Why I work on VSTS right now (2018)


I want to empower developers. In this current phase my career, it’s all about empowering developers in organizations to progress on their DevOps journey. But why do I choose to work on Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) at Microsoft instead of another product or at another company?

Marketing. To learn marketing.

With a deeper purpose and mission for my work set, developing my career is essential to my personal success and the livelihood of my family long term. My wife stays home to look after our young children so it’s up to me to not only keep us afloat but allow us to thrive using the income I bring in.

In my post about Joining Microsoft Full-time, now 5 years old, I mentioned the change in accountability and role, moving from a business analyst to a program manager. As I’ve grown and learned from career development thought leaders such as James Whittaker, I’ve identified (what James would call) my superpowers, developed a career map, and set out specific goals for the steps along my career at the company. This helps guide the jobs I go after and helps keep me grounded when considering going elsewhere, to keep the end in mind. After working at Microsoft in manufacturing & supply chain for a few years, I then moved into the consulting & support organization, then to VSTS in 2017.

For my career at Microsoft, I currently have 3 goals and I’ve made some progress:

  1. Have feature accountability for part of a publicly-offered product – closer, but not there yet
  2. Be a team lead – not there yet
  3. Gain experience in the variety of business functions – making progress with experience in manufacturing & supply chain, operations, finance, IT, consulting, and support.

Back to the now.

VSTS is the DevOps tooling from Microsoft that includes Git, agile, build, release, and test features. I’m a release program manager on the team, which means I help the organization scale by developing and operating processes for agile planning and release coordination. It started with being responsible for assembling our release notes every three weeks (Check out the How Visual Studio Team Services builds Release Notes for a full explanation). I started by doing what has already been done. Then I made the document look better. Then I encouraged the program managers on the team to seed me with better content. Then I partnered with our marketing team to start publishing short demo videos. Now I’ve started authoring highlights blog posts.


If I take a step back, I’ve found myself gravitating to marketing our releases and features every 3 weeks more and more, and iterating on techniques to help people that use our service progress on their DevOps journey. Eventually, I want to take what I’m learning and make it scale so that all the program managers in the organization can effectively market their features. As a product, VSTS is appreciated today but is also poised to gain even more awareness as we more clearly align it with the journey our customers are on. Its breadth also means it faces competition from all sides by what some call “best of breed” tools within specific areas.

That is to say, recognizing my gravitation to marketing (saying it out loud) and the opportunities up ahead this year bring me confidence that I’m following up on my goals and set me up to contribute to what’s important for our business too. A win-win.

Every Day Carry: Flashlight


An essential part of any every day carry is a flashlight. A light can come in handy for simple things like searching a glove box or even used by some as an aid in self-defense. As with all every day carry items, a size vs. function trade-off is in order. With a flashlight this comes down to brightness (measured in “lumens”).

As an every day flashlight, I choose LED Lenser K3 Mini Flashlight, which you can find on Amazon. LED Lenser, now owned by Leatherman, has been making lights since 1994. Nice history, although I have to admit, this one came as a freebie from my last purchase at the Leatherman outlet store last time I visited Portland.

Previously I carried the Pelican Flashlights 1910B Gen 2 LED Flashlight but switched after the end cap started failing. Worked well for the year I carried it though.

Here is a great article on why Every Man Should Carry a Torch: A Primer on Flashlights (via The Art of Manliness).

What flashlight lights your way every day?

Every Day Carry: Multi-tool


Next, as part of this Every Day Carry series, we will take a look at multi-tools. If we think about being prepared for anything, these things are often the right tool for the job. Whether you want to open a package or letter, tighten a loose screw, or file down a rough fingernail, you’re set.

In terms of multi-tools, I choose Leatherman Squirt S4 Multi-Tool, which you can find on Amazon, along with its comparable later models. When you think of multi-tools, Leatherman is the household name. In fact, many often refer to these things as ‘Leathermans’ even if they aren’t, in the way we say Q-tips or Kleenex.

If you are looking for something a little more… substantial, here are a couple other models that, although take up more pocket or even belt space, could be much more handy depending on what you face.

What multi-tool products do you carry every day?

Every Day Carry: Lip Care


In the first installment of Every Day Carry we will focus on lip care. Nothing is more important right as you arrive home from work than having lips that have been cared for during the day.

For lip care, I choose Vaseline Lip Therapy, Cocoa Butter , 0.25 Ounce, which you can find on Amazon in single, double, or multi-packs for a decent price. The size and shape of the container fit well into a front jeans pocket and will last for many months of smooth, soft, and healthy lips. I prefer the cocoa butter version but they have others.

What personal care products do you carry every day?

Every Day Carry


What is every day carry? Every day carry, or “EDC”, is the items that one carries with them every day to be prepared for anything, from taking a quick note to self-protection.

This post’s featured image was taken a few months ago of items that were in my pocket. That day I was prepared for a dark room, a dry windy day, and a sneeze.

Coming up I’ll share about some of items that I carry most days in a series titled Every Day Carry.

What do you carry every day?

Started, Stopped, and Continued in 2014


A personal reflection on the year of 2014. See updates to the What I Use page as well.




What did you start, stop, and continue in 2014? What will you in 2015?

Can a cloud-enabled Windows app support itself financially?


Which Windows and/or Windows Phone app business model suits an app with a Microsoft Azure backend?

It would seem that an app purchased from the Windows Store for, let’s say, $1.49 (which is one-time revenue) would quickly be consumed by the continuous (variable) cost of the cloud services it interacts with. What is viable? Ads? In-app credits that get consumed and replenished based on backend usage?

Can a cloud-enabled app support itself financially?

Reference links:

Joining Microsoft Full-time


About six months ago I made the decision to join Microsoft full-time as a Senior Program Manager in the IT group of the Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Information & Services (MSCIS) organization. After five years with Avanade this transition came with mixed emotions, looking back on a ton of growth and learning over the first years of my career. With the transition come a couple significant changes. The first is the move from vendor to FTE. With this comes a change in accountability where now you are there to ensure the work gets done and take the initiative to “drive through the smoke”. The second is the move from a business analyst / Solution Manager role to PM, which brings a whole new set of responsibility of project management, design, and technology. I am excited for the next season of settling in with a great team in a very exciting time for Microsoft.


Enatai Beach Park


Finished editing and posted some video I took with my new-ish Canon T2i at Enatai Beach Park in Bellevue, Wa.

Apps by Alex


I recently published my Apps page where you will find my first app for Windows Phone titled Bankrolled. Download the free trial now!