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News | Nov. 5, 2019

IT analyst learns software development, best practices at Microsoft

By Dianne Ryder DLA Public Affairs

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series highlighting DLA participants in the Training with Industry Program, which provides Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act-certified employees an opportunity to gain career-broadening experience while working in an industry environment.

Defense Logistics Agency employees like Rick Boesen, whose position as an information technology project analyst includes acquisition elements, are engaging with and learning from industry partners through the Defense Department’s Training with Industry Program. The program provides a professional development opportunity to help Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act-certified military and civilian employees improve managerial skills.

Boesen is no stranger to working in private industry. In December 1999, he was a contractor for Defense Logistics Information Service in Battle Creek, Michigan, first with Oracle Corporation, then for Northrop Grumman. He began his federal career in 2012 as the branch chief of Information Technology Change and Configuration Management at Defense Logistics Information Service. Now, he is a project lead in the DLA Information Operations, Small Financial Applications Branch.

Boesen learned about the TWI Program through a DLA email and applied for the six-month detail in December 2018 after getting his family’s support. Applicants are asked to rank participating companies from most desirable to least. Boesen’s first and second picks were Amazon Web Services and Microsoft because they aligned with his IT skillsets versus the companies with a logistics focus. Boesen was accepted into the program in February and was assigned to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, about 20 minutes east of Seattle.

In June, Boesen began his assignment shadowing a Microsoft engineering team. His focus is Agile software development methods and how they are implemented. He also attends daily meetings with business and engineering groups and was recently asked to review software-development processes for a second engineering group. 

“The new engineering group’s focus is to support the purchase order assembly business and how they relate to sourcing components that go into data centers,” Boesen said. “This will provide me an opportunity to assess how the same basic Agile software development framework is implemented differently to obtain similar achievements within Microsoft.”

He will compare the engineering groups’ progress and hopes to incorporate lessons learned into best practices at DLA, he said.

In addition to learning about Microsoft’s business practices, automated tools and software development, Boesen has gleaned a unique perspective on the company’s decision-making processes.

“Delegation of decisions and direction of tasks are entrusted to subordinates often within my groups,” he said. “The speed in which tasks get done is key to many end-to-end business processes. For example, a business process that initially took three months is constantly being reviewed and honed until it gets down to two weeks. You can see this type of efficiency being worked throughout just about everything.”

One of Boesen’s first tasks was documenting software testing processes. 

“I was able to identify areas of improvement, pitch them to management and implement them immediately,” he said, adding that he was amazed at how quickly his ideas were adopted.

Boesen also appreciates the opportunity to take on more leadership roles at Microsoft and predicts that Microsoft’s Agile software development processes will affect how he works new IT capabilities in DLA. 

“Bringing new capabilities to end-users quickly versus waiting a year or two for a solution is certainly going to be a focus,” he said.

He recommends the TWI Program to anyone who takes initiative, is flexible and not easily frustrated.

“Just being embedded with another company provides perspective that goes beyond the goals of the program,” Boesen said. “Seeing and experiencing corporate culture outside of DLA has been just as valuable to me as learning about program management best practices.”