Andrew Coulson: Microsoft Canada
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive
interview with Andrew Coulson, Director, National
Partner Team, Microsoft Canada Co.
Q: Andrew, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
For those just starting their careers in IT, can you
describe your career and the decisions you made to
reach your current position at Microsoft? What 10
tips can you provide to others that helped you in
your path to success? What would you do different
looking back in hindsight?
A: Thanks Stephen – My educational background is
behavioral psychology and Physiology so I can’t
claim to have had a grand career vision from day
one! What really changed my career path was when I
started learning about the power of computing and
the ability for the personal computer to change
peoples’ lives – not in the grand society changing
way that the industry talks about – just the average
person being able to do more of what they really
want accomplish. Simply put, I was excited by the
endless possibilities of technology. I think the
secret to success is finding your passion and
building your career around it.
The following tips guided me in my successes.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything
- Know what is current. If you aren’t up to
date you become ineffective – pretty quickly,
especially in the computer world. Thinking about
what is coming or what “should” be coming is a
- Maintain personal long-term goals.
- Take a genuine interest in people – not just
for career advancement but who they are: from
the person that serves you coffee in the
cafeteria to the CEO.
- Have a specialized skill but maintain a
- Try different jobs in your area of interest
through the course of your career and don’t get
hung up on stepping up the ladder every time –
breadth of experience is valued.
- Learn to listen to your customers and
understand their needs. Then listen again and
check to make sure you heard it right.
- Understand the economics of Business –
become a spreadsheet wizard – learn to drill
down on data of different types and mine the
jewels that most people miss.
- Prioritize time effectively – and don’t let
e-mail drive your activity.
- Know who your competitors are and why they
- Honesty and solid business ethics will
Q: What are the ten biggest traps or pitfalls to
avoid in the IT business?
A. There can be so many traps in business, so my
best advice is only to concentrate on avoiding ONE
major pitfall – the fear of taking risks. Calculated
risks often lead to the greatest innovations and the
most rewarding experiences. Any advance has come
after someone took a significant risk or bet. Accept
that there may be setbacks and forge ahead. Success
will come to those who aren’t afraid to try.
Q: I can see that you’re an active professional and
that your work occupies much of your time. What are
your five ways you can relax?
A. I spend a ton of time with my family – they are
my greatest balancing element and ultimately most
important to me. Playing with my 2 daughters is
probably the most relaxing thing I do. I’ve also
tried recently to take up golf, and while it’s not
relaxing yet, I’m hoping that is part of the program
down the road! I also read a great deal of fiction –
helps balance the technical nature of the Microsoft
Q: What are your responsibilities as Director,
National Partner Team? What are your immediate goals
within the next six months and within two years? How
do you measure that you have been successful?
A. Our team is responsible for the services partners
in Canada that work with customers to provide
solutions on the Microsoft platform. What that means
is, we are really focused on supporting our partners
who have utilized our technology to the max and have
engaged customers on great projects. We’re
successful when the whole Microsoft Solution
Provider marketplace establishes a reputation for
providing comprehensive, professional services
across vertical and horizontal solutions. We know
we’ve been successful when customers call and tell
us how great their solution is: how it works and how
impactful the partner was in implementing it!
Q: Businesses are seeing many technologies in their
strategic paths? What advise would you give to
businesses as they plan their own evolution in the
next five years? Do you have specific technologies
and processes they should watch out for and
A. Prepare to be more connected than ever before. We
are really just at the beginning of the computing
revolution – we won’t see that perspective for a few
years. Microsoft is introducing a user-centric
architecture and set of XML Web services, Microsoft
.NET My Services. .NET My Services will make it
easier to integrate the silos of information that
exist today. .NET My Services is oriented around
people, instead of around a specific device,
application, service, or network. It puts users in
control of their own data and information,
protecting personal information and providing a new
level of ease of use and personalization. .NET My
Services takes advantage of the Microsoft .NET-based
technologies and architecture that make it possible
for applications, devices, and services to work
together. These services make user consent the basis
for who can access user information, what they can
do with it, and how long they have permission. Look
around your desk right now – can all of your devices
share information? Can you access the same data from
each device? Do you stand in line for anything? How
many devices do you currently interact with that are
automated but really not that intelligent?
Q: If you were doing the interview, what two
interview questions would you ask of someone in your
A. 1. What importance do you attach to how people
get the job done vs. what they get done and is that
reflected across your organization? 2. What is the
greatest motivating factor for you personally?
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you
like to give?
A. We have a robust foundation for IT business
success here in Canada. I would encourage anyone who
is interested in pursuing a career in the area of
IT, to remain positive in the face of current
economic and social challenges. Technology is an
exciting field where young Canadians can explore
many rewarding careers. We are only at the very
beginning of an incredibly impactful time – if you
are excited by what computers might be able to do,
then you may have the unique opportunity to do what
you love and make it a gratifying career.