Microsoft

Leaving Microsoft…

reseting Microsoft PC

Last Friday, September 13th was my last day at Microsoft. Coincidence was that it was Programmers’ Day = 256th day of the year 🙂

It’s been awesome 5 years! I helped to ship the new Azure Portal, turned hackathon project into Microsoft product announced at //build keynote, helped SeeingAI with a few features, and for last two years helped to grow Azure Search. When I joined the team it was a startup. Now, it’s a mature Azure Service. Along with my everyday job I had awesome opportunities to speak at conferences and meetups around the World about my work. During my time at Microsoft I delivered almost 30 technical talks!

Along that journey I met a lot of awesome and inspirational people. Thanks to them my job was my passion. I was very lucky to have awesome bosses. I want to thank Andrew Birck, Ian Carbaugh, Madhur Joshi, Janusz Lembicz and Pablo Castro for everything they did for me. If you end up working for them, consider yourself very lucky!

Special thanks to Steve Sanderson, Scott Hanselman and Scott Guthrie! Their technical talks made me want to join Microsoft, when I was still in college!

Stay tuned for what’s next!


I am joining Cloud AI team to work on Azure Search

Azure Search

It has been over 3 years since I joined the Azure Portal team. During that time I learned a lot about every aspect of web and mobile development. I delivered over 20 technical talks at different conferences around the World and local meetups. It was amazing to take the new Portal from preview to v1. In the meantime, during the //oneweek hackathon, together with a few other folks, we built a prototype of the Azure Mobile App. After getting feedback from Scott Guthrie who said that “it would be super useful” I started working on the app overnight.

I didn’t know much about mobile development at the time, but I wanted to learn. I didn’t know much about complexities of Active Directory authentication and Azure Resource Manager APIs. I just knew that it would be super cool to have an app that would allow me to check the status of my Azure resources while waiting for my lunch. Receiving a push notification, and being able to scale VM from my phone would be also tremendously valuable.

When I started working on the app full time, my dream came true. I could truly connect my passion with work. I enjoyed the long hours, and late nights we all put to make it happen. The day when Scott Hanselman presented the Azure App at the //build conference was on of the best days of my life.

Now, when the Azure App is released, and backed by great team, I can move to the next challenge.

Machine learning is becoming part of every aspect of our lives. Over last few years, ML crossed a threshold necessary to be extremely useful. I always wanted to be part of it. I took a great Coursera class by Andrew Ng, I started overnight project StockEstimator and I got involved in SeeingAI to learn how Real-World Machine Learning looks like.

Now, I’m taking it to the next level. I am joining Azure Search Team to lead their User Experience. I will be responsible for bringing the product to customers. While using my existing web development knowledge, I will have an amazing opportunity to learn more about Big Data, AI and ML.

Azure Search is managed cloud search service that offers scalable full-text search over multiple languages, geo-spatial search, filtering and faceted navigation, type-ahead queries, hit highlighting, and custom analyzers. You can find more details in this talk by Pablo Castro (Azure Search manager and creator of Open Data Protocol).

The cool thing about working for Microsoft is that you may end up working with person who created HTTP protocol. Henrik Frystyk Nielsen, former Tim Berners-Lee’s student, who shared office with Håkon Wium Lie (creator of CSS), joined my new team this month. What’s even cooler, he is sitting next to me 🙂

In my new office with Henrik:

Henrik Frystyk Nielsen and Jacob Jedryszek

If you want to learn more about all the cool stuff we are doing at Cloud AI group there is an awesome .NET Rocks Podcast with Joseph Sirosh. Check it out!

There is also awesome talk by Joseph from the last Connect(); conference, which includes JFK files demo presented by Corom Thompson from my team (creator of How-Old.NET). In that demo Corom showcases how you can use Azure Search and Cognitive Services to explore JFK files. Super cool! You can see demo in below video, and code on github.

It has never been a better time to work on the intersection of Cloud and Artificial Intelligence!


