Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Arrogant in Redmond

So I snagged a copy of Redmond Magazine out of the recycle bin recently (bad habit) and it happened to be the one with the Microsoft Survey. Hmm. Interesting read, it's always good to have an outside take on Microsoft from our customers and partners. Be sure, if you read the article, to go to the end and download the PDF summary. I'm sure anyone who has taken a class in constructing surveys would sneer at the leading bias in some of the questions ("Would you like to see a thinner version of Office."). How about adding, "Would you like a milkshake with your thinner version of Office, too?" Anyway, some of the interesting bits:

  • We are arrogant.
  • Thinner client applications are desired.
  • We are good for the computing industry (Whuuu!?!)
  • Software Assurance program is Mr. Angsty pants.
  • Linux and Microsoft are perceived as Microsoft's biggest threats.
  • Our products are overpriced.
  • It would be swell if Microsoft applications ran on Linux and Solaris.
  • Barely no one owns Microsoft stock, but they think it's a good value (for, ah, someone else).
  • Folks wouldn't mind working for Microsoft.
  • Hegemony - gooood!

As I was thinking about the concern over arrogance, I was reading through comments in Ms. Gretchen's rant about hiring managers and then follow-up to the attention it gathered. Arrogance comes up left and right in the first post: Microsofties calling each other arrogant and folks being interviewed calling us arrogant. I like this comment:

Whoever said "arrogance" hit the nail on the head. I recently had a couple of interviews with Microsoft, and thought all the rumors about "arrogance" were just jealous people who'd been turned away. Then I hit interview number three... The oozing of machismo and 'my wee wee is bigger n' yours' pretty much left the foul taste in my mouth. I essentially realized that this wasn't the place for me since I eat arrogance for lunch, and began to toy with the interviewer, just for the sport of it.

So what do you think the action items are to deal with Microsoft's ever present arrogance problem is? Plus other customer's concerns? We do really well at listening, it seems, but then do nothing (kind of like talking about features, then cutting, and shipping nothing).

As for a couple of other things... my last comment here about Gretchen's rant concerns folks not wanting to come live in Redmond. I'd be interested in knowing how this breaks down between new college grads and experienced hires. For folks just out of college, my only insight is: if you're unattached and unencumbered by responsibilities the last thing you need to do is go work for a large, slow moving corporation in the 'burbs. Take risks and live the crazy big city life and blow your youthful energy laying down effort on the big pay-off opportunities. You will learn more and do more than you can possibly imagine, especially compared to being placed as a new shiny cog in the corporate machine (where all you can say during your first review is, "And what does this 3.0 mean?"). Then come knocking on the door of the corporate beast in the idyllic, moist, family friendly Pacific Northwest . Or, ideally - if you've really busted a fantastic trail for yourself - coyly answer the hungry calls of a groovy chick named Gretchen.

Lastly: no, I don't know what bad thing happened at http://microsophist.blogspot.com/ . Though I will say there's been more than a couple of times over the past year that I've stood up after a day of pulling weeds or other satisfyingly sweaty work and considered just deleting this blog outright (404 for me - poof!). Usually I think that way near mortgage payment time.

My conscience chides me, "Wha? You have it so good! Why you want make trouble?" (for some reason, my conscience sounds like Margaret Cho's grandmother from All-American Girl. Go figure.). There's bitching and complaining, and then there's making a difference... ah, well. Post.

 

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

First of all, Mini man, you keep on keeping on! You tell it like it is, you name names and you try to hold the beast that is MSFT accountable. You are breaking new ground and one day your voice might be the reason MSFT changes. As to the arrogance of MSFT, it really is quite simple what the reasons are for this....Billg and Steveb set the tone for everything good and bad about MSFT and that's all you need to know. Billg is the MOST arrogant rich guy I've ever seen. He has little respect for competitors and really is a classless guy. Steveb follows Billg's lead on all matters and everyone else at MSFT toes whatever line Steveb draws....so unless Billg or Steveb ever learn how to demonstrate some humility MSFT will always reek of arrogance.

