Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Dilemma of Growth

As personal and professional growth happens, there are times when you haveto decide between being content, and being hungry for more.

I'm in one such situation right now, where I have been in a strong growth position for quite a while, demonstrating new skills and abilities to influence entire organizations and technology strategies. Having shown this now consistently for some time, I feel it is now time to look ahead a little bit. My next personal goal is to become a manager, and I have received a fairly large amount of feedback that my senior leadership team thinks I have demonstrated enough leadership talent to be ready for that. Great- the stars are aligning, right?

Not so fast. Our group just had a pretty massive re-organization last week, and I had some amount of hope that this re-org would shift things to the point where a management job would be made for me. Now I don't know all of the details behind the decisions on how the org would be structured, so I can't say for sure why, but I was not given a manager position. I was told about one manager position, along with the information that it wasn't a great fit for me, which I generally agreed with after hearing about what that job's goals are, but also told I could apply for it if I wish.

But now, a week after the organizational changes, the dust starts to settle- and I feel a little disappointment. Could the leadership team, and my manager, have found a way to get me into a lead type role? If I had made a big enough statement with my talent and work, would it have forced them to figure that change out? I haveto think so. Now I'm stuck a little bit where half of my professional advice I read tells me to be content and satisfied, always confident, and the other half tells me to go take what I want and push the boundaries constantly.

I don't want to seem ungrateful to my boss or my management chain- they are the ones that have provided me the stage I am currently using to showcase what I can do. But now that I've done that- when is the output? What is the output? I'm sure they probably will give me a promo during this review cycle, they'd be insane not to, but I'm not focused on that so much as being a manager...

I guess the next step is just to sit down with my manager sometime soon and make it clear where I see my next career move, and ask if she can help me with that or not.

Friday, January 08, 2016


I haven't blogged about work in a few years... so I suppose I'll make some notes here, more as a journal.

The last couple of years have been tremendous for me. Success beyond what I could have hoped for, and really a lot of potential being opened up and utilized. One of the best individual events was going to Finland to meet with some Nokia folks following our acquisition there, and comparing infrastructure maturity and models. Not only was it a fun work experience, but I got to take a few days and just walk around Helsinki. Visit some cool churches, a local farmers market, buy some reindeer skin and a fox, eat some truly unique food (tar ice cream? baby reindeer? all sorts of interesting things). My first ever real European experience.

On the project front, I completed a datacenter closure as the lead Program Manager. We squeaked through by the skin of our teeth, decommissioning the last server 12 hours before the deadline. We ended up decommissioning, migrating, or replacing over 9,000 servers, across all of Microsoft IT. After numerous exasperating setbacks and directional changes, we ended up having about 3 months left with still 6,000 of the assets remaining, so we had to pull together a rockstar team of IT engineers and PMs to knock it out of the park- and we did. I hired and built a team of Engineering PMs who reported directly to me, and we simply crushed it. I'm so proud and honored to have been able to build and lead that team, and work with some of the most talented folks I've ever met at Microsoft.

At the tail end of this project, a new manager for our group was introduced. Interestingly enough, it was someone from my past, who I had worked very hard for when I was a junior engineer. At the conclusion of my datacenter project, I started working hard on the next datacenter closure, preparing the project and lining up a plan and resources. I had a few struggles there with my manager at the time, and our group manager was also deciding how best to re-design our organization to make some improvements. She ended up promoting me to report directly to her, and creating a new role for me and a few folks she hired, while at the same time we went through some pretty miserable layoffs. I came out the other side okay- even more than okay, considering the new job she was passionate about for me, and the promotion. Upon her request I helped her design the new role, and recruit the new folks to fill it out. Humbling experience to be counted on as an advisor, which was not without a few mistakes on my part... (reminder: don't always trust those you work with, even if you have a great relationship with them)

I've now been in that job almost a year, which is "Service Engagement Lead," or akin to a service manager/rep. I support two divisions in MSIT, and all of their infrastructure needs and engagements with SDO, the platform and datacenter team. All the while in this role, I've been passionate and engaged on Azure. During the end of my last datacenter closure work, we were starting to really push people into Azure instead of another datacenter- paying ourselves for hosting and services, as well as dogfooding new Microsoft technology really encouraged our leadership to make some tough statements about mandatory Azure adoption, which has been... shaky at best. Well, I got some Azure training, got really noisy and friction-y about the best way to migrate applications and servers into Azure, and got myself invited to a lot of other meetings on how to improve this whole "Azure" adoption across IT stuff. As the months went on, I kept being an advocate for what I thought were some common sense changes and focuses, and got myself nominated for a bunch more Azure training, both Tech Ready conference nominations and a week long Azure bootcamp. This only made me more noisy as I realized we weren't even using the vast majority of Azure's features correctly. The momentum kept building, and I started building some slide decks for how we could re-invent our division to really go after Azure more aggressively. Then something crazy happened- I started getting weekly invites to the Leadership Azure meeting, and the LT started really paying attention to these slides I made. Serious debates started up, and... earlier this week, LT reconvened after Christmas break, with a list of names of people to roll out my strategy vision across the division. I was blown away- they took my vision slides and decided to run with it. My request was to put one person in charge of each service area in SDO to spend some time thinking about how to re-invent it for an Azure first world, and they totally bought in to it. Not only that, but my name was one of the names on that list for leading up a service area. Incredible... such a humbling experience.

So over the last couple of years, it's just been one opportunity over another, with each one being a success. It's hard to describe it, rarely do you see someone passionate and engaged have their ideas successfully bought in to, and with the support and encouragement of my manager, I've been able to do more and influence more than I ever have before. Having a manager that believes in you is the absolute fastest way to grow your impact and responsibility. It hasn't always been easy or rosy, but the mistakes and problems are only opportunities to fix areas before I get to the level where they are more serious.

Here's looking forward to the next two years at Microsoft. And hopefully, management.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

2016... The year of world beating, or the year of netflix and crackers?

Happy new year!

First few days of the year, I was thinking a little bit about what I want for the next 12 months. What kind of man do I want to be, what is the difference between a good man and a great man, and what is the secret sauce that stands in between a good man and a great man- how do I capture it?

Then I started thinking more about 2016. An insane election, terrorist organizations all over the world shooting everyone in sight, promises to build fully functioning AI, and more personally- a very challenging financial goal of putting Rosemary through two years of Bastyr. Maybe I'm doing really well if we just get through it... I feel like I might be stuck in neutral for a few years financially and personally. That's not bad- because being stuck in neutral means my wife is getting these life sized goals of a human sciences degree from a prestigious university, and my kids continue to grow and learn at their rapid rate. So I suppose it's time for Dad's goals to take a back seat for a few years- and that sounds good to me. Looking back on the last 8 years, Rosemary has really had the thankless job of staying home and keeping two little biological masses alive and undamaged, so it is satisfying to see her get her shot to do something world-class and show her true capability (which honestly, sometimes it feels like no one knows what she is truly capable of, not even herself...)

I'll just sit back and let life happen, and just enjoy the success of all those around me. 2016 might not be notable for me, but it sure will be for everyone else in my family. :)

So happy 2016 to you. I hope you can make it through this crazy year too, and maybe even find some achievements- even if they don't always look and feel the same as previous years.