MJFChat: New Microsoft learning tools and resources for developers
We’re doing a twice-monthly interview show on Petri.com that is dedicated to covering topics of interest to our tech-professional audience. We have branded this show “MJFChat.”
In my role as Petri’s Community Magnate, I will be interviewing a variety of IT-savvy technology folks. Some of these will be Petri contributors; some will be tech-company employees; some will be IT pros. We will be tackling various subject areas in the form of 30-minute audio interviews. I will be asking the questions, the bulk of which we’re hoping will come from you, our Petri.com community of readers.
We will ask for questions a week ahead of each chat. Readers can submit questions via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and/or LinkedIn using the #AskMJF hashtag. Once the interviews are completed, we will post the audio and associated transcript in the forums for readers to digest at their leisure. (By the way, did you know MJFChats are now available in podcast form? Go here for MJF Chat on Spotify; here for Apple Podcasts on iTunes; and here for Google Play.)
Our next MJFChat, scheduled for May 29, is all about Microsoft’s learning tools and resources for developers. My special guest is Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Developer Relations Jeff Sandquist. We want you to submit your best questions for Jeff ahead of our chat.
Jeff has been leading Microsoft’s charge to move developer relations online. He oversees the creation of Microsoft’s technical online content on Azure.com, docs.microsoft.com and Microsoft.com/Learn, plus the recently announced Learn TV programming. He also runs the engineering team that builds and operates the infrastructure powering Microsoft’s online content, as well as its developer advocacy team. He’s ready to field any and all questions about this content and developer advocacy topics in general.
If you know someone you’d like to see interviewed on the MJFChat show, including yourself, send me a note at [email protected] (Let me know why you think this person would be an awesome guest and what topics you’d like to see covered.) We’ll take things from there….
Mary Jo Foley (00:01):
Hi, you’re listening to the Petri.com MJF Chat Show. I am Mary Jo Foley, AKA your Petri.com community magnate. And I am here to interview tech industry experts about various topics that you, our readers and listeners want to know about. Today’s MJF Chat is going to be all about Microsoft’s learning tools and resources for developers. And my special guest today is someone I have known for decades. Literally. His name is Jeff Sandquist. He is the Microsoft CVP for Developer Relations. And thank you so much for joining me today, Jeff, especially given it’s just a week after Build 2020.
Jeff Sandquist (00:46):
Thank you for having me, Mary Jo. I appreciate it. Wow. Decades. You make me sound old, which I am, but
Mary Jo Foley (00:52):
I’m older so that’s okay.
Jeff Sandquist (00:55):
Thank you for having me, this is a privilege. Thank you so much.
Mary Jo Foley (00:58):
No, thanks. So, I have a million questions for you just because in the past few years you’ve been really changing up how developer relations works at Microsoft. So I know a big part of that focus is moving developer relations more online. So what does that mean exactly? And why did Microsoft decide to do that?
Jeff Sandquist (01:22):
Really, you know, I think about this, you know, you think, about Microsoft and the shift and really, the whole move to the cloud. And I think, you know, you and I have worked and connect with community and so forth. And I think the thing about Microsoft, let’s just jump all the way back. What’s our founding moment? Our founding moment is so awesome. I love working here because it’s not retail, it’s not found in search social networking. It’s founded in developers building tools for developers, Bill and Paul. They were building basic for the Altair. And what is the thing that they did immediately following that, they took what they built and went off to show some fellow nerds something cool at an event, right? The full group computing club that they went and took that stuff to. And that’s really what it’s all about.
Jeff Sandquist (02:11):
And you think about our company and as we move to the cloud, what is, you know, with Azure and that is course .NET Windows love that we built more on .NET within my team and the company, anyone, it’s all developers. So we can go from node to .NET to you name it. And so this didn’t start, we know, this really started about how do we get great docs. We really started with docs.microsoft.com and really said, Hey, guess what we’ve done a developer outreach, evangelism, all of that. But if you cannot get somebody from five minutes to wow in a very great way to get started, why would you go up on stage and tell somebody how to do something? And so docs.microsoft.com really was kind of a start for this, three years ago, I guess next week. That we launched that. And that was about making sure that we have phenomenal up to date and accurate getting started materials.