Anonymous said...

re: Interviewee feedback

you know, it was interesting too see the feedback from the interviewees side. I interviewed up there (B42) a few years back, and hated the experience. Now maybe I wasnt suited to the company. fine, I can handle that. But by lunchtime I was effectively being told that I was an unworthy idiot. Unworthy I may be, but idiot, that I resent.

Am I going to apply again? Nope, not even if I get approached by another bit of the company. Am I going to retain warm memories of the company? Nope. Now I run linux, everywhere. Interviewers: your unworthy idiot is now a worthy opponent.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see "Ex-Microsophist." What bad thing could have happened, indeed. Please don't go 404 on us. As a .NET Independent Developer and MSFT shareholder who still wants to believe that Microsoft can once again be a great company, your voice is extremely valuable to me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about Microsophist. I hope he left on his own rather than being forced out, or worse, forced to stop blogging "or else". Blowhards such as Scoble talk the talk of improving the company from within, but his vision seems incredibly myopic, if not contrived.

Since I no longer use any Microsoft products nor do I have any intention to do so I have to ask myself why I follow Microsoft blogs at all.

I can remember a time when Microsoft.com was practically my home page. I checked it at least once a day. I didn't love Microsoft products, but like many these days I thought they were "good enough". I started experimenting with Linux "just for fun" and was surprised that in many respects it was easier to install than Windows, not harder, and for my usage patterns it provided everything I needed. The next surprise was that Linux allowed me to rescue a situation from time to time in our lab when suddenly Windows wouldn't install on a particular type of hardware, or a Word document would become "unreadable". I continue to be amazed that people don't know these things. But then, the type of people that express this ignorance are typically tech journalists (of the hands-off variety) or management type who USED to be technical.

I follow Microsoft thinking that one of these days they will suddenly "get it". Why would any individual want to sit at a job secure only because they had failed to document their obscure methods. Yet I know people who do have this sort of job security and have no twinge of guilt. They are always the ones most surprise when their job disappears due to their failure to document, improve, or eliminate on their own, unnecessary steps. That is sort of how I see Microsoft. Resting on past performance (or past luck in some cases), milking the monopoly for all it's worth, assuming that throwing money at such projects as XBox will create the next cash cow.

When I worked for a small software company we did a mix of product development and consulting. My push was always to do more of the consulting and less of the product development. As it turns out, the consulting kept us going for quite a few years. When company management insisted that we focus on software products we did well for a while, but one industry change and we were scrambling to survive. I think that will be Microsoft's future. More dependance on the Internet, thin client machines, a mix of Intel and non-Intel architectures and Windows could easily become more trouble than it's worth. A healthy Microsoft should be selling productivity applications for Linux, for Sun products and for Apple. At the volumes these products would sell there is no need for them to be particularly expensive (it's not like they supply manuals with this stuff any more you know?) Balmer recently said that the world needs a $100 computer. But how big a take does Microsoft expect from such a thing, $50? when all the real risk is being taken by the hardware folks? MS management lives in a dream world. To be sure, their dreams have come true, but they had best wake up to reality or go the way of companies like RCA, DEC, and Sperry-Univac.

The best thing that can happen for MS right now would be for both Balmer and Gates to retire. I think there is enough raw talent in the company to do good things. The company will FIND a vision, once it is free from the worn out visions of the company founders.

Anonymous said...

"So what do you think the action items are to deal with Microsoft's ever present arrogance problem is?"

Take a look at the stock price and performance over the past five years? That should bring some humility back asap. Then take a look at all the competitors kicking your ass. That should bring more humility. Then start really listening to your customers. That'll definitely resolve any residual arrogance.

Anonymous said...

"The best thing that can happen for MS right now would be for both Balmer and Gates to retire."

