Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bad Reviews from Bad Bosses

An interesting topic erupted on its own in the comments over the past couple of days: you get a crappy review score that you don't agree with. Options of what you can do at point vary, including the following:

  • You sign it and that's that, other than any new strategies you put in place to get a better score next time.
  • You refuse to sign it and begin conversations up the chain, pulling in HR.
  • If you do sign it, you ask to have your rebuttal comments for this review be attached.

Sometimes, it works out to at least flush your manager from the corporation:

I didn't sign my 04 review (an undeserved 3.0) and my former boss was out of his job in a few months. Sometimes it really gets people's attention.

Regarding the feedback portion of your review (if you feel it overly harsh or unrealistic):

A good manager will work with you until you're both happy with the feedback (often it's just a wording issue). However, ultimately, nobody cares if you don't sign your review. Your PHB can tell HR "I've given the feedback but they still wouldn't sign..." and that's pretty much it unless it's an endemic problem with them. Plenty of folks don't even write their review let alone sign it.

Ideally, though, you want that pit-bull of a manager who is on your side to get the review score he/she believes you deserve:

[...] I know of a situation in the past where a manager gave someone some unfair comments, and that was used as part of the reason to push that manager out of the group (unfortunately not fire the person from the company - it's always easier to pawn them off on another group).

I also want to say this: if, as a manager, you don't believe in a score you think you need to give because of the curve, you can find a way to not give them that score. If you think you need to give them a 3.0 but you think they deserve a 3.5, you can find a way to give them a 3.5. It requires a backbone, and requires work in making the case to upper management, but I've done it. In short, it requires the manager in question to actually care.

It's interesting to get this perspective from various folks in the company. The rebuttal letter is considered the unspoken kiss of death in my group, for instance. It's not going to prevent you from going out on informationals (nothing should ever prevent you from doing that) but it has the potential to raise a flag in the mind of the hiring manager (some ask for access to your review history before meeting with you). But perhaps you don't want to work for that kind of manager, anyway. If you're coming out of a bad review situation, I think you should touch on it briefly during your informational and not dwell on it more than, "I'm looking to grow and contribute beyond what I can currently do in my group," and be ready to follow-up positively where that might lead the conversation.

The review comments erupted out of people taking exception to Mr. Sinofsky's post, e.g. on having a dissenting view:

Absolutely positively no one has ever received a poor review for merely having a dissenting view.

Yeah, right.

In my FY05 mid-year review, my manager told me to my face that I was tracking to a 4.0. A few months later, I made an "emperor has no clothes" statement in a "private conversation" with a colleague. Without an e-mail message, conversation, or even a performance improvement plan having been set up, my manager ambushed me in my written review. He/she quoted confidential e-mail messages and conversations in the written review, and he/she gave me a 3.0. He/she had this look on her face that pretty much said, "I am f**king you over right now, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it." He/she was actually satisfied with his/her very personal attack against me.

And this one:

"The first part is true, they're just 2.5'd and let go for performance reasons even when they don't deserve it (I know several people who had this happen)."

I was a lifetime 4.0 and current 4.0 when I was "asked to leave" because I raised issues. This wasn't unique. I saw it happen to literally dozens of people before me (not all 4.0's but all at least 3.5s) and know of it happening to several since. His comment is just flat out incorrect and shows how divorced even well-meaning snr mgt can be from the day-to-day realities at lower levels.

And how are you supposed to improve things given a current management culture like this? Lisa Brummel, is this the kind of management you want to keep in place? I don't. I want management dorks like that fired with a high-visible vengeance. I want people to speak their mind. Again, the important lesson I picked up from Bob Herbold's book: people quickly learn what it takes to succeed in their group. Right now, we're teaching them to shut up, get along, and have some sort of high visible successes (real impact inconsequential) in comparison to their stack-rank peers so that they can get that 4.0.

I'm really surprised at one-commenter saying he's been prevented from looking at an internal transfer for over 11 months under a "stop-loss" state in his group. Which groups are putting folks into such a horrible state of servitude? If you're not going to leave the company (which how can you not expect people doing) the only option I know of is to actually do an informational and an informal interview (like, if I pass this first interview, let's set up a real interview loop). If things are a success at that point, you'd have the other potential group bearing down on your current manager / HR rep and usually that's enough to set the gears in motion to at least get an interview.

And your group's HR is just not your friend here. As people have noted, perhaps cynically, HR's one and only priority is to prevent Microsoft from being sued. HR usually acquiesces to anything management wants to do around reviews, promotions, transfers, etc., as long as it isn't too shady. Another thing: when you leave Microsoft, they set something up called your "exit interview." By golly, you'd think that might be something HR uses to understand, if you're bad attrition, why is it that you're leaving and whether you'd be inclined to come back. Nope. Just about everyone I've been in contact with post-Microsoft said no one looked to understand why they are leaving. I guess they're too busy praising the Nero-esque stylings of our senior management's fiddle playing. The exit interview typically is just a paper signing formality, and let's say they don't exactly put the best and brightest in the HR seat to conduct the session.

Following on Steven Sinofsky's management postings, KenMo's call-out of MSN's good traits, and Kevin Schofield's various praises of Microsoft and it's current state being just swell, we have a comment from Bill Hoffman stating:

Mini, I think you need to give more specific examples of where you see useless process. I would be curious as to where you think we should cut process.

I'm a Dev Manager in MSN. I don't see any useless process. All I see is my team cranking out code as fast as we can... innovating as fast as we can... shipping software every couple months. In the past year, we have launched a completely new backend for Hotmail. We are embarking on a next generation backend now, a totally new architecture.

I'm not seeing any middle management getting in my way. All I see is my VP, GM and PUM asking the world of my team, supporting us, and telling us "Go."

What matters more to me is hearing from the Microsofties with their boots on the ground. It matters the most when they get out there and call me out and say where I'm wrong and specifically call out where things are right. The specific folks that I'm complaining about - not having a clue and supporting an inefficient system - are probably not the ones I'm going to look towards giving me a good, honest assessment about the problems people have noted here (and in the blogs of the Microsoftie dearly-departed to more effective work environments).

For instance, in my last post, I questioned the feature crew process that Mr. Sinofsky mentioned in his "bureaucracy gooood" post, based on what I'd heard. Some folks followed up saying how it worked well for them and they thought it was a good idea. Hmm. Furthermore, Ben Canning, who it would seem to be where the buck stops at Office for feature crews, posted a very honest comment here about feature crews, even going so far to call out where cumbersome usage of an infopath form was indeed going too far and how he knows there are improvements to be made and that he's open to hearing about them (Mr. Canning also posted similar comments in Steven's original post). What I like is the idea that the individual contributors are the decision makers.

And as for forms, an unrelated comment notes:

I assure you that the Bureaucracy the other ills of MS have reached far outside of Redmond. I am in the EPG sales organization and the sheer amount of process that we need to hack through to get anything done is mind blowing. Sieble entries and internal meetings and ROB ( Rhythm of the Business) has become the business. I often feel like I am at the DMV... no wait, they streamlined that..... I often feel like I am at the doctors office... no, they stream lined that tooo....

I know, I often feel like I am in microsoft spending my entire life filling out infopath forms, in triplicate.

Well, maybe the first sign that you have too much process is that you're using infopath. Is your process saving collective time or just feeding someone's need to track everything their way?

 

185 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anyone who says (like Mr. S) that raising issues won't hurt you later is so far away from reality that his Gucci loafers must be completely worn out. I've seen time after time that people who point out the holes are the ones who have "communications problems" or need help with "cross-team communication".

When the big cheese can throw chairs and curse to make his point, it' clear that we're following the golden rule around here - not those MS values.

Now THERE'S something to rant about, Mini. Have at it.

Anonymous said...

Good topic. A guy in my group dared point out to his lead that the code the lead had written was essentially solving a widely documented CS problem in O(n^2) custom code instead of the O(n*log n) textbook solution. Gone that very year after being 2.5'd.

That lead is still a star performer, owns a huge percentage of the code base, huge number of of patents in his name, many directs. His secret: he starts writing code, then has his directs finish it. The directs are of course responsible for any problems.

The problem here is that Microsoft has no mechanisms to detect bad management - management is a buddy system, and as long as a lead is friends with his manager, nothing will ever happen to him.

As an IC, the only thing to do is to accept the Mushroom Management, not rock the boat and remember that your boss is the best, always right, smart, noble and funny and pray for the day when someone with some power realizes where the real trouble lies.

My suggestion: have all directs vote for or against their manager each year. If the manager doesn't get more than 50% of the vote, transfer to a different division. If he loses the vote the next year, terminate at once.

Anonymous said...

"My suggestion: have all directs vote for or against their manager each year. If the manager doesn't get more than 50% of the vote, transfer to a different division. If he loses the vote the next year, terminate at once. "

Interesting approach - ideal in the situation of bad manager/excellent employees. What happens though if (hypothetically) a good deal of the change needs to occur in the individual contributor ranks? Or what happens when a good/capable manager comes into an organization with good individual contributors and an intervening layer of "bad" middle managers?

Seems like the vote system by directs would quickly root out any manager that brings change (even positive change).

Anonymous said...

"Seems like the vote system by directs would quickly root out any manager that brings change (even positive change). "

Or potentially any manager who doesn't resemble an otherwise homogeneous individual contributor base (as pointed in a previous blog entry comment about diversity in Windows division).

Anonymous said...

Yes - great topic, but its an endemic problem in large corporations. over time, formerly-strong companies accrete a layer of a certain type of "professional" middle manager, who is attracted to the generous benefits that such positions provide. Having isolated the top from the bottom, they are pretty much free to pursue their agenda, which seems to be to hang on until the vessel is holed, and leap elsewhere. In a company of Microsoft's size, the "vessel" is usually a group rather than a division. Next thing you know, a VP at A N Other company is telling a could-care-less group of ICs at an All Hands that he or she is "super-excited to welcome...", and so the cycle repeats. Be aware that the "badness" of these people is not just a sin of attrition (i.e lack of management skills), but in many cases, a very astute, targetted and deliberate series of political campaigns.

So from a pragmatic point of view, what to do?

- If you're in a good group with a good manager, even if its dull, hang on until your'e boredom threshhold is reached (this is only likely to be 6 - 18 months anyway). Keep your skills up-to-date
- If you're in a bad group, you have to get out of there on the best terms you can. (Sorry if this sounds weasely, but like many others, I have bills to pay and complaining to the PI and/or ranting on blogs isn't going to pay them if I get fired.) You've got to steer your career out of there without deliberately aiming for the rocks, and find another group. Even if you do go elsewhere in a "blaze of glory", it probably isn't going to have the effect you hope.
- At all times, keep your skills up to date. Still not looked at .Net? Do it now. C++ rusty? Sharpen it? Read any good books lately? Read'em. And not visual WhizBang 6 - I mean books that look at the history, sociology and direction of our profession. Do this even if it means doing so on your own time.
- Communication skills are unbelievably important. There is almost no room left at all for the sociopath geek.

Finally, if you're a smart thinker - not just smart at what you know - if you have an aptitude for learning new things and looking at problems from different angles, that is power. Nobody cares about a victim, so don't be one. Pack up your newly-sharpened bag of tricks and move on to something better, or at least something different. I love this blog, but I fear that a Mini Microsoft would not get that way by due to the reviled managers leaving, the contraction will be achieved by those who can leaving, and those who don't want to leaving under less favorable terms (like some of the truly excellent folks shed by Server, for example)

And finally, finally, don't forget that some of the folks that are leaving are sowing the seeds of the companies that will provide employment and excitement for others - can't think of a better metaphor than "composting" - sorry.

fCh said...

Several days ago, some person's posting here indicated as reason for leaving Microsoft the weather. Folks, please allow me to raise a question that is off the current topic: To what extent/how do you think weather has been influencing The Microsoft Way? For example, are there similarities between BillG and the local weather, and hence the organizational DNA?

For those who come here exclusively for the "serious" stuff, tolerate this question as a weekend topic. Answers of all types will be appreciated. Hint: There have been several "models" in the science/art of investing that tried to time/tie the ups/downs of economies to certain events. Eventually, those "models" evolved into a whole theory of the economic cycles.

Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

re: private email exchanges being used against someone in a review.

Can anyone reading this shed light on how much monitoring of employee communications (email, im, etc) takes place and the true level of anonymity?

As an employee, it is understood that you don't own the equipment, network, or the software running on your PC at work. I understand the clamping down of CORPNET and I expect that the network security guys are scanning everything that comes into and leaves MSFT. But based on some things I've observed over the years, I have wondered if managers over certain level can directly access the email accounts of their reports, or if some sort of automated data collection is taking place and being sent to them.

As for anonymity, most of the ICs in my group were of the opinion that anonymous feedback and polls were anything but, and considered their input as another part of the game. The level of cynicism was astonishing.

I did ask a couple people who were in position to possibly know and have received no answers other than silence. It would be a relief to find out that I am just overly paranoid.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who says (like Mr. S) that raising issues won't hurt you later is so far away from reality that his Gucci loafers must be completely worn out. I've seen time after time that people who point out the holes are the ones who have "communications problems" or need help with "cross-team communication".

You must have read my reviews. I can't talk gewd. Smell baad tew. I'd leave the company but I can't find the dewr knob.


In the past year, we have launched a completely new backend for Hotmail. We are embarking on a next generation backend now, a totally new architecture.

Umm, they've been embarking on a totally new Hotmail architecture for years now.

I didn't know Microsoft ported Postfix to Windows.


From "Mail Delivery System" MAILER-DAEMON@messagingengine.com
To: "someone who doesn't believe everything he reads"
Subject: Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender

This is the Postfix program at host frontend1.messagingengine.com.

I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not
be delivered to one or more recipients. It's attached below.

For further assistance, please send mail to postmaster

If you do so, please include this problem report. You can
delete your own text from the attached returned message.

The Postfix program

mailbox_that_does_not_exist@hotmail.com: host mx2.hotmail.com[99.99.999.9] said:
550 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable (in reply to RCPT TO
command)



But based on some things I've observed over the years, I have wondered if managers over certain level can directly access the email accounts of their reports, or if some sort of automated data collection is taking place and being sent to them.

They don't have to get access to your mailbox. They can have your mail delivered to their mailbox. Delivering mail to your mailbox and forwarding it to another mailbox is a feature of Exchange Server.

http://www.webservertalk.com/archive128-2004-10-448426.html

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/e2k3/e2k3/e2k3_ldf_attributeSchema_ms_Exch_Deliver_And_Redirect.asp

Used with ms-Exch-Alt-Recipient Attribute. If True, delivers to the mailbox and also redirects.



Don't use email if you want privacy.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone,
thanks for posting these insights into the Microsoft corporate culture. I don't work for MS, but my company was rumoured to be bought by them once, and who knows... maybe we will get shafted one of these days. And it is good to know what expects me in this case. I will follow the advise in the long comment and sharpen my skills...

Anonymous said...

This is kinda off-topic but I had a couple of questions about the tester positions. What EXACTLY is the deal with SDETs?

Are SDETs REALLY expected to be devs whose code simply just doesn't ship?

As an SDET, say if I read thru the dev code and gain a fairly good understanding of the architecture, then when filing bugs, is it a good thing to point out where exactly in the code base the problem is occuring? Or will that be considered wasting of time since that is what the Dev's job is? I am really confused about this aspect.

Are a tester's review score based on the number of bugs filed or quality of bugs filed (if quality would that entail)?

How do things like improving performance of test harnesses and creating processes to quickly determining where bugs are accounted for? Do these take a lower priority to filing of quality/quantity of bugs? I know these are questions tht will vary by managers but I wanted to what the picture is overall in the org.

Finally, what is the best career path for a SDET? What are the chances of one transitioning into Dev or Tech. PM and how often does that happen? Should a SDET look out for getting promoted into a lead sdet position or a dev/tech. pm position?

Thanks!

KeithMc said...

As an ex-MS manager (11yrs served) I have seen good and bad examples of people disagreeing with their review grade. On balance I would recommend anyone that is getting a review grade they disagree with to push for specifics and escalate, ESPECIALLY if it is a 2.5.

Receiving a 2.5 is a kiss of death no matter what HR or your manager might tell you. You may be given a positive spin that it is an opportunity to turn the corner, etc, etc. You might have a manager that actually truly wants to support you and turn that 2.5 into a 3.5 next time round but if you want a long term career you need to avoid that 2.5.

