REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 30, 1999 — With the release of Windows 2000 just around the corner, developers are working hard to migrate their existing applications and develop innovative new solutions for their customers. In addition to Microsoft’s rich technical resources, developers often rely on the advice and experience of their peers to learn how to make the most of the platform.
To facilitate this valuable peer-to-peer education, Microsoft next month will host DevDays ’99, a multi-city event designed to help developers take advantage of Windows 2000 as a Web development platform. In more than 30 cities in the United States and Canada, developers will meet for a day of workshops and in-depth technical sessions to get information about building secure, reliable and scalable Web-based applications using Windows 2000 and COM+. Each city’s event, hosted by MSDN Regional Directors and organized specifically for their communities, provides a unique opportunity for developers to help each other make the most out of Microsoft technologies.
“Developer Days provides a great opportunity for developers to learn from their peer group,” said Tod Nielsen, vice president of developer marketing at Microsoft. “MSDN Regional Directors will talk to their local developer community about developing for Windows 2000 and offer their insight and lessons learned.”
The MSDN Regional Directors are the key to making DevDays a success. As developers, trainers and consultants, they serve as leaders in their community, speaking at conferences, leading training sessions and authoring books, articles and white papers. They work as Regional Directors on a volunteer basis, partnering with the Developer Division at Microsoft to help the company better respond to developers’ needs. By organizing and leading DevDays events in their city, they share their experience and perspective to help fellow developers gain a broader understanding of Microsoft technologies.
In addition to serving as the director of consulting services for Oakwood Systems, Billy Hollis also volunteers his time as the MSDN Regional Director for the Nashville area. He sees this year’s DevDays as an opportunity for developers to gain valuable perspective on the impact Windows 2000 will have on their work. “DevDays concentrates on the very leading edge of technologies that are important to developers,” he says. “With such a rapid pace of change in the industry, this knowledge is critical. Even if the information isn’t applied in their projects immediately, knowing about what’s on the leading edge is important for their planning — for their products as well as their personal career goals.
“Developers are going to look at Windows 2000 from a ‘what’s in it for me’ perspective, and it would be easy for them to get the wrong idea — that Windows 2000 doesn’t offer much to them,” Hollis says. “Developers tend to concentrate on tools, not operating systems, and I want to help them get a broader perspective.”
By sharing this knowledge with fellow developers, MSDN Regional Directors can grow as professionals — and enhance their own businesses. “Being an RD forces me to be more specific about how things are done,” Hollis says. “For example, for years I taught a class in development practices and object technologies in a very informal way. But having the higher profile of an RD challenged me to put that knowledge in a more structured form. As a result, I wrote a book on design, specification and objects, and that has helped our business in innumerable ways.
“The visibility of an RD also gives my business additional opportunities for high-profile projects,” Hollis says. “Companies taking on high-risk, leading edge projects want the best qualified development assistance. Being an RD enhances the credibility of my company, making it easier for us to assure clients that we are the right choice for their most important projects.”
Kevin Schuler, president of InDepth Technologies and MSDN Regional Director for the Columbus, Ohio, area, takes a more detailed approach to DevDays, tailoring this year’s event to the “nuts and bolts” of Windows 2000. “My goal is to make this year’s event the very best, most in-depth DevDays yet,” he says. “To meet that goal, we’ve found some great speakers, including three authors of books on Microsoft development and platform technologies, a developer who worked on the Windows 2000 team, and others who work daily on real-world solutions using Microsoft technology. It’s our best speaker team yet.
“This year, we’re giving developers an opportunity to delve into some great new Windows 2000 features — including the new ADO 2.5 Stream Object and the Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI) — technologies that really excite developers,” Schuler says. “They will get their own copies of the latest Windows 2000 Professional and Server release candidates, along with the Windows 2000 Platform SDK, so they can ‘test drive’ Windows 2000 themselves. Add that to the ton of great information from the technical sessions, and this year’s DevDays becomes an event that forward-thinking developers don’t want to miss.”
What Schuler appreciates about being an MSDN Regional Director is Microsoft’s responsiveness to his fellow developers’ needs. “We serve as a direct link to Microsoft for the developer community. For example, a request went out last year from the Microsoft Developer Division for the top 10 concerns of developers on our communities. I went to some of the brightest, most thoughtful developers I know and asked for their lists. After compiling the list and sending it to Microsoft, I didn’t think I would hear anything more. But at that year’s TechEd event in New Orleans, I was stunned to see that year’s Developer Survey, which contained several questions taken directly from the feedback our community provided. I was impressed to know that a few discussions with developers in Columbus, Ohio, could ultimately help steer the direction of such a large corporation.”
This responsiveness is something that Schuler has incorporated into his own business. “For the past 12 years I’ve visited the Microsoft campus regularly — and I’ve learned a lot. Not only about the details of its technology, but also what makes the company tick. They have an uncommon willingness to listen and an accessibility to its leaders that is remarkable for such a large enterprise.” Drawing on Schuler’s experience with Microsoft, InDepth has developed its own Software Incubator program — modeled on Microsoft’s product group organization — that helps developers find the resources they need to start a successful software company.
InDepth also spends more time listening to its own customers’ needs and concerns, taking extra steps to keep them informed and involved as much as possible. “In the same way Microsoft allows developers to make the most out of its products by sharing details in events like DevDays, we keep our customers informed with a scaled-down approach that meets their needs,” Schuler says. “This helps us understand and adjust to the dynamic market in which we do business.”