Cloud engineer and Elite winner stays moving to stay relevant

Jan 11, 2018   |  

For some species of sharks, constant motion equals oxygen. It’s move, move, move, or sink.

Murtaza Jafferji, a software engineer at Microsoft, has adopted a similar philosophy for his career in technology.

Jafferji is restless and energetic; curious and constantly thinking ahead. He’s on a cloud infrastructure and operations team, and if everyone is using AngularJS version 1.5.8 on a project at work, he’s the guy trying out Angular version 4 at home. For fun.

“I do it because I enjoy learning it, but also when the time comes to upgrade an app or program, I’m already ahead of the game and know what it’s going to be like moving forward,” said Jafferji, who has worked at Microsoft since 2012.

It will come as no surprise for you to learn that Jafferji, an avid hiker who bikes to work (move, move move!) is also one of the most digitally adventurous employees at Microsoft. Jafferji was one of the top performers for the company’s annual Elite program, which gives adventurous employees the chance to test drive (and yes, sometimes crash) the company’s newest technology.

In the Elite program, Microsoft has made an adventure out of the testing, tumult, and triumph of early adoption. Elite is not unlike the hit novel “Ready Player One” – it’s a virtual game with 26,500 players from around the globe earning points and perks by trying all manner of new technology, from productivity software to games. For the best in the world, those whose prolific test driving and careful feedback has landed them enough points to top the Elite leaderboard, there is a grand prize: a sleek, leather jacket that looks as if it were stolen off the back of Han Solo.

Jafferji has been in the Elite program for two years now. The first year, he won a mug. The second year, he won the top prize. (Move, move, move!)

“I find Elite to be one of the great benefits of working at Microsoft. We get to work on and play with things before they’re released for even public preview. The very first bits of things. It’s a cool program,” Jafferji said.

As an Elite member, he once even got to use a Surface laptop prototype.

“Now that was a big perk,” he said. “I was able to use that before it was even announced. I had to use it in my office with the door closed, and if anybody came to the door I had to put it away.

All in all, he thinks the benefits of being an early adopter of brand-new technology far outweigh the bumps.

“It’s an adventure,” he said. “I love seeing the evolution of a product and the iterations it goes through before being released to public. Not to mention all the code names. Knowing what’s in the pipeline is a lot of fun.”

In his quest to stay ahead of the curve, Jafferji attended the Microsoft Edge Web Summit, where Microsoft announced it would be bringing Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to the Windows Store in 2018. To get a head start, he learned about PWA’s, built a game called Zombie Airstrike as a PWA, and deployed it to Azure – all while he was on paternity leave. (Move, move, move!)

“Working out the latest stuff is part of my DNA,” he said. “I want to be ahead of the times. That’s my philosophy: continuously learn. Switch things up to stay sharp.”

He also works to stay on top of the significant trends, which has piqued his interest in data science and machine learning. That’s what led him to start a master’s degree program in data science at the University of Washington last fall. (Move, move, move!)

Jafferji – a cloud software engineer, global early adoption champion, creator of PWA zombies, future data science master, and new father – might be the rare human capable of actually living every week like it’s Shark Week.

“You can’t get too comfortable, especially with technology,” he said. “Eventually it’s all going to be replaced by something else. We need to always be updating our skills to stay with the times.”

Read our bodacious story about the Microsoft Elite program, which was created to play matchmaker between the company’s more digitally adventurous souls and its engineers, who are eager to have their newest creations used and abused (and, yes, sometimes even broken) to help get them ready for customers.

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