A 2.5 sits on your record for ever and is visible to all prospective hiring managers and any new manager that might replace your existing manager. If you get a 2.5 you can write off any job level promotion for 18mth+. Hiring managers will put you at the bottom of the list.

If you leave without dramatically turning that 2.5 around in the next 18-24mth you are flagged as a 'do not re-hire'.

I know two very clear examples of two very good people both with poor managers that unexpectedly received a 2.5. One fought this to a certain extent but did not have the tenacity to keep fighting. The person went from a solid/high contributor to someone people referred to as 'is he still here...?'. True enough the manager was moved on, but as they didn't have the 2.5 on their record it was quickly forgotten and they continued their career.

The second example had the individual fight the 2.5. They quickly escalated if they felt the next level of management / HR wasn't strong enough or prepared to put in the work or truly understand the system. It went through three levels of management. The 2.5 was changed to a 3.5 (such a big change clearly showed gross mismanagement), the individual became stronger as had a new found belief in the process and continued a very successful career. The manager was moved aside and within 12mth moved out.

You must be honest - if the review grade is wrong, do not accept it.

dB. said...

From five years of MSFT I subscribe to the review is not important ideology in full, almost blindly now.

Everybody worth it was given the best reviews possible. Everybody else was pushed out. The bar is pretty high.

1. To get a good review you must become a key participant of the process, not a code monkey, create change, evolve the product and the team.

2. Your current ladder level matters a lot for the review score, but it's a lot more important than the review score. I've given 4.0 reviews to my reports with a low ladder and pulled them up, but counters are reset after that. You play a very different curve when you're a 59 vs. 62.

3. You should follow strong managers that are ahead of the game. You don't have to get along with them. A good manager knows exactly who's worth it whether he hates your gutts and has peer pressure as well to give you a good review score. You are visible accross the group. A good manager creates things and grows his scope of influence while his team delivers outstanding results. A certain person I worked for grew from a 7 people team to 300+ in three years. Core people in the original group were highly regarded and their reviews and ladders skyrocketed. The best new hires were directly in competition with the core and many have succeeded equally or better.

4. You really shouldn't care about your review. Talking to your manager about what score to expect or stuff like that is just annoying him. If you don't see a good review, you should be looking for root causes. You need to move on in a different group or step up.

To my defense of understanding the system, my last review before leaving MSFT was a 4.5 and i went all the way from a 58 to 64 in five years.

dead wood said...

To mini's question of how often people are prevented from interviewing, I have seen a few cases of this in the Windows Server division. Never 11 months, but long enough to prevent the individuals from leaving. Nobody that I know would dare hint to anyone other than trusted friends that they are even doing an informational.

Asking to interview has been correlated to a .5 drop in the next review score.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mini,

You asked for some examples of useless middle management bureaucracy and process from those who have their feet on the street. Look no further than the massive EPG matrix overlay organization populated with level 66s, 67s and 68s that runs side-by-side with the field line organization and adds utterly no value whatsoever.
I attended one of their meetings last year and sat there adding up all the cost to Microsoft in the room, not one dollar of which was going to growing additional revenue. Shocking and sad.

Anonymous said...

Responding to the SDET question.

You miss the point. Your review score is based on the whim of your manager.

If your manager wants to assign review scores based on bug count, then it is. I had that once and I filed hundreds of bugs per year.

If your manager wants to assign review scores based on the number of tests cases you write, then they do.

Bug and Testing 'Quality' are usually measured as ratios:
Filed/(won't fix + no repro + etc)
Fixed/Filed
Bugs you found vs. bugs others at MS found vs. bugs found by customers

[RANT] Take a look at the ladder descriptions, somehow it was decided that it would be good if EVERY TESTER was required to write a test harness in order to move up the ladder. [END RANT]

Anonymous said...

"There is almost no room left at all for the sociopath geek."

Are you talking about sociopathic geeks, in general, or the CEO specifically?

I guess a further option is to begin work on Chapter 1 of your forthcoming bestseller: "Whatever Happened to Microsoft - The Biography of a Disaster"

Anonymous said...

I pretty much ascribe to what DB wrote above, although I haven't been as successful as him in 5 years :). Its really like a game, and those who understand the rules the best will succeed.

PS - slightly off topic but DB's parties were legendary when he lived in seattle! Hope NY is treating ya good db...

Anonymous said...

"Is your process saving collective time or just feeding someone's need to track everything their way?"

Yes, that's exactly the issue. As companies become top heavy, not only are there too many mgrs getting collectively paid too much, but because they're so far away from the front line, everyone who is, ends up spending greater and greater chunks of their life passing info about what's going on to the chain of command so that the latter can look informed. And of course, that impacts the productivity of those on the front line which competitors in turn take advantage of. Which leads to more pressing issues for the chain of command and requests for even more field data. Kind of the opposite of the virtuous cycle metaphor that Bill is so fond of.

Anonymous said...

"A good manager knows exactly who's worth it whether he hates your guts."

Totally agree with this and your other comments about a "good mgr". However, in my 5 years there, I'd say the mgrs like that were less than 5% - and I think I'm being very generous. Not good.

Anonymous said...

"Absolutely positively no one has ever received a poor review for merely having a dissenting view."

Correct. If they get a poor review because of their dissenting view, it'll be written up as something else. More likely, they'll simply be asked to leave citing their "teamwork" challenges.

Anonymous said...

You guys think you have it bad... I work for a major company ($40 billion revenue, much like Microsoft) and we have a stack ranking system as well where you get "graded" from 1 - 100. I have scored the highest score in our department of ~300 people for 3 years (6 reviews). I am told that I cannot be promoted because there is no need for one. I am doing the work of a position 1 or 2 levels above me, but "there is no need for it". Obviously because I'm already doing the work of a higher position. If I worked to my job description, then there would probably be a need, but then I am "not showing the initiative and capability of doing the work above my level" (as others have been told). So basically, if you do the work above your level to show you're able to do it, then there is no need for that position. If you don't do the work above your level, then a need is created but you are not qualified for a higher position. I fucking hate my company and have been looking for 3 months for something better, but it will require a long-distance move which is hard on the family.

Anonymous said...

Mr. S may perceive that layers of management are necessary, but he might be seeing only large groups. I don't see a reason why small product with team of 10 developers and 10 testers needs 3 dev leads, 3 test leads, dev manager, test manager and PUM (not counting PMs). 1 dev lead and 1 test lead reporting directly to PUM would be more than enough. Reduction in management in such small group will save company 6 high level people salaries. You can actually hire 10 college grads on that amount of money or simply pay more to existing devs. In fact, grassroot movement to less management does exist since I know a few teams where devs report directly to dev manager, so not leads. This movement should be heavily supported from above since it let experienced people to actually work on code vs. spending life in meetings.

Anonymous said...

yawn

Anonymous said...

Regarding SDET question:

I think of SDET as testers who are capable of reading and writing code to do better test (contrary to STE who supposedly can only click mouse).

I've seen lots of devs whose code is not supposed ship (e.g. internal tools, including test tools), but who are called SDE.

Regarding what you do when you find a bug - this vary dramatically depending on team's culture. In some teams with strong SDET they are supposed to collect enough information about the bug and investigate it (especially in bug is hard to repro), sometimes even locate the troubled code. In some teams with weaker SDET - just find a bug and file it.

For review and infrastructure work - this again depends on team and your lead, who sets the priorities. Unfortunately, lots of test leads introduce some useless metrics (number of bugs, etc) and measure by these metrics - stupid and counterproductive, but probably they have no other way to understand and measure work of their team mates.

And career path is completely up to you :) You can move to SDE, PMs Test Lead, or Technical Lead - depends on your inclinations, all these paths are somewhat popular.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, y'all!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051009/ap_on_hi_te/microsoft_at_midlife

Anonymous said...

>The exit interview typically is just a paper signing formality, and let's say they don't exactly put the best and brightest in the HR seat to conduct the session<

They don't exactly put the best and the brightest in the HR seat???

When I see comments like this I seriously wonder how bright you are.Where do you get off making comments like this? Who are you or anyone on this board qualified to make a judgement on anyone's intellectual horsepower?? I have worked with several HR folks within and outside MS and I think we have some of the best HR professionals in the business. HR is a thankless job. It is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued professions and they have to deal with folks like you who make ignorant assumptions. I get tired of seeing the negative comments toward HR on this board. Take acountability and take a look in the mirror before you make mindless comments like this.

Anonymous said...

Re: You asked for some examples of useless middle management bureaucracy and process from those who have their feet on the street. Look no further than the massive EPG matrix overlay organization populated with level 66s, 67s and 68s that runs side-by-side with the field line organization and adds utterly no value whatsoever.
I attended one of their meetings last year and sat there adding up all the cost to Microsoft in the room, not one dollar of which was going to growing additional revenue. Shocking and sad.

Damn! This is truly shocking because it seems that the folks who do the actual work at Microsoft are more at the 58-62 level. I haven’t seen much discussion in this blog about leveling. My understanding per information provided by HR is that there is about a 10% increase with each level, meaning that, if a level 59 makes around $73000 salary annually, this means that a level 66 would make $73000 * (1.1) ^ (66-59) = ~$142000 salary annually.

Anonymous said...

Example of useless management: dev managers. Ours showed up only every third day for a year because he was building his house. Now he is back, but he learned something: he leaves at five when he orders a bug night. Why he paid, I don't understand.

Anonymous said...

My understanding per information provided by HR is that there is about a 10% increase with each level, meaning that, if a level 59 makes around $73000 salary annually, this means that a level 66 would make $73000 * (1.1) ^ (66-59) = ~$142000 salary annually.

And you trusted HR? Why does HR bother with all this, "corporate values," stuff anyway? They seem to violate them without a care. Being taught morals by a blatantly immoral set of people is more than a little annoying.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog sir - I have been reading it for more than a month and just realized how I'm happy that I didn't pick up an offer in the first half of the year with MS (and went with small, "noname" company)...

TheKhalif said...

To what extent/how do you think weather has been influencing The Microsoft Way? For example, are there similarities between BillG and the local weather, and hence the organizational DNA?

For those who come here exclusively for the "serious" stuff, tolerate this question as a weekend topic.



This is not a peripheral issue. The weather in Seattle contirbutes greatly to it being one of the suicide capitals of the world. I think that if the weather were better, more people would stay and deal with the bureaucracy. A lot of people don't realize the weather's affect on them. I didn't.

TheKhalif said...

[RANT] Take a look at the ladder descriptions, somehow it was decided that it would be good if EVERY TESTER was required to write a test harness in order to move up the ladder. [END RANT]

You mean I should have been promoted for the 3 or 4 harnesses, logging mechanisms and report formats I wrote?

SOB!!

TheKhalif said...

From five years of MSFT I subscribe to the review is not important ideology in full, almost blindly now.

Everybody worth it was given the best reviews possible. Everybody else was pushed out. The bar is pretty high.

1. To get a good review you must become a key participant of the process, not a code monkey, create change, evolve the product and the team.



Is that why I knew of several "warm bodies" in CORE Windows server positions who were only "culturally-aligned" with their manager rather than valuable to the team.

Maybe you should lay off the [insert hallucinogen here].

withmsft for a little less than a year said...

To what extent/how do you think weather has been influencing The Microsoft Way? For example, are there similarities between BillG and the local weather, and hence the organizational DNA?

I'm glad somebody else has picked up on this subject. I can mostly speak to the effects of the Seattle weather on my family. Coming from the Valley to take a job with Microsoft has been so taxing (on my spouse) that we are thinkink already of moving out of the area. On balance, house prices vs. salaries aren't that much better here than in California either so... At least in California one has the chance to work for a startup that one day pays it all off!

TheKhalif said...

I pretty much ascribe to what DB wrote above, although I haven't been as successful as him in 5 years :). Its really like a game, and those who understand the rules the best will succeed.

PS - slightly off topic but DB's parties were legendary when he lived in seattle! Hope NY is treating ya good db...



So MS must be losing the game since every major publication can see the results of DB's parties. I thought we were supposed to be remembered for innovation not intoxication?

Oh well, what do I know, I never even knew there was a stack rank and I was in Windows for 5 years

Anonymous said...

"To get a good review you must become a key participant of the process, not a code monkey, create change, evolve the product and the team."

That's what causes the problem. Not everyone can foment change all the time - at least not worthwhile change. Noise and busywork is mistaken for progress. Here's a tip on how to piss one of these smoke-and-mirrors merchants off: ask them in a public meeting what they are doing with the information they're gathering, and how it's going to make a difference. There's boundless opportunity for this now - what with new "ladders", new roles, new tools, new processes. (Note - even if you can piss someone off by demanding accountability, remember that the good guys only win in movies)

TheKhalif said...

Damn! This is truly shocking because it seems that the folks who do the actual work at Microsoft are more at the 58-62 level. I haven’t seen much discussion in this blog about leveling.


Actually that range is more like 56-60.

Anonymous said...

1. To get a good review you must become a key participant of the process, not a code monkey, create change, evolve the product and the team.

What a crock of shit. You ought to join WinSE, they'd promote you to director in an instant. Then you'd be the only one left since people are leaving left and right after being sick of dealing with process.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Schofield has an excellent rebuttal to this post here:
http://radio.weblogs.com/0133184/2005/10/09.html#a392

Good Managers and Bad Managers. Looks like you poked the wrong bear, Mini. Also, the gap of intellectual ability and depth of knowledge is so obvious comparing the two postings (or, any posting here). I think Kevin speaks in volumes about what's so right with Microsoft as compared to the missives here.

Another thing, Kevin mentions how he doesn't stack rank. Perhaps stack ranking woes aren't as pervasive as Mini would lead people to believe. You don't hear anyone in MSR complaining.

Anonymous said...

"Is that why I knew of several "warm bodies" in CORE Windows server positions who were only "culturally-aligned" with their manager rather than valuable to the team."

Not having a fair shot because of a lack of cultural alignment doesn't feel good, does it? For many, being in core windows server and winse provides a first opportunity to know what it feels like to not be in the majority group and lose all of the advantages therein (some which you list).

Anonymous said...

On balance, house prices vs. salaries aren't that much better here than in California either

Don't compare a castle in seattle to a shack in the bay area. The price differentials are way more than what you're thinking. Don't forget the 9.3% progressive income tax rate for rich people like us (rich in cali means earning > ~40k/year).

If you can get a salary that bridges a monthly mortgage payment of $1500 (seattle) vs. $4500 (bay area), then sign me on.

TheKhalif said...

Another thing, Kevin mentions how he doesn't stack rank. Perhaps stack ranking woes aren't as pervasive as Mini would lead people to believe. You don't hear anyone in MSR complaining.


H also says that he believes in the curve and the stack rank. The idea of a stack rank is not the same as the idea of grades in school. Curves in school usually inflate scores. If the stack is accurate, he should not see any bad managers. If there are bad managers then the system is designed to promote political idiots who make projects fail. Emphasis should be placed on "pure employees" who don't care how many hours they do or how many promotions they get. They only care about the quality of their work as per known metrics.
It makes me wonder if managers at MS really beleive in qualified authors like McConnell and Fowler.

He also says that he is in the process of enabling his managers and employees, but how do you justify using a system that he himself says is often misused. A good system cannot be misused because it's almost like a good architecture in software. It defines all of the issues and covers them.

If things are improving at such a clip why is nothing improving? Can we really say that the myriad comments regarding the ineffectiveness of the process are all from disgruntled "ne'er do wells?"

Anonymous said...

Someone reacted to the comment about the HR people and their intellectual & corporate horsepower.

Here's a simple question: have you SAT through an exit interview with the HR types? If you have not, then how do you know?

If you HAVE gone through the so-called exit interview, it is essentially a signing of papers. "Remember, you promised not to say anything for a year! Can we have your card? Thanks! Have a nice day!" is essentially what it is.

What makes you think HR has any interest or need to hear what you have to say when you leave? Do you think they'd take ANYTHING a disgruntled employee says as useful, actionable information? "Gee, we never thought about that - here's some guy/gal who's leaving due to bad scores and/or feelings, and so their insight is especially useful -- NOT!" is more like it.

You might as well write that you are scared of the pink elephants for all the good it will do you or MS. The exit interview is just a step up from just simply not showing up on your last day. You might as well just mail in your badge - you'll get the same amount of personal interaction and respect, and you won't have to fight for a parking space among all the Acuras.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I come from a huge corporation, ( now I work at a kick-ass startup.) The Corp. has all the same nonsense ms does that I've read here. What gets me is this: when you're totally sucked into yourself as a company, just dealing with all the bureacracy and bad management, you totally forget what's going on in the rest of the world.

