Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS)



Ilya Bukshteyn: Internationally renowned Technology Authority Shares his Views

Stephen Ibaraki recently held an exclusive interview with world-renowned technology authority, Ilya Bukshteyn, Director, Product Management, Windows Server System, Microsoft Corp.


Q: With your thoroughly busy schedule, we are fortunate to have you with us sharing your views. Thank you Ilya!

A:  Thank you for the opportunity!

Q: Describe your career changes in the last three years and what prompted these changes? What advice would you give to others based upon your experiences?

A:  Since I left the Enterprise Early Adoption team in the developer division, I went to work for the Senior Vice President of our Server and Tools business as his Executive Communications Manager. That means I managed the content of his presentations for all of his public appearances, as well as all public relations opportunities with press and analysts. The job was a tremendous opportunity for me to learn about all of the components of a very large and complicated business; one which on its own could represent one of the largest software companies in the world.  I then moved to a project in our Enterprise Partner Group (EPG), working for the vice president of EPG to develop the communications engine there as well as our enterprise segment marketing organization.  I also enjoyed that job very much because I have a very strong passion for working with our largest, most strategic and global customers.

Q: What are your current goals and duties?

A:  I am now the Director of Product Management for Windows Server System, which is a part of Microsoft’s Server and Tools business.  I manage a team focused on understanding the server infrastructure requirements of Microsoft’s IT customers. We are focused on ensuring that the Windows Server System, which encompasses Microsoft’s portfolio of infrastructure server products as well as our strategy for engineering complexity out of them, matches those customer requirements.  This means gaining an understanding of current and future market requirements for integration, mapping them against the Windows Server System Common Engineering Roadmap and Criteria, evaluating the competition, and working to build a strong marketing presence (via events, Web, PR/AR and the field sales organization) to help our customers get the information they need about Windows Server System.  My team is also responsible for supporting communications for several of the executives in the Server and Tools organization.

Q: What do you find most challenging?

A: Keeping up.  I find that the hardest part of the work today is the volume – volume of communications, volume of change, volume of information to learn, and so on.  I’m involved with many different events, initiatives, and activities, and I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to go to bed at night without my email Inbox completely cleaned out.  Well, sometimes that gets a little challenging when you get about 600 emails a day addressed directly to you.  But it’s always interesting, always something new to learn, and always more to understand about our customers. That’s what makes the job a blast.

Q: What do you foresee in your future?

A:  I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately as I just passed my tenth year anniversary at Microsoft.  Microsoft has been a very unique place to work at over the last decade in terms of the growth of the business and the positive impact on our customers.  I’ve personally been fortunate to have had very diverse opportunities at this company, with experiences in field technical sales and consulting, program management, early adoption evangelism and now product management.  I’m always up for big challenges, so maybe my next assignment could be in a part of the company that’s totally new to me, such as our home media or mobile device businesses.  That’s really the great thing about Microsoft, the opportunity to have a big impact in such a diverse set of areas, but all centered on the power of software to improve the lives of our customers.

Q: What career advice would you give to others for the future?

A:  It all boils down to this – work for a great company, surrounded by great people.  Great companies can be large or small but always think "customer first". They know how to grow, hire and retain great people, invest in their employees, make decisions, embrace change and act on it.

One of the things I love about Microsoft is that I am surrounded with diverse thinkers and thinking – linear, chaos, analytical, creative - every kind of thinking you can imagine.  Similar people think similarly, and there are too many examples of business failure due to insular thinking.  At one point telegraph companies thought the future of communications was telegraph stations, central places people would come to in order to communicate.  But exposure to more diverse thinking might have helped them envision a future involving more emphasis on personal communications, such as a telephone in the home.  Today all of us live and work in a truly worldwide market and economy, and exposure to and learning from diverse people and thinking is critical to surviving and thriving.

