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The Down Under Episode

April 24, 2017

In this Down Under episode of the Windows Insider podcast, listen in as Chief Ninja Cat, Dona Sarkar, and the Godfather of Windows Insider Program, Bill Karagounis, discuss updates coming out of Ignite Australia and ways our Insiders can become heroes of the digital transformation. Our next Aussie guest shares the origin story of Girl-germs, the name of her blog, and the value she finds as a member of the Insider community.

Windows Insider Podcast Episode 2


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Welcome back, Windows Insiders.

Last month we took you to one of my favorite places, Lagos, Nigeria, to give you a glimpse into the entrepreneurial spirt of the Insiders for Good Program and some of the impactful projects they've been working on.

This month join us as we travel more than 16,000 kilometers to the East, taking you to the land down under.

JESS DODSEN:  Everything down here could kill you.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  I'm a Greek Australian living in the United States.  I've traversed through multipole cultures in my life.  I started off life wanting to be a musician and, somehow, I'm standing here as an engineering leader in Microsoft.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  All that and much, much more on today's episode of the Windows Insider Podcast.  We're lucky enough to have our own very own chief Ninjacat, Dona Sarkar, back in the studio to chat about rock and roll, bad haircuts, and the history of the Windows Insider Program, with our self-proclaimed resident godfather and Aussie Bill Karagounis.  We'll also hear from one of our other favorite Aussies, Jess Dodsen, an IT professional, blogger, and fellow Insider about her participation in the program and greater community.

I'm your host Tom Trombley, a/k/a The Tomcat, welcoming our listeners to this, the Down Under Episode.

Dona, take it away.

DONA SARKAR:  Thank you, Tomcat, for letting us invade your show yet again.


DONA SARKAR:  Last time I was ere I promised I would bring a very special guest, so I am back with Bill Karagounis, the product owner of the Windows Insider Program.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Hello, everyone.

DONA SARKAR:  And today is a very special day because we get to ask him anything we want.  Well, mostly I do, but I know these are questions that you guys have as well.

So let's start with something kind of personal.  Bill, so when we walked into the recording studio you were very excited to see all of like the fancy recording equipment and speakers and such.  Tell us about why.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Okay.  When I was a younger man, I used to have a big, long mullet, and it was an awesome looking mullet if you think about it.

DONA SARKAR:  Bring that back, who votes for that?  All of us, raise your hand.   Love it.  Do you want to tell us what you've been doing over at the University of Washington?

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah.  I'm actually studying audio engineering over there, because I want to actually formalize it and be capable enough of recording bands and recording musicians and exploring things on a professional level rather than, oh, where do I plug the microphone into, how do I make this thing work.  So it's good for me because it gives me a different perspective on things and I can bring new, interesting, fresh ideas back to the table.

DONA SARKAR:  I love that.  I think that's really cool, and it lines up so well with Microsoft's and Satya's mission which is constantly be learning.  Like I love when Satya says things like, go for it and bring your whole selves to the table.  And to be able to do that we have to constantly be learning and evolving.  And he says all the time, I sign up for more courses than I can ever finish.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah, absolutely.

DONA SARKAR:  So it's cool to see you doing the same.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  And this one is one that I may never finish.

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly, because I think we're never done learning.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  That's right.

DONA SARKAR:  Okay.  So let's talk a little bit about your day job.  Tell us about your role at Microsoft, what do you do day-in and day-out here in Redmond?

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Okay.  So my title, I guess, is the director of program management of the operating system fundamentals team.  That's a big, big mouthful.  What it means is, in addition to the stuff that I love around the Insider Program and working with you, and working with your team, and building all the technology to flight stuff out to Insiders, and all the feedback systems, I also have responsibility for the operating systems' battery life, it's performance, reliability, whether apps continue to run when you upgrade to the latest, greatest OS, as well as some bits and pieces of our underlying feedback and telemetry systems as well.

So I have a few things that sort of keep me busy from a day-to-day basis.

DONA SARKAR:  Oh, just a few things.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Just a few.  But I love the Insiders.  I've been doing the Insider thing now, I've actually been dreaming about Insiders since probably January of 2014.  That's when it all started.  And then we built it all out and we released it in October of that year, and here we are.

DONA SARKAR:  And that's why they call you the godfather of the Windows Insider Program.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah, I'm the godfather.

