Meet Siebe (aka Inky), a Messenger user and avid participant in the Messenger community:
I’m Siebe Tolsma, going by the nickname of Inky in the Messenger community. I come from the Netherlands and I am currently studying Computer Science student (BS) at the Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden (a college with about 10,000 students in the northern part of the Netherlands). Hobbies include watching TV, reading books, hanging out with my friends, etc. Passions? Programming and (very very little people know this) spirituality. I am heavily involved in the Messenger community, for which I write posts on several news sites and blogs, write documentation for MSNP, and maintain a chatterrobot called BOT2K3.
A couple of weeks ago, he decided to take the big plunge and apply to work on the Messenger team. His hard work and dedication to the product paid off, since he will be joining us this summer as a developer intern (that’s right, he will get paid to play with Messenger ).
Siebe was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions:
Why did you choose to apply for a position on the Messenger team?
Ever since we got a PC (when I was just over 6 years old) and it booted Windows 3.1 when I first tried it at 6am in the morning I wanted to work for Microsoft. Of course, I have been involved in the MSN Messenger community for several years now, so that helps, too. Besides my "experience" I think it’s really cool to work on a product which has a really cool community and I myself, and with me millions of others, use on a daily basis. But the really deciding factor was really a Microsoft employee, Scott, who I met last year in Amsterdam who told me to send in my resume. I did, and a couple of days later I got an e-mail back with an invitation for a phone interview!
What was the hardest part about the overall interviewing process (phone interviews, on campus…)?
Personally I found the phone interviews the hardest to do. I was very nervous because it was basically a one-time chance to prove that I was worth inviting over to campus for further interviews. Having to explain everything over the phone (and with help of Office Live Meeting in my case) instead of a whiteboard to mess on doesn’t help either. Second to that comes the last interview on campus, I think… Perhaps mainly because it is a long and exhausting day.
What did you think of the Microsoft campus and the Redmond area in general?
I loved the scenery of Redmond, lots of green (trees, grass, etc). I was also quite surprised at how "hilly" it was, I guess that’s because I’m from the Netherlands.. Where, you know.. Everything is just flat 😉 I thought the campus looked really cool. I was amazed by the amount of space Microsoft takes up too, the place is huge (me and a Microsoft employee drove around the campus for a while)! Furthermore I really liked the design of the buildings I visited — Lots of glass and wood, which is a personal favorite. But the coolest thing about campus I think is still how much energy there is in the air — As if you can feel thousands of enthusiastic people thinking up cool new products and crank out solutions for challenging problems.
If you were to add a feature to Messenger, what would it be and why?
Tough one. I think right now I would like to see Messenger more customizable, to a point where users can use plugins (or perhaps Windows Live Gadgets), quickly import skins, etc. In the case of Windows Live Gadgets it would be cool to save these settings server-side, so where ever you go, you take your fully customized Messenger with you. Your contact list, e-mails, etc are already available world-wide, so why not the way you want Messenger to look, feel and function?
What do you think the future holds for the world of IM and communications?
I think in the near future IM will become a lot more important than it is right now, replacing a great deal of e-mail and phone (examples can be companies using IM as helpdesk, or having their own automated support robots). On the long run I think we are going to see IM becoming a standard, something (nearly) everyone has, like electricity, water, etc. Also, contacts will be brought much closer to you, which perhaps applies the most to contacts from the other side of the world, due to increased capabilities of VOIP, webcam, audio, etc. A personal favorite would be to have an integrated set of applications which can be used to control devices we use in our every-day life across a distance (such as your home PC from work, microwave, TV recorder, etc).
What are your thoughts on the shift towards Live Services?
I think the Live services are really cool. I visit http://ideas.live.com pretty often to see if new products have been added or if I can test out some existing Live products. I like how all the services are (for as far as possible) are becoming integrated, like Spaces, MSN, and the new Live Contacts. The only concern I have is with the migration of MSN Messenger to Windows Live in certain countries (including the Netherlands) where "MSN" has literally become a verb — we’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose!
Any tips/suggestions/words of wisdom for other hopefuls?
Be yourself, and just go for it. If you think it would be cool to work on Messenger, or any other Microsoft product, just send in your resume and you’ll see where it will get you soon enough. Show enough confidence in yourself, and don’t be scared (because quite frankly, the Messenger guys are a really real cool bunch of guys!). And when you *are* invited over for interviews, read this: http://www.sellsbrothers.com/fun/msiview/. Seriously, it helps you prepare a lot better 🙂