Take me for example, a potential ms customer. I'm struggling with the fact that ms actually has some great products for what I want to do, but I've been raised in a corporate culture to always find some alternative to ms. So I'm using anything I can non-ms. I don't mean too, I just find myself doing it, it's in my blood for some reason. Hell, I'm even at a pro-ms company now. And I find I'm not alone, there are many like me out there, using alternative products or rolling our own. Yet ms doesn't seem to care. They're too busy at the water cooler talking about who said what to who at their review. Good luck with that.

When it comes to reviews at a mega-corp. it's not what you know but who you know. I don't put any weight into those reviews, they're all bs. It's nice to get a great rating, but really, actions speak louder than words. Complete Jackasses get great ratings, but they always return to those who can get the job done, without us they are toast. So if you're interested in climbing the corporate ladder and being one of the information-hoarding-bureacratic-
management-suckup types, then good luck in getting that great rating. If you're interested in working on intelligent products with intelligent people, the rating really doesn't matter. The ones with the real skills will find each other and from that will come great and exciting things.

Anonymous said...

"Another thing, Kevin mentions how he doesn't stack rank. Perhaps stack ranking woes aren't as pervasive as Mini would lead people to believe. You don't hear anyone in MSR complaining."

It's probably more accurate to say YOU don't hear any complaining. It's very quiet and peaceful when you have your head stuck ... in the sand. I've been in MS for almost 10 years now and watched a lot of morale decay from good people who are truely proud of our products. Mini is dead right.

wj said...

46 comments! holy nuts

Anonymous said...

You might as well write that you are scared of the pink elephants for all the good it will do you or MS. The exit interview is just a step up from just simply not showing up on your last day.

The HR contact in my last group was at least competent in scheduling a second informal exit interview to go over the reasons why I was leaving and if there were changes that could've been made to retain me. So not all HR people follow the same playbook.

Sadly at my formal exit interview, the HR person(a different person) was unable to answer some simple questions (i.e. was the vacation balance subject to 401(k) withholding).

Anonymous said...

What does level 56-60 mean? I see in one of the posts that they are the worker bees .

I have 6+ years of experience and am expecting an interview for a SDE/SDET position. Say if I get the job, what level would I be in?

I can understand if you guys dont want to understand the following question - Since MS has stopped paying out options and started with the restricted shares policy, has the salary compensation increased a bit? I have heard MS lowballs employees due to options.
Any change here?

TIA

Anonymous said...

I have 6+ years of experience and am expecting an interview for a SDE/SDET position. Say if I get the job, what level would I be in?

You'll get the lowest ladder level that HR can fit you in and still make a decent salary offer. Beware however if they stick you in a high ladder level to do it. As in IC, being at too high of a ladder level is the kiss of death in the stack rank. Being the new guy doesn't help either, but you're coming in at a good time since the annual review just completed.

I can understand if you guys dont want to understand the following question - Since MS has stopped paying out options and started with the restricted shares policy, has the salary compensation increased a bit? I have heard MS lowballs employees due to options.
Any change here?


The salary will be ok, but not great. It depends on your current salary and how well you negotiate. Beware if your level gets above 60 though. The stock will be small and useless. The bonus may be ok depending on how well you stack next year.

Be ready to focus on some shameless self-promotion to get up in the stack rank. Never voice disagreement, and always cheer the home team enthusiastically. One friend of mine writes and saves email notices of major accomplishments and then sets his alarm for around 3am and sends the email. Get back to bed and show up early the next day. The management at MS eats that kind of stuff up.

Anonymous said...

HR goal is aligned with any large beureucracy - it is a beast that knows how to feed itself. The total strength of MS HR is very large - its size is comparable to all of google itself.( It would be interesting to see how many companies there are in the US that employ as many people in their entire operation as MS HR organization). HR only adds to the overall cost and nothing to the revenue. One may argue that a large HR presence is required to make sure MS doesnt get sued but this function can be outsourced - it will cost MS less and we will get more from the outsourced company. There are many hard working and well intentioned people in MS HR - but the question really is for HR managers - MS is not a HR service providing company, is HR adding value for what they are getting paid for - is HR beureucracy's interest aligned with MS interest?

Anonymous said...

I agree with poster who pointed out that career at Microsoft has to be assessed like any other game: learn rules, play to win.

Some hints: Best you can do is one promotion every year. For that, you need demonstration of a large success every year. Best way to do this is to get commitment you can pull off in a year, do it, change groups (you stay, youre stuck with maintenance -> not sexy). You have to fight to get these commitments because everyone whos smart wants them. Your manager needs to respect you as person -> you aren't going to get that unless you talk and impress him weekly. Bring some good news or have observation about some risk and solution. Spend time every evening thinking what to tell him next day. Also: If you don't get raise and aren't 100 percent convinced you get it next year -> next group. The looser label is sticky, and you move with just loosing one year.

Anonymous said...

>HR goal is aligned with any large beureucracy - it is a beast that knows how to feed itself. The total strength of MS HR is very large - its size is comparable to all of google itself.( It would be interesting to see how many companies there are in the US that employ as many people in their entire operation as MS HR organization). HR only adds to the overall cost and nothing to the revenue. One may argue that a large HR presence is required to make sure MS doesnt get sued but this function can be outsourced - it will cost MS less and we will get more from the outsourced company. There are many hard working and well intentioned people in MS HR - but the question really is for HR managers - MS is not a HR service providing company, is HR adding value for what they are getting paid for - is HR beureucracy's interest aligned with MS interest?<

Outsourcing HR to a bunch of folks that don't understand our culture, don't understand our business, and act as a bunch of yes men and women for inmates that want to run the asylum? No thank you! HR provides a valuable service by bringing some sense of order to the chaos that is MS. They add value by being partners to the business not servants. One of the reasons that I like the fact that Lisa Brummel heads HR is that she has been with the company for years and understands the business end of MS. She is a much greater alternative to the individual that she replace. She is one of us. We already have enough "outsiders" coming in trying to mold the company in their image. Outsourcing to outsiders is not the answer.

Kevin Schofield said...

TheKhalif said above that a good system cannot be abused by anyone.

You're talking about a system where no one is trusted. I don't want to work in a company like that. The opposite end is also true; you don't want to completely trust everyone. You want to find the right middle ground, where people are generally trusted but there are appropriate checks and balances to catch mistakes. And there are the right incentives to encourage people to act in a trustworthy manner.

One of the side benefits of stack ranking meetings, where there's lots of screaming and arguing, is that it's a group learning experience; all the differences in how different managers value their employees are aired and debated. That's a very important check in large groups to make sure that certain managers don't go off the deep end. Interestingly (and I digress here), the same thing can be said for code review meetings; getting everyone in a room to debate the merits of a piece of code is a great way to build consensus on quality metrics.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft HR promotes beureucracy and promotes conflict between employees and managers. It works well in their interest to foment conflict as they can then go ask for more headcount. One becomes a HR Manager or GM of HR by introducing more process for managers and employees alike. ( how many times does one change the review form format? ) HR can ask for more headcount when more managers and employees go to HR for advice.

HR is not a solution but a problem for Microsoft.

TheKhalif said...

You're talking about a system where no one is trusted. I don't want to work in a company like that. The opposite end is also true; you don't want to completely trust everyone.

You seem to proceedign along with the assumption that nothing done by testers, devs, and managers can be EXACTLY QUANTIFIED. Not in comparison to other employees, but in pursuit of the bottom line. Release secure, usable software that is easily updated.

Stack ranking demands that people look at what the guy next to him ISN'T doing when he should be looking at how to help him. It demands that team members be more concerned with their own progression and therefore have to be careful who they ask for help and they miss the value of working together towards a goal. Harmony is a very important ingredient to team efforts and it seems as though this type of evaluation is causing disharmony.

If you look at the Normal distribution, it is totally against the idea of a successful business. A successful business wants as slim a curve as possible so that all facets of the work gets the proper attention.

Looking at the normal distribution, it is clear that there are only 5 data points, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5.
(We won't add the basically unreachable 5.0). This means that 3.5 is the mean(if the y axis denotes score) and that in order to truly fit the normal distribution, there has to be the same number of 2.5s and 3.0s as 4.0s and 4.5s. If there isn't a static set of metrics applied consistently for every position, then the managers have to use the ouija board system or spend most of their time micro managing to try and determine some scope for the curve to be applied to.

That is neither fair nor efficient for the manager or the team member(I HATE the term "IC individual contributor", it sounds like you are trying to avoid teamwork.)

Anonymous said...

Microsoft HR promotes beureucracy and promotes conflict between employees and managers. It works well in their interest to foment conflict as they can then go ask for more headcount. One becomes a >HR Manager or GM of HR by introducing more process for managers and employees alike. ( how many times does one change the review form format? ) HR can ask for more headcount when more managers and employees go to HR for advice.

HR is not a solution but a problem for Microsoft<

You know nothing about the HR business model. You should comment on things you know something about. HR is not the problem. That is the a huge over simplification and shallow insight

Anonymous said...

HR is not a solution but a problem for Microsoft<

You know nothing about the HR business model. You should comment on things you know something about. HR is not the problem. That is the a huge over simplification and shallow insight

Who designed the freaking review form and compensation model?

Anonymous said...

The Khalif wrote:
I never even knew there was a stack rank and I was in Windows for 5 years

No offence, but thats pretty sad if you didn't know after that long.

Anonymous said...

>Who designed the freaking review form and compensation model?<

A Consultant hired by Bill and Steve years ago when the company was at double digit growth. No body was complaining as long as the stock price was high. Given the fact that the company is was and still is one of the most successful companies in the world so the model worked. Now that the stock is flat. People want it changed. The company is more mature perhaps the model needs to be tweaked or changed but to blame HR for all that is not right with the current comp and review model is pretty weak.

Anonymous said...

So - widespread acceptance that there are bad managers; no idea how prevalent they are in corp. But: what should Microsoft do about this? Any constructive ideas about how to get rid of bad managers or force them to become better ones?

I_LOVE_MEETINGS said...

Geez. So much misinformation here. I am really surprised that so few (if any) middle- or senior- managers are saying anything.

Let's clear some of the rumours.

First, some background: I have been here for a looong time. I came in back when Developers were hired in as a "10" instead of a 59 or a 60. Years before the basketball courts were plowed to make room for the EBC. Back when there were half as many tiles as there are now in front of bldg 16. I now manage those who manage Developers, PGMs, and Testers. Saying too much more than that will give away who I am, but suffice it to say that I know what I am talking about.

Ok, here we go.

1. They do Stack Rank in MSN. I am not sure how Kevin's group is immune from that.

2. MSN is failing, and is mediocre, because it is staffed, for the most part, with mediocre people. MSN and all of the RedVest "Rest and Vest" teams are simply where the 2.5's, 3.0's, and burnouts from other (profitable) divisions go for in-office retirement. Hell, we've all been to RedWest, gazing at the women sitting around on the grass eating lunch, marvelling at the similarities between RedWest and a posh ski lodge. Many of us have seen the server labs that take up half of a floor, with their walls flanked with flat-panel HDTV LCD monitors that immediately switch from Halo2 to "Latest BVT Results" as soon as a senior manager walks in. Many of us know about the weekly morale events for the near-death teams (Autos, Homes) that include water-skiing on Sammamish and beer on Thursdays. The entire operation is a complete scam, and MSN should be spun-off as its own separate entity and allowed to die on its own. No more also-ran technologies. No more clueless SDEs and SDE/Ts who have benefitted from the rampant, stereoptypical MSN Level Inflation and promoted to L62 even though they only know how to write javascript and link together aspx pages. No more of my time spent warning my hiring managers to be wary when a L62 from MSN interviews for a L62 in our division, because more than likely the person is 2 levels higher than where he is supposed to be.

2. I severely doubt that if someone receives a 2.5 and is moved out of the org, that the ONLY reason it happened is because he/she voiced ONE dissenting opinion, one time, to ONE manager. 2.5's are held under careful scrutiny before they are given out, as are 4.5's. A lead/manager has to have some super compelling data that justifies giving someone either score. "He didn't agree with me once" simply does not cut it. On the other hand, though: "He never agrees with me, and is always moping around telling other people on the team that we are not doing the right thing, and in general is a drain on morale" is a solid justification.

3. I hate to say it, but here at MS, similarly to almost every other company in the world: Networking and social skills do help. If your manager likes you, and understands what you are doing, and sees your contribution, and doesn't see you as a drain on productivity or morale, he/she will go to bat for you.

4. The Stack Rank is a game, just like everything else. Learn to manage it. Learn to manage the perceptions that people have of you. Folks get ahead here because they increase their scope and span of influence. You'll get that next promotion when you have demonstrated that you can operate at that ladder level (in terms of scope, accountability, and skillset). A manager who promotes someone and then gives them a 2.5 (or sometimes, even a 3.0!) the following year OFTEN gets questioned. ("Why did you promote them to their level of incompetence? Are you not in tune with their ability?")

5. When the other senior managers and I sit around in {insert discipline here} Coordination Forum meetings, reviewing stack ranks for every team for that discipline in the division, there is always a person who is penciled in as a 3.5 yet who deserves a 4.0. When the manager cares, and goes to bat for the person with the right kind of data, I often see that person changed to a 4.0 instead. And do you know what helps? If that person has contributed in such a way that OTHER managers at that roundtable are aware of the contribution, and thus all can go to bat for the person. A senior manager is never going to argue a corner case, and is never going to push for someone whom they know has (choose one): angered folks on other groups, messed up a cross-team collaboration, rocked the boat with no apparent positive effect, etc.. A manager who cares will have collected the data beforehand, synched up with his/her peers prior to the coordination forum meeting, and communicated his/her intentions to "get an extra 4.0 for Susan". And when the support is there, it happens more times than not.

(Of course, this typically means that someone else might need to occupy the aforementioned 3.5 slot, which is where the "Rank" part comes in. But I digress.)

6. Someone asked, a few blog posts ago, why employees are asked to self-rank. For my teams, and the teams of my peers, the ONLY reason I want to see the self-ranking is because I care about the differential between the manager's rating of the employee, and the employee's self-rating. A differential implies a misalignment in understanding and/or communication. I always tell my managers: "The Review is not the time for surprises. If your direct ever leaves a review discussion surprised by the message or the overall rating, you have failed in communicating with that person over the last year."

7. A manager is NEVER forced to give someone a particular rating. If your manager says, "You deserved something else, but I had to give this to you because the curve forced me to", don't even bother escalating or pushing-back. Just start doing informationals and get the Hell outta dodge. If someone that weak has been promoted into a management position, it implies something about the overall caliber of the team that you really don't want to have to deal with. Trust me. I have seen high-performing, high-profile teams in my division where a full 40% of the team is given a 4.0, because the manager has gone to bat for the team, done the right thing, and made sure the VP(s) have understood why so many folks on the team need to be rewarded. Yes, again that means that there is a team somewhere else in the division that receives 40% 3.5s, or even 3.0s. At the end of the day, though, because we have divisions such as MSN which, in my opinion, are staffed with lifetime 3.0's, it all works itself out.

8. Yes, there are incompetent managers here. I have been here for a long time, and I am amazed that some of my peers are in the positions that they are. They are not leaders; they are pureplay "managers" who, because they can not innovate, lead, instill trust in others, or enable their teams to succeed... They spend the bulk of their time playing politics, name-dropping, dreaming up new processes that are ONLY meant to "get their name out there", etc.. It is frustrating, but I have seen it at other companies as well. My hope is that over time, the weak manager who promoted them eventually moves on, a stronger manager is put in place, and the person's incompetence 'rings loud and clear' with that new management. And that new management enacts change.

