Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., recently held an
exclusive interview with world-renowned technology authority, Ilya Bukshteyn, Director,
Product Management, Windows Server System, Microsoft Corp.
Q: With your thoroughly busy schedule, we
are fortunate to have you with us sharing your views. Thank you Ilya!
A: Thank you for the opportunity!
Q: Describe your career changes in the last
three years and what prompted these changes? What advice would you give to
others based upon your experiences?
A: Since I left the Enterprise Early Adoption team in the developer
division, I went to work for the Senior Vice President of our Server and Tools business
as his Executive Communications Manager. That means I managed the content of
his presentations for all of his public appearances, as well as all public
relations opportunities with press and analysts. The job was a tremendous opportunity for me to
learn about all of the components of a very large and complicated business; one
which on its own could represent one of the largest software companies in the
world. I then moved to a project in our
Enterprise Partner Group (EPG), working for the vice president of EPG to
develop the communications engine there as well as our enterprise segment
marketing organization. I also enjoyed
that job very much because I have a very strong passion for working with our
largest, most strategic and global customers.
Q: What are your current goals and duties?
am now the Director of Product Management for Windows Server System, which is a
part of Microsoft’s Server and Tools business. I manage a team focused on understanding the server infrastructure
requirements of Microsoft’s IT customers. We are focused on ensuring that the
Windows Server System, which encompasses Microsoft’s portfolio of
infrastructure server products as well as our strategy for engineering
complexity out of them, matches those customer requirements. This means gaining an understanding of current
and future market requirements for integration, mapping them against the
Windows Server System Common Engineering Roadmap and Criteria, evaluating the competition,
and working to build a strong marketing presence (via events, Web, PR/AR and
the field sales organization) to help our customers get the information they
need about Windows Server System. My
team is also responsible for supporting communications for several of the
executives in the Server and Tools organization.
Q: What do you find most challenging?
A: Keeping up. I find that the hardest part of the work
today is the volume – volume of communications, volume of change, volume of
information to learn, and so on. I’m
involved with many different events, initiatives, and activities, and I’m the
kind of person who doesn’t like to go to bed at night without my email Inbox
completely cleaned out. Well, sometimes
that gets a little challenging when you get about 600 emails a day addressed
directly to you. But it’s always
interesting, always something new to learn, and always more to understand about
our customers. That’s what makes the job a blast.
Q: What do you foresee in your future?
A: I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately as I just passed my
tenth year anniversary at Microsoft. Microsoft
has been a very unique place to work at over the last decade in terms of the
growth of the business and the positive impact on our customers. I’ve personally been fortunate to have had
very diverse opportunities at this company, with experiences in field technical
sales and consulting, program management, early adoption evangelism and now
product management. I’m always up for
big challenges, so maybe my next assignment could be in a part of the company that’s
totally new to me, such as our home media or mobile device businesses. That’s really the great thing about Microsoft,
the opportunity to have a big impact in such a diverse set of areas, but all
centered on the power of software to improve the lives of our customers.
Q: What career advice would you give to
others for the future?
all boils down to this – work for a great company, surrounded by great people. Great companies can be large or small but
always think "customer first". They know how to grow, hire and retain
great people, invest in their employees, make decisions, embrace change and act
One of the things I love about Microsoft is
that I am surrounded with diverse thinkers and thinking – linear, chaos,
analytical, creative - every kind of thinking you can imagine. Similar people think similarly, and there are
too many examples of business failure due to insular thinking. At one point telegraph companies thought the
future of communications was telegraph stations, central places people would
come to in order to communicate. But exposure
to more diverse thinking might have helped them envision a future involving more
emphasis on personal communications, such as a telephone in the home. Today all of us live and work in a truly
worldwide market and economy, and exposure to and learning from diverse people
and thinking is critical to surviving and thriving.
