It's now been a year since I joined Microsoft and I have to say, it's been quite a ride. Last year I joined the Azure Government Engineering team - this is one of the only engineering teams at Microsoft that is not based primarily in Redmond (which makes sense since we're close to the Federal government in Washington, DC). I generally travel to Redmond about every 8 weeks for face-to-face meetings and other activities - this definitely helps me be "connected to the mothership".
I was fortunate to join a growing team of passionate people that are totally invested in truly empowering our government agencies by bringing the best Microsoft technologies to their mission. Prior to joining Microsoft, I heard a lot of quotes about "customer obsessed", but I didn't know if that was reality or just marketing hype. What I've found in the last year on my team is that it's 100% real. All team activities are tracked back directly to customer demands. Our work is all prioritized directly in response to customers needs.
Similar to other teams like ours at Microsoft, most everyone on the team has some sort of "Program Manager" title. I've found that this post from back in 2007 - although being over a decade old - still does a good job of describing the PM role at Microsoft in general.
Because Azure Government isn't just a single product/service - it encapsulates all of Azure services - I get the opportunity to work with most any Azure Service. Though in the last year I've found a lot of my time focused in the areas of AI, Cognitive Services, and Machine Learning.
In my role specifically, I've found that about 50% of my time is spent on public customer-facing activities, and about 50% on non-public activities. In my public facing role, I'm focused on developer enablement for Azure Government. This includes several activities including:
- Organizing Azure Gov HackFest events throughout the US
- Publishing blog posts on the Azure Gov blog
- Managing the Azure Gov documentation
- Contributing to open source Azure Gov code samples to the open source ecosystem, such as the Intelligent Mission app
- Creating the Azure Government Video channel on Channel 9
- Delivering numerous presentations on Azure for Government literally all over the world
- Ensuring that normal Azure tools work seamlessly with Azure Government
Some of the highlights for me was getting the opportunity to give a presentation on Azure Government at Ignite in Orlando:
I also had the opportunity to travel to the UK and London to deliver presentations to our government customers there. I also went to Australia (Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney) for similar customer presentations and meetings. This included taking a tour of the new Azure data center in Canberra which was way cooler than I expected.
Another cool experience was doing the demos during one of Jason Zander's keynotes at the interal Microsoft conference in front of an audience of 2,000 people.
Equally as interesting has been my non-public facing activities. This enables me to leverage my development background to build solutions and POCs that are directly relevant for our customers. I informally refer to this as, "does our software do what we say it will do?" If/when we find gaps, we work with the Product teams to drive solutions in our products that will enable our government customers to fulfill mission objectives. Additionally, in this area we work to drive overall Microsoft strategy for Azure Government customers to ensure that we're producing the tools that our customers are seeking - and that we have referenceable architectures that can be implemented with Azure technology.
In summary, the past year was probably more of a "whirlwind tour" of any year in my career. I can't wait to see what this year brings.