Jeff Alexander's Weblog

Technical Evangelist - Windows Infrastructure

Blink and 20 years goes by...

Blink and 20 years goes by...

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20years

Yes believe it or last month marked my 20th anniversary at Microsoft Australia.  Where has all the time gone?  I started at Microsoft Australia on August 26th 1987 not knowing really what this small software company did.  And seeing as I had no computer experience at all I wasn't sure what I was in for.  I mean I was taking a job as an Accounts Payable clerk and my only criteria for choosing Microsoft at the time was I thought they had nicer offices!  So in this post I thought I would share with you a bit of my history with the company and maybe some insight into this company over the last 20 years.

So first off some facts:

Date Started:  Wednesday August 26th 1987
Employee Number: 1575
Microsoft Australia hire # 27
First Job:  Accounts Payable Clerk!  Yes I know my how times have changed!
Worldwide Employees: 1816  These days we have somewhere around 80,000 employees
Major Product launches around this time: 
Windows 286, Excel for Windows.  I remember using Windows 286 and 386 because it was the first time I started to use a PC.  Because in those days we used Macintosh Plus machines.  Here's what mine looked like!

Apple_Mac+_System_1

My Employee Timeline:

Long Zheng has done a post about my 20 years at Microsoft but I thought it was worth noting down here as well.