Jeff Sandquist (03:10):
That’s easy to find. We have our content around 17 different websites. And you know, we started building that and we honestly built that on top of GitHub. In the very earliest days, we were starting to kind of build it out and I said to the team, they were like, what CMS should we use? And I said, you know, everybody I’ve ever met that’s frankly a lot smarter than me too, who tried to build a CMS was either fired or failed. Let’s not do that. So we made this decision to build on GitHub. And so now that was three years ago, and if you look today, 72 million monthly active users come to docs.microsoft.com and it is this one solution for our company to be able to publish, but it’s done on GitHub so that both community and Microsoft can easily UpToDate. I know you asked on dev-rel. It’s so important because there’s been a Renaissance of technical documentation that goes top and around our company that we started there.
Mary Jo Foley (04:17):
You know what’s funny, I remember when you guys started this because I was talking to Rick Claus. And he had just joined the advocacy team and I said to him, what are you going to be working on? And he said documentation. And I was like, what? Like I couldn’t wrap my head around it. And then I was thinking even as a journalist, I use docs.microsoft.com constantly, right? Like I feel like I live in that site because I’m always looking for information about products I’m writing about and things I don’t understand and want to learn more about. And I’m like, yeah. Now I get why that’s such a big deal and why that’s like a foundational starting point when you’re trying to reach developers and just the technical community in general.
Jeff Sandquist (04:58):
Everything starts to create content, right? You know, you live with this, right? And content is, very broad sense of the term, right? Content is a session at an event. Content is a video, a YouTube video. It’s a doc, right? It’s a tweet, right? Everything starts with great content and that is like an ethos of our team, right? Then we say, let’s go where developers are, right? And right now developers are online. So that’s where we’re going to go. But we are, as we built our advocacy program, it’s an engineering discipline. We established a new discipline, kind of get into the weeds at Microsoft called Developer Advocate. Now it was an industry term and our advocates really do about three things, some great online content. They work, they connect with the community, they are all engineers. So they’re in our overall Azure group, the cloud and AI group under Scott Guthrie, the team really focuses on product feedback as well. But the work around this online outreach and really our advocacy work is really about going where developers are in a community. And so, you know, I’ve worked in Developer Relations or MSDN or Visual Studio or one area of developers my entire career at Microsoft. I started answering the phone, Mary Jo, I was literally, honestly I was a temp in a cube answering the phone at Microsoft for the developer hotline. That’s where I started at Microsoft.
Mary Jo Foley (06:26):
Jeff Sandquist (06:30):
And so we started this with like, how can you help? But you know, if you look at developer relations in our company, we often organize by our products, right? We’d organize about, Hey, here’s you know, the Visual Studio outreach team or an area around Windows and our advocates, we really are organized around a community. So Hey, who are the people that focus on .NET or the node community or Kubernetes or security or AI and that’s how they do the work. And so we say, Hey, start with great content. We hired a lot of people. Some people, the first time they used Azure was the first or second day at Microsoft. They knew AWS, they knew GCP the Google cloud product, but they were really about that community. And so they work on behalf of the community. They work on behalf of Microsoft to get that connection.
Jeff Sandquist (07:19):
And that was a really important area of our work. And frankly, a lot of times we’d like say hire somebody from the Java community. They spent much of the early time around the docs. Then we tailor the outreach to that community and it’s everything on the docs to begin with. Like, Hey, let’s not color code Python the same as C#. Let’s not also, you know, we gotta make sure we invest in .NET the right way in that community. And that if you look at our online outreach with those kinds of things with docs going where our customers are, then we try and bring them back and bring them inside to Microsoft. And you know, I worked on things like Channel 9 and when we built that out, that was really about connecting people to Microsoft. And when you meet the people, the engineers on the other side of the keyboard, it’s about making that connection to them in a way that’s authentic.
Jeff Sandquist (08:07):
Hey, we have bugs in our software or Hey, this is why we did that. And really bringing that into the kind of communication of what we do. And that is really, you know, if you look at where we are today, you know, you think about, you know, Build is a great event last week, right? Just so proud to be a part of that Mary Jo, we wrote the whole event in about eight weeks is how we kind of built it out. But that, there the ability to do that event. I was so proud because you know, I don’t know what other companies could be able to do that in a way that it was, like it felt Microsoft to me. Like what I love to see at Microsoft, which is our people. Right? And that, The ability to do that and have our presenters, you know, kind of streaming out of their homes and being open that way.