9. Yes, there are useless processes here. Some were obviously created by folks who were motivated to create them for their own self-preservation. It's not these people's fault; typically there is a situation where a person's ladder level demands an increase in scope, but the person is so hopelessly incompetent that they they are in a senior position on a product/team that has maxed out in terms of strategic impact. What's the solution? Make something up! No offense to Ben and the rest of the innovators on the Feature Crew effort, but there are parts of the FC process that were apparently put in place by people who just wanted to have their name on the FC process. Some of the fields on the Infopath form, some of the hoops Dev and Test need to jump through in Product Studio... The common conception is that they were put in place just so one person could say, "Hey that's the part I created". Yes, I predict that Ben, Dean, Stefan, etc etc may respond here and say "Let me know what improvements should be made..." For the record, you already know about them. I have told you in person. :-)

10. I have heard of people being prevented from interviewing for much longer than 90 days! I remember an acquaintance of mine who did an Informational with me for one of my teams last year. We spoke, determined there would be a good fit, and agreed to proceed with next steps. Immediately after that, he went dark on me. I pinged him a few weeks later, and he said that his manager had told him, "If you interview with that team and don't receive an offer, I won't be able to support you here any longer. Just wait until we ship, and then I'll help you". Mind you, this was last year, and the product in question won't be shipping until NEXT year. A 24 month 'stop loss'! I was going to say something, but the particular manager (a GM who over the years has also made a name for himself as being a complete incompetent) was "moved into a different opportunity" in another division only a few days later. And to make the situation a complete mess, the individual (who had almost a decade of tenure and a lifetime review average of ~4.0) left the company a short while after that.

11. I'll probably stop reading this blog soon, because most of the topics here are rehashes of the same issues, simply restated. But suffice it to say: We do work for the greatest software company in the world. Many love us, and many fear us. We are going through some growing pains. Some of them will be addressed as a result of the top-level reorg and subsequent reorgs that will be announced at lower levels in the future. Some won't be addressed until some of the mediocrity is drained out of the middle-management tier. But as Stephen mentioned in his blog: It will all work itself out. Posting here won't help; the gears are already in motion. If you want to expedite the cranking/turning of those gears, talk to your manager, or HR, or write up an anonymous letter and slip it under your VP or GM's door. :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear previous poster, thank you for your contribution.

We work in the same org. I am a mere IC, I have my issues with the way this org is run, I know of a number of leads and managers who frankly should not be working for Microsoft and should not be managing people.

I was starting to consider leaving because I saw no chance this would ever change, and I saw acquaintances in (you probably guessed) MSN leap far ahead in levels and compensation, knowing that they didn't have half my skill level.

I am now willing to wait a little longer. Your candid admission that, yes, we do have issues (with all the right specifics) and the determination to address them is very encouraging.

I was a bit disappointed with the "let the issues work themselves out" attitude towards bad managers. You need to be at management level itself to have enough pull to get some action there, and I'd love to hear about what you do to detect bad managers working for you directly or indirectly.

With respect to playing the game: As a dev, I don't control which features I will work on and cannot positively influence my visibility. My job requires that I spend much time locked in my office. Rewarding PM by visibility is fine (it comes with their job). Test has their hard metrics. Dev should be rewarded by the skill needed and the work invested, which is hard work for their managers, and a reason why bad managers hurt much more in dev than anywhere else.

Lou Giliberto said...

Hey Mini et al.

In my group we were having an e-mail discussion about process. Someone forwarded the link to Steven Sinofsky's blog entry on Bureuacracy.

In it he said:

We’ve put in processes that make no sense. We’ve decided things as an organization that are plain dumb. How do we excuse these? We don’t. MS people send me mail. I want to know about them.

So, I sent an e-mail to both him and Jim Allchin about process in Windows. I tried to make it not a rant, but I sure part of it ranted because it's a subject that burns me up.

But what I did was try to give personal examples of where the current process fails.

Jim Allchin took the time to respond to me, and he agreed with certain points, disagreed with others, and said he would look into trying one of my suggestions.

Steven Sinofsky thanked me for the mail and asked that I find some time to meet with him and bring some of my peers along.

So, on Friday me and 4 of my peers went and met with Steven. We outlined a bunch of problems we had with the process, how it affected us in our day-to-day jobs, etc. We had people from test, a dev manager, devs from two different windows orgs, etc. So it was from several points of view at the IC or low management level.

He listened, agreed with certain points, disagreed with others. He also challenged us to come up with a next step to fix things and offered to help us with it in any reasonable way he could.

BTW, Steven doesn't wear Gucci loafers. Though, he wasn't dressed like me either (hair past my shoulders, "No, I will not fix your computer" thinkgeek T-shirt, and torn jeans). AFAIK, Allchin doesn't wear Gucci loafers either. I don't have a foot fetish, so I usually don't pay attention to such things.

The thing to remember, especially about Sinofsky and Allchin, is that they started at a level where this stuff would affect them. They do understand how to do development. They weren't born into senior exec positions. They do have other concerns and a different view because they have different responsibilities at that level. So, opinions are bound to differ on some level.

But they obviously don't want things that stop us from shipping good products, so if there is a real problem, they want to know about it.

Sinofsky and Allchin want to fix any problems. When they disagreed with me, they were clear why certain processes were in place. That gives me an opportunity to offer an alternative to that process that may work better.

But, you can only have this kind of give-and-take discussion if you are willing to talk openly and face-to-face (or at least in e-mail).

Do I fear retribution? Nope. Because I didn't make a jackass out of myself, I stated things factually (with a tinge of bitterness and frustration), and by being non-anonymous they were given the opportunity to understand exactly how the process affected me and my peers.

By coming with some peers in a non-confrontational way to an invite from an exec, he was able to see this wasn't one disgruntled dev. Myself and peers have been at MSFT from probably like 3-13 years. We weren't people with a string of 3.0's (deserved or otherwise) looking to grind an axe.

But yes, I have received retribution from a manager who didn't like being confronted with the truth. The thing is, though, he could afford to be petty. A senior exec is not going to be petty. They don't have time to waste. They're not going to waste their time singling someone out who is trying to fix things even if it's bad news.

And it goes both ways. I don't waste their time. I'm not going to complain to Allchin or Sinofsky about a personal problem. If my manager is a jerk, I'll either tough it out or leave. HR is worthless as many people pointed out because they are there to protect the company, and admitting fault doesn't protect the company.

If you are going to raise heck at work about a serious problem, you need to target the right level, and you need to be clear about the problem.

In this case, comment was invited, so I took Steven up on his invitation. I never met the guy before because I was always in Windows or MSN, but if someone is willing to listen, I have something to say. I CC:ed Jim because Windows is his org, and I don't talk behind people's backs about them or their orgs.

Now, will things change based on the feedback given?

I don't know (LOL). Though I received agreement from both execs on certain items, some of the problems are really hard to fix. Some of them can't be done right now - you can't change how everything is built in the middle of a release, for example.

The important thing, though, is that I talked and was listened to without retribution. There is a way to provide feedback in the company without losing your job or getting a 2.5.

You have to find someone who wants to fix the situation. Managers apply retribution when they don't want to fix the situation or when they are the direct cause of it and they're CYA scumbags.

So, my advice is if someone says "I want to hear about it" the right thing to do is to tell them about it.

You can always find someone willing to listen if you try hard enough, and you won't get fired for telling the truth.

Anyhow, I just wanted to make the point it is possible to give non-anonymous feedback about touchy subjects. I encourage people to do so whenever possible.

dB. said...

First, most important topic, on parties. It's important not to forget that you have a life. That's why I moved to New York. I would have continued working for Microsoft maybe if there was a solid engineering organization in the city.

On warm bodies being culturally aligned with their managers and busy work.

I totally agree. That exists. But I have seen good managers getting rid of these people, compensate real work, real results. Note that my entire post was about people producing real value, not busy work or talk.

On people from 58 to 62 doing real work. I think there's a huge value to good management. For example, to enable you to do awesome work when you're a 59 and make the jump when you're 62 by giving you true responsibility.

Note that while you're successful the manager takes your work and "uses" it to be successful. But a good manager also takes the responsibility when things don't go well. And most importantly he will make you grow and reward you when your value is recognized. I've seen some managers fight fiercely for their reports to be promoted and given big raises for outstanding work.

An interesting read that includes some about management is Slack : Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom Demarco.

TheKhalif said...

But I have seen good managers getting rid of these people, compensate real work, real results. Note that my entire post was about people producing real value, not busy work or talk.

In my exerience they were the exception and not the rule. I had one good manager and he to the money and ran. Every other one was a sorry piece of crap. Of course, that's just my opinion. But when I look back at all the work I did in Windows, I KNOW THAT I CAN SAY WHATEVER I WANT.

TheKhalif said...

An interesting read that includes some about management is Slack : Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency


The best dev mgmt book I've ever read is Code Complete 2 by Steve McConnell. Everyone at MS should sleep with this under their pillow.

Anonymous said...

TheKhalif, you haphazardly mingle personal ax-to-grind observations with incorrect facts. What a load of crap.

Example: Seattle is not one of the "suicide capitols of the world". Not even close. Go play with Google for ten minutes and stop spouting crap.

Same for "56-60" leveling comment. You know not of what you babble. After 12 years at Microsoft as a dev, dev lead, and dev manager (the working kind, not the "building my house" kind) I do know what I babble about.

Campus hire SDETs and SDEs start at 59. Entry level devs are 59-60, 61-62 are more senior, and senior devs and dev leads start at 63. The majority of the code in any given product was probably written by 60-63 devs.

The test org used to have lower entry requirements (hiring at 58 and even 57, the old level 9) and thus a few years ago many test teams were quite low in average level. We hired "STEs" as well as "SDETs". STEs were test engineers. Right. Most of them banged on the product every day vainly trying to hit the "bug a day" quota (there mostly to keep them from sitting around playing Solitaire every day).

When not playing Solitaire, these STEs did mostly monkey testing (not quality ad hoc testing that's really of value, just manual BVTs every day, filing P0 "BVT broken" bugs). These guys were screaming to be replaced by a good automated test suite.

My product's test team was at 58.2 as the average level. Below today's campus hire! Jeez. Down came a mandate to get rid of STEs that couldn't code. And after cleaning house like that, we replaced about two thirds of the test team. We have a far stronger test team now, average level hovering just around 60. And guess what? Real bugs get found. Real automated testing suites have been written. Higher efficiency, higher productivity, higher morale on the team.

Oh, and it is a GOOD THING to point out where in the codebase the bug is. If you know, TELL. Ignore the discipline boundary. Any dev that objects should be bitch slapped by his/her tester, test lead, dev lead, and GM.

Futher, quality of bugs is what should matter most. Quotas are for lazy ass test leads & managers who can't tell the good from the bad.

Anonymous said...

Hey msofties, anyone feels a trace of Edelman PR in the air? Lou Giliberto and the manager who posted just before him, if you could only have a few words with the skeptical "bagholders" who've been killing our stock slowly...

Anyway, many thanks to that manager, whatever his real motivation may be. Could you address other points raised here too?

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, though: "He never agrees with me, and is always moping around telling other people on the team that we are not doing the right thing, and in general is a drain on morale" is a solid justification."

Unless of course the mgr and the team generally are dysfunctional - in which case, that employee is the only person really doing his job by pointing out what's wrong and trying to improve it. The problem with the "feedback" in cases like this is that the mgr is the gatekeeper and therefore can heavily influence the message. Need to show that other team members feel this employee is a drain? No problem, pick the 3-4 who you know like that individual the least (probably because his ability/performance is making them look bad) and use their feedback. Meanwhile, ignore the 8-10 others who's feedback might actually be hugely contrary and positive. Seen it happen on numerous occasions and be on the receiving end as well. It's all very well to say go along and get along, but high performers and others who take pride in their work aren't going to go along with dysfunction. They'd prefer to quit first - which is ultimately what I did.

TheKhalif said...

I never even knew there was a stack rank and I was in Windows for 5 years

No offence, but thats pretty sad if you didn't know after that long.



I guess I thought they were assholes who needed a lesson in strength of character.

TheKhalif said...

Example: Seattle is not one of the "suicide capitols of the world". Not even close. Go play with Google for ten minutes and stop spouting crap.

Same for "56-60" leveling comment. You know not of what you babble. After 12 years at Microsoft as a dev, dev lead, and dev manager (the working kind, not the "building my house" kind) I do know what I babble about.



Please. I know that Seattle has a VERY high rate of suicide. I lived there. I worked in several areas in the Windows division so I know about that too. You must be one of thoe "super-awesome" kissups.

TheKhalif said...

When not playing Solitaire, these STEs did mostly monkey testing (not quality ad hoc testing that's really of value, just manual BVTs every day, filing P0 "BVT broken" bugs). These guys were screaming to be replaced by a good automated test suite.


I probably replaced a few of them. I automated work on hundreds of machines. If I was a kissup, I'd probably be a GM.

TheKhalif said...

Example: Seattle is not one of the "suicide capitols of the world". Not even close. Go play with Google for ten minutes and stop spouting crap.

From the Seattle PI:


Seven hundred people committed suicide in Washington in 1998, according to the most recent numbers available from the state Department of Health's Center for Vital Statistics. Though the state rates have dipped to the lowest since 1985, Washington, like many Western states, is still above the national suicide rate of 11.3 per 100,000.

chunnibabu said...

A bit off-topic, but I figured that this will be a good spot to put some suggestions for Microsoft products. You have been complaining quite a bit about various things going on inside Microsoft, which I don't have first-hand experience in as I am not a Microsoft employee. But being a user of Microsoft products, I can say what is going on outside Microsoft, i.e lack of innovation in key products.

My suggestion is this: Instead of waiting for a complete overhaul of Microsoft OS, i.e, Vista to roll out, can Microsoft simply roll-out a upgradet to it's "Run" window, The idea is to index all exe files in the computer and allow incremental search of applications in the "Run" box. I see this as a simple feature addition to XP, that will not only win many hearts, but also stifle competition from Google in this space.

Anonymous said...

According to this document from the American Association of Suicide (not making up that name), Washington state was 17th in suicides-per-100,000-residents suicide rate in 2002. I couldn't find more recent data.

Thanks, Google!

Anonymous said...

It's all very well to say go along and get along, but high performers and others who take pride in their work aren't going to go along with dysfunction.

It really depends on how you define "performance" and "performers." In my current group, the performers are those who are the most theatrical and back-biting. So those who present the best to an audience and laugh the longest and loudest at the director's jokes have the best chance of promotions and higher review scores.

If by "performance" you mean getting lots of great stuff done without drawing attention to yourself, you won't do well in my group. It's all about getting the greatest number of people and higher-ups to know the super duper work you are doing--even if you have to spin the "super duper" part.

Anonymous said...

"Most of them banged on the product every day vainly trying to hit the "bug a day" quota (there mostly to keep them from sitting around playing Solitaire every day).

When not playing Solitaire, these STEs did mostly monkey testing (not quality ad hoc testing that's really of value, just manual BVTs every day, filing P0 "BVT broken" bugs). These guys were screaming to be replaced by a good automated test suite."

What? The ENTIRE test team was like this?

I'm happy that things have worked out well for your team and test org, but to say that any tester that can't code is worthless is simply not true. I know its the company edict - but it sends an inappropriate message about the business of "breaking things", which is NOT effected simply by writing code.

- While there are surely *some* test folks who should be let go, the same is true of developers and all other disciplines - test does not have a monopoly on non-professionalism

- Testing is NOT just something that you do because you can't write code, or as a stepping-stone. It is a distinct discipline. An expert tester is every bit as valuable as an expert developer, and the best developers write A LOT of test code, and have a good relationship with their test counterparts

- Automated test suites are as good as the tests they run (well, duh). As a company, we are still in our infancy in knowing how to write a good automated test, or even what a good candidate is.

Teams that are really doing well are the ones where all disciplines are involved as equal citizens from the get-go :-)



BTW, I'm a Dev Lead

Anonymous said...

"BTW, I'm a Dev Lead"

I call bulls**t. You're probably a tester. In my experience testers who can't code are worthless 90% of the time. In MSN I'd say it's 95% of the time. That doesn't mean they have to write automation, but if they can't code at all (and no, I don't mean writing little scripts for test harnesses) usually they're really not smart enough to justify the company spending money on them. The fact is, any tester who can't code can be replaced with a CSG at considerably lower cost, especially in MSN.

TheKhalif said...

- Testing is NOT just something that you do because you can't write code, or as a stepping-stone. It is a distinct discipline. An expert tester is every bit as valuable as an expert developer, and the best developers write A LOT of test code, and have a good relationship with their test counterparts

- Automated test suites are as good as the tests they run (well, duh). As a company, we are still in our infancy in knowing how to write a good automated test, or even what a good candidate is.



This is a very important statement. A good tester is worth more than 10 good managers. That is something that was missing when I was there as a STE\SDET. Testers are treated badly by dev PM and Mgmt. The funny thing is that if testers are happy, software goes out much better than if the manager is happy.

