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An Interview with David Starr, a Senior Program Manager in the Visual Studio ALM

by Dmytro Mindra on Oct 01, 2012 |

David Starr is the founder of ElegantCode.com. He is also a software craftsman passionate about helping software development teams to improve their software, their practices, and their culture.

Recently David Starr has announced that he is joining Microsoft as a Senior Program Manager in the Visual Studio ALM.

Dmytro Mindra for InfoQ: David, can you tell a little bit more about your new position at Microsoft?

David Starr: As a Senior Program Manager in the Visual Studio ALM organization at Microsoft, I will work with software development teams to create features of Visual Studio. If you were to map the Scrum roles onto this position it is quite close to that of Product Owner.

All technologists must master not only the complexities of the technology they use, but also the domain in which they work. If you make software for dentists, you will learn about dentistry. If you are an enterprise developer for an insurance company, you will learn about the domain of insurance.

I am fortunate beyond measure because I get to work with a domain I am most passionate about: software development itself. Creating software to be used in creating other software is almost a higher calling, in my mind.

My ranked order for software development job awesomeness looks like this:

  1. Creating new programming languages.
  2. Creating software development tools.
  3. Making video games.

Getting to work in any of those 3 spaces is just awesome.

InfoQ: What are your expectations regarding Visual Studio vNext? What would you like to see?

DS: Although .vNext of Visual Studio after 2012 is a long way out, Microsoft is clearly showing more true business agility. As Microsoft has announced, Visual Studio will begin releasing quarterly rather than customers having to wait for two-year product release cycles. This is huge, not just for the product, but for the industry at large.

Once a track record of frequent Visual Studio releases is established, customers will consider how they want to receive and consume the product. IT departments that typically delay rolling out a new release of software will be practically driven accept updates more frequently. This will hopefully lean out the entire flow of software delivery to the desktop, not just in a SaaS world. Moving past the world of boxed software that ships every 2 years is as big of an accomplishment for Microsoft as the 2012 release itself.

InfoQ: Today we see Microsoft tools becoming more agile. Do you expect more agility in future releases?

DS: While I appreciate the spirit of the question, tools are not agile. They just are. The behavior of teams using the tools determines agility.

Creating tools that support and encourage agile behaviors is clearly the direction the Visual Studio ALM tooling is taking. The Visual Studio ALM platform will continue to evolve in the direction of supporting agile behaviors and agile engineering practices. This exactly why I am joining Microsoft. I want to help build tools that encourage practices that support people in making great software.

Specifically, I hope to see Executable Speciation features in the core ALM product offering. Rest assured I will push that as I am a passionate proponent of Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) and other executable specification initiatives.

Existing tools in this space have made significant headway in executable specification, but I see a unique opportunity in the Microsoft ecosystem to marry the needs of analysts, customers, project management types, and those creating the software via requirements that compile and run. I am very excited about this space because I think it promises to fundamentally change experience of creating and delivering software.

InfoQ: You are the author of popular trainings and workshops, do you plan to keep working on this?

DS: Scrum.org’s Professional Scrum Foundations course will still be my responsibility for a few more months until someone else takes that curriculum as their own. I am also going to create some curriculum for Pluralsight on Scrum in the coming months.

Staying relevant and involved in the developer community at large is a given. That was an important item during discussions with Microsoft. Not only will I remain engaged in community, but I am sure I’ll meet even more software developers who use Visual Studio for agile development. I hope to spend more time in team rooms than class rooms in the next year.

I may not do much classroom teaching, but expect to find me at conferences, code camps, user groups, dojos, online, and other places where passionate developers lurk. I am looking forward to blogging more and getting back to writing about technical issues at elegantcode.com.

InfoQ: How do you feel about being a member of Visual Studio ALM organization?

I am excited and humbled to be working with the brilliant people in the Visual Studio teams. The opportunity to contribute to a product with so many passionate users is daunting, especially because the customers are my own peers: Developers.

We developers tend to be someone opinionated and finicky about our tools. Me included. That’s how I ended up here, after all!

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