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.