Careers: Interviews
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 challenging tasks.

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 Microsoft Canada.

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 spots.
10. Don’t let things happen to you, make things happen.

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 2005?

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 important area.

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 Services…

Q: How will Microsoft’s consulting services evolve over time for businesses and how will you shape this process?

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 Microsoft technologies.

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)
2. TechNet
3. (Security)
4. (.NET Explained)
5. (Microsoft in the enterprise)
6. (Visual Studio .NET)
7. (.NET Servers)
8. (Case Studies)
9. (Microsoft Windows) (Microsoft Office)

Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give to enterprise corporations and organizations?

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, Microsoft Canada.


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