So what is Canada like? How is life at Microsoft? These are two questions I often receive these days from colleagues and family alike … I think it is time I summarise my views after 100 days in Canada and 99 days with Microsoft. Left’s start with Canada, as it is the longer of the two periods … OK, one day longer, but anyway the longer period :) For the mathematicians you will spot the pattern: Arrive on Sunday, settle family over night and go to work, on the other side of the planet on Monday :)
There is so much to report in this category, so let’s list the top:
- Unless you come from Switzerland and especially if you come from Africa, this country is efficient focused on service quality and customer satisfaction. If a service provider promises a service on day X at hour Y, you better be ready, because the service is provided be it gas, electricity, telephone, garden maintenance, … it is scary.
- The county is “metric”, which makes it so much easier when driving on the road, buying groceries or dealing with measurements in general.
- The transport system is great, comprehensive and cost effective. Unlike South-Africa where we all had cars, we now have one, used primarily by my commander-in-chief, while I use the public transport and occasionally the bicycle.
- The surroundings, the views and the nature in Vancouver, especially in Delta where we stay, is phenomenal. We go for daily walks to the local marina, cycle to the harbour regularly and our boys normally vanish for hours on the cycles, exploring local marshes, forests and beaches.
- The weather is challenging, coming from a country where is is either very hot for months, then hot for months and cold during nights for ~ 2months. In Vancouver you have more than four seasons in a day … it can start with ice and snow, turn into a blue warm day, have storms in the afternoon, brief sunshine to raise the hope, followed by more snow. You get it all in a day … but, spring has sprung and the weather has been amazing over the past few weeks. Last weekend the boys and I slept in the garden in a tent for 3 nights … a great experience and thanks to the sunny skies, the experience was a rather ‘warm’ one.
… two of my three boys in front of our new home :|
- The people are very friendly, so much so, that at times it is quite unnerving. Within a week everyone in the neighbourhood knew that South-African had arrived and all made a point of introducing themselves and talking to us on our strolls through the neighbourhood.
- The cost of living is high in Vancouver, not sure about the other parts of Canada, and you best crumple your mental conversion calculator as soon as possible, because converting a MacDonalds hamburger to South-African Rands costs more than a meal at a good restaurant, which is scary.
- Things are not great or ‘nice’, they are “awesome” … while our middle son is doing well in maintaining his South-African accent, the youngest is already starting to adopt some of the ‘peculiar’ pronunciations :)
… now let’s review my first 99 days as a blue badge worker.
- My first week at Microsoft started with TechReady, an internal technical event, where you receive literal brain dumps of current, new and future technologies. After a week I wanted to go home, just to be able to relax for 2 hours on the bus from Seattle to Vancouver :|
- My second major engagement was to represent the VSTS Rangers at the MVP Global Summit. Talking about the infamous TFS Migration and Synchronisation Toolkit v1.0, and talking on the other side of the fence to the highly respected, experienced and no-nonsense VSTS Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) I thought it best to wear my Swiss steel helmet during parts of my presentation. Mickey’s singing performance at the MVP party, wearing the South-African community jacket was another “awesome” event … that MVP is not only a VSTS guru, but a singing sensation as well.
- For the remainder I have tried to get to grips with the processes, the rules … I have appeared on the NDA violation list already, I have broken countless processes and rules, mainly due to my tenacity for transparency and the concept of charging, then ask for forgiveness later. In general I have settled reasonably well and am responsible for three exciting and strategic VSTS Rangers projects, while contributing to two others … so there is no shortage in work. The summary is on my hiding on my blog as here as everyone hopefully already knows.
- Mentors such as Bill Essary, team colleagues such as Charles (Chuck), colleagues at Redmond such as Brian Keller, Ian Ceicys, colleagues at MCDC like Adrian, Jacques, Terry, Hyung and Nada, and amazing managers such as Bijan and Jeff are making the transition into the Microsoft environment so much easier and even fun at times. I love “Chucks” chair and cannot wait to visit Redmond again, so that I can pass out in his comfy chair in his office :) Bijan’s razor sharp focus, professionalism and sheer dedication for perfection can be unnerving at times, but makes me respect the gentleman immensely.
- The support I am receiving from community leads back home and VSTS MVPs is also phenomenal … their passion, commitment and their relentless support needs to be highly praised and is appreciated by me every day. I miss my MTU/ATC team, the SA Architect, SA Developer and MVP communities back home every day … but the collaboration with the South-African community leads makes it slightly more bearable.
- For those that know my passion for information sharing, it will come as no surprise that I am getting involved in a Microsoft MCDC Research Program, which has many similarities with the Developer Readiness Program I was driving with colleagues back home. I am sure that I will soon report on this initiative, which will hopefully increase information sharing, collaboration and make life in the remote teams, such as the Microsoft Canada Development Centre (MCDC) a little bit easier.
Would I do it again? Absolutely, but probably a lot sooner, with more pro-active planning. The one important advice I have for anyone thinking of moving to another country is to start selling their assets at least a year in advance and start with the rest of the red-tape, i.e. visas, police clearance certificates and the other 33cm of paperwork that is needed to conclude such a move. Also believe no-one, visit the country of destination first and make sure you have all i’s dotted and t’s crossed, i.e. school and proof of accident driving, before you throw your family out of the plane with a non-return parachute.
Other than that we as a family have no regrets and are currently enjoying every day in our new home. We were told that a half-full glass is better than a half-empty glass, so our outlook is “positive”, as much as we miss our African home and in particular our friends. Recent tragedies have highlighted the importance of “seizing the day” and enjoying life … so with this thought, I will encourage you all to support the communities, support the VSTS Rangers initiatives, keep the technology passion flame going, but most importantly to go home every day and enjoy quality time with your family.
Until the next update, “tot siens”!