Viraj Doshi & Seb Greaves - App Development Q&A

v and sWhat are your positions within the company? (Viraj and Seb)

V: I’m a Technical Account Manager for EPG accounts in Services UK.

S: I’m a Software Development Engineer in Test for IEB’s Games Test Organisation Europe.

What made you want to come to Microsoft? (Viraj and Seb)

V: I’ve always been really passionate about technology and with Microsoft being one of the leading corporate companies in this field that really strives for technology innovation, this really attracted me to apply. As I am studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering, working at Microsoft complements my degree and offers tangible skills that I can then use to further my education.There are so many things to get involved with and it’s an exciting place to be!

S: I’m a tech geek through and through; naturally coming to Microsoft was an awesome opportunity for me! The chance to develop software for one of the leading software companies in the world was something that really excited me, I’ve been able to not only develop software used regularly by my department, but also had chance to do other really neat side projects, like the app I’ve been developing with Viraj.

At what point did you start thinking about developing an app? (Viraj)

V: Being an intern at Microsoft this year I have noticed there is a need to drive and develop three elements:

  1. Application Development- with the launch of Windows 8 and the App store.
  2. Personal Development and Networking- embedded in Microsoft’s DNA and business culture.
  3. Learning and maximising your time at Microsoft as an intern- achieving what you want to achieve and networking with the right people to help make the most out of your time at Microsoft.

What does your app do? (Viraj and Seb)

ssMyTrax– is a Win8 app developed by Seb Greaves and myself (in our spare time) that tracks personal development and stakeholder mapping within Microsoft from a learning and development standpoint. As an intern you want to set the foundations very early on with your mentor and manager. With MyTrax you can create a PDP (Personal Development Plan), review and reflect what you have learned from your meetings and track your network with who you are meeting through stakeholder mapping. By connecting to Onenote and by creating a standardised template for meetings, it has streamlined how to take notes and actions for a 1:1 with people within the business- and being at Microsoft you want to take advantage of that. It has that modern UX look, uses tiles, flow screen and live tile features adhering to the Windows 8 themes. Everything you need to maximise your journey at Microsoft!

Did the idea come to you or did you have to find it? (Viraj)

V: Haha- it came to me I guess. There was no system in place for interns to closely track their year and it was something which add great value to the intern experience.

What kind of support did you get from Microsoft with the app, both in term of concept and building (Viraj and Seb)

V: Lots and lots! After discussing my idea with my Direct ManagersI received their sponsorship and green light go ahead to take this on as my personal project alongside my day job as a TAM. When I was initially putting the idea together I spoke to many stakeholders and other mangers within the services business. When it came to alpha testing and getting advice, my inter-team buddy was there to help me and get feedback from the MACHs *and ways to improve the app. When we finally had something tangible to portray to people within the business with the beta version, the Future Forum Team approached us and help kickstart and incubate the project through marketing, promotion and guidance to make sure we achieved what we needed to. To make sure the app was hitting on the key competencies, the University Staffing team made sure the app adhered to the personal development needs and how it can be integrated with mid-year check in’s and mentor program. As this an app, DPE have been helping us improve the functionality, technical needs and distribution of MyTraxas well as the UX design with different iterations to make sure it looks great. There is always a plethora of resources available Microsoft and people are really enthusiastic to help. Last but not least -without *Seb, none of this would be possible and I am very fortunate to be working together with him on this project!

S: Viraj has been really great at finding people to help us out, pretty much everyone above has fed into the project and given suggestions which I’ve used to improve the app, which was really appreciated! We’ve also got advice from various folks on which APIs we can use for various tasks on Windows 8. Finally, I can’t count the number of times I found excellent tips from the two most useful places on the web, MSDN blogs and StackOverflow.

ss2*How long did it take you to build the app? (Viraj and Seb)*

V: Seb and I been working together for on and off for about 6months depending on our respective workloads, but I guess if you total up the hours spent it would be under 40 hours.

S: As Viraj said we’ve been working on this part time for about half a year. Most of my contribution has involved me coding in my room over weekends. I tend to spend about 4 or 5 hours each weekend (give or take) working on whatever functionality Viraj has identified as required. It can take a while to do some of these things, particularly since I’ve had to get used to working in the new Windows 8 ecosystem! Nevertheless it’s been fun to learn about the new approaches that Windows 8 takes and I really like how easy it is to develop really rich user experiences for the new OS once you get the ball rolling.

What was the hardest part of the process? (Viraj and Seb)

V: Probably the back end coding and debugging right Seb?

S: Yeah I think you’re probably right, there’s been some long afternoons trying to get stuff working on this, but I’m really pleased with the way the app has shaped up. For me one of the hardest parts has been taking Viraj’s UI designs and turning them into a reality, I tend to be more of a command line guy, so getting to produce an application where look and feel was just as important as the behind-the-scenes functionality has been a very welcome challenge.

What are your future plans for the app? (Viraj and Seb)

V: The FY14 Interns and MACHS will have access to the app to help them with their personal development needs and building their internal network when they join Microsoft this year. We have gained lots of internal traction for the app from DPE, HR and Future Forum. We are looking to put together a team next year to help make it even better through additional features, greater customisation, open the targeted user to the UK Sub and even a Windows 8 mobile version is in the works. This team will be put together my Future Forum and HR as a 101 team made up of interns who can then make the app reach even greater heights. We have also been in talks where HR leads are interested in making it available worldwide! Quite exciting.

S: Viraj summed that up pretty well! It’s been great to see the enthusiasm for this app from the guys at Future Forum and throughout the business in general. I’m looking forward to seeing what our successors can do with the tool, to help with this I’m planning a handover of the codebase – should be pretty easy since everything is available via TFS online, I’ll also be producing a guide to help the new developer(s) ramp up on how to program the app quickly and painlessly!

How does this app fit into your future career aspirations? (Viraj and Seb)

V: As an engineer I am always looking for ways to make life easier! In today’s world and with technology being so heavily involved in our lives, applications are the forefront of how we make life easier and that is something with I would like to be part of. So- yes J

S: I’m a Computing Science undergrad, so any experience I can get with development is a big plus for me. As I mentioned earlier, outside of this project I’ve never really done much in the way of rich UI development, everything has always been quite bare bones, so getting to grips with what makes a good UI good will no doubt come in handy in future!

How have you found your time at Microsoft? (Viraj and Seb)

V: Whats not to love?! Great business experience from dealing with corporate customers to data crunching for better business intelligence -there is so much I have learned and skills I have built this year and can put into practise. Not to mention the wonderful Microsoft culture and being part of one of the biggest companies in the world. It’s been a brilliant opportunity!

S: It’s been great. Working in the Games Test Org has been fantastic, I’ve been involved some really interesting software development, and doing that development to help ship awesome experiences for the Xbox just made it all the more exciting! I’ve learned loads while I’ve been here and I’m going to miss it a lot!

What advice would you give to aspiring interns at Microsoft? (Viraj and Seb)

V: Show your passion for technology, read up on your competencies and when you’re though the Microsoft door -download MyTrax to help you on your intern journey at Microsoft! :P

S: Get involved in projects like this! It’s been really interesting, I’ve learned a great deal and, along with other projects, it’s really expanded the range of tasks I’d be comfortable taking on in future! Don’t be afraid to take on tough challenges!

Eager to read more?