Microsoft has appointed Adam Cogan, database services manager for Sydney-based software developer Superior Software for Windows (SSW), as an MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) regional director.
The position of regional director is a voluntary, unpaid role, which gives the developer direct access to a wide variety of technical resources from Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. Cogan's role as regional director of MSDN will be to create a sense of community among Microsoft developers in Australia, and be a channel of communication between the vendor and its developer partners in Australia.
Cogan is essentially a replacement for Dr Richard Hunter, a sport analysis software developer from Brisbane, who was an MSDN regional director for several years before his business grew to the point where he no longer had the time to maintain the role. The other Australian regional director is Brian Walshe, general manager of .Net practice at Microsoft channel partner Praxa.
Nick Abbott, product manager for the MSDN program at Microsoft Australia, said the vendor sought a member of the development community who is "in the trenches". MSDN regional directors are generally visible to the development community, either as prominent speakers, authors or organisers of user groups. They also have to be proponents of Microsoft technology.
Cogan's history lies in his role with Australian user groups. In 1992 he established the Access User Group, and has since been appointed president of the SQL Server User Group and the ASP.Net User Group. Cogan's business, SSW, builds, implements and maintains both rich-client and browser-based database applications using Microsoft Technologies.
"These user groups set a meeting place once a month, where developers can bring a big list of questions and problems," said Cogan. "We talk through business issues and bugs, and every month organise a presentation on a new technology."
While the position is voluntary, the regional director gets some compensation from Microsoft - they can attend Microsoft events, such as the MSDN summit in Redmond, and sit in on various training courses. "They also get to see the technology a long time before it goes to market, and provide Microsoft with some early feedback," said Abbott.
"The other regional directors, particularly in the US, are technical gurus," said Cogan. "I am now on their internal mailing lists and have already learnt a hell of a lot by just being part of the conversation."
Cogan said his first priority is to aid developers in understanding and profiting from Microsoft's .Net vision which, he believes, is a fundamental change for the vendor's developer partners. "The regional directors are a good sounding board between Microsoft and the development community, our eyes and ears in the field," said Abbott. "Microsoft can ask Adam or Brian for feedback on issues in the development community, and vice versa. They can also approach Redmond directly with issues they want addressed."
Cogan said that although Microsoft developers always find the vendor receptive to their needs, there is a negative attitude towards it among the wider developer community that is unwarranted.
"There are a lot of developers who feel like underdogs, and make a joke of Microsoft," he said. "It's cool' to make jokes about Microsoft, even if you work for Microsoft. For example, I once spoke at a university and was asked about what choices the developers would face when they completed their studies. I told them they would probably end up specialising in one particular product or technology, and the reality is that most of them would go down the Microsoft road. They hissed at me. But in the end, what I said was probably true."