DONA SARKAR:  Just like that, wow.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  No, I can't.  I can't do it.  I probably need to have -- it probably has to be later in the day for me to do a good godfather quote, but yes, I suppose I am the godfather who has been around and caring about the program for a while.

DONA SARKAR:  I think that's really, really cool, especially since I've known you before the Windows Insider Program existed, and you've always had a reputation for being super customer obsessed.


DONA SARKAR:  It was one of the reasons we even had a conversation like back in the day about how we use customer data in an ethical, responsible way to make product decisions.  I think this was like Windows 8 we were having this conversation.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah.  It might have been earlier, actually.  It might have been 7.  But it was a long, long time ago.  And even in all of those fronts, even with performance and these sort of low level areas, being able to ensure what our customer is experiencing is really, really critical.  And I think for me it's been one of the things that I've been passionate about all the way though.

DONA SARKAR:  Absolutely right.  So what I think we can sum up your role and fundamentals as being is you are the customer's best friend.  You're the person that ensures that they have a great experience.  Not just in terms of, hey, here's a whole pile of features, but how do they work on your machine from a smaller deployment size, which was, you know, your pet project, your baby that I've kind of watched come to life this year, which has been really cool, all based on feedback from Insiders.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  That's right.

DONA SARKAR:  That's been really powerful to see because it's not a matter of developing nations.  It's like even in Ireland downloads are so slow compared to Redmond, Washington, 98052.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  It's amazing actually.  Everywhere we go, like you and I, we were in Australia last month, I guess, it seems like it was longer than that, but we were there talking to one customer, they had 400,000 devices, over thousands of distributed sites, and we're talking about a big organization here, but they still cared a lot about those pipes and getting updates out into those things.  So yeah, it's a major concern, and it's something that I've been super happy that we've actually done something pretty significant during the Creator's Update timeframe.

DONA SARKAR:  Very exciting.  One thing you said in Ignite Australia that I thought was very powerful was, Windows 10 is the most compatible operating system in history.


DONA SARKAR:  So do you want to tell us about what that means?

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Well, what it means is we spend a lot of time running what we call the top apps.  And there are hundreds and hundreds of top applications in the world that get like lots and lots of usage.  And it's sort of funny, like the sun never sleeps on compat, because we actually have -- I know that's sort of a weird thing to say, it's very British Empire of me, being an Aussie, no, but we have people in India, we have people in China, we have people in Ireland that work on different parts of the compat story.  What it's about is just making sure that, I was going to put an expletive there, making sure that stuff runs and continues to run.

We invested super heavily, because we wanted to make sure that Windows 10 was great, and based on our measures and the metrics that we look at Windows 10 is by far the most compatible operating system, and it had to be given our designs around being in a situation where we could upgrade people and keep bringing new functionality to the world on a regular clip.  That stuff just had to work.

DONA SARKAR:  I love that.  I think that's really powerful, just making compatibility a non-issue, a non-event, where no one should ever have to worry about it, because we flight every week.  So we'll find out in a great big hurry if we broke something.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah, if we break something, it's like, yes, a very strong signal.  It's not subtle in any way, shape or form.  And it's great, it's really frequent that I go to an enterprise or I go to a commercial company and they've done the upgrade and they're kind of like, well, we kind of expected more problems and we didn't get those.  It's really cool to see.

DONA SARKAR:  We hear that everywhere.  I was visiting some companies in Nigeria, and they were saying like, oh, yeah, compat hasn't even been a question for us, it just works.  And at first we were surprised, now we expect it.  And that's how we kind of want compat to be, right?  You expect that when you turn the ignition of your car it just starts.  It's a non-issue.  So I love that.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  It turns out it's easier to fix something when the whole product is under development than later on.  So that's one of the big things for us for Windows Insider for Business, and it becomes part of our whole cycle.  Now, again, of course, it's something that organizations will choose to do depending on where they're at and what they care about, but for me the key thing was I wanted to liberate that capability so that people had that choice.  And 40 percent of our insiders are IT pros.

DONA SARKAR:  I also loved what you said there at Ignite where you said, we want to make you 40 percent of Insiders heroes.


