A Career Journey Through the Microsoft Ecosystem with Steven Murawski, Part 1

Welcome to episode 105 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we talk to Steven Murawski’s career journey through the Microsoft ecosystem.

Original Recording Date: 11-17-2020

Topics – Steven Murawski of Microsoft

02:32 – Meet Steven Murawski

  • Steven is a Principal Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. The Cloud Advocate team’s mission is to help people out in the community be successful with Azure – regardless of tooling, company size, or person’s role.
  • Steven focuses more on DevOps type tasks with Microsoft.
    • His background is split between development and operations and tries to bridge between the product teams at Microsoft and the greater community. This enables him to give feedback and be a voice of community members to influence products.
    • This is not confined to Azure DevOps specifically. It’s anything Azure and anything in the DevOps space related to it.
    • We’re talking about anything involved in going from business idea to business value from initial story and product ideas throughout the process.
  • Steven’s journey into IT set him up well to journey into DevOps. This (IT) is his 3rd career. That previous experience set him up well to do what he does today.
    • This involves working with folks in Marketing, Product Management, and other areas.
    • If we don’t all work together, our organization will not be as successful and functional as it could be.

08:01 – Steven’s Journey

  • He owned a garden center / flower shop for 8 years and then went back to school to become a police officer.
    • At the police department Steven worked as a clerk, a dispatcher, an auxiliary officer, and his boss eventually found out he knew something about computers.
    • When he was a business owner, it was mainly Quickbooks and Excel. At the police department he was able to dip his toe into a number of different areas.
    • DevOps wasn’t something super popular in the 2005 – 2006 time frame.
    • Ultimately Steven’s goal was to become a police officer. He worked as a clerk at the police department and other jobs while going to school.
    • Steven talked about seeing the flow of paperwork through courts, observing prisoner transports and exchanges with other police departments, and he was able to see the flow of work through the entire organization.
      • All of this business process flow observation and knowledge made him so much more effective when transitioning to work as an IT person for the police department.
      • Some of the knowledge and the idea of learning how technology enables the business transferred easily to other roles.
      • Steven mentions reading The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt, which made all of this "click."
      • There’s another audiobook called Beyond The Goal in which Goldratt talks about organizations adopting technology to diminish some limitation, but they rarely go back to evaluate the business process that exists to deal with that limitation.
  • Steven mentions the police department adopting a computer aided dispatch and record management and having to analyze every single process (why they were doing it, whether the software allowed them to change it, if they needed new software capabilities, etc.).
    • This is the missing key we get in DevOps. If we don’t change processes adopted to deal with the fact that the technology did not exist previously, we cannot realize the true benefits that DevOps / scripting / whatever capability we’re trying to adopt.
  • At the public safety software company where Steven later worked, his title (Director of Research and Development) did not indicate all of his responsibilities.
    • Steven did Pre-Sales, Post-Sales, training, etc. He spoke both geek and cop and was able to do translating.
    • He helped customers analyze processes to see what could be improved.
    • As he would do this, he got a real appreciation of the role of a Pre-Sales Engineer.
    • Even as he went on into other roles at Chef and Microsoft, he really enjoyed being a part of these conversations to see how the end state changed. Many times companies were not realizing the value / outcomes that other organizations were talking about.
    • This gave him a very good appreciation of what customers were going through and ways to provide better direction.
  • Listen to Steven’s story about when he was at Chef but had someone call him regarding PowerShell Desired State Configuration for advice.
    • He was able to speak frankly about what someone would learn from going down the PowerShell route, when they would run into challenges, and how it would set them up to adopt other tools.
    • If Steven had not been through analyzing changes in organizations with technology adoption, he would not have earned as much credibility in the next discussions.
  • Steven worked for a data services company (Edgenet) because they had the ability to implement and work with cool stuff because it was cool.
    • If there was a pre-production build from Microsoft, they were running it in production well before the release dates and working with Microsoft to test and give feedback on it.
    • In this case, there was not an immediate tie back to business capabilities. He was, however, able to work with people in a number of different departments. This allowed him to build strong relationships and get IT Operations into the conversation much sooner.
      • He started by attending developer meetings (in listen only mode first) and eventually began talking to the developers about some of the platforms and capabilities they (IT) had.
      • Opening the dialogue enabled developers to be more collaborative. They pointed fingers less after this experience.
    • Steven’s desire to be in the developer meetings were fairly well received. He knew a number of them from the .NET user community.

26:06 – A Late Start and The Need to Catch Up

  • Steven realized he had many years to catch up on when he got into IT (starting around the age of 30).
  • He read everything he could. For example, one of his favorite books was The Practice of Systems and Network Administration by Tom Limoncelli.
    • Interestingly enough, Steven got to work with Tom and recruited him to Stack Overflow.
  • Steven was also listening to a number of podcasts. He pointed out one of the first podcasts he came across on Systems Administration.
  • He also looked for local user groups to join. There happened to be .NET User Group, a LOPSA (League of Professional Systems Administrators) Chapter, and not much else.
  • Being into PowerShell, Steven enjoyed the .NET User Group. He would often learn new things and eventually started doing talks at these groups.
  • In entering the IT field late, Steven wanted to do something to distinguish himself from others in the field. Giving presentations seems to be a willingness many people do not have.
    • Steven leaned on previous experience in drama to help him get over the fear of public speaking.
    • Steven observed that many people believe they do not know enough about a topic to give a presentation to peers. This leads to impostor syndrome.
      • Steven references a book by Scott Adams – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. In the book there is the idea of talent stacks.
      • Steven was technically competent, relatively well-known in communities, and a willingness to try new things. He never really had a fear of change. It was always "go learn this or that" because he felt he was behind. No knowledge was off the table with so many things to learn out there.
  • Steven built a base that allowed distinguishing him from others. He was able to transition from the role at the public safety software company to his Systems Administration role at Edgenet (a senior role that allowed him to work on a series of different projects).
    • He wasn’t afraid to just jump in and learn new things because he felt had to in order to catch up.

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