Change is coming to your job; the key is to be prepared.  People coming into the workforce today are likely to change careers three or more times in their working life. It’s crucial to understand your interests and pursue them aggressively, to tie into technology trends and changes, and to view disruptive change as an opportunity rather than a threat.  More than ever the pace of change requires all of us to be lifelong learners – doing so not only helps us prepare for change but also gives us more choices when change does happen.

Most people are going to spend the majority of their lives working, so find a job that you’re really, really passionate about.  Enjoy what you do or find something else to do.  The financial rewards won’t be worth it if you don’t love what you’re doing.  What keeps me going each day is that I get to work at a great company with great people, and that’s a fantastic feeling to have.

Q: What is your current perspective on business and technology?

A:  I think the central theme today is change.  We all need to embrace change.

Whether change comes from geopolitical trends (all of us in the IT industry should become familiar with the stats on India and China graduating several orders of magnitude more Computer Science students than North American countries), or technology advances (think about what Napster did for the music industry and the future of the CD, or what Tivo and DVR technology are going to do to network broadcasting), change is certain and it’s coming to your industry.

There’s a story about John Stuart Mill, one of the great minds of the 19th century.  He woke up one morning feeling that the “answer to the question of the ages” had come to him in the middle of the night.  But he forgot what it was. So he placed a quill and paper next to his bed.  A few mornings later he awoke again feeling that the “answer to the question of the ages” had come to him while he slept.  He looked at the paper and found there in his own handwriting the words, “Think in different terms”.  John Stuart Mill followed the advice.  His philosophical reasoning is said to rank with Aristotle’s.  He made original contributions to economics.  He advocated the radical idea (for his time), of increased rights for women.  Think in different terms - not a bad slogan in my opinion for the current state of business and technology.  To confront change successfully requires an attitude of mind that is open—an attitude of mind that is willing to confront the status quo and look at things in a new way—an attitude of mind which may involve thinking in different terms.

One reason that every day at work is so interesting is that Microsoft is so good at encouraging its employees to voice their opinions, to speak up if we see a different way of thinking about a problem or of meeting the needs of our customers.

Q: What do you see as the next major wave, the next major 'disruptive technology' or killer app to come out of our industry?

A:  There are so many promising areas it’s really difficult to pick just one.

There are some very exciting technologies coming for IT operations.  In the next few years we will likely see a paradigm shift in IT operations, with a much greater level of automation and a much better connection between application development, deployment, and management.  This is the concept at the heart of our Dynamic Systems Initiative, which promises to really revolutionize IT operations with the concept of transferring knowledge across the application lifecycle via software models. Visual Studio 2005, shipping later this year, will for the first time truly enable applications to be “designed for operations”. And moving forward, the work being done as part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative promises to really revolutionize IT by dramatically increasing automation.

The work being done around communications – real-time communications, voice-over-IP (VOIP), mobile communications, etc. – is just amazing.  If you want a sneak peek at the kind of integrated communications which is coming in the future, take a look at the recently announced Microsoft Office Communicator.  The innovation which will come out of the acquisition of Groove Networks will also be very exciting.

Of course user experience is one area where we still have a huge amount of opportunity for improvement.  We’ve made huge progress over the last decade but today it’s still too difficult for users to do the things they want to do, whether it’s to have one set of contacts across all my phones and other devices, or to easily share my experiences, my digital pictures, music, and movies, with my family and relatives.  I am incredibly excited at the innovations coming in this area.  There are going to be some amazing Windows Mobile devices coming to market from our partners in the next 12-18 months, delivering very significant improvements in user experience. And of course the major milestone is the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, which we expect to release in calendar 2006.  I believe it will not only change how people interact with computers but also significantly broaden the accessibility of technology by making personal computer easier to use and thus far more approachable.

Q: Which non-technology areas interest you and why?

A:  This is sort of a technology area, but I’m a big A/V geek.  Just upgraded my TVs to HDTV, and I’m loving the experience!  I’m also a big fan of great wine – just like with technology, wine is a hobby where I learn something new with every experience.