On the 12th December 2020 I will be celebrating 15 proud years working at Microsoft!
When I say "celebrating", I really mean it; Microsoft are a brilliant employer and I'm enjoying my time here now probably more than ever. I have just been promoted and could not be happier at work.
I'm now working in the Commercial Software Engineering (CSE) group working every day as a senior software engineer; writing code, architecting systems and above all, helping customers build cool stuff on Azure.
I'm not doing as much evangelism/advocacy now compared to 5 years ago (see Ten years at the best company in the world) and I do miss that stuff, but I feel happier and more secure doing what I'm doing now.
Microsoft as a company continue to go from strength to strength. The MSFT stock price was just $54 in 2015 but is $211 as I write and that reflects the strong, ethical leadership of Satya Nadella and the rest of the senior leadership team. I have absolute confidence that Microsoft will continue to be a very important company for me, my family, my customers and the world as a whole for many years to come.
I've tried to reflect on the project and initiatives I've been involved in over the past 5 years and pick out a few highlights
As the world was gripped by COVID-19 in 2020, I worked on an emergency project with the World Health Organisation to create a portal for scientists to upload COVID-19 research data sets. This facilitated global sharing and collaboration across the scientific community; we'll never know whether it helped develop the vaccine, but I like to imagine it might have. It was a high pace, intense project but I really enjoyed doing something for good instead of profit. I also got to learn Blazor, which is awesome and the future of the web in my opinion.
Without doubt, the most fun I've ever had at work was recording the Web Hack Wednesday video series with Martin Beeby. In these 10-20 minutes weekly videos, Martin and I discussed whatever was new and interesting in the world of web development in our own unique and daft way. They were initially published on Channel9 and YouTube. This is probably the thing I miss the most about my old role that I wish I could justifiably do now, but it just does not fit with my objectives in my current role :(
One of the more interesting "code with" project I've done in recent years was with a chap called Joe Collins from a small company called Black Radley who had a vision to create an "Intelligent Museum". The idea was that as visitors traversed a museum, intelligent devices would identify them, approximate their age and give a tailored audio description of the exhibit, and then detect when they walked away. I thought I'd blogged about this but I cannot find it now, but if you are interested I do have a slide deck with more details.
I built my own GitHub-based CMS. The article you are reading right now was written in markdown on my GitHub Content repo which uses a combination of logic apps and azure functions to put the article on my website. The system has been up and running for several years now and works brilliantly. It means my content is open source and anyone can submit pull requests. I've always intended to write about this, but never really gotten around to it - perhaps I will by 2025 if it is still running by then?
These are my top technology predictions over the next 5 years. It will be fun to look back at this in 2025 and see what I got right.
The 2020 gaming hardware consoles (Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5) will be the last major console releases as gaming will move to cloud based services. You'll be able to "stream" games on any device and the game will adapt to the hardware you have in your hands, just like responsive websites do.
Even after COVID-19 goes away, remote working will remain the default for most desk based workers rather than the privileged few as it was in 2019. We will be remote first and only work in person for big meetings, team get togethers and important events. This will bring with it constant improvements in remote collaboration technologies like Teams, Zoom and Slack. Companies will downsize their real estate and working location/flexibility will become as important as salary and pensions to job seekers. Garden offices will continue to boom and dining rooms and spare rooms will be replaced with studies.
Email will finally die. We will use email less and less and rely on collaboration apps like Teams, Zoom and Slack for work collaboration and social apps like TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp etc for personal communication.
Cash is dead and bank cards are not far behind. By 2025 we will be mostly using digital wallets with services like Apple Pay. There will be a tipping point where retailers (even small, independent rural ones) find they lose too much business by not accepting card payments and when that happens people will be confident going shopping with just their phones, which will mark the end of physical cards too. Contactless limits will go away.
People will get bored of Twitter and realise that it is bit of an echo chamber, it is full of people/businesses self-promoting and there is a lot of hate and upset on there. Twitter has around 145 million daily active users right now, so we'll see!
Most new cars will be electric and autonomous and there will be super-fast highway lanes for these kinds of cars (the highway is perhaps a bit of a stretch for 5 years but I think it will go in this direction). Tesla will be struggling because every other car manufacturer will will have caught up with them and will be able to beat them on price. Tesla's share price is $604 as I write so we'll see!
Conversational AI will start to work properly. Bots and skills have had their "iFart" period over the last few years and it is very hard to find a bot/skill that actually works better than the associated app today. However, this will change; language understanding will get better, microphones and speakers will get better and companies will take these kinds of applications seriously investing more dollars into them. Privacy will always be a concern, but I think this will subside for the majority like it did with social networking. Most households will have some kind of "smart speaker" device or at least a microphone in most rooms and we'll be able to roam around the house barking instructions into thin air knowing they will have been seamlessly heard understood and acted upon.
I'll see you again in 2025.