Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ready, Set, GO!

As of Monday August 15th the review model is done, wrapped up, closed, fini. And already one senior person on my team is saying "See ya, wouldn't want to be ya!" and is leaving Microsoft. All I can say is, if you are leaving Microsoft and like your manager and haven't told your manager yet, give your manager a little gift and say, "You know, you don't have to write my review because I'm going to be leaving for another company." "Bless you!" will be on of the things unsaid, simply because you just gave them back a few hours in their life.

If, however, you truly dislike your manager, be sure to ask their manager to push your manager into giving very detailed review feedback and a strong career path message, especially focused around that new snazzy Career Stage Profiles. Something that would take at least half a day, if not more, to write up.

As far as the year goes, this is one of those inflection points that folks starting making major moves around:

  • Looking for a new position internally.
  • Networking to find new people to join their group.
  • Getting the heck out of Microsoft.

If you're thinking about moving to a different team, this is the best time because it at least gives you the better part of a whole year to prove yourself against your new peers (vs. joining later and needing your former manager to say how great you are and fitting into the new team’s review model - most people just say "fudge it" and get mightily tempted to whip out a 'welcome!' 3.0). And if you wait too long and too many key contributors move on, you might find your team locked down for a while and will have to wait to get that transfer at a non-optimal time.

I'm interested in gaining visibility into:

  • Good divisions / product groups to be in.
  • Bad divisions / product groups to be in.
  • Good groups looking to hire stellar internal transfers.
  • Groups currently locked down and not allowing transfers.

(This is for a, ah, good friend of mine.)

One of the recent comments made a great observation: the mspoll / OHI numbers should be available for everyone so that you can look into a potential group's poll results, up the chain, to see what state of mind your new potential peers are in. In fact, I'd add it to the list of queries against a new group: "Tell me about your poll results and how they compare." Shoot, ask them to bring the poll results up on their screen so you can look at them.

As for the continuing series of comments about racism and preferential treatment maybe / not / definitely existing at Microsoft: if you have an honest, serious concern over a specific occurrence, you should in this case really contact your HR generalist (no, really). This, in all things, is something they should take serious simply because it could result in a lawsuit (bad press, loss of money, yada yada).

I have never seen anything that's triggered such a bias concern and have only seen folks exhibiting exemplary decision making for promoting and rewarding contributors based on their accomplishments.

 

117 comments:

Moishe said...

I've worked in Office, Windows and now MSN. MSN absolutely freakin' rules -- it feels like Outlook did in '94 over here. We have support all the way up the org chart to create products which are innovative and useful, we aren't mired in process, and the team I'm on is looking to hire kick-ass PMs, SDEs and SDETs. I would recommend MSN (specifically Search/IS Client) as a place to work for anyone, inside or outside Microsoft. It's stressful, but that's the nature of software development -- I'd rather be stressed and busy and creating great stuff than working 40 hours/wk and feel like I'm swimming through molasses.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but now that stock options are out, what is the point of working harder? Even if stock does go up, hell, even if it *doubles*, it won't make much difference.

Moishe said...

Given that I have to work somewhere no matter what, the work might as well be fun and interesting. And hard = fun. Never thought I'd be defending the "do what you love, no matter what the money" philosophy in the context of choosing to work for Microsoft, but there you go.

Anonymous said...

Until the bonus gets deposited into my bank account, I don't think I will ever consider the review model closed. Lots of bullshit can happen in a month. If you really want to bolt, remember that a bird in hand is better than 2 in the bush.

Anonymous said...

I have never seen anything that's triggered such a bias concern and have only seen folks exhibiting exemplary decision making for promoting and rewarding contributors based on their accomplishments.

You know, I've not seen anything that seemed racist at Microsoft either, until just recently.

There is another group hiring in my area, and because they have several positions to fill, they have a "recruitment bonus" - x dollars for a hired candidate, and (here it is) x*2 dollars for a hired minority candidate.

In addition,, the rumor is that the hiring managers in said group are being "encouraged" to fill as many open positions with minority candidates as possible. Keep in mind this is a pretty diverse group to begin with, but as a "majority" white male, I'm starting to feel discriminated against myself...

Anonymous said...

Come join us in Office! Yes! Come join us especially if you have no need for being creative or actually enjoying your job. We have process galore so that you are never lost about what you should be doing this very instant. We have metrics & progress emails & meetings after meetings after meetings. You will never feel lonely & you'll never be left alone to do your work. We ship like clockwork, though that is mainly because we are just as anal as the Swiss. Somewhere along the way, we do manage to squirt out the occasional interesting feature.

Now is a great time to join us because we have finished all the major coding for Office12 and desperately need help to get out from under all of these bugs crushing every team. No fancy C++ skills needed here! Come on over!

Anonymous said...

Where do I sign up?

Anonymous said...

MSN absolutely freakin' rules

No thanks. Zero stock movement in five years means I don't do implicit required overtime anymore.

Anonymous said...

You are confusing challenging & interesting with required unpaid overtime and assuming that there is only one thing to love (presumably work). I actually LOVE my family and it takes priority over EVERYTHING. As for "no matter the money" last time I checked medical services and college education were not free in America. And goverment does not provide retirement pensions (or soon will not be). So "no matter the money" macho BS is good until you are single, young and has no] children to feed and educate. And no, you can NOT postpone interaction with your children until that 'ship date' of yours.

Moishe said...

You are confusing challenging & interesting with required unpaid overtime and assuming that there is only one thing to love (presumably work)

Nah, I'm not. I'm aware that nothing's free, and that money matters; if it didn't I'd spend all my time riding my bike and hanging out with my wife and none of it in an office. I've got plenty of loves outside of work.

But: given that work is a fact of life for all of us who missed the boat on stock (or got the boat and took the stock and got a chance to do some amazing things with the money and now need to work again), it might as well be challenging and fun. It's not macho to want challenges. Yeah, all things being equal, it would be cool to be challenged for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and be done, but that's not -- in my experience -- the nature of software development. It isn't about slave-driving management or feature-creeping PM's; it's about getting so deep into a problem that you're balancing 50 different pieces of a huge puzzle in your brain and once you've got 'em all lined up, you'd better run and get 'em all into place before they fall apart. That's fun, straight-up, no macho bullshit; I did it for years before I ever got paid for it, and took 5 years away from Microsoft and still did it in my spare time for myself. Working on Office and then Windows was as far removed from that as I could possibly imagine; working on Desktop Search is as close to that as I've ever come at any company. 70% of that is because it's a great problem space; 30% of that is because management knows enough to get out of the way (and gets other obstacles out of the way, too) so the product team can do its thing. That's how I remember things at the "old" Microsoft, back when the stock was doubling every 12 months, and I think it's a key part of what the company as a whole needs to rediscover if it's to get back on track.

I've had maybe 3 weeks of time on MSN where overtime was "required" in any sense of the word and that was right before we shipped. Yes, expectations are high here. If you want low expectations and a guaranteed 40-hour week, go work for the government or a bank, and give up your space at Microsoft to someone who's inspired. Please.

Anonymous said...

MSN is cool, I'd recommend working here for anyone who'd like to build software that impacts millions of people without having to wait 3 to 5 years to ship or deal with umpteen million dependencies to get anything done.

I've had lots of people tell me that I seem 'happier' since moving here.

-- Dare

Anonymous said...

When I was in MSN (2000-02) it was a complete and utter mess - it might be cool if you're a PM or Dev - as I remember it, there was a PM for every lame feature and/or meeting, and Devs did get to do some cool coding...but being a tester sucked.