Anonymous said...

I call bulls**t. You're probably a tester. In my experience testers who can't code are worthless 90% of the time. In MSN I'd say it's 95% of the time. That doesn't mean they have to write automation, but if they can't code at all (and no, I don't mean writing little scripts for test harnesses) usually they're really not smart enough to justify the company spending money on them. The fact is, any tester who can't code can be replaced with a CSG at considerably lower cost, especially in MSN.

People that say things like this are lacking professional maturity. Yes, you can replace STEs with CSGs, but there are quite a few very productive STEs out there that keep coming back to the same position after their 100 day layoff for years. And there are good reasons for a test manager to want them - they know the environment and tools; they know the product and where to look for bugs; they know the dev team and are respected (and a little feared for their large number of sticking bugs). This is especially true if the area involves a lot of hardware and driver issues.

The problem with an attitude like yours is that these folks are moving on now that the economy has improved and they have no chance for a blue badge at MS. The CSGs that are replacing workers with several years experience are not even 10% as productive.

Testers that are good at it, even if they can write simple scripts at best, should be appreciated. It takes a lot of creativity to be good at that job. I always appreciated a tester that found some unusual and embarrassing bug - it's a lot easier to be embarrassed by a good tester then millions of customers!

Anonymous said...

I agree that good testers are valuable, but rarely do I meet one who can't code.

Consider this, for at least a year or two we've continuously heard that testers must be able to code or they're going to eventually lose their job, my take is that if someone is in a test position and hasn't learned to do some level of coding they are either too lazy or stupid to do it. I don't really want a person with that level of either apathy or stupidity testing my product. Any test manager or director who allows it (for any reason) should be fired.

Senior VPs should ask the following questions: 1) Do all of your testers know how to code? 2) What kind of bug count do they have if they can't? (it better be 10x higher than the coders with better quality bugs)

Sadly, we don't have Senior VPs with that kind of backbone.

Anonymous said...

"The CSGs that are replacing workers with several years experience are not even 10% as productive."

This hasn't been my experience at all. Most of the CSGs I've worked with lately have been much better than the losers we used to have. New eyes tend to make testing better a lot of the time, the CSGs who have been camping at one group for years quickly gloss over issues.

Anonymous said...

""BTW, I'm a Dev Lead"

I call bulls**t. You're probably a tester."

... as you like - good luck with that attitude ;-)

Regards,

IainC

Anonymous said...

The trouble with saying all testers should be able to code is the little varmints expect to be *paid* like they know how to code. Been there, done that, and got motivated to leave MS because of it. Yeah, I'm a tester who can code quite nicely, thanks. I learned to code because I like it and want to have a job where I can use that knowledge. Ya know, by actually coding? Test work isn't going away even if you re-level the testers out, and devs hate working in the lab.

Anonymous said...

"The trouble with saying all testers should be able to code is the little varmints expect to be *paid* like they know how to code."

It would be worth it. Do you really want someone who, knowing that their job is on the line, is too stupid or lazy to bother learning something new testing your product? I don't.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a "can of worms" was opened up regarding test. Mini - this is worthy of its own topic. After all - doesn't RIFing of STEs go toward your avowed goal?

The "now you're suddenly an SDET" career adjustment is painful:

- "New" SDETs struggle to learn and consolidate coding skills, some in environments where they're expected to continue former "STE" tasks
- Existing SDETs start to realize that they are need to look at the "T" in their title - I mean the folks who've been writing tools in some cases for years

- (Some) groups who'd rather just RIF the "old" STEs to hire folks who can already code - regardless of product knowledge and test know-how that's lost. (It gets "the numbers" up, y'see).

When I see "product goodness" measured in # of automated test cases or % of product testing automated, with no regard to integration and scenario testing, it makes me think of Emperors and (lack of) Clothes. Nice one, Test "Leadership" Team.

Anonymous said...

"It would be worth it. Do you really want someone who, knowing that their job is on the line, is too stupid or lazy to bother learning something new testing your product? I don't."

This is so sad. I'd say that the "too stupid and/or too lazy" contingent is a minority. There are other reasons:

1. (Boss) "Oh, you need to learn C#, and BTW, I also expect you to carry on running the full manual suite, as you learn C#, and another thing, while you're at it, automate the manual suite."
2. Some of the very best bugfinders, who find and get fixed the most important bugs, DO NOT NEED TO KNOW HOW TO CODE to provide this value

Being able to code is NOT a litmus test for a "good" tester. If it were, our devs would all be good testers, right?

Perhaps in a parallel universe, developers who are too lazy or stupid to learn how to test their code are being RIFed...

Anonymous said...

Regarding fiefdom's, Microsoft has done a lot to help create them in its customers. To give just one example, with NT customers replaced expensive, super-reliable unix boxes run by a small number of expensive, super-competent unix-heads, with lots of cheap, unreliable NT x86 boxes administered by many cheap, marginally-competent MSCE's.

The total costs often went up, but the cio's still kept pushing it. The reason is that, if you are building a fiefdom, you have a lot more status and power in the corporation if you have a lot of employees under you than if you have a big hardware budget.

A similar case is Windows. For a large portion of corporate tasks, cli is quicker to use and much cheaper to support than gui, but for fiefdom-building cio's the increased number support staff needed is a big plus.

Bill Gates figured this out long ago, and for a long time has centered much of Microsoft's strategy around helping fiefdom-builders.

Microsoft's big problem is that, ever since the recession starting in 2001, corporations have actually had their bean-counters take a hard look at IT spending, and one long-term result has been to move to technologies like open source and SOA that return some efficiency. All that is really bad news for Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

"I'd say that the "too stupid and/or too lazy" contingent is a minority."

That's all well and good, but you'd be wrong. We're not talking about rocket science here, and if a dev didn't know how to unit test their code and do basic debugging (something that testers who can't code usually suck at) I wouldn't want to hire them either, yet you have a different standard for testers. The fact is, there are gazillions of testers at Microsoft, basically hired because of the 100 days break in service bs, who can't code and are unwilling or unable to learn. If I were a hiring test manager, I wouldn't hire anyone who was hired after 1999 who can't code at least moderately well. If I had someone on my team, I wouldn't even rif them, I'd 2.5 their sorry butt, push them out or fire them and find someone who isn't one of the mistakes Microsoft made because of the temp lawsuit.

brendan said...

2. Some of the very best bugfinders, who find and get fixed the most important bugs, DO NOT NEED TO KNOW HOW TO CODE to provide this value

The ability to understand, change, and create code will always be valuable to a tester. Therefore, a tester who has those abilities will have an advantage over one who does not.

Being able to code is NOT a litmus test for a "good" tester. If it were, our devs would all be good testers, right?

You've got it backwards: coding doesn't make someone a good tester, but being unable to code makes a person less valuable than he/she could be. I won't go so far as to say it's litmus test for bad testers, but that statement is very tempting.

TheKhalif said...

The ability to understand, change, and create code will always be valuable to a tester. Therefore, a tester who has those abilities will have an advantage over one who does not.


Having been a tester in Windows, I can say that there are levels of coding that must be considered when evaluating a tester's ability to code. Testers are not usually CS grads, so it is unfair to say that a tester should be able to debug ATL or STL C++ code.

It does come in handy to be able to write in VB or JScript. I can actually see VB.Net being a good tool in that it doesn't take much to learn, but how can you pay a tester less when they're expected to test, debug and code?
And as someone else mentioned they have to do this while still running their manual areas? Testers have the most thankless job at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

"The ability to understand, change, and create code will always be valuable to a tester."

What's the difference between a non-coding tester and a beta tester? About $100,000 a year per tester vs. someone who will do it for a piece of software and the right to say that they got to play with the toy before everyone else. Having 10,000 beta testers is much cheaper than four or five level 59 or 60 testers at Microsoft and they'll find the same bugs. A tester who can code can generally debug better, see code-related problems quicker, offer better (more realistic) solutions and truly understand what it is they are testing. A non-coder is an expensive beta-tester.

Anonymous said...

"Testers have the most thankless job at Microsoft."

Dear Testers Who Can't Code at Microsoft,

Thank you for taking up space, doing the same thing that a beta-tester does, whining and acting as if you're as technical as I am, not knowing how to do debug well, not knowing the most elementary concepts behind that which you are "testing", pretending like you aren't surfing the web all day and im'ing with your friends and most of all thanks for helping the price of my stock drop tremendously over the past five years. Losers, I hope they fire you.

Anonymous said...

"You've got it backwards: coding doesn't make someone a good tester, but being unable to code makes a person less valuable than he/she could be. I won't go so far as to say it's litmus test for bad testers, but that statement is very tempting."

All other things being equal, I'd agree. In many cases, learning to code (IF these individuals are truly given the needed time and training) is a good thing....If all testers were equal, excepting an ability to code.

However, testers DO NOT have an interchangeable level of talent - take a look at any PS database. In the same way that all developers are not equally productive ("Mythical Man Month", and others), there is a huge - 1 - 2 orders of magnitudes difference - between the bug-finding skills of an average and an excellent tester. Many times - one or two individuals on a test team will be miles ahead in terms of not just quantity, but quality and "fix" rate.

What makes the difference? If I knew, I'd write a book ;-) A couple of observations, however:
--Excellent testers spend a great deal of time getting a solid repro, writing the bug concisely, discussing with the developer the situation as it evolves
--Excellent testers spend a great deal of time on meticulous follow up
--Excellent testers really know care about the product on which they work, and its users (possibly the biggest negative for outsourcing)

So if all testers need to code, well that's fine if you're in the middle of the pack; but the excellent, artisan tester's disproportionate contribution will be lost.

Would this scenario make sense?

"Well done! You found more high-quality bugs than everyone else on the team combined!

Your contribution was five times more than your nearest colleague!

Unfortunately, we want you to stop doing all that because we have no way to measure the worth of a craftsman. The good news is that we do know how to measure lines of automation code! Spend all your time becoming a mediocre coder instead, or you're out."

I'm not against automation at all. It's a very important tool, especially with the ground that has to be covered these days in terms of permutations. But it does not replace the value provided to us by our best testers.

Anonymous said...

Hey, we're currently at $24.46 per share. That's near a 5 year low! I'm pretty sure it has little to do with the stack ranking system and also that morale would be a lot higher if the stock weren't getting hammered.

Everyone should send a polite email to the new CFO, Chris Liddell, letting him know that you really really hope he is buying back lots and lots of stock at these low prices. Might as well make lemonade with these lemons. Sadly, the trading volume says he probably isn't and if he isn't, it's time for a new CFO.

This will be a great team building exercise: all joined in a common purpose, pulling together to have our voices heard and get something positive done that benefits everyone. Yeah! Just do it!

TheKhalif said...

Dear Testers Who Can't Code at Microsoft,

Thank you for taking up space, doing the same thing that a beta-tester does, whining and acting as if you're as technical as I am, not knowing how to do debug well, not knowing the most elementary concepts behind that which you are "testing", pretending like you aren't surfing the web all day and im'ing with your friends and most of all thanks for helping the price of my stock drop tremendously over the past five years. Losers, I hope they fire you.




Dear Devs at Microsoft who don't know how to format a drive,

WTF? You spent four years in college and can't find the disk manager?

Anonymous said...

"Would this scenario make sense?

Well done! You found more high-quality bugs than everyone else on the team combined!"

It wouldn't make sense, but it's a loaded question. In reality, they wouldn't learn at work, they'd learn outside of work. I've seen good testers going to night school to learn coding skills and becoming devs, why is it so ridiculous to have them stretch a little to learn some coding skills? Also, I've noticed that the majority of good bugfinding is done by CSGs, I think the blue badges have a little too much job security, generally they aren't what you describe (if that were the requirement we'd be firing 80%+ of our non-coding testers, which would be fine with me).

Anonymous said...

Of course the auto-conversion of all STE's to SDET's was a complete mess. I don't think anyone can name one STE who was actually fired. All of the sucky, "I can't write any code because I came to MS straight out of bartending school" blackbox drones are either still around, or were shipped to MSN with the rest of the underqualified garbage. But what more do you expect from a test "Leadership" forum comprised of such clueless, overpaid no-ops as grant and craig.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Devs at Microsoft who don't know how to format a drive,

WTF? You spent four years in college and can't find the disk manager?"

Never met one. I'd bet the ratio of testers to devs who don't know how to format a drive is about 20:1 at MS.

Anonymous said...

"If you're not going to leave the company (which how can you not expect people doing) the only option I know of is to actually do an informational and an informal interview (like, if I pass this first interview, let's set up a real interview loop). If things are a success at that point, you'd have the other potential group bearing down on your current manager / HR rep and usually that's enough to set the gears in motion to at least get an interview."


There is a required piece of data that you have missed. In order to interview with a new team you have to get written permission from your manager. If your manager decides to splash your opportunity to interview he/she can do so. I have put a stop to several people that wanted to interview due to performance issues that they neede to resolve before I felt comfortable enough to let them leave my group.
HR never questioned why I splashed these requests - they just took my Do Not Interview as enough to exclude the person from that position. It is certainly possible & quite easy to execute a stop loss strategy and make it exceedingly difficult to have people move from your group and without HR or the hiring team forcing the issue.

Anonymous said...

Testers who can't Dev. Devs who can't format disks. Managers who can't manage. Directors who can't direct. On top of that, inhuman HR? I just wish I could blog.

Anonymous said...

There is a required piece of data that you have missed. In order to interview with a new team you have to get written permission from your manager. If your manager decides to splash your opportunity to interview he/she can do so. I have put a stop to several people that wanted to interview due to performance issues that they neede to resolve before I felt comfortable enough to let them leave my group.
HR never questioned why I splashed these requests - they just took my Do Not Interview as enough to exclude the person from that position. It is certainly possible & quite easy to execute a stop loss strategy and make it exceedingly difficult to have people move from your group and without HR or the hiring team forcing the issue.


Why would you speak like this? Are you 100% in the right? Or maybe you are a co-owner at the MSFT plantation...
Otherwise, how is it that all bad apples decided to meet in your basket? Aren't you one of those managers who keeps as many employees locked for as long as you can so that you won't have to turn off the lights?

Anonymous said...

>What makes the difference? If I knew, I'd write a book

The book has already been written: "Lessons Learned in Software Testing" by Cem Kaner, James Bach, and Bret Pettichord.

Anonymous said...

>Dear Testers Who Can't Code at Microsoft,

Dear Developers Who Can't Code at Microsoft,

Your own incompetence is our job security. Until you code monkeys stop attempting to pawn off bug-infested garbage on our customers, we'll be around to point out your humiliating blunders.

Love and kisses,

Microsoft Testing

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the other posters here.

Everytime I or anyone else I've worked with has raised a dissenting issue they've been dinged in their review for not going with the flow. Even if they were proved right.

I was on a team that imploded due to incompetent management and HR was brought in to figure out what wrong. After interviewing 2/3 of the team, all of whom reiterated that the team was managed like crap, the Director was promoted to VP and the 2/3 of the team that were interviewed were riff'd.

I worked at Microsoft twice and had two exit interviews. Both times the the interviews were done with someone from Kelly Services who told me that they only asked questions to make the exiting employee feel better. They didn't do any sort of formal report afterwards.

Who da'Punk said...

Hey! Testers, Devs, bouncing insults back and forth: take it elsewhere. Holy smokes! I certainly appreciate that there might be some grudge here worth diving into but it's mostly noise at this point.

I'll say I highly value testers. Microsoft's customers are far better off for the test organization we have. Good testers are incredibly hard to find.

The whole STE to SDET transition was sort of odd. I appreciate deep black box testing a lot more than automation wrangling.

Anyway, let's please end the dev vs. testers argument.

Mini.

TheKhalif said...

Hey! Testers, Devs, bouncing insults back and forth: take it elsewhere. Holy smokes! I certainly appreciate that there might be some grudge here worth diving into but it's mostly noise at this point.

I'll say I highly value testers. Microsoft's customers are far better off for the test organization we have. Good testers are incredibly hard to find.

The whole STE to SDET transition was sort of odd. I appreciate deep black box testing a lot more than automation wrangling.

Anyway, let's please end the dev vs. testers argument.



Dear Mini,

Sorry for that but I hate it when people dump on testers who have a hard enough job.

My point was and is that testers are needed just as much as devs and more than managers.

Anonymous said...