How we saved $1,000,000 for Microsoft with this one, small change

British Cycling Team - 2012 Olympics

Everyday when I am doing some small bug fixes or minor improvements I am thinking about the British Cycling team. They dominated 2012 Olympics thanks to marginal improvements. Such as cleaning hands properly, taking their own pillows when traveling or sleeping in the right position. All of these small things put together resulted in 7 out of 10 track cycling gold medals.

It turns out that the same strategy might work in software development. Especially if you work on large project.

1 million dollar improvement

In Azure Portal we have hundreds of developers working on one codebase. We are using MSBuild to perform builds. With default options, MSBuild was printing out to console a lot of logs that weren’t very useful. When you are building project, you are usually interested in errors. It turned out that changing verbosity of output speed up builds from a few seconds to a few minutes depending on the project that is being built and type of the build (incremental / rebuild all).

Taking into account that there is at least 100 developers working everyday on the Azure Portal (in fact there is much more, but not everybody is working on the Portal full time), and assuming that everybody is performing at least 20 builds per day (savings up to 30 seconds per build), and 4-5 full project builds (savings around 1-2 minutes), every developer can save around 20 minutes everyday!

This gives us:

100 developers x 20 minutes x 240 days working days per year = 480,000 minutes = 8,000 hours

Assuming ~$150/hr  it give us total savings: 8000*$150 = $1,200,000

Incremental changes over years

When I am looking back, I am impressed how much the Azure Portal have changed over last two years. This is portal in 2014:

Azure Portal in 2014

This is portal in 2017:

Azure Portal in 2016

We haven’t done any breakthrough changes overnight. I have never had a feeling that one day resulted in some significant difference. It was 1 step at the time, one small bug fix one day, one tiny part of new feature another day.

Small improvements every day, everywhere…

This applies not only to large scale project. Think about Open Source. Even when you are doing documentation improvements for ASP.NET docs, you can save time for hundreds of developers. You are not saving particular company’s money, but you are saving our (developers) money and what’s even more important, time that can be invested somewhere else.

Another great example of small incremental improvements is John-David Dalton. Creator of lodash. He is contributing code on github every(!) day for a few years now. This is his github contributions chart:

John-David Dalton contributions

No white squares. Some of his daily commits are tiny, some are small. By being consistent every day, over years he was able to create one of the most popular JavaScript library.

What small improvement can you do in your project? Think about it, and remember that best ideas are born when you are away from your computer!


My second year at Microsoft

Jakub Jedryszek - Microsoft badge

It feels like it was yesterday when I published My first year at Microsoft. Time is going fast! This is what usually happen when you have a lot of things to do, and you enjoy it. My second year spent at Microsoft has been great! Full of new experiences, challenges, and lessons learned.

Azure Portal

Azure Portal in 2016

For the past 2 years I’ve been working on the Azure Portal. Last 12 months has been very important for entire Portal team. Since December 2, 2015 the new Azure Portal is no longer in preview, and is now an official management interface for Azure. The Old Portal is still available, but we slowly retire its features, and move them one by one to the new Portal. More, and more people start liking the new, revolutionary UI. We are getting requests to Open Source our UI, so that people can use it to build their own management interfaces. If you are interested in that, vote here.

Over last year I helped to improve Portal reliability, which was our last milestone before becoming the official management portal for Azure. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever worked on, because of the Portal Architecture. We started from 80% reliability in some areas, and our goal was to achieve 99.9%. It was extensive few months of investigation, bug fixing, and optimization. Once we achieved three nines, now we have to stay there. We are getting regressions from time to time, but for most of the time we keep the reliability at the desired level.

Another big area was improving accessibility (keyboard + screen reader support). It was very challenging task because, again, the Azure Portal is nothing like most of web apps. Especially from the design perspective. It’s totally different, non-standard, and has a bunch of features nobody have done before (blades, tiles and journeys). As of today I am amazed how much progress have been done, and what the current state of Portal accessibility is. One thing that amaze me at Microsoft is how the smallest, tiniest, everyday improvements makes a difference in a long run.