Not to mention the "test isnt that important" culture

I could see how a PM would love it,s ince they were so elevated in MSN

Anonymous said...

Until the bonus gets deposited into my bank account, I don't think I will ever consider the review model closed.

The review numbers get locked in on September 1st - you don't need to wait until payday to tell your boss. As for me, I plan on telling my manager on Septermber 2nd that I'm leaving.

Anonymous said...

If you want low expectations and a guaranteed 40-hour week, go work for the government or a bank, and give up your space at Microsoft to someone who's inspired. Please.

Right, because everything is perfect at MS, provided you have high-expectations and are willing to put in extra hours. Obviously, if you aren't inspired, it's your own fault. It's not the fact that you have been fighting poor decisions by upper management. It's not the fact that you've been putting in 60 hour work-weeks fighting fires just to keep your head above water. Look, you found a position you enjoy - great! More power to ya! My experience at MSN wasn't nearly as pleasant. But please, skip the holier-than-thou attitude - circumstances across the company are NOT all the same as yours. The vast majority of us also missed the boat and didn't get the benefit of a nice five-year vacation and "a chance to do some amazing things with the money".

Anonymous said...

Mo, overtime work is what allows high management to hide their mistakes. First, they push for unrealistic schedules, then, when obviously goals are not getting met, push for overtime. Overtime is exception, a fire drill. It should not be normal. If execs had to pay for overtime, they would think twice before pressing for crazy schedule. But since they don't have to pay, they just force people to work overtime and then, when finally product ships, report about their great leadership and get million bonuses while developers do not even get merit that matches inflation.

Before people worked overtime since they knew it was only for several years since stock was doubling every year. Now overtime is free. And it is worse than free - it makes money to those exec which drive company stock down.

I hope you won't become a manager one day. Really.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Ballmer reads this blog? Or anyone in executive management?

Test2Dev said...

Anyone have any comments on how it is working in DevDiv? I plan to interview for some L59-60 dev positions soon, and the DevDiv jobs seem to be the ones that catch my eye on the jobs website. How's the balance?

Anonymous said...

"Anyone have any comments on how it is working in DevDiv?"

Depends on where you look. There are pockets that are fun and have their act together, and pockets that couldn't find their posterior with detailed instructions and a map. Talk to ICs in the group you plan on applying to...offer to buy a few of them lunch. Look for discussion threads that include members of that team...how do they interact with others? How does the manager of that group treat you in an informational (dismissive, apathetic, excited)? Is the group trying to sell itself to you or do they require you to prostrate yourself and explain why you might be worthy? Wander the halls during the day and in the evening...is it a ghost town? Are team members wandering the hall with fear and panic in their eyes? In an anonymous forum like this you could be getting undeservedly bad feedback from someone with an agenda or misleading everything-is-flowers-and-sunshine feedback from a sycophant.

Anonymous said...

Come join us in Office! Yes! Come join us especially if you have no need for being creative or actually enjoying your job. ...

Oh, amen to that. I got reorg'd into Office a couple years ago and this post is so dead-on it makes my head hurt. (Or is it being in Office that does that? Hm.)

Moishe said...

Mo, overtime work is what allows high management to hide their mistakes. First, they push for unrealistic schedules, then, when obviously goals are not getting met, push for overtime. Overtime is exception, a fire drill. It should not be normal.

Here's the thing: in the worst case -- and I don't dispute that this is endemic at Microsoft now and is in some ways ingrained in the culture -- you are absolutely right about what leads to mandatory overtime. It completely sucks, and there is no reason for anyone to do it, especially when there's no financial reward in sight. There is nothing worse than feeling like you're in a hole you can't possibly dig yourself out of, due to management decisions that were preventable. I've been there at Microsoft and I've been there at other companies too. I had a manager at Microsoft tell me that, "we take a reasonable estimate and cut it to 75% to maintain pressure on the developers." That attitude completely sucks. I haven't seen it on the team I'm on in MSN, but maybe I lucked onto a particularly great team.

However: I think you have to also recognize that sometimes getting wrapped up in work falls out of the simple fact that you're having so much fun at it. When you're in a really compelling problem space, with great competition, and smart and motivated co-workers, it's easy to work hard.

The problem that Microsoft is facing is two-fold (well, manifold, but let's just talk two): first, many of the engineering problems facing the company just aren't super exciting. Working on a tiny little piece in a tiny corner of Windows or Office never got me up early in the morning or made me want to stay up late at night. Of course, it's easy to put that aside and put in overtime if you know you're getting rich off your options... but when that's gone, and the raises are crappy, yeah, morale is gonna go down the shitter.

My original point was that MSN is involved in solving some very cool problems, has very fast ship cycles so you get to see your solutions in the hands of customers quickly and respond to feedback. If that's the kind of arena you'd like to work in, MSN (at least the part I'm in) is a lot of fun -- fun enough that it becomes possible to overlook the problems Microsoft as a whole is facing, generally. (though ask me again after my review)

I hope you won't become a manager one day. Really.

I have absolutely no desire to be a manager. I have fun solving problems that I can wrap my head around and if I haven't already made it painfully obvious, people management isn't a skill I feel like I can wrap my head around.

Anonymous said...

Groups not to be in, eh?
Well, well, where to start? Stay away as much as you can from the SBTU. It is rotten from the ground up, no motivation, nothing ships, bah. Also Windows Core does not feel like a good place these days. Others getting shiny new features done, they are just in maintenance mode. Shell? Nope. A fun place to be seems Digital Media. And of course MSN.

Anonymous said...

IE is hiring. Avoid them like the plague. Really, the entire Windows division.

Avoid Office. Looks like I don't have to elaborate.

I could recommend DevDiv, except their VP (one of them, anyway) has instituted "core hours" which is probably the beginning of the end for the division. Everything good and bad seems to flow from the top - the great groups have great executives and vice versa.

Groups with an implied dress code, or any form of metrics, are dead.

Anonymous said...

One of the recent comments made a great observation: the mspoll / OHI numbers should be available for everyone so that you can look into a potential group's poll results, up the chain, to see what state of mind your new potential peers are in.

Definitely. One thing to keep in mind when looking around at MS (or any company for that matter) is that given the impact of your manager on your career, you should be interviewing that manager as well as letting he and his team interview you for a position.

Direct questions about WHI results, manager feedback, and here's my favorite: "What differentiates 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 performance in your org?"

Their answer to that will help you get a feel for how they manage their team's performance both down and up. I've actually flipped the bozo bit in interviews when one manager answered "Well we're all high performers over here." C'mon - I know that's BS as I've been a manager for 3 years. No org totally escapes the curve. If they can't have a legitimate conversation about performance management - run! Or take that job at your peril.

Be direct and if they squirm, regardless of the opportunity, seriously reconsider. After 5+ years at MS I have decided that the quality of the hiring manager is at least 50% of the decision to take a new position.

ex-microsoldier said...

As an ex-msftee one of the biggest reasons I left was because I felt:
a) There was no longer a strong relationship between the companies success and my success.
b) There was no longer a strong relationship between the work I was overwhelmed with and the real succeess of the company. (Due to what I felt was mismanagement.)
c) That I was not politically gifted enough to change management decisions.

I left because I felt that doing the right thing for the customer or the products wasn't going to get you anywhere unless you attached it somehow to the latest cool new thing.

The thing I find most funny about Microsoft's overall management philosophy is that they're pushing integration, and that means people have to work together, and the way the company rewards it's people encourages the opposite.

