Balancing an IT Career
|This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has
an exclusive interview with Peter Rakoczy Director,
Microsoft Consulting Services, Microsoft Canada Co.
Q: Peter, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
For those just starting their careers in IT, can you
describe your career and the decisions you made to
reach your current position at Microsoft?
A. I started my career in the IT department of a
large, financial institution. I had a passion for
the technology and how it could be applied to
business and other areas. Through a variety of roles
as a sole contributor I was exposed to several
aspects of technology and different parts of the
business. Management was a natural transition for me
as I enjoyed working with people and taking on
In my position, I was able to work with a number of
technology companies and see how they operated. I
particularly enjoyed working with the smaller
technology companies and I decided to join a company
called, LinkAge Software Inc. This was a difficult
decision for me because I really enjoyed working
with my previous company and had been treated very
well. Ultimately, I decided to join LinkAge because
technology was their business and that’s what I had
understood best. I also wanted the experience of
working for a smaller company where it was clear to
see the impact of my contribution.
At LinkAge, I was able to work in a variety of roles
including Product Development Manager, Product
Manager, and Services Director. It was an excellent
experience as it gave me a view to all aspects of a
technology company including product development,
sales, marketing, customer support, consulting,
human resources and back office administration.
LinkAge was acquired by Microsoft almost five years
ago, at which time I joined as a Managing Consultant
in Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) in Toronto.
Prior to the acquisition, I had not thought much
about working for Microsoft but had grown to respect
the company and where it was heading. My own
research confirmed that Microsoft would be a good
fit for me at that point in my career based on
Microsoft’s progress in enterprise computing and the
combination of my large customer, and small
technology company experience.
At Microsoft, I progressed through the role of
Practice Manager to my current position as Director
of Microsoft Consulting Services for Canada. In
addition to my responsibilities of running the
practice, I am a member of the Canadian Leadership
Team which provides strategy and direction for
Q. What 10 tips can you provide to others that
helped you in your path to success?
1. Do what you love to do.
2. Be realistic about your own strengths and
weaknesses and develop both.
3. Be accountable and acknowledge mistakes.
4. Make decisions for the right reasons – do the
right thing. Career advancement is a by-product of
doing the right thing – not the end in itself.
5. Observe the best traits of everyone you come
across and decide which traits to emulate.
6. Develop your own style based on your unique
combination of capabilities.
7. Take some risks and be uncomfortable.
8. Accept feedback without being defensive.
9. Recognize when it is the time to take a stand,
and then take the stand with passion. Pick your
10. Don’t let things happen to you, make things
Q: What time commitment is required for your
position and what does your family think about this?
A. It is no secret that Microsoft is a very intense
work environment and that my position requires that
I spend a lot of time working including travel. It
is important that your family understands and
supports what you do. I am fortunate in that I have
that support. My wife is a part-time, Small Claims
Court Judge, but spends the majority of her time at
home with our three children and managing our home
life. This makes it possible for me to spend the
time I do on my work.
I manage it by ensuring that I am home each night to
spend a couple of hours with the kids. After they go
to bed, I usually do e-mail and other work that I
have. On the weekends, I am focused on being a
father and husband although I am back on the
computer on Sunday nights.
Would I like more time to spend with my family?
Absolutely! The reality of this industry is that
there are demands for long hours. I also believe in
a strong work ethic and wish to be a good role model
for my children in this regard, but not at their
expense. I believe it works for us because I love
what I do at Microsoft, am committed to my family
and have their support.
Q: Where do you see Microsoft, strategically in 2001
and where do you want Microsoft to be in 2003, and
A. This is an exciting time for Microsoft as the
vision for the .NET strategy is gaining traction
with our customers and partners. The building blocks
are gradually coming into place with the .NET
servers and Visual Studio.NET. Customers are keenly
interested in Web Services and have come to us for
the industry leadership we have demonstrated in this
In 2001, we are driving many key solutions including
Enterprise Application Integration, Supplier
Enablement, and Corporate Portals. We are assisting
many customers in laying the .NET foundation with
Windows XP, Active Directory, BizTalk Server and SQL
Server. Visual Studio.NET, was widely adopted as a
beta tool and has just been launched to market.
