Monthly Archives: April 2013

“88 Acres: How Microsoft Quietly Built the City of the Future”

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A small, covert team of engineers at Microsoft cast aside suggestions that the company spend US$60 million to turn its 500-acre headquarters into a smart campus to achieve energy savings and other efficiency gains. Instead, applying an “Internet of Things meets Big Data” approach, the team invented a data-driven software solution that is slashing the cost of operating the campus’ 125 buildings. The software, which is saving Microsoft millions of dollars, has been so successful that the company and its partners are now helping building managers across the world deploy the same solution. And with commercial buildings consuming an estimated 40 percent of the world’s total energy, the potential is huge.

By Jennifer Warnick

1: The Visionary

“Give me a little data and I’ll tell you a little. Give me a lot of data and I’ll save the world.”

– Darrell Smith , Director of Facilities and Energy
Microsoft

“This is my office,” says the sticker on Darrell Smith’s laptop, and it is.

With his “office” tucked under his arm, Microsoft’s director of facilities and energy is constantly shuttling between meetings all over the company’s 500-acre, wooded campus in Redmond, Washington.

But Smith always returns to one unique place.

The Redmond Operations Center (often called “the ROC”) is located in a drab, nondescript office park. Inside is something unique – a new state-of-the-art “brain” that is transforming Microsoft’s 125-building, 41,664-employee headquarters into one of the smartest corporate campuses in the world.

Smith and his team have been working for more than three years to unify an incongruent network of sensors from different eras (think several decades of different sensor technology and dozens of manufacturers). The software that he and his team built strings together thousands of building sensors that track things like heaters, air conditioners, fans, and lights – harvesting billions of data points per week. That data has given the team deep insights, enabled better diagnostics, and has allowed for far more intelligent decision making. A test run of the program in 13 Microsoft buildings has provided staggering results – not only has Microsoft saved energy and millions in maintenance and utility costs, but the company now is hyper-aware of the way its buildings perform.

It’s no small thing – whether a damper is stuck in Building 75 or a valve is leaky in Studio H – that engineers can now detect (and often fix with a few clicks) even the tiniest issues from their high-tech dashboard at their desks in the ROC rather than having to jump into a truck to go find and fix the problem in person.

If the facility management world were Saturday morning cartoons, Smith and his team have effectively flipped the channel from “The Flintstones” to “The Jetsons.” Instead of using stone-age rocks and hammers to keep out the cold, Smith’s team invented a solution that relies on data to find and fix problems instantly and remotely.

SLIDESHOW: Building the Microsoft Campus

“Give me a little data and I’ll tell you a little,” he says. “Give me a lot of data and I’ll save the world.”

Smith joined Microsoft in December of 2008. His previous work managing data centers for Cisco had given him big ideas about how buildings could be smarter and more efficient, but until he came to Microsoft he lacked the technical resources to bring them to life. What he found at Microsoft was support for these ideas on all sides – from his boss to a handful of savvy facilities engineers. They all knew buildings could be smarter, and together they were going to find a way to make it so.

Smith has a finger-tapping restlessness that prevents him from sitting through an entire movie. His intensity comes paired with the enthusiastic, genial demeanor of a favorite bartender or a softball buddy (and indeed, he does play first base for a company softball team, the Microsoft Misfits).

Ever punctual and an early riser, Smith lives near Microsoft headquarters and has taken to spending a few quiet hours at his desk on Sundays.

“I call it my den because I live a mile away. I come here, I make coffee, I have the building to myself,” Smith says.

His family and the people who know him best understand. Smart buildings are his passion, and everything in his life has been moving toward finding ways for companies the world over to get smarter about managing their buildings (which will help them save money and reduce their energy use).

“Smart buildings will become smart cities,” Smith says. “And smart cities will change everything.”

