November 5th, 2009

Unfortunately, Microsoft layoffs will affect the Portland startup and open source communities, too

Unfortunately, Microsoft layoffs will affect the Portland startup and open source communities, too

When news that Don Dodge had been laid off from Microsoft started percolating yesterday, my mind immediately jumped to a rather sad conclusion. If they let Don go, I thought, then what did that mean for our own community presence here in Portland, Jason Mauer?

Unfortunately, I learned that my assumptions were correct. Jason—the developer evangelist who has served as the face of Microsoft for much of the Portland tech community—had been part of the layoff as well.

And while ill news of the Microsoft is always guaranteed to inspire a bit of grave dancing and schadenfreude, I think there are any number of reasons to take this news as a very real blow to our community, as well.

First, foremost, and most obvious, we’ve had an active member of the community hit a big setback. And that always sucks.

@ahockley on @jasonmauer getting laid off

But to be honest, Jason’s a smart guy—and tenacious as well. I mean, you don’t ride from Portland to San Diego on a bike without some tenacity. He’ll land on his feet. And it will be interesting to see what he has planned for the future.

So what’s next for me? I’m taking off the training wheels and going into business on my own. I will be providing training and contract dev work, plus nurturing a few crazy ideas on the side. I’ll announce more as soon as the dust settles. I was reluctant to do something like this in the past, but now I feel ready for the challenge. And thanks to the severance package I received, I can actually afford to do so!

The bigger—and possibly less obvious—concern is for the camps, events, and going-on here in the tech community.

You see, while it might not have been front and center, Microsoft has been a huge supporter of the local tech scene here in Portland. And a great deal of that, no doubt, was thanks to Jason’s presence here.

Microsoft has sponsored every Code Camp and every BarCamp Portland. They were the premier sponsor of WordCamp Portland, this year. And they’ve also contributed funds to sponsor events like WhereCamp PDX, RecentChangesCamp, CloudCamp Portland, and even Ignite Portland.

Like it or not, Microsoft has been underwriting a great deal of the free stuff in which we in the Portland community have been privileged to partake. And it’s highly likely that that type of funding and sponsorship will come to an abrupt and immediate end.

At a time when sponsor burnout and tightening budgets are very real threats to already tenuous event budgets, this isn’t exactly the kind of thing that increases the confidence.

Best of luck to Jason in his new pursuits. It sucks that he has to go through this.

As for the rest of us, we better start thinking of some creative ways to fill the funding gap that this latest round of layoffs has created.

The rising tide, as they say, floats all boats. The sinking tide, unfortunately, has an equally definitive effect.

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8 Responses to “Unfortunately, Microsoft layoffs will affect the Portland startup and open source communities, too”

  1. Tony Zito says:

    Jason starting his own venture, at least, is a net positive for Portland, and I look forward to seeing what he’s cooking up!

  2. Jason Mauer says:

    Thank you Rick and Tony for the kind words. I don’t think I’ve been the subject of a news story before, which I will take as mostly a good thing. :)

    I do hope going forward that Microsoft continues to recognize the importance of the tech community here in Portland. Though I won’t be representing them anymore, I will continue to participate and do what I can for the local tech scene.

    It’s a tough time for everybody right now, and unfortunately it affects them too.

  3. Mark Lawler says:

    Thanks for the big picture perspective of this event. As you point out, regardless of your programming tools ‘religion’, MS provided a lot of local help and sponsorships that fostered growth of the Silicon Forest. I agree that this could end up being a big blow to the PDX development community and its events across the board. One can only hope that the likes of Intel, IBM, Oracle, McAfee, etc. can see the value of leveraging the presence of their own large PDX-based operations as well as the value in perhaps filling in the hole that Microsoft will be leaving behind.


  4. Don Park says:

    Jason did a great presentation at the Data Visualization Meeting this week, using all Microsoft tools. I too look forward to learning about his next project. Good luck, Jason!

  5. Amber Case says:

    I agree with Don. Mauer rocks. Excited to see where he goes!

  6. Mike Leach says:

    Microsoft still has a strong Oregon presence. @shanselman stopped by our office last year and gave our developers a great run down on the latest .NET technology and testing tools.

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