MVP Insider: Q&A with Donald Belcham

MVP Insider - Donald Belcham (December 2008)

Donald Belcham is a senior consultant at Consulting Inc. who is based out of Edmonton, Alberta. His experience varies in industry from Agriculture and Forestry to Insurance and Government. Donald also speaks at a number of different varied sized conferences around the world.

The specialty areas that Donald focuses on include agile practices and fundamental object oriented programming skills as they apply to the .NET platform. He works both on and with teams to bring their practices to a place where they will help the projects to deliver software that satisfies the client.

1. What does being an MVP mean to you?

For me MVPs are people who are community focused and have a desire to provide direction to that community. That direction may include directing content and focus back onto the community or taking community trends and concerns back to the internal Microsoft teams. In essence we are both creators of trends and messengers of those ideas.

 2. If you could ask Steve Ballmer one question about Microsoft, what would it be?

I’d ask him why Microsoft’s developer facing initiatives focus primarily on marketing instead of creating a community of professionals that are highly skilled in the fundamentals of building software. This question is important to me since I believe that .NET developers have a strong foundation in the frameworks and their capabilities, but there has been a complete lack of training and focus on how to create robust, maintainable and well architected system.

3. What do you think the best software ever written was? 

The interesting part of this question, for me anyways, is the exercise of determining how to gauge success for applications. For me the measure of success rests in the ability for the software to solve the problems of its intended clients. Programs such as Lotus 1,2,3 were hugely successful as they filled a need for businesses users. A more recent example is JetBrains’ ReSharper which fills the needs of developers so well that some would claim Visual Studio’s purpose is to host ReSharper.

4. If you were the manager of Visual Studio, what would you change? 

As the manager of Visual Studio I would work to push the drag and drop features of the tooling to the background. Instead of the most easily accessible construction features being drag and drop, I would make it easier to write and design software using good fundamental principles. That doesn’t mean that I would remove the drag and drop capabilities, but I would make them less convenient. Hopefully that would push some of the development community to use better practices since they are the easiest path to getting things done.

5. What are the best features/improvements of Visual Studio? 

In my mind the best feature in Visual Studio is the extensibility model. The resulting third party IDE add-ins is remarkable. There are few developers left who are working with a naked version of Visual Studio.

6. What was the last book you read? 

The last technical book that I read was Agile Principles, Patterns, and Practices in C# by Robert C. Martin. It is a fantastic read that I highly recommend to all .NET developers, regardless of their language focus.

My latest non-technical read was a detective thriller based in Soviet Russia called Child 44 and written by Tom Rob Smith. It is a fantastically written book that covers a topic and time period that you rarely see.

7. What music CD do you recommend? 

CDs? That’s so 1990’s. I have a varied selection of music that I listen too. When working, I mostly go for music that I find less distracting such as Dianna Krall and Boccelli. When I’m travelling I tend to swing more towards rock by Canadian bands such as The Tragically Hip, Captain Tractor and BTO.

8. What makes you a great MVP? 

First, I wouldn’t qualify myself as great. Instead I’d say that I bring a different view of the software development profession to the table. I’m constantly fighting for developers to be more concerned about how they practice the trade in the hopes that we can better deliver what our clients ask for.

9. What is in your computer bag? 

Right now I have a Dell Inspiron 1720 that I do primary development on, a HP 2000tx tablet PC that I use for working on the plane, a sports water bottle, my Zune, cables for my mobile phone, a couple of pens, and a notebook.

10. What is the best thing that has happened since you have become an MVP? 

One of the greatest things that I’ve been able to benefit from is the ability to get accepted at more and more conferences as a speaker. I’m able to travel the world talking to developers from varied communities and explore the different challenges that are being faced by them.

11. What is your motto? 

Work hard and play hard. I’m a firm believer in work-life balance. I don’t always succeed at striking that balance, but making time for the ‘play hard’ portion of that motto has allowed me maintain a high level of energy for the times that I’m working.

12. Who is your hero? 

On the personal side of my life I’d have to say it’s my father. His work ethic is astounding and his ability to keep his word are two things that I work hard to achieve every day.

Professionally I can’t say that I have any one hero. Instead I look at many and try to draw pieces of inspiration from each of them. We are such a young industry that is still evolving rapidly and I don’t believe that there is any single place that we should be looking to find best practices, top ideas or formulas for success.

13. What does success mean to you? 

For me, success in this industry is defined as the ability to continually improve and evolve as the profession, tools and techniques do. It’s easy for us to become completely overwhelmed by the volume of tools that are available to us, let alone the rapid changes that are occurring in practices and procedures. Simply maintaining our current skills is not enough to succeed in the long term.