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Wanna work with me Wednesday

BryanZ IL bio pic

Premier Field Engineering (PFE) provides technical leadership for Microsoft’s Premier customers around the world to promote health in their IT environments through onsite, remote and dedicated support services.
Okay, so what does all that really mean? If I’m a PFE, what will I be doing?
Cindy Parrish, one of Microsoft’s Recruiters has been talking to our PFE’s to get their personal stories. For the next several weeks we will answer that question, so that you have a clear picture of the PFE role at Microsoft.
Welcome to Wednesday and an explanation of what it’s like to be a PFE by a current PFE in their own words.
Here’s what Brian has to say about his job:
My name is Bryan Zink and I am a Premier Field Engineer at Microsoft. I support the Windows Server platform and specifically, Active Directory. While my main area of focus is the assessment of Risk and Health issues for Premier Support customers, there are many facets to my job.
One day I may be working on a reactive issue dealing with something broken and potentially causing unplanned downtime or even an outage. The next day I may be delivering one of our many on-site or remote assessments helping customer identify issues, implement fixes and optimize the health of their environments. I also spend time delivering workshops and other in-class type services targeted at better understanding Microsoft technologies.
The real core and highlight of my job though, is working with customers. Not only do we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly from a technology standpoint but we get to meet and work with outstanding people all over the world. This is not just a job, it really is an adventure. Want to come and work with me?

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Wanna work with me Wednesday

Roan
Premier Field Engineering (PFE) provides technical leadership for Microsoft’s Premier customers around the world to promote health in their IT environments through onsite, remote and dedicated support services.
Okay, so what does all that really mean? If I’m a PFE, what will I be doing?
Cindy Parrish, one of Microsoft’s Recruiters has been talking to our PFE’s to get their personal stories. For the next several weeks we will answer that question, so that you have a clear picture of the PFE role at Microsoft.
Welcome to Wednesday and an explanation of what it’s like to be a PFE by a current PFE in their own words.

Here’s what Roan has to say about his job:

Towards the middle on the year 2001, I was particularly focused on the direction I wanted to take my career on IT. I remember having the opportunity to attend the Windows XP launch in Kingston, Jamaica and was enthralled as the Account Technology Specialist waxed poetically about the benefits of the new “Windows Experience”. I was taken in by his passion and professionalism and a light bulb went off; there and then I decide I wanted to work for Microsoft.
The road to Microsoft was challenging and competitive as the number of roles available in Jamaica were limited owing to size of the Jamaican market, however after more than 5 years of trying I eventually landed a role as Technical Account Manager for the Western Caribbean.
My move to Premier was driven by the amazing job I witnessed engineers deliver to my customers back then and in 2010, I move to the United States to start my PFE Journey.
I love my role as a PFE because I am passionate about our company and our technology. Whether it is via our risk assessments or a workshop, PFE provides the opportunity for me help our customers leverage value from the investment in our products. I wear the title PFE proudly because I am driven by the satisfaction I get when partnering with a customer and a light bulb goes on when they understand how something works.
I am passionate about coaching and mentoring and PFE allows me to connect with a wider technically community via partner events. It is rewarding to know you can help another IT professional chart a course in their career.
PFE has truly helped to accentuate my technical and leadership skills and I truly enjoy living the passion that was fueled back in 2001.

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When Amway and Microsoft Team Up For Women’s Leadership, the Sky’s the Limit

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Two global, economic powerhouses – Amway and Microsoft – just took an historic step forward, together, for womankind. They teamed up to host a women’s leadership event at Amway’s massive World Headquarters in Ada, Michigan.

What’s so historic about two corporations inviting 200 aspiring, achievement-focused women professionals to spend the day together building leadership skills and networking? In some parts of the country, no one would bat an eyelash.

But for Amway, it was the first time they have EVER hosted a women’s leadership event. Microsoft has dipped in these waters before, but never in the Midwest. I sense the start of something big.

