If you’ve ever engaged with training modules or explored the official documentation, it's highly likely that the material you utilized was written or co-authored by dedicated contributors. These contributors, often volunteers, generously offer their time and expertise to fill knowledge gaps within our portfolio and ensure the content remains up to date.
In this interview series, we aim to acquaint ourselves with some of these valuable contributors to the Microsoft Learn platform. Through these conversations, we seek to understand their motivations for continued contributions and gain insights into their experiences.
We’re excited to have John Downs here with us today. John, a Principal Program Manager on the Microsoft Customer and Partner Solutions (MCAPS) team, is a frequent and valued contributor to Microsoft Learn. Based in Auckland, New Zealand, his primary focus is on architecting solutions for Microsoft Azure. In doing so, he regularly works with customers in Asia and globally to help them be successful with many of our cloud products and services. John’s made many documentation and training contributions to Microsoft Learn – across many different areas. He’s also led teams that frequently publish content updates to Learn.
Here are recent contributions that John made on learn.microsoft.com:
Megan: Hi John! Thanks for joining us today. It’s a pleasure to meet you. To start us off, do you mind sharing a bit about your background and experience?
John: Hey Megan! Sure! Although my background’s in software engineering, I spend a lot of time helping customers architect and develop solutions for the cloud. In my previous role as a Customer Engineer on the FastTrack for Azure team, I worked with a lot of ISVs and startups who were building SaaS solutions, and I noticed a lack of guidance around how to plan, design, and build SaaS on the Azure platform. So, I worked with a large team of people to develop comprehensive customer guidance on multitenancy and SaaS overall.
My experience isn’t limited to SaaS, though. I also frequently help customers make use of cloud networking. And I’m heavily involved with the Azure Front Door and Web Application Firewall teams to help customers understand how to use our CDN, security products, and all the other capabilities of our network edge.
On top of that, DevOps has been a big area of focus for me. I believe that customers who have a strong approach to automation can both de-risk and accelerate their deployments, so I worked with the Bicep and other Azure Resource Manager teams to put together comprehensive guidance for customers about how to use Bicep to deploy their infrastructure as code.
Recently, I’ve been focused on helping our customers to plan for and use some of our new cloud regions globally, and in particular to work with availability zones. So, I’m currently working on a set of new articles and updates to existing guidance to help customers understand when and how to use a multi-zone or even a multi-region architecture - whichever best suits their needs.
Megan: Wow! That’s phenomenal, John! I love your passion for identifying customer’s needs and developing documentation to help them. I see why you’ve been recognized as a top contributor! What inspired you to start contributing and what motivates you to continue?
John: Whenever a Microsoft customer has a question about a product or is trying to figure something out, our documentation is one of the first places they land. So, anything we can do to improve it can have a massive impact on our customers. As someone who works directly with customers all day long, I’ve got a unique opportunity to understand what customers are doing and what they’re struggling with. It’s also important to me to make sure that whenever I help a customer, I also look for opportunities to share that information with everybody else who might be in a similar situation. So, whenever I spend a lot of time investigating something or thinking through how to use a feature or service optimally, it’s really satisfying to know that my work will be able to help many customers across the world.
Megan: Incredible! Your customers are lucky to have you on their side. And it’s wonderful that you don’t stop with just one customer. You continuously choose to share your guidance with all of our customers! Truly fantastic. I'm curious, have you gained any new skills or had any career advancement as a result of contributing to Microsoft Learn?
John: Many of the contribution projects I’ve worked on have involved working with many other people throughout Microsoft. It’s been a great opportunity to expand my network, and also to work with people from all sorts of different backgrounds and areas of expertise. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead teams of people to work towards a common goal. It’s been really gratifying to have so many great colleagues, and to combine our efforts and expertise to achieve even more than we could have done individually.
Megan: That’s great! Yes, being able to expand your network with folks all over the company is a huge asset. Leading teams to successful outcomes is, too! I’m so happy to hear that. Hey John, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start contributing to the Microsoft Learn platform?
John: Contributing to open-source content is a fantastic way to share your expertise and experience, and to make a big impact on the community. But it can be a bit intimidating at first – there are often lots of processes to understand, tools to learn, and things to know about how best to contribute. My advice is to try to find someone who has experience contributing in the area you plan to work in and ask them to walk you through the whole journey.
Megan: Find a seasoned contributor to help you get started. Very helpful advice for new contributors!