From what I understand software is only as strong as the weakest piece - which makes pushing out the weakest performers sound rational. Unfortunately, the "weakest" performers are often simply doing a great job on a feature with low visibility - and pushing those people out and rewarding all the people that check in crap that doesn't work with anything else "on time", promote it to hell and push their "new thing" into everything across the company ends up destroying the quality of the products. If you check in crap early, I get to fix your bugs too at every RI! And last but not least, encouraging managers to take moving dependencies to stay politically solvent just screws everyone trying to meet a schedule.

However, from a big picture I suppose it doesn't matter since we're often building features and products that don't do things our customers really want - and instead are just bugfixes as products. *cough* vista *cough*

Anonymous said...

To the guy who wanted the scoop at devdiv (I worked there for 8 years):

The pros:
- Cool products and technology, generally happy customers
- Lots of thought leadership in the company comes from here
- MSFT has a pretty successful history in this area
- Good mix of old and young employees

Cons:
- The development process is as big and bloated as Windows
- Too many cooks. Expect every feature decision to be reviewed by dozens of peers and 6 layers of management

Bottom line: If you're looking for small, fast-paced, dynamic, look elsewhere. Otherwise, it's an decent place to be.

Anonymous said...

IE is hiring. Avoid them like the plague. Really, the entire Windows division.

Avoid Office.


Avoid any sustained engineering group as well if you're looking for development jobs. They tend to be career limiting - just wait until you start searching for a new job and people ask what you shipped in your last job: a hotfix, service pack, or a security fix (how exciting).

Anonymous said...

I'll second the opinion of DevDiv, and add this...

Managers are clueless. Instead of finding out why all of their people are leaving and improve things, they just stop all transfers out. Now they have to hire contracters and outside hires in order to find someone who isn't aware of the crap going on.

Anonymous said...

The ensures a rich stable of jobs for those of us who left Microsoft and now contract back :D.

The other nice thing about "a-" - no reviews. No politics. Not a lot of overtime, and it's paid for.

Anonymous said...

DevDiv? It depends on which Product Unit. I worked in VC - which is an excellent unit with extremely talented individuals who I admired and learned from on a daily basis - and my counterparts in VB and the Shell team didn't match up in terms of competencies and skill set. Everything stated above is so incredibly true about DevDiv in particular since there were features which some PM in another PU would champion to VP/GM level execs and they would ram it down everyone else's throat. One particular feature in VS was reimplemented four separate times causing downstream headaches at each PU level, and still it was slow, buggy and flaky as the first time it was implemented.

Another symptom of DevDiv is that their people are comparatively underlevelled compared to other Divisions in the company. I moved to another division and as a level 60 I have 2x as much coding and architecture knowledge and experience as my peers here. But then when I made the jump to another team, they lateral moved me and I'm now having problems getting my level adjusted to reflect the types and quantities of work I'm doing here.

If you're considering doing something like leaving MSFT and getting into consulting in the outside world in the next two-three years... then DevDiv is the perfect training ground and you'll leave the company so far ahead of your competition you'll leave them in the dust. But if you're looking to extend a career here for long term as a level 59/60? Nope... not the place. In my experience, a L59 from Windows/Office == L57 in DevDiv.

test2dev said...

Thanks for the feedback on DevDiv. Under-leveling is worrying - a 2-level disparity might mean a 20% or more difference in salary. But I'll look into that myself.

The quality of the manager is certainly very important. After several different leads in my position, I've learned one of the most important things is to have a lead who is completely open about the review process, all the way down to the stack rank, stock levels, and what it takes to get a 4.0 or above.

Anonymous said...

Well, tomorrow is review delivery day. Got a promotion in April, so only two months in the position. Hope I'm not screwed.

Anonymous said...

Got a promotion in April, so only two months in the position. Hope I'm not screwed.

That's asking to be screwed. I got promoted in March and was rated at my new level for the whole year. Dropped me from a 4.0 to a 3.5 - my manager gave nothing but bullshit to explain it.

Anonymous said...

Got a promotion in April, so only two months in the position. Hope I'm not screwed.
Best of luck, but prepare to be screwed. Same thing happened to me last year and got screwed in the review. It's wierd - got rated as great at level X in fed, but as good at level X in aug.
The best promotion is the one that comes in August.

Anonymous said...

Expect every feature decision to be reviewed by dozens of peers and 6 layers of management
Not to sound like the topper from Dilbert - but consider yourself lucky. In Office, your trivial feature will be reviewed by your entire team, 20 stakeholders in partner teams, the idiots in PLEX (the knights who say 'No'!). Not to mention storyboard reviews, dev design reviews, manager signoffs, yada yada yada...
Is it any wonder it takes us two years to add a new toolbar UI?

Anonymous said...

Well, well, where to start? Stay away as much as you can from the SBTU. It is rotten from the ground up, no motivation, nothing ships, bah. Also Windows Core does not feel like a good place these days. Others getting shiny new features done, they are just in maintenance mode. Shell? Nope. A fun place to be seems Digital Media. And of course MSN.


Do you possess a clue? At all? The world is on fire, and the Security Business/Technology Unit holds the extinguisher (and is hiring like crazy). Not only are they directly addressing the biggest pain that customers feel today, they're innovating new products that are making money and/or will reach millions of customers (e.g., RMS, Anti-spyware).

COSD doesn't feel like a good place? Why, because the whip is cracking and people are being forced to buckle down and ship the damned operating system finally? Oh, bummer. Shiny new features is what got Longhorn into the pre-reset mess in the first place. Welcome to real software development.

The group doesn't make the experience, you make the experience. Grow some seniority and go find a place to make an impact. Stop looking around for an easy out and expecting others to create a nirvana for you to work in.

And stop driving my stock price down with your mental drivel.

Anonymous said...

The world is on fire, and the Security Business/Technology Unit holds the extinguisher

Please, I'd love to hear the complete rationale behind your claim of the amazing and innovative wonders that RMS and MSAS will accomplish. Saving the world from fire is surely just their first step!

Shiny new features is what got Longhorn into the pre-reset mess in the first place. Welcome to real software development.

Death to shiny new features! Real software developers don't ship features! They ship...er...hold on, I'll look that one up.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have thoughts they'd like to share about MCS?

Anonymous said...

the field can be a fun place to work however it can be bad too especially when cuts come down. Your far away from main campus and will have issues finding a gig ... they wont want to relocate you unless your a star ...

SBTU sucks eggs ... the only ones who are anygood left already.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts about MCS --- can anyone say Microsoft Global Services?

I've worked in MCS for a long time and it is disheartening to see how things are changing. MCS used to be an organization of hard core technical types who worked with customers to help drive the adoption of Microsoft platform technologies by design and implement applications and services for important functions in their business. MCS management has made it pretty clear that they are mostly concerned about billable hours and consultant utilization.

Worse yet, it’s been years since I had an interesting and/or significant project. In fact, we are getting to the point where the Engagement Managers are selling and staffing us into staff augmentation roles.

Maybe it’s just that someone "has moved my cheese" but I believe MCS isn’t a good career choice anymore for the deep technical types who want to work with customers to design and build stuff on our platform.

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear more about MCS as I am interviewing in that area from outside the company. Does leveling and stack ranking occur in a similar way?

Anonymous said...

That's a big 10/4. Stacking occurs throughout the company, services included. And if you think it is subjective in the Prod Groups...take a looksee at the Services Practice.

Anonymous said...

they're innovating new products that are making money and/or will reach millions of customers (e.g., RMS, Anti-spyware).

