Last September, I was transitioned out of my role as a spam analyst to a spam… analyst. Except rather than looking at actual spam, I was doing a lot more analyzing of spam trends. I compiled piles of reports and investigated all of the numerous issues that came up. I was dealing with the crisis-of-the-week every single week. Because I had the most experience and knew our product the best, I was the one best suited to deal with the problems that inevitably arose.
In April I transitioned out of that role to a Program Manager. Now instead of putting out the fires on a daily basis, I also got the chance to start working on and designing new anti-spam features. So, rather than write spam rules and process false positives, I write the spec for the new blocklist internal delisting application – an app designed to reduce the amount of time the spam team spends processing delisting requests.
The typical day of a Program Manager for spam is that somewhere between 3/8 to 3/4 of my day is spent in meetings. I have meetings with the current spam team, dev managers and people from other departments. There’s been a gradual shift within Microsoft to start converging the various anti-spam groups (Hotmail, Exchange, us and now Forefront) and start sharing technology. We’ve implemented the same spam filtering engine that Hotmail uses and now we are trying to customize its use to fit our email traffic. That requires lots of meetings.
However, it’s not just specs that I get to write. Oh, no, it’s not all fun stuff. As a PM at Microsoft, I spend a lot of time running around chasing people from other departments to get all of our stuff that we are developing for the next release implemented. One of our devs is blocked because NetOps needs to deploy hardware? The PM follows up. Consolidating documentation into a single cohesive document? The PM handles it. Making sure that the dev tickets get assigned properly? The dev manager actually does that, but the PM follows up.
I spend a pile of time replying to emails, browsing through our Product Studio ticket queue and browsing through more emails. I pop into people’s offices in order to figure out what one person needs and then walking to another office to get the answer from another guy. In other words, I get a lot of requests to get things done and I then go and delegate everything.
I don’t do any coding. Back when I was a spam analyst, I coded numerous scripts. Even this past summer when some of our spam team left I spent time working on broken scripts that were never properly tested. Since I moved down to Seattle in September, I don’t do any coding. The closest I come is using Linux commands and piping results into more results (like awk or sed). So, to summarize, here’s what a spam fighter who is a Program Manager does:
- Attends meetings
- Chases down other people from other teams (both to get them to do something or to give them something)
- Writes specs
- Reads specs
- Writes a spam rule or two
- Writes reports
- Opens bug tickets when I notice something broken
Sometimes I wonder how I get anything done.