DONA SARKAR:  Right.  It behooves us when you're successful, and it behooves you to stand out as leaders in your organizations, because oftentimes your management and your peers may just not understand why it's good to run pre-release, because you can have those changes made to your deployment stack or your configurations in product versus, yeah, they shipped and we can upgrade in two years once they make the changes.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah.  And I think part of the other rhetoric that we talked about back in Australia was this notion of digital transformation.  Well, if you're going to transform an organization, you want to be able to take advantage of all of the goodness that we're putting into the product as well by being part of Windows Insider for Business.

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  And that's really something that for us we want to enable the world to do.

DONA SARKAR:  But also over the course of the last like not even one month that we've been back, we've got over 3,500 organizations signed up, which is really powerful, especially for a new program, and people are signing up and saying, yes, we want to do this.  Many of them are saying, we already use Insider builds, but now being a part of an official process and system is really, really powerful.

I also love the fact that this has just become culture across the company now.  You were the godfather of the first Insider Program, and now there's so many similar programs across the board.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  That's right.

DONA SARKAR:  And every week I know you get it, too, at least two people reaching out.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  I get them, and I point them to you.

DONA SARKAR:  We get a lot of people reaching out to form their own Insider programs.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah, that's right, and tell us how to do it, Dona.  And it's great.

DONA SARKAR:  Yeah, I love it, because everyone is realizing like, oh, the power in getting feedback beyond just us and it's been funny for me to get e-mail from people who work at Microsoft, hey, it looks like the best way for me to get the latest and greatest is to join the Insider Program.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Yeah, that's right.

DONA SARKAR:  That might actually be true because Insiders do get the bits long before the rest of Microsoft.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  That's really cool.

DONA SARKAR:  I love that without any big splash we've already got a bunch of people signing up, and already giving us a ton of input on how to co-create this program.  That's been really, really cool, that we didn't show up to them and say, here's the program, use it, love it.  We're actually co-creating with these early adopters in the Insider Program.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Well, I think that's the big thing, too.  And I think you're great at this as well, in the sense of, look, let's have an idea, let's watch it grow, and let's understand where we can go.  Let's co-create this thing, let's figure out what it needs to be.  We don't have all of the answers like we did at the beginning.  We're on a journey.  We're learning how to best utilize a lot of this stuff and how to progress with these programs, but there are aspects of this work that are super important to our product, our future, and we need to keep investing and keeping an open mind and doing that with an open book in terms of the people we're working with and serving.

DONA SARKAR:  Before I let you go, that is a lovely Australian accent, you can leave without sharing at least a handful of your favorite Down Under-isms with Insiders.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Gosh, so I've been living in the U.S. now for like 15 years, so I don't know if it's a good accent anymore.  I go back to Australia and it gets confusing.  It's like throw me another 4X, mate, would be something I'd say.

DONA SARKAR:  What is that?

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  The 4X is actually a beer from Queensland.  Or I'll have a Stubby.  I don't know why all my analogies are referring back to beer.  Maybe it's something to do with the Australian psyche.

DONA SARKAR:  Very cool.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  That's right.

DONA SARKAR:  Awesome.  Thank you so much for being here, Bill.

BILL KARAGOUNIS:  Thanks, everyone.

DONA SARKAR:  Thank you, Tomcat, for letting us invade your studio.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  You know you're welcome to invade this studio any time, Dona.

DONA SARKAR:  So hopefully we didn't hassle you too much, but the Insiders can continue to ask you questions and you are equally warm and charismatic on Twitter at BillKar44.  So definitely go follow Bill and ask him all of your Insider-y questions.

I'm going to hand back to our lovely host, Tomcat.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Dona, Bill, thanks to you both.  I love hearing about the origin story of the Windows Insider Program from those who know it best.  Giving our listeners a preview of the adventures ahead made it even more clear to me just how inspiring this program really is.  It also brings me great joy to think of Bill rocking out with a mullet.  I can't wait to see how our Insiders continue to help us shape the future of Microsoft.

Speaking of Insiders, we're also joined today by Aussie Jess Dodsen.

JESS DODSEN:  Hey, how are you?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Jess, we met you along with Dona and our team at Microsoft Ignite in New Zealand, and then again in the Gold Coat.  It's very nice to speak with you again.

JESS DODSEN:  Thank you very much.  I'm happy to be here.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I was wondering if you could tell our listeners a little bit more about your background and what you're working on right now?