  • 1987 - 1990 - I started at Microsoft on Wednesday August 26th 1987 as an Accounts Payable Clerk.  I had no experience with computers because I was fresh out of University in America and I did a Business degree so computers was not my thing.  My job consisted of debits and credits and was quite boring so after 2 and half years or so I was looking for something else to do...
    • Company Milestones
      • The world of the CD-ROM is Born!
      • Microsoft unveils a new company logo which is still use today.
      • Microsoft and IBM sign a joint agreement for OS/2 and release version 1.0 of the new operating system.
      • Excel for Windows is released which is our first application designed specifically for Windows.
      • Microsoft releases its first CD-ROM product called Bookshelf, Office for the Macintosh is released, 30 million MS-DOS installations, 1 million Mice are sold and we end the decade with 4,759 employees worldwide.
  • 1990 - 1993 - I moved into a Customer Service role which was technically in our pre-sales marketing team at the time.  This was a telephone job which primarily consisted of pre-sales support and taking upgrade orders over the phone.  On May 22nd 1990 we released Windows 3.0 windows 3.0which ushered in the graphical user interface for PC's.  The Macintosh had a GUI for quite some time but on the PC this was quite an innovation.  For the first time millions of PC users had a graphical user interface which made the PC far easier to use.  It was Microsoft's largest marketing campaign to date and we sold 100,000 copies in the first 2 weeks.  Pretty big for those days!  Of course our phones were hot with people wanting to get their hands on this new technology.  I remember that day very well because the very first call I took on that day was a customer wanting to upgrade to the new Windows.  We worked out that it was the very first worldwide upgrade due to the time zone difference.  At that time New Zealand did not have a call center so mine was the first!  Quite amazing really.  In those days the customer service call center was in house and we took around a 100 calls per day ranging from basic upgrades to features of the products we made which was mostly operating systems and programming languages like C and Cobol.  We had printed brochures of each product that we us to use to answer pre-sales type questions.  After that many calls per day you ended up learning stuff by absorption and talking about it so much.
    • Company Milestones
      • The Windows era opens with the release of Windows 3.0 in 1990
      • Six million Mice, 49 million MS-DOS installations and by 1991 4 million units of Windows 3.0 have been shipped to 24 countries and 12 languages
      • At Comdex in 1990 Bill Gates unveils his vision for the future of computing dubbed "Information at your Fingertips".  I still have a copy of this book!
      • In 1991 Microsoft ships MS-DOS 5.0, Works for Windows, Excel 3.0 for vbcoverWindows and pioneers a new software category for rapid visual application development called "Visual Basic".
      • By 1993 Microsoft ships Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT and Intel ships the Pentium processor boasting a 32-Bit architecture and "screaming performance".  Worldwide computer installations hit 150 million worldwide, Windows installations hit 25 million; making it the worlds most popular OS and Microsoft has over 14000 employees worldwide.
  • 1993 - 1996 - By this time customer service and 100 calls per day are starting to take its toll on me so it was time to look around for a new role.  The good thing about the early days was the tremendous opportunity to try new things.  By this stage my interest was starting to lean more towards technical so I decided to take up a role in our Product Support Services.  I went into the Office Business Unit supporting all versions of Word and Excel which included the DOS and Windows versions and the Macintosh.  This was a huge learning curve for me but tremendous fun at the same time.  New employees to the support team had to support MS-DOS 5.0 for 3 months before going on to support Word or Excel.  The reason?  We had to know the underlying operating system that Windows and applications sat on top of.  Particularly in Word for DOS and Windows because of how much they relied on printing.  This was scary because I knew nothing about the OS but I managed to survive with a lot of help from some very smart geeks at the time.  Some are still with Microsoft and others have moved on to other things but I'm sure they still have the inner geek still in them..In my role as a support analyst we took around 30 calls a day which in some ways was more intense than customer service because the length of each call was longer and more intense.  My most vivid memories are of troubleshooting mail merges over the phone; Macros and printing mailing labels!  These things were not easy in those days and caused our customers quite a bit of frustration.
  • In late 1994 I changed jobs again and went to work in our internal IT department as a Helpdesk analyst.  This is really where my technical career took off and I never really looked back.  If you are thinking of a career in IT then a Helpdesk job is a great way to start.  When I started in this team there were only 3 of us providing desktop support to the entire company in Australia.  We kind of used to run around solving all kinds of problems.  In those days we ran Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on all windows95box_smallmachines with a LAN Manager back-end.  I think in those days we still used a Xenix mail system with a Windows Mail client on the front-end.  At this stage the big new product; Windows 95 had not been released yet.  Which brings us to 1995 when we launched Windows 95 on August 25th.  At the time this was the biggest launch in our history and in my opinion changed computing forever.  During the beta phase of the product Windows 95 was called by it's codename of "Chicago" and I remember the boys in product support downloading new builds of it every single day!  In April 1995 I had been in Microsoft IT for about 6 months and we embarked on one of our first dogfood projects of deploying the M8 Build of Windows 95 to all staff in the company.  At this time this was a pretty big project as we hadn't run the operating system on too many of the PC's we had in the building.  To get Windows 95 to work I remember having to create very custom CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files in order to get it to work.  Because remember Windows 95 still relied on MS-DOS as it's underlying operating system; even though it was more tightly integrated than Windows 3.x before it.  This was an exciting time in the companies history and one that I'm glad I was a part of.
    • Company Milestones
      • In 1994 a copy of Word for Windows 6.0 is sold every 4 seconds totaling 2 million copies in the first 6 months.
      • In 1994Microsoft introduces Backoffice which is an integrated system for corporate network environments.
      • In 1995 Windows 95 is released and Microsoft marks it's 20th anniversary with a month long of celebrations.
      • Bill Gates authors his first book titled "The Road Ahead" which you can still buy an updated version on Amazon.
      • This is also the time the world goes online.  In the years between 1994 and 1999 World Wide Web users increases from 3 million to 196 million and Bill Gates announces Microsoft's commitment to brace and extend the Internet into all of it's products.  In 1996 MSN goes live, Windows CE is launched for portable devices and employee worldwide headcount sits at 20,561.
  • 1997-2000 - In late 1996 it was time for me to make another change as I had been in our internal IT for about 3 years.  I took up a position at this time in our NSW Sales team as a Systems' Engineer.  My focus was Windows NT 4.0, SMS and later Windows 2000 when it released.  This new role was a big change for me as it was the first time I was in a role that required me to present in front of customers.office97  It was around this time that we released an updated version of our Office product called Microsoft Office 97.  The Office concept first appeared on the Macintosh in 1989 with Windows versions following in 1990.  The concept was first conceived at Microsoft Australia which is a fact most people are not aware of.  It came out of an idea to bundle common programs like Word and Excel together because most customers always ordered them together.  So we started in Australia to bundle them together to save on shipping costs.  The very first versions of Office we shipped in Australia simply had a bit of cardboard windows98around the individual boxes with Office written on the outside.  It's amazing how some ideas come about!  We also released Windows 98 which was the next version of the Windows OS for desktops.  By the end of the century we would release Windows 98 Second Edition which included Internet Explorer 5.0 and a new driver model called WDM.
  • Towards the end of the century we also announced the next version of our Windows NT operating system:  Windows 2000