Agree. I read an interview the other day in which Ballmer said LH would be big (I think he meant impact since larger in size is a given) but unlikely to match Win95 for excitement because the sun/win/moon aligned for the latter and the action then was all on the client. WTF? Can you even IMAGINE the head of Toyota [insert any other mfg] saying "well, the new model is going to be big but you know, we'll probably never equal our '86 Corolla". Jesus H Christ the ENTIRE goal of the Windows team should be to not only equal the Win95 buzz but to exceed it. Otherwise, why bother and why expect anyone to buy it? And as regards the "action" having migrated from the desktop to the web, the apps may have migrated but the majority of users are still at their PC waiting to be impressed - if not by MSFT, then by others. Unfortunately, Ballmer and Gates seemingly can't get their heads out of their collective asses and embrace a world made up of information consumers vs simply PCs. Time for someone who can "THINK DIFFERENT" and do a better job of serving the former by finding more innovative ways of using/feeding the latter.

Anonymous said...

It would be a cold day in hell when I would consider working for Microsoft. Or I would have to be starving or something.

Microsoft, you've screwed developers one too many times. Good luck hiring us now.

Anonymous said...

The problems isn't internal to us, it's with schools. The people I interview are dumb (sorry 2nd poster but it's true) and unimaginative.

I'm all for real meritocracy. Regular team reviews as well sa personal reviews and generally a 360 approach to reviewing, with lots of churn <g>.

Anonymous said...

"The problems isn't internal to us, it's with schools. The people I interview are dumb (sorry 2nd poster but it's true) and unimaginative."

Thx for confirming the arrogance charge. BTW, the people you interview being dumb doesn't in itself support your conclusion that it's the school's fault. It could be any number of things including your recruiters doing a poor job, the lesser appeal of MSFT these days, or your own fucked up perceptions. It's perhaps also worth noting that many of your competitors are seemingly having little problem finding tons of "smart" people or at least folks capable of out thinking and out executing MSFT (can you say GOOG, YHOO, AAPL, CRM, etc. etc?). But maybe you guys are too busy ruminating on what big brains you have...

Mike said...

I've been through phone interviews on several occasions with MS. If they had an office in Seattle (rather than in Redmond), I might be working there now. (My wife would love to live in Seattle again; but I would not and could not tolerate commuting to Redmond, or living in Redmond).

Anonymous said...

" The problems isn't internal to us, it's with schools."

Did your school teach you proper English grammar? Plural subject ("problems") requires plural verbs (are, not "is"). And "internal to us" is redundant.

Robert Scoble said...

RE: Scoble a blowhard.

Heh!

Microsoft can be changed from inside. Read this: http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2005/06/16.html#a10416

It will warm Mini-Microsoft's heart.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft can be changed from inside.

*sniff* *sniff* Just what I thought...Scoble stopping by to drop off his usual pile of PR.

Anonymous said...

"Robert Scoble said...
RE: Scoble a blowhard.

Heh!

Microsoft can be changed from inside"


FWIW, I'm a disgusted shareholder and therefore happy for both you and Mini. Sure, you take different tacks but both of you in your own way are applying pressure for change - which given the current performance of the company and stock should be self-evident but obviously isn't to those in charge. Indeed, I'm sick and tired of hearing Ballmer and Gates talk as if all is well in MSFT land when shareholders have lost more than Enron and Worldcom combined, the stock continues to badly lag the market and flagship products have gestation periods of 5 years or more while competitors release in near internet time. While I'm ranting though, even you Scoble (since I read your blog today) need to remember that the company is owned primarily by non-employee shareholders. So while employees may get no-risk grants (and all the other things you rightly pointed out today), shareholders are not going to continue footing the bill for no return. And at this point, they're flat over EIGHT years. That situation had better get resolved or shareholders are going to bail in earnest - in which case the debate about a smaller Microsoft will resolve itself.

Anonymous said...

Poor Mini-MSFT, clinging to his anonymity not realizing how fragile it truly is.

Let me introduce the concept of forensic stylistics. (Google it). I wonder how many linguistics people MS have in MSR? How much internal documentation, emails etc, is available for comparison?