JESS DODSEN:  So I am a Windows system administrator and I was awarded a Microsoft MVP in Cloud and Data Center last year.  I work for a government department in Brisbane, in Queensland, in sunny Australia, well, not quite so sunny at the moment.

As part of my role, I'm big on servers.  So I do installation, configuration, auditing, maintenance, management of a whole range of servers.  At the moment, I'm looking after somewhere in the realm of about 700 of them.

I'm also huge on lifecycle management.  So if any of you follow me on Twitter, you'll notice that I push very hard to get off of old platforms and onto the new ones.  So my primary focus for the last few years has been the deprecation and migration off of Server 2003, and I've literally just kicked off the path of getting rid of Server 2008 and starting down the path of rolling out Server 2016.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Great.  Now within the Core Windows Insiders Team that I hang out with, at least Dona and crew, we're a very equal balanced group.  Are there many IT professionals in your industry that are able to connect with you on a regular basis?

JESS DODSEN:  Absolutely.  I'm connected with a ton and I'm very lucky that we're in an age where we can be interconnected with people all around the world.  So I'm connected with people from Canada, the U.S., the UK, a whole bunch of people in Asia.  It's fantastic.  It makes things much easier to be able to speak to people everywhere.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Did that grow organically out of, say, your Twitter account, or I understand you have a blog as well?

JESS DODSEN:  I do, yes.  So it grew, my Twitter account is where I first started, and then I grew the blog alongside my Twitter account.  My Twitter account kind of ballooned out after I started speaking at Microsoft events.  So I only started off with like one or two hundred followers, and now I have quite a few followers.  So that's sort of grown a little bit, and I now connect with many people that I never would have connected with before.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Now how did you fall into being part of the Windows Insider Program?

JESS DODSEN:  I fell into Windows Insiders through upgrading my own PCs at home.  I actually wrote a blog post on it, so I did all of my own computers, my desktop, laptop and tablet.  I did them all in July of 2015, and as part of that I joined the Window Insiders so that I could get the latest build.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I imagine that you're probably on the fast train, aren't you?


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I knew it.  Tell us a little bit about your blog and what you're working on there?

JESS DODSEN:  So my blog is a mixture of all sorts of stuff.  I'm a tech person, but I'm also big on the soft skills.  I don't really think they're soft skills, I think they're more actual skills.  And one of the big issues that we have in IT and in tech in general is that a lot of us aren't fabulous at the soft skills.  So I'm big on passing those on to my audience and helping them out.

So I recently did one that I published a couple of weeks ago that was based on my talk that I did at Ignite Australia, which was about how we can explain ourselves better both to our end users and to our management so that everyone is happy, and we don't have hurt feelings on either side.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Tell me a little bit more about that?

JESS DODSEN:  So one of the things that we tend to do from a technology point of view is we put our feet down, we go, no, it's got to be this way.  I've said it's going to be this way, so this is the way it's going to be.  And we're a little bit harsh.  We don't empathize with the other side.  We don't speak to them or understand their point of view, and we need to do that a little bit better.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  If you could wish for three things that we could do better to support organizations deploying Windows and leveraging the Windows Insider Program, what would you wish for?

JESS DODSEN:  For me, I probably only have one major wish, because you guys are doing an amazing job.  The Windows Insider Program is fantastic.  The community is amazing, and the amount of community engagement that we get, particularly through places like Twitter and on LinkedIn, is just fantastic.

I only have one big wish, and my one big wish is that I want Microsoft to help organizations become less risk averse.  So a lot of the issues that I see these days, particularly in big organizations like mine, we are insanely risk averse when it comes to moving to new operating systems, moving to new products, and the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to move to a new product is huge, absolutely huge.  So it would be good to get Microsoft's involvement from the very beginning to help us work through what we actually need to do, what the biggest issues are going to be, and help talk down our organizations in terms of they don't need to be so freaked out.  It's not the end of the world.  Windows 10 will work beautifully in their organizations.  They don't have to stress too much about it.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Would you recommend the Windows Insider Program to fellow IT pros?

JESS DODSEN:  Absolutely.  Not only is it great for being able to get the new features and see them as soon as they come out, but from the community point of view it's amazing.  The people that you speak to you never would have spoken to before, so there's quite a number of Windows Insiders that I've connected with on Twitter who I get feedback from that I speak to and chat to about all sorts of stuff, Microsoft and Windows related, which is just amazing.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  In one sentence, could you describe the value that you've received from being a Windows Insider?