And how's that coming? Let's see, you bought anti-spyware nine months ago as a finished (shipping!) product, and you're still on ... beta 1!.

Anonymous said...

"The ensures a rich stable of jobs for those of us who left Microsoft and now contract back :D.

The other nice thing about "a-" - no reviews. No politics. Not a lot of overtime, and it's paid for."


Which begs the question - what are peoples experiences with agencies like Volt etc. who hire devs out to Microsoft? Anything to watch out for?

Anonymous said...

IMHO the interviews as a Volt contractor for Microsoft were far simpler overall than the ones to go Blue. Many of the Volt/other consulting firms' guys are competent but are very specialized and limited in their scope. They are also quite well paid and often get more money on an hourly basis than blue badges even if you only use a 40 hour week to calculate the hourly wage for a MSFTie.

The big benefit, as has been mentioned in other threads, is in the benefits that blue badgers get. Those really do more than make up for the shortfall in salary between contract and full time.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about that. I had several interviews for a- jobs that were just as difficult as the blue badge interviews. I have also has a basic informal "chat" for an a- job too.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's interesting to hear that I'm not the only one who was under-leveled in Devdiv. It first became apparent to me (a 62 PM) when I started working with leads and GPMs from other divisions on cross-team projects.

I've since left the company, and I've found Devdiv to be a *great* launching pad into a career outside Redmond.

Anonymous said...

Windows Mobile is hiring and doing some exciting stuff. Great bunch of people.
Come on in. The water's fine.

Anonymous said...

I would strongly recommend that you stay away from MCS specifically and services org generally.

If you *must* be there, I would reluctantly say that probably one of the better career paths would be RRE in one of the larger metro areas.

You live from plane to plane, and get to see some the most godawful broken crap ever conceived, customer's and ours. The upside is, it's the one technical position in that org that cannot be offshored.

Anonymous said...

So, what about the TS role? Thumbs-up or down?

Anonymous said...

As far as contracting agencies, I'd suggest Aditi or Excel. Volt spams me with resumes every time I open up a req, while Aditi and Excel do more screening and give me better candidates. So if I'm busy, I look at Volt's candidates last.

About that 75% of a resonable schedule comment. I've never been in a group that cut the devs estimates. Most groups I've been in automatically padded the estimate (using different magic numbers for the buffer, which got really funny when different managers used different buffers).

But we still ended up working crazy schedules because management couldn't say no to any new, shiny baubles that came along. The work just kept coming in.

Longhorn Quality Gates are making it totally effed.


-ShiftingRight.

Anonymous said...

Wow - as a 5 year MCS employee, I feel like I need to jump in to provide a positive spin on things.

MCS is still a place where "hard core technical types who worked with customers to help drive the adoption of Microsoft platform technologies by design and implement applications and services for important functions in their business." In my opinion that hasn't changed in the five years that I've been in the org.

I would agree somewhat that "MCS management has made it pretty clear that they are mostly concerned about billable hours and consultant utilization."

This is all about professioanlizing services and being able to stand alone as a profitable Enterprise Services P & L. I was struck at TechReady1 by Devenuti's tone - he almost sounded apologetic about the fact that MCS plans to turn a profit next year. A profit which is miniscule (as a percentage) relative to peer consulting organizations whether pure plays like Accenture or captives like Cisco. I hate looking at the annual report and seeing these emerging business groups taking losses year over year but at least there's a hope that once the market is more fully developed they'll add to the bottom line and help drive the stock price up. Why should Enterprises Services be any different?

I would also be surprised if consultants are being placed in staff augmentation type roles. Who is dumb enough to pay $240/hr for a staff aug role? Our value add is the same value that you seek when you take your car to the dealer. Sure you pay a higher price but for certain important things it's worth it. I wouldn't pay dealer labor rates to change my oil. The MCS value add is that we're "factory trained" and the first, best experts in our leading edge technologies.

I've only been in MCS for 5 years but I do have to say that I've continually been surprised by the sense of entitlement that pervades a lot of the individual contributors that have been in the org for 4+ years. Certainly the ground has shifted beneath us as the business model has been refined but I do think that if you wish to pursue consulting as a career path and you're hot on Microsoft technology, there is no better place to work.

Anonymous said...

“This is all about professioanlizing services and being able to stand alone as a profitable Enterprise Services P & L.”

If you want to be part of a professional services organization then great, MCS is probably an OK place for you. I joined MCS almost ten years ago because I didn’t want to be part of a traditional services company. I was willing to take less compensation than the true professional services companies paid because I didn’t want to travel all over the country and I wanted to be part of an organization that was primarily focused on ensuring platform penetration into important parts of our customer’s business. We had a small geographic structure and had a break-even business model which provided a great deal of flexibility and opportunity to invest in strategic opportunities. If the project was a lot of consulting revenue but not really driving the adoption of our platform we would suggest a partner.

In Devenuti’s model consulting revenue, consultant utilization, and contribution margin are THE metrics by which everyone is measured. Platform penetration and winning key business applications, customer middleware, and backend processing is at best an afterthought. The simple truth is that it doesn’t matter where the engagement revenue comes from, be it from a strategic opportunity or an engagement that keeps a consultant off the bench and billable. If it mattered there would be a metric to measure it … and there isn’t any such metric! From the Engagement Manager’s perspective it’s much harder to sell the strategic opportunities that really drive platform penetration (unless it is just handed to them on a platter). As a consequence the EMs chase easier to land engagements regardless of their value beyond revenue. Boring, boring, boring and worse yet, usually insignificant when compared to the types of projects the REAL professional services organizations are doing!

Is Microsoft really so hard-up for revenue growth that they’re willing to grow a low profit business that is very cost intensive compared to developing and selling software? I remember just two years ago Steveb stood on the stage at MGB and said, “I don’t know how to be anymore direct than this … MCS will not become IBM Global Services.” Apparently Steve has changed his mind.

Anonymous said...

“Wow - as a 5 year MCS employee, I feel like I need to jump in to provide a positive spin on things.”

Being a 5 year MCS employee basically means that you didn’t know what MCS was like when they used to hire real superstars AND you have no idea how much less we’re being paid today.

Anonymous said...

“Wow - as a 5 year MCS employee, I feel like I need to jump in to provide a positive spin on things.”

You're probably an ESC.

Anonymous said...

ShiftingRight-

Longhorn Quality Gates are making it totally effed.

How so? I thought the gates brought the quality bar up to a common standard across the org (something that has never happened before). They raise the bar for a lot of groups, but there are certainly some that were already doing more. If nothing else, they are forcing some teams that used to write it, check it in, and clean up the mess later to spend more time with their code before inflicting it on the rest of the project.

Anonymous said...

You mean the LH quality gates that they went and rammed down everyone else's throats before they'd really test-driven them and then backed off of because they realized they couldn't do shizzy and still hit them?

I love the politics around this stuff.

Try to push back on fixing those 1000 FxCop violations that represent zero actual product bugs and churn the codebase for no reason? No way in hell - "you care about quality, riiiight?"

Try to add a small feature your customers are screaming for and can't for the next release in 3-4 years? Not a chance. "You need to get serious about shipping!"

Anonymous said...

The quality gates sound great on paper, but fail miserably. Most of the errors you get are related to the tools themselves. Teams spin a lot of cycles working around problems in the tools, often written by hacks who couldn't make it in product teams and now enjoy making the lives of those same product team miserable.

And then we have WTT. How that bunch stays employed defies description. 'nuff said.

