I hope everyone has had a Happy Thanksgiving, it’s a nice American holiday where I do not need to worry about political or religious sensitivity, we just get together and eat lots of food. Even Helen, one of the owners of my favorite Greek restaurant in Seattle, the Continental, says it’s the one holiday she really liked when she emigrated from Greece to the United States because you just got family together and enjoyed a meal. Well now back to my life at Microsoft. I thought we would fast forward just a little to my next job at Microsoft on the Developer Sales Team (DST). The group was a pre sales phone line for handling customers technical question on specific products.
The Developer Sales Team was where I really cut my teeth in better understanding technology. In hindsight it was amazing that they would even give me the job. The key question in my interview was how do you redistribute a Visual Basic application – in those days you could not compile VB code it required you to redistribute a runtime DLL. I answered correctly. I know for some people following my blog that they may sound brilliant or really smart, but I had not written any code since high school ( still have not). But that was how things worked in those days. A co-worker, Debwa had started in Windows Tech Support – here’s your book, have fun. In those days the question was could you learn? If yes, you were thrown to the wolves. It was cool not corporate. At the time the list ot really technical products was not that long and the team was divided into three groups shortly after I joined; Database, Developer and Networking. Over time I would answer inbound phone calls as a part of my job and learn different technologies on the fly. Compared to today, the products were not many. For Databases we had three (Access, FoxPro and SQL Server). For Networking we had Lan Manager and Windows for Workgroups 3.1). For Developer Tools we had a bit more (Fortran, Cobol, Visual Basic, MASM, & Visual C++ 1.0). This was all before the internet. Online Services we supported then were GENIE, Compuserve and AOL. It was a cool job early on and one I was thankful for and remain thankful to this day.
On the horizon a couple of things were being talked about. One was an effort by developer genius Dave Cutler on a new technology called Windows NT. The second was a beta product code-named “Chicago”. On the competitive front IBM had launched OS/2 2.0. A new competitor I will talk about in a later blog was Novell. They were the kings of file and print.
Internally the Corporate HQ Sales organization had been taken over by Rick Devenutti. Rick would eventually rise to CIO and head Microsoft Consulting. As I write this blog some execs will come under great scrutiny. Rick will not be one of them. He took time to understand the org. He had a cubicle on each floor so he could sit with the phone reps.. In my group he sat next to me. It seemed every time he sat next to me I got the irate customer. I remember the first offsite we did in Seattle at the Sheraton we must have had 500 people there. I think Rick took away from this what do all these people do and why do we pay them? He started outsourcing. I know this is a sensitive subject for some, but in general I think it makes business sense and now with Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) I am a strong believer it is here to stay, so in short for those against it, like my wife, “get over it”. It will also take a larger role in all our lives moving forward.
So what were the big issues of the day? SQL Server was trying to go after Sybase. In hind sight it still could not scale very high. When do I use VB versus C++? I am not going to spend a lot of time here as I do not want to bore the audience. The thing I remember most are the people I worked with who were young and energetic. Many who I am still friends with to this day. Others met my fate. It was also during this time I was called for jury duty. I would meet a beautiful young girl (ok she was 2 years older than me) named Jean. She ended up being my wife. Shortly after I would attend my first Microsoft Global Sales Summit in San Diego. Which will bring us to our next topic as we move away from technical stuff and talk key executives, parties, drinking, scandal, an ill-fated Microsoft soccer tourney, etc..Take care everyone and until next time good night and good luck.