How I Got Here: Microsoft
Here we are, 7 years working with SQL Server and Microsoft BI tools. Sure in the grand scheme of things that’s not a long time but when you consider that all of those years have been in consulting it’s more experience than many people will get in an entire career.
I’ve been on easy engagements where I built SSRS reports for two weeks and I’ve been on difficult engagements where I had to diagnose and performance tune solutions to reduce warehouse loads from hours to minutes. I’ve done development, assessments, recommendations and training. I’ve had hardware get delayed that put my timeline under pressure and I’ve had to work through a GoTo Meeting web session because the customer couldn’t get me VPN access in time for the engagement to start. I’ve work with BI, server setup, SharePoint, Kerber…nope just typing that makes me cringe, can’t do it. I’ve been able to move customers off SQL 2000. The first release of SQL Server I was around for was 2008 R2 and most customers were still on 2000 or 2005.
The point is, I was able to see a lot of things during my time as a consultant. Earlier this year I decided it was time for a change. It was time to move out of consulting and into a little different role. I always liked the idea of being the architect for a couple of customers and bouncing around between them instead of being in one place. That opportunity materialized in the first half of 2016 when I began interviewing at Microsoft for a Data Platform Solution Architect (DPSA) position. It was something I had to jump on.
Let’s take a look at how I got to this point: a Microsoft employee.
I’ve previously written about my journey into consulting and my first five years at Pragmatic Works. I can’t say enough good things about my time with Pragmatic Works. Was it all sunshine and roses? No, of course not. Anyplace where people work is not going to be perfect. If I could go a different route and work for a different company would I? Absolutely not. I loved working there. It’s not often you can watch a company grow the way it did while I was there. It was exciting to be on the ground floor of everything happening there. I worked alongside some great people and some of them are my coworkers at Microsoft today again. To this day I still bug people like Jorge Segarra, Patrick LeBlanc and Bradley Ball when I run into something I can’t solve and I likely wouldn’t know them were it not for our shared time together at Pragmatic Works.
Six and a half years. That’s the amount of time I spent working at Pragmatic Works. It will be the longest employment slot on my resume for a while. Should I decide to make a change later down the road I would certainly hope the door would be open for me to return.
That being said I don’t plan on making another move any time soon. I can honestly say that the move to Microsoft has been everything I hoped it would be and more. The first few months have gone by faster than I could have ever imagined. There is so much information to take in. There are so many acronyms that I still don’t know. Coming from a company of 80 things can be overwhelming. Luckily I landed on what is probably the most awesome team ever.
When interviewing I asked everyone why they were still at Microsoft. Why didn’t they leave to go someplace else. While each person had their own journey there was one thing that stood out in each answer without me even specifically asking about it: their team. The group I work with all genuinely enjoy working with each other. When we were at an event recently that was reinforced when we all went to get dinner together then all stuck together after dinner as well. The next night, same thing. The third night, same thing. There was no rule that said we had to stick together. I’m the newest member of the team and it felt like I had been with this group all along. The other great thing about the team is that everyone is crazy smart. We have people with BI background, DBA, product team, app dev, you name it and there’s someone who did it at some point. The team dynamic all around is great.
Every day I get to help a handful of customers discover and prove out solutions to solve their biggest problems. I help them understand how row level security and always encrypted can help secure campaign finances, how IoT can drive decisions to reduce carbon emissions, how machine learning can be applied to criminal justice and public health solutions and how Power BI can provide residents with a view into the inner workings of their government agencies. I get to talk about all the coolest technologies and help design solutions that can drive real change. Will I want to be in this role forever. Who knows. Right now I’m loving it. Maybe some day I’ll want to switch to a PFE role or work in an MTC or work on a product team. I love that my options are open to go other places in the company should I decide it’s time for me to move on from the DPSA role.
I’ve had a fun and successful career so far for which I am eternally thankful. There are so many people that helped me get to where I am today. I thank God for the people that have been placed in my life and for the path I’ve traveled to get here. I said the following in my post 5 years into my career and it’s still true today:
“…How did I get to where I am today? I’ve been surrounded by a lot of amazing people. There is one thing they all have in common. Each and every one of them were willing to take time out of their day to help me out when I needed it and continue to do so today. So I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone that has had a hand in helping shape my career over the last few years.”
“How did I get to where I am today? I’ve been surrounded by a lot of amazing people.”
Surround yourself with people who are willing to help others. Be the person that is willing to help others.
Here are a few things I strive for in my career each day:
- Love What You Do – If you don’t love what you are doing then make a change. It may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end.
- Be Humble – Do I believe I’m good at what I do? Yes. Can I be successful on my own? Definitely not. You don’t have the be the smartest person in every room. Learn from those around you and don’t be too proud to ask for help.
- Never Stop Learning – If you stop learning in a technology career you are going to be left behind. Things change every day. If you don’t like learning then technology may not be the right place for you.
- Help Others – There are few things in life more rewarding than giving to others. It’s awesome to sit with someone and see the light come on when they “get it” for the first time!
- Be Thankful – It could all be gone tomorrow. Managers change, companies come and go, positions are eliminated, world events change the business landscape. Don’t take what you have today for granted.
“Strive to love what you do, be humble, never stop learning, help others and be thankful.”
Well, here I am. I started as a support engineer for a small partner and now I’m a solution architect for Microsoft. It’s been a fun ride and hopefully when I check back in next year for my 8th year in the industry I’ll be as happy as I am today!