JUST GO HOME MAN!!!
I AM TIRED OF THIS DEV/TEST/PM SHIT
YOUR STOCK IS ANYWAY TANKING
WTF!!!
SO SHUT UP AND GO TO STEVE S./JIM
THANK YOU AND DONT COME AGAIN.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Microsoft twice and had two exit interviews. Both times the the interviews were done with someone from Kelly Services who told me that they only asked questions to make the exiting employee feel better. They didn't do any sort of formal report afterwards.

This is exactly the sort of crap from HR that I find annoying. They lecture us on honesty and integrity as corporate values and then do shit like this. I don't know - it reminds me of Alice's Restaurant:

"Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to
ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I'm
sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W bench
'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women,
kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug."

Anonymous said...

"Your own incompetence is our job security. Until you code monkeys stop attempting to pawn off bug-infested garbage on our customers, we'll be around to point out your humiliating blunders."

Apparently it's not working so well, test orgs see more RIFs and constructive discharges than any other type of role at Microsoft (probably moreso than the janitorial staff). Moron.

Anonymous said...

I was a HR person at Microsoft before I left - I am laughing all the way - you need more of us to solve your problems ;- ). Although the MS HR is one of the most wasteful orgs around - its headcount will only grow.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the post that calls for outsourcing HR. It is not MS core functionality and is clogging microsoft's veins. They introduced cost cutting which in some cases increased costs - there was a thinkweek paper about HR going overboard.

Anonymous said...

Devs VS Testers, one last time...

Microsoft needs both excellent testers and excellent devs to succeed. I can only speak for Office, but Test management here has been focussing on the wrong metrics for the last 5 years: bug count and Fixed/Other ratio is all that matters in getting ahead. As a result, the quality of the individual bug has gone down, and many of the good testers have left. As a previous poster pointed out, solid but minimal repros, information about reproducibility across operating systems and configurations matter. Practically, most bugs boil down to 'I encountered this one problem one time without taking the time to explore'. You cannot blame the testers, this is the only way for them not to get dicked come review time. It is a counterproductive trend though.

Coding: from personal experience some of my very best testers could not code at all. I also know some good testers who are good coders. The qualities do not correlate.

The move to migrate everyone to SDET has resulted in much anxiety, wasted time used to write both marginally good and atrociously useless automation. Some automation is a good thing. Too much is paralyzing the org by pointless failure investigations. Automation will never replace a great tester.

Mighty Mouse said...

Wowza, that's some thread going there...I do confess that my eyes glazed over a bit during the dev/tester spat.

Here's how it breaks down for me. The Microsoft review system is inherently corrupt because: 1) stack ranking against peers is impossible...you can put a bunch site managers in a row and say their peers but one site is not the same as the other so are they really? 2) The enforced bell curve that stipulates a specific number of review scores regardless of performance. 3)Performance metrics that are squishy. How do you measure "occasionally" vs. "frequently" exceeds expecations? 4) There is no recourse to resolve a disbute between manager and employee over the review score. My review score has been consistently higher than that of my manager and nothing has come of it. 5) No one at Microsoft will admit to this corruption because it governs perception of their own performance. If my score is bogus...then that 3.5 or 4.0 or such of theirs must be suspect.

You are your review score. I believe that few managers take the time to look at the actual reviews. If they did, they'd see two written responses from me. Or, they see manager review comments that are so nonsensical they did not require a response.

Not enough people want to solve this problem and so it will not be solved. Good people will leave or be "managed out" and they will go to better places and do excellent work there. Breaking the silence about this is the only hope for change of any kind.

TheKhalif said...

I can only speak for Office, but Test management here has been focussing on the wrong metrics for the last 5 years: bug count and Fixed/Other ratio is all that matters in getting ahead. As a result, the quality of the individual bug has gone down, and many of the good testers have left.


I actually noticed this in 2000 when I was in Windows. Sure you want testers to find bugs, but you moreso want them to be knowledgeable about their area. I knew testers who found the dumbest bugs ever and were praised. I really hate those bugs where it's something the end-user would never do and the product gets broken because a dev was forced to fix an inocuous "error."
Testing is as much of an art as development. I have excelled at both and can attest to it.
It is also true that the two are not interchangeable.

Anonymous said...

I agree for the most part, but I learned to code because it helped my testing. I left the company because the politics are insane and I noticed that most of the testers I worked with got great review scores without being able to code and barely writing any bugs (I know someone who got a 4.0 and logged less than 12 bugs over the course of a year, no coding skills). Microsoft testing has gone completely downhill. MSN is the worst. Now I work at a place with mostly ex-MS testers who kick ass, but there are about 500 employees, no politics, etc. You would be amazed at how many of my ex-coworkers bug me to get them a job.

Anonymous said...

Any review system in a corporation this size attempts to mechanize the process of reviewing. In spite of this, all systems are worked around in one way or another.

You really only need one commitment:

Did you do what was needed to meet or exceed your customers' expectations?

I'm tempted to do this next time around for my directs. The answer to this question would be the justification (or not) for merit, promo, bonus etc.

I broadly know what my commitments are, but I don't look at them regularly. I see what needs to be done, and get it done.

Value to the people who use our tools (support) or buy our software is the ONLY thing that should matter come review time. Having other (in many cases) arbitrary goals to meet does not add to this value.

Wow - what a topic!!

Anonymous said...

"It really depends on how you define "performance" and "performers." In my current group, the performers are those who are the most theatrical and back-biting."

The fact that we have to parse "performance" vs "performers" says everything about what's wrong with MSFT. In most successful orgs, it's understood that you can't be a performer unless you actually perform. At MSFT however, it's too often sufficient to simply be "perceived" to be a performer and/or well-liked. In the good ol days of high growth, the company was able to get by despite this. Now, with growth in the single-digits and a crop of new, aggressive competitors, the impact of this dysfunctional culture is becoming more and more evident every day.

Anonymous said...

"I'm tempted to do this next time around for my directs."

This isn't directed at you because at least you are conscious of this, but most managers at Microsoft are cowards and wouldn't dare stir the pot, nor do they care that they are screwing with people's lives and identities.

dead wood said...

As a STE who wrote test code at Microsoft for 5 years, I filed over 1000 bugs, over 600 bugs were fixed...less than 10% kicked back as won't fix or not repro. I pushed to get the horrid parts of my components re-written but management didn't see it as a priority. Dev and Test agreed that we had the wrong design and management refused to listen.

Beta testers don't scour the program for memory leaks, or globalization bugs, or find how far it will scale, or carefully search for security bugs, or reproduce that bug that only happens one out of every 100 times.

When schedules are compressed, dev struggles to get code in under the deadline and checks in buggy code. When code is buggy, it takes testers a lot longer to get through a test pass. Test is the last part of the cycle and we are always under huge schedule pressure. Between projects, dev gets downtime but test has been left to automate as much as possible with no time to re-tool.

I love finding bugs, but testing at Microsoft has become a painful job over the last few years with so many illogical quality gates and fluxuating standards.

Contrary to some Dev opinions, most testers barely have the time to document and perform tests and then automate tests...most SDETs don't have the time to look at your code. It is fun when we can do code reviews, but there usually isn't enough time for it and test managers chew us out for wasting time looking at dev code.

The drive to automate tests frequently prevented me from manually testing and finding good bugs. I had a 4.0 when I worked with great devs. I had a 3.0 when I worked with devs that didn't care and I was constantly fighting very buggy code. It can take 2-20 times as long to automate a test than it takes to do it manually.

The lack of a 360 degree review and the tight deadlines encourage increasing dev/test/management animosity. The stack ranking adds additional discouragment to working together as a team.

Competition is fine, but you can get so much more done if you are working as a true team.

I am much happier and more productive outside of the company on a team where people have a range of skills and cooperate rather than beat eachother up. That means not only the testers working as a team, but the testers working as a team WITH the developers AND the managers.

If Microsoft moves to 360 reviews and assigning compensation to feature teams instead of just to individuals, I would consider returning.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of the test org completely. We do not need to have a deep-silo test organization. The skills required in dev and test are similar, and by definition a dev should be able to test (and vice-versa).

Lets solve the issue and reduce headcount by having the same people do both. So the person that devs component A also tests component B and the person working on component B tests component A.

Anonymous said...

"if you could only have a few words with the skeptical "bagholders" who've been killing our stock slowly..."

The only person killing the stock is MSFT through slowing growth, an inability to ship, lack of customer-centric focus, declining competitiveness, huge ongoing losses in the emerging businesses, massive charges for legal and various employee bail-outs, the hopelessly ill-advised $35B one-time, the pathetic dividend, significant ongoing dilution, and a mgt team that is totally unresponsive to shareholders or the street while leading the entire industry in insider selling. So instead of blaming shareholders for being skeptical and killing the stock, blame yourself and your mgt team for what's been years now of sub-standard operating results and execution. Frankly, I'm amazed that MSFT shareholders haven't organized and called for Ballmer's head - they have at numerous other companies including ones with much better 3-5 yr stock track records that MSFT's.

Anonymous said...

"Beta testers don't scour the program for memory leaks, or globalization bugs, or find how far it will scale, or carefully search for security bugs, or reproduce that bug that only happens one out of every 100 times."

So I'm still trying to see the different between beta testers and the current testers at MSN...

Have you ever used Carpoint? Mobile? Money? Shopping? Passport? Seriously, an infinite amount of monkeys over an infinite period of time might be able to spin out a copy of Shakespeare's complete works, but they couldn't create something nearly as crappy and useless as MSN.

Anonymous said...

As a hiring manager I realized the obvious recently, which speaks volumes of where we were...

The reason that good talent is hard to come by (in any discipline) is that suddenly...folks just don't want to come to Microsoft any more, the way we just assumed they wanted to!

I think that the pull used to be the opportunity to get things done - to make a difference. This ability is dwindling rapidly, to paraphrase Monty Python,

Aww, you're no fun any more.

And yes, people having fun at work makes them keep coming back. It currently sounds like Google may be having fun right now, and likewise the many other small companies that are looking for passionate people who want to make a difference.

"Fun" has been stripped away in many cases by mandated tools and process. Tools and processes are important, but boiling all the vitamins out of useful data to present as three bullet points is not...
"Fun" can arise from true empowerment, which is rarely seen. Anyone care about getting the fun back? Fun's a close friend of "passion"...

Anonymous said...

There was a post about the HR folks and their intellectual horse power. I think they are politically the most astute around though they cant hold candle to L53 admins in getting things done. The MS HR group has hired people from the big companies - to introduce similar beureucracy here.

The funny thing is that none of the rules that apply to non-HR employees applies to HR. They dont have CSPs, they are called by titles such as HR Manager, Senior HR Manager etc. without any reports. This would be blasphemy in a product group and HR would be jumping head over heals to fix the titles.

They dont work hard ( 9 - 5 at best ) , dont add value and their numbers keep on increasing when others get RIF'd or offshored. The HR group will be the last to get fired - after all the product groups are disbanded.

TheKhalif said...

Lets solve the issue and reduce headcount by having the same people do both. So the person that devs component A also tests component B and the person working on component B tests component A.

This is a totally irresponsible statement. If devs are already working 10 hour days without having to do unit, regression and stress testing how will they possibly add those and actually sleep aometime.

As a STE\SDET, I know you can't do both. At least not thoroughly.

Anonymous said...

Someone already mentioned "Mythical Man Month" above - makes me wonder how many people in our product groups have actually read it? From personal experience, I'll say not enough..

Anonymous said...

I am surprised at why developers and even some testers dont like the idea of automated testing.

I work for a company where we offer test solutions (fully automated) for telecom operators and I dont know how you would get by without them.

Point taken, that testing out standalone software OR OS such as Office/Vista requires manual testing.
But if you consider your groups such as MED, RTC there can be a lot of automated testing which can be done seamlessly and that can pump a lot of traffic to break the protocol stack.

I dont know what is the difference between STE and SDET. Are they interchangeable?
If you consider a product with millions of lines of code, how would you get by without testers. Every company has a QA team and in fact, MS's own QA team concept is very good, but it may not be the best thing currently due to various process roadblocks and how you categorize the performance of a tester. (like how many bugs found / Vs fixed/found, etc).

For all of you guys complaining about delay in release shipment, I am pretty sure you guys will be screwed if the developers perfomed the same role as testers. The way you guys develop itself is a little bit off-the-beat approach.

I think the blog is getting digressed because some moron wanted to piss of on all testers.

You know I write automation suites which involves complex protocol processors and there is no way you can sit and manually do this.

Consider testing CDMA/PTT handsets. Are you going to be doing the same test for a series of handsets? And for how long?

Manual testing and Automated testing are two different spectrums of testing and they both cannot be mixed. I can try and test the functionality of MS Word as a COM object, but that will not be the same as testing the UI functionality even though the background engine may be the same.

I think it truly depends on the problem space that you are looking at.

Curious anybody can update me, what is the difference between STE and SDET?

The way you guys write looks like STE cannot code. Does it mean that SDET will do only aotumated testing?

thanks

Anonymous said...

>They dont work hard ( 9 - 5 at best ) , dont add value and their numbers keep on increasing when others get RIF'd or offshored. The HR group will be the last to get fired - after all the product groups are disbanded.<

Here we go! Another ignorant and shallow comment directed at HR. The HR folks in my organization put in long hours especially during review time mid year and people review. Our HR Manager is in their office long after a lot of folks have left the parking lot. A lot of the folks that are in HR may leave at 5 because of families but are definitely on line late at night. ENOUGH WITH THE HR BASHING! They should not be the scapegoat for much deeper issues. Most of the folks that I know in HR have a high degree of integrity, are passionate about Microsoft and committed to making the company better. They work hard, put in a lot of long hours and get no respect from individuals who have no idea of the challenges they are faced with.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised at why developers and even some testers dont like the idea of automated testing.

A few points from Kaner's book:

-Automated tests rarely find new bugs, the percentage he cited was in the single digit range. This should be intuitively obvious, as they're checking a static set of things in a static fashion.
-Test automation code is itself prone to bugs.
-Test automation needs to be documented and updated or it just rots away as the code it tests (or even the platform it runs on) changes under it.
-Test automation has to be focused on the right things and that takes a skilled tester. (I'm reminded of a test case set written by a team we outsourced to that covered things only peripheral to the product while missing most the core functionality. That was a waste of a couple hundred thousand $.)

Test automation is great, but it has limitations, requirements, and costs that have to be kept in mind.

TheKhalif said...

I think it truly depends on the problem space that you are looking at.

Curious anybody can update me, what is the difference between STE and SDET?

The way you guys write looks like STE cannot code. Does it mean that SDET will do only aotumated testing?


This is an excellent point and an excellent question. In 2002, there were actually two kinds of STEs. There were ones who worked on manual UI testing with one or two machines and ones who controlled hundreds of lab machines that needed automation run on them.
These lab people are the STEs that did most of the coding, but even then it was minimal and in VB and JScript. Whereas at the time SDETs wrote the automation that was run on the lab machines using C++\C#.
From what I'm hearing the STE title is going away and I guess every "tester" will have to use VB.Net or something.

Still you will need "pure" manual black box testing, so even though automation handles large permutations in complex services and APIs, there is still a need for people who can setup environments, coordinate results, triage HW problems, etc.

Anonymous said...

Curious anybody can update me, what is the difference between STE and SDET?

See the msft test career page.

Anonymous said...

ENOUGH WITH THE HR BASHING! They should not be the scapegoat for much deeper issues.

Yeah, I guess that's right. You people are just the Brown Shirts for our Corporate Masters. We should all admire you.

TheKhalif said...

-Automated tests rarely find new bugs, the percentage he cited was in the single digit range. This should be intuitively obvious, as they're checking a static set of things in a static fashion.
-Test automation code is itself prone to bugs.
-Test automation needs to be documented and updated or it just rots away as the code it tests (or even the platform it runs on) changes under it.


Ain't it the truth. I have seen automation do more to take up a tester's day than actually looking for bugs.
The problem is that test automation is actually technically harder than app\os development. Not only do you have to be as transparent as possible but you have to actually manipiulate the API and verify that the API was at fault and not your code.

I just worked on something that....

Anonymous said...

HR bashing - what's wrong with working 9-5? That's what you are paid for?

Anonymous said...

Mini, here's a suggestion for one of your topics. Great blog by the way from a blue badge across campus. I think it's great to get the blood boiling a bit and flush out these conversations. MSPoll is somehow watered down and not really reflecting the feelings of the average employee. Not sure if its the pages and pages of questions or what. I have enjoyed watching SteveSi's responses to your blogs. What has been happening over the past couple of months is a wake up call.

