The last good boss I had at Microsoft, Christophe DuMonet, left there just before I did (causing me all sorts of political problems but, in retrospect, I’m glad he did) and spent a few years as General Manager of a software division of Sydney-based software company Unique Software. He’s now taken a new position as Managing Director of the Australian office of French software company Esker, “the world’s leading document process automation solutions provider”. Hopefully this means he now has the budget to do engage a good podcast consultant. 🙂

I’m trying to think of what I learned from my time working for CD. He’s certainly a snappy dresser. And he’s this mad triathlete. Neither of those rubbed off on me. He tried to convince me I should play the political game at Microsoft, but I never really could get my ego out of the way. I’d rather say what I think and get condemned for it than pander to morons. It’s a low self-esteem issue I guess. People with healthier self-esteems are prepared to play the game to get what they want. I struggle.

We certainly had some good times though. I remember when we discovered we had some leftover marketing budget which needed to be spent before the end of the financial year and I came up with the idea of getting our top CIO clients and taking them out to the Flower Drum, one of the world’s best Chinese restaurants, for a monthly confab. That was a big hit. I figured we’d get more value out of letting our top customers eat and drink well and chat to each other about the Microsoft-related projects they were doing than trying to SELL them. They sold each other. Halfway into the third bottle of merlot, they would be inviting each other over to their offices to check out the cool stuff they were building using our tools.

Then there was the time we took one of our best customers, let’s call him Tony, and we hired a stretch limo and spent the day driving around Melbourne’s wine district, visiting wineries, eating, drinking, and sharing war stories. Great bonding stuff. How else do you get 8 hours with a CIO? Tony ended up one of our most loyal and valuable clients and a good friend.

But they were all my ideas. What did Christophe do? He backed me up. He gave me support to get the job done. Isn’t that the most important role of a good manager? Creating an environment where their people can do what they need to do without the rest of the company getting in their way?

His final act as my manager was to fight to get approval for me to spend a couple of weeks in New York at Cornell University’s supercomputing lab. At the time I had this vision for Microsoft in Australia to work with Universities to build out massively-parallel supercomputers using Windows Server 64-bit running on blades. We had training budget to spend and I said I wanted to go to Cornell to find out how they were doing it. Our boss didn’t want it to happen (mainly because he hated my guts) but CD made it happen. And although I left Microsoft not long afterwards and never had the chance to realize the vision, the trip to Cornell was a great experience and I’m sure I will use what I learned there at some stage in the future. And it wouldn’t have happened without Christophe’s support.

So for that Christophe – thanks mate. And congrats on the new job.