Jeff Sandquist (08:52):
That starts with things of Channel 9 and the early days of blogging, it starts with our work around .NET and Open Source and that event was, we were hungry as well too, to be there because we wanted to connect with our community. And that’s really, you know, I think all of those things come together to make sure that Build was great. And like tutored 30,000 registrations. We had these like, you know, tens of thousands of people register them throughout the event and they didn’t have to. And like 173 minutes. I’m like, you know, reading some stats that I put together, but like 173 minutes. Oh yeah. You know, when we went to plan that event, what was kind of fun about it or kind of crazy was like we started with the MVP Summit, moved that virtual. Found out a few days later, oh all our presenters are going to be remote. But 95% of the presenters for Build were remote as well.
Mary Jo Foley (09:47):
Hmm. Wow. Do you think this is the new precedent and the new way forward for an event like Build? Like do you think virtual, you guys showcased how it can be done? So from now on it’s virtual or do you think there’s still a reason to have like a combination of a live and a virtual event when it comes to something like Build?
Jeff Sandquist (10:05):
I think there’s still a reason to have a live event in person. Community is and has always been important. Right? And our events, you know, the sessions are great and the content are great, but it’s about getting people together. You know, even when, you know, I think about the beginning of the call, we’re thinking about you go to events too. We, you know, we were at them working, then we get together. Sometimes we have a beer in the lobby of the hotel and we all work on these together. And community matters more today than it ever has. The in-person aspects of events has to come back at a certain point in time when it’s safe to do so. But I think it gets better. And I, you know, okay, look, I’m a glass is half full person and right now we’re going through this unprecedented times, right?
Jeff Sandquist (10:50):
And two years of event evolution easily in eight weeks. Sometimes it feels like four or five years.
Mary Jo Foley (10:57):
Jeff Sandquist (10:57):
It really does. And, but what I think what happens with the events, there’s a lot of stuff that we do at events that maybe we can do throughout the year, right? There’s training, there’s different sessions and breakouts. Why wait til an event to go tell something? We have the, you know, we have different ways through social media and video. You know, we have Learn TV that we’ve talked about and a bit of what we’re doing there is a way to connect people in a live way, in a way that people can go find all of our people that are streaming and on videos. We have Microsoft Learn that’s hands on, which really is our hands on labs infrastructure now for our events. We should do things throughout the year.
Jeff Sandquist (11:38):
And then our events, of course there’ll be sessions and breakouts, you know, when it’s for us to do that. But I think it becomes, it just becomes a lot more interesting because we can get a lot of things out of the way throughout the year. But Mary Jo, we got to have a beer again one of these days with Paul and Brad. You guys are a community and you put these on too. And when it’s, you know, right now, you know, we go where developers are. Right now developers are online and that’s where we are. But when it’s safe to do so, we gotta be there in person too. I just think it, I think they’re going to be a lot more fun. I really do. And it’s just going to be a really great celebration when we get back.
Mary Jo Foley (12:14):
I agree with that. Yep. Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about Learn and Learn TV. Because I remember when you guys announced Microsoft Learn it was at Ignite in 2018, so two years ago basically. And then at Build this year you have Learn TV. So you have learn.com and then you had Learn TV. So what are these meant to be? And the reason I’m asking it like that is you have Channel 9, you’ve got LinkedIn Learning at Microsoft, you’ve got a lot of different ways people can learn through video and video content. So what were you thinking when you came up with these other properties?
Jeff Sandquist (12:52):
You know, I think it goes back to what you kind of said, right? There’s a Renaissance at Microsoft around technical content really authentic communication that is by developers for developers. And so, you know, I’ll be really transparent Mary Jo, and I’m sure you saw this, our assets, MSDN, TechNet, right? All of those have not been invested in the way that frankly we should have as a company.
Mary Jo Foley (13:21):
Jeff Sandquist (13:22):
They were not. Right?