w2kprow2kserverw2kserveradv

  • In October 1999 our internal IT department embarks on one of the largest deployments of a server operating system in history.  This is a huge change because its the first large scale deployment of Active Directory.  We had a mission to be fully deployed prior to the operating system being released.  It was huge project because Active Directory was so different to the domain structure we had deployed with Windows NT 4.0.  I remember watching a video of the IT guys in Redmond promoting the first Windows 2000 Domain Controller inside Microsoft.  They brought in the guy that wrote the DCPROMO tool to watch the first DC being brought online which was pretty cool.  When it was all said and done we deployed Windows 2000 internally at Microsoft before it was released in early 2000.  We collapsed some 200 resource domains worldwide and dramatically simplified our infrastructure as a result.  It was quite a project and one I was glad to be a part of.
    • Company Milestones
      • In 1998 we release Windows 98 in 40 countries and 12 languages and SQL Server 7.0 launches at Comdex receiving a "Best in Show" award.office 2000
      • In 1999 Office 2000 is released unleashing the web work style.
      • In 1999 Microsoft releases a new vision statement:  "Empower people through great software anytime, anywhere and on any device".
      • The end of the century see's the number of worldwide PC's top 460 Million and Microsoft's worldwide employee headcount reach 31,575.
  • 2001 - 2004 - By 2001 it was time for me to make yet another change and head back to our own internal IT department as Datacentre manager for Australia and New Zealand.  Around this time we had srver03finished our deployment of Windows 2000 and soon we would be getting ready for another new product:  Windows Server 2003.windowsme  In late 2000 early 2001 Windows Millennium Edition came out for home users and marked the last edition of Windows that would rely on MS-DOS as it's underlying operation system.  Thank god for that because it was not a huge success! smile_regular  It was a nice box I guess but really marked an end of any era that started with Windows 95.  As far as my work guys I was working on a number of projects in the areas of backups, server consolidation and a major upgrade to Windows Server 2003.  Through my contribution to the deployment of Windows Server 2003 inside Microsoft I got a Ship-It award which recognizes people who have made a significant contribution to shipping a Microsoft product.  We began deploying the beta of Windows Server 2003 in late 2002 and believe it or not I never had to rebuild a server during that time.  I upgraded from beta after beta and then to RTM and it all went very smoothly.
    • Company Milestones
      • 3 major releases happen in 2001.  Windows XP, Office XP and of xpcourse XBOX.  I would have mention our release of .NET in 2000 but hey this is an IT Pro talking here! Theseofficexp 3 releases were in my opinion extremely important for the company and really our biggest releases to date.  I remember the launch of Windows XP in Sydney with Rove McManus as host.  It was a huge event!
      • In 2003 Windows Server 2003 is released and is the largest software office 2003development project to date.  In the same year we also release the new 2003 version of the Microsoft Office System.
      • Microsoft announces Windows Mobile, a new global brand for the OS that will power mobile devices such as Pocket PC's and Smartphones.
      • By 2004 we have survived many court cases and released a bunch of new products.  Too many to mention here..
  • 2004 to now - So this brings me to when I started in my current role with the company:  an IT Pro Evangelist.  By 2004 I had reduced our servers in Sydney from around 80 or so down to 30 which for me meant it was time to move on.  I had done such a good job with consolidating that they didn't need me in the role anymore.  Oh well that's the way it goes.  In July of 2004 I was at the company kick-off and happen to have a conversation with Michael about a new role he had taken in Frank's team in DPE.  I was like DPE?  What do they do?  He had just started in the role and said it was really cool.  Kind of like what I used to do when I was a TS except more broad outreach and community focused.  I thought it sounded good so I went and had a chat to Frank about it.  Well Frank was ecstatic to say the least.  He said I was an IT Pro and would be perfect for the role but we had to go through the formal interview process all the same.  So I ended up having 5 interviews for the role which is funny given my tenure at the company.  It's all good because it really brings out your suitability to a particular role.  Of course I was successful and I'm still loving the role 3 years later.  It's kind of like playing with toys and telling people about it!  Anyway it's a lot of fun and hard work as well but I love it.  The most fun for me has been my involvement with Windows Vista.  I beta tested Vista for over 12 months and installed build after build after build on countless pieces of hardware.vista skus
    I presented to many many people over that twelve months on a range of topics including security, deployment and reliability..So now we are doing the same thing with Windows Server 2008 leading up to the launch next year..This is the life of an Evangelist at Microsoft...

So some final thoughts on this post.  This is a long post I know and one I have been writing on and off for days.  But I thought 20 years was significant enough to warrant a story about my journey with Microsoft.  To me it's been a great ride and a great time in the companies history to have done 20 years.  I mean we have had some of the most groundbreaking products the computer industry has seen and I think we have changed the face of computing forever.  I'm proud to have been apart of this and will continue to be a part of it as long as I'm having fun and feel I'm making a difference.  I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me and my unique perspective of the last 20 years at Microsoft..

Here's to the next 20!

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Cheers, Jeffa

Comments
  • Dude, what an amazing journey.

    It's been a please to have been around you in my brief time @ MS.

    Congrats on such an amazing milestone.

    -mk

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