Microsoft NZ senior manager quits

Microsoft New Zealand national technology officer Brett Roberts - one of the software giant’s most senior staff - has announced his resignation, sneaking in ahead of an official company announcement.

[Read also: Microsoft NZ admits restructure in wake of Roberts' departure]

In an email, Mr Roberts said “My departure has been prompted by a decision to move my role to Wellington which, unfortunately, didn’t fit particularly well with the fact that my partner and children live here in Auckland”.

Later, speaking to NBR, Mr Roberts said “I won’t miss travel back-and-forth to Wellington. Your air point balance is a good indicator of work life balance; it’s inversely proportional.”

Mr Bear Pit
Mr Roberts has often served as Microsoft’s public face in controversial arenas, such as the ongoing debate about Linux and open source software - and has been a frequent visitor to the capital for discussions with government departments, and others.

His unusually candid style has drawn respect from his company's many foes, and helped to diffuse sometimes rocky relations with the State Service Commission, the arbiter of a series of multimillion dollar, pan-government software agreements (although sometimes said relations have proved beyond any mediation).

Legend
One of the national technology officer's many sparring partners, Open Source Society president Don Christie, was quick to tweet a response, which NBR thinks will be typical of industry reaction: "There is a lot Brett Roberts and I never saw eye to eye on, but he has legendary status in NZ circles and I wish him luck in new ventures."

A Microsoft employee weighed in by tweeting, "Terrible news now public, incredibly huge loss to our organisation."

Their call
Asked if Microsoft was moving his role to Wellington to be closer to the software giant’s big government clients, Mr Roberts replied:

“The decision was not mine to make. It was made a level above me. I guess they’ve got good reasons for making that call.”

The national technology officer understood that “someone will step up into my role”.

Mr Roberts, who has been with Microsoft since 1997, told NBR he would “wait until summer’s half through” before he started looking for work.

Whatever it is, it will be back inside the IT industry.

“I love it too much too get out. It’s a life-long addiction.”

Mr Roberts email:

The rumour mill is starting to hum so I thought it might be a good idea to let you know ‘officially’ that I will be leaving Microsoft NZ at the end of January 2010 after an enjoyable and rewarding 12 years. My departure has been prompted by a decision to move my role to Wellington which, unfortunately, didn’t fit particularly well with the fact that my partner and children live here in Auckland.

All good things must come to an end and I see this as a chance to explore new opportunities, learn new things, take on new challenges and stop worrying about timely expense claims, rushing to airports, submitting monthly reports and twice-yearly career discussions.

At this stage I have no plans at all for what may lie ahead however it’s a fairly safe bet it will involve starting a business or two, technology, participation in the NZ startup community, consulting, IT industry prognostication, PowerPointing and re-learning the guitar (and if you have any other suggestions, ideas or opportunities please don’t hesitate to get in touch).

I have a lot of things to be grateful for and one of those is the amazing array of interesting people I have come into contact with over the years.

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4 Comments & Questions

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It's a shame - Microsoft needs people like Brett. Instead it'll be another faceless droid from the US who speaks marketing and not technology and doesn't get the way the world's moving.

And they'll be based in Wellington where they can be ignored by all.

Good one.

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You have been awesome to work with and a great source of knowledge of things IT in NZ and beyond its shores.
As a Wellingtonian you and I have agreed on the fact that we both live in the best cities whilst the other doesn't but in the end you made the right call. Family first.

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US droid who speaks marketing and not tech? ouch. i resemble that remark.

Brett is whipsmart, funny, candid, an ardent and passionate advocate, but always, always respectful of others as well as technology. and a sponge for learning.
I KNOW he'll be successful in whatever he does next, and cannot wait to see! MSNZ will lack a certain spirit.

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As you know, I'm very sorry to see you leave Brett... your clarity of thought and the impact that has had on the company can be felt here in New Zealand as Chris points out above, but has also had a positive influence on many of us across the rest of the company.

I've had a lot of fun and learned a great deal partnering with you on all sorts of issues over the last couple of years and hope that there will be a whole host of opportunities to continue doing so well into the future.

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