Mary Jo Foley (13:23):
Jeff Sandquist (13:23):
And so, the first thing, when I came back to the company, I literally ran user education and technical writing and localization. Those were the first two groups that we got and that was under Scott. And the whole thing was how do we have great content? We, you know, as we went to really work that and that was making it so that we didn’t just have .NET Windows, it was Python, Java, like you know, the marketing word is We’re the loud for all or even the cloud for all, we’ve got to be the docs for all.
Jeff Sandquist (13:53):
And that was really step one. Then you start looking at the overall infrastructure we had. We had MSDN and TechNet, but frankly, you know, we had taken our documentation in and it was on MSDN and TechNet, but frankly it was on azure.com and about 17 different sites. And the infrastructure in MSDN and TechNet weren’t there. And so we said, look, we’ve got to go. This is one of those rare times where guess what, we better build this from the ground up and we made a decision, we’re not going to have IT Pro ops docs that are on one site and dev docs on the other ones. Frankly we were duplicating them. This is, you know, I mean the term of marketing lots of friends that are like digital transformation. Our infrastructure for MSDN and TechNet was not what it needed to be.
Jeff Sandquist (14:42):
And so the vision behind this is by developers, for developers built on GitHub. We built all of docs on GitHub long before an acquisition was, I’m sure what you thought of, that was how we’re going to build around our community with contribution. And so first and foremost, in a lot of ways this is building the new MSDN and TechNet. This is an online service, so to speak. That is a property that we run, but that we go all the way out to the edge of community where developers are, so that we have our, you know, we have docs and we get people to that, right? And then we go out and connect to the community. And so the overall vision here is let’s not have bifurcate our audience and make people have to understand how to do it. It’s just docs, right?
Jeff Sandquist (15:28):
It’s two in the morning and a developer has a problem or inspiration strikes. They don’t go to our marketing pages. They go to a search engine, they go to Google, they go to Bing, they start typing in terms, and we have to show up in those results with quality content that goes to five minutes to wow. And that became our focus. How do we build a quality experience? We went out to stripe.com we went up to Twilio, we looked at our docs, we looked at data and we saw that 98% of the people Mary Jo that visit MSDN and TechNet. 99%, they do not go to the homepage. They go to the library. So we’ve got maniacal about developer experience and docs and it was the team that could, and so you know, the team that could was, we actually started with Enterprise Mobility suite.
Jeff Sandquist (16:19):
It was like I went and begged Brad and Michael Wallen and said, please can I please be your doc site? Really? Okay. I said, look, I just need to start with something. And we had about 10,000 kind of pages of content when we started. And then we hustled. We went and said the document team, please let us be your doc site. We want to do this, really? And then we kind of worked around and now all of our docs are there. But that vision I’m going to get to Learn here, but it all starts with that, which was how do you get great content by engineers? Microsoft Learn, right, is something that really started with those days. In fact, if you look up the URL’s it’s microsoft.com/learn but it’s all built on docs.microsoft.com and Microsoft Learn was similar to how we work with docs.
Jeff Sandquist (17:09):
How do we make it easy to learn? How do we make it easy to learn? How do we teach the world to learn our cloud and all of our technical products. And we had a very different approach for it. You know, there are all sorts of great sites, from Pluralsight to, you know, around the planet that are leaned back and watch a couple of hours content. I don’t know about you, how do you keep up, right? How do you kind of keep up with your skills? And so Microsoft Learn was from the ground up, micro based content. You want to do 10 minutes here, great. There’s 10 minutes of content to unlock a learning path and it’s free and it’s interactive. And I don’t know if you’ve gone through it, but like what was kind of a breakthrough for it that I don’t think anybody’s doing right now was one, you don’t need an Azure subscription to get started.
Jeff Sandquist (17:55):
You can go and deploy a VM and it’s hands on. People outside of our community, may be familiar with TryRuby, think of it as TryRuby for the cloud and all of our products. And the whole idea around it was, and I’d say, you know, the thing that we’re trying to do is, let’s do one thing. Let’s do one thing and do it well. Let’s not do one thing and have 17 other groups at Microsoft who go do it, right. Let’s go and do one thing and work as a company. And so this skilling and training and access to everything. And so what I, and what I mean by that is, think about it this way, the way we build our skilling and learning content as a company, we start with something called a job task analysis. It’s called a JTA. I didn’t know the term two years ago, but it’s how you think about certifications and we said, you know what?
