What's it like to be an RD?

As we enter a new year, I look back on the last couple years being an RD an feel really lucky for the experience. I hope I will be lucky enough to be renewed this year for another two-year term. RD stands for Microsoft Regional Director. There are about 140 of us worldwide, and we are all external partners/individuals who have a strong presence in the developer or IT Pro community and strong relationships with our local Microsoft offices and/or product teams in Redmond. We help give focused feedback from the community to the product teams, and help evangelize new products to the community. We don’t get paid for our efforts, but there are a lot of implicit and explicit benefits to being an RD.

I always tell people that the biggest advantage of being an RD is the direct association with the other RDs. The RD community contains most of the biggest and well respected names in the industry, and I feel honored to be lumped in with such a prestigious group. The association manifests itself through our internal RD email alias, in which we have awesome discussions about Microsoft and other technologies in a closed forum where we can speak our minds frankly, exchange a lot of ideas but also be heard by the product teams directly when relevant. The discussions range from the latest and upcoming technologies to devices to home electronics, but we try to keep it focused on things relevant to our roles as RDs. However, that braintrust can really come in handy when you are thinking about what new phone/music device/laptop/etc. to buy!

We also have a number of conference and industry events at which we gather each year so we get some direct contact with each other, and RDs welcome other RDs with open arms whenever they visit each others regions, even if they have never met in person. In the US, getting together with RD friends like Tim Huckaby, Richard Campbell, Carl Franklin, Stephen Forte, Andrew Brust, Pat Hynds, Mark Dunn, Kim Tripp, and so many others is always a treat. And of course my colleagues at IDesign Juval Lowy and Michele Leroux Bustamante are both RDs as well, and we actually don’t get together that often ourselves except at some of these same events. Another excellent aspect is getting together with RDs in other countries on their home turf.

For example, last July I was in Norway doing some consulting and training, and was able to get together with Morty Abrahamsen for beers and dinner in Oslo. In addition to learning a lot about Norwegian culture, we of course talked a lot of geek talk and it was a great idea exchange as well.

This year I will be hitting Norway, Sweden, UK, and other countries, and hope to get together with my other RDs on those trips as well.

Other great parts of the RD program are the early insider access to new things that are coming from the developer division (my particular focus, but we get access to other arenas as well), direct interaction with product teams through focus groups and design reviews, and most of all, just the fact that they really seem to listen to the recommendations that we make.

So what does it mean for you? Well, you have access to this great pool of minds in several forms as well. If you haven’t already checked it out, you should visit The Region. This is our community site and provides an aggregated view of the blogging that is being done by all the RDs. The posts added to that site are first reviewed to ensure they are technical in nature and nor personal posts. There are of course RSS and ATOM feeds to subscribe and know whenever an RD has put some more of their grey matter out for public display. There is also a calendar on the site, where you can learn about upcoming events that the RDs will be participating in. You can also determine there who your RDs are by region.

RDs speak at most major industry conferences, so you can attend their talks, and I guarantee you that you will get some of the best content at the conference. You can also often hook up with your RD through a local user group, and at major events like TechEd we have a community booth where you can come by, ask questions, network, and have fun.

I just thought it would be good to share some of this to increase awareness of the program since I frequently get asked about it.

Happy New Year!