When two global corporations with the economic impact and cultural influence of Amway and Microsoft – both reach and employ millions of consumers and change agents all over the world — recognize that the women’s leadership engine is revving up and they’d better get on board, the possibilities for paradigm shifting change are enormous.

The women behind Amway/Microsoft’s first joint women’s leadership event

It Started With Four Women Talking

This important step down a new road happened because four women, three Amway leaders (Tina Abdoo, Kary Lucas and Donna Stoutjesdyk) and their Microsoft Account Exec, (Lorie Munson, Premier Support Manager) started talking. Maybe it was over a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or lunch. The point is, they imagined new possibilities. And they have the vision, the courage and the credibility to lead their companies into important, uncharted waters.

“It started really small, Stoutjesdyk told me. “We were thinking about a workshop; and then it started to grow.”

Candace Matthews, Amway’s Chief Marketing Officer and a key, senior executive, gave the event her blessing and blocked her calendar to speak. Fox Sports Anchor and reporter Dara McIntosh agreed to fly in from NY to moderate a panel. Copies of my book, Powering Up!, were purchased as gifts for every attendee.

The night before, our hosts invited all of the speakers and panelists to get know each other at a Grand Rapids steak house. The energy sparking from our group was so infectious, a table of men couldn’t resist sending shots over for all of us.

By the morning of the event, the mood at Amway headquarters was electric. One of the male senior executives told me, “There’s a great buzz all over the company about this that our executives can feel.”
Why Women Matter

Of course the business case has been building for years. Women are now 40% of the world’s labor force and, as one Microsoft executive pointed out to the audience, “Women make 85% of all consumer electronic purchases.” I was encouraged by another theme that echoed throughout the day: it is not enough for companies to hire diverse talent. The next essential step is to build an inclusive culture where diverse perspectives and backgrounds are truly valued. Otherwise, diverse talent won’t stay and you are right back where you started.

Here are a few of my favorite insights from the two outstanding keynote speakers, Amway Chief Marketing Officer, Candace Matthews; and Microsoft’s Kelly Rogan, Vice President America’s Premier Services.

Candace Matthews, Amway Chief Marketing Officer

Candace Matthews: Backbone is Essential

The youngest of 18 children, Matthews intrigued the audience when she placed a colorful, plastic container on the podium that she considers her Leadership Toolbox. She opened it and proceeded to hold up 12 very familiar items that she sees as symbols of key leadership qualities, including:
•A sponge –Keep your mind open to absorbing and learning from others. You can always wring out what doesn’t work for you.
•A camera –Image and exposure are critical. According to Matthews, most promotion decisions based 10% on an individual’s performance, 60% on image and 30% on their exposure to the decision makers.
•A yo-yo – Giving and receiving, through mentoring, is essential.
•A rubberband — For flexibility, resilience and the importance of continuing to stretch yourself beyond your limits.
•A metal clip — As a reminder of the importance build a team of highly connected great people. “Relationships are critical. Together, each will achiever more.”
•Two, fist-sized wiffle balls — This metaphor was my favorite and drew a rousing laugh when Matthews pulled them out of the box and told the audience, “Every woman leader needs . . . a backbone!”

Kelly Rogan, Microsoft Vice President, America’s Premier Services

Kelly Rogan: Who Says Boys Don’t Like “Try-Hards”?

A high-achieving, high-tech “geek,” Rogan told us, “It’s not enough just to be great collaborators. Women leaders have to also know when to be street fighters to be effective.” And:
•“Embrace a culture of constructive contention.Don’t shy away from courageous dialogue; healthy conflict can lead to better outcomes.”
•Rogan also shared a story that reinforces the need to encourage our girls to achieve and inoculate them from peer and media pressure. “Microsoft has a program called DigiGirlz to encourage high school girls to pursue math and science classes and technology careers. Several of the girls at the high school where I was speaking told me, ‘We love math and science. But we have to be careful because there’s a name for girls who ask lots of questions and are too smart. They call us, try-hards. And boys don’t like try-hards.”[/entity]

That story breaks my heart. What more evidence do we need that girls must still slog their way through deeply-ingrained gender bias and toxic peer pressure? Rogan and Microsoft are doing their part with the DigiGirlz initiative. But we can all help.

