MJS 027 Chris Anderson

MJS 027 Chris Anderson

This episode is a My JavaScript Story with guest Chris Anderson. Chris works at Microsoft, specifically on Azure Functions and WebJobs SDK. Hear how he got his start, how he has contributed to the community, as well as a bit about what it’s like being a Program Manager for Microsoft.

[00:01:50] How did you get into programming?

In college Chris was an aerospace engineer. His first taste of working with code was at an internship at Lockheed Martin. Most of his daily work was with spread sheets so he learned Visual Basic to help handle that. He found himself interested in writing code more so he took an intro in C summer course and then things snowballed. When he finished that semester, he talked to advisor about switching to Computer Science. Immediately landed into JavaScript. Chris talks about having a ‘clicking moment’ while in a topics class. A classmate was talking about NodeJS and so he tried it out and hasn’t stopped using it since.

[00:03:36] What about programing appealed to you?

Chris says that programming made him have a sense of having superpowers. In aerospace he learned how planes worked and that was fun, but programming had an immediately feedback on what he was working on. He adds that it made sense in the way that programming is a universal toolset for no matter what field you’re in. Charles adds that he dug into coding after working in tech support and needing it.

[00:05:22] Have you worked with JavaScript before learning about Node?

Chris’ first real coding experience was with his internship. He taught himself JavaScript on the job and after a few months found himself really liking it. He felt like JavaScript felt more natural and expressive. Javascript empowered him to work on the client side and the server side and he felt empowered to do full stack.

[00:06:55] Was this before Microsoft?

Microsoft’s hiring process for college graduates you apply the year you graduate and go through a handful of interviews. He got hired into a team working on databases, working in SQL server. He wanted to work in developer tools and learned how to use power shell and SQL works and how powerful it was. He started moving back and pushing NodeJS onto SQL. There was a driver for SQL purely in JavaScript called TDS and he would make pull requests and contributed to that. He talks about searching internally looking for other work and finding a mobile services team that needed a NodeJS person so he started there. Later he started WebJobs and then later Functions, as an effort to make NodeJS technology work with a .Net technology called Webjobs SDK. Functions exists because he wanted to add a NodeJS to a .Net product.

[00:11:07] Did you find pushing NodeJS into a well developed language ecosystem risky?

Chris talks about helping push adoption of .Net and creating prototype ideas, and it sparking from that. His goal was to make customers more productive.

[00:12:02] Having fun at work

Chris talks about the team culture being fun at times. Sometimes as a developer you get buffered by Project Managers, but in the case developers spend a lot of time talking to customers. They are excited so they have loads of interactions, helping develop diverse ideas. Charles adds that the preconception to how the environment feels in Microsoft tends to be negative but from talking to people who work there, things seem to be more open than expected. Chris points to open source concepts that really makes working with Microsoft great.

[00:14:40] What does a Program Manager do on a team?

Chris talks about how his job is to explore the issues and talk to customers and then prioritize how to make things better. He talks about doing whatever he can to make the product successful with the customers, including building a prototype of an idea, taking a sort of position similar to an entrepreneur. Charles adds that it’s refreshing to find that someone in the Program Manager also being technical sufficient and hands on. Chris talks about how teams are built naturally and pulled together with a group of people who love what they are doing.

[00:16:52] Does the Azure Functions team use Azure Functions to make Azure Functions work?

Chris talks about not using Azure functions under the covers, for the most part it’s built on top of the app service technology stack like web apps and mobile apps. Things that power that is what powers the Azure functions, like Angular. A lot of the engineering pieces are on top of that. They do use Azure for various Microsoft internal things. All of the tests they build are functions to test functions.

[00:18:24] How did you and your team come to use Angular?

Chris was working on the prototype for Azure Functions. Amed had experience with working on front end applications and he wanted to try out Angular 2 even though it was still in beta. He found that had the right amount of stuff out of the box. Additionally it had typescript which meshed well. They tend to pick things that people on the team know well and not as much as trying to stay tied into Microsoft supported systems. Chris talks about doing one or two major refactoring.

How much Angular have you worked on yourself?

Amed works the most on Angular, Chris’ job as Program Manager puts in him in a place where his commits don’t go into production, but he will often write prototypes. He played around a lot with the Monaco editor and adding features for that. As far as outside of that, he has written a few tutorials for using Functions plus Angular as well as written his wedding website with Angular.

[00:22:33] What other extracurricular projects have you worked on?

Chris talks about doing a lot of side projects for a while. One working with ExpressSocket.io. He also built a middleware project where you can write middleware into Functions. Plenty of little projects he puts on GitHub and never finishes. Chris talks about wishing he could switch hats between being the Program Manager and a developer.

[00:23:42] Is there anything in particular you feel like you’ve contributed to Angular?

Chris talks about improving by putting in loads of pull requests for tons of JavaScript libraries and a few NodeJS libraries. He would like to be more involved in the start of those processes. Chris says he hopes to maybe be involved in the next Node version update. He really likes the Node community.



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