Anonymous said...

"underleveling" - that's such an MS thing to do. The mechanism is usually the same - if you are a stellar dev, you get told that you should have done more to support you manager and taken on leadership roles (right...), if you're a lead, you get told that you need to spend more time focusing on the dev work instead of managing your people. Go figure. In the end, you talk to people in smaller projects and get an anger attack when you find out that they lack even elementary knowledge in c++ or c# but somehow rate two levels higher than you do. My impression is that it's more of a problem in the big, profitable divisions (windows, office, devdiv).

Anonymous said...

My impression is that it's more of a problem in the big, profitable divisions (windows, office, devdiv).

It's also a problem if your group director doesn't use up his promotion budget.

Anonymous said...

eHome?

Every one I talk to says they're working hard shipping. They certainly seem to work on some cool stuff with the Media Center.

A lot of our gripes are about fair assessment of employee performance and proper rewards. What is the game like there?

Anonymous said...

I haven't had any major gotchas with Volt. They have a few left hand/right hand issues. Aside from the 90-day noncompete in your contract, they can't make you do anything you don't want to do.

Getting hired as an a- is easy because, well, you're filler, by definition. Instead of reviews, you just find out every three months whether you're getting renewed or not (not a huge issue unless the budget is questionable, if you can perform).

Might be a moot point for this blog though - do they even have a- SDEs?

Anonymous said...

"My impression is that it's more of a problem in the big, profitable divisions (windows, office, devdiv)."

My understanding is that levels are not about your skill level or competence, but purely about your compensation range. So yes, if you work in an area that's perceived to be valuable or "emerging", you will make more. OTOH, the big profitable divisions are in maintainence mode i.e. the investments necessary to build the business have already been made.

Anonymous said...

Being a 5 year MCS employee basically means that you didn’t know what MCS was like when they used to hire real superstars AND you have no idea how much less we’re being paid today.

What superstars? I've been in MCS 4 years and when I joined I worked on some projects that had been initiated 4-5 years previously with full MCS involvement. The particular consultants ended up in Redmond as group PMs and were talked of as "superstars" - generally by sales people, who aren't really placed to comment. But the work those superstars did was piss poor IMO - crap documentation, poor solutions, no real understanding of the customer's perspective. I'm keen to hear of this superstar concept with some examples...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've seen one too many of these so-called "superstars" that when you take a closer look at them, are not so impressive. People would simply repeat what everyone else was saying about them without knowing what they were talking about.

test2dev said...

If the job levels are only about compensation range, then why all the guidance from HR on what specific skills you should have to be in each level?

Part of what the CSPs are meant to address is the leveling mismatch across groups. But for that to work, the groups themselves need to have the will to make adjustments - highly unlikely in my group.

Anonymous said...

"It's also a problem if your group director doesn't use up his promotion budget."

Too true. I've even heard this uttered as a token of pride by higher management ("Clearly we only promote people who really deserve it"). Makes you wonder.

Anonymous said...

There are lots of problems with the quality gates. The one I was complaining about is that there’s no way to guess how much work they will add for my team. Every time we power through a thousand prefix bugs, or banned apis, we get hit with another batch of work. It doesn’t end!

I would be less PO’d if they really made the product better. We have code that is complete crud and should be rewritten, but we don’t have time because we’re wasting time adding SAL annotations to other code that has shipped for a decade without problems. The rewrite would improve our quality 1000% more than the SAL annotations, but I don’t have the power to cut the SAL annotations. So I cut the rewrite. Maybe I can do it next release.

It’s not bringing quality to a common standard across the org. It’s turning a random bureaucracy loose on the product teams. If JimAll wants to improve quality across the board, I have an idea. Fire GMs who ship bad quality.

-ShiftingRight

Anonymous said...

If JimAll wants to improve quality across the board, I have an idea. Fire GMs who ship bad quality.

Start with JimAll actually.

Anonymous said...

Well I certainly agree with the comment above that "Platform penetration and winning key business applications, customer middleware, and backend processing is at best an afterthought."

I think there's a rash assumption being subscribed to in corp Services HQ that the rates, brand and services quotas being held at the practice P&L level will force the Engagement Managers to sell strategic engagements, but there certainly are no metrics around this that I am aware of.

"you have no idea how much less we’re being paid today."

Trust me, as a hiring manager I am all too painfully aware of the salary compression that has occurred over at least the past 5 years. I've been absolutely horrified at some of the salaries + sign on + stock that the recruiters are suggesting that we offer to bring in candidates. I just say no and let them go; others do not.

Anonymous said...

Might be a moot point for this blog though - do they even have a- SDEs?


Yes, there are a- SDEs.

Besides, not everyone here at MS are SDEs either. The test side sucks just as bad. Especially if you were one of the unlucky ones that didn't get RiFfed last fall.

Anonymous said...

denmor . glad to see you saved yourself

Anonymous said...

About MCS

the problem there is that, as a consultant, your time will be used as the variable to adjust any other person's mistake. if the services executive doesn't sell in august, you'll have to bill 150% in september. if 2 of your peers screw it during h1, get ready to bill 110% in h2 to help them. work-life balance? forget it. interesting projects? forget it, thanks to Rick and his 2 predecessors; MCS is now just a standard consulting, trying to be lucrative organization. which is not bad, but if you want to do that kind of job, i would rather work for a company that can really add value to my resume in that field. a company with trajectory, and not Microsoft’s new born vision of how consulting should be done.

Anonymous said...

Got a promotion in April, so only two months in the position. Hope I'm not screwed.

I know this isn't the norm, but... I switched jobs in April and was leveled up during the transfer. Just got my review today and scored a 4.0. There is hope out there in MS land. I will also agree with the comments that good managers and management are the key. I don't think I would have fared as well under a different manager.

Anonymous said...

The big benefit, as has been mentioned in other threads, is in the benefits that blue badgers get. Those really do more than make up for the shortfall in salary between contract and full time.

Disagree. I left MS after 10+ years as an FTE. I'm now contracting as an "a-" . I have one benefit as a contractor I would not change for anything else: I have a life now.

Anonymous said...

Well if we just move to 3 P&Ls, like Windows, Office, & Whatever we'll be all set. Oh wait, that is going to happen. It is just tooo bad they chose Erik Rudder as the god child - more like satan, actually.

Anonymous said...

" I switched jobs in April and was leveled up during the transfer. Just got my review today and scored a 4.0."

Means you were seriously under leveled

Anonymous said...

To those considering a move to MCS, the roles are to become an ESC, become one of the few true PC/architects, or sourced to partners and/or India. There is a push to move the Con & Sr Con work overseas.

If you want an ESC position, this is a great thing - but for technical folks it means fewer projects and more travel.

Anonymous said...

There is a push to move the Con & Sr Con work overseas.

This is hogwash.

There is not a push to move the Con & Sr Con work overseas. Look at any of the Enterprise Services (formerly known as MCS) P&Ls and you'll see that they are dependent on this work being done at the appropriate rates to meet billable revenue targets.

If you want an ESC position, this is a great thing - but for technical folks it means fewer projects and more travel.

ESC roles do not mean more travel. In fact they mean less. Working with the same customer in your geography for 1+ years - how does that mean more travel? None of the ESCs that I know are traveling with any regularity.

ESC engagements are more focused on aligning technology with a company's strategic business initiatives at the CxO level. The ESC typically works in a Program Management capacity (where that means responsibility for a portfolio of projects) as opposed to workinging in a single project/engagement. So yes, by definition, it does mean fewer projects but that's getting semantic.