In the longer term, we will be promoting My .NET
Q: How will Microsoft’s consulting services evolve
over time for businesses and how will you shape this
A. Microsoft Consulting Services’ roots are in
technology. Obviously, we have a very deep
understanding of the Microsoft technologies and how
they fit into Enterprise customer environments. As
we move along, we are developing a greater
understanding of industry verticals and the specific
needs of those customers. Our customers are asking
us to demonstrate to them how our technology can
help their core businesses.
Microsoft overall is moving toward a solutions
orientation. In order to provide a compelling
solution to a customer, you must show an
understanding of their business. We will continue to
maintain a strong technology foundation in the
practice, but with increased business awareness to
better serve our customers.
We are also moving into more strategic opportunities
as our technology has evolved to provide a viable
platform for the most demanding solutions. Our
commitment to the partner model only increases as we
move forward to provide the necessary services
capacity and skills that our market demands. I
foresee much more co-engagement with partners and
MCS as we take on larger and more complex projects.
MCS will provide key architectural services, quality
assurance and risk mitigation for projects involving
Q: What advise would you give to businesses as they
plan their own evolution in the next five years?
My advice would be to really consider how technology
can become tightly integrated to the business and
truly act as an enabler for new business
opportunities. I believe that businesses need to
really treat technology and business planning as a
single, seamless exercise to truly create the most
compelling products and services.
I would also recommend designing an open and
extensible technology architecture that provides
interoperability with multiple legacy and
state-of-the-art platforms. Every company should
also have a Web Services strategy, both for internal
use and connection to customers and partners.
Do you have specific technologies and processes they
should watch out for and implement?
The key foundation technologies to learn are XML and
SOAP. In terms of key implementations to learn from
Microsoft, I would say Visual Studio.NET and BizTalk
Server are very important technologies along with
Content Management Server and Active Directory.
My Services will provide some of the key common
services required in the .NET/Web Services world as
we move forward.
Q: What are your top ten recommended resources for
IT administrators and developers?
1. MSDN (especially for developers) http://msdn.microsoft.com/canada
2. TechNet http://www.microsoft.com/technet
3. www.microsoft.com/security (Security)
4. www.microsoft.com/net/defined/default.asp (.NET
5. www.microsoft.com/enterprise/ (Microsoft in the
6. www.microsoft.com/vstudio (Visual Studio .NET)
7. www.mircosoft.com/servers/ (.NET Servers)
9. http://www.microsoft.com/windows (Microsoft
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you
like to give to enterprise corporations and
When you take a close look at what is under the
covers of .NET, Microsoft truly has redefined what
an open standards platform means. By re architecting
the Microsoft Windows platform to be fully Internet
Standard compliant and combining that with a robust
and powerful runtime software engine (.NET
Framework) capable of supporting over 22 programming
languages today, and finally rounding it off with
the worlds most advanced software development tool
suite, Visual Studio .NET, software developers have
once again been flocking back to the Microsoft
Windows platform. Microsoft has listened clearly to
software developers from all corners of the world,
and Microsoft has been hearing that to reach the
next level of agility in software development and
implemented features, software development tools
must be themselves agile and to accomplish this
there must be strict adherence to industry
standards. Microsoft has reached the highest level
of heterogeneity by tightly binding the entire .NET
product family with one language, from operating
system to infrastructure and runtime framework to
industry standard XML and the W3C endorsed Simple
Object Access Protocol (SOAP) for developing
Industry standard Web Services. “In simple words,
Web Services are ‘remotely executed programs’ that
are easy to build and use with the Microsoft .NET
platform and what is most exciting is that Microsoft
offers an Industry standard way to make two or more
programs talk to each other, any where, any time,
any place, and with any device.” Explained Michael
Flynn, Sr. Product Manager Developer Tools,