On this fine Wednesday we have a fantastic interview with Nishant Kothary. Nishant is a web-strategist at Microsoft where he solves problems ranging from designing, to developing, to marketing. Anything at all, Nishant can do it. Except maybe bear wrangling.
Q. What is it like being a web-strategist at Microsoft?
A. It's great in ways you would expect: you get to work with some of the smartest people in the world, your work has an impact on literally billions of people, the pay and benefits are great, etc. It's also great in ways you may not expect but are fathomable. For instance, I've had the opportunity to wear many hats in the my career — product design, software engineering, marketing, PR, public speaking, graphic design, to name some — and my role at Microsoft allows me to wear them all at once (in fact, it requires it). I never expected that, but it's something I take for granted now. But, it's the things I'd never imagined, the completely unexpected benefits, that make my job uniquely fantastic. This is a nuanced point, so let me give an example. Prior to Microsoft, I worked at Amazon on several products including Instant Video and Kindle. When someone asked me where I worked, I'd tell them and their faces would instantly light up. People, for the most part, love Amazon. They respect the company, love its products and services, and generally feel positive about most aspects of the company. Let's ignore whether this adoration is well-deserved or not because it's not the fact of the matter, rather just the perception, that's relevant to our discussion. In 2005, I took a job at Microsoft. And from that day on, my answer to, "So, what do you do?" became "I work at Microsoft." On average, the reaction to this answer was (and continues to be) something between disappointment and apathy. Actually, I bumped into an ex-girlfriend at SxSW a couple of years ago who seemed truly delighted that I worked at Microsoft because she figured her life had turned out better than mine. But I digress. I had to cope with how people perceived me after I started working at Microsoft. And, it was particularly difficult because I didn't relate to the perception; I still believe that Microsoft is one of the greatest companies the world has ever seen (even if not the same company from the 90's, and even if I don't agree with all of its strategies). What started as a personal struggle led to what has become a hobby, even an obsession, around understanding how people think and perceive. The process of satiating this curiosity has changed the way I think about everything: from how to design a logo to how treat my wife and friends in different situations. In fact, the presentation I currently deliver at design conferences includes a reading list that started out as my need to understand "why I wasn't cool anymore". For me, this is about as good as working for the man (any man) could get
Q. What, in your opinion, is the key to a truly outstanding web experience?
A. One that truly serves its goal. In my experience, bad web experiences result either from pursuing the wrong goal, or executing against a misunderstanding of the right goal.
Q. As a teenager, what was your favorite activity?
A. Playing the guitar and chasing girls. I soon discovered that the two were deeply related.
Q. What in your mind is the future of Microsoft?
A. At its inception, Microsoft's goal was to put a computer on every desk. It was a volume sales problem at its core, and Microsoft's exemplary execution at solving this problem is what put it on the map (and to its credit, put a computer on every desk). Today, we not only have a computer on our desks, but also in our bags and pockets. And, the customer opportunity isn't one of volume sales. It's about creating the most valuable experiences across all of our devices. The future for Microsoft is to become a company that creates the most delightful experiences for any computer.
Q. What computer do you use and why?
A. I use a Mac and a PC. It's important for me to be familiar with both in my role.