It really enhances competition and I do believe it gives upper management a chance to look at how they are doing things.

My suggestion is to build a table of MS benefits vs. Googles. This would give blogger readers and employees on both sides to step back and look at what they both have. I've included a couple of links. The Chef with free lunch and dinner sound a bit better than the free pop, but the MS 401(k) goes a lot further than Googles'. I would like to see HR take a good look at some of the "employee" investments that Google is making. One that stood out as well was the incentive to drive fuel effent cars. I'd like to know more about that one.

MS Benefits:
http://members.microsoft.com/careers/mslife/benefits/plan.mspx

Google Benefits:
http://www.google.com/support/jobs/bin/static.py?page=benefits.html&benefits=us



Google Benefits Summary:
Life insurance: 2x salary,
Paid Vacation: 15 first, 20 at 4th, 25 at 6th year,
12 paid holidays,
gift matching up to $3000,
free lunch, dinner w/ chef & munchies,
oil change, car wash, dry cleaning, massage therapy, gym, hair stylist, fitness classes and bike repair


Microsoft Summary of Benefits
Life: maximum of six times your annual base pay or $1,000,000, whichever is less, Vacation:
15 first, 20 at 6th, 25 at 12th year, 7 paid holidays?,gift matching up to $12000, Free drinks,
health club membership,
Company store: Discounted software, selected HW and games
ESPP: Up to 15% with 10% discount
Routine legal: adoption, divorce, wills, etc..

* Similarities removed

Anonymous said...

My understanding per information provided by HR is that there is about a 10% increase with each level, meaning that, if a level 59 makes around $73000 salary annually, this means that a level 66 would make $73000 * (1.1) ^ (66-59) = ~$142000 salary annually.
Completely accurate. I know how much my manager makes, and it is about twice what I make. Here is the twist, In four years, that manager hasn't shipped what they were hired to ship. Sucked into the process, and petty feature "parity" requests, etc.

In the 6 years (and 8 managers), I've been here, it's gone from a "teamwork" mentality to a "watch your back" stab-a-thon.

How to make it better?
You can't - "it'll work itself out", right? yeah, sure it will. Stay sharp, bounce into a new group every year, and play the game.

Anonymous said...

I went through an exit interview not an awful long time ago at MS. Now I know some folks who didnt bother showing, just dropped the badge at reception. I know others who showed up and noted it being a formality.

For my experience, I took the time to ask every question I had about exit benefits and such. The fellow who conducted the interview was helpful and answered all the questions he could. Those he couldnt answer, he researched and contacted me to answer them a few days later. When we got to the "why" question, I asked how long he had blocked out. And I let it all out. The review process. The internal transfer politics. The directions the company was taking. The lack of action within my group on negative feedback in the company poll. I backed up the dump truck and emptied it. I went item by item down my notes.

To his credit, he listened attentively only interrupting to postpone a task he had on his schedule.

Now whether or not he acted on my opinions and experience is not known to me. But he at least did the courtesy of listening to me until i was done.

Anonymous said...

"Get rid of the test org completely. We do not need to have a deep-silo test organization. The skills required in dev and test are similar, and by definition a dev should be able to test (and vice-versa).

Lets solve the issue and reduce headcount by having the same people do both. So the person that devs component A also tests component B and the person working on component B tests component A."

You could not be more wrong if you devoted the rest of your life to it.

Your comment reminds me of a dev manager i worked with once who said in a large meeting consisting of most of the dev and test orgs in our group..."We dont need test. That's what the users are for" I am pleased to report that he is long gone from MS

You are correct in that test and dev need similar *technical* skills. A testers bugs are far more valuale if they can point to specific code than the (all too often) "Is broken, please to fix"

But good testers have a very different set of other skills. I have worked with developers who decided to give testing a try and it is a steep learning curve for them to discover those skills. Devs typically solve a problem with code. A tester as to figure out *all* the ways that code can go haywire *and* ensure that when it does, the customer doesnt have a poor experience (poor== everything from incomprehensible error messages, if they exist at all to loss of user data) The developer who understands and can "think like" a tester is rare and usually worked in test before becoming a developer.

Anonymous said...

"My suggestion is to build a table of MS benefits vs. Googles."

What's the point? MSFT has to make its decisions based on its reality not GOOG's - just like you have to vs the richest guy on your street. Take a look at SG&A for MSFT which has mushroomed by 50% over the past 5 years. With the trend in operated earnings only now starting to turn positive again, there's no way MSFT can do across the board increases in benefits. What can be done is perhaps redistribute the current pot more fairly. Will that mean that more people go to GOOG? Probably. Will that affect MSFT? Probably. Will MSFT have to find a way to deal with it? Yes, just like IBM did when its growth slowed and it lost top people to the up and comers such as MSFT.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mini,

I feel like the original intent of your blog - which was about how to help our company identify and perhaps stop some of its potentially fatal behaviors - has deviated way off course into a Redmond-centric developer and tester bitch session. I'll check back in a couple of weeks to see if you have it back on some kind of constructive track.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, are most of the people reading these comments retarded... the reason for the expectation that testers can code is *NOT* necessarily that they can create automation, it's so you can UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE TESTING.

I wouldn't want a home inspection from someone who doesn't understand the basics of plumbing, that doesn't mean I want them to do plumbing work on my house. Understanding how plumbing works will help the inspector find issues with the plumbing system if they exist. Can he find issues without that knowledge? Yes, but he/she will generally find more issues and reporting for them will be better quality if he/she really understands the concepts behind plumbing.

TheKhalif said...

I feel like the original intent of your blog - which was about how to help our company identify and perhaps stop some of its potentially fatal behaviors - has deviated way off course into a Redmond-centric developer and tester bitch session. I'll check back in a couple of weeks to see if you have it back on some kind of constructive track.


The problems between dev and test are just as important as bad reviews from bad bosses. Plenty of testers have left becaus ethey weren't appreciated.

And for anyone who feels that optimizing testing and optimizing coding can be done by the same person, I want you to write a 20,000 line component with 15 features with 15 permutations and 50 data points and 5 public entry points, then unit, regress, stress, and ad hoc test it. After that, fix any bugs you found and optimize the code using factry patterns, and go back through the tests.
I bet you scream and run out into the night after one or two cycles.

TheKhalif said...

I wouldn't want a home inspection from someone who doesn't understand the basics of plumbing, that doesn't mean I want them to do plumbing work on my house. Understanding how plumbing works will help the inspector find issues with the plumbing system if they exist. Can he find issues without that knowledge? Yes, but he/she will generally find more issues and reporting for them will be better quality if he/she really understands the concepts behind plumbing.


Let's look at it like this. Do you know how to setup a crossforest trust with two child domains? Or can you setup a domain DFS root? Do you know how to use the unattend file for Setup?

It would be great if all devs knew thingslike that but they aren't necessary, just like testers don't really need to know how to use a void pointer or HResult. Mini actually needs to post about the disparity between test and management. Test is necessary, multiple management layers are not.

Anonymous said...

Well, to be fair Khalif (and at the risk of continuing the "Yes it is/No it's not" debate...): people aren't avocating that anyone test their OWN code. That's like editing your own writing - not a good idea. You're too close to it to see the problems.

TheKhalif said...

Well, to be fair Khalif (and at the risk of continuing the "Yes it is/No it's not" debate...): people aren't avocating that anyone test their OWN code. That's like editing your own writing - not a good idea. You're too close to it to see the problems.

SO you're saying that they should test each other's code? That means that each dev has to learn about "TESTING" the other person's code manually. This is not to do with "yes it is...." but the fact that no one wants to admit how imortant testers are, which shows that there is a problem there and it should be looked at. A lot of managers enjoy dumping on testers while worshipping even bad devs.

Anonymous said...

"Let's look at it like this. Do you know how to setup a crossforest trust with two child domains? Or can you setup a domain DFS root? Do you know how to use the unattend file for Setup?"

Once again, I don't think testers should know everything about coding. Let me put it this way, I don't know any devs who don't know how to do fundamental (unit) testing on their code (I do know some who are too lazy to do it well, admittedly). Why shouldn't testers know something fundamental about coding (especially debugging code) when they test?

Anonymous said...

Test vs Dev or Test need to have the ability to code -

It sure sounds like there are some devs in denial posting here.

First if our devs weren't human than perhaps we wouldn't need testers. However since they are human it's obvious that we need someone to assist in verifying their work.

In regard to testers needing to have the ability to code. Test needs a diverse set of skills. You need people who understand code, you need people who understand competitors products, you need people who can be customer advocates but most of all you need people who are truly interested in how things work. Sometimes you are lucky and you get this from people who can code sometimes you don't.

Measuring a tester on bug metrics is just stupid. A highly skilled tester paired with a highly skilled and disciplined engineer will have a low bug count. A lesser skilled tester paired with a lesser skilled and disciplined engineer might also have a low bug count.

Metrics of good testing needs to encompass coverage, method's applied, return on investment and overall impact on product stability/robustness as well as whether or not the product truly meets customer demands.

The difference between STE vs. SDET (not counting recent ladder changes) is that SDET are Development Engineers that produce test oriented code as opposed to product oriented code. This test oriented code is used for lots of things but mainly to increase the effectiveness of the STE's in measuring the quality of the product.

Finally as someone pointed out automation is only good at finding bugs during implementation phase. Test is a discipline that requires many methods or tools (MBT, Combinatorial, Ad-Hoc, Exploratory, Manual and Automated to name a few) to be successful.

In a perfect world, okay my perfect world, dev's would own unit testing or at least supplying test with unit test. This would lead to test focusing on system/interopt testing.

TheKhalif said...

Once again, I don't think testers should know everything about coding. Let me put it this way, I don't know any devs who don't know how to do fundamental (unit) testing on their code (I do know some who are too lazy to do it well, admittedly). Why shouldn't testers know something fundamental about coding (especially debugging code) when they test?

After one year of stack traces in KD, I was able to do something with the debugger, but reading registers is a higher level of knowledge. Doing unit testing on features is not the same as doing full regression in a product or black box in a component.

I really don't understand why so few see this attitude as part of the "Arraogance in Redmond" that Mini once posted about.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should send a polite email to the new CFO, Chris Liddell, letting him know that you really really hope he is buying back lots and lots of stock at these low prices.

That would be too hard. It's always easier just to cut employee benefits - that'll definitely help the bottom line and increase the stock price.

We ought to pitch in and raise a billboard that says "Will the last person to leave Microsoft, please turn off the lights?" - a nice memory of the 1970's sign about Seattle.

Anders Kargaard Jensen said...

I don't think the stock price will go up as long as there is a real threat from Google. Questions is - has Microsoft ever really been an efficient innovative company, or has it just been doing well, because there was a strategic advantage in the operating system? More on: http://investinsearch.blogspot.com/2005/10/microsoft-is-old-school.html

Are you really ready for the new rules applying when you are not controling everything by controlling the operating system. Can Microsoft grow from here at all?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, as an outsider, I'm scared when reading your blog. It's not just a problem with the review system. The problem is much more broader and the hate between devs and testers is just the top of iceberg. That's not good, guys...

Anonymous said...

"We ought to pitch in and raise a billboard that says "Will the last person to leave Microsoft, please turn off the lights?" - a nice memory of the 1970's sign about Seattle."

In that case, it was supposed that Boeing was the only game in town. In the same way as that proved to be incorrect due to the at-the-time unknown emergence of Microsoft, I think it at least premature to say the same of this region today: Microsoft is not the only game in town now, either.

My perception is that many of the posters to this blog are dismayed that Microsoft has gone in a few short years from a more-or-less cool place to work; a destination for many software folks, to just-another-big-boring corporation.

People have derided Microsoft (M$ for the under-12s) for one reason or another throughout its history. The only - and perhaps crucial - difference is that this time, its because of performance of its stock rather than performance of its technology.

The only real power that an employee of any corporation has to effect change isn't via unions, HR, blogs, or the Company Poll. The thing that really gets noticed by the Industry is when key talent withdraws that talent and gives it to someone else (currently, Google). Cumulatively, this loss can be worth billions.

To illustrate, can you see Steve Ballmer throwing furniture across the room on hearing in poll results that only "63% of employees think their manager cares about there career"? Thought not.

Anonymous said...

"Doing unit testing on features is not the same as doing full regression in a product or black box in a component."

I know, my point is that devs are required to do some testing, why shouldn't testers be required to know some coding? I'm not saying testers should be as good as their developers nor am I suggesting that a dev be able to plan and implent a sound test strategy. What I'm saying is that if a tester is unable to learn at least some coding skills, I would question them the same way I would question a dev who never learned to run basic unit tests.

dead wood said...

"What I'm saying is that if a tester is unable to learn at least some coding skills, I would question them the same way I would question a dev who never learned to run basic unit tests."

So how do you measure that?

The windows team has been requiring new testers to have coding skills that rival developers for the purpose of writing automation. Automation is good, but the mindset of person that writes a lot of automation is different from the tester who is good at finding usability problems or security problems. ...not that they can't find those bugs, but they aren't as good at it nor are they as focused on finding those bugs.

In essence, we have fallen to the IBM Typewriter problem...we are figuring out how to lower our cost of production and forgetting to look at what the customer needs and wants.

Anonymous said...

"Hmmm, as an outsider, I'm scared when reading your blog. It's not just a problem with the review system. The problem is much more broader and the hate between devs and testers is just the top of iceberg. That's not good, guys..."

Please don't use this recent cat fight as an example for all MS devs and testers. I've been a tester with Office for almost 10 years and I can say that there is a high amount of respect between our professions. I have the same concerns with bloated processes and a rediculous compensation system, but I also believe changes are worth striving for without name calling. I just bumped into this blog recently and I love the dialog that Mini has set forth. I may not agree with everything the responding managers have said but I definitely respect how they put their point of view across without sounding like they are from jr. high school.

Anonymous said...

Please don't use this recent cat fight as an example for all MS devs and testers. I've been a tester with Office for almost 10 years and I can say that there is a high amount of respect between our professions.

I agree. This tangent on the thread was caused by some supposed dev jerk being a troll. Don't know if he's a dev or not, but he's certainly a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Please don't use this recent cat fight as an example for all MS devs and testers. I've been a tester with Office for almost 10 years and I can say that there is a high amount of respect between our professions.

If you have been around for that long, though, you also know that Office is unique in that respect. The respect towards Test in Office starts at the highest levels (with the VP of Test!). Testers in Office have been promoted into GPM and Group Manager positions; no other divisions here can make that sort of claim. Especially not the revenue-draining divisions (MSN), where their Testers are so underqualified they can barely breathe without assistance.

Anonymous said...

"More on: http://investinsearch.blogspot.com/2005/10/microsoft-is-old-school.html"

What a bunch of useless, inaccurate and not particular creative ABM drivel. Go back to the Yahoo MSFT board.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh at the dev/test grudge match going on here. I am a coder. I am a hell of coder. Every single one of you is using something I designed right now...as you read this. But I can't test worth a damn. On the other hand, I have worked for years with a tester. He is a hell of a tester. Every single one of you are using something he tested. And he can't code a lick. But the man can test like nobodys business.
It seems like Microsoft has forgotten a basic thing. Testers need to be good at testing. Developers need to be good at development. Period. Its that simple. If a tester happens to be able to code, whoop-de-damn do. So long as they can test well...THAT IS THE KEY. The tester tests. The coder codes. everything else is political garbage

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh at the dev/test grudge match going on here. I am a coder. I am a hell of coder. Every single one of you is using something I designed right now...as you read this. But I can't test worth a damn. On the other hand, I have worked for years with a tester. He is a hell of a tester. Every single one of you are using something he tested. And he can't code a lick. But the man can test like nobodys business.
It seems like Microsoft has forgotten a basic thing. Testers need to be good at testing. Developers need to be good at development. Period. Its that simple. If a tester happens to be able to code, whoop-de-damn do. So long as they can test well...THAT IS THE KEY. The tester tests. The coder codes. everything else is political garbage

Anonymous said...

" Testers need to be good at testing. Developers need to be good at development. Period. Its that simple. If a tester happens to be able to code, whoop-de-damn do. So long as they can test well...THAT IS THE KEY. The tester tests. The coder codes. everything else is political garbage"

Succinctly put - and right on the money. If someone has skills that range across other disciplines - great! However, I truly fear for those - like your tester - who is being told that suddenly that ain't OK any more...

