• Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

Former Microsoft worker makes higher dwelling making YouTube movies


Jul 11, 2021

Kevin Stratvert produces movies at his dwelling in Seattle.

Tara Brown

When Microsoft up to date its Groups communication app with a extra subtle approach to give PowerPoint shows in January, the corporate revealed a 500-word weblog submit on the function. Individuals may learn the weblog submit and check out to determine easy methods to use it, or they may seek the advice of YouTube.

On the video service owned by arch-rival Google, a former Microsoft worker named Kevin Stratvert revealed a video on Presenter Mode to his greater than 800,000 subscribers, garnering greater than 180,000 views and a whole bunch of feedback. Microsoft itself had not revealed a video on the subject.

“I’ve constructed a Microsoft viewers,” Stratvert stated in an interview with CNBC. “Microsoft content material drives much more viewership than non-Microsoft content material. I’ve achieved Gmail and some others, however they have not achieved fairly as effectively.”

Which may need to do with the attain of Microsoft’s merchandise. The corporate held 86% of the e-mail and authoring market in 2020, in keeping with expertise analysis agency Gartner, with 1.2 billion Workplace customers.

Not each a type of 1.2 billion is aware of easy methods to do the whole lot in Workplace, although, and other people additionally have to sustain with the most recent updates that Microsoft pumps out. Movies from Stratvert and his YouTube contemporaries are serving to with that — and typically getting extra eyeballs than Microsoft’s official movies.

Significantly better off

Stratvert arrived at Microsoft in 2006, the identical yr Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion. His first YouTube video confirmed footage from a drone flying over a city in New Jersey. Then Stratvert filmed movies of his travels within the Puget Sound and past. How-to movies and gadget-review movies adopted.

In 2017 he posted his first Microsoft-related video, wherein he toured treehouses on the corporate’s campus along with his spouse, Kerry Stratvert, a supervisor on the firm. Within the video description, he included a disclosure saying that he was a Microsoft worker.

Two months after the treehouse video, Stratvert was engaged on the small improvement staff behind Workplace.com, an internet site that offers quick entry to on-line variations of Excel spreadsheets and different Workplace paperwork. The location was not well-known, particularly in contrast with Workplace functions for PCs, so Stratvert and colleagues requested their friends in advertising if they may unfold the phrase about Workplace.com. The entrepreneurs did not have sufficient assets to assist, Stratvert stated.

So Stratvert produced a video displaying how folks may use Workplace.com to get most options of Microsoft Workplace freed from cost. It carried out effectively, and his supervisor informed him he had achieved a great job.

He went on to make movies about Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Groups, Home windows and Phrase. Microsoft staff on different groups observed and began asking him to make movies about their merchandise. They noticed how many individuals had been watching and acknowledged that getting him to speak about their merchandise may herald new customers, which in flip may imply extra favorable worker opinions.

“It is nearly like groups respect that there is this different outlet that is type of unofficial,” he stated.

Then, in July 2020, months after the pandemic despatched the Stratverts dwelling, he gave up his place at Microsoft and commenced making 5 instances as many movies as he was earlier than. He now not wanted to incorporate disclosures in movies that he was a Microsoft worker, and he may discuss extra freely about competing merchandise akin to Slack and Zoom.

YouTube customers have hit the subscribe button. As we speak he has 85% extra subscribers than the official Microsoft 365 YouTube channel centered on Groups and different Workplace functions, which he stated has a staff of 20 to 30 folks producing content material.

“Economically I am significantly better off,” he stated. His spouse nonetheless works at Microsoft.

Selling exterior creators

Traditionally, creating and sustaining merchandise has been the core of Microsoft. As we speak almost 50% of staff work in engineering. Advertising is a significantly smaller a part of the enterprise, and staff work on adverts, supplies for Microsoft’s web site, occasions and different strategies of promotion.

Previously few years, a bunch inside Microsoft started focusing extra on YouTube.

“On YouTube particularly, we’re beginning to discover the idea of what it appears to be like love to do one thing native to YouTube,” Sonia Atchison, a market analysis lead who labored on the Microsoft Creators Program, stated on a podcast final yr.

Individuals usually flip to YouTube once they wish to get a greater understanding of Microsoft software program, and whereas Microsoft has loads of its personal movies obtainable on YouTube, they do not all the time come up on the prime of the location’s search outcomes, Atchison stated. Movies from outsiders can obtain increased rankings.

Generally a video from a Microsoft worker could be there. The corporate does have staff with massive audiences, together with Mike Tholfsen, a 26-year firm veteran whose movies present how academics and college students can use Groups and different functions.

Microsoft needed extra folks like Tholfsen. The corporate fashioned a bunch to assist folks engaged on totally different merchandise learn to construct sizable YouTube channels, stated Jon Levesque, who posted YouTube movies as a senior platform evangelist at Microsoft earlier than taking a job at DocuSign in March. There have been points at instances. Some staff requested why they had been concentrating on a service owned by a prime competitor, and groups did not all the time agree with the whole lot that employee-creators stated in movies, Levesque stated.

