A month ago I decided to leave Microsoft. Today, I’m writing to say thank you to all of you for your support and friendship throughout the years. It’s been quite a ride. I could write a book (or two) about all the things I learned while at Microsoft, the stories, the products, the people. It’s definitely been an amazing, life changing experience to be here. Microsoft has this special something that keeps you hooked, motivated and inspired.
I feel very lucky to have started and closed my career in the company with two very different but each outstanding leaders, Forest and Corrina - both passionate about design and about growing personally and professionally and about pushing yourself to the next level every day.
I am taking sometime off with my family and then as soon as I can, will spend about a year working on personal illustration, design and speaking projects. I plan to continue to be involved with Metro
Hey, where’s the Windows Phone Design Series? - Well, now we will actually have time to finish it - and the promise of turning it into a free e-book at the end is still the goal.
While I’m offline my brother Alejandro will help me publish the next few articles starting this week.
7 Years of Design Evangelism
8 years ago after reading about the leak on Sparkle, I found out about Creature House Expression 3 and started using it (Secret: the original Creature House Expression 3 that Microsoft acquired from a one man company in Hong Kong and that later became Expression Design, also inheriting the name ‘Expression’ to the rest of the studio - is still available for free here… check it out!). Back then I was also posting doomsday notes in the Macromedia Flash forums (you have to read this lol - I wrote on January 2004, just a couple months after that memorable 2003 PDC when Longhorn was announced) announcing Flash’s death due to this thing called “Avalon” (WPF) that Microsoft was creating… The story turned out to be much more interesting than that
Then, 7 years ago I joined the Expression Product Management founding team working for Forest Key and with other amazing folks like my dear and kawaii friend Miwa Mueller, Wayne Smith and Brad Becker.
Forest is the most inspiring, sharp, creative business leader I met during my career in Microsoft. I was lucky to join Microsoft working for him. He really pushed me to grow. He encouraged me to learn how to communicate to people - to demo and talk, to sell and pitch and even to make people laugh - I also learned how to motivate people and keep them encouraged and focused. Today I cannot measure the impact of his influence in my life - After Forest started growing (quickly) within the company, I started working for Miwa - I will always remember the first time we went to Japan, the dream of my life, being in Tokyo blew my mind away! By then I knew a tiny bit of Japanese and had friends in the city so it was a very fun experience. Miwa and I presented together in front of almost 700 Japanese developers. Fun! We stayed at her parents and the experience of actually sleeping, eating and even using the bathroom in a 100% japanese home was so interesting (and confusing too :)) - Arigatou Miwa-San
During these almost 7 years at Microsoft, I had the opportunity to be part of the founding teams that launched Expression Blend (and Expression Studio) version 1 to 4, Silverlight version 1 to 5 and WPF. I was there during the genesis of these technologies and learned tons from my Product Management team (aka Marketing), Product Team (aka Engineering) and DPE (aka Evangelism).
With a design background I drove design content, training, evangelism and messaging for Silverlight, Expression and Windows Phone. My audience were both designers and developers. Looking back at my career here, it is clear to me that my focus - the one big thing I did was drive Design Evangelism & Education. That’s what I do. While I love being an Architect and do actual design - my real contribution these years (and in the future) will be Design Education.
When I get back, you will hear more about my plans for the future on this area.
Artist in Residence
One of the most fun projects I drove during this time was hosting the Silverlight Artist in Residence event (originally kicked off by my friend Barak Cohen, then taken over by Nishant Kothary). In this event we would invite designers and developers (in pairs) to spend a week building a Silverlight app or game. It was sort of a Survivor-like, reality show experience for attendees and was always highly praised by internal teams as well as top agencies who visited us in Redmond. It became the de-facto training method for depth partner enablement. We trained the top design agencies in the U.S. as well as other top development shops. In a week, developers and designers would be ready to go back home and start working on real client work immediately.
After that I had the pleasure of working on Brian Goldfarb’s and Brad Becker’s group. The legendary and awesome Silverlight team. It was during that time that my friend (and “work wife” :)) Vivian Chan and I partnered to build .toolbox which basically solved, in one shot, the need of the community to get Expression Blend and Silverlight (design) training. Today .toolbox has more than 40,000 members from 100+ countries, hundreds of thousands of lesson videos watched and training content packages downloaded. Vivian has taken good care of our baby and added a fantastic series with additional badges on Windows Phone Design.
Metro Design Tour
This last year has been a blast! I started to explore a switch in my career from Product Management to UX Design. I was rescued by my dear friend Corrina Black from the claws of SQL Server and I joined her team. I learned so much! - Being in a UX team in Microsoft was a completely different experience!
Her group was nested right at the intersection of all of our client teams and the platform & tools group so we had exposure to everything - like a candy store of design. I had the opportunity to collaborate with the XBOX group in the early stages of design for the new experience released last Fall that brought the concept of “apps” to the XBOX experience. I explored and learned about designing Kinect-based experience thanks to some amazing people in the XBOX Design Studio including Grant Hinkson (oh nooo…) and especially Ali Vassigh (a must follow). I also worked on a number of Windows 8 BUILD sample apps - some of them like CheckMate, made it to Developer Preview.