Jeff Sandquist (18:41):
What are the modern roles? Developer, ops, admin, data scientist and let’s go work with a set of industry folks and across Microsoft and do an analysis on it about what are the job tasks, what do you need to do to succeed? And by starting with that baseline, all of our content and everything starts with great content really kind of becomes one thing. Now, a customer or developer and you’d expect it that way. It’s from Microsoft. We should be one thing, but it’s kind of beautiful how it comes into it. So we had a thing called Ignite the Tour, right? Ignite the Tour was across all of our areas, we were running an event, roughly 6,000 people minimum. Every two or three weeks at these Ignite the Tour events that we were showing up for a free event. All of the fundamentals content were drived from that JTA, that job task analysis, all of our Microsoft Learn content, the digital experience for you to go learn hands on are driven from that JTA.
Jeff Sandquist (19:40):
Now some people want to do in person training, not so much right now, but through our training partners, all of our training partners for the fundamentals content, whether it shows up as an in person’s or a Kumon training center or an in person training that we deliver into the enterprise where we show up at a company and do that. All of that now is all in sync to those JTAs, all in sync with Microsoft Learn so that you want to do hands on. And actually in a lot of this training when we do it and we do it delivered virtually now. First thing you do is create an account on Microsoft Learn. And it’s about how do you have it, make it easy. How do you make it free so that if somebody’s learning, you know, say Hadoop, like let’s not destroy your subscription and your budget by somebody making a mistake and spinning up a Hadoop, that’s a subscription that Jeff Sandquist and team own and run on behalf of Microsoft and that you get to go use.
Jeff Sandquist (20:36):
And it’s a very different approach because it’s around these learning paths. And so if you go through and you spend your time when you work all the way through the Azure developer learning path, because it’s all connected, you can actually go and get certified and you’ll pass if you, you know, assuming you learn the knowledge, you go through the knowledge checks, you do the hands on work, you’ll be able to pass that certification and say that you’re a certified Azure developer based on it. Because it’s all in sync. You’ll be able to you know, show that and in a very meaningful way show that you have those skills. And so we’re really kind of trying to bring that into one thing and it’s a type of set of learning and we’re really trying to go experiment with it. And so that was the launch of Microsoft Learn.
Jeff Sandquist (21:22):
And it’s crazy. Like this is again the team that could, right. I remember when we showed Satya, the Microsoft Learn for the very first time and we wanted to get to the demo. It was just this wonderful thing where he was able to see and so impressed about like, Hey, this is interactive. It’s hands on. Anybody can start and do this and it’s gamified. You unlock these achievements as you do it and you’re building, you know, as you kind of do points and it’s really fun and it’s became like, it’s robust, right? Like since we launched like, we have 3.9 million registered learners on Learn platform. By the way in April, you know, monthly active users, 272% year over year. And this now is Azure all the way to Microsoft 365. And it’s free and step by step, but this whole connection, right?
Jeff Sandquist (22:20):
If you think about what’s happening out in the world, right? As people are upleveling their skills or how to keep tracking their organizations like you know, trying to kind of keep them, develop their people, never have, you had to have a time where people have to go learn in a way. And I think that this is going to be really helpful for people, you know, as they’re trying to say, wait, I’ve got these skills. How do we validate them? That’s all through Microsoft Learn. And it’s like there’s I think 225 learning paths out there. There’s a thousand modules, there’s 35 certifications that are available for, you know, the industry roles and Microsoft Learn. You think about, I talked about, we’re gonna build the service for developers, right? And this is really about docs and now it’s Microsoft Learn. We are a Q and A platform, right?
Jeff Sandquist (23:10):
We have, whenever we go to Stack Overflow, our engineers are there, but we need a modern Q and A platform because our forums on MSDN and TechNet, 15 years old, right? And we get this, like this is a privilege Mary Jo like for us to get to go work on this. Like who gets to go work on things like you know, that are going to be lasting time. But that’s a digital transformation is what’s going on here. And you see this, right? You see where it’s bits and pieces coming together and that transformation is, we’re living it here, right? Like MSDN and TechNet, 300 on prem servers when we started this. That I had, there was bare metal that I was like, how are we ever going to get this to the cloud? We’ve built code galleries. That’s what’s happening here. I went a little long, I care about the space so much.
