Technical Advisor in the office of the CTO

So, I received an email a few weeks back which essentially said “would you consider a role working for the CTO as a Technical Advisor”.  Well, at first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but then I actually talked to who was asking me the question, and I thought, “wait a minute, this could be a really cool thing”.

It’s like this.  At Microsoft, we don’t always have a person in the role of CTO.  Bill Gates was “Chief Scientist” at one point, and Craig Mundie I think had the CTO role, as did Ray Ozzie.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a distraction.

The current CTO is Kevin Scott, and before I actually met him, the #1 comment everyone said about him was “he’s a really cool guy”.  Well, after meeting him, I have the same sentiment.  Kevin’s not an industry luminary from the birth days of the personal computing industry like Ray Ozzie was, he’s an engineer’s engineer with a pedigree that extends through Google, a startup adMob, and LinkedIn, where he continues to be responsible for their backend stuff.

I’ve been at Microsoft for 18 years, which means I’ve done a fair number of things, and I know a fair number of people.  The first aspect of being a TA is getting around, meeting with people, and spreading the word that there’s actually a CTO.

What does the CTO do?  Well, the best description I can give is the CTO acts as the dev manager/architect for the company.  The scope and responsibility of the CTO can be very broad.  Part of it is about efficiency of our joint engineering objectives.  Part of it is making sure we’re marching to the beat of a similar drummer.  Can you imagine, Microsoft has a few multi-billion dollar businesses, led by business managers who are fairly autonomous, and have quite strong independent personalities, or they would not be in the positions they are in.  And along comes the CTO to help unify them.

Really, the job is being fairly impartial where necessary, and just reminding people of their shared goals and objectives, and helping them to reinforce achieving them.

Being a TA to the CTO?  Mostly it’s about going deep in areas.  Kevin Scott is a fast learner, fully capable of digesting tons of info, and fabricating a well informed opinion on his own.  The challenge is one of time.  Microsoft is vast, and if you want to go beyond the surface level in many areas, you’d spend all your time in meetings, and not actually be able to synthesize anything.  So, the TA role.  We have those infinite number of meetings, going deep on multiple topics, synthesizing to a certain level, and surfacing interesting bits to Kevin where decisions and direction might be required.

The the surface description of the role and responsibility.  The truth is, it’s not at all a well defined role.  Eric Rudder was Bill Gate’s TA, for five years, and he was quite a force, doing more than just feeding Bill Gates opinions on what he heard in the company.  We’ll see what our current office of the CTO is capable of, and what kinds of value we are going to impart on the company.

I am excited for this latest opportunity.  I think it’s a fitting role for where I’m at in my career, and what value I can contribute to the company.  So, here we go!


Jobs at Microsoft – Working on iOS and Android

Catchy title isn’t it.  Microsoft, where I am employed, is actually doing a fair bit of iOS and Android work.  In days of yore, “cross platform” used to mean “works on multiple forms of Windows”.  These days, it actually means things like iOS, Android, Linux, and multiple forms of Windows.

I am currently working in the Windows Azure Group.  More specifically, I am working in the area of identity, which covers all sorts of things from Active Directory to single sign on for Office 365.  My own project, the Application Gateway, has been quite an experience in programming with node.js, Android OS, iOS, embedded devices, large world scale servers, and all manner of legal wranglings to ship Open Source for our product.

Recently, my colleague Rich Randall came by and said “I want to create a group of excellence centered around iOS and Android development, can you help me?”.  Of course I said “sure, why not”, so here is this post.

Rich is working on making it easier for devices (non-windows specific) to participate in our “identity ecosystem”.  What does that mean?  Well, the job descriptions are here:

iOS Developer – Develop apps and bits of code to make it relatively easy to leverage the identity infrastructure presented by Microsoft.

Android Developer – Develop apps and bits of code to make it relative easy to leverage the identity infrastructure presented by Microsoft.

I’m being unfair, these job descriptions were well crafted and more precisely convey the actual needs.  But, what’s more interesting to me is to give a should out to Rich, and some support for his recruiting efforts.

As Microsoft is “in transition”, it’s worth pointing out that although we may be considered old and stodgy by today’s internet standards, we are still a hotbed of creativity, and actually a great place to work.  Rich is not alone in putting together teams of programmers who have non-traditional Microsoft skillsets.  Like I said, there are plenty that now understand that as a “services and devices” company, we can’t just blindly push the party line and platform components.  We have to meet the market where it is, and that is in the mobile space, with these two other operating systems.

So, if you’re interesting in leveraging your iOS and Android skills, delivering code that is open source, being able to do full stack development, working with a great set of people, please feel free to check out those job listings, or send mail to Rich Randall directly.  I’d check out the listings, then send to Rich.

Yes, this has been a shameless jobs plug.  I do work for the company, and am very interested in getting more interesting people in the door to work with.