Besides reliability and accessibility, I work mostly, on the web controls that are being exposed by our Framework. Partner teams (e.g., Web Apps, Virtual Machines, SQL, etc.) are building Azure features using our Framework and controls. Over last 12 months I created a few controls, added a lot of features to existing ones, fixed a tons of bugs, and made a lot of improvements for date/time controls with help from Matt Johnson (yes, he does not work for our team, but he is one of the best date/time and timezone experts in the World, and it happened that he works for Microsoft so it would be stupid to not ask for his expert advice).

There is also one thing I need to rant about: Safari 9.x (and all earlier versions) does not support Internationalization API (Intl). We are using Intl API for numbers and currency formatting. At the beginning, when we were still in preview, we hoped that Safari will add Intl support soon (in a year or so), but it didn’t happen. We had to use polyfill. Oh…actually I should rant about other issues we had with Safari (like Local Storage does not work in private mode), but you can check caniuse.com or just read an article: Safari is the new IE.

In addition to work on features, I also did a few improvements on our development workflow. From automation scripts, through some helper methods for unit testing, to speeding up local build time by changing MSBuild verbosity (printing to console takes time, in some cases we saved up to 1 minute of build time thanks to this simple trick!).

Speaking, traveling, conferences

NDC London 2016

 

Over the last year I have spoken at a few conferences, Seattle Code Camp, and gave a talk at SeattleJS meetup.

I’ve been speaking mostly about TypeScript, Azure Portal and Aurelia Framework (yes – the last one is totally not related to my day job).

My most recent talk about the Azure Portal architecture received a lot of great feedback. One gentleman told me that it was the best talk of the VSLive Redmond conference, somebody wrote a comment that it was the “Most interesting non-scotthanselman presentation ever”, and one person mentioned it (as “excellent talk”) in Azure Portal user voice (which I found while writing this post and searching for a link to Open Source Portal UI user request for previous section).

Over last year I learned that going to talks at the conferences is the least important thing. The most important is to connect with people from outside of your everyday work environment, share experiences, and networking. The most interesting conversations don’t happen during the presentations, but at the post conference dinner or after party. I really recommend to read chapter 14 of Never Eat Alone before attending a conference!

When I am telling people that I travel around the World to speak at conferences, they think it looks like this:

conferences wolf of wall street

They forgot that most of the time it looks like that:

conferences - travel

Of course there are pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Learning new things (while preparing your talk, and during the conference from others).
  • Meeting new people
  • Visiting places you haven’t been before. On my way to NDC London I paid from my own pocket for flight through Iceland with 34 hours connection flight in Reykjavik. I managed to see the Golden Circle, attend New Year’s Concert at Harpa, and I’ve seen the Northern Lights. I have also seen a little bit of London during the same trip

Cons:

  • You need to work after hours to learn and prepare talk for the conference. You also need to write a good abstract so you talk will be selected. This takes a lot of time!
  • Travelling to conference takes time that you could spend with friends, family, or riding bike. Even if it is domestic flight it takes ~30 mins to get to airport, then ~2 hours on airport, ~2-4h during the flight, ~30 mins to get to the hotel etc. When it is on the other continent then you waste even more time + get jet lag. Oh…and you need to pack day before (~30 mins to 1 hour), and you don’t have your nice 3 monitor setup and comfortable Herman Miller chair for a few days.
  • Sometimes you don’t see anything except airport, aircraft, hotel and conference venue (that was the case when I went to ConnectJS conference in Atlanta and Open Source North in Minneapolis).

Thanks to speaking at conferences, I met a lot of interesting people, and definitely expanded my knowledge. What’s important: I learned the most during one on one conversations in the hallway or at the conferences’ dinners.

In addition to conferences I was a guest at .NET Rocks podcast, where I talked about the Azure Portal. I was also interviewed by David Giard – who I met at Open Source North conference – for his Technology and Friends series. Sara Clayton – who works on Open Source at Microsoft, and who I met at the All Things Open conference – did an interview with me about my Open Source library: voiceCmdr. Jeremy Foster (who I met at SeattleJS meetup) did an interview with me for his CodeChat show (episode coming soon).

