Saturday, November 26, 2005

The "Should I come work for Microsoft?" Post

One commenter asks:

I have an offer from MS to join. What is your suggestion on that. From the posts here, the situation in MS does not seem to be very good, but still it is a good company ?

Another from a while back:

I'm a student at the University of Waterloo and have been reading this blog for a while. This is totally offtopic, but considering the whole reorg and the supposed mass employee dissent, or at least the distrubance, is now a good time to be an MSFT intern? Also, any resume/interview tips?

In short, my opinion is:

  • Join for an internship: Yes.
  • Join fulltime: No.

Full-disclosure and truth in blogging: I can't say this is the place you're going to find a lot of pro thoughts related to supporting you being yet another Microsoft hire. I mean, my goodness, my whole original reason for starting these few web pages was to argue that Microsoft had to be smaller to succeed. Less on the hire, more on the fire.

I will say this though: Microsoft is a fantastic company with some of the absolute best coworkers in the world. The ability to affect anyone using a computer is almost unparalleled. The amount of pride you can achieve through reflecting what your contributions can do or have done is enormous. There is no other place like it.

But.

It's just that Microsoft has grown way too much (resulting in increased management and bureaucracy) and has promoted untalented, uninspiring people upwards. New hires find themselves unable to have as big an impact as they have in the past, and might overhear managers wandering the hall reflecting on how most employees are cogs and easily replaceable (if you end up sitting in my hallway).

Why do I stay? Because I know how good it can be and I believe getting Microsoft performance tuned isn't all that hard but it does involve a certain amount of sustained visibility into how bad things are and pressure on leadership to start not only talking about agility and accountability but visibly demonstrating and supporting it. Along with flattening the company through identifying and pushing out the burned-out and the deadwood.

If you're the sort of person who can succeed in a vacuum and not grow cynical quickly and poison your career, then you should seriously consider Microsoft as an option.

Now, as far as internships for Microsoft go, I think it's great and anyone who can intern should intern. It's great for the interns typically because Microsoft is so desperate to find and hire excellent technical people that the interns actually get hard, interesting work along with the best mentor the group has to offer. And boy do you get wooed while you're here. Please read the old entries in Mr. Sinofsky's tech-talk down below for more on that.

I appreciate interns coming in because typically they still have that "nothing is impossible!" fire streaming through their veins and, while making clumsy mistakes and not appreciating the depth of world-class-software, bring an enthusiasm and a productivity that helps turn the spotlight on blue-badgers who have plateaued or are ready to move on to the next job in life and just need a little help.

But don't accept the job offer at the end of your internship. I'll repeat myself here for people fresh to the job market:

For folks just out of college, my only insight is: if you're unattached and unencumbered by responsibilities the last thing you need to do is go work for a large, slow moving corporation in the 'burbs. Take risks and live the crazy big city life and blow your youthful energy laying down effort on the big pay-off opportunities. You will learn more and do more than you can possibly imagine, especially compared to being placed as a new shiny cog in the corporate machine (where all you can say during your first review is, "And what does this 3.0 mean?"). Then come knocking on the door of the corporate beast in the idyllic, moist, family friendly Pacific Northwest .

For well-written perspectives on the other side of this issue, be sure to visit Jobs Blog and Steven Sinofsky's tech-talk. Both are very responsive to comments asking probing questions.

(Re-repost: fixed tech-talk URL but then had to repost due to MSO HTML namespaces screwing up the web feed. Sorry about that.) (Re-re-repost: what the heck. s/replicable/replaceable/ - not sure what my fingers were thinking.)

139 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right on mini. Your best blog so far.

sdsef said...

Hey Mini,

You said: "...I believe getting Microsoft performance tuned isn't all that hard but it does involve a certain amount of sustained visibility into how bad things are and pressure on leadership to start not only talking about agility and accountability but visibly demonstrating and supporting it."

How's it going so far? I agree with your thesis that Microsoft is bloated, but I still think your effort is somewhat misguided.

People don't change. They just don't. Bill will always be Bill and Steve will always be Steve. As long as they are running the show, you are going to get more words and less action, the same as it ever was. They're not going to change because they can't.

The only way to fix Microsoft is to change who is running the company. I know it might sound extreme, but it really is the only way.

Kicking Bill and Steve out would not only mean credible action would have a chance, but it would also mean that the outside world would look at the company differently. You guys are massively handicapped right now by a shroud of negative perception due to Bill and Steve's mismanagement over the years. Get rid of them and you start to lift that shroud.

If you want to make Microsoft lean and mean again, I suggest you focus less on the futile exercise of pressuring management to change and more on changing management itself.