Get a clue!

Anonymous said...

"There is not a push to move the Con & Sr Con work overseas. Look at any of the Enterprise Services (formerly known as MCS) P&Ls and you'll see that they are dependent on this work being done at the appropriate rates to meet billable revenue targets."

I agree with you on this one. MCS plans to hire more in the Consultant ranks so we can compete better for projects which can't support the higher bill rate.


"ESC roles do not mean more travel. In fact they mean less."

I think you missed the point here. He/she said that being in MCS means more travel IF YOU ARE A TECHNICAL PROJECT CONSULTANT. This isn't the case with ESCs. They tend to travel much less than the project consultants. I don't see much on the horizion that indicates project consultants will be traveling less.

"ESC engagements are more focused on aligning technology with a company's strategic business initiatives at the CxO level."

This is BS. ESCs work with their EMs to sell more MCS services! In my years at Microsoft I've only met one ESC that actually knew anything about our technology. You can't align our technology with the customer's strategy if you have no clue how our technology really works! This is why ESCs end up just selling services. They have to get the customer to pay for project consultants who actually understand something about the technology.

Let's be honest about it...the reason Services HQ is pushing Strategy Consulting is that they're long term engagements and easy to staff. The value delivered to customers is a best minimal.

Anonymous said...

This is BS. ESCs work with their EMs to sell more MCS services! In my years at Microsoft I've only met one ESC that actually knew anything about our technology.

this is true in the US. In the UK the ESC really is a trusted buisness advisor role to the customer and are highly technical. In fact if i hadn't left UK to come to product management in US then I would have gone to be an ESC to find something more rewarding to being snr consultant / principal cons

Anonymous said...

andrsin told us that too when he was going to live meeting. he said he was lucky he didnt get axed.

Anonymous said...

Got my review back today.

You are a good reliable employee that met all your commitments and does everything that is asked of you. 3.0....0% pay raise...0 grants...$0 bonus

This sucks

Anonymous said...

You are a good reliable employee that met all your commitments and does everything that is asked of you.

So, you do what you you were assigned and now you make less money (no cost-of-living adjustments). Man, mgmt is really pushing back hard on employees this time around. Anyone else get their numbers back yet? Is this a fluke?

Anonymous said...

"0% pay raise...0 grants...$0 bonus

This sucks"

Why?
What do you expect for a 3.0???

Anonymous said...

What percentage of the company is supposed to get 3.0's? 50%? More? How much of the company should not expect yearly cost of living increases, or any profit sharing or bonuses?

They've got you fulltimers scrambling over the backs of your friends and colleagues, trying to climb high enough just to get normal compensation!

And of course, the alpha-nerd mentality is that such things don't happen to me.

Until the day it does.

Anonymous said...

I'm a manager, and since some of my reports read this blog and know I post to it, I have to hold my tongue, but let me just say this: there are 2 kinds of 3.0s. One is for the employee who does meet expectations and is trending upward (I know you guys will hate that phrase). These, in my experience, generally get rewards--not great, but not nothing. The other is for someone whose performance has neither improved or declined, but is still not failing to meet the minimum bar. These get 3.0s with no rewards. I disagree with it, and I think that MSFT should institute a policy of 3% annual cost-of-living-adjustments, on top of which they would then structure rewards. But I only work here, and I know I'm weird because I value my people.

I do like this blog, and I think there are a great many folks who have good insights. But I've been managing for five years now, and I have to say I've seen very few cases where the 3.0 didn't deserve the 3.0--either because he only met expectations, or because he exceeded them in a rock-solid group and DID get bit because the bar in the group was really high. The one case I did see came about because a weak manager refused to stick up for an employee; basically, I mopped the floor with him and got one of mine a higher score. But I did fell sorry for the other person. Don't they pay us to advocate for our employees? :)

So, if you got a 3.0, you may have to face the fact that you deserved it. I know I deserved mine this year. :)

I think that the person who got this message:

"You are a good reliable employee that met all your commitments and does everything that is asked of you. 3.0....0% pay raise...0 grants...$0 bonus"

clearly had a bad manager unable to explain why that employee ended up at the bottom of the stack. He should probably leave not because he got "screwed," but because his manager failed to take responsibility for the score in a convincing way.

Painful as it was, I tried to be honest with me 3.0s, whom I know were disappointed with their scores. They are free to disagree, and even to hate me, but I refuse to lay a 3.0 off on the "system" that forces someone to have a bottom of the stack. I don't like it, but it's my job to do my best to apply it fairly.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: when we recruit, we tell folks they're rock stars, but then they enter the maw of the review system which winnows people into a caste system. It sets up incredible disconnects and results in serious hits to employee morale. My team shipped this year: it kills me that I have to reward a whole team differently, that I have to tell someone, thanks for all the hard work--you get bupkes. Perhaps we could 86 the lameass ship parties and give EVERYONE some kind of ship bonus for just getting the damn thing out the door.

I could accept the variable reward system a little bit more if I knew that the folks responsible for the long delays in Longhorn, Yukon, and other key products were getting reviewed in the context of these delays.

The most pronounced change I've noticed in my 8 years here is this: when I came to MS, I felt like my executives and I were on the same team--we all worked hard and worked together to achieve common goals, for which people were rewarded in proportion to their contribution. This is no longer the case. The executives live in a whole other realm and see employees more as a cost than as a resource. Hell--this is true even with some middle managers.

Enough rambling. Discuss among yourselves.

Anonymous said...

"What percentage of the company is supposed to get 3.0's? 50%? More?"

I don't know what the distribution was this year, but in the past it's been 25% get 3.0s or less, 40% get 3.5s, and 35% get 4.0 or higher. Even when I was an IC, my manager was pretty open about this.

Anonymous said...

The most pronounced change I've noticed in my 8 years here is this: when I came to MS, I felt like my executives and I were on the same team--we all worked hard and worked together to achieve common goals, for which people were rewarded in proportion to their contribution. This is no longer the case. The executives live in a whole other realm and see employees more as a cost than as a resource. Hell--this is true even with some middle managers.

Having been in and around Microsoft for ten years I agree with this assessment.

Anonymous said...

I'm a manager, and since some of my reports read this blog and know I post to it...

Your reports are lucky, I'm not sure my manager even shows up for stack ranking. Keep on posting, you've made some excellent points.

Anonymous said...

This fucking spam shit needs to STOP

Anonymous said...

I've been following these comments right through the review period and to be honest got pretty depressed. I knew I had worked hard during the FY, and had those commitments nailed down military fashion but had niggling doubts about how you can get screwed over by the process. With a hardcore approach to my commitments I reckoned a 4.0 was on the cards, so long as the curve didn't whack me. With mini's blog and comments in my back pocket, I knew what other things to focus on. Ended up with a 4.5, 10% raise, and 53% bonus. Thanks mini, couldn't have done it without you :-)

This talk of Darwinism is right on the money, and right now I'm in favor of it. I guess if I got levelled the other way to a 3.0 I wouldn't be endorsing it. But the real point I have is that all the leveling, curving, and politics aside - this is the one company I've worked for that you can be a non-sales person and actually have a reasonable influence on your review/rise/stock/bonus. Every other place I've been it's pot luck - that is assuming you actually get reviews or objectives, many places don't...

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure my manager even shows up for stack ranking.

That's a sure sign to make a career change.

Anonymous said...

