This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I have an interview with Dharmesh Mehta interview: Director, Windows and Windows Live Division Microsoft Corp.

Enjoy!
Stephen Ibaraki

Dharmesh MehtaAs director of product management and product marketing for the Windows Live business at Microsoft Corp., Dharmesh Mehta is responsible for driving business and product strategy, marketing campaigns, PR and evangelism for Windows Live, a suite of free software and services that help people communicate, share and keep their lives in sync.

Dharmesh and his team are chartered with the goal of leading Windows Live as the world's most engaged community of people across the PC, web and mobile phone. They work across a worldwide business through a combination of global execution and local innovation. They drive the business strategy and the Windows Live value proposition including Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive. And they are responsible for the direct and indirect monetization for these experiences.

Dharmesh has worked at Microsoft since 2005 in a variety of product management, marketing and strategy positions. Most recently, he oversaw product management for Windows Live Messenger, the world's most popular IM service. Prior to that, he drove the strategy behind Microsoft's entry into the enterprise hosted messaging and collaboration services industry as a part of Microsoft's Corporate Strategy Group.

Dharmesh has dual Bachelor's degrees in Electrical Engineering and Finance and a Masters of Engineering in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Dharmesh lives in Seattle with his wife and son where they enjoy travel and exploring the outdoors.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

DISCUSSION:

Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:31:
Dharmesh, can you profile your extensive history of success prior to your current role and some valuable lessons you wish to share from these roles?
"....A willingness to be flexible and roll up your sleeves....A willingness to take risks and sometimes fail....There's definitely a balance where every now and then you've got to go be aggressive, try new things and take some risks. There's a balance in how you can do that in a reasonable fashion that is agile but not crazy...."

:03:04:
Can you profile your current role and what you hope to achieve?
"....I am currently responsible for running product marketing and product management teams. We currently focus on three things: Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive...."

:04:15:
It's a very competitive landscape. How do you differentiate yourself against those landscapes? What are some of the market segments that you are targeting and supporting? Why are they important?
"....There are certainly areas where we are stronger today versus a little bit further behind, but at the end of the day we are trying to build global services around the world....We think about that balance in how we make sure that this is a great service for everybody, but also very exciting for those power users. I'd make that statement for any of our services whether it's Hotmail, Messenger or SkyDrive....and for each of those there is a slightly different market position...."

:07:10:
In your marketing or branding of the Windows Live services are you increasingly injecting the term 'cloud'?
"....Many companies are using the word 'cloud' and sometimes it's used as taglines or catch phrases. Microsoft has certainly done that, both on the consumer side and as well as the enterprise side....I think there's still a lot to be done to really put the word 'cloud' into language and terminology which people really understand and what it means to them...."

:08:17:
How would you define cloud within two sentences?
"....For the consumer I would define the cloud as a place that lets you store, share and access your digital stuff...."

:09:14:
Can you profile the benefits of Windows Live and how Windows Live is differentiated from competitive products?
"....I'll talk separately about each of those products and then I will talk about how they come together....We are very committed to making sure Microsoft has a very compelling scenario in voice and video communications that stands against your devices and your networks...."

:14:38:
Are there additional value statements you'd like to make about the different kinds of things you are delivering to your different market segments? How will you know when you have succeeded?
"....When we look at success there are many different ways you can look at it. Step one is always about winning consumers and step two is there a good way to monetize that from a Microsoft perspective...."

:16:42:
What is new, cool and useful in Windows Live in 2011?
"....Hotmail has already had eight meaningful releases. These are big partner integrations, big speed improvements and big sets of new calendar integrations; meaningful features that we think lots of people are going to use and we've really changed the release approach....On SkyDrive there's been a big improvement in (what I call) making that a more modern app – betting on HTML 5, improving performance, changing the layout, making pictures just beautiful, instant on and things like that, that change that from an app that used to be relatively functional to a thing that's a lot more powerful and exciting...."

:18:46:
What and why should we be excited with Windows Live in 2012?
"....In Hotmail, we get this product to be just amazing where it does everything basic and is a requirement, but what about all these things that just delights me....In SkyDrive it's less about a direct competitor and we talk about how we define that cloud, that anywhere access - anytime - from any device, and just delivering that in a way that's better and ahead of pretty much anyone else...."

