A day in the life


We have an opening on our team, and because of this, I've been spending a bit of time talking to interested parties around the company about the position. There are specifics to this position that aren't important for this conversation, but so far, everyone I have talked to has asked me what a typical day is like for me. I don't think I've given a good answer yet, but the experience has certainly made me think what do I do with my day? Since I should probably organize my thoughts for the next time someone asks this question, I thought I'd just write it down for anyone else who was curious (I guess it would be poor form to just point people to this post when they ask...).

I've mentioned before, that my position at Microsoft is unique. Since I don't work on a product, my schedule is more predictable than many others, and certainly isn't anywhere near being a day-in-the-life example for a typical engineer. My schedule has also changed quite a bit with kids in my life. Rolling in at 10-11, and leaving at midnight isn't anything you'll see me do for a long, long time. With that weak disclaimer out of the way, here are the details (which, as it happens, are far more detailed than I ever share).

I try to get up between 5:30 and 6:00 am. Yes, I know it sounds disgusting, but bear with me. I have various writing projects I'm working on (besides this wonderful web log), and I use the time from 5:30 to 7:00 strictly for writing. Research papers, white papers, case studies, class notes, and magazine articles all happen mostly during this 60-90 minute span.

My kids wake up at 7:00 (they have meticulous internal alarm clocks). I spend the next hour and a half helping them eat, get dressed, and get ready for the day (I walk the dog in that block of time too).

At 8:30 (typically), I "go to work". Given that I don't have an office right now, sometimes that means I drive to campus, but some days "going to work" means I step into my home office and shut the door.

At 8:30 (or 9:00 if I drive to campus), I try to spend 20-30 minutes answering questions (or finding answerers) on the MSDN Software Testing Forum.

Beyond 9:30am or so, nothing is typical (which is something I love working at Microsoft). I typically have 10-14 hours of meetings per week. Most of these are not group meetings, team meetings, or the like. Most of my "meetings", in fact, are 1:1 meetings. I mentor 3-4 testers and meet regularly with each of them. I meet with people who have questions about work I'm doing, or whose work I have questions about. I also do a lot of what I call "test therapy" - I talk to people ad-hoc about careers, organizational change, and whatever else I can try to help them with. We have a team meeting every other week, and I meet with my manager for an hour a month. I also meet with other MS test architects weekly (unless we cancel), and meet with the MS test leadership team every other month or so.

When I'm not in meetings, the big blocks in my day are taken up by:

  • Teaching classes (I am in the classroom teaching ~200 hours or so per year - plus probably another 20-30 hours of preparation time for those courses (follow up emails, material review, etc.). SOme days, I teach half a day, some days I teach an entire day, but most days, I don't teach at al.
  • Scheduling and attending talks for our internal test talk series. Talks ar 90 minutes (including Q&A) twice a month.
  • I do a lot of document review. Not a week goes by where someone (doesn't matter whether I know them or not) emails me and asks me to review a document for them. I also review papers from research in the areas of testing or metrics.. I also spend a bit of time reviewing materials from other courses to make sure that what I am teaching is in sync with other courses.
  • I usually spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours a day on work related to "test initiatives" I am in charge of. These initiatives include things growth plans and value propositions for senior testers and efforts to better connect testers within Microsoft. There are others, but I can't tell you about them. 🙂  Specifics of the "work" for these initiatives ranges from scheduling meetings and writing meeting notes to writing summary papers to  filming and editing interviews (or whatever else needs to get done to make progress). 

I try to get home by 6:00, and have dinner with my family and help get the kids to sleep. I'll usually spend a bit of time later in the evening catching up on email. I think email is the biggest distraction / productivity killer in the workplace, so I avoid doing anything non-critical with it during the workday. The exceptions are lunch, or anytime I have a 30 minute or less block of time free up (for example, a meeting runs short). I'll use that time to catch up on mail sent to me (any mail where my name isn't on the to or cc line gets filtered away) or to catch up on RSS feeds.

And there it is. That's what I do.


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