MVP Insider – Q & A with Miguel Carrasco

Miguel Carrasco is Vice President of Technology at Anvil Digital, a software development and marketing company in Winnipeg, Manitoba. With over 10 years experience in the IT industry, Miguel has been involved in over 100 real world projects ranging from software development, team leadership and organization, creative user experience design, and infrastructure projects.

Miguel has always enjoyed design and the user experience angle of software development. With the release of Expression Studio, Silverlight, and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Miguel has decided to focus his energies of these technologies of the future.

Miguel enjoys sharing his knowledge, and most of all, his enthusiasm for software development with other people. An enthusiastic speaker, Miguel loves being in front of a crowd and getting them excited about the tools, the technology, and the best practices to building amazing applications.

1. What does being a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) mean to you?

First of all it's humbling to say the least, and a great honor to be recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP). Being a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) really means three key things to me:

a) Meeting with as many software developers as possible and spreading my passion and joy for software development.

b) Secondly, it means proving valuable feedback to Microsoft so they can constantly improve their products and make them better.

c) Lastly, it means I need to continue to drive my own internal passion for software development. Lucky for me, that's not very hard.

2. If you could ask Steve Ballmer one question about Microsoft, what would it be?

Microsoft was willing to spend over 40 billion dollars to acquire Yahoo! Search. What would it take for you to let me run the Windows Live Search team for 6 months? By running, I mean everything from branding, user experience design, and feature development. The main reason I'd ask this question is because I feel Microsoft has the talent to make the best search engine out there and make people switch in droves. It just seems that they are not innovating enough in this area. I'd love to shake things up. Bill Gates has a famous quote: "I would rather make a bet than just sit and watch". Why not make a bet on me, Steve?

3. What do you think the best software ever written was?

"Best" software can mean so many things, so I will answer it based on the following criteria: "What software written has allowed more developers to create fantastic applications, express themselves, and make a great living doing it?" Based on this criteria, hands down the entire Windows Family of Products is the best software ever written. Windows created the industry we are all lucky to be a part of today. Like every large company, Microsoft has made some mistakes, but I don't think anyone can deny that they created the software business as we know it today and the driver to all that was Windows.

4. If you were the manager of Expression, what would you change?

Expression is a phenomenal product, but there are a lot of things that still need to be added to the package. The biggest challenge right now is not getting developers on board with the tool, but getting designers comfortable with the toolset. It's easy to get developers on board because Microsoft has more experience building software development tools than any company in our history. Developers love the capabilities. With a few clicks they are flipping back and forth between the best development environment on the planet, Visual Studio. Designers on the other hand, are another story. Microsoft's track record with world class design tools is not that great, so it's a hard sell. The best graphic design tools are Adobe and usually run on Mac's.

On that wave length, there are a lot of things that work quite differently than they do in Adobe Illustrator (another vector based drawing application). Microsoft needs to understand that Illustrator is the standard vector based drawing application, and needs to make it easy for Illustrator users to switch, or at least be excited and willing to use Expression Design to create software and web applications.

So how can Microsoft make it easy for users to switch, or at least feel comfortable going into Expression Design? Here's my thought: A feature that would allow complete customization, so users could download the "Illustrator Usability Pack" or others for that matter. If I could walk over to my designers and tell them they could use all their same shortcut keys and have all their pallets and menus in the same place they are in Illustrator, they would be amazed and would have an easy time switching. It's similar in concept to Microsoft having J#, and other languages like Pearl ported over to Visual Studio. This concept could be applied to the entire Expression Suite of products. I could go on forever; would you like an action plan and timeline?

5. What are the best features/improvements of Expression?

The timelines in Expression Blend are fantastic. The fact they are based on time instead of a bunch of abstract frames is very powerful. This is so fantastic that Adobe copied the idea in their latest release of Flash.

6. What was the last book you read?

I was just on a plane and I was reading "Good to Great". It's a book about getting the best out of your team and making them great. It's the second time I've read it but I find I always get something new out of it.

7. What music CD do you recommend?

Depends on my mood. I like everything. When I'm programming I like to listen to Classical music because I find words in Rap/R&B/Heavy Metal distracts me. When I am getting ready for a presentation I like Three Days Grace, Eminem, Jay-Z, Genesis, and Bon Jovi to get myself pumped.

8. What makes you a great Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)?

I wouldn't really call myself great so I would have to pass on this question. Can I phone a friend? (ring ring)... I phoned a friend and he said my passion for sharing anything and everything I know and wanting to see others achieve things beyond their wildest dreams.

9. What is in your computer bag?

Dell XPS M1330 Laptop, Blackberry USB Cable for my Curve, Shure Noise Cancelling Headphones, extra Laptop Battery (4 hour battery), gum, latest edition of Wired, Forbes, Fast Company, and MSDN Magazine, Good to Great, a ton of business cards, receipts.

10. What is the best thing that has happened since you have become a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)?

I have had the opportunity to meet people I would say are great. I've been able to get closer with people that give Microsoft it's "luminescence".

11. What is your motto?

Live with Passion. It's a quote from Anthony Robbins. My dad made me listen to him when I was still in elementary. Robbins changed my life what can I say. Although he can be over the top, I highly recommend him to anyone that wants to get the most out of their lives.

12. Who is your hero?

I have a lot of different heroes. From a personal side, I would have to say my parents for immigrating to Canada from Chile with barely any money, and leaving their family behind so I could have a better life. From a technology and business side I would have to say Bill Gates. He had an undeniable passion for creating a new business that sold software. Not only sold software, but licensed it. He believed in something so much, he changed the world as we know it for nearly every human being on the planet. From a creative side, I would have to say Steve Jobs. Steve has an incredible ability to see the future, pull all the pieces together, and make it beautiful. He is an incredible presenter, an amazing visionary, and the ultimate user experience guru.

Last but not least, from a software development perspective I would have to say Scott Guthrie. His posts on his blog and presentations are the perfect blend of passion and technical speak. To see how far he has gotten in his career, and how many people he has inspired is just amazing.

13. What does success mean to you?

That's a tough question. To me, it's all about constant improvement, and constant growth. Trying to feel successful every day of my life, and making everyone around me feel like a million bucks. I guess success to me means so many other things as well. It means being on top of the latest technologies and getting to work with them. It means jumping in to help out the developers fix a broken build. It means having a wife that feels loved and cared for, it means having a son that gets to see me and wants to program Silverlight applications 😉

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