I decided to leave Microsoft; Friday, March 20th is my last day.
My family and I moved to Redmond almost 7 years ago so that I could join Microsoft. After 13 years in the industry, it was my dream job: Creating a UI Framework that enterprise application developers would use for their web applications. The project was Alexandria, which became WCF RIA Services, and it helped developers use Silverlight for Line of Business applications.
As I blogged about when I moved out here, I had put together a 5-year plan for how to get a job at Microsoft building UI frameworks, but I ended up getting that job within just a few months. I was thrilled to work on RIA and have the opportunity to create software that became part of the .NET Framework and shipped to my mom’s computer. It was an honor to take what I learned building user interfaces for dozens of enterprise applications and create a framework that countless developers could benefit from.
With my experience on RIA, I got a taste of delivering frameworks and tools to large developer audiences, and that became a new direction for me.
While working on RIA Services, I watched NuGet come into existence and I was immediately sold. While NuGet was still quite nascent, I started pitching to the RIA team that we should abandon our MSI and instead ship RIA as a collection of NuGet packages. When I became the dev lead for the project, it was one of the first new efforts I invested time into. I even blogged about my excitement around NuGet. NuGet became what I wanted to work on.
By chance, shortly after that blog post, a re-org happened. NuGet was going to become part of my group—and it didn’t have a dev lead! I jumped at the opportunity to become the project’s dev lead; in order to pick up ownership of NuGet I also needed to take ASP.NET Web Pages and Razor as well. Sold! Suddenly, I was the dev lead for WCF RIA Services, WCF for Silverlight, NuGet, www.nuget.org, ASP.NET Web Pages, Razor, and a couple of other small projects. And there were 6 developers on my team. I immediately started working on how the team could become dedicated to NuGet.
When I became the dev lead for NuGet, version 1.5 had just shipped. We then shipped 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 2.0, and several more releases leading up to NuGet 2.8. For over 2 years, we averaged 11 weeks between RTM releases, with an average of 85 issues addressed in each release. At the same time, we completely redesigned the www.nuget.org gallery, re-implemented it from the ground up to run in Azure on the latest ASP.NET MVC bits, and we did the work in the open on GitHub.
NuGet grew and grew. Our usage was doubling time and time again. The project matured from being a “toy” that was used only for ASP.NET projects into something that almost every project system in Visual Studio was benefiting from. I spent a great deal of my time selling NuGet to teams and groups around the company, gaining broader and deeper adoption. It was exciting to watch the tables turn as we gained more acceptance. Over time, teams were coming to us instead of the other way around. Visual Studio started fixing bugs that made NuGet better. NuGet had arrived.
It was inevitable—its users wanted NuGet to become more natural. They wanted deep integration with the project systems—not just macros over top of VS actions. They wanted integration with the project templates. And with the build system. With every aspect of the development lifecycle, NuGet should be there and be supported. NuGet needed to become part of the platform.
This is where we are today. NuGet is no longer a toy—it’s truly become a first-class aspect of how developers work on the Microsoft platform. There is still a lot of work to get done to accomplish the goals we’ve set, but I believe the direction is right and the project is on path to get there.
When I recognized that NuGet was on path to become part of the platform, I started thinking about what would be next. What would be the next round of goals for the project? And secondarily, what would be the next round of goals for me? Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of work to be done for NuGet to succeed in these goals—the team and the project have plenty of room for improvement, but I started assuming we’d succeed in execution on those items. So I sought out what passions I wanted to follow as I reached my 20th anniversary in the field.
At Øredev 2014’s speaker’s dinner at City Hall in Malmö, I was talking with someone from Jayway about passions and what makes a project rewarding. She asked me what the most rewarding project was that I’d ever worked on. My knee-jerk reaction was to name NuGet. But I held back and really thought about the question. Was NuGet really it? Was it RIA? Was it the web-based replacement for Ohio’s student information system mainframe? That project actually was more rewarding than NuGet! Was it Statsworld—the web-based fantasy football app that competed directly with CBS Sportsline? What about when I created a web-based system to run a cooking school for Proctor and Gamble? Those were great too! And then I kept going back through my career until I decided what my most rewarding project really was—and it is surprising.
Impact on Individuals
My very first professional software project was in high school. I created a DOS-based CRM system for a math teacher’s husband’s lawn care company. Imagine QuickBooks, but running in DOS. I sold it to him with a bound user manual and a custom printer driver for his dot-matrix printer—for $100. It even had mouse support using a library I created in QuickBasic. I think I made about $0.50/hour on that project and built it on my mom’s computer at her office, working nights after the office had closed.
When we first met, he asked if I could create something to print invoices so that he didn’t have to type each one by hand. I most certainly could. But I started asking him questions about what other routine tasks he had and I asserted that I could automate a great deal of his routine administrative work. When I delivered this software to him and trained him on it, his eyes lit up. A few weeks later when I was delivering a new round of floppy disks with some bug fixes, he told me I saved him about 40 hours per week.
That $100 DOS-based invoicing system for a self-employed lawn care professional is the most rewarding project of my career. That was my answer at Øredev and I knew then I needed to think more seriously about what was next for me.
Looking back on my career, I’ve always had passion for interviewing business owners and employees and finding ways to simplify and automate their administrative tasks. In fact, after I completed that lawn care project, I dreamed of owning my own software company—it even had a (horrible) name: HANDLinc. Computer Programming. My junior year in High School, I was telling people that when I grew up I wanted to create software to help other people run their businesses. In 2000, I co-founded WeDoWebStuff.com and did just that. But somewhere between then and now, I lost sight of those objectives and found myself working on frameworks and tools for developers.
I have decided I want to return to building software for business owners and employees. I want to concentrate on user interfaces that simplify administrative tasks that cannot (yet) be automated. I want to work with non-developers and make their lives better and less frustrating—to make computers work for them instead of the other way around.
Friday, March 20, 2015 is my last day at Microsoft and my last day working on NuGet.
I start at Concur on Monday, March 23, 2015. I will be following my passions and I am very excited!
- Are you going to stay involved in NuGet?
- I don’t think so. I’m going to be focused on returning to a different kind of work—I have a lot to learn and remember.
- Yishai Galatzer is the new Engineering Manager for the NuGet team at Microsoft
- You’ll find Yishai on Twitter as @yigalatz
- Jeff Fritz (@csharpfritz) is NuGet’s PM
- Maarten Balliauw (@maartenballiauw) and Xavier Decoster (@xavierdecoster) also recently joined the team
- And of course the team watches @nuget and #nuget on Twitter too
- Nope. I’ll be working at Concur’s headquarters in downtown Bellevue, WA.
If you have other questions, feel free to reach out to me here or on Twitter (@jeffhandley).