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Microsoft Loses Key Public Sector, Visual Studio and Bing Execs (UPDATED)

Several high-ranking Microsoft executives exited the company this week.

Zecher
Linda Zecher. Source: Microsoft

Linda Zecher, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Worldwide Public Sector, has left the company to become the president, director and CEO of publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). HMH appointed Zecher on Sept. 6 and her first day will be Sept. 19.

Zecher joined Microsoft in 2003, according to her executive bio. Prior to becoming the Worldwide Public Sector head in 2009, she served as the vice president of Public Sector Americas and Asia Pacific, as well as vice president of U.S. Public Sector. As leader of the Worldwide Public Sector unit, Zecher was responsible for a team of nearly 2,000 marketers and salespeople, and oversaw Microsoft's relationships with public-sector entities, including schools, health care institutions and government agencies. Before joining Microsoft, Zecher also served as vice president of Oracle Corp.

It appears that as recently as Aug. 30, there had been no hints that Zecher was about to exit Microsoft. In an internal e-mail that day from Microsoft COO Kevin Turner announcing the departure of worldwide partner chief Simon Witts, Zecher was named one of two Microsoft executives that would be filling interim roles while the company searched for Witts' replacement.

Longtime Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reports that Zecher's departure from Microsoft wasn't announced internally until Sept. 6. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Foley that Zecher's last day at the company will be Sept. 15, but did not name an immediate replacement.

Mendlen
Dave Mendlen. Source: Microsoft

Also announcing his departure from Microsoft this week was Dave Mendlen, senior director of Visual Studio. Mendlen isn't completely severing his Microsoft ties, however; he has been appointed chief marketing officer of DevExpress, a Microsoft Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP). According to a statement from DevExpress, Mendlen will assume his new role on Sept. 10.

Over his 15 years at Microsoft, Mendlen held a number of product management and developer titles; he has been both the lead product manager of Visual Studio .NET and the director of Web services strategy in Microsoft's Developer Platform and Evangelism Division.

Mendlen also served as the director of Windows product management, making him responsible for the marketing of several Windows products, including the Windows XP operating system and Windows XP Media Center Edition. In his LinkedIn profile, Mendlen notes he helped develop the "I'm a PC" marketing campaign that took a direct swipe at Apple's popular "Mac Guy" ads.

Finally, a notable figure in Microsoft's search engine business, Barney Pell, also left the company this week. Pell came to Microsoft in 2008 after Microsoft acquired search and natural-language company Powerset, where Pell was founder and CEO.

The timing of Microsoft's acquisition of Powerset was notable in that it came just two months after its plans to acquire Yahoo fell apart. In a prepared statement announcing the Powerset acquisition, Satya Nadella, then senior vice president of Microsoft's Search, Portal and Advertising Platform group, called Pell a "visionary and incredible evangelist," adding, "Powerset brings with it natural language technology that nicely complements other natural language processing technologies we have in Microsoft Research."

During his three years at Microsoft, Pell worked on the development of the Bing search engine, which has lately begun to incorporate natural-language capabilities. In his LinkedIn profile, Pell described his involvement in Microsoft:

Key contributions included: Influenced strategy across a spectrum of Bing feature areas, evangelized Bing to US and international audiences, led the development of Microsoft's Online Systems Division's long range plan for natural language, semantics and knowledge technology, led development for Bing Local/Mobile Search, and created a search quality initiative that became an institution.

Pell Tweeted on Tuesday that Sept. 5 was his last day at Microsoft. "I'm now back to full-time angel investor and parallel entrepreneur!" he wrote.

UPDATE, 9/8: David McLauchlan, senior business development manager for the Zune media player, also joined this week's managerial exodus from Microsoft. According to a Tweet, McLauchlan gave Microsoft his notice last week, and his final day will be Sept. 9. His next project will be a startup called Buddy.com, which promises to help developers "[b]uild mobile apps cheaper, faster & easier."

McLauchlan held several roles at Microsoft since 2001, including program manager for Windows Media Devices and senior development engineer for Visual Studio/C++. He made headlines in March when he stepped forward to deny reports that Microsoft was planning to kill off its Zune device.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.