In this weeks interview we meet Simon Ince.
1. Hello Simon, who are you?
My name is Simon Ince, and I’m part of the growing northern contingent to the team!
2. Have you always worked in the ADC Team?
No – in fact I only joined in September 2007. Before that I spent many years working for a very large systems integrator. That gave me exposure to many different roles, industry sectors, ways of working, and more. Going even further back I spent some time working in the NHS, charities, and an ISP… even contracting for a while.
3. What sort of technologies do you use as an ADC?
Name a Microsoft product, and there is a good chance I’ve had questions about it! Really it is driven by two things – what my customers want, and what interests me. The two don’t always overlap, but this just means my horizons are broadening every day.
4. What do you enjoy about working at Microsoft?
It’s a challenge! There are so many smart people here it keeps you on your toes – in a good way! There is always something to learn from the other team members. I also love the freedom; if a technology interests me, I can spend time getting to know it, and before you know it the rest of the team will be asking you to visit their customers to talk about it. I don’t think many employers or teams manage that level of freedom and flexibility.
5. How do you keep skills up to date with the latest technologies?
To be completely honest, it is hard work. The lesson I learnt early on is that you need to have an appreciation of many technologies, but deep knowledge in only a few. I pick the ones I like and get to know them better, and rely on our regular team meetings to get an overview of things I haven’t had time to cover. There is a strong desire to share knowledge in the team which is great, and means we come to rely on each-other to provide a quality service to our customers that covers a vast range of older and new technologies. Of course, we also need to know about the ones that aren’t yet public, so we’re on the ball when they’re announced!
6. What software do you use as part of your role?
I use a lot of tools to stay organised – Outlook mail, tasks, and appointments, Excel lists and tables, internal systems, collaborative tools (SharePoint, FolderShare, Groove…), Communicator, Notepad (!), and more. If you’re not organised in this job, you’ve got no chance! Office products like Word and PowerPoint are used very frequently when preparing reports or presentations for customers or internal audiences.
Added to that, I spend a lot of time in SQL Server Management Studio, Visual Studio 2008, and related tools. This is usually for putting together samples, reviewing or debugging code, or just getting to know new technologies.
7. How would you describe a typical day as an ADC?
Every second counts!! Being on customer site a lot means that you must be really efficient in dealing with your email and TODO lists.
My favourite days are those when I’m on site with a customer, perhaps doing a full day workshop for them, or working through a specific problem. I love it when at the end of the day you can see the customer has understood what you’ve been explaining, or sees the solution to their problem. The face-to-face time is by far the most fun part of the job, but also requires you to think on your feet… a good combination I find!
8. What’s your technology of the moment?
All sorts! But recently I’ve been doing some work for a number of customers with Virtual Earth, plotting locations and regions and more. Integrating that with SQL Server 2008’s new Spatial Data Types means you can put together some really impressive functionality with relatively little effort. It means I get to play with AJAX, Virtual Earth, WCF, C#, SQL Server, and more when putting samples together.
I also seem to spend a lot of time doing Architectural Round-tables & Reviews, which is one of my favourite things. It requires a good overall understanding of architecture, our (and other) products, recommended practices, and a big big dose of real-world successes (and failures) behind you. I find this is really where ADCs can add enormous value up front, as across the team we have such a broad base of experience and knowledge.
9. What’s your best and worst moment as an ADC?
My best is probably in round-tables. I really enjoy helping a customer shape a solution early on, and then watching that system develop and evolve before it goes live.
My worst is almost certainly dealing with some of the more “out there” questions that come from customers. Sometimes we’re a customer’s main point of contact with Microsoft, so we can get questions about licensing, marketing, engaging with other parts of Microsoft, and more. This is great for variety, but customers often don’t appreciate how much hard work it can be to cover all these needs for them, whilst still remaining focused on their technical issues. The satisfaction in putting them in touch with the right people makes this worthwhile though!
10. Thanks for your time; do you have a closing comment?
Do I get anything for filling this in? 🙂