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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

Sorry folks... only 1 interview this week. I've been busier than Gil Gerard at a one hour buffet. Our guest this week is my very good friend Jason Olson. Jason works for Microsoft now, but I knew him when... although that's a story for another day.  Here are my NINE Questions with Jason Olson.

image 1. Where are you from?
Now, Kirkland, WA (just outside of Seattle). As a child I was from McMinnville, OR (which had the adoring nickname of McHickville). And no, I'm not a hick.

2. Ok so we know you work for Microsoft, but what do you do? What is your "product"?
Believe it or not, my honest-to-goodness job title is "Technical Evangelist". I love it  . And it's exactly like it sounds like. I get paid to go out and preach "The Good Word" of Microsoft technologies. Even with that though, we tend to call it "how it is". Currently, I evangelize a technology known in the greater developer world as "Visual Studio". More specifically, Visual Studio "10" and .NET Framework 4.0. 

3. How did you end up at Microsoft?
I actually ended up at Microsoft "out of the blue" really. While I knew I wanted to work for Microsoft eventually, I was very happy with the job I was at and was not looking at leaving for another job at all. Then my life changed when I got a call from a Microsoft recruiter asking if I wanted to interview for a position on this team in the "Developer and Platform Evangelism" division at Microsoft.

The recruiter had seen me in their database as I had interviewed previously for a position at Microsoft and didn't get in (I was definitely not a match for that first job). So..... 5 days later, I had flown up, interviewed with a bunch of people, and was back at home when I got a call from the recruiter extending me an offer. What a whirlwind! From "I didn't want a new job" to "relocating to Seattle to work for Microsoft" within a week.

#4 you're a pretty versatile guy, blogging about your interests in music, game development and of course your awesome "day job." What's something the world doesn't know about Jason Olson?
Well, besides being a music lover, I'm actually a jazz musician myself (piano). I've had the tremendous pleasure of playing with greats like Jeff Hamilton, Kevin Mahogany, and this coming August, I'll be playing a gig with John Pizzarelli. I'm also a published composer/arrange with Sound Music Publications and am the current piano player for the Seattle Jazz Singers.

Oh, and I can't forget the incomparable Louise Rose in that list as well.

5. You were at TechEd this year. I know you've been there before (in fact it's how we met) but this time you were there as a blue shirt. How is that different from your past experience?
It was interesting, to say the least. The biggest difference I noticed is that I have a window into "how the sausage is made" now. It's incredible the number of resources that have to come together to run a conference like that. As a blue-shirt on the floor at Tech Ed, I like to think it was "more of the same" as I really go to Tech Ed for the networking. I love talking to other geeks to see what they like or don't like. I guess there's a certain amount of "respect" that happens when wearing around the blue shirt, but I don't usually think of that as I like the conversations just as much as if I was a non-blue-shirt.

6. This was also the first year TechEd used the new split format. What do you think of that (be honest) and how it affected the overall reach and networking potential of TechEd?
I felt "torn" about it. I loved the fact that I was surrounded by developers. I felt there were many more high-fidelity conversations I had than happened in the past. And the increase in developer-related content was awesome. But, many times (as much as I hate to say it), it felt like both conferences (developer week and IT week) were put together with the same budget as a one-week event. So I felt the "quality experience" was not nearly as there as it had been in years past.

7. I followed a lot of folks on Twitter during TechEd, and it seems like the way to go when out of town. I know you've been using it lately, so what's your take on Twitter?
I find Twitter to be very interesting at times. I definitely can't live without it while at big events and conferences. When Twitter is down while at these conferences, I always feel disconnected and not "in the know" about social events that are happening (you know, that feeling you get when you want to use your computer and internet but you just lost power because of some storm  ). Outside of events/conferences, I find myself not using twitter nearly as much. I tend to be a long-winded guy though, so I prefer in-depth blog posts when I write rather than spurting thoughts on Twitter.

It's definitely nice staying up to date on all my "virtual friends" that I know from these events (like continuing to give D'Arcy a hard time about no Chipotle in Canada (suckers)).

8. So, what advice, if any, do you have for people who want to eventually put on the blue shirt? Is there a Microsoft Type, regardless of technological preference?

I don't think there is a "Microsoft Type" per se. Sure, you have to be a very passionate person who is in it more than for "just the paycheck", but I think that describes many of us who are active blog readers, tech learners, conference goers, etc. The key advice I have is "never give up." Microsoft has a very rigorous interview process that can result in a lot of "false negatives" and good people who may have been good for the role get turned down. Don't let that get in the way. I know people here who are some of the smartest developers we have that took 6+ tries to get into the company. It's all about finding "the perfect fit." So keep your head held high, and continuing doing what your doing.

9. last question... any tattoos?
No tattoos yet. I'm not sure if I'll ever get inked. Though I do have to admit you look bad-ass.

Posted on Friday, July 18, 2008 12:24 PM General Interest , NINE Questions | Back to top


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