Three quarters of 2015, my IT career and various ramblings

September is over. The first three quarters of 2015 are over.
This has been a very important year so far – difficult, but revealing. Everything has been about change, healing and renewal.

We moved back to Europe first, and you might have now also read my other post about leaving Microsoft, more recently.

This was a hard choice – it took many months to reach the conclusion this is what I needed to do.

Most people have gone thru strong programming: they think you have to be ‘successful’ at something. Success is externally defined, anyhow (as opposed to satisfaction which we define ourselves) and therefore you are supposed to study in college a certain field, then use that at work to build your career in the same field… and keep doing the same thing.

I was never like that – I didn’t go to college, I didn’t study as an ‘engineer’. I just saw there was a market opportunity to find a job when I started, studied on the job, eventually excelled at it. But it never was *the* road. It just was one road; it has served me well so far, but it was just one thing I tried, and it worked out.
How did it start? As a pre-teen, I had been interested in computers, then left that for a while, did ‘normal’ high school (in Italy at the time, this was really non-technological), then I tried to study sociology for a little bit – I really enjoyed the Cultural Anthropology lessons there, and we were smoking good weed with some folks outside of the university, but I really could not be asked to spend the following 5 or 10 years or my life just studying and ‘hanging around’ – I wanted money and independence to move out of my parent’s house.

So, without much fanfare, I revived my IT knowledge: upgraded my skill from the ‘hobbyist’ world of the Commodore 64 and Amiga scene (I had been passionate about modems and the BBS world then), looked at the PC world of the time, rode the ‘Internet wave’ and applied for a simple job at an IT company.

A lot of my friends were either not even searching for a job, with the excuse that there weren’t any, or spending time in university, in a time of change, where all the university-level jobs were taken anyway so that would have meant waiting even more after they had finished studying… I am not even sure they realized this until much later.
But I just applied, played my cards, and got my job.

When I went to sign it, they also reminded me they expected hard work at the simplest and humblest level: I would have to fix PC’s, printers, help users with networking issues and tasks like those – at a customer of theirs, a big company.
I was ready to roll up my sleeves and help that IT department however I would be capable of, and I did.
It all grew from there.

And that’s how my IT career started. I learned all I know of IT on the job and by working my ass off and studying extra hours and watching older/more expert colleagues and making experience.

I am not an engineer.
I am, at most, a mechanic.
I did learn a lot of companies and the market, languages, designs, politics, the human and technical factors in software engineering and the IT marketplace/worlds, over the course of the past 18 years.

But when I started, I was just trying to lend a honest hand, to get paid some money in return – isn’t that what work was about?

Over time IT got out of control. Like Venom, in the Marvel comics, that made its appearance as a costume that SpiderMan started wearing… and it slowly took over, as the ‘costume’ was in reality some sort of alien symbiotic organism (like a pest).

You might be wondering what I mean. From the outside I was a successful Senior Program Manager of a ‘hot’ Microsoft product.
Someone must have mistaken my diligence and hard work for ‘talent’ or ‘desire of career’ – but it never was.
I got pushed up, taught to never turn down ‘opportunities’.

But I don’t feel this is my path anymore.
That type of work takes too much metal energy off me, and made me neglect myself and my family. Success at the expense of my own health and my family’s isn’t worth it. Some other people wrote that too – in my case I stopped hopefully earlier.

So what am I doing now?

First and foremost, I am taking time for myself and my family.
I am reading (and writing)
I am cooking again
I have been catching up on sleep – and have dreams again
I am helping my father in law to build a shed in his yard
We bought a 14-years old Volkswagen van that we are turning into a Camper
I have not stopped building guitars – in fact I am getting setup to do it ‘seriously’ – so I am also standing up a separate site to promote that activity
I am making music and discovering new music and instruments
I am meeting new people and new situations

There’s a lot of folks out there who either think I am crazy (they might be right, but I am happy this way), or think this is some sort of lateral move – I am not searching for another IT job, thanks. Stop the noise on LinkedIn please: I don’t fit in your algorithms, I just made you believe I did, all these years.

Microsoft Way

Microsoft Way

In the last couple of weeks we have been driving thru America from the east coast (New York) to the west coast (Seattle).

I figured out I needed to show my family the Microsoft campus too. Of course they know I work at Microsoft… but having only seen the office of a subsidiary – the one in Rome, with about 250 people at its max – might not have given them (especially the kids) an idea of the actual size of the company.

Burning Audio CDs with Media Player on Windows 2008 requires elevation

Yesterday, when trying to burn an Audio CD (to listen to music in my car) starting from MP3 files by using Windows Media Player 11, I kept getting this message “connect a burner and restart the player” and the “Start Burn” button was greyed out, like if the program was not able to seeing that my CD/DVD Burner is actually capable of writing CDs:

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But I knew the DVD/CD burner was connected and working, because I had used it the very same day (with another program) to burn an .ISO image, and it worked from there!

I searched all over the place for this error message, and there are many posts in forums with this message, which suggest you to do the strangest things, from changing your computer, to deleting important pieces of the registry, to reinstall the whole system… most of them are bullshit.

I went to my wife’s PC to test…with her PC it worked. It looked mostly the same: she’s running Vista, not 2008 (but it really is the same kernel, isn’t it?), she has exactly the same DVD burner installed as I do, the same motherboard, both machines and OS’s are 64bit, we both have installed Internet Explorer 8 (and keep it with “protected mode” turned ON), we both have Media Player 11, we both keep UAC enabled…

But then in the end I tried using elevation:

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And here we go, it worked:

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When running the process as administrator, Windows Media Player is able to query the hardware to determine if we have a capable device on Windows Server 2008. It remains a mystery to me at this point why this works on my wife’s Vista machine without elevation, though…

It sure is not a problem to do this operation “as administrator” when needed – but it just took me a minute to figure it out, for some reason.

Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar | Commercial Road

Last week I have been to Doha, Qatar, visiting a customer site and learning from a colleague how to deliver my first “official” MOM Health Check. I have spent most of my time working on Microsoft Operations Manager, of course, but I also did manage to walk around a bit on my late afternoons and evenings and see some stuff. So, as I usually do in these cases, I took a ton of pictures.
I found an interesting place, filled with contrasts between old and new, tradition and competition, ancient and modern.
It’s a living place that is certainly working hard to get over the oil business model and attract richness in different ways.

John Lockerbie spotted my photos on Flickrs and asked me permission to use some of the, so they have been now republished on his very interesting page about Islamic Urban design and architeture and the one about islamic society.
They both are an interesting read, and most of his site is.