When I was at Microsoft, I always found Sanjay Parthasarathy to be a bright and passionate leader. While he was a bit disconnected at times with what was really going on out in the trenches, I always thought he was true believer in what we in Developer Platform and Evangelism (DPE) were doing. He got it. He had started DPE and kicked a lot of doors down up in Redmond to make it happen. Back in the early 2000s, battles over platform choices at large customers was trench warfare… bayonets and hand grenades at the P-Code level. This model was not at all suited to Microsoft’s org structure at the time. While there were plenty of people fully able to have competitive conversations around Windows Server, or AD, or Exchange, or the desktop, there weren’t many that could have deep technical conversations around Java vs .NET and the platform “stack” as a cohesive, unified unit of value. This task fell to DPE.
Sanjay ended up leaving Microsoft a number of months before me in 2009 and I remember thinking these exact words: “holy shit, SanjayP left Microsoft.” When SanjayP left DPE years before that, Sheila Gulati had stepped into his shoes and I thought we where starting to miss a beat. Sheila had built an amazing business at Microsoft India, but I don’t recall being inspired by her as a leader. SanjayP’s talks felt like the opening scene of “Patton” with George C. Scott pacing in front of the American flag. Sheila was a voice on a con-call. When she moved on in 2007, Walid Abu-Hadba was given the reigns. Personally, I don’t ever recall even seeing his face. I think I might recall hearing his voice on some con-calls, but for all intents and purposes he was invisible to me. Perhaps this was the beginning of my carelessness around seeking “visibility.”
Fast forward to Build 2011. First off, we have no PDC – we have Build. Microsoft had made an 11 year investment by this time in building an organization to make its technology relevant to developers. One would think such an org would be in the driver’s seat of such an event, but we see Windows product group people on the podiums. Watching, I could see the messaging unfold… but no story. It was like the old days. Demos and PowerPoints by team members building the tech, and in many cases VPs. The ensuing confusion is almost legendary now. Windows 8 was, and is, a pretty big deal… but who is telling the story – not just features and benefits, but the story around how it all fits together.
Having been out of Microsoft for two years now, and looking in, I can only conclude that the “DPE of old” has at best been emasculated, and at worst been completely marginalized by internal politics, or perhaps the eternal march of the corporate entropy generator that resides at all large companies. I don’t think this is a good thing for anyone.
And now, back to Sanjay who is the father of Microsoft DPE… I noticed that he has moved back to India and is doing start-up work. His current company Indix looks to be doing some interesting things with “big data” and here’s their stack:
Nary a trace of anything Microsoft. What could account for this? I wonder…. Better availability of labor and expertise in India for this stack? Donno, but even in India, leet R and Hadoop skills have to be hard to find. Technical superiority? This, I sincerely doubt.
This stack, with SanjayP’s name as CEO leaves me with an unsettling feeling. If he did believe, he no longer does. One doesn’t place bets with real money on things they don’t believe in. Perhaps he never did believe, and was a corporate creature seeking to find a niche for himself after which he manipulated me and others. Or perhaps… anger… be it passive aggression or an outright “in your face F*** you” to his former masters.
I guess in the end, only he knows the true reason… But I have my theory...