Ten Months on the Job: People Management + Beta Release

October 14th marked the ten-month point of my change in roles. Major developments this month included the annual company meeting on September 21st followed by a week tying up loose ends in preparation for the last of this year’s trade shows and technical conferences.  The biggest developments happened over the past 2 weeks which is why this post is a week late. What happened? I returned to people management on October 9th and we shipped the ASP.NET AJAX v1.0 Beta on October 20th.

People Management

I enjoyed being a people manager when on the engineering side of the shop.  I started managing two people back in 2000 and was managing an org of 16 regular employees with 2 contractors when I changed jobs ten months ago.  While I entered my current job as an individual contributor, I hoped to have the opportunity to move back into management once my management team and I felt the time was right for the team and me. That time came quicker than anticipated as I took over management responsibilities for the Core Web Platform & Tools (CWPT) team two weeks ago. My new team is small just like my very first team. I am currently managing 2 regular employees and 1 contractor.

Between the four of us, we oversee some of Microsoft’s most important Web technologies including Internet Information Services (IIS), ASP.NET, Visual Web Developer (VWD) and Visual Studio (VS) for Web development. Our small size is indicative of how lean and mean we run in Developer Tools product management, specifically, and our parent Application Platform & Tools organization, in general.  AppPlat consists of about 125 people responsible for products produced by well over 2000 engineers. I am excited about my new responsibilities and return to people management. I have an energetic, smart and passionate couple of guys to work with on some of the most important and strategic products in the company’s future. They say the reward for doing a good job is getting more work and I have definitely been a lot busier lately.

Beta Release

Ramping up on my new responsibilities while getting my normal work done has required me to invest more hours at work. However, the biggest hit to my schedule came from the work leading up to the the successful v1.0 Beta release of ASP.NET AJAX culminating around 3AM PDT, Friday, October 20. Anyone who has had the pleasure and pain of shipping a major release of a v1.0 product knows it can at times feel like organized chaos. All we can do is push, refine, push, refine and hold on for dear life as best we can as the beast takes on a life of its own and limps across the finished line.

This release was not much different in that regard and there were many incidents of individual and team heroics to pull it off. I wrote so many positioning statements and wrote or edited so much content I felt like I was moonlighting on the White House Rapid Response and Speechwriting teams at the same time. One learns a lot about his colleagues and their talents when in crunch time and it is time to either ship or shut up.  We had our share of snafus, false starts, miscommunications and long days/nights…and it was just a beta. Regardless, unadulterated elation best describes the feeling when it is finished.

Now it is time to lather, rinse and repeat as we spend the next months removing that “beta” label by shipping the actual, supported product. (In the software business, we call that RTM‘ing or RTW‘ing for software distributed via the Internet.)

Next up: Microsoft Tech-Ed Europe: Developers conference in Barcelona, Spain, Nov 7-10