Return to the Empire
It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since I was here posting my farewell to Microsoft. In early 2013 I ventured out into the big world of startups, and life has been a bit of a rollercoaster ever since. First I took on some fun projects of my own. I built a unique news app + service called Newseen, a little game called Cattergories, and then made Tweetium – a Twitter client that became the most popular third-party client in the Windows Store (and has been on the Top Paid list for over a year). After a year on my own, I joined a very early stage startup, where I spent more than a year and a half building the Zealyst web+mobile app.
Over the last three years I tried a lot of new things. I tried some things that worked out well. I tried a bunch of things that didn’t work at all, but which I would like to try again someday and do better. I also tried at least a few that I will do my best to avoid at all costs. I consider all of these valuable experiences. I’ve learned a lot, and found that there’s always more to learn.
I learned that building a business is hard, even with a great idea and a passionate, creative team (and even if you have some great customers who want what you’re offering). I learned that raising money is hard. I saw firsthand some of the unique challenges faced by women founders like ours, and many more challenges which I’m sure most startups face. I learned that stretching yourself too thin can take a real toll on mental and physical health. I learned the excitement of making a big sale, the thrill of deploying a brand new homegrown service to real users for the first time, the anxiety of patching problems in production, and the heartbreak of cultivating business relationships for months only to see them fall through due to reasons beyond your control. I learned the importance of having a strong, caring, supportive team – I am eternally grateful to have found that. And I am very, very proud of what we built together.
It’s easy to look back and focus on things I could’ve or should’ve done but didn’t (e.g. traveled more, ported Newseen to iOS and Android, spent more hours on Zealyst, been more or less involved in business strategy or fundraising, moved to Hawaii, etc). On the other hand, these last years have brought me new friends, new skills, new perspectives, and I think new self-awareness. While I relished the freedom, potential, and challenge that came with building a new business, I also came to long for the impact that I had when I worked on software used by a billion people. Further, I’ve missed being part of a fully-funded team of developers (and Program Managers!). They say you never fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. PM friends, consider yourselves fully appreciated 😉
Over the last few months, we’ve been winding down Zealyst operations as the company (at least in its current form*) comes to a close. This has afforded me some time to do a little bit of traveling, relaxing, soul searching, and exploration of what I might want to do next. I’m incredibly grateful to be in a position where great options are plentiful. After a lot of consideration, I decided that the right next step for me is to take what I’ve learned these last few years and apply it in a place where I know my passion and level of impact are strongest.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I am excited to announce that I have accepted an offer to return to Microsoft. Starting next week, I will once again be a developer on the Windows Shell team. Over the past couple of months I’ve discovered a Microsoft and a Windows team which is both familiar and yet substantially reinvented. They’ve begun the incredible task of changing Windows into a new kind of OS-as-a-service, which is a change to the development process and culture as much as to the code and how it’s delivered. I am very impressed with the progress they’ve made over the last couple of years, and even more impressed with the ambition to bring the best parts of the mobile + cloud delivery and user engagement models to all Windows devices. I can’t go into specifics at this time, but suffice to say that I believe the team I’m joining is crucial to this effort, and that it’s a compelling time and place to apply my strengths and experience.
I’d also like to thank everyone who’s given me advice, offered a variety of compelling opportunities, or welcomed me back into the Microsoft fold. I am immensely grateful for all of this. To all my Microsoft friends and colleagues, I’ll be seeing you around campus soon!