I've finally caught up with the trend and am today officially posting my first weblog. All I can say is "It's about time..." which sounds faintly reminiscent of what my mother-in-law said when I proposed to her daughter. There may be some interesting analogies between the blogging trend and marriage that I reserve the right to exploit later in this post.
First, the Formalities
The focus of this blog will inherit from my role and mission here at Microsoft, leading a team of technical and solution specialists who focus on the Education vertical: "Empower people to realize their social and economic potential by enabling access to quality education experiences for all through technology." As lofty as a goal as that may seem, I'm going to assume, at least for the time being, that every little point of light will help the cause.
We call this team of specialists that I manage, by the way, the Education Specialist Team Unit, or STU for short. Every sales district and subsidiary at Microsoft has one, both in the US and internationally, and the specialists therein typically focus on or have unique training and expertise in one of Microsoft's many product areas - groupings we call "workloads". Our team goal, then, is to provide pre-sales engineering support to the account teams that directly manage our customer relationships, in their pursuit of IT solutions. Sometimes that support is virtual, via phone, email, blogging, podcasting and Live Meeting, but you'll frequently see us navigating the concourses, rail terminals and highways across the US to support customer opportunities in person.
Personally, I've been managing such resources at Microsoft, for US Education, for 5 years; and prior to that I was a Systems Engineer supporting Education and State & Local Government customers in the northern California area for 5 years. Beyond some early coding, training and project management work in my career, the bulk of my adult life has been spent in some pre-sales engineering or consulting capacity which most people recognize as an interesting skills mix of technology expertise and value translation.
Next, the Realities
Having worked in several verticals over the 20 years of my professional career (chemical manufacturing, high tech, public sector, defense contracting), Education customers provide an interesting mix of challenge and reward. While you could argue that education customers are technology laggards (especially when it comes to some of the desktop machines that are still in use), the opposite could just as easily be proved by observing the trends in mobility, wireless, social networking and high performance computing, for example. Regardless of your take, I personally enjoy both the challenges and rewards of daily interaction with education customers, attempting to address and solve their technology and process issues. Microsoft is a company with extensive resources and innovation to address many, but not all, of the said issues, and we usually have the wisdom to admit when we don't.
We are all ultimately products of our upbringing and education (genes and pre-dispositions notwithstanding) and with 3 school-age children of my own, I thrive on the opportunity to apply my work to life, and my life to work - it's not every job that allows you that luxury. As most Education Team members will tell you, however, it is getting increasing difficult to disconnect one from the other in this age of always on and connected. Will that make the future of teaching, learning, technology (and living) different than it is today? I have a premise and some ideas, but you'll have to tune in next time to read what they are. Until then - it's all about edU.