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A Week in the Life of a Community PM at Microsoft

Pete Brown - 22 May 2010

I spent this week on campus up in Redmond, Washington. While it is always hard on my wife to be a single mom for a week, the time I spend on campus is vital to my role. It's also time I really enjoy.

With Tim Heuer having moved over to the Silverlight product team proper, I now split my time between WPF and Silverlight work, with Jesse Liberty and I splitting the load as "the xaml team" in Scott's group. While I spend time with the product teams and do some content, I tend to lean more towards site management, and Jesse more towards awesome content.

So what did I do this week? What's a week in this role look like? While this is not quite a typical week (more meetings, less content creation) it's actually not that far off from the types of things we do on a regular basis. With a fair bit of redacting to protect the innocent (and my job <g>) here's what I was up to this week.

Here's my calendar after removing meetings that got canceled or otherwise didn't happen. I was thinking of writing an Outlook add-in to let me play Breakout against the meetings ;) (times are eastern. subtract 3 hours for Redmond time)

(oh, and not trying to impress with the calendar. You should see Hanselman's. It looks like he's about to lose an enormous game of Tetris)


We didn't plan it this way, but Jesse and I were both up in Redmond the same week. That worked out really well, and saved product team time.



8:00 am flight out of Washington Reagan National airport on the fully packed Alaska Air flight 1. Middle seat behind the wing. Pilot had a lead foot, so we arrived at the gate a half hour early: 10:00 Redmond time (that's a 5 hour trip)

Picked up the rental from avis. They gave me a nifty two door Altima with push-button start and a sports shift…and a tiny 4cyl engine. :)

Sensors and Location

Arrived on campus, grabbed lunch in one of our numerous and incredibly inexpensive cafeterias, and headed over to building 27. Spent an hour with Gavin Gear, one of the API PMs in Windows, talking about sensors and location, cool things we can do now, nifty stuff for the future, and ideas I'd like to see implemented. Passed along community feedback as well as info from my own messing around with the APIs. He asked me to take a walk through the trails with him for half the meeting, so I also spent a fair bit of the meeting realizing just how out of shape I am, wheezing and whatnot :) My wife approved of this meeting. heh.

WPF and Silverlight

From sensors and location, I went and talked with the some folks in charge of my favorite technologies. We discussed plans for the future. Can't say more than that other than it was incredibly inspiring :)


Monday afternoon, I met with a great guy who has ported the Infocom z-machine (the virtual machine than ran all the text adventures) to C#/WPF calling it Frotz.net. He showed me the awesomeness and we recorded a video to be put up on channel 9


From there, I went and checked into the hotel, and handled email and whatnot for most of the evening.



My first meeting that day was to talk to someone on the WPF team I know, and cover some upcoming stuff, pass along some feedback etc.


From there, I visited with Ian Ellison-Taylor. Ian is one of my all-time favorite folks at Microsoft. We talked WPF, Silverlight, phone, and bits and pieces of other things.

Silverlight TV

Out of Ian's office, I dashed over to record a Silverlight TV episode in building 20. I had a horrible time finding parking, so I was late, but so was John :) We recorded a pretty good episode, despite not letting John get in a word edge-wise. heh.

Free Time

A couple meetings after Silverlight TV moved, so I grabbed lunch in the building 19 cafeteria and did some work on site organization.We're working on some significant changes to Silverlight.net to help making the learning process both easier and more intuitive as well as to add a bunch of great new content.

I also tried calling my book editor on skype, but wireless in the cafeteria was horrible, so we rescheduled for the afternoon.


Later took a skype call from my editor in the WCF and WCF RIA Services Building (18). Topic was chapter 19: printing. Had to make a few edits, but otherwise it's good to go. Yay!

RIA Services Video

After that, I met with Deepesh, Dinesh and Jeff, and recorded a great WCF RIA Services video on the comfy couch. I'll have that up soon.

Family Call

After the RIA Services video, I found a quiet corner, put on the webcam and headphones, and skyped my family. Skype video calls are essential when you have young kids and are away for a week. It makes all the difference in the world for them to see you. Of course, 90% of the call is them making faces at the camera, but hey :)


From there, went down to best buy to try and find a charger (yes, I forgot my camera charger again) and failed. Best Buy has nothing I want. I don't know why I go in there. Anyway, from there, I sat in traffic until I got to Mr Papa's house and we all (Jesse, Adam and his family, John and his family) enjoyed burgers and chat.


That evening I split time between working on my book, and fielding Silverlight.net tasks (blog requests, showcase requests, new content, upcoming news items etc.)


