Leaving Microsoft and Building a ‘DataCenterStarter’ for CenturyLink Cloud / by Matt Wrock

As of last week I am no longer working at Microsoft. I worked at Microsoft for the last four and a half years and it was an amazing experience where I learned a lot from many very smart people. I am now a Software Engineer focusing on data center automation at CenturyLink Cloud.

What the heck did I do at Microsoft?

I came to Microsoft and the Pacific Northwest from Southern California where I had spent the previous 9 years working for an online advertising company starting as a front line web developer and eventually becoming VP of technology. I reached a point where I wanted a change and a return to hands on engineering. Having no formal computer engineering training and being almost exclusively exposed to “startup” shops, I really wanted to work for a major technology company to witness how a well established organization runs things. Well I definitely got what I was looking for and received exposure to some amazing people and practices.

At Microsoft, I started working on the Visual Studio Gallery and several other similar sites like the Technet script gallery and the MSDN Code Sample gallery as well as some of the “goo” that provided a unified experience for the Microsoft Forums, the galleries, search and profile pages on MSDN and Technet. Some of the greatest things I walked away with here was an engrained devotion to the practice of Test Driven Development and a great appreciation for not only the consumption but participation in Open Source Software projects.

In my free time I created an open source library that significantly improved our page load performance across the above sites as well as the msdn/technet blog and wiki platform. Later I worked on environment setup and deployment automation for these properties which inspired Boxstarter.org. The last 2 years were spent in the Visual Studio Cloud Services org within DevDiv where I worked on “Feature Flags” allowing us to deploy “hidden” features while they were in the middle of development, the back end for the new Charting features inside TFS Work Item Tracking and most recently deployment automation for Visual Studio Online.

A new chapter

Over the past couple of years, my “side project” Boxstarter has consumed a lot of my passion and has led me to develop some relationships in the DevOps community and learn of many disciplines and technologies that fascinate me. I love and have become somewhat consumed by automation.

So a little over a month ago I received a twitter DM from a previous colleague, Tim Shakarian, asking me if I would be interested in building a “DataCenterStarter” for CenturyLink’s recent cloud acquisition at Tier3. I read this having just returned from dinner with my friend Rob Reynolds and some other guys from Puppet Labs and Peter Pouliot who heads up Microsoft community development of Hyper-V integration in OpenStack. Everyone present shared the same passions for automation and I was especially inspired hearing Peter’s automation stories from his Novell days and recent work with organizations like CERN. So with these conversations fresh in my mind, I wondered what are these DataCenters Tim speaks of?

I really was not “on the market” looking to move from Microsoft. In fact my role had recently changed and there were some great opportunities ahead to bring my organization to an exciting new level of engineering efficiency, but I thought it would be foolish not to at least listen to what my friend Tim had to say. Well six weeks later here I am and I am totally excited to be working on data center automation for CenturyLink Cloud. I feel like a kid in a candy store beginning work on projects that give me the opportunity to build out automation at vast scale and help my team deliver an awesome cloud solution to our customers.

Its not easy leaving behind an organization like Microsoft. There are a lot of great people there and I will truly miss my free MSDN Ultimate subscription where I managed to consistently milk about 148 of my 150 dollar monthly spending allowance on Azure services (the same granted to any MSDN Ultimate subscriber). I think it may be a couple years before I fully process my experiences at Microsoft so please be on the lookout for my forthcoming graphic novel series, Razzle Dragon, that portrays in Japanese Manga style my stint as a Microsoft software engineer.