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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

Excuses, Excuses…

Hey, turns out I have a blog. Who’d have thought.

I really must apologize for my not updating. I’m sure i could come up with plenty of excuses, but where would that get us? So instead, I’m going to give a brief update as to what is going on.

First and foremost: Happy New Year! 2009 was an interesting and hectic year. We saw history made when Barrack Obama was inaugurated as the first African American president. We had quite a few notable celebrities pass away this year, which got more news time then most issues.
It was also a very good year for social media. Since I joined Twitter, I saw many of my friends from school joining. I’ve also seen many people joining, Facebook. What this has taught me: Social Networking is here to stay.
It was also an exciting year for technology. This year we saw Microsoft announce Project Natal, release Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 and 2, and the Zune HD. I was very excited to see these technologies released, and I can safely say I’ve gotten to play with all except Project Natal.
But 2009 had it’s low points. Most notable: the economy. It’s been a hard couple of years, and there is more to come. But we will get through it.
Now, seeing as it is 2010, I should make a New Years resolution, no? Well, I think I can make two very simple resolutions: Blog more, and write more code. Like I said, I could create multiple excuses as to why I have not done either of these lately, but where would that get me? So instead, I’m just going to work harder at it.

In closing, I’d like to give shout-outs to people online.

  • LittleKuriboh: You are awesome. You created a YouTube sensation, and have always brought a smile to my face. I wish you the best in the new year, and once again congratulate you on your Open Web Award.
  • Kelson Thomas: You always spark interesting conversation, be it on Twitter, in class, or over IM. You’ve made 2009 a hoot and a half.
  • Eric Hawtin: You’ve been just as entertaining as Kelson. You always keep Twitter alive and provide good (well not always) input to our conversations, and I thank you for that.
  • Microsoft: We saw this coming. They had a great year in releases, and I look forward to seeing what they will do in 2010.
  • Alfred Thompson: You always have interesting resources for students, and you always write interesting blog posts. You’ve had me scratching my chin more then once. I thank you, and wish you the best in 2010

I could go on for hours, listing the people who made 2009 a good year, but I won’t, as that would take up a few pages.

In closing, I’d like to thank everyone for an awesome year, and I am excited to work with you all in 2010. You’ve all been great, and I am keeping my head high for the next 365 days.

Thanks for reading,
Patrick Godwin