Glenn Block

The first thing I did on Wednesday was head over to building 18 and record a video with Glenn Block. Topic was not MEF. Glenn is involved in other awesomeness that I'm sure he'll be writing about soon :)

Gary Linscott

From there, I went over to building 24 and met with Gary Linscott. Gary is a developer on Expression Blend. I recorded a short video where he explained some of the mechanics behind how the design surface was built, what is shared with Cider and more. Great stuff and nice guy.

WPF Triad

Back to building 40 to meet with one of the members of the WPF triad (leadership team). We talked for a bit, and I offered a number of suggestions for v.next, passing along both my own ideas and what you all have been telling me you want. I should note that all the WPF triad folks and the GPM had copies of the uservoice site results handy, so they are absolutely listening to you guys.

Silverlight Triad

From there, I met back up with Jesse in 40, and had a couple meetings with Silverlight triad members. Great stuff, talking about the future.


Jesse and I headed down to lunch, and I had the world's biggest burrito. Seriously, this thing was huge. With a name like "Muy Grande Verde" I should have known. I wasn't sure if the tray would hold up. The thing is the size of a meatloaf.


No, I didn't eat the whole thing :)


I had some open time, so I flew (actually crawled because traffic was so bad in the rain) down to Fry's in Renton to find a battery charger for my camera. Found something that worked well enough to half-charge my battery, giving me back the ability to record more videos :)

I drove down there myself, and after a burrito like that, that was probably a good thing.

Windows Phone Dev


In the afternoon, Jesse and I met with one of the Windows Phone 7 devs we both know well, and talked about readiness for the WP7 launch. I'm really excited :)

Video on Binding

After that, Jesse and I split up again, and I headed over to do a video interview with the father of binding. This is the guy that created and owns much of the binding system in WPF, and by extension, what made it into Silverlight. It was a great discussion and a fun video.


Called my family again, of course.

Korean Hot Pot with Jesse

I've never had Korean food before. Jesse and I went so I could try some. The restaurant is excellent, but I definitely do not have a taste for Kimchee, little smoked anchovies or some of the other things they had. The hotpot was pretty good, though (it's the thing under all that steam in the video).


Back to the room. I read for a bit, and wrote up a bunch of items to be changed on Silverlight.net. We're refining the "to do" list for the upcoming months.



I started the morning with a meeting in building 5 with the MSDN v-team. We're working on a bunch of video and page content there. Nice to be face-to-face instead of on a phone once in a while.


I flew out of the MSDN meeting and headed over to Studio A, the XNA building. As a client dev guy, I like to do a little XNA when I can. While there, I interviewed Shawn Hargreaves. Shawn is probably one of the nicest and smartest folks I've met. The video should be fun, but the discussion outside of it was even better.


My god, it's full of stars!

After the XNA meeting, I went to another building and had a meeting about something amazing. I'll leave it at that.


After that, Jesse and I met with the WPF GPM - Rob Relyea. Rob is super smart and really has his stuff together. It helps that he's really nice too :) You may know him as the XAML guy, but he's overseeing even more these days. We talked about WPF next (again the uservoice site sheet was there) and tossed around ideas for features and priorities.

While ultimately it comes down to what the team decides to do, I'm really proud to be able to represent you all in there, and help drive for features and capabilities you've asked for.


After that meeting, Jesse and I had lunch. I ordered the burrito again just so I could take a picture of it this time. My wife Melissa saw the tweet and pic and informed me that I would be eating salad the next day if I knew what was good for me :) You guys being who you are, all sent me suggestions of taco salad. lol. thanks :)


After lunch, I met with the primary developer for Fishbowl and we talked about plans for the future. Facebook is a moving target (someone teach them how to version an API, please) so we had to have a plan for the great WPF sample app. More on that later.

Show us the Bits

After that meeting, Jesse and I got back together and visited the Pivot product team down in Lincoln Square in Bellevue. We worked with them on launch plans, content strategy, deployment strategy and approaches, learning materials etc. for the control they plan to release this summer.

We got stuck in traffic on the way back from Bellevue, so I had to reschedule to Friday my meeting with one of the Windows PMs.


Jesse and I went to a steak place in Kirkland for, well, steak. Pretty decent, although the beer was terrible for a place that styled itself a bar and steakhouse. Had a great time. Jesse is a riot.

Oh, don't ask him about my driving ;)


Thursday night I did a ton of work on items for Silverlight.net and WindowsClient.net


Windows Dev Center

Friday was a fairly light day. I started off with a meeting over espresso with someone on the v-team I'm on for the Windows Developer Center on MSDN. We exchanged news and info to make sure we were both on the same page for the work we are doing to simplify the overall onboarding experience for folks who want to develop for Windows.