Every girl you come in contact with, regardless of her age, will benefit from encouragement. She doesn’t need you to tell her how pretty she is; ask her what she’s reading and her favorite subject in school. Tell her how much money grown-up “try-hards” earn to help them and their families have a great life!

That’s just a taste of the conversations that are happening these days, not just in corner offices in New York, Washington, DC and Los Angeles, but at the grassroots level in the Midwest.

Men often ask, “Why do we need these special female-only events or “women’s affinity groups” in today’s workplace? The answer is that, even today, most companies, conferences and business gatherings are great big “men’s affinity groups.” But when a women’s leadership event, hosted by two globally-respected brands and employers, creates this kind of excitement in a quiet, Midwestern community, you know that something powerful is stirring at the grassroots level. I head home after gatherings such as this one with my batteries re-charged and my creative synapses snapping.

Can you feel the momentum building? I can. And when the likes of Amway and Microsoft start supporting women powering up and leaning in to greater leadership roles, forget the ceilings. The sky’s the limit.

Anne Doyle is the author of POWERING UP! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders, a keynote speaker and a City Councilwoman in Auburn Hills, MI. She has been tested in multiple-leadership laboratories, including men’s sports locker rooms, the auto industry, political office and parenting (which she insists is “the toughest!). http://www.annedoylestrategies.com. facebook.com/poweringupwomenbook.

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Wanna work with me Wednesday

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Premier Field Engineering (PFE) provides technical leadership for Microsoft’s Premier customers around the world to promote health in their IT environments through onsite, remote and dedicated support services.
Okay, so what does all that really mean? If I’m a PFE, what will I be doing?
Cindy Parrish, one of Microsoft’s Recruiters has been talking to our PFE’s to get their personal stories. For the next several weeks we will answer that question, so that you have a clear picture of the PFE role at Microsoft.
Welcome to Wednesday and an explanation of what it’s like to be a PFE by a current PFE in their own words.

Here’s what Darol has to say about his job:

Do you like the adrenaline rush of a good competition? From having to outsmart a difficult competitor who won’t back down? From achieving victory through hard work, persistence and team effort? Me too! No, I’m not talking about competing in athletic events, though that is lots of fun as well. I’m talking about the camaraderie, problem solving, and opportunities to score big wins that benefit your team and customers through working in the PFE organization.
Problem solving: If you like to fix things, apply good thinking skills to complex problems, and do it with some of the most technically advanced tools, then PFE would be great for you.
Camaraderie: If you like to benefit others by providing help to them in an atmosphere of teamwork, as well as receiving the blessing of others contributing to your success as well, then PFE would be great for you.
Benefit customers: There is such a great feeling of accomplishment when you contribute to the success of one of your customers, such as when you become a trusted advisor in assisting with critical decisions that help to resolve complex problems that have hindered their company’s productivity. If you derive benefit from such work, then PFE would be great for you.
Work Life Balance: Oh yes, I really do like real-life competition as well. So if you enjoy spending time in athletic competition outside of work, as well as pouring yourself into your family and outside hobbies and ministries, then PFE can allow for that as well.
Wanna come work with me?

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Ideal qualities of a PFE candidate from a hiring manager’s POV

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Mikel Hancock, Premier Field Engineer Manager for the US west region talks openly about the qualities he looks for when hiring Engineers.

I look for:
Leadership at an interpersonal level, something you sense, but cannot put a value on.
Technical brilliance
Passion for their chosen technology
Outstanding communicators with strong customer facing communication skills.
• Unlike typical engineers that are bit oriented (black and white) I need engineers that can see the “grey” in customer needs and f2f communication
• Have the ability to:
o communicate with customers openly about how to achieve their goals
o Understand the pain the customer feels at any given time, be an “empath” (new word) to customers when circumstances dictate. Must be able to do the “Spock” thing.
o Partner with the customers to achieve something beyond what is currently capable or envisioned in their environment with proper use of our technology.

