Today marks one year since I started at Avanade on the 14th June 2021.
Little did I know what my first year would hold! Here is a recap of the various ups and downs (Only kidding, there are no downs!) I experienced during the last 12 months.
Note: These experiences are from the UKI (UK & Ireland) then later Global region. Different regions may operate slightly differently!
The Interview Process
Firstly the interview Process was the most pleasant and straight forward I have ever had.
There were no low level LeetCode technical questions about how to reverse linked lists or binary trees. No overt challenges to my knowledge or experience. It was a simple two stage process where I talked with some wonderful people and shared my passion for technology.
I was initially screened by the fantastic Nina Berggren whom was an absolute pleasure to speak to. I made sure that the work-life balance I was looking for was achievable from the company and asked a few more questions about the organisation.
My 1st interview was with Matteo Emili and Gosia Borzecka, whom enquired about my motivations, aspirations and threw in some general scenario questions I think.
To be honest, during the 2nd interview, the interviewer (who would later become my CA, Tarun Arora) had me at "innovation challenge" and "drone contest". I decided pretty quickly that this was the innovative organisation I wanted to work for (but funnily enough had never heard much about previously - more on that later).
Starting as Full Stack Development Manager
I had never worked in IT consultancy before so when I started in the Full Stack role family at Manager level it was all a bit new to me. This was different to my previous couple of roles where I was (in all but name) the Head of Development at a couple of SME's and increasingly involved in aligning the development strategy and operational management to meet the business strategy.
I found myself on a couple of client projects in this role. The first, quality assuring and critiquing the cloud solution architecture of an incumbent ISV for a client, producing recommendations for improvement, and the second designing and implementing a POC using open source GIS products on the Azure platform.
I learnt a great deal during my first couple of client facing consultancy roles including how Accenture's culture differs from Avanade's and the high esteem that our clients hold for us as experts in the Microsoft Ecosystem.
Lunchtime Brown Bag Talks
Around about the same time I gave a few brown bag sessions to the rest of the UK SE (Software Engineering) talent community (Anyone can give a brown bag session on anything they want). One on mobile Augmented Reality (the topic of my published book), one on my experiments with Machine Learning Image classification models, and one on Neural Networks and Reinforcement Learning in a 2D driving simulation. Talks that I would later go on to give to a few user groups in the UK and at the Global XR Conference.
I've also attended interesting brown bag talks from others on Quantum Computing and Green Software Engineering which have been very educational.
I am a big fan of Microsoft certifications having passed a number of them earlier in my career and previously achieving MCP, MCAD, MCSD, MCTS credentials and with Avanade having a culture of "limitless learning" I was keen to sit more exams. Our organisation has more certifications than any other Microsoft Partner with over 27,000 to date. All exams and practice exams are paid for by the company. There are often even "additional incentives" to sit and pass these exams. These credentials help prove to our clients that we are Microsoft's leading partner in Microsoft technologies.
When we are not actively on a client project, and are "on the bench" we are encouraged to contribute in other ways and work towards our next identified learning and certification goals.
During my first 5 months, I sat and passed the following exams
- AI-900: Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals
- DP-900: Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals
- PL-900: Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals
- AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure
With a plan to study for & sit AI-102: Designing and Implementing Azure AI Solutions next.
Learning is a big part of Avanade culture, where we are encouraged to cultivate a growth mindset that gives us a safe place to experiment and fail and continually grow as people. In fact, everyone in the organisation received "Growth Mindset" training based largely on the famous book Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck.
I have to stress that they don't only encourage MS certifications, my colleagues are achieving certifications in topics ranging from Hashicorp Terraform to Agile Practitioner to Luma Design Thinking.
Matching Charity Fundraising!
Avanade does a lot in the way of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which I couldn't possibly list here. However, one great thing they do that I know from experience, is that they match any fundraising/charity contributions to a certain amount.
In January 2021 I undertook the challenge to do 2022 push ups during the month in order to raise money for Alzheimer's Society and recorded my progress on a site of mine PushupCounter.com. I personally raised £193 which Avanade matched, making a total of £386 raised for the charity. I'm proud to work for a company that does this.
We also have volunteer days that you can use in your local community.
UKI & Global Software Engineering Hackathon Organiser
In October 2021, by line manager (we call them Career Advisors or CA's for short) noticed that I had attended rather a lot of hackathons, and asked whether I would be interested in running one internally for UK & Ireland. I jumped at the chance and am pleased to report was a success. In fact it was so well received that we have just finished running a second internal SE hackathon, this time expanded to allow global participation from anyone across Avanade (and with a greater prize fund! 💰💰💰) with teams from 9 different countries getting involved!.
I may have even entered a couple of AR projects myself (but not without first excluding myself from prize consideration). I just love hackathons. Though I am surprised how much effort it is to run them. Especially across multiple time zones.
You can read about what transpired in the Global Software Engineering Hackathon and hopefully hear about similar hackathons in the future!
These much loved and anticipated hackathon events are crucial in growing our innovative culture and help showcase the creativity and innovation of our people and gives them an outlet for sharing it.
Another thing you should know about Avanade is that it attracts some of the best Microsoft specialists around which has resulted in us having over 50 Microsoft MVPs at Avanade! a fact that was difficult to ignore at the last Microsoft MVP Summit.
We are also seeing an increasing number of our staff being recognised for their community contributions. It turns out that if you have people passionate consistently giving back to their community they eventually get recognised - who knew!?