After that, I did a ton of email work. Between my own team and the various v-teams, plus all the launches and irons we have in the fire, email is a deluge.


Apres le deluge (you see what I did there? <g>) I met with a PM in Windows to discuss upcoming awesomeness. I can't wait to spill the beans on this, but it'll have to wait :)


Some misc ad-hoc meetings after that.


Lunch today was with John Papa. He and I chatted for a while about how to better present unified content to the community to both make it easier to onboard with Silverlight, and to discover the information you all need to be successful.

Random things

I did other random things in the afternoon. Lots of Silverlight.net, random discussions about ... uhh... cool stuff, and more.


At the end of the day, I had a 1:1 meeting with my "Skip Level" (Scott Hanselman's boss, Simon Muzio) . While many organizations discourage meeting over your manager's head, Microsoft actively encourages this. Of course, you meet with your manager often, but you're also encouraged to meet with their manager regularly, and their manager's manager slightly less so, and up the chain. It's an effective way to get different perspectives, draw attention to what you're doing, and make sure you stay aligned with organizational goals. Excellent meeting, and glad I had it. We made a number of decisions about Silverlight.net and WindowsClient.net right in that room - the sites will be much better for them.

After meeting with Simon, I did meet for 5 minutes with Simon's manager Nathalie. That was also good :)

Family Call

Missed the family call last night, but made sure to have one tonight. My kids were in the bath, so I'm glad I took the call in the hotel this time :) (children have no modesty. heh)


So, this evening I'm working on my RIA Services demo for tomorrow, and because I can't ever do just one thing, I also decided to write this :)

Other Weeks

Other weeks might involve recording how-do-I videos, blogging (I never really got a chance to blog anything technical this week), meetings with other groups etc.

In many organizations, a week full of meetings is an unproductive week. However, a week full of meetings with product team folks, real stakeholders, and decision makers, is actually a really good week. Lots of info, lots of decisions. Weeks like this help me set my own direction for the next months and even year, and to help make sure I continue to point you all in the right direction as well.

I tweeted this week about a couple meetings I was having, and Frank La Vigne said I was "living the dream". Yeah, that sounds about right. I'm digging it :)

posted by Pete Brown on Saturday, May 22, 2010
filed under:            

6 comments for “A Week in the Life of a Community PM at Microsoft”

  1. Macario F Pedrazasays:
    Wow with all the things you had to leave out I bet you could put this post in a player piano and hear The Entertainer. Reminded me of something that I saw in an episode of Hogan's Heroes.
    Also, I love that you put a coin next to the burrito for reference. It's a dime, right? Or, OMG is it a quarter?!
  2. Petesays:
    Jesse insisted I put a quarter next to it for reference. Yes, that's a quarter :)

    Heh. I should have gone for the shock value and said it was a silver dollar ;)

    I know nothing. Nothing!
  3. Robertsays:
    Great post Pete. I really enjoyed reading about your week at Redmond.

    I am disappointed to see you dividing your time between WPF and Silverlight. I realize that they are complimentary technologies, but Microsoft seems to be all Silverlight all the time these days. I'm beginning to feel that Microsoft has forgotten WPF, especially Scott Guthrie. The point is, there are already more than enough voices speaking out on behalf of Silverlight, but few concentrating on WPF.

    I find WPF fascinating, but just can't get excited about Silverlight .... I guess the reason is the need for a browser. Yes, I realize Silverlight can do OOB, but why? If I need OOB I'll do WPF. I don't care about Linux, and I certainly don't care about Mac's. Silverlight for Windows Phone 7 is a different story.
  4. Petesays:

    I like both Silverlight and WPF quite a bit. The teams are on the same floor in building 40, so it's good to visit both. If you drew a Venn diagram of SL and WPF developers, you'd see a pretty decent overlap in terms of developers who work in both technologies.

    As far as attention goes, I get the perception :). Part of that has to do with what new platforms have come out. If you're going to port a xaml-based technology to something like the phone, it makes a lot more sense to start with one that was built as cross-platform to begin with. Same thing when you go to set-top boxes like what we showed off at NAB after MIX10. New platforms = new attention.

    The WPF team is still working on WPF, and working to make it even more awesome, so no worries there :)

  5. Robertsays:
    Thanks Pete. I understand. I'm just frustrated at what seems to be a lack of attention from Microsoft on WPF. For example, there was a great set of themes released for Silverlight, but I neither have the time or skills to port them to WPF at this point. I don't think it would have been to difficult for someone at Microsoft to have made the for both platforms.

    But, I've been following (and programming) Microsoft since Win 3.1 (started using Windows in 2.1). This is par for Microsoft ... concentrate on what is hot.

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