interesting individual, and anyone who follows him on twitter would know this. He’s in charge of the website Coding4Fun and is also a member of the Channel 9 team. We had a great time out that night and while we didn’t get to see the Space Needle, seeing Clint fall twice while trying to get up was a fine substitute.After a good night sleep, I was awake again at 7:00AM the next day, ready for another exciting adventure around the campus. We went from the Marriot to Microsoft’s building in Lincoln Square, a truly breath taking skyscraper. We met Jessica in the lobby and made our way up to the top floor for breakfast. We were joined by Scott Davidson and Mark Hindsbo, higher ups in the Marketing Department at Microsoft. Now these two are wicked smart. We had a good 45 minute conversation with them, and it was a very engaging conversation. Unfortunately, we had to cut that conversation short for more meetings. Fortunately, we had meetings with more amazing individuals.

Ryan and I met with Jon Williams, the man overseeing the launch of Visual Studio 2010. He talked to us for a good 45 minutes about what to expect in Visual Studio 2010, and what it’s like coordinating a worldwide launch for a flagship product. We left him to go down the hallway for a sort of focus group with Jodi Ellias, one of ladies responsible for helping Jessica and Hilary start the Student Insider program. We discussed Microsoft’s new Tech Student initiative, and what we as students think would help draw people to the new Tech Students website.

After that meeting, we were transported back to the Redmond campus for a meeting with Michael Klucher, the Program Manager for the XNA Community Games Team. I was thrilled to meet someone within the XNA team, as I have been a fan of the XNA Framework for the past two or three years. Being able to meet with him and discuss different aspects of the XNA framework was a fantastic experience, and to finish it off, the XNA team gave each of the Insiders a nice 4GB Zune with the XNA Logo on it.

Again we had lunch at The Commons with a guy from MSIT and a developer on the SQL team. We had a nice conversation with them, and then made our way back to building 99 to regroup, think, and discuss what to do as insiders from there. After completing our work session, we all got into a shuttle and went back to Redmond Town Center to interview the developers on the 1 vs. 100 team. Ryan and I had another interview together, where we met with Jim Geist, the main architect and one of the lead coders for the 1 vs. 100 game. We learned a lot about how the game was designed, how the game is maintained, and how questions are added. It was a very cool experience, and one I am very grateful for.

After our meetings with that team, we went back to main campus for some time at the Company Store. Now I don’t usually enjoy shopping, but this time was an exception. I bought myself a good amount of Microsoft merchandise, and then got to check out the visitor center, which had some neat computers and displays. After that, we met up with Clint Rutkas again and all hurried off to Microsoft Studios for a live broadcast of 1 vs. 100 on XBox Live.

Seeing studio and all the behind the scenes work of 1 vs. 100 was very cool. We met with Chris Cashman, and the rest of the production team and had pizza before they went live. After going live, we got to play along in the studio, watch exactly how it works, and spend time with Chris in the booth. I actually got to give a shout-out to Michigan in front of 33,000 people. The broadcast finished, and we finished out time at that studio with a tour of the film studios.

After our time at the 1 vs. 100 studio was finished, we all gathered in the lobby of Microsoft studios for our official good bye. It was a nice moment, where we all said our Good Byes and Thank You’s. After that, Clint had us all put our hands in for a sort of “1-2-3 STUDENT INSIDERS!” kind of chant, which ended up becoming a “Student Partners” chant, mainly because Clint couldn’t keep it straight. Hilarity ensued, and we all got in the shuttle and went back to the Marriot. I said good bye to the other insiders, and went up to bed for the night.

In the end, I had a fantastic experience at Redmond. I met so many interesting and intelligent individuals. I learned a lot about the different technologies being worked on at Microsoft, as well as what life is like at the campus. In the following posts I will break down this experience even more, describing each interview more in depth.I just want to conclude by saying a huge thank you to Hilary and Jessica. You two showed me an amazing time, and I look forward to working with you two over the next six months. I would also like to thank Joe, Ashley, Jeremy, Tom, and Ryan. We had a good time, and I look forward to collaborating with each of you during the course of this program. Well that’s all for now, stay tuned for more details.

Thanks for reading,
Patrick Godwin