You can find a Twitter list of Avanade MVPs here (though please note that they may include personal opinions).
Wow, it's better than I thought. I must tell others
Soon after joining and realising what a fantastic company it is to work for, seeing that it had ambitious growth but after conducting a poll of my network and finding that 71% of people in my network had not heard of Avanade, I grew concerned and I wondered what I could do about this..
After all, I wanted as many people as possible to learn about this fabulous organisation and join us.
Creating the DevRel Business Case & Function
Thinking about how Avanade could better reach the tech community that it depended on so much, I put together a business case for the creation of a Developer Relations function at Avanade.
The purpose, to build relationships with the wider technical community.
The business case was liked by our CTO and CPO (Chief People Officer) so I was surprisingly given the opportunity to implement the DevRel strategy I proposed and after a short probation moved into the role of Developer Relations Lead.
This is something I love about Avanade - how many other places could you propose improvements to the business and be given the opportunity to deliver those improvements?
The Emerging Technology/Open Technology Team
It was decided that as the DevRel Lead role is a global one, I needed to move out of the UKI group and into the global OCTO (Office of the CTO) group and within the Emerging Technology / Open Technologies team. This suited me to the ground as the emerging technology team not only had the remit of having their fingers on the pulse of emerging technologies such as quantum computing and mixed reality but also researched the latest and future trends and acted as the companies technology and trend compass.
The team is an incredibly talented and fun one with socials so far including Miniature Golf, nostalgic Arcade gaming and Axe Throwing, with D&D on the agenda for a future meetup.
Many thanks to Chris Lloyd Jones (who is doing great work with Green Software Engineering, Sustainability and Open Source efforts) for helping me transition into the team.
Even before officially moving into the DevRel role, when sitting down and thinking about how I could help the tech community, I came up with TechCommunityCalendar.com.
As I found myself visiting Meetup.com for meetups, DevPost.com (and similar) for hackathons, Sessionize.com for speaking opportunities and various splintered sites to find tech conferences, I thought it would be a great idea to aggregate all those types of tech events into one place and create a single Tech Community Calendar.
Early in its development, by combining these different types of tech events, the Tech Community Calendar already provides what no other site on the web has done before.
With Avanade's support, it is getting better everyday as I work to improve it and include as many events as possible. Eventually moving away from manual curation to more automated event retrieval via API's.
Did I mention that we are going to open source this? A community tool for the tech community, by the tech community.
It is currently undergoing a redesign so will look a lot different over the next few weeks.
Monthly Developer Interview Article
New to the DevRel role, one thing that I thought important was to share the real life experiences that our tech talent at Avanade are having so began a monthly interview/article series where every month I share a short article about an Avanade developer from around the world.
I like to ask what drives them, what their role involves, why they do what they do and find out about what they are like as people not just colleagues. I am a big believer that a business is just the sum of its people and people are complex, varied, talented and amazing to learn about.
We are halfway through the monthly articles so keep checking back for future developer interview articles
Sponsoring Events and Partnerships
In my DevRel Lead role, I try to find opportunities to give back to the technical community. Whilst I don't believe that always means financially, in some cases it does involve identifying tech events to sponsor.
This year among others, we are sponsoring local DDD South West and BarCamp Manchester events and forming relationships with big names in the global tech community (coming soon).
Monthly Meetup Group
We will shortly be launching an external monthly meetup group (via Meetup.com) and invite internal and external speakers to to discuss "Open Technology" subjects.
We have such a wide and deep talent base at Avanade, we look forward to not only sharing talks on different topics but also inviting speakers from around the world from different organisations.
Watch this space for more information!
Photography/Gaming Yammer Groups
One of the things I wanted to share externally is the fabulous special interest groups (SIG) we have at Avanade. Starting in January, myself and another photography enthusiast (Nikhil Nulkar) put together a year long, monthly photo series with a different category for each month. We are amazed by the photographic talent in the group! 📷
I look forward to sharing some of work by some of our very talented photographers. I think discovering shared interests with colleagues is super important and crucial in building relationships with them.
I am also trying to get a eSports competition going for our gaming enthusiasts with the possibility of throwing down some intra or inter-company challenges! Fingers crossed.
In December 2021, in the UKI Orange Oscars, I was honoured to be nominated in two categories "Outstanding People Contribution" and "Most Innovative". I didn't win either but it is nice to be recognised having been with the organisation for 6 months at that point.
Career Advisor responsibility
Fairly recently I have been assigned two developers for me to advise allowing me to continue to hone those managerial and leadership skills.
Masters Degree in Entrepreneurship Management & Innovation
This year I have started one of my objectives that I have wanted to for years, my Masters degree. This fully online, pay per module course fits into my work/life balance perfectly and is in a topic that is not only of great interest to me, but will be of great benefit to the company also.
I look forward to implementing what I learn during the next two years.
This first year has absolutely flown by and everyone that started in the same cohort as me will have had a completely different experience. I like to think that I have started Avanade down the right path on building greater relationships and awareness within the technical community, but there is a lot more work to do.
Avanade is growing so fast right now with 37% of employees joining after me.
The purpose of this post was to share what I have been up to and the experiences I have been having during my first year at Avanade. If you think this is somewhere you would like to work, please get in touch with me or have a look at what our careers site has to offer.
Thanks for reading!