Why I work on VSTS right now (2018)

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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.

Marketing.

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.

Can a cloud-enabled Windows app support itself financially?

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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

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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.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/alexcnichols

PSSPUG: SharePoint Saturday Redmond 2011: SPDiag, Visio Services, and Upgrade

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On Saturday, I attended the SharePoint Saturday Redmond 2011 event held by Puget Sound SharePoint User Group at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wa. Here are some notes, announcements, and guidance I took down during the morning sessions.

Keynote

Speaker:
Bill Baer
Technical Product Manager
SharePoint Product Group
SharePoint MCM

Announcement: SharePoint Diagnostics Studio Version 2.0 (SPDiag.exe)

  • Will be released as part of upcoming SharePoint Administration Toolkit in about a month
  • Will supplement the SCOM and the Health Analyzer to provide advanced diagnostics
  • Surfaces diagnostic data from all servers across the farm, remotely
  • Reports: Base, Capacity, Performance, Availability, Usage
  • Integrated search: Can report on data by Correlation ID, Date/Time, or User
  • Snapshot/Export report to view offline
  • Two components: SPDiag.exe (Client) and ExtendedDiagnoticProviders.exp (Farm solution)
  • Will be released via the SharePoint team blog

Visio & SharePoint with a Twist of Silverlight (Developer)

Speaker:
Barb Coplen
Portal Program Manager
Server & Tools Business, Microsoft

Demo and walkthrough of how to use Visio Services, a SharePoint list, and Visio Services JavaScript API to build a dynamic view of clickable shapes and additional details in a SharePoint Web Part page.

SharePoint 2010 Upgrade Strategies & Best Practices (IT Pro)

Speaker:
Joel Oleson
SharePoint Technology Evangelist
Quest Software
http://sharepointjoel.com

  • Pre-Upgrade: Verify system requirements, run STSADM -O PREUPGRADECHECK and Test-SPContentDatabase
  • Database Attach is the best way to upgrade your content
  • In Place is the best way to upgrade your SSP to Service Applications
  • If you feel “stuck” with In Place upgrade due to hardware constraints: Take one of your WFE servers out of the farm, rebuilded it as a new SP2010 farm, use the existing SQL infrastructure, do the Database Attach upgrade to that server, then rebuild/add the other servers as part of the upgrade window
  • Unless you have a lot invested in your SSP, don’t upgrade them as it is much cleaner / less trouble to just start with clean Services Applications
  • Guidance for Service Application installation:
    • Don’t turn them all on initially, rather install them as you need them
    • Guidance is to roughly match the SharePoint SKUs
    • Baseline = Service Applications in Foundation
    • Next = those in Standard
    • Last = those in Enterprise
    • Example: Microsoft IT, for internal deployment, turned on only those that matched their 2007 environments, then installed the additional Service Applications incrementally over time
  • Upgrades that take longer than a weekend: Either AAM redirection (not preferred) or see if your business can handle Read Only
  • Items not compatible with Visual Upgrade = off
    • My Sites
    • Project Server
    • Report Web Part
  • Information on upgrading Fabulous 20 templates: http://bit.ly/dhQUjd

SharePoint 2010 Advanced Developer and IT Professional Training

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Earlier this year I was fortunate to take a week off and virtually attend the SharePoint 2010 Ignite Developer training. This was an intense deep dive into the new capabilities of SharePoint 2010 and included a number of virtual labs where we got to practice new learnings on actual servers.

After digging around my email for links to these training materials for download I was pleased to find that this training has now been made public, including many of the virtual lab exercises! See links below and enjoy.

SharePoint 2010 Advanced Developer Training
SharePoint 2010 Advanced IT Professional Training

Certification Update – October 2010

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Over the last few months I have accumulated a few more certifications in ADO.NET 3.5, as I work toward MCPD 3.5, and SharePoint 2010. Check my About page to see a list of my current certifications.

PC Building: Hyper-V Server

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Last winter I set out to build my own PC. This was something I had never dared try before but felt I was obligated to complete to truly call myself a geek.

This would not be a machine loaded with components with names like i7 and Radeon. I wanted to build a Hyper-V server; one that would host 4 or 5 virtual machines that I could experiment with, utilize for testing/training purposes, and do things that i just couldn’t do with my company laptop.

After a few months of shopping, giving NewEgg.com and Fry’s a bunch of money, and assembly in my spare time I now have something I am pretty happy with. (Given this is my first PC build)

I hope to use this box heavily over the next few months as I ramp up on SharePoint 2010 and try to complete my MCPD-EA.

Processor:
Intel Xeon X3440 Lynnfield 2.53GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Server Processor
Allows me to utilize the multiple cores for the multiple virtual machines and supports Hyper-V.

Motherboard:
Intel S3420GPLC LGA 1156 Intel 3420 ATX Intel Xeon 3400 series Server Motherboard
Paired with the processor and gives me plenty of SATA ports for a bunch of hard drives setup with on-board RAID.

Power Supply:
Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V Ver.2.2 / EPS12V version 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC “compatible with Core i7/Core i5” Power Supply
I think this should be plenty of power given I am using on-board video.

RAM:
Kingston 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) Server Memory Model KVR1066D3Q8R7S/4G (X2)
Pretty spendy but supported by the motherboard and 8GB is enough for the 4-5 virtual machines I want to run.

Hard Drives:
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive (X2)
Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Hard Drive (X3)
Initially, setup a RAID-1 with the Blue pair and a RAID-5 with the Green set, however, had to remove the RAID-5 array when the RAID controller consistently had problems and ended up corrupting one of the drives. I don’t know if it was the RAID controller or the drive but got rid of the RAID for now at least.

Case:
Antec Two Hundred Black ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Got a great deal from my local Fry’s Electronics. Makes my lame-o server look like a gaming machine, which is nice.

OS:
Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V