Over the past few months, I’ve been in a bit of a funk (as Franky would put it). A few things have contributed to it, but probably the most significant has been the feeling that, in Australia, we really are far away from where it’s all happening.
When I think about my chosen career and the industry I work in, all that comes to mind is speed! The speed at which ideas are conceived, the speed at which they are transformed into concepts, the speed at which they are delivered as bits and bytes, and the speed at which they transform many, many, many peoples lives!
But living in Australia, we haven’t been party to some of the biggest software evolutions in history. Off course there are a number of great vendors in Australia doing great stuff, and a few standout Entrepreneurs, but when you stack up the big stuff, it’s just a reality that it mostly happens State side. It’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just a thing. And it’s not to say we don’t get stuck right into it when it’s hatched, but we are rarely the chicken or the egg.
The other thing is that for anyone working for any company, your going to have a market of customers that you’re trying to woo with your shiny goods. In that market, you need competition, not only to push you to do better, but also to push all the players to strive for innovation rather than complacency.
In Microsoft’s markets, some of the most impressive players are the likes of Google and Apple, amongst an array of other great players. And while many of us accept that these players are big and strong, there is nothing like sizing up your opposition from the field rather than afar. So I decided that on my way to San Diego for Convergence, I was going to stop past Silicon Valley and Redmond to get a strong shot of fire to the belly!
The first part of the trip was to go visit Silicon Valley and check out the campuses of some of the power houses of InfoTech, people who have really changed the game at some time or another like no one else. Walking through the Googleplex, standing outside the front of Apple, driving around the grounds of Yahoo and Intel was one of the most awe inspiring experiences of my life. The first thing that hits you is just how massive these places are! They are sprawling, sweeping, rising infrastructures, filled with armies of super smart people who are obsessed with changing the game they play every day. It’s hard not to feel a huge sense of respect when you stand outside the front door of a company who produced the first micro-processor you ever used, or revolutionised the way you searched the web.
The other thing it makes you realise is just how hard you have to fight to win each game! These aren’t phantoms! There aren’t fly by nighters! They’re not the boogeyman your CEO tells you about just to get you to work harder. They are real, smart and ready.
After Silicon Valley, my next stop was (and still is) Redmond, home of Microsoft. It’s been two years (can’t believe it’s been that long since I joined MS!!) since I first visited Redmond, and it didn’t take me long to realise how insanely cool campus is. There is so much development going on, and I don’t mean in the product teams! Microsoft is growing at such a rapid rate, that there is a bunk of construction going on, and Microsoft campus now sprawls over some 120+ buildings!!!! Faaaark!
And then there is the vibe. I’ve been so fortunate to catch-up with a range of friends who work in the product teams, and I still can’t get over the feeling of walking out of a meeting with a Product Manager or Program Manager, after having talked about features, issues, ideas that will become embodied in the next release of software that will go into the hands of millions of customers around the world! I’ve developed product all my life, but there is a feeling that can’t be explained when you comprehend the reach some of these individuals have through their products! It’s unreal in the truest sense of the sentiment.
Anyway, I’ve got much to blog about, so as I sit in one of the huge cafeterias on campus, all I can say is, if you get the chance to do the Silicon Valley to Redmond trip, do it! It could be just the thing your game face needs!