Learning

workspace

Over the last year I’ve learned a lot about web development, performance, and accessibility. A lot of things I learned are captured in my last talk about the Azure Portal. I improved my coding skills, debugging skills, and also – mainly thanks to attending conferences – communication skills, which is very important in Software Engineer portfolio.

In my first year review I forgot to mention Microsoft Library, which is one of my favorites benefits at Microsoft. Most books I have read over last 2 years are from MS Library. I reviewed a few of them, and some landed in my favorite books listThe Pragmatic Programmer book said that you should read a technical book every quarter.

Last time, I also didn’t mention that when you are working on something related to Cloud, you have to be on-call once for a while. I am very lucky, because our team is large, and rotation requires everybody to be on-call only 1 week per 6-7 months. I have some friends who are on-call one of every three weeks, or even every other week (sic!). FYI – being on call means:

  • no flexible work schedule
  • no freedom (you need to be able to act on incident right away = you need to be close to your computer and Internet = you don’t go hiking, you don’t go out with friends, you don’t go for a bike ride)
  • I don’t know what can be worse than your phone ringing at 4 am, and some people asking you for help with investigating some problem they cannot solve (hint: these people are not stupid, the problem is hard, your brain usually do not work the best in the middle of the night)

However, there are also a good things in being on-call:

  • you can learn more about the project (when you need to investigate/diagnose something in the area you are not familiar with)
  • you can improve your debugging/investigating/diagnosing skills
  • you can meet new people across the company

The new thing for me, over last 12 months, was conducting interviews. It was very interesting experience. The most important thing I’ve learned was to never skip the coding question. My interview usually contains 3 parts:

  1. chat about candidate previous projects/experience
  2. easy coding question
  3. design question

There will be more details in upcoming blog post, but if you are interviewing people, I really recommend you to check out The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing (version 3.0) by Joel Spolsky.

Staying fit and healthy

Jakub Jedryszek - run

When you are developer, you need to take care of your health. Sitting 10+ hours is not good for you. Sitting is the new smoking. Additionally it turns out that staying fit and healthy makes you better developer.

I bike, I swim, I run, I hike, I take part in bike rides (like 206 miles Seattle to Portland, or 180 miles Seattle to Vancouver), and I compete in triathlons once for a while.

Staying fit and healthy is not only about exercising. It is actually more about your diet:

exercise and diet chart

However, diet-miracle is not a way to go. Last year I tried to count calories I burn and consume throughout the day, and develop a diet I would be able to sustain for a long term. The trick is to realize that it is not worth to eat some things. E.g., this 500 calories cookie is not worth it. I would rather eat two Symphony bars from Hershey’s. Oh…and you need to wait for results couple of months or so.

It’s great that Microsoft cafeterias now provide calorie counts in the food menu. I am not eating these burgers that are 1400 calories, but other ones that have only 700. Together with Microsoft running trails it provides a great fitness bundle.

There are also other aspects you should take into account to stay healthy.

Oh…and I forgot to mention another awesome Microsoft benefit: Pro Club gym – one of the best gyms on the West Coast, and for sure the best in Seattle area. When I did a tour (right after I joined Microsoft 2 years ago), and the guy who was showing me around told me that they can service my car when I work out I was sure he was joking…he wasn’t.

PRO Club

What next?

Stay tuned!


New Go To shortcuts at Azure Portal

A few weeks ago, when pushing towards the new Azure Portal version 1.0 (aka GA at Microsoft), we added new shortcuts that can be activated with G+[key].

We also changed/updated the old shortcuts that you can find in my previous posts: 1, 2.

The full list of shortcuts is available on pressing key:

Azure Portal - keyboard shortcuts

You may notice that we change shortcut for opening dashboard from H to D. However, H will still work. We didn’t want to take it away from people who already learned it, and got used to that. The same with New (formerly Create): the new shortcut N will work together with C.

BTW: If there is some keyboard, or focus related issue on the portal that is bothering you let me know!