Applying the Beginner Mindset in Major Job Transitions – Steven Murawski Part 3

Welcome to episode 107 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 have the third and final part of our conversation with Steven Murawski, where we discuss how Steven applied his expert beginner skills in major job transitions.

Original Recording Date: 11-17-2020

Topics – Applying the Beginner Mindset in Major Job Transitions

2:41 – Progressing from Stack Overflow to Chef to Microsoft

  • After being at Stack Overflow for 2 years and spending 6 months working on infrastructure as code with PowerShell Desired State Configuration (one of the first to have done this), he did a number of talks that allowed him to meet people outside of the Windows community.
    • He seemed to keep bumping into people from Chef, and they were curious about what Steven was doing. Stack Overflow was a Puppet shop, but they didn’t seem to care much about Windows.
    • Eventually the folks at Chef suggested Steven come work with them.
  • He had left Edgenet for Stack Overflow because it was Stack Overflow. To be one of the Windows Engineers helping run one of the most popular Windows communities on the planet was really exciting (think 6 million page views per day).
    • All the admins at Stack Overflow knew at least one scripting language and one compiled language. They built tools to help manage the environment better.
  • The opportunity at Chef came from a lot of time spent on configuration management (including speaking internationally).
    • He was offered a role as Technical Community Manager. They wanted him to come onboard and talk about PowerShell and testing, etc.
    • He openly admitted throughout the interview process that he knew nothing about Chef. They hired him to talk about PowerShell. Many of the concepts he knew were required to have a successful configuration management experience.
  • After 5 months, Chef re-organized. Steven then became a developer on the community engineering team responsible for helping shepherd open source projects, new contributions, and being a good open source citizen.
    • He had used some source control back at the police department which continued at his other employers (but in different forms).
    • His knowledge of PowerShell translated well to learning Ruby.
    • He was reading a lot of books and trying a lot of things (failing at times too). But the improvement came quickly because he was not starting from zero knowledge of programming.
    • This was really getting into the product development space. While he was an expert in many other areas, he did not have strong knowledge in Ruby, debugging, design patterns, and a number of other things.
    • There were a number of colleagues that helped him learn while they were able to leverage his experience with Windows.
  • Steven still gave talks, maintained customer connections through work with Pre-Sales Engineers, and did a lot of outbound communication.
    • He then met Donovan Brown, who at the time was a Technical Sales Professional at Microsoft.
    • Microsoft was planning a product integration with Chef, and Steven worked with Donovan to build a demo that was later presented at an internal Microsoft conference.
    • Months later Donovan contacted Steven about being on a DevOps focused Advocacy team at Microsoft.
  • Leaving both Stack Overflow and Chef were opportunities for Steven to take his advocacy to the next level.
    • He went from configuration management as a side project to it becoming his full time focus to talking about DevOps, SRE, and all the things that could make someone’s IT experience better as his day job.
    • This was all about increasing the scope of contribution and scope of impact.
      • The clarity of this goal came while Steven was at Stack Overflow and evaluating the opportunity at Chef.
      • This context helped him make the decision about the role at Microsoft.
  • At Chef, he had just finished work on Habitat and had spent a year developing in Rust as well as Ruby. The opportunity to go to Microsoft seemed to come at a perfect transition point.
    • If timing was not flexible and he had been in the middle of a deliverable, he may not have made the move, or that would at least have made the decision harder.
    • The purpose matched what Steven felt was important to making a change in job.
    • Steven had opportunity to look at different roles at Microsoft in the past but never took one. This would be the largest company he had ever joined (which made him a little nervous).
      • Listen to Steven’s take on organization size, visibility into other organizations, and communication efficiencies and tools.
      • He was not sure that the flexibility he enjoyed at smaller organizations would follow a move to Microsoft.
      • There were some fan boy feelings about the people he would work with at Microsoft (i.e. Jeffrey Snover).
      • Steven told himself if it did not work out at Microsoft, he would be ok. He was active in the community and had built a good network of people who knew his skill level and quality of work.
      • This existed because of the time Steven spent building it over the years.

24:27 – Progression after Joining Microsoft

  • Steven has been with Microsoft for about 3 years now, starting as a Senior Cloud Advocate.
    • This year he was promoted to Principal (which is a band jump). This takes time because you need people higher in the organization to advocate for you.
  • Opportunity at Microsoft is what you make of it.
    • Most organizations within are like a bunch of small shops. There might be a product team with 10-15 engineers and a Product Manager. Think of these as small, composed units.
    • For example, after Steven’s first year they created a Developer Advocacy program.
      • There was a division between MSDN and TechNet. At the time, Steven used documentation from both areas.
      • This was fixed with docs.microsoft.com. In today’s world, having the two repositories did not make sense. Putting all the technical documentation in one spot made a ton of sense.
        • Whatever your role was, all of the documentation existed in one place.
        • A similar approach was taken with advocacy groups (i.e. all Developer Advocates, for example, were in a group to service the entirety of the community / customer base).
      • Steven got to help build the plan and shape the program for Operations Advocacy.
    • Steven speaks to a re-organization shortly after the Operations Advocacy program was formed. These programs were originally separated by community areas.
      • The re-organization was separated based on audiences / types of customers (a bit more cross functional). There was another re-organization about 5 months later.
      • The skills they hired people for were relevant across areas.
    • Steven is now a part of an organization called Methods and Practices. This includes DevOps, SRE, Enterprise Systems and Tools, and Modern Infrastructure.
      • The broader team focus is helping customers adopt new operational practices through tools and online resources (documentation, videos, Microsoft Learn) without necessarily needing to reach out to someone at Microsoft.
  • Deciding what is next is something Steven wrestles with.
    • There are a number of immediate challenges in his current role, for example, that will create great sources for new content.
    • He has worked with his manager on key objectives and results and refining them for the team so they match the mission for the team, the organization as a whole, and the organizations above that.
      • The team recently took over the Azure DevOps blog and helps shepherd other content from inside Microsoft.
      • This was done in service of ensuring content was dispersed correctly and properly to the greater community.
    • There are a number of good opportunities internally and externally sitting right in front of Steven.
      • He has a number of things on his plate that will keep him busy for a while, but overall he is not sure.
      • Steven thinks an Engineering role sounds interesting and has an interest in getting back to shipping some software or maybe running a service.
    • We would love to come back and dig into some of these nuggets Steven has shared!
    • Steven would love to learn more about our stories because that is how he learns.
      • John mentioned some of our previous check-in episodes.
      • Maybe we can add a navel gazing tag to our past episodes.
    • You can connect with Steven on LinkedIn or reach out to him on Twitter if you would like to follow up!

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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