Rangers Sabbatical, part 1 - Prologue

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 02/05/2010 - 08:40

For more in this series, please visit the series index.

Welcome to the first part of a series of posts which I wrote during and after my Rangers sabbatical. In future posts I will talk about the trip in detail, but this post will just cover the history of the trip and what all these odd terms I may use mean.

The Rangers

The rangers are NOT related to any of the following:

A football team
A TV show
A military group
An ice hockey team

The Rangers are group of individuals which is made up of internal Microsoft staff, mostly from MCS (Microsoft Consulting Services); MVP’s (external people awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award) and key community leads.

The Rangers are linked to a specific Microsoft product, in my case it is VSTS (Visual Studio Team System), and not all products have a Rangers team.

The goal of Rangers is to fill in the gaps in products with custom solutions and guidance – so that may include information on how to run TFS (Team Foundation Server) on a virtual machine, quick reference posters for the product, or additional tools.

This is different from the MVP program, where you are awarded a MVP for work you have done because you become a Ranger for the work you will do and there are specific goals, projects and guidelines for the work.

A more in depth view of the Rangers team and the structure can be found at in the post on VSTS Rangers Positioning Rangers and Projects.

Normal Process

The normal process for all Rangers work, even those who work for Microsoft, is that this is an extra effort team. Meaning that you have your day-to-day job and this is done in evenings, weekends or on bus rides. This really becomes a labour of love for the product.


Me working on a bus during the sabbatical. Picture from Willy-Peter Schaub


The sabbatical is a new idea to the Rangers, where an external person (MVP or community member) takes leave from their day-to-day and spends time working directly with the product teams. For VSTS this means that you would need to be in one or more locations, since the VSTS/VS/Rangers team is spread out between Vancouver, Canada; Seattle, Washington, USA; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Hyderabad, India and China.

Map from and pins added by me (not accurately)

This idea is so new to the Rangers that I am the first person to take part in it and me this meant I would spend two weeks in Vancouver and a week in Seattle.


While this trip was not a business trip for me, it was business for Microsoft and I got access to a lot of info, people, places and experiences which I cannot talk about because of the NDA I have with Microsoft. So if you ask yourself why this seems so little for the amount of time, part of it is that the NDA doesn’t let me and the second part is that the technical aspects of the work will be covered in a separate series.

Most Valuable Indian

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 01/04/2010 - 10:45

ee358786_ZaydKara(en-us,MSDN_10)So yesterday I posted about myself getting the MVP award, well today it got better as my friend, co-worker, fellow VSTS Ranger and S.A. Architect lead: Zayd Kara has also been awarded a MVP for his work with Team System! Congratulations Zayd!

And the award goes to...

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Sun, 01/03/2010 - 19:07

With the count down clock at T-10 days to my sabbatical trip an email popped into my mail box… it was an email from Microsoft congratulating me on getting the MVP (Most Valuable Professional) award for my work with Team System!

What is this MVP Award?

The Microsoft MVP Award is an annual award that recognizes exceptional technology community leaders worldwide who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with users and Microsoft… With fewer than 5,000 awardees worldwide, Microsoft MVPs represent a highly select group of experts. MVPs share a deep commitment to community and a willingness to help others. They represent the diversity of today’s technical communities. MVPs are present in over 90 countries, spanning more than 30 languages, and over 90 Microsoft technologies. MVPs share a passion for technology, a willingness to help others, and a commitment to community. These are the qualities that make MVPs exceptional community leaders. MVPs’ efforts enhance people’s lives and contribute to our industry’s success in many ways. By sharing their knowledge and experiences, and providing objective feedback, they help people solve problems and discover new capabilities every day. MVPs are technology’s best and brightest…

Richard Kaplin, Microsoft Corporate Vice President

So this is a great honour for me to be welcomed into a group of people who I look up to and respect :)  You can see my new MVP profile up at

My sister rocks!

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Sun, 12/07/2008 - 19:49

On Thursday night I had the honor to go to my sisters graduation! After many hard years of work and sacrifice she graduated as a teacher, specializing in foundation classes (grade 0-2 if memory serves) from Wits! I am very proud of her :) :) Next year she will be teaching at a school in Krugersdoorp!


My sister in her “batman” cloak with my mother :)

Willy blasting off!

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 11/11/2008 - 16:34

On Friday Willy publically announced his plans for 2009, which include him leaving South Africa to go and work for the big blue monster (aka Microsoft) in the rangers team! Before I get into my view on this, let me explain what the rangers are: A MVP (which Willy is) is selected from the community by the community and big blue as a expert/lead/guide in their field. They are the best of the best outside of Microsoft. The rangers are the internal version of MVP’s. They are the best of the best inside of Microsoft. It is a great honor and privilege and shows really how big an expert Willy is.

In short I am so happy for him and really jealous too, but in the short period I have worked with him I have not even scratched the surface of what he knows… so I am sad that I won’t get that on a day to day basis.

To Willy I wish you the best of luck and enjoyment in this new experience!

Silverlight: Lessons Learnt

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 08/26/2008 - 22:11
Tech-Ed was a lot fun and the feedback for the session I did was more positive than negative. Being a speaker doesn't get you into too many special things (there is a speakers lounge) but one of the fun things it did get me this year was the chance to do a video session with my good friend Simon from BlackLight, who was also my co-speaker for my WPF talk. The video is about 15min long and I play the role of interviewer (Larry King watch out!) and I interview Simon on what he does everyday Silverlight and the lessons he has learnt in the last year and a bit.
To check the video go to

Almost Famous pt 2

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 02/04/2008 - 12:11
Out of the same interview as before, comes another article. I like this one more, as it feels less sales like (for those who know me, know I am not a sales person) and more like the actual interview was.

Almost Famous

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 02/04/2008 - 12:03
Ages ago I did an interview around the Rezonance product brand I work on. It was so long back I had forgotten about it. Well the interview appeared online this weekend. Thanks to Carey for the heads up.

Malawi here I come...

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Tue, 11/13/2007 - 15:19

 Update (14 November 2007): Dates confirmed! I should be landing last afternoon on the 25th and flying out late afternoon on the 28th. Thats three nights there!

Sometime this month it looks like I will be in Malawi for work for a few days. This means I should have a little free time there (particular evenings), so if you are in Malawi and are looking for someone to do training, speaking or advising on a few hours basis on any topic I am involved in (MSCRM, CCF, I also have a great TFS evangalism slide deck, general dev...) please drop me an email or comment on this post and let me know.