Kevin Stratvert has been fascinated with both technology and business since he was a teenager growing up in New Jersey.
“I created my own website in the late 1990s and thought it was so cool,” he recalled. “Then I decided it would be neat to host my own site, and I realized I could start my own company and provide web hosting services for other people. It blows my mind to think that people would send checks for $100 to a 14-year-old kid to host their website, but they did. I think at my peak I had around 120 customers from around the world.”
He had to maintain servers and answer customer questions about different aspects of website development, as well as learn how to operate a business.
“It was such an awesome experience, because it exposed me to both the business side and the tech side of things,” he said. “When I went to college, I took both programming classes and business courses. I joined Microsoft right out of college. I initially had roles in Marketing and Operations, and eventually became a product manager.”
It’s perhaps no surprise that after 14 years at Microsoft, Kevin decided to embrace his entrepreneurial roots once again and leave the company to become an independent YouTube creator. His YouTube channel, which has over 1.5 million subscribers, is full of helpful videos that walk through various aspects of Microsoft products and other software programs.
For our latest Spotlight feature, we talked with Kevin about his tech background, the decision to launch his own business, and how the Office Insider program is one of the keys to his success.
Tell us about making the transition from Microsoft to YouTube creator. What inspired that?
Kevin: I was working as a product manager for Office.com. And I remember whenever we finished off what we thought was a great new feature, we wanted to get the word out about it. As a product manager, you spend weeks and months working on a feature, and you want to share the what and the why with customers. So, I figured, “Let me just pull together a YouTube video and I can explain it to users.”
I think my biggest initial video was about how to get Microsoft Office for free, via Office.com. I put that video out there and it just blew up—millions of people have watched it.”
Then I began to get more questions from viewers, which inspired more videos. Eventually, I realized that I could fulfill both my love for technology and evangelism of what it can do to improve people’s productivity and life, and my need for creativity and independence by focusing on growing my channel. YouTube has really good monetization options, and I felt confident that I could make a living at it, so I decided to venture out on my own two years ago.
What’s one of your favorite Office features that you feel not many people know about?
It’s probably the Transcribe feature in Word on the web. Let’s say you have a recording of a phone call or a meeting, or in my case, a YouTube video that needs captions. You can just upload the audio to Word, and it’ll output a high-quality transcript of the entire recording. You get punctuation and everything. And when people find out about that, they’re just blown away.
The other half of the equation is, once they find out about a feature, how do they use it? What’s the value of the feature? I think putting videos on YouTube is such a good way to communicate that value proposition. And with video you can literally show them how to use it, step by step, on the screen.
How do you prioritize which programs and topics to feature in your videos?
It’s funny, but even though I don’t work as a product manager anymore, I apply the same skills and approach when making YouTube videos. Because each video is, in a sense, a product.
So, you have some customer need, like, “How do I do this task?” And the more questions I get about something, the more it indicates demand. It’s likely that there aren’t already videos out there covering the topic. I also look at how past videos performed, and that influences my thinking on whether a particular topic would be a good investment.
I’ve also found the comments section to be extremely helpful. Viewers tell you what they think about this new feature, like “Hey, this is great, but this one thing doesn’t quite work the way I want it to.” I find that kind of feedback invaluable, just like Microsoft does with feedback from Office Insiders.
How have you seen your channel grow over time?
I saw my viewer numbers explode when the pandemic hit. So many people found themselves suddenly working from home, and technology became critical to their ability to keep working and keep learning.
You had teachers asking, “How do I take attendance on Teams?” Or you had small businesses saying, “How do I set up a website quickly?” And the growth has continued. I now get about 8 million views a month on my videos. And I continue to do this work full-time.
How does the Office Insider program help you in your work?
The program is such a massive help to me. I feel sometimes like Microsoft is funding the program to help me specifically. For example, I first heard about the PowerPoint Cameo feature when you published an Office Insider blog post about it, and I did a video on it.
And then, when I start working on how to structure my video about the feature, the blog post gives me all the key points that I need to hit. It’s like a friendly version of the product spec for the feature, basically explaining how it works, how you could use it, who it’s available to, all the important info. It’s really helpful.
Not only does the Office Insider program help me, but I also like to share back what I learn with the internal Microsoft product teams. For example, when Loop first came out, I filmed a video on Microsoft Loop and it generated considerable viewer interest, and comments! I shared the feedback with the team working on Loop, and this helped influence and confirm their product roadmap.
What’s one word or phrase that describes how you work?
I would have to go with “customer-focused,” or maybe “viewer-focused.” It’s just like being a product manager at Microsoft—if you’re building a feature that lots of customers are clamoring for, it will drive demand for the product, because it offers something they need. I bring the same mindset to my video creation, like, “What is something that people need help with that I could show them how to do?”
Is there a character from books, TV, or movies that you identify with in real life?
I think Bill Nye the Science Guy would be one. He’s able to communicate complex topics in an easy-to-understand way, and that’s what I aspire to in all my videos.
Check out Kevin on YouTube.
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