The trouble did not get far, and Microsoft started selling movies from non-employees as an alternative, with the institution of the Microsoft Creators Program. The corporate began together with outsiders’ movies in its video playlists, and it provided to make use of their movies for buyer help. That led to some extra video views, stated Jason Sele, whose YouTube channel goes by the identify Sele Coaching. In late June, Microsoft introduced plans to place this system on pause.

Among the many dozens of people that joined the Creators Program, the preferred is Leila Gharani, a software program teacher in Vienna, with over 900,000 subscribers. After choosing up expertise in Excel and different software program on the job, Gharani started educating lessons in particular person and on-line. She made her YouTube debut in 2016, with the hope of enhancing her filming expertise.

The channel took off, and that introduced in cash, plus it drew extra college students to her premium programs, which her firm, XelPlus, continues to supply. With the corporate rising, her husband left his place as a chief monetary officer to hitch her. They introduced on an editor and a author, too.

A lot of Gharani’s YouTube movies element elements of Excel. That does not imply she utterly ignores the competitors. One in all her extra standard movies in 2020 was known as “Google Sheets BEATS Excel with THESE 10 Options!”

Like Stratvert, Gharani has heard from Microsoft staff. After she posted a video on the Whiteboard app, a program supervisor stated the staff liked her video and provided to indicate her updates that had been coming quickly. This system supervisor did not inform her to make a video however as an alternative needed to see if she thought the enhancements can be video-worthy, Gharani stated.

She stated customers would possibly ascribe higher authority to YouTube creators who work at Microsoft, not like her.

“Individuals respect that they are at Microsoft,” she stated. “‘They need to know what they’re saying. They are not going to say it if it is not true. That authority factor does include it. However not quite a bit.”

Jason Sele makes YouTube movies from a high-tech RV.

Jason Sele

It hasn’t stopped Gharani from rising into a serious entity. She boasts extra subscribers than nearly all of Microsoft’s YouTube accounts. The Xbox channel stays a prime attraction, with over 4 million subscribers.

Sele would love the kind of YouTube success that Gharani and Stratvert have had. Movies of his that comprise ideas and methods on Excel and different functions have obtained greater than 1 million views, however he is not an on-camera star. Sele, who makes movies from his RV after 25 years of publicity to Microsoft merchandise as a director of knowledge expertise, narrates whereas giving all of the visible consideration to the video feed from his laptop. He stated he spends time rigorously writing and enhancing scripts earlier than hitting file. The YouTube cash is sufficient to reside on, he stated.

He stated he is not anxious about competing with Microsoft. “They’re going to crank out all this coaching, however it actually is not coaching you may simply hand to your staff,” he stated. “It is both too high-level or low-level.”


Whereas YouTube has no scarcity of software program walk-throughs, YouTube is greater than only a vacation spot for cautious studying. It is a venue for leisure. Gharani will get that.

“It is extra passive, they do not have to essentially focus,” she stated of people that watch her movies. “They’ll let themselves additionally take into consideration different issues and are available again and simply watch and nonetheless get one thing out of it. You’ll be able to’t get that out of writing.”

She strives to maintain her YouTube movies shifting alongside at a quick tempo. She would not need the movies to be too boring. In any other case she will not have many individuals watching.

“It is not mandatory that they really be taught one thing, however they simply see the potential that they may be taught one thing, or they really feel like they’ve discovered one thing,” she stated. Her on-line programs have a special goal. There is not any background music, they’re slower, and there is much less of her speaking on digital camera.

The thumbnail pictures for her movies on YouTube all the time present her face, and her channel makes use of her full identify, moderately than some jumble of phrases akin to OfficeIsSuperGreat, which helps her work stand out in search outcomes.

The identical could be stated about Stratvert’s channel.

However his movies could be longer. Some run effectively previous 20 or half-hour. He retains them from turning into tedious by speaking about how he makes use of software program inside his made-up company, the Kevin Cookie Firm. In a single video about holding webinars in Groups, Kerry Stratvert made an look, posing as a Kevin Cookie Firm worker who needed to air her considerations. Because the particular person operating the assembly, he turned off her microphone and digital camera, demonstrating what webinar hosts can do in that state of affairs in actual life.

For years she had known as Stratvert’s YouTube channel a interest and identified that he hadn’t recouped the funding in manufacturing tools. She did not suppose he may ever go full time. Then, final yr, he did.

“It is achieved extraordinarily effectively,” he stated. “My spouse appears to be like at that — ‘Oh, man, working at dwelling, cranking out a video a day, possibly I ought to do that, too. Possibly I ought to pull collectively movies.’ Similar along with her sister, too.”

WATCH: These Large Tech buyers talk about methods, their Microsoft positions