Beth Massi - Sharing The Goodness Of LightSwitch

Ten Minutes With… Beth Massi

On 13 September, 2013 07:00:10, in Interviews, by Dirk Strauss

beth massiAny developer involved in LightSwitch will know her name. Programming since the age of 8, Beth Massi and her blog is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to get involved with this awesome technology. Below she answers a few questions about herself, LightSwitch and Microsoft.

Bio

I’m a Senior Program Manager on the Visual Studio team at Microsoft and a community champion for business application developers. Before Microsoft, I spent 15 years building business apps for small businesses as well as large enterprises.

I am a frequent speaker at various software development events and you can find me on a variety of developer sites including MSDN.com, Channel 9, and my blog www.bethmassi.com. Follow me on twitter @BethMassi

Beth Massi – Always Sharing The Goodness

1. Who is Beth Massi? Please tell me about your background. (personal / professional)

I started programming computers when I was 8 years old when my dad brought home a computer from the lab at the refinery. It was an IBM “laptop” the size of a suitcase. I was completely addicted to video games when I was a kid and that sparked my love for computers. My parent’s recognized this and saved up to buy me an Atari 400 which I then spent every waking hour learning BASIC and started programming (very basic) games.

Fast forward years later, I graduated college in the Bay Area in Computer Science at a perfect time to launch a very satisfying career. I ended up in business applications and information systems starting in the health care field using FoxPro. After a few years I started speaking at FoxPro conferences, writing articles and helping people on the forums. I was lucky to be part of such a strong community.

When .NET came around I was immediately hooked and then continued a career at a consulting firm and then a failing Telcom in NYC. Then in 2002 I had an amazing opportunity. I ended up on the FoxPro team at Microsoft as a contractor where I helped ship VFP8. That was pretty much a dream come true after being a FoxPro developer most of my life up to that point.

After that I ended up back in the Bay Area working remotely for a healthcare company in Florida (who knew me through the FoxPro community, but building on .NET) and then was awarded Microsoft MVP in 2005. Then in 2007 the mother-ship called me back and asked me to help with the VB.NET community. I’ve been at Microsoft ever since and I can honestly say it’s the best place I’ve ever worked.

I’m now the Community Manager for the Cloud Platform Tools team in Visual Studio which includes Visual Studio LightSwitch. I’ve always worked on community and content at Microsoft. I think “growing up” professionally in the strong FoxPro community has helped me immensely. I draw from those experiences to nurture a healthy developer community around our products today.

2. What does a typical work day look like for you?

The greatest thing about being a community manager (or a program manager for that matter) is that your day is different every day. You may have back-to-back meetings one day, and the next you may be heads down coding, writing, answering questions in the forums, planning events, or prepping for that conference presentation. I love my job because it never gets boring. Of course, there’s ALWAYS a lot of email to deal with ;-)

3. What is the best thing about working for Microsoft?

I get to work with extremely smart, motivated, and genuine people. The public may see Microsoft as this huge corporation, but people here are always looking for ways to make customer’s lives easier and there is a high motivation to “do the right thing”. There are so many people I work with every day that I admire, I can’t say that about any other place I have worked before.

4. What’s on your desk?

Right now: A Surface Pro, red Nokia 920, my A’s season tickets, half a cup of coffee, finished bowl of spaghetti & meatballs I had for lunch, lot and lots of tech books, peripherals, and unread snail mail. :-)

5. In my career, I have worked with many programmers. It seems like in South Africa, there is definitely a shortage of women in IT (just my perception, no stats to back it up). What is it like in the US?

There is definitely a shortage of women in tech. I think some of it has to do with parents/teachers/authority figures/etc. not encouraging girls to go into the sciences when they are young. This didn’t happen in my family – my mother was a science/computer teacher, my dad was a chemist, my sister was a molecular biologist – so we were encouraged a lot to follow our passion in sciences.

6. For me, with my wife working in a male dominated environment, I know some of the challenges experienced by women (especially when it comes to career advancement). What is it like for girls in IT?

I’ve been very lucky to always been respected by my knowledge of programming and not had challenges based on my gender. I think confidence also has a lot to do with it as well. I guess being able to beat you in a drag race also helps ;-)

7. For young women who are starting out in IT/Programming, what advice can you give them?

Don’t give up!

8. What books or resources would you suggest that every developer must have in their personal library.

Bing :-). Seriously there are so many resources out there depending on what you’re building it’s hard to generalize. Find a good support system/community and contribute back to better that community (regardless if it’s programming related or not).

9. Adding on to the previous question, what are some of your favorite books in your bookshelf (or ebookshelf)?

Here are some of my favorite books:

Ready Player One.

Reamde.

Amped.

