Here’s why veteran Microsoft engineer Dona Sarkar is taking over the Windows 10 Insider program

Kareem Anderson

The responsibility of fielding the unending list of complaints, comments, questions and concerns regarding the Windows 10 Insider program has been handed off to a new lead. The era of nagging Gabe Aul for new builds and creatively placing his likeness on topical memes is coming to end, to be replaced with a new leadership dynasty led by veteran Microsoft software engineer, Dona Sarkar.

Gabe Aul Ninja Cat
Gabe Aul Ninja Cat

Fortunately, before feelings of dread associated with change began to bubble to the surface for Insiders, Microsoft News Center writer Vanessa Ho offered a profile of Sarkar, giving Insiders some insight into who will be taking up the silicon throne of Windows 10 development.

While not a household name for most Insiders, Sarkar has been thoroughly enmeshed in the lives of Windows users for some time now.

Even if you don’t know Dona Sarkar’s name, you likely know her work. If you’re one of the 1.5 billion people using Windows, you have likely used something she’s built. If you’ve ever looked for an app or setting on your computer, you’ve probably used the search box that Sarkar’s team made.

Ever used the handy File Explorer tool in Windows? It’s Sarkar’s work. And if you’ve ever logged onto a new device and been elated to find your profile of files and settings intact, you have Sarkar to thank.”

While less glamorous than, say, Windows Hello or Cortana, Sarkar’s work is by design just as important and intentionally subtle. Sarkar’s belief is that “we want tech to be this invisible fairy godmother who makes things happen, so you don’t have to stitch the gown or arrange for transportation. We just want you to go to the ball.”

Ironically, being subtle and invisible may not be exactly what some Insiders want from their experience in the program, with many opting for a more transparent and detailed account of the development of the operating system. For those people, Sarkar’s eleven-year exploration of customer feedback has paved a path of expertise and commitment to the user experience that has former Windows 10 Insider lead Gabe Aul singing her praises.

I have worked with Dona for many years and think she is the perfect person to guide the Windows Insider Program forward. Her technical expertise, passion for customers and commitment to listening to feedback is unmatched.”

Dona Sarkar with the Windows team
Dona Sarkar with the Windows team

Beyond a letter of recommendation from Aul, Sarkar’s working background speak volumes as to why she has been chosen to herald the Insider program.

A self-described “absolute device hardware geek,” Sarkar worked as the lead developer for Windows Vista on device-focused features like Autoplay, Bluetooth and Blu-Ray integration into Windows. She relished the opportunity to shape how the system fits with things that “you expect to work flawlessly with your computer.”

As the operating system evolved into Windows 7 and 8, Sarkar was responsible for the Windows search experience. She managed the teams that created the search box in Windows 7’s Start menu, the File Explorer tool and the Open/Save dialogs. She helped lead the evolution of search in Windows 8 for tablets and for finding apps, files and settings.”

Sarkar’s search feature is just one of many examples she has under her belt regarding her attentiveness to the collection and triaging feedback.

Recently, Sarkar has spent time helping to build Microsoft next user interface and next-level desktop experience with HoloLens development. As a teacher of the Microsoft Holographic Academy, Sarkar plans to have her experiences with #HoloHacks, Unity development, 3D artistry and filmmaking and sound engineering development to the Windows 10 Insider program. The combination and commingling of HoloLens and Windows 10 experiences will help the new Microsoft in fostering its development processes.

While some Insiders may choose only to focus on the development of Windows 10, others may appreciate how Sarkar’s using her extracurricular activities to help fuel innovation and new users paradigms. Aside from being a very talented veteran Microsoft engineer, Sarkar also takes inspiration and refuge from Windows 10 talk by authoring four books and being an aspiring fashion designer and blogger.

Dona Sarkar
Dona Sarkar

However, if the material mentioned above wasn’t enough to assuage your concerns about the Windows 10 Insider lead seat change, also consider that Sarkar’s passion for Windows extends to her use of the products outside of the company walls.

Sarkar is passionate about Windows not just as an engineer for Microsoft, but as a person who uses the product herself to run four businesses. She manages her design, blogging, speaking and writing businesses on Windows, and her output is immense. Every day she wakes up early, drinks an Americano and sits down for a few hours with her cat and a beat-up Asus laptop. And that’s before she goes to work in Redmond.

Her Windows 10 machine is such a beloved workhorse that it has a missing screw, a worn keyboard and bite marks from her cat, an Egyptian Mau named Ash who gnaws on the corners when Sarkar works. The device is covered in stickers from events she’s spoken at about women in technology and STEM, a subject close to her heart.”

As evident by her new appointment, Sarkar is being elected lead of the Windows 10 Insider program because of her clear passion for taking and implementing user feedback. With Gabe being just around the corner, still toiling away at engineering new Windows 10 Insider builds, let’s be honest–as long as Sarkar tweets out build release sometime in the next few days, she’ll have won the hearts of most Insiders by next week.

Welcome Dona Sarkar, new Windows 10 Insider lead.