Here’s another community interview from our Italian Visual Basic MVP Alessandro Del Sole, this time with Matt Gertz. Matt still posts frequently on the VB Team blog even though he’s changed roles (look at how big his name still is in our tag cloud on the right ;-)). Matt is a great technical leader here at Microsoft and he really loves the Visual Basic community so we welcome him here on the Visual Basic “virtual” team!
Here’s the interview with Matt:
1. Nice to meet you Matt Gertz! Let’s begin by asking a simple question: where are you from?
That’s a tough question to answer, not simple. I was born in Pensacola, Florida, but I moved around quite a lot – my family has lived in eight different states (some of them multiple times), a couple extra countries, and I personally have had about 28 different addresses. I’ve been in the Seattle area for about 14 years at different addresses, and before that, the longest time I’d spent in any place was a city called Monroe, Michigan, from about age 9 until age 18.
2. We all know that you’re a Visual Basic Team member, but could we know something more about your role inside the Team?
Actually, I’m not a VB Team member directly anymore. (I’m getting all of your questions wrong! :-)) I’m the Development Manager of Developer Division Tactics, and I manage the engineering process strategy for the Developer Division, which includes .NET, Visual Studio, and Visual Studio Team System. Before this job, I was the Development Manager for Visual Basic, and was in various other jobs on the VB team before that.
3. What’s your favorite Visual Basic feature regarding the language and/or the IDE?
Well, I’m a UI guy, so I really enjoy features like IntelliSense, the prettylister, and snippets. If I had to pick one, I’d say IntelliSense. It’s amazing how versatile it is, and how much time it saves me each day.
4. How long have you been working for Microsoft and what was your occupation before joining the VB Team?
I’ll have been here for 14 years in December 2008. I started out on the “Blackbird” team, which was supposed to be a designer for content on the proprietary Microsoft Network. When MSN became an internet service in 1995, we all started working on Visual InterDev, which later merged into Visual Basic. (Here’s a true story: I knew almost nothing about Microsoft when I applied for the job in 1994, except that they wrote “Summer Games” for the Commodore 64 back in the 1980’s – I mostly wanted to get out of the academic life and live in the Pacific Northwest. Microsoft just happened to be where I wanted to live.) Before I came to Microsoft, I was completing my Ph.D. in Computer Engineering (focusing on robotics) at Carnegie Mellon University, and before that I was an undergrad at the University of Michigan.
5. Why do you think VB is such a great language?
Because it makes sense! Seriously, I used to do all of my hobby coding in C++, but I’ve totally switched to VB now. I have all of the power of .NET, but the code is understandable and intuitive. Reading VB code is like reading a book.
6. Have you ever been to Italy?
I love Italy! I’ve been there several times. My family lived just outside Napoli when I was in college, so I would visit them there during holidays. My favorite thing to do was ride the trains just to see what I could see – this day in Sorrento, the next day in Roma, the next day in Pompeii… there was just too much to see! I’ve visited Firenza, Pisa, Ercolano, Milano, Cumae, and so many other places in Italy. I also wish that I could have visited Venezia, but I never quite made it that far – maybe someday I’ll get there! I did do some skiing in Cervinia, which was wonderful – the Alps are beautiful. The best part was how friendly the people are. I speak some Italian, but not very well, but the people in Italy always were very kind and helpful to confused tourists like me.
7. Would you like to tell us something about your life outside the office (how do you like to spend your free time, what do you like to do when/if you go out in the evening or when you’re at home and so on)?
Right now, I do a lot of work on my property in my spare time – we have chickens to take care of, vines to tend, and lots of other ranch-related work. I’m a big fan of opera, symphony, musicals, and plays, so my wife and I try to get out as much as possible to those (which hasn’t been often, since we have three kids – fortunately, the oldest is now big enough to babysit his brother and sister, so we’ll hopefully be going more often now). I’m also an avid reader and enjoy music quite a lot.
8. Who is your favorite musician?
That’s another tough question, since it depends on my mood – I have a pretty big music collection, and I like lots of different genres and artists. Alan Parsons has always been a favorite musician of mine, as has Billy Joel, and I’m a big fan of the Beatles and the Eagles. Interestingly enough, I don’t have a lot of contemporary favorites – my tastes are based in the 1960’s through the 1980’s when I was growing up. I don’t think that’s because the recent music is any worse – I do enjoy recent songs (for example, “Viva la Vida” from Coldplay is a current favorite of mine) – it just seems that nowadays I tend to focus on the song and not the artist as much. On the classical side, I enjoy Rachmaninoff tremendously, as well as Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Strauss, plus contemporary composers like John Williams and Howard Shore.
9. What’s your favorite food?
I tend to prefer Italian cuisine, coincidentally enough. (One of my mother’s friends used to run an Italian restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and it was favorite place for me to take a date when I was in college.) My favorite meal is a prime steak cooked very rare (or even served tartare) under a mushroom-wine sauce, served with asparagus and pasta, with a fine merlot or cabernet to wash it down, served with a good Italian bread, and preceded by an appetizer of calamari. I’m also quite happy to visit Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and Indian restaurants – I’m not picky.
Thank you very much for taking time to answer these questions and letting us know something more about you!