10. I have recently fallen in love with LightSwitch (I still have a lot to learn though). The community surrounding LightSwitch is awesome, and always willing to help to the nth degree (Here’s looking at you Jan Van der Haegen). What is it about LightSwitch that makes you love the technology so much (other than the obvious “being able to create data driven business applications for desktop and web”).

I fell in love with LightSwitch because of the years I spent writing business apps from scratch and all that boring code you had to write over and over and over and…(you get the point). I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw it. Finally a RAD environment inside VS for building n-tier, fully functional, scalable business apps. If I had this tool when I was building apps for any of the companies I worked for previously we would have been 1000% more productive and agile.

11. How do you see LightSwitch evolving in the coming years. What can we expect to see?

Glad you asked! We’re on the verge of releasing Visual Studio 2013 and we have a ton of new features you can read about on our team blog. You will see a lot of new stuff around team development, testing, builds, database management and more. We’ve improved performance and addressed some customer pain points in building HTML desktop web apps by making a grid and new navigation controls available. You will see a lot of focus on building business apps on top of Office 365 / SharePoint 2013, continuing what we started when we released SharePoint support in April with Visual Studio 2012 Update 2. If you have more feedback, please let us know by visiting our forum.

12. I have heard the ridiculous statement from fellow developers that LightSwitch is just an enhanced version of Access (I quickly correct them). Is this something you feel is a common misconception among developers?

I used to hear this a lot more when it was first released, less so now that we have an HTML client. You can use Access to build business apps. You can use LightSwitch to build business apps. So there is obviously some natural cross over. I think data aggregation, service/n-tier architecture, scalability, and flexible deployment options are really the key differentiators. Access is great for Microsoft Office users. LightSwitch is Visual Studio – a developer tool. There’s a ton of extensibility you have available to you. We’ve always had developers in mind building the product, we just wanted to make sure a developer of any skill level could be successful. LightSwitch, simply put, is an experience. You can certainly build the types of apps LightSwitch creates yourself from scratch using Visual Studio. LightSwitch significantly speeds up this process for you so you can spend time on the parts of your application that really wow users. Not data binding, data access layers, concurrency handling, dirty checking, etc.

13. I have played around with the preview of Visual Studio 2013. I am absolutely amped and can’t wait for the final release. What is your favorite feature of Visual Studio 2013?

Ooooo that’s a hard one, there are so many! Honestly with my roots in data, I think my favorite so far is the SSDT support we added. You can make database changes to your internal/intrinsic database using a linked database project and those scripts are deployed when you deploy your app. I wrote about one usage here

14. How do you keep up to date with what is going on in the world of IT?

A few places I check every day for news:

  • Twitter – seems everyone important is on twitter these days. #LightSwitch hash tag also has some gems ;-)
  • GeekByte – app on my Nokia 920 that has news feeds from all the big tech & gadget sites
  • Visual Studio Magazine – I’m biased
  • I also have a plethora of tech newsletters delivered to my inbox…too many, in fact.

15. As part of your professional tool set, what development tools do you use ?

  • Visual Studio of course! (and some ThemeRoller Mobile once in a while J)

Other tools I use for my job:

  • Outlook (too many emails)
  • Office 365– LOVING the better collaboration tools here. I actually use the client Office applications less because the web apps work so well.
  • Live Writer – tell me what’s better than this for simple blog client?
  • Lots of internal LOB apps for analyzing feedback, telemetry, bugs, stats, etc. (pssst.. MSIT uses LightSwitch internally too ;-))

16. What application (Web or Desktop) would you recommend to showcase LightSwitch?

Totally depends on the type of application. Mobile app development is hard and we make it easy, so I usually show that off at presentations first. SharePoint support is also a big one – I can impress a SharePoint developer every time with LightSwitch.

17. In your free time, what do you do to relax?

Cook & drink wine. ;-) I also love to mountain bike and be outdoors as much as possible.

18. What is your ‘can’t live without’ gadget?

I’m not really a gadget person so I guess I’d say my phone – Nokia 920 (I want the 1020 though!). I definitely couldn’t live without my bike.

19. Lastly, I read on-line that you enjoy baseball (among other sports). In your opinion, who is the Babe Ruth of technology?

Um Babe Ruth was a little before my time. ;-). If you’re asking who continually “knocks it out of the park” in technology that’s a hard one. I think tech changes so fast there are so many amazing innovators at different times. I once had the pleasure of attending the ACM awards and all these folks are all truly amazing.

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Dirk Strauss

Software Developer
Dirk is a Software Developer from South Africa. He loves all things Technology and is slightly addicted to Twitter and Jimi Hendrix. Apart from writing code, he also enjoys writing human readable articles. "I love sharing knowledge and connecting with people from around the world. It's the diversity that makes life so beautiful." Dirk feels very strongly that pizza is simply not complete without Tabasco, that you can never have too much garlic, and that cooking the perfect steak is an art he has yet to master.

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