And this is the only company that I have worked for that shows that doing your job and meeting expectations is a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Great post, I agree with everything you said about the review system and how it works at Microsoft. I left my position as a Dev Lead a year ago (right after I finished giving everyone their reviews) in part because I was disgusted at the way the system hurt my employees. I came to Microsoft via acquisition, and brought a strong and well-paid team with me. It sucked that I had to punish part of the group because of the way the system worked - I really felt that my team was punished for being effective and cohesive.

Of course, after I left, the team was reorged and scattered to the winds. I guess my managers solved the problem the only way they knew how...

Anonymous said...

"Ended up with a 4.5"

Exactly what groups are handing out 4.5? The most I have seen my in my group are 4.0s.

Anonymous said...

"Ended up with a 4.5, 10% raise, and 53% bonus"

I wonder if there are any restrictions or requirements on how bonus money is distributed in a group. I've heard stories of just a couple top people getting well over half of a good-sized group's bonus pool.

Anonymous said...

"Ended up with a 4.5"


Would love to hear more about what you did to get a 4.5. What level were you, what was your role, and did you ship? Were you promoted?

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if there are any restrictions or requirements on how bonus money is distributed in a group. I've heard stories of just a couple top people getting well over half of a good-sized group's bonus pool."

Pretty much with Vice-President approval, you can do whatever the hell you want. We are not yet to the point where you can be rewarded with virgins yet, but I'm sure it's crossed their minds. I'm really pleased for Mr. 53% Bonus, but I'm betting the rest of his team isn't terribly motivated. This superstar culture has its downside. There are 50,000 of us, but we can't all be stars.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what groups are handing out 4.5? The most I have seen my in my group are 4.0s.

I know of people in MCS, PSS, EPG and SMS&P who have had 4.5's over the years. Still pretty rare though. I know one individual who has had 2x4.5's AND a 5.0 in the past 6 years. She is a true superstar though, and doesn't have anything to do with politics before someone assumes that

I wonder if there are any restrictions or requirements on how bonus money is distributed in a group. I've heard stories of just a couple top people getting well over half of a good-sized group's bonus pool.

Apparently there are, and the last sentence would be close to the mark IMO.

Would love to hear more about what you did to get a 4.5. What level were you, what was your role, and did you ship? Were you promoted?
L62, & I work in MCS (so I didn't ship anything :-). Didn't get promoted. As to what I did - overachieved on all commitments, and did some pretty visible stuff that helped my group both locally and across the region. To be honest, it nearly killed me & I can't see me doing it again for a while (or getting the opportunity). I'll be happy with 3.5 for the next couple of years, though wouldn't turn down a 4.0 if it came along ;-)

Anonymous said...

To be honest, it nearly killed me & I can't see me doing it again for a while (or getting the opportunity).

I managed a 4.5 a few years ago, and I can sympathize with the amount of work it took - I don't think I saw my wife for months. In the end, I felt it was worth the pain once, but I don't think I'll try it again. I'm truly surprised that you didn't get a promotion as well. Congrats on your achievement and enjoy the bonus, you've earned it!

Anonymous said...

I'm really pleased for Mr. 53% Bonus, but I'm betting the rest of his team isn't terribly motivated.

It really depends...I think it's inspiring to know that if I work my rear off and get something significant accomplished, I can be rewarded darn well. Just because he got the big bonus doesn't mean everyone else got the shaft. Assuming no politics are in play, the rest of the team members should be adult enough to say "Wow...you did awesome work, congrats!" and adjust their own efforts accordingly (assuming they want similar rewards).

Anonymous said...

I didn't realise my original comment would spawn a life of its own...

I felt it was worth the pain once, but I don't think I'll try it again.
Yup! Maybe in a few years, but for now I'm going to chill out relatively speaking

I think it's inspiring to know that if I work my rear off and get something significant accomplished, I can be rewarded darn well.
This sums up the point I was really trying to make (except you did it much more succinctly :-)

I'm really pleased for Mr. 53% Bonus, but I'm betting the rest of his team isn't terribly motivated.
Wrong. Well at least in my group which shares the same bonus pool - we did collectively quite well in terms of review scores. I'm unaware of what the other guys got in terms of $$$ but as a rule we're mostly well motivated. There are a few pissed off people, which you'll get in any environment - but it's definitely not as if I'm a happy camper at the ultimate expense of pissing off my friends and colleagues.

It seems everyone assumes I'm a male - does this mean that it is inconceivable that a female will pull a 4.5? For the record, I am male, but the person I know who has 2x4.5's and a 5.0 is most definitely a lady.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog!..i am an ex-microsoftie and wasn't aware of or even bothered to find out all the politics behind the stack ranking. I guess I was much more passionate about the product and wanted to do the right thing and as a team....i did start with good scores initially..4.0 and the like..but the more i wanted to work as a team to make our product better...the more i saw myself sliding down the stack...and now i realize why i saw so many road blocks to the obvious things we as a team could do to improve our product...the road blocks were none other than your team mates who didn't want u to succeed beacuse of the curve! I wonder who came up with this brilliant idea of stack ranking. Grow up guys...this is not grad school anymore!..anyways..i m out n about doing software development the way it should be done...and glad to be away from this crap :)
Enjoy your reviews!!

Anonymous said...

L62, & I work in MCS (so I didn't ship anything :-). Didn't get promoted. As to what I did ...

Interesting - as someone who has had 4.5's in the past, and as someone who has been a manager of 4.5's and participated in stack ranks where 4.5's were given (typically top 1% of an org), this is the only time I've ever heard of a 4.5 without a promotion.
Congrats though - that's a heck of a bonus.

Anonymous said...

7 year MCS consultant here.

MCS is not the place to be anymore.

As stated in this thread before, the EM's only put in the effort to find billable engagements and not truly impactful work for the customer or ourselves. Well actually, it seems that they are hard pressed to find work at all sometimes for consultants.

We are now goaled heavily on utilization, and don't even get me started on the math that goes into this target utilization equation. On the surface it seems like a cake walk, but it is very misleading.

The good people are leaving, in my opinion. Not for another company most often, just out of services. Nothing is worse than being a big fish in a little pond working on mundane projects...and that is becoming the definition and charter of MCS.

Anonymous said...

As a former MCS'er, I can make a couple comments.

If you're single, talented, and want to make way more money than corp in a short period of time - go to MCS.

Hours are longer, stress is higher, pay can be very good.

I don't see MCS as a lifetime option, hell, even a 5-10 year option anymore. The problem is that the model is fundamentally fucked.

Between getting screwed by partners, putting up with nonsense from customers that you wouldn't in any other consulting business, and an incredibly short term vision on developing their talent.

They push people on utilization, and have minimal focus on training. The people getting training are the guys on the bench. Senior guys have gone without training of any significance for *years*.

We push partners whose major qualification is that they write a check and they pass some multiple choice exams. More often than not, the partner fails, and MCS needs to pick up the pieces on their dime (unless the BIF fairy leaves some $$ under their pillow)

Customers know they have us by the balls because they have large licensing deals with us. As a result, the consulting guys regularly take verbal beatings and have to jump through hoops at no charge to keep the EPG guys happy.

Let's not even go to the situation where the EPG guy says 'Hey, I just sold them HIS and BizTalk, go find a way to implement it.'

And depending on what part of the world you work in, the EMs who are in theory also selling services, don't. They meet quota getting the business that MS would have gotten anyways, solely because we're Microsoft. We don't get innovative projects as much as we could, because the folks don't know the new technology and don't know how to pitch it.

