News for June 2010

4 Reasons why engineers must stay up to date on industry news?

I had a discussion with a former colleague over dinner. We were talking about staying up to date by keeping an eye on the industry news. He said that he was so busy and his work was so specialized that reading up on generic industry news is not interesting for him.

At first I was inclined to agree with him. His work is specialized and 90% of the information that is on the main websites like ZDnet, techcrunch, Mashable or Computable doesn’t help him in doing his day to day job. But when I was on my way home from the dinner location I reconsidered. I think there are 4 reasons why engineers should stay up to date on industry news.

  • You should be aware of patterns that are surfacing

    Especially the IT industry changes at a rapid pace. If you don’t keep your head up and look around now and then you might miss some new pattern that changes the way you work. Usually in our business it makes your live A LOT easier. Because someone fixed something that has cost you a lot of headache. You want to be the first guy that finds out something like that. It will get you the nice projects.

    • Before you know it you are like the COBOL programmers

      Keeping your ear to the grounds should put you in a position to see trends in the industry. Knowing these trends should help you to predict where things are going. It can be that you are in a position that will be not very relevant sometime soon. For example if you are managing hardware the trend of cloud computing might be worrying. If you are building websites now would be the time to start brushing up your HTML5, CSS3 skills. If you only start looking at developments like this the chance is big that you will end up like the COBOL programmer. Greatly skilled, highly specialized but in a field where there is no demand for.

      • It will keep your enthusiasm in technology

        Especially if you are doing highly specialized engineering work you can sometimes loose the broader picture of technology. If you are buried in in debugging a problem for three straight days it can happen that you loose tech as a hobby and only see it as work. To keep motivated it is a good idea to read some articles about cool new stuff that will be released later this year.

        • Search engines favor the old stuff

          I think this is the most important one. Engineers in IT spend a lot of time in search engine results. The thing with search engines is that they favor stuff that has been around for a while. Search engines loves stuff that has been linked to a lot. Especially if you are in deep stuff (like identity or security) the articles that hold very interesting information isn’t linked to a lot. Therefore these articles will not surface soon in the search engines.

          • (extra reason) It takes your mind of the problem at hand

          When I was still in engineering I sometimes was banging my head at a problem for a couple of days. It helps me to take my mind of for a couple of minutes and reading up on stuff did just the trick.

          So I don’t think RSS is dead I think it is still a good way to stay up to date (next to whatever realtime social network you follow) and I think that Engineers must find the way

          Posted: June 28th, 2010
          Categories: Technology
          Comments: No Comments.

          What do you do for a living?

          Bram what are you actually doing for a living?

          Every couple of months my mother asks me this question and to be honest I find it hard to explain what I’m doing  now and then.

          Where do you work?

          This is a much easier question to answer. I work for Microsoft. Microsoft is a company that creates software and we create a lot of software. I work for the Dutch subsidiary of Microsoft which is located in at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam. Within the Dutch Sub I work for our Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) division. Within that group I hold the position of Web Platform Architect.

          Ok so you built web platforms?

          Uhm well no. I actually don’t built anything. It is just a title within DPE titles don’t really mean a lot. I run programs and engage specific audiences and try to get people to build stuff with our stuff.

          So this DPE is the department you work for?

          Yes 🙂

          What does this DPE do?

          DPE stands for Developer and Platform Evangelism DPE is just an acronym.

          At Microsoft we create two kinds of software. Software that can be used as it is (Office, Windows) you can compare this with GI-Joe toys and software that can be used to build other software (Visual Studio) this can be compared to Lego. At DPE we are responsible for all our Lego like software. This category of software is called developer tools. Next to that we show people you can also build upon the GI-Joe tools as a platform. We are working very hard to show the world this platform and the tools and show that they are great. I sometimes call it technical marketing because DPE is a technical content department.

          Ok I get that so what do you do? Do you sell these tools or platforms?

          No I don’t sell anything. Within DPE we all have focus areas. Personally my focus areas are Web, Windows Phone and Windows Azure or cloud computing. I don’t really want to talk about the difficulties of each area but want to focus on the work I’m doing around these areas.

          For each area we try to figure out what the market dynamic and maturity is. Who is buying what and who is influencing this decision. This can be extremely different in different markets. The person who is buying a website is a completely different kind of person compared to the person who commissions a mobile app. But sometimes they are very similar. Once we have identified them we are looking for their pain points and we build content and programs to address that.

          So what does your day look like?

          Things that I do in a regular day could be. Figuring out new technology. Since we are always responsible for the latest and the greatest we have to be on the bleeding edge. Stay up to date with the industry and see what is happening with competing technology. Meetings with customers that want to start using our new technology. Supporting customers and partners that have started with our latest technology. Doing project management on projects like portals, newsletters, events we are organizing or participating in. Visiting events both about Microsoft and Competitive technology. It depends a lot what time of the year it is which activity has the upper hand.

          Posted: June 23rd, 2010
          Categories: Microsoft, Private
          Comments: No Comments.

          Setting up a new blog hopefully for the last time


          Welcom to this new blog. I’ve been moving around my blog quite a bit. From the Dutch Microsoft Blogging Server to the international MSDN blog server. My Microsoft Blogs were mostly business related sharing news that was comming from our mothership. Then twitter came. I noticed that all these announcements could be very well dealt with in a tweet. If I had a thought for a blogpost I was wondering if it would fit on my Microsoft blog.

          So this blog will be a bit different from my previous blogs in the way that there won’t be that many product/announcement related posts. I don’t expect a lot of readers but hopefully I’ll find a tone that will amuse a few.

          I’ll keep you posted.


          Posted: June 21st, 2010
          Categories: Private
          Comments: No Comments.