MS Premier Field Engineer - how does an app developer get there?


Is anyone out there working actively for Microsoft as a Premier Field Engineer, or has previously done so?  I'm trying to develop a specific line of learning that will move me into this position.

After ten years as an app developer, working primarily with MS tools, I interviewed for this position.  After passing an initial phone screening, they flew me to Charlotte NC for an in-person.  The feedback I got was that I'd make a solid developer, but I didn't have the in-depth full system troubleshooting skills to be a PFE.

I want this position, mainly for two reasons.  It branches me away from straight coding, and provides the work environment I want (heavy travel, but in a local radius.)  Trouble is, that kind of experience is marginalized away from most developers.  If you can write an enterprise app, then that is what you will do - WRITE the app.  Others will TEST and STRESS the app, and you may or may not be a part of improving its speed and reliability.  If an atomic level of system analysis is required, and you're not already the person capable of it, almost no employer is going to trade off the development work they need from you right now, to support you in becoming that person.

I understand in part what body of knowledge I need, and what kind of books contain it.  Some specific tomes recommended by my phone screener were Windows Internals, Degugging Windows(user- and kernel-mode, atomic level of CPU and memory operations,) and Complete COM+/.NET InterNetworking.

But it's not enough to just read.  One needs the context of doing, and the insight of one who has already done, to know what one must be able to do.

Generic babble-speak aside, I need career advice from a current or recently-former PFE.


Jerry Cote
Who is Participating?
Kevin3NFConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I know some PFEs...they are all around general admin types with a specialty in one area like Exchange or SQL Server, which is pretty much the polar opposite of application developers.

You need to be able to walk into anywhere and be able to understand the basics of almost all Microsoft Enterprise level products.  Also, you need to be able to handle the political issues that come up in a "server-down" type situation.  PFEs pretty much only go to situations where stuff is broken.  And once there they work closely with the PSS folks at NC, TX, WA call centers.

How to get that admin experience?  Start building and breaking servers.
Have you asked the interview team what they were looking for in training to assist?
jccoteAuthor Commented:

I handled the interview, perhaps poorly, as a verbal exam.  They ask. I answer, then I ask at the end when invited to do so.  I presumed that asking a question like "how should I train for this position" is an implicit admission that I'm not ready for it, so I didn't ask.  They ended up thinking that anyway, so perhaps I had nothing to lose by asking.  Afterwards, I can't contact the interview team beyond the internal recruiter, who doesn't help.

In my overall experience, as in this one, it's pretty common that a company does not respond well when, after failing to secure an offer, a candidate tries to make life easier for them by saying: "I want this position, I'm willing to take the time to absorb whatever body of knowledge will get me there - please specify exactly what will fit the bill, and I'll get moving on it."  Every career book I've ever read says do this, yet, the attempt runs into an officious wall.  I do not understand this at all.  It seems anathema to the goal of finding a capable and motivated person for the job, but there it is.
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thanks jccote...
jccoteAuthor Commented:
u bet - sorry for the delay.  I think I wanted a different answer, but yours make total sense.  My experience is app dev, working with admins and network pros but never venturing too far onto their plane.  I'm about 165 degrees off from the job desc, which makes me wonder - what made them want to fly me down to Charlotte in the first place?  Anyway, moving on with career as it is, none the worse.  Thanks again, jc
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