It's time for that new chapter! This July, the Matskas family will be moving to Seattle, WA, where I'll be taking on my new role at Microsoft as the new Product Marketing Manager for Visual Studio Tools for Xamarin, Visual Studio for Mac and game dev tooling (Unity et al). After 2 years, 4 months and 22 days (who's counting?) as a Premier Field Engineer in the UK, I'm really excited as I transition to my new role.
My PFE days
The PFE role has been an amazing ride, don't get me wrong! It's given me the platform to learn an insane amount of new technologies and help customers across so many diverse scenarios. To succeed at what I do as a PFE I learned to focus on the things that matter the most. I strived in becoming a subject matter expert (SME) on certain technologies and spent time acquiring really good knowledge around the rest of the MS ecosystem. As a solution architect and a trusted advisor, it's important to know how all these different services work together. There's not one, single, right way to solve a problem so having the ability and flexibility to work with various alternative scenarios is key in being successful. During my time as a PFE I decided to specialise on the things that inspired me the most while balancing customer demand and team needs. There's no point learning a technology that none of our customers can use. At the same time, my VBScript day are far behind me. It's also about adding value to the team and our customers. Some of my focus areas include:
• Developer tools (VS, VS4Mac, VS Code)
• Azure (PaaS with a little bit of IaaS)
• Serverless (Functions, EventGrid, Logic Apps)
• DevOps (setting up CI/CD, testing, source control)
• Security (OWASP top 10, SDLC, Azure Best Practices)
• .NET and .NET Core
At any point in time, I could walk into a customer and deliver a 300-400 level session around these subjects. However, I often picked other subjects/technologies when there was a need to fill in a gap or help with an urgent customer query. One of the best things about the PFE role is that it can be as diverse as one wants. There's great freedom and I used it as a "springboard" to learn new technologies in a safe and supported environment. If you're after a role that gives you full freedom to learn and apply that knowledge immediately while helping developers make the best of our (MS) technology, then this is an amazing role.
Over these 26 months I've worked with the biggest customers in the UK and Europe and I helped them implement new solutions, solve problems and design new systems on and off Azure while having an amazing team to support and deliver some of these with me. Some interesting/boring stats:
• 110 engagements and working on some amazing customer solutions
• 56 conferences including FutureDecoded, TechDays, TechSummit, DDDScotland
• 170 flights, most of them internal (I live in Scotland, remember?)
• Azure Functions interim PM for 6 months
• Made numerous friends all over the UK
• 3 critsits helping customers during those "oh sht moments
• I still smile every time I sign in as a Microsoft employee or share my @microsoft.com email
Manager and team
My manager, Ben Pearce, has been a great from day one. He supported me and provided the necessary guidance while insisting on good work-life balance. He saw early on that I wanted to make the best of my role, learn and grow and has provided the right tools and framework to support my aspirations. He's also been extremely supportive and encouraging of my community work and public speaking. When it was time to look for my next role we worked closely together to achieve what I wanted. I owe a lot to him for believing in me and for giving me the chance to work in this exciting role.
I've also had the privilege and fortune to work with one of the best and most supportive teams in my career. The PSfD (Premier Support for Developers) team is simply awesome. Everyone in the team is extremely knowledgeable and clever so it's always humbling to be around them. Everyone works on exciting projects and we learn so much from each other. We all work remotely and yet we manage to stay in touch daily through the various communication channels, although we all seem to prefer to (ab)use WhatsApp for most non-work related stuff. We love Unicorns (it's an internal pun) and everyone is always on hand to assist with any issues. I work from Glasgow, Scotland but I never felt remote or isolated. I will dearly miss every single one of you.
Product Marketing Manager - a new adventure
It's been 3 months in the making but it's finally official! The US visas have been issued and (almost) all the checkboxes have been checked. My new role is definitely taking things to the next level! I'm really excited for the new opportunity because it will help me grow in new areas while remaining technical. Once a geek always a geek, right?
The scope of this role is huge and so is the chance to bring real change and help millions of developers do more with the Microsoft tools and technologies they love. I will also get the opportunity to work closer with the wider developer community and focus on having real and meaningful impact. It's also quite different from being a Product Manager. Therefore, unlike working on a specific product feature or features, I'll be working with our Product Managers to better understand our goals and aspirations for our product, help shape the roadmap and create the appropriate marketing strategies to promote the amazing work we do. Coming from a highly technical background and being a user of these products I'll also be able to better understand our developer community's needs and pain points.
I already have some emails appearing in my mailbox and as I start to get a glimpse of what my new role entails, I can't help but get super excited about the work we (PMMs) do. And since I'm someone that gets really excited about new, shiny things, having access to the long term plans and strategy for these products, is just a dream come true. I want to thank my new manager (Achim Dettweiler) and new team for this opportunity and for believing in me.
The future looks extremely bright and exciting, albeit a bit terrifying too. The last time I did something so drastic was 18 years ago when I moved to Scotland, UK to study. Back then I was only 22 years old and single. This time around the change is much bigger. I have a wonderful wife and 2 amazing kids. Our life together started in Glasgow 14 years ago and it's been our home ever since. Nonetheless, we are ready for the new adventure. As I write this, most of our belongings are boxed away and we're working around the clock to get our flat ready for the market (out today!). The logistics and the complexity have been mind-blowing both here and in the US as we need to "close shop" here and start anew in Seattle (schools, house, cars, etc etc). At the same time, I'm extremely grateful for the support we have been receiving from my new manager and Microsoft HR and Legal teams as they're working hard in making this transition as easy and smooth for us as possible while working around our family needs. I'm also extremely humbled by the responses we've received from team mates, close friends and (reluctant) relatives and their willingness to help by answering a torrent of questions.
There are many things we will miss from our time here in the UK, but we look forward to the new beginning. An adventure that wouldn't have been possible without my amazing wife (she's my hero, I won't deny it), my team mates, my managers and, finally, old and new and mentors who believed in me.
Make sure to hit me up when you're in Seattle and expect hear a lot more about Xamarin, Gaming and tooling :)