Later, as part of the Windows Phone Design Studio, we reached out to our friends in the Western Europe region and partnered to put together a Design Day tour. We spent two months traveling and visiting 11 countries in Western Europe + South Africa meeting thousands of developers and designers, reviewing hundreds of apps and learning a lot from all of you who are making Windows Phone your own and are pushing it to the next level. Recently we also visited San Diego and Vancouver in partnership with Nokia - good times. Nokia folks are really great people.
The coolest thing throughout all these years has been the opportunity to be exposed to the end-to-end user experience and design vision and execution in Microsoft (Windows Phone, Windows, XBOX, Silverlight…). I’ve always enjoyed influencing, driving and contributing to the larger picture.
I will always be grateful to Microsoft for changing my life. For giving me so much support and so many learning experiences. For opening the doors of the world for me to discover and meet wonderful people inside and outside of the company - people from all sorts of cultures and countries. Today I know people and have friends in all 5 continents and it’s a blast to learn from different people who speak different languages, with different cultures and that live in all corners of the world.
For those of you exploring or interested in joining Microsoft - Do it! - It is an amazing company to work for. There’s always fun things to do, you have a great (and huge) campus in a beautiful city - Seattle and the surroundings are gorgeous. Tons of lakes, everything is green - Sure it rains a lot but that gives you infinite amount of trees, lakes and snow in winter time. Lots of trails for running, biking, hiking and the best adult hockey league You get free access to the ProClub which is one (if not) the largest gym in the US - it really pumps you up if you are into running or working out. The Company Store is cool because you get really good discounts on XBOX games and software. The ski and snowboard resorts are as close as 45 minutes away so many people leave earlier on Thursdays or Fridays and head up to the mountains for some evening action. You get free drinks at the office - I will really miss my Mango Talking Rain (Zero carbs! :)).
In terms of your career, one of the things I always liked in Microsoft is this culture that enables you to define and shape your own career. While you of course have managers and groups and VPs, at the end I feel it’s all about where YOU want to go. If you are smart then you can pick the right battles and the right growing paths and contribute to the company with what you think its best. Coming from a more entrepreneurial background, I found this to be the key for me to be happy in the company. They trust you.
If you are ever interested in working for Microsoft in any group, drop me a note and I’ll be happy to give you tips or connect you with someone in there.
If you are a designer then you will enjoy working for Microsoft. It’s a different culture and company from the one a few years ago. Microsoft has finally embraced design and is empowering design leads and designers to really drive the direction of the company. From Albert Shum to Steve Kaneko, Bill Buxton and Jeff Fong, you can see how Microsoft is a great place to develop your career doing design at scale that reaches millions of people around the world. Having had the opportunity to be part of the Windows Phone Design Studio was incredible. The design talent bar in there is mind blowing. People like Jeff Fong who guided the implementation of the Metro Design Principles to create Windows Phone or Mike Kruzeniski who has quickly grown to be one of the most influential design leads inside and outside of Microsoft. Kat Holmes with whom I did some traveling in Europe a couple years ago and from whom I first heard of Metro. Jae Park, also a lead and member of the Microsoft User Experience Leadership team (with other folks like Kaneko, Buxton and Moreau).
Let me have my Oscars moment now…
Throughout the years I would receive emails from folks leaving the company saying something like “I’ll miss the people - it’s what matters” and I always thought of it as a cliche but nooooo… Now that I’m here, I’m like yeah - it’s true! - I will miss so many people. My always inspiring friend Corrina who kept me motivated and encouraged to run and run to the point that today it’s my favorite sports activity. My sweetest and mega-talented friend Sandy with whom I’ve spent hours and hours drawing and who introduced me to Eggs Benedict at Lola (ZOMG!) - I might finally use that 1,000 color pencil box Sandy. I’ll miss my friend Maria (born in the city of Toledo, Spain :)), Darlene - a rising star! and my buddy Jared Potter. I will miss my new and amazing Studio friends I quickly fell in love with: Jane, Jocelyn, Andrea, Jeremiah, Frank, Aaron, Kat as well as everyone else in the Studio and outside the Studio like my BFFs Miwa, Viv, Michael Bach, Joanna, Susan, Guillaume, Jon Harris & John Alwright, Emily Anderson, David Salamon, LuisDans, Tim Sneath and all my buddies in the Expression and DPE groups like Jaime Rodriguez, David Carmona, Emilio and Rick. Also my friends in the field - my dear and design evangelist rock star Sara Summers, Danwei, Katrien and Isabel, Kasugai-San, Chris Bernard, Will and Sean, no way to name everyone who is special to me. Just last weekend while celebrating my friend Jaime’s birthday I had a chance to see 3 of my favorite guys, Dan Fernandez, Brian Keller and Ben Lower (sorry @bgoldy and @jeffwilcox for missing you :))
lol this was just like when people receive an Oscar
I decided not to send a massive email to announce my departure but send an email to each person - it took a long time to send about 200+ emails but it was a joy to hear back from everyone. So much love I feel lucky and grateful. It certainly isn’t a goodbye for folks in Microsoft and especially in the community - we’ll meet again soon.
Albert Shum, the director for the Studio is the most accomplished and impactful design leader I’ve met at Microsoft. On our last conversation, he told me something I’m closing this blog post with - “it’s all about the team and the people in the team - work is fun and all, but at the end it’s about our lives, family and the people who matter to us. If we can have you take a seed from what you learned here in the Studio and plant it somewhere else, and have you grow something amazing and different, that’s what this is all about.”
… and so that’s what I’ll do