I don't know why someone doesn't sit Devenuti down and say..
"Rick. Here's the deal. Train your people on the new stuff. You have the Microsoft brand and there's a large demand coming up. Instead of being known as the guys who QA'd a partners sharepoint implementation for a small regional bank, make MCS the guys pushing the leading edge, solving solutions with our latest revs of the software. Sure, you'll take a bit of hit this year as you get people trained up, but you'll have a kick ass H2. And if anyone bitches about the numbers this year, invite them to look at MBS' numbers and come back to you."


That being said, if you have a fair amount of both patience and skill, it can be very lucrative and is a good way to get your level up if you plan to be in the org longer term.

I was there for several years, and it was a very lucrative experience (also incredible high stress).

methylamine said...

Also a former 5-year MCS'er...

Yes pay and level are definitely higher than corp; but the stressfulness of dealing with customers, living with the double-speak and double-plus-ungood management has become too much.

What's changed? It's not a team anymore; managers, sales, and other consultants will toss you in front of a train without turning a hair. Utilization has become the mantra, yet it's only partially under the control of the consultant to improve--it's the EM's who are responsible for selling the consultant. So, you're screwed unless you get some longterm honey-gig. On top of that, you live with the constant fear of getting shipped off to some hellhole for 6-12 months or more. I was lucky and avoided it by continual lobbying, but less vocal (and with better review scores) guys were routinely shipped off.

The overemphasis on utilization leads to horrible distortions; I remember having two of our consultants two states over, while consultants from THAT state's district were in our city. Tell me how that makes sense? And how it helps the customer to foot another $1K or so per week for travel?

And yet--why the fuck do we care about utilization? MCS is not a profit center; its best profit ever probably wouldn't cover the bottled water on campus. It is a STRATEGIC ASSET...ergo, its people should be unequaled gurus on the state of the art, able to deliver stunning solutions that convince customers there is no better alternative than the Microsoft platform.

Case in point: years ago, we lost EBay...Why? We should have thrown the best consultants we had to that. The licensing revenue and the PR would be well worth it. Ditto for so many gigs we throw away in favor of shitty four-week Sharepoint trivia--just to "meet the numbers".

This short-term thinking is endemic in Microsoft management. I'm astounded that no-one has made the connection between server revenue--BTW, the fastest-growing P&L--and services. Great services make server sales...but since management does not *measure* that link--between server sales and services excellence--they ignore it and focus on the few hard numbers their lazy asses bother to gather...i.e. utilization and "customer sat". BTW that too is so poorly gathered I'm surprised we even had numbers internally. I can count on one hand the number of actual customer surveys I saw for my customers in five years.

Don't get me started on the morale implications of making consultants travel to fulfill utilization; and adding insult to injury, basing the majority of their review score on utilization, a metric that is not truly under their control.

I can't tell you how many times I had to be "sensitive" to the amount of time I billed on an engagement per day, because someone wrote the contract based on 8 hours per day for X number of weeks...Nevermind that I'm cranking out 10-12 per day, can't bill that! Oh...Sorry about the mediocre 3.5 review, despite being published twice during that year and having 100% customer satisfaction, your utilization's not on target!

Yup, really really glad to be
A) out of Microsoft and
B) out of consulting and
C) working on real software, with real engineers, for real customers.

If you can live with Orwellian double-think, MCS is good bucks and a quick level-up in Microsoft. If you're a software engineer at heart and value logic and fairness, look elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

"The most pronounced change I've noticed in my 8 years here is this: when I came to MS, I felt like my executives and I were on the same team--we all worked hard and worked together to achieve common goals, for which people were rewarded in proportion to their contribution. This is no longer the case. The executives live in a whole other realm and see employees more as a cost than as a resource. Hell--this is true even with some middle managers."

Plllllllease. MSFT management (good and bad) have always treated themselves HUGELY disproportionally and (too) many have often had agendas that didn't always correspond with that of general employees or worse the customer. All that's changed imo is that as the gravy train has come to an end, the shortcomings of the latter have become more pronounced as has the historical disparity inherent when the top 20% collects 80% of all compensation.

Anonymous said...

Just got a 3.5. Been a straight 4.0 performer for several years. To be honest, this 3.5 is the best thing that's happened to me in a long time. I sat looking at my numbers for a long time and thought "is this all I'm worth?". I didn't deserve a 4.0 for sure, but what it made me realize is that MS is not using me to my full potential and that I am capable of much more than this company can get from me.

So, in the remote chance of me being here next review period, I'm already set up for a 3.0, because right now all I'm working on is my exit strategy.

Like I said - this is the best (and only) 3.5 I've ever had - the kick up the ass I really needed to get over MS and get on with succeeding in my life.

Anonymous said...

I worked in research, Windows Media and CE. Research was the best but that was before Ballmer took over. Also, unless you have a PhD, don't expect too much upward mobility. CE was an awesome product team to be in, but it is a fairly mature group which makes it really hard to get promoted. Windows Media sucked. Avoid avoid avoid.

Anonymous said...

As an ex-Microsoftie who apparently got his 'Bozo-bit' turned-on despite the 80 hour work weeks, I can say it just gets easier after Microsoft.

Finding a new job with better pay, in a place with lower cost of living and more interesting work, where you're the top-guy was a breeze. And now that Microsoft is no longer a mega-growth company with the huge lure of 1990s-options, I don't see why anyone would tolerate a 3.0 0% 0%

Anonymous said...

I had a promo to 61 (which was overdue) at mid-year discussion. I got a 4.0 a year ago.

Guess what I got this time? 3.0? 2% raise, 4% bonus. I'm told that I was in that "3.0 to 3.5 gray zone."

Gee, give me a promo at midyear, which means I'm doing something right, right after a 4.0 and six months late I'm a 3.0.

Fuckin' A.

I'm moving to California in nine months. This just clinched it.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that a the 2 types of 3.0 is certainly true and it certainly part of the problem. If I am on the line of a 3.5 and 3.0 - perhaps I deserve a 3.4? Perhaps we need more graduations to fit the 60,000 world wide employees into? Perhaps there needs to be room between a 3.5 and 4.0 also?

IN the end our review process is has some good elements and some bad elements. But the bad elements really tend to DEMORALIZE and DEMOTIVATE people. Or in my case - motivate me to polish up my resume and line up 4 interviews.

It is TIME Microsoft Review the Review process.

BTW - if you beleive this also - USE your HR POLL, discussions with HR generalists other avenues to help bring about a changes in the review system. Complaining does not always help. If you have some suggestions for solutions - propose them!

Anonymous said...

Question for you all...

I got a 4.5 review score this year but didn't get leveled. I got a 4.0 last year and got a Level promotion. I feel very strongly that I'm easily working at the next level. Should I be pissed?

Anonymous said...

Hey All,

Hey all I'm hoping you can answer a question for me.

the good news, I received a 4.5 review score this year, which had me extrmely excited. The not so good news I got no promotion, and a not-so-spectaular bonus of around 14%. Contrast that with last year after recieving a 4.0 I was promoted a level and received similar bonus, pay raise numbers. I firmly believe I'm doing strong level [me + 1] work.

Should I be pissed?

Anonymous said...

Well you can't reallt ASK someone if you should be pissed... You either are or you are not... I wouldn't necessarily say a better review than last year is indicative of better rewards than last year.

Anonymous said...

After having been working for MS for 6 years, I am seriously considering leaving the company now. If you are a recruiter, leave me a contact by replying this. Everyday I return home around 8 clock; I simply don't have a life. Sometime I don't even have time to read a book for my kids. By considering the time devoted to the work, my salary is only 40K/year. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!