Microsophist obviously wasn't able to stay anonymous. Mini-MSFT is obviously far smarter, but I don't stay anon much longer.

In case of a sudden 404 a comments mirror would be awesome...

Anonymous said...

you take different tacks but both of you in your own way are applying pressure for change

I really gotta disagree with you here. Scoble doesn't *do* anything. He touts products, he over-exaggerates about things _other_ people are doing, he makes excuses for unpopular management decisions, and he talks a whole helluva lot. But he actually doesn't *do* anything to help improve MS. He doesn't ship product...he doesn't increase sales...he doesn't help improve quality...he talks. And he talks, and then he talks some more. And then, he talks about his talking and talks about other people that might be talking about him. He's nothing more than an extension of marketing. The only time Scoble is critical of anything is when it is "safe". As a shareholder, I hope you aren't using Scoble as any sort of gauge of what is actually happening at MS...unless you are just checking to see if we have tons of cash still lying around to hire people to talk a lot.

Anonymous said...

"The only time Scoble is critical of anything is when it is "safe"."

Criticizing Ballmer's handling of the gay rights bill qualified as taking a risk atleast imo. But I accept your point that he normally takes a pretty PC line. Then again, he has to - they know who he is.

"As a shareholder, I hope you aren't using Scoble as any sort of gauge of what is actually happening at MS"

No, the fact that MSFT is currently embroiled in a world-class cluster fuck has been sufficiently obvious from the 3+ years of dramatic stock underperformance and the massive ongoing volume of insider selling.

Anonymous said...

"So what do you think the action items are to deal with Microsoft's ever present arrogance problem is?"

This goes beyond Bill and Steve. I am sick of seating in meetings with people that are literaly messaging on their phones or doing email on their laptops directly in front of the presenter because they are too important. Arrogance and lack of manners are so embedded in the culture that they've become normal. No one notice them anymore and that is exactly what the company reflects to our customers and to the world.

Robert Scoble said...

>The only time Scoble is critical of anything is when it is "safe".

Really? Hmmm. Maybe you should check again what is "safe." I've advocated splitting up the company, and I still hold that belief.

That isn't something that's "safe."

Also, you should check into some of the things we have been changing. Like customer satisfaction. The numbers +are+ moving for the first time in years (in a positive direction). Look at the customer sat numbers for Channel 9, for instance (sorry, can't share publicly). They are dramatic. And high.

And, ask Eric Schmidt of Google which Microsoft employee he most likes. I got a personal invite to Google's private conference. No other Microsoft employee did.

No other Microsoft employee has had a full page of positive press in the Economist this year. Just one of dozens of such articles I've gotten the company this year.

But, go on taking potshots. I'm working to make Microsoft a better company. What are you doing?

Anonymous said...

"I've advocated splitting up the company, and I still hold that belief.

That isn't something that's "safe."

You've done lots of good things and generated a decent % of what little positive press MSFT has recieved. On the other hand, why is something as simple as trying to talk to customers so noteworthy? Or improving cusat? Why can't the entire company admit candidly when it's wrong? Why do Gates and Ballmer to this day still routinely belittle GOOG/AAPL/publicly when those folks are clearly outexecuting MSFT? Why is lobbying for splitting up the company unsafe when mgt owes it to shareholders to review whether doing so would improve execution and unlock value? Answer: at the end of the day, MSFT runs as Gates and Ballmer's personaly fiefdom. That isn't going to change with just pressure from the inside. It's going to change when external shareholders start holding them to account for the sorry state of the stock. In that regard, Mini has generated far more press about MSFT's many problems and for the first time imo, shareholders are finally starting to see through the bullshit "all is well" that they get once a year at the annual shareholder meeting. You watch how fast change comes when shareholders (the true owners of the company) start applying real pressure.

Anonymous said...

No other Microsoft employee has had a full page of positive press in the Economist this year. Just one of dozens of such articles I've gotten the company this year.

You know, that comment fits perfectly under the heading of "Arrogant in Redmond". Besides, we all know that articles about Microsoft means better products!