Jeff Sandquist (23:57):
But the context here is we want to build something that’s awesome for the community to get to, to get help, get the answers they need, connect with one another. But we don’t want to just do it on things that we run. Cause our developers, our out in communities. We want to do it in a way that gets to them.
Mary Jo Foley (24:17):
So how does Learn TV fit in with that?
Jeff Sandquist (24:20):
So super early start and maybe it’s a Learn TV, it probably feels a little bit like college radio right now or maybe even a little bit of public access TV. You know, live from our channel and studios. So, you know, the people you know and love are helping us put together there. And there’s a few things that we wanted to do there. And I’d say one, it’s if you think about, you know, it’s really about live and on-demand programming.
Jeff Sandquist (24:50):
And while we’re all online right now, you think about how do people kind of go online to kind of share and tell stories. We as a team, we want to go where developers are. So we’re on Twitch, we’re on YouTube TV, we’ve got podcasts, we want to show up, we want to be great guests and help, you know, people that have podcasts like yourself to show up there. But boy, you know, when you have all these different streamers around and frankly, we just trained I dont know, a few hundred people at Build that Microsoft employees, to deliver great things online. What’s one place where you can go and just lean back and help us kind of curate a set of programming and so with Learn TV it’s really what we wanted it to be is a place that you can go to. And we have a little bit of fun with it.
Jeff Sandquist (25:34):
We have kind of, if you actually watch it. It’s TV but we have interstitials. We have station identification and Learn TV as a place that you don’t have to think. It’s something that we think is interesting that you’d want to watch. It’s on demand as well as live programming and Q and A and much like, Hey, you could go to Spotify or the music service that you want to pick your song. Some days or things you curate. Sometimes I just want to go to Pandora and have somebody pick for me and Learn TV is a way, Hey, it’s a discoverable place that we’re going to be running programming through and we wanted to kind of do it as a new channel. We, you’ll see you got stuff on there, like Azure Fridays and things like that. We produce through Channel 9, but we kind of want to try it in a format this way.
Jeff Sandquist (26:19):
Much like TV we’ll break in and when there’s a major event going in, we’ll break in and we’ll run that kind of virtual event through Learn TV. We’ll have fun. We’re going to try small little five minute bits of nuggets and content. And that’s really relaying that foundation there. And we have a number of different places that we run video, but we’re trying to learn about literally what’s the right thing to go do here and how can we make it easier for customers to find it. You know, you look, you know more out there on Twitch, but you look, you’ve got lots of people that might be their username slash man2349 or there’s Brian Clark on our team that’s out there. How do you make it easy to find stuff and kind of create a place for people to tune into it? We did it in around Learn for a bunch of things.
Jeff Sandquist (27:04):
It was a nice place to kind of seed it in. So it’s in an area that we’re developing and we’re investing. I’ve got an engineering team that is building all of these online experiences like, this is part of our business. So we wanted to put it there so that we could, you know, as people are online and how do we kind of bring in something where maybe we don’t have to spend the time explaining, Hey, here’s how you deploy a virtual machine on Linux for node. We have a learning path for that. So can we make it where we answer questions and bring people through on it. It’s a start and that’s, you know, that’s how we’re doing it. Did that answer the question?
Mary Jo Foley (27:41):
It does. What’s the overlap or difference between where you think Learn TV is going to go and Channel 9 is going to go?
Jeff Sandquist (27:50):
You talked about one of my favorite children. Challenge Mary Jo. I will just, first I’ll just say like Channel 9 literally changed my life and was, you know, prior to Channel 9 and maybe newer people to our community, you know, this, but part of Channel 9, Microsoft, it was those early days of blogging. But prior to all of that, that was going on there, we didn’t connect with our customer developers like we do today. Right. A lot of our, if we wanted to connect us often through a PR agency to you. And there was this real shift that went underway that we, kind of glad we didn’t know what was going to go happen because it, it changed all of our lives and it was about, it really started with, Hey, channeling started with, you know what, we came back from PDC and we said imagine if we could do an event like this every day of the week.
