image Viral joined Microsoft in July 2006, moving over the pond to the UK DPE team in August 2007. LA to Reading… wow, his job must be amazing.

What’s your area of focus - and why?

I wish I knew! Joking aside, I was hired to be the SharePoint/Office evangelist. My role has changed now – I’m still a Unified Communications evangelist but essentially do general technical evangelising, plus competitive engagement, so I focus on open source. It’s quite a passion of mine dealing with open source web. I go where developers who use open source go, listen to them and build the relationship so I can engage in a deeper technical discussion – basically grassroots evangelism.

What are the key pain points you see in this field?

There are three key pain points that drive customer satisfaction:

1. Product Quality. Up until recently quality wasn’t perceived to be of high enough calibre, so it wasn’t easy to have a reliable experience unless you had an advanced technical knowledge.

2. Overall Customer Support. Some people have the impression Microsoft doesn’t care. Solutions support was a key deficiency – we’ve got lots better but now we need to focus on it.

3. Our licensing is way too complicated. It’s flexible, but we don’t make it easy enough to understand. We’re in a catch 22 as simplification means losing revenue. Helping customers navigate licensing is huge for Microsoft.

Tell me about the most exciting/fun project you’ve worked on and why it was so cool.

In the US I was part of the EVO Launch (Exchange, Vista, Office launch). We presented in front of about 800+ people at a time over 3 months – at times I was running shows for 5 hours a day. That was a career highlight. In the UK I was track owner of Tech Ed EMEA in Barcelona for SharePoint Office. It was hard work but loads of fun because of the collaboration – there were lots of people with different goals – but it was a huge accomplishment as we beat the scores from two years previously.

Who’s your hero and why?

J Allard, Chief Experience Officer at Microsoft. He was the guy behind the Xbox and Zune vision and now leads a very holistic/strategic effort to change the way Microsoft products are engineered from a UI and capability perspective. He’s all about building kickass user experiences and bringing them to life. He’s truly visionary. I also really admire Steve Jobs for his ability to tell a story better than anyone I know. He delivers presentations where people want more and his philosophy is to get things right from the start rather than 2 or 3 versions down the line.

What do you do for fun (outside work)?

I arrange music for an a cappella group at a university. I do popular fusion arrangements from pop Indian, American and contemporary music. I help university groups to put together arrangements. I also love to travel and when I’m not arranging music or travelling (or working!) I work with a non profit organisation managing a global project for a web portal events registration system, including analytics and reporting. I’ve worked with the organisation since I was 12 so I know it pretty well!