Answering the Siren Call of the Blue Badge

Some little children dream of growing up to become a policeman, doctor, nurse, President, or perhaps even race car driver. My son Joseph wants to be a fireman-elephant: He would have his own hose for putting out fires. At the age of 3, my daughter Emily declared her intention to be a best friend when she’s a grownup. So clearly, career aspirations are varied. But for many of you, the inner geek yearns for a blue badge. (Note to the uninitiated: “Blue Badge” refers to the color of the access badge that a Microsoft employee receives. Contractors and other people with access badges receive different colors. Cool and hip people know to say, “She’s a blue badge at Microsoft.”) Read on if you dream of badges blue.

Recently, a colleague at Microsoft asked me to refer SQL Server experts who might be a good fit for the growing SQL Server User Education (UE) team. Instead of passing along a few names, I suggested I let the world know about the opportunity. Now let’s be clear: This isn’t the position to seek if you’re brand new to the field and know deep down inside that you don’t really have the depth of knowledge to compete for a job at Microsoft. But if you’re good--very good--you might be intrigued.

Microsoft created the title “Programming Writer” to fit the company’s growing interest in making SQL Server Books Online a world-class resource for demos, scripts, and examples in addition to plain old-fashioned documentation. Regular readers of this column know that I’m a great fan of this trend, and I understand why Programming Writers are essential to the cause. Let’s face it--many coders have not been granted the gift of prose (at least not until someone hosts English inside the CLR). And many good writers, well, can’t code their way out of a paper bag. So what’s Microsoft looking for in a Programming Writer? Here’s Microsoft’s introduction to the job description:

“Great documentation is about simplification--the flash of inspiration that lets you see that concepts you thought were hard can be taught in clear steps with concrete examples. Join a team dedicated to making data programming as simple as possible, yet robust enough for the largest applications in the industry. Your role on this team will be to educate developers by using concise prose and elegant code. You will spend much of your time on new technology, blazing the path that other developers will follow. You will help create the terminology, vocabulary, and coding practice for a new approach to data access.”

Other snippets from the job description include the following qualifications:

  • Demonstrated skill at crafting both code and prose
  • Passion for teaching customers about technology, and enjoy the challenge of learning new technology
  • Experience working with relational databases, using object/relational mapping and creating developer documentation
  • Experience with a variety of technologies and programming languages is also helpful. However, the most important experience you can bring to this job is a track record of quickly learning new technologies, clearly and accurately explaining those technologies to others, and developing inspiring sample applications for new technologies.
  • The following blog links might help you decide whether this career excites you. The first three links are to blogs from members of the team that you would be working with. The next four links are to the personal blogs from several leading members of the team.

    Team blogs:




    Individual team members’ blogs:

    Michael Rys:

    Mike Champion:

    Erik Meijer

    Brian Bec

    Interested candidates should contact Microsoft at [email protected]

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