Jeff Sandquist (28:47):
Like I think I was pretty new in the company. I was like, man, my review would write itself. My performance review would write itself like I could just because it was about like you meet somebody at our company and it would be on an airplane. I don’t know how many times you are at an event and it’s like, wait, you’re just a nerd like me. Like this is way back the Don Box, the Chris Anderson days. And the movement for me back then was about Chris Anderson explaining to a customer at PDC that he had sump pump problems just like this other person was saying and flooding their basement and the person said wait, you’re just like me. Look we build software, I work for the largest software company in the world and people are surprised we’re like them. But there was this moment where people got to see the people behind our products and Channel 9 in that very beginning, really, we didn’t even know weeks ahead of what our content would be.
Jeff Sandquist (29:38):
And it was Bill Hylton. It was him doin this video where there’s only one space after period. It was him talking about how the most important OS of all time in this video. And it was Charles Torrey, Robert Scoble that did these first videos. And I remember watching them and seeing Bill Hylton, Hey, the most important OS was not Windows, not the Macintosh. It’s homoapiens and there hasn’t been a reboot in over a billion years. And that’s who you’re building your software to. And I was like, how do we get these people to the people that you know, like 0.00 some percent of our customers will ever make it to a major event. How do we get them to meet people? How do we get it so it’s easy for our people just to show up and connect and Channel 9 that story, Channel 9 was the inflight audio to American airlines or sorry United airlines and that’s listening to that cockpit and giving context, right?
Jeff Sandquist (30:37):
Like, Hey, the pilot doesn’t just zoom off to the right, Hey, I’m getting a little bit of turbulence. When, if you’re afraid of flying, you hear him, that calmness should go away. We’re not all going to die here and we’re going to be okay. They’re not freaking out in the cockpit because this turbulence, well, as a developer, right, that’s no different, if we just cut a feature and don’t give context, well that’s just the airplane flying off to the right.
Mary Jo Foley (31:01):
Jeff Sandquist (31:01):
People put their livelihoods on us, this is how I think about my job. And as leading develop relations is people put their livelihoods on us, they come into their boss on Monday and say, I’m going to build this on Azure. I’m going to build this on .NET, I’m going to use Power Apps to go build this.
Jeff Sandquist (31:19):
They make training decisions and career decisions and that’s a responsibility. And so Channel 9 was about giving insights and learning into that and that really became something super special. And so if I think of Learn TV, you know, much like we didn’t know Channel 9 back then, what it would become. It is driven like Golnaz who you know, Golnaz is working on Learn. Phoebe Seth is working on Learn TV. We wanted to kind of create a new outlet that is founded in those roots. It doesn’t replace Channel 9, but it’s really a way that we’re bringing live and it’s a bit of a frame for us to point to, right? We’re moving a lot of work online for our team, how can we have it in a way that is really done so on this kind of overall property. But no, when we do Learn TV, there’ll be episodic content.
Jeff Sandquist (32:12):
Sometimes what we’re going to do is work, and we’ve done this already in some of our episodes is Brian Clark is on Twitch. He’s streaming there to an audience that he has and he’s on my team as a cloud advocate, great following, he’s fun. But he’s also sometimes when he’s doing that, he goes, Hey, I’m on Learn TV today and this is the way that people, who may not know who he is can do that. We found this in really early days of Channel 9 that developers would tune in, they’d minimize the video and they would just listen. And used that to kind of program their day. And so we hope with learn TV that will run what was some of our episodic shows, like Azure Fridays. We’ll do it live. We can bring on guests, we’ll do things like Q and A and take people through learning paths.
Jeff Sandquist (32:57):
Right and help them kind of get certified. Right? And do that. That’s the vision around it,
Mary Jo Foley (33:05):
Jeff Sandquist (33:05):
And it’s the same group of folks around it. And again, we’re going just like anybody who’s out there, we’re pivoting. There’s a digital transformation, so to speak, that I have legacy systems. I don’t think of Channel 9 as legacy. I was thinking of like library and doc, but I’ve got legacy systems that I can’t just move everything in one month. I’ve also got to go kind of ship things and then we’ve got to learn from the community. Wait, do we want our docs like this. Do you want a three column layout? Do we want this? I want to look at it on GitHub. That’s all that’s coming to get here. And what we find Mary Jo is that such a large amount of the customers don’t go to the main homepage.