Strong sense of community- local community or technical community, does not matter, but some sense of greater organizational membership for a common good or goal.
Ability to be a team player that wants to lead and mentor peers.
Ability to have boundaries on commitments at appropriate times to customer demands.
Confidence, confidence, confidence… not arrogance, confidence!

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Wanna work with me Wednesday

Ellis

Premier Field Engineering (PFE) provides technical leadership for Microsoft’s Premier customers around the world to promote health in their IT environments through onsite, remote and dedicated support services.
Okay, so what does all that really mean? If I’m a PFE, what will I be doing?
Cindy Parrish, one of Microsoft’s Recruiters has been talking to our PFE’s to get their personal stories. For the next several weeks we will answer that question, so that you have a clear picture of the PFE role at Microsoft.
Welcome to Wednesday and an explanation of what it’s like to be a PFE by a current PFE in their own words.

Here’s what Ellis has to say about his job:

I am a Transactional Premier Field Engineer (PFE) specializing in systems management technologies, primarily System Center Configuration Manager and Operations Manager.
In my group, we primarily service customers from federal, state, and local governments as well as educational. Demand is strong, and generally I have my calendar scheduled out several months in advance. This includes time for travel to and from customers’ offices, onsite work with the customer, remote (phone and web-based) customer assistance, formal training classes, workgroup functions, office time for completing trip and expense reports, and dozens of other necessary activities I won’t go into here. I have a mix of local travel (within an hour or two of my home) and remote travel (requiring a trip by air). I usually work on the west coast of the US, but my work has taken me to all over the country, as well as to Europe and the Middle East.
Finally, while the major component of my work is directly to customers, I also get to contribute to creating new offerings including workshops, assessments, remediation frameworks, chalk-talks, etc. This is a great way to enhance technical skill while collaborating with other PFEs.
Here’s what I like about my work:
• I am *never* bored – I don’t just learn something new every day, I learn *lots* of new things every day – the variety of customers I encounter is broad and they each surface a unique set of questions or problems to solve. In addition to our new product releases, the variety of customer environments requires me to constantly update my skills and knowledge.
• I am independent much of the time. While I have the support of my manager and a vast network of peers, in the end I have to be prepared and confident in my ability to deliver service. I’m empowered to make decisions based on what’s best for the customer and Microsoft.
• There’s a strong virtual community of peers that support me technically and professionally – while the role is very independent in many ways, I am not alone: There are always people willing to help you through a tough technical challenge or a question about process. I also get the pleasure or reciprocating; I help my peers technically as well as provide guidance to those developing their careers on how to pursue their goals.
• I get to see many different customer environments and build my skillset based on those experiences. After seeing customer environments of different sizes, organization, and culture, I have developed a real sense for what makes a customer successful (and what can make them fail), the strengths and weaknesses of the solutions in place or being contemplated, and how to best help customers with my area of expertise.
• I meet people from all over, with different backgrounds and passions. Many times I will visit customers more than once, typically with months or a year or two in between, and have the pleasure of picking up where I left off to learn more about them and how they’ve been faring.
• I have lots of career options – our company encourages employees to own their career development, and there are so many opportunities within the company to change and grow with the full support of my manager, his manager, and our leadership team.
• Because this is a job in which I’m always busy, which forces me to be organized and thoughtful about scheduling and prioritizing what I need to get done. I like this about my work because I think thinking carefully about what work you are doing is an important element to establishing a fulfilling balance between personal life and work. I have the full support of my manager in making the best choices so that I don’t get overwhelmed and, as a result, get to spend quality time with my family while still maintaining my performance on the job.

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