What is a guy like me doing in a place like this?

by admin on June 07, 2006 06:55pm

What is a guy like me doing in a place like this...?

Well, by now some of you probably saw my video interview on Port25, so I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you more about my background and what made me decide to work for Microsoft. For those that know me in real life, it came as a shock to find out that I decided to work for Microsoft. But more about that later…

I started in the industry about 20 years ago, more specifically working at AT&T and Philips who where in a joint venture at the time. I started working for them initially as a contractor and that is where I had my first exposure to Unix operating systems. Very quickly I started doing System Administration and tools development. Very early on this turned into full time development for Unix.

After a year or so, I was invited to transfer to the AT&T UK division and there I developed a database system that tied all AT&T field support offices together. This allowed any office in the world to contact any other office in a matter of minutes with any support issues that they had. Once transferred, these tickets stayed in sync no matter what organization(s) they were sent to. This system was 100% custom written. It had its own database system that I wrote from scratch. It is probably still one of the fastest custom database systems around. This whole system was written before the days of Internet, and high speed data links available to all. It was the time of uucp, rje and vt100’s for those who still remember that J…and Linux did not exist.  1200 Baud Rixon modems (sometimes even 300 baud) were a lot of the ways this system communicated.  It was finally retired about 3 years ago.

AT&T in the US asked me to work in the US and modify and train other people to extend that product. That offered me a whole bunch of new opportunities in the form of area’s to work on.  In that capacity I worked a lot on the modified Unix systems that AT&T used in their 5ESS telephone switches.  As such I did part of the process handler that that version of Unix used for System V.  I also worked inside AT&T on the customization of the X windows system. I met and got to work a little with Stroustrup and Ritchie.

I will fast forward a little here before people fall asleep. I ended up staying in the US. And after 6 or so years I left AT&T. After this I worked for Cincinnati Bell Information Systems.  They, at the time, were the largest Cellular billing system service provider in the US and in the early 90s, I was the lead designer and developer on a real time Point Of Sale cellular phone activation system for Sprint. Now that is not such a big deal anymore. People find it normal that you walk into a store and walk out with an activated cell phone.  At the time, this was the first and only system that did that. What was even cooler is that it was 100% based on an OSS operating system and development tools. It was deployed on one of the very first Red Hat releases.  It took a lot of persuasion but we where able to convince the customer that this was the way to go.

Anyway, after this I worked on several other systems, a real time fraud management system that was based on OpenBSD, and I did a bunch of Device driver work for that as well as a lot of work in cellular billing systems. These are systems that process 15+ million records a day.

For the last 5 or so years I have been a systems architect working on a variety of systems mainly used in the telecommunications world. For those who have worked in that area before, it is a world that has many different systems and interoperability is a very big concern.

All the systems were Unix based. And throughout my career I primarily worked with Unix, Linux and OSS products.

Now how does somebody with a background like this end up working for Microsoft??? Well, that is something that I am still shocked about every day.

In the past I stayed away from MS products because of various reasons. They where not fast enough, secure enough, did not talk to things other than MS products well enough, etc, etc.

But working in the industries I have been in I found that you have to be pragmatic, fanaticism about one product line or company or another product line and company does not work very well. People want to work with fast, secure and easy systems and every company I have ever worked for has a large variety in products and OS systems. Yet, having said that, I love working with Linux and OSS products.

So, when a call came a few months ago from a company that presented this job to me I was very much torn. A few weeks went by, and more agonizing took place. I kept on coming back to one thing; it is very easy to make comments and go home at night, it does not take a lot of effort. But what do you do if somebody gives you an opportunity to, in some way, change the things you have always complained about? It sure isn’t easy, but it puts me in a place to put my money where my mouth is.

So after I got to talk with people at Microsoft (Bill Hilf and Sam Ramji to name a few) I was very interested to find what they thought this department should be. And it very much fit with what I wanted to do if I ever ended up working at Microsoft.

So what will I be doing and focusing on primarily inside Microsoft??? Well my primary area is research into Linux and OSS Applications. We figure out what makes them tick, and we figure out how we can better interoperate with them. There are some interesting things coming down the line from us in the future that might surprise people.

So, I am very much looking forward to constructive criticisms, suggestions from you all and I am very excited to work you in future. Drop me a line and give me your suggestions as to what you want us to look into or help you with.

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