Mary Jo Foley (33:43):
Jeff Sandquist (33:44):
They go to the docs page, they go to the Learn page, they get to it through Twitter. We’re trying to make sure that we have those assets and I would love to have it so it’s like, exactly, here’s where it’s all coming together. We know that for docs and Learn, but some of this has to be shaped with the community. I’m really excited about Learn TV. Like I’d say I think my teams says to me talk about something else besides Learn TV, Jeff.
Jeff Sandquist (34:10):
I’m excited about it.
Mary Jo Foley (34:11):
That’s good, I’m excited to see what it comes out to be, I mean, who knew what Channel 9 was going to be when that started. I remember the first few episodes I saw of it and I’m like, what are they doing? You know, so yeah.
Jeff Sandquist (34:24):
I don’t think we knew either. Man. That was a special time.
Mary Jo Foley (34:29):
It was, it was.
Jeff Sandquist (34:30):
There’s this moment and I’d say, you know, I’m an engineer. That’s what my background is. And I built software at Microsoft and we run these services and I think at different times in my career where I felt like I was part of something special that I’ll remember forever. Channel 9 of course was part of that and you can just feel it. We couldn’t go to bed. We didn’t want to go to bed. You stayed up for hours and we stayed up nonstop because people just kept on connecting.
Jeff Sandquist (35:00):
Some people thought it would last a week or two and it wouldn’t continue on, but it was this, one of many moments. We’re connected to community. Last week was like that too. Last week, Build felt this way. I think we all needed to get together in one way, shape or form. But last week felt like one of those moments we also, same thing, couldn’t go to bed, right? Like we were at Build, we had, Seth and our team doing kind of like breaks in between the sessions and I feel like we’re part of those moments and when I saw Seth or Donna or Brian Clark or so many people on my team, I think it’s such a part of the show. I’d say I was really proud, but I felt like I was in this moment where, I don’t know if this will make sense to you, but I think if you, we’ve been talking about Channel 9 and those days we have this whole cast of characters at Microsoft that are fun.
Jeff Sandquist (35:54):
Like, I love them. Hopefully our customers too, but I love them and I love how they show up as themselves. They’re authentic. You get to know that. I sort of felt like last week it was almost like there’s a new season of Saturday Night Live starting, Mary Jo. You start bringing on these characters and oh my gosh Mary Jo, it’s like the good season of Saturday Night Live with Steve Martin and here we are and that’s how Build felt for us. Like we want to go out and talk for our community and it felt like something special is happening. We did not want the show to end. And Learn TV we said, wait, how can we do this in a way that we can stay connected and it’s not 24 hours of programming but you know what? Watch as time goes on or my team’s across 25 cities around the world and we’ll do it.
Mary Jo Foley (36:45):
Great. Well I am going to have to end this sadly, it’s so much good conversation and good stuff about community, but all good things come to an end and so does the MJF Chat. But thank you Jeff for coming on and talking about all these things. I feel like I’m going along the reminiscence path with you cause I’ve been there through a lot of this stuff too with you. So yeah. Thanks.
Jeff Sandquist (37:07):
Thank you. You’re more part of our community too Mary Jo. We miss seeing you at events,
Mary Jo Foley (37:12):
Jeff Sandquist (37:12):
And when it’s safe to do so, we’ll be there. Thank you for all that you do to curate for our community, synthesize and kind of bring what we’re doing and bring context to it.
Mary Jo Foley (37:25):
Jeff Sandquist (37:25):
I hope you stay safe and healthy. Thank you.
Mary Jo Foley (37:26):
Thanks Jeff. And for everyone else listening right now to the podcast, all you MJF Chat readers and listeners, I’ll be posting more information soon on Petri about who my next guest is going to be. Once you see that you can submit questions directly on Twitter for that guest. In the meantime, if you know of anyone else or even yourself who might make a good guest for one of these chats, please do not hesitate to drop me a note. All my contact information is available on Petri.com. Thank you.
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