Anonymous said...

"Everyone should send a polite email to the new CFO, Chris Liddell, letting him know that you really really hope he is buying back lots and lots of stock at these low prices."

Yeah that'll work. Forget the fact that he and the mgt team just effectively flipped the bird to all shareholders wrt the dividend increase (including large institutions that were pressuring for at least a market rtn), I'm sure he'll rethink everything if only he gets some emails from individual holders. Right. MSFT will be using this most recent batch of weakness (you have to number them these days) to do some buybacks as per their yearly commitment (and via the plunge protection team which must be working overtime currently) but nothing more. If MSFT actually believed in its stock, then they:

a) wouldn't have done the $35B one-time and instead would have put that into the stock
b) wouldn't have made the current $30B buyback over 4 years (during which they know very well they'll dilute at least $20B of it and probably more like $25B).
c) wouldn't have switched to grants vs options (all bs about "better aligning employees and shareholders" aside)
d) wouldn't have done the options trade-in program
e) wouldn't be carrying this ridiculous level of cash and would instead have used a good chunk of it to retire stock
f) wouldn't have the dubious honor of leading the ENTIRE market in insider selling

As per usual, MSFT management has a hard time telling the truth. They talk about "returning $35B to shareholders via the one-time" but don't acknowledge that it effectively only resulted in some .11/share to holders (which could have been given for ~$1.1B), created months of market uncertainty, tanked the stock $5 and will hurt earnings for all future periods. They talk about $25B+ of buybacks "returned to shareholders" from 00-04 but fail to add that shares outstanding actually went UP over that period (i.e. none of that went to shareholders - it all went to avoid dilution and even then fell short). Then they talk about the new 4 yr/$30B buyback as "our confidence in the future" and "more money returned to shareholders" even though at least $20B of that will likely go to avoiding future dilution vs reducing the share count. Ditto the dividend. Lots of talk about it being "returned to shareholders". Little talk about the fact that at 1.3%, it trails the S&P average by some 50% and of course, MSFT the stock has trailed the S&P by some 70% over the past 3 years. Yippee - a shitty stock and a shitty dividend! Net net, MSFT mgt seemingly continue to think that they're smarter than everyone and can bullshit shareholders indefinitely despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Can you say near a 52-week low?

Anonymous said...

While this blog has taken an U turn and is focussed on who is the bitch - dev or tester anybody care to comment on MS's anti-trust settlement towards Real.

Looks like Real and MS may collobarate on future products and even MSN was mentioned.

May be atleast REAL folks will bring some flavour to MSN.com.

It is interesting to see MS opening doors like this - in a way it is a smart move for MS, but the real blessed one is Real.

MS finally learns that it cannot screw with justice department. I think the pressure is probably coming from the Apple's monopoly in iTunes/iPod and possible launch of video.

Any thoughts?

I am pretty sure this blog is very popular among the MSties. Looking at the size of some of the posts and the continuous debate between dev and tests (the jerk who started the holy war), looks like some of the guys are seriously demotivated and are waiting for an opportunity to release their energy.

Here is my 2cents for your problem.

Making MS a mini-MS will not solve your problems.
What is lacking here seems to be that the bad apples have gotten used to the laid-back culture and the others have learnt to play the system. It is difficult to fire somebody who has got a 4.0 and who is nothing but a moron and a managers pimp.

I strongly suspect that in groups that are doing very well and are working towards a product, you dont see this amount of bureacracy - Office, MED, RTC, Avalon for example.

I am surprised at the openness and also at the same time the attitude to contain people. (ie not to be a whistle-blower or shoot out some great ideas once in a while).

Stack-ranking system in my mind is probably not a good idea to judge a performer/developer/tester or anybody. You need to be judged on your own performance and within your team and that has to be your score.

When the entire MS is not unified in its different processes (coding/testing/reviews like how many bugs found/fixed, etc), how can there be any justification in flattening of the curve?

I just read another interesting blog that compares Google Vs MS. Given the MS competences with AJAX OR any other technologies, MS may come out with a better product, but if the search becomes the trademark for internet, MS may not be the winner.

I really hope MS makes it big with the Kahuna MSN hotmail. (which looks cool).

If there is so much heat and demotivation among the people, how come there are some energetic and bubbly individuals on channel 9 videos?

Do you think in a company of 50000-60000 people, if given the current situation, people would not have left it is as bad as you are pointing out across the board.


Bottom line is you are all demotivated, you all suck and I dont know why you all dont quit


Well I hope MS continues to tank and comes closer to 18$-15$ so that you can be even cheerful.

Anonymous said...

Part of the insider-trading problem is that higher management has no need to ever think about buying or holding MSFT. They assign stock and options to themselves in a manner that could not be more self-serving. Why buy or think about holding if you can simply grant yourself 100,000 more shares by fiat anyday?

Anonymous said...

"If you have been around for that long, though, you also know that Office is unique in that respect. The respect towards Test in Office starts at the highest levels (with the VP of Test!). Testers in Office have been promoted into GPM and Group Manager positions; no other divisions here can make that sort of claim. Especially not the revenue-draining divisions (MSN), where their Testers are so underqualified they can barely breathe without assistance."

Well ... I was only talking about respect with my peers (including devs and PMs who we all work very well together, such as the early feature crews before we had to document every little thing). I've yet to see any respect from management.

I have been here a while (I started as a level 9) but I have to admit all that time has been in the same place. I haven't seen any tester promoted any higher than a test manager, they mostly just leave (I'm still a 59. It's probably because I really do need assistance with breathing ).

jewelstop said...

Oh my gosh this is just like my office and I work in HR!! I started my blog because of how much crap goes on in my place of business...please go visit http://myofficedrivesmenuts.blogspot.com/

Anyway, why is it that manager can write anything they want on reviews without knowing what you really do. My review was excellent, in fact it better than I expected but she really didn't know or have a clue as to what my duties are she just knows the work gets done.

If you want a good laugh copy and paste this in you address bar http://www.hallmark.com/wcsstore/HallmarkStore/images/products/ecards/nfg1969.swf

Very funny and oh so true.

Anonymous said...

Poll:
http://blogs.msdn.com/heatherleigh/archive/2005/10/11/479878.aspx

Based only on this guy's profile (I'm sure he's a wonderful asset) do you agree with the first comment? If I got a resume along these lines for a marketer I would bin it without a second thought!

I would add that he uses real as an adjective in a typical marketing, "let's be cool", faux pas! Why do these things always sound so manufactured?!

Anonymous said...

"Part of the insider-trading problem is that higher management has no need to ever think about buying or holding MSFT. They assign stock and options to themselves in a manner that could not be more self-serving. Why buy or think about holding if you can simply grant yourself 100,000 more shares by fiat anyday?"

I agree that MSFT needs to radically rethink the disparity in executive compensation. IMO, it's way out of control. For example, $20M stock bonuses for Raikes (who barely grew IW on the year) and Allchin (on whose watch Vista got totally screwed up) are simply absurd. Shit, that's more than most fortune 10 CEOs make. And folks like Burgum should simply have been fired not allowed to vest millions more in stock comp. That said, I don't think it's just about how easy it is for these folks to get more. If they thought there was decent upside, they'd hold just as they did in the 80's and 90's - it's just common sense. Obviously they don't think there's much upside, which makes me wonder why Ballmer allows the situation to continue. He's already acknowledged that the street doesn't believe him, but based on insider selling, it's clear that most of his mgt team don't believe him either. I'm not sure I do, but if I were him, I would find that situation intolerable. So rather than hiding behind the "our policy is not to comment on individual employees decisions blah, blah, blah", I'd sit them down, tell them that the current situation is unnacceptable and that from now on, those who sell at every opp better look for a new job. I think most would agree but even if they don't and leave, it's unclear to me that second-stringers could do any worse than the current crop of VPs. And if all that was accomplished was just a large decline in insider selling, that would be one big concern less for Wall Street.

jewelstop said...

lets try this

Interview with Boss

Anonymous said...

READ MY LIPS:

I LUUUV THIS COMMMMMPANNNNNY!

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with HR managers working from 9-5 or not working at all. You have the business model of not working ( and blaming product teams ) and collecting free money - which is as good as it can get.

However - this isnt good for Microsoft and that is the point. When you have very large departments ( HR, legal etc. ) whose interest is inverse of what is good for Microsoft - there is a problem. When the size of these beureucracies gets near that of our competitors and keeps growing there is a hell of a problem.

The intellectual horsepower and the deliverables expected for a L65 individual contributor dev is thousand times higher than that of a L65 HR manager. The HR manager probably couldnt get a job, took a labor law class and sat in Safeway as a HR for ten years before being picked up by Microsoft.

fCh said...

Looks like Real and MS may collobarate on future products and even MSN was mentioned.

May be atleast REAL folks will bring some flavour to MSN.com.

It is interesting to see MS opening doors like this - in a way it is a smart move for MS, but the real blessed one is Real.

MS finally learns that it cannot screw with justice department. I think the pressure is probably coming from the Apple's monopoly in iTunes/iPod and possible launch of video.

Any thoughts?


If you additionally consider the IM-interoperability between Yahoo and MSFT, things are moving fast at corporate levels. In the music distribution business we have Apple at the top. As result, MSFT left the field (you recall Gates' saying the studios got greedy), and Real decided to realign itself. In the IM business, you have number 2 (Yahoo) and number 3 (MSFT) going together against number 1 (AOL) and number 1 on everybody's list (Google). If you look at this from a legal perspective as well, MSFT did the right thing--yet, it seems the (post-Iraq) EU is a little harder to convince than Bush's DOJ. Oh well, all in all I can see how consumers will win, and competition is paying off...

Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

"The intellectual horsepower and the deliverables expected for a L65 individual contributor dev is thousand times higher than that of a L65 HR manager. The HR manager probably couldnt get a job, took a labor law class and sat in Safeway as a HR for ten years before being picked up by Microsoft."

Gotta totally agree with that. I see a lot of HR and para-legal people driving a nice Lexus or Merc. How much do these people make exactly and what is their contribution to Microsoft's bottom line? I see L61 dev ICs making a direct impact on a product and who hardly make 90K. Not at all good for morale!

Anonymous said...

I see L61 dev ICs making a direct impact on a product and who hardly make 90K. Not at all good for morale!

... I see some "lowly STEs" with better testing skills than some of their management.

And I for one would love to see some of those managers (the bad ones) become ICs just to watch them squirm at the requirements.

Eric Fox said...

I_LOVE_MEETINGS, you make some intresting points about people's motivations for inventing new processes, in your Point #9. But as a manager of managers, you must know as well as anyone that there is a difference between having big far-reaching influence in a positive way and big far-reaching influence in a negative way, and you know you should reward the former and ding the latter come review time, or give that feedback to the managers of the individuals in question if they don’t work for you.

If the Feature Crew form has become a free-for-all where every special interest has its little fields that just add process overhead to everyone else and don’t provide much value, then the owners of those special interest fields, as well as the owners of the form (myself among them), should get dinged, not praised.

However, I can assure you that any time a new field gets proposed, there is a healthy and robust backlash against it. :-) Further, it seems to me that the feature crew form is pretty Spartan: my own feeling is that its worst sin is existing at all, and if we could’ve squashed it down into nothing, we would have. Frankly its main purpose was just as a central database of Feature Crew names, for Product Studio to reference. The form contains the dev, test, and PM, optional fields their respective discipline’s design docs, optional comments section, and then dates for coding, PR, and completion. That’s it. Next product cycle, we hope to have it so integrated with the dev scheduling tool that it will disappear entirely. How’s that for “inventing process”? :-)

Like the rest, I am more than happy to receive your specific feedback about specific fields (or anything else) in person if you are inclined to give it.

Anonymous said...

"A tester as to figure out *all* the ways that code can go haywire *and* ensure that when it does, the customer doesnt have a poor experience (poor== everything from incomprehensible error messages, if they exist at all to loss of user data)"

This doesn't seem too different from an *expert* dev. Has the test org confused quantity with quality perhaps?

Shareholder said...

I like many other have fallen victim to speaking up an challenging status quo in the Home & Retail Sales & Marketing Group managed by the world biggest incompetent Steve Schiro. I told my manager of my fears that Steve was out to get me, he first said no that’s not the way things work. He later came back and admitted that I better get out of the group because there was nothing he could do and yes Steve had it in for me. No it was not performance based; straight 4’s and 3.5’s for years. I left and may others have too. No one that leaves, ever says anything good about Mister Ego Schiro. Solid business ideas with data driven facts have been ignored by the overly political Schiro. http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/schiro/default.mspx

Steve Schiro s a psycho and routinely finds a scapegoat to drum out of the group especially if you don’t keep your nose way up his rear end. Schiro is bad for Microsoft and epitomizes what is wrong with the company. He couldn’t lead a one man band. I love his famous quote: “I’m a card carrying member of the MS VP club and I don’t even have to work that hard”. This is not to mention his blatant chauvinistic and border line sexual harassment antics. His blind reliance on consultants is joke and even they laugh behind his back.

So many have put issues in the MS Poll over the years but yet Peve Pyro continues his reign of ineffectiveness with his close circle of C minus misfits.

Get a clue Mitch & Robbie; dump this clown. It’s bad enough that the retail group is getting killed in the marketplace and has diminishing returns, we don’t need a clueless, unmotivated, irresponsible rest and vester sucking up more shareholder value. Don’t give up the fight HRD heroes!

Anonymous said...

As there are so many comments here this will most likely get lost.. But anyway... I too had a crap review back in 1999. The score was great but the unqualified, subjective ramblings of my manager basically went across everything else that the review score meant. Basically, a personality clash and despite suceeding in every area, he felt he couldn't let it go...

Anyway.. the end result wqas a review that was submitted to the review tool, with no opportunity fo rme to add in a reply. Every year since then, HR has request I sign it off. My reply is "only after I can add my comments to the review".. which because of modern technology.. you can't do.. So every year, it comes up and every year I refuse to sign it off. No wgiven that this occured in 1999 it's amazing how many cycles are getting wasted on this crap. Process gone mad!

Anonymous said...

From dB' comment:
"To my defense of understanding the system, my last review before leaving MSFT was a 4.5 and i went all the way from a 58 to 64 in five years."

How do you do that? After double master degree I come to MS as a SDE and I am always a key contributor in the team but I only grow from 59 to 62 in 6 years. Could you share some tips?

Anonymous said...

"My suggestion is to build a table of MS benefits vs. Googles. "

I'm having fun. Every damned day. When I spot a problem *at any level of the organization* I get to point it out and, sometimes, to fix it. I don't have to go through channels.

The food is great. The parties are great. The sense of possibility, the sense of power, is why I want to be here. You could take away the food as long as I keep the ability to make change happen.

"Fun is the only thing money can't buy..."

-- a Googler

hrzest said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hrzest said...

I feel that managers should give feedback more regularly especially when the review is going to be bad. So I will not be so surprised by the bad formal review.

Regular feedback will also give me opportunities to notice my weaknesses and to imrove my performance.

Anonymous said...

GREED is the reason for all our problems.....

Hideo Sogi said...

Yeah.... Money cant buy you fun? and unfortunatly, it cant buy you a good manager either.

Microsoft is becoming something like that of pop music..... The managers dont 'nurture' the employees as they once did ( in the pop music world, I believe they called this 'artist-development.)

Am I saying that all modern managment is like that of britany spears or some other atrophy-ladden singer?

Well... Sort of. You see...
today, There is this prevailing attitude of 'heres your tools, dont bother me and get to work' that is leaving a bitter taste in many-a-mouth. Just reading the responses in this blog reveals that. Todays managers seem to really enjoy watching employees sink.... And ofcourse right when employees have learned how to swim, they use the sinking experience as a kiss of death.

If you were on campus back in 95, you would have noticed an amazing diffrence in management styles as opposed to what you see today.

To me, it seemed as if the managers back then were grabing kids off the streets and training them to become the code monkeys you see today. Those days are loooong gone my friends. Todays managers seem to only seek promotion yet they lack compassion and in some cases patience. ( not all o'course )

The killer for me recently has been returning to campus for interviews only to bump into a number of my old friends who took a job in 95, had little or no understanding of coding and are todays managers... who, somewhere down the line, forgot how lucky THEY were to land the job ( with NO experience ) in the first place.

Is it wrong for me to wish that Vista becomes the next ME which will in turn cause a 'cleansing'?

-Tran