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As I write this in my hotel room now on the eve of me leaving the state of Arizona, I am left with mixed emotions.  Most of them frankly are deeply personal which I’ll spare you the details.  However, it is here – specifically in the Phoenix metro area – that I grew the most technically. 

NOTE: Yes there are some Microsoft employees that live outside of the ivory towers of Redmond.  However, and to be frankly honest, when you work for a product team -- *currently* – it is fair to say that growth could be limited when you aren’t near the decision makers.  It is for this reason that I’ve decided to relocate.

Allow me to reminisce a bit…

Out of college I actually worked for my fraternity (Delta Chi for those interested).  I was immensely interested in educational leadership and traveled the northeast area of the country visiting undergraduate and alumni organizations to share my knowledge learned in the world of educational leadership.  It was through a freak accident…getting lost in Pittsburgh while trying to find Duquesne where my life took a twist.  I wasn’t paying attention and ran a red light in an intersection.  My car was met by another – otherwise known as ‘getting t-boned.’  Both of us survived fine although my car did not.  Through a series of other events within weeks I quit that job and was left jobless and headed back to Arizona where I had to beg my father for help (not really, my parents are great).  I also had met a lady that had really caught my attention.  I wanted to marry her quickly.  With no job, no prospects and no home, I asked her parents for her hand in marriage.  Yeah, I know. 

Anyway, I took a temp job with FHP Healthcare in Arizona (an HMO) doing data entry during their busy season (open enrollment).  I was informed that I was the 4th temp they brought in in as many days and they were way behind in the applications.  If I couldn’t cut it they weren’t going to wait.  I found this to be odd because data entry seemed really simple to me. 

SIDENOTE: My father was a programmer and always involved in IT.  I lived around it.  He brought home his ‘portables’ (basically a 27-inch TV dumb terminal) a lot and I was always around it.  I pretty much grew up around computers although never really programmed them much beyond BASIC.

Before lunch on that first day I had completed the stack that was provided me…about 1500 applications if I recall.  I told my supervisor who effectively called ‘BS’ on my and went to verify my work.  She was amazed and brought me in to the big boss’ office.  He asked why I was working as a temp and what my skills were.  Of course, my degree in Criminal Justice didn’t shine for an IT job, but he saw something in me.  He took a chance that I’ve been grateful ever since (thanks Charles!).  That week I was offered a full-time job as a junior analyst for the sales and marketing systems and worked under the wing of a programmer (our system was PowerBuilder at the time).

Fast-forward about 2 years I got the chance to join a consulting company, one of the biggest/best in the valley in Phoenix.  To date, it still has been the most fun place to work.  Ah the days of ordering random crap on Skymall to “test” the e-commerce updates (our company built their first site).  It was there that a group of us started to host impromptu meet-ups of like-minded geeks in the Microsoft world…’user groups’ as I would learn them to be called.  Some more driven folks like Scott Cate and Dan Wahlin put some more structure, organization and ‘official-ness’ behind them and the Arizona .NET User Group was formed a long while ago.  I’ve been involved in some way ever since.  I have fond memories of organizing and participating in DevDays events, working with partners and customers, building some of the most unused systems for large companies :-), and just having loads of fun working with great people.

It is through community that I’ve learned so much of what I know and, perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.  My paths and aspirations eventually brought me to Microsoft about 5 or so years ago and here I stand now – headed to the mothership to be closer to my team.

I’m immensely grateful for those in the Arizona technical community that I’ve met and learned from over the years.  There is a lot of smart people here (well I think they are smart but I still can’t figure out why we all sit in the 115F temperatures!!!) that I admire a lot.  Whether it be Microsoft technologies, Linux user groups, Ruby, whatever the tech, I’ve learned a lot and I thank you.

The decision to leave Arizona was much more challenging on personal levels, of course, but along with my personal friends exists my ‘professional’ ones who I’ve had just as much fun with over the years.  I’m not sure if my paths will bring me back to Arizona in the near future, but until then – thank you Arizona.

I’m still working with Silverlight, still working with the community and hopefully taking a broader feature role in the coming versions.  My responsibilities haven’t really changed, but some were questioning my move so I thought I’d drop a note.  In a nutshell to Silverlight folks: your feedback has a smaller distance to travel from my inbox/blog/forums to those who make decisions!

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