"Whenever in doubt, just KISS," or Keep It Simple Stupid, the EDS engineer says. "To this day, I've kept that tacked up to my wall."
Charlebois and the Microsoft team were able to work together to crunch what used to be a days-long process into a 15-minute set-up procedure. Including download time, a developer could have a new environment ready to run within a few hours time.
"The original concepts that were done back in 2004 were the premise for what they have on Microsoft's Virtual Labs site," he says. Anyone with a Microsoft Live account now just has to click a link in their Web browser to register server time for a 90-minute demo of a product like Windows Server 2008.
Such experiences are found to be very rewarding by employees, Robins says. It helps the company keep their best employees on board and offers them a new career path up the corporate ladder.
"We've done followup surveys, and a lot of times they come from one part of the organization and then it gives them the opportunity to move up into another area of EDS," he says.
Charlebois says he's had many offers to change tracks in his career at EDS, but the father of two young children has decided to remain dedicated to the client. Now he's working with Alberta's provincial government to modernize its drivers' licence database system. He's stayed in touch with many of those he met during the Top Gun program.
"Any opportunity you can get to focus your energy on technology and not worry about outside influences is second to none," he says. "The sheer contacts that are made during that three month period outside your usual world are fantastic."
The 12-week model has been successful enough for EDS to start considering shorter-term versions of the program to give more employees an opportunity to break away from the usual day jobs, Robins says. The Top Gun alumni often become known experts within EDS and are asked for their advice by many other employees.
For Charlebois, two hours of his typical workday is now dedicated to answering e-mails and phone calls outside of his direct duties.
"I love it," he says. "For me the real reward to it is seeing how other people are solving problems."
The well-recognized systems architect also gets to keep in contact with the growing network of Top Gun graduates, he adds. That includes one who went by the call-sign "Teflon."
"They called him that because everything slid off him -- no matter how sticky a situation," Robins says.