JESS DODSEN:  One sentence.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It's a tough one.

JESS DODSEN:  I probably don't even need one sentence.  For me it is just the one word, community.  So the community itself, and the fact that there are so many people who are involved in helping build this product and shape it and improve it, that to me is the most amazing thing.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's great.  Now how have you engaged with the community?  You've gone to conferences?

JESS DODSEN:  Yes, I have.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Tell me a little bit more about that?

JESS DODSEN:  So I go to Ignite in Australia, and I was recently very honored to be asked to go and speak over at Ignite New Zealand.  So I was able to go over there.  And being able to connect with all the people over there.  So going to a conference while you're there to learn, it's also -- it's the networking.  There are so many people that you normally wouldn't come across in your day-to-day work life, you're so entrenched in getting the next thing done and working with the people that you normally work with that the idea of going off to a conference and speaking with all of these people, while we are connected in the sense of being technology professionals, we are all entirely different.  And you get such different perspectives.

So I come from a very large enterprise organization.  I deal with hundreds of servers and thousands of users.  Being able to speak to SMB technology experts, it gives you a different perspective, a much better understanding of how they operate as well.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Now I understand you have a blog as well.  Let's talk a little bit about what your blog does.

JESS DODSEN:  So my blog, I have, the naming always gets people a little bit intrigued.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It is peculiar.

JESS DODSEN:  So I received my name, so Girl-Germs is the nickname that I go by online, it's the handle I use online.  Girl-Germs actually came about when I first started in IT.  I actually did a blog post on how I got my name.  When I first started, I was the only female technology expert in the team.


JESS DODSEN:  And they created my own organizational unit inside Active Directory called Girl-Germs, because they didn't want me to infect them with my Girl-Germs.  So I kind of took that name on myself and I've kept it for the best part, I think it's about 13 years now.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Wow.  Tell me a little bit more about the sharing that goes on in your blog?

JESS DODSEN:  My blog is all sorts of stuff.  So I share a lot of technology-focused articles, so I share a lot particularly about Microsoft Active Directory and Windows Server stuff.  I have done a couple of pieces on upgrading to Windows 10.  So I did do a piece when I did all my upgrades on Windows 10, but primarily from an identity point of view, an Active Directory point of view, the things that can help people right now.

So I don't do what I would call bleeding edge technology.  I do stuff that will help people in their current jobs, in their current roles with the technology they have right now.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  Well, how best can people connect with you?

JESS DODSEN:  Twitter is probably the best way.  So if you want to get ahold of me, I am Girl-Germs on Twitter.  My Twitter is completely public and I'm open to anyone hitting me up on there, or you can shoot me an e-mail.  So my e-mail address is  Either of those will work.  And you can grab ahold of me, and I will hopefully respond fairly quickly.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Great.  Thank you, Jess, for being so candid with us today.  And it was our pleasure to meet with you and learn a little about you and your organization and your blog and your experiences with Windows 10 and the Windows Insider Program.

JESS DODSEN:  Not a problem.  Thank you very much for having me.  It's been lovely.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Thank for tuning in.  The Ninjacat team is excited to announce that we're holding a contest you might just be interested in.  If you rate the podcast and leave a review on iTunes, we'll pick one lucky winner in the next two weeks to get an exclusive, yet elusive, Ninjacat T-shirt and sticker, go to for contest rules.  We'll announce the winner on our website two weeks after his podcast airs, so go on, get writing.

Looking forward to next month when we share more exciting stories form our Insiders community.  Be sure to subscribe, you won't want to miss the next episode.  In the meantime, check out the blog, flight the next build, and join the dialogue that is the Windows Insider community.

See you next time.

VOICE:  Our program today was produced by Microsoft Production Studios.  Our team includes Tyler Ahn, Michelle Pasic (ph), and Emily Weaver.  Our website is  Support for the Windows Insider podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Special thanks goes out to Blair Glennon (ph), Michelle Fleming (ph) and Joe Camp (ph).  Moral support and inspiration comes from Ninjacat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions.  Thanks as always to our program's co-founders Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble (ph).

Join us next month with more stories from Windows Insiders.