Change is coming to your job; the key is to
be prepared. People coming into the
workforce today are likely to change careers three or more times in their
working life. It’s crucial to understand your interests and pursue them
aggressively, to tie into technology trends and changes, and to view disruptive
change as an opportunity rather than a threat. More than ever the pace of change requires all of us to be lifelong
learners – doing so not only helps us prepare for change but also gives us more
choices when change does happen.
Most people are going to spend the majority
of their lives working, so find a job that you’re really, really passionate
about. Enjoy what you do or find
something else to do. The financial
rewards won’t be worth it if you don’t love what you’re doing. What keeps me going each day is that I get to
work at a great company with great people, and that’s a fantastic feeling to
Q: What is your current perspective on
business and technology?
think the central theme today is change. We all need to embrace change.
Whether change comes from geopolitical
trends (all of us in the IT industry should become familiar with the stats on
India and China graduating several orders of magnitude more Computer Science
students than North American countries), or technology advances (think about
what Napster did for the music industry and the future of the CD, or what Tivo
and DVR technology are going to do to network broadcasting), change is certain
and it’s coming to your industry.
There’s a story about John Stuart Mill, one
of the great minds of the 19th century. He woke up one morning feeling that the “answer to the question of the
ages” had come to him in the middle of the night. But he forgot what it was. So he placed a
quill and paper next to his bed. A few
mornings later he awoke again feeling that the “answer to the question of the
ages” had come to him while he slept. He
looked at the paper and found there in his own handwriting the words, “Think in
different terms”. John Stuart Mill
followed the advice. His philosophical
reasoning is said to rank with Aristotle’s. He made original contributions to economics. He advocated the radical idea (for his time),
of increased rights for women. Think in
different terms - not a bad slogan in my opinion for the current state of
business and technology. To confront
change successfully requires an attitude of mind that is open—an attitude of
mind that is willing to confront the status quo and look at things in a new
way—an attitude of mind which may involve thinking in different terms.
One reason that every day at work is so
interesting is that Microsoft is so good at encouraging its employees to voice their
opinions, to speak up if we see a different way of thinking about a problem or
of meeting the needs of our customers.
Q: What do you see as the next major wave,
the next major 'disruptive technology' or killer app to come out of our
A: There are so many promising areas it’s really difficult to pick just
There are some very exciting technologies
coming for IT operations. In the next
few years we will likely see a paradigm shift in IT operations, with a much
greater level of automation and a much better connection between application
development, deployment, and management. This is the concept at the heart of our Dynamic Systems Initiative,
which promises to really revolutionize IT operations with the concept of
transferring knowledge across the application lifecycle via software models. Visual
Studio 2005, shipping later this year, will for the first time truly enable
applications to be “designed for operations”. And moving forward, the work
being done as part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative promises to really
revolutionize IT by dramatically increasing automation.
The work being done around communications –
real-time communications, voice-over-IP (VOIP), mobile communications, etc. –
is just amazing. If you want a sneak
peak at the kind of integrated communications which is coming in the future,
take a look at the recently announced Microsoft Office Communicator. The innovation which will come out of the
acquisition of Groove Networks will also be very exciting.
Of course user experience is one area where
we still have a huge amount of opportunity for improvement. We’ve made huge progress over the last decade
but today it’s still too difficult for users to do the things they want to do,
whether it’s to have one set of contacts across all my phones and other
devices, or to easily share my experiences, my digital pictures, music, and
movies, with my family and relatives. I
am incredibly excited at the innovations coming in this area. There are going to be some amazing Windows
Mobile devices coming to market from our partners in the next 12-18 months,
delivering very significant improvements in user experience. And of course the
major milestone is the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, which we
expect to release in calendar 2006. I
believe it will not only change how people interact with computers but also
significantly broaden the accessibility of technology by making personal
computer easier to use and thus far more approachable.
Q: Which non-technology areas interest you
is sort of a technology area, but I’m a big A/V geek. Just upgraded my TVs to HDTV, and I’m loving
the experience! I’m also a big fan of
great wine – just like with technology, wine is a hobby where I learn something
new with every experience.