:19:47:
How can enterprise and SMB workers employ Windows Live as a flexible environment at home, on the road, and at work?
"....At the end of the day the person who is sitting down at a computer is a consumer. We do a lot to make our products (Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive, etc.) work really great for consumers....There's a second side of business apps and business needs, where you need control and group policy....we have the enterprise side of products that are designed to meet those needs...."

:22:19:
Can you share some stories of how people are using specific components and features of Windows Live to make their lives more meaningful?
"....There are many touching stories, from emotionally touching to impressively productive...."

:24:18:
What are the usage numbers for Windows Live in 2011? Which regions do you think are the hottest or will be the hottest?
"....The big numbers we often talk about: Hotmail, 360 million active users (someone who signs in at least once a month and does something)....as opposed to registered accounts. Messenger is about 300 million. SkyDrive is a bit smaller and across all of them, if we duplicated there's about 500 million...."

:26:36:
What else are you most excited about?
"....I'm pretty excited about what we are doing on our own - everything from performance to new features, designing for the power-user to doing things which will just delight people....I'm pretty excited about some of the products that are coming from Microsoft and how our services will tie into this....I'm also excited about the way that we're taking a very strong focus on the consumer and not worrying about trying to build everything ourselves, and rather just partnering with other great companies to give consumers what they want...."

:28:33:
In your current role, what are your top ways of measuring success?
"....On an external perspective it goes back to that discussion we had about winning consumers and how we look at both share and word-of-mouth recommendations or perceptions....On an internal perspective we look at how efficiently we are using the resources...."

:31:04:
In your current role, what are your top challenges and top opportunities?
"....Challenges:....We are always challenged by competitors....Picking what features we are going to build, campaigns we are going to run, where are you going invest your time – it comes down to people time more than anything else....Opportunities:....I feel pretty excited about the Hotmail product - from a feature and capability perspective, we have a lot of work and opportunity to go and improve our brand perception....On Messenger and video....it's a space that's very nascent – it's exploding and growing very rapidly but it's still very early....SkyDrive I'd say something very similar....It is made for amazing opportunities and I'm looking forward to how far we can push that because we are not close to that vision today...."

:33:46:
Amongst all the current projects that you're working on is there some lesson you can share from one or more of those projects?
"....The biggest thing we have learned (me specifically) is what I put as focus...."

:36:06:
What specific technologies should business and IT executives be embracing today and in two years?
"....Hotmail is now connected to Facebook so this means my marketing exec who sits in one of my departments now has access to Facebook while he's at work, and does that make me feel uneasy because now he can chat with his friends and socialize and goof off during the day. The core thing is that if someone wants to goof off during work they are going to find ways to goof off so trying to put up a bunch of artificial walls isn't really going to accomplish the right things in a long term....On the enterprise side I talked about SkyDrive and about putting your files up in the clouds and having anywhere access to them....I think this is going to be between the people who manage IT departments and IT infrastructure as well as people who provide the software who need to do good work making it clear what is your personal data and what is your corporate data...."

:39:16:
What are your top leadership tips from you background and experience?
"....Everyone has to be willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in and do work....Particularly for leaders, that notion of focus is critical....Focus on great people which is everything from always recruiting (looking for great talent) and fostering that great talent (helping both acquire as well as move people on)...."

:41:02:
In a more broader sense can you make predictions for the future, their implications, and how we can best prepare?
"....I think people who are in the tech sphere and talk and write about tech think that this [the cloud] is further along than it actually is, and I think that the average person thinks that it's further behind than where it is. I think over the next five years there's going to be a huge push because companies will figure out the scenarios that will make it so much better to have your stuff in the clouds...."

:43:35:
What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
"....When I think about the IT industry and the level of personal data and files and other types of information about people, and their personal assets that move through our infrastructure that sits in people's servers and devices that our industry has involvement with, I think that's critical. When you think about what are the right industry practices, security, privacy policy, I think it's a critical part of our industry and we're a bit behind some of these others, but I expect that is something that we will catch up...."

:44:37:
We covered a lot of topic areas, but I've probably missed some questions. If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"...You've actually covered a pretty broad swath about our products, where they are going, where they've been and there really isn't anything else that comes to mind. Windows Live has come a long way and I talk about Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive and all in very different stages in their evolution and I'm very excited and very bullish about where they are going...."