And, ask Eric Schmidt of Google which Microsoft employee he most likes. I got a personal invite to Google's private conference. No other Microsoft employee did.

Gee Scoble, Schmidt thinks you're a swell guy. You're his bestest pal. That's great! Let me know how this translates into more innovative products and increases profits. While you trot around to conferences and talk and talk and talk, the rest of us are actually doing the work that generates the revenue that pays your salary so you can talk and talk and talk. You are confusing "popularity" with "productivity".

I'm working to make Microsoft a better company. What are you doing?

The same thing all the other "unknowns" at MS that don't get articles written about them are doing - creating products that millions of people use. We produce, you just cheerlead.

Robert Scoble said...

>We produce, you just cheerlead.

Are you on the Longhorn team? Or the start.com team? Just wanna know.

And, how will people learn about your work? I know how. I have a ton of emails from folks like you begging me to "talk" about your products, both on my blog and/or Channel 9.

I'm sure that you won't be a jerk when you need some PR for your products that you supposedly work so hard to "ship." You do work on a team that's shipping something soon, right?

Why don't you come out and use your name so we can judge whether you really are productive. My daily work goes on the home page of http://channel9.msdn.com.

Where's yours?

Anonymous said...

"You do work on a team that's shipping something soon, right?"

Are any of MS's core teams shipping product these days? I thought they were mostly talking about how great everything was going to be while defending the most recent delays. Indeed, the only person shipping anything seems to be MSN and that's mostly me-too utilities aimed at keeping MSFT only years behind everyone else vs say decades. BTW Scoble, you should really end this thread. At the end of the day MSFT is a software factory (well, an apparently broken factory but a factory nonetheless). Ergo, all other departments while necessary, are in a supporting role. So while "cheerleader" may not be the most charitable interpretation of your job, it is at the end of the day a support function to the the company's core deliverable.

Robert Scoble said...

> So while "cheerleader" may not be the most charitable interpretation of your job, it is at the end of the day a support function to the the company's core deliverable.

I agree with that. And sorry for my responses here. I came across like an arrogant jerk.

Anonymous said...

Read Joel's response Scoble, it's exactly what we need!

Anonymous said...

::I have a ton of emails from folks like you begging me to "talk" about your products, both on my blog and/or Channel 9.::

man i thought pr at my company were jerks - you win robert!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with that. And sorry for my responses here.

Robert,
Well, actually I should apologize. My comments above were too harsh. I do recognize PR as being necessary, even if it makes me a bit quesy sometimes. And Channel 9 is nothing to scoff at. It just seems to me that MS is focusing more on external image these days and not enough on improving the product itself. Either way, that's not your fault and I shouldn't have tried to bash you for it. I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

Great topic and even better responses (gee thanks Scoble).

>Arrogance and lack of manners are
>so embedded in the culture that
>they've become normal.

I totally agree with above comment. Its really a cultural thing at microsoft. You pretty much had to be that way to stomp your way to the top of the ranks and so it was encouraged in a way. I guess they're trying to change that with all the hr/mgr tranings that have been introduced but its too ingrained in the culture.

And then, of course we have major LCA/HR fuck-ups like this which doesn't help our image. Oh, don't forget, the DoJ crap will haunt us forever. I mean, it was bad enough to be charged with violating antitrust laws and then you had senior execs flub on the stand.

TheKhalif said...

MSFT is the definition of arrogance. Having worked there for five years in the Windows division I know for a fact that most of the arrogance is undeserved. I did more than any 10 people I worked with but because of politics, I was forced to the bottom of the bell curve.
At athe same time, bums who embraced their managers sphincters were allowed to make a mess of everything they touched.

And as far as BillG, he is the most arrogant person ever. I saw him several times at B43\44 and I never saw him speak to an employee he passed.

WTF?

More people should leave and see how well these execs do without them. Trckle down only works when there's someone willing to be at the bottom.

Anonymous said...

you read my mind.