Anonymous said...

New hires can still do well - depends on which group you are in I suppose.

The direction of the company is changing from being dev centric to HR/business dev centric. This is a cultural change. This works for General Motors, Ford, Boeing etc. where the work is mechanical and doesnt need skill.

This doesnt work in a high tech environment. At some time someone has to realize that HR/bizdev is not MS core competency but play support function.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft has stopped being dev-centric a long time ago. Kiss of death for a software company. I left because it became clear to me that shipping quality products was not a priority and dev was regarded as just another low level job function. For god's sake, the company spent more time thinking up ways to save time for the guys restocking office supplies.

Builds were a major timesink. You might guess that with the talk about how people are our most important asset, MSFT could cough up the $1k for an extra dev machine. Wrong. The testers who don't build but install and run the product had better hardware.

It is not a new problem - higher management was working on hardware purchase policies for the last five years. For all I know, they'll create one soon.

Anonymous said...

>>New hires can still do well - depends on which group you are in I suppose

I agree with this comment. Seems that much of the criticism from mini and commenters are from the Windows, GP and Office orgs. Over here in MSN/Windows Live, things seem markedly better. While I agree with Mini that there needs to be massive change in MSFT, it's a stretch to say that it's a bad time to join Microsoft, especially as a junior level employee.

>>Microsoft has stopped being dev-centric a long time ago.

Thank god that this is the case. It's about time we stopped building things because they are a technical marvel. Let's build the right things for the right scenarios for the right set of consumers. A dev centric org isn't going to do this.

Anonymous said...

The problem is one gets paid for visibility. HR Managers are always sitting in with GM/VPs and they have to be L64 or higher for that. Business people are always doing presentations to VP or above so they have to be L64 and up.

It is more important to play the game to rise rather than produce results or do the right things for the company. Perception is more important than reality.

Anonymous said...

Mini wrote:

Why do I stay? Because I know how good it can be and I believe getting Microsoft performance tuned isn't all that hard but it does involve a certain amount of sustained visibility into how bad things are and pressure on leadership to start not only talking about agility and accountability but visibly demonstrating and supporting it. Along with flattening the company through identifying and pushing out the burned-out and the deadwood.

Ain't gonna happen via internal forces. Nope, no way, ever. Unless, of course, Microsoft is staffed with something besides human beings. The ability of an entrenched beaurocracy to protect itself is too vast: it is impervious to both its "clients" and its leaders.

Now, an outside force could do it, but in a clumsy, slashing way: shareholder revolt demanding massive spin-offs, the DOJ forcing a breakup, etc. Judge Penfield Jackson was Microsoft's most recent hope for a growth track, but somehow the beaurocracy managed to dodge that bullet.

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

The "Should I come work for Microsoft?" Post

What about:

"Should I come to work for Redmond from a subsidiary"

The fact is, they will pay you much less than you've already got.

So, is this the way to keep and grow talent?

Anonymous said...

It's about time we stopped building things because they are a technical marvel. Let's build the right things for the right scenarios for the right set of consumers. A dev centric org isn't going to do this.

I disagree. I think most devs would love to do exactly this. Most of the "technical marvels" I've seen come from pseudo-technical people like PMs and middle management overthinking everything and trying to increase their own visibility with cross-group/technology collaboration.

Anonymous said...

Now, an outside force could do it, but in a clumsy, slashing way: shareholder revolt demanding massive spin-offs, the DOJ forcing a breakup, etc. Judge Penfield Jackson was Microsoft's most recent hope for a growth track, but somehow the beaurocracy managed to dodge that bullet.

Everyone like Mini who thinks they have too many incompetent co-workers should quit Microsoft and form one or more companies to compete with Microsoft.

When Microsoft starts to fail because of the supposedly incompetent people left behind, Microsoft will have to use massive layoffs to cut costs.

They'll then be desperate to rehire all those competent people who left.

Time to put up or shut up.

Who da'Punk said...

Everyone like Mini who thinks they have too many incompetent co-workers should quit Microsoft and form one or more companies to compete with Microsoft.

While I disagree with the snarky tone, I do agree with the message that if you think Microsoft is no longer the place for you, you should realize that we're back in an upswing in the labor market and excellent, talented people are back in demand and can write their own ticket. Get out there and network and spread the resume love.

Now is the best time to try other opportunities.

(Sorry, I'm staying through to try and effect change. Wave your fist and the screen and say, "Curses!" if you must, but the missives will continue. Blog your own outlook and drop a link here if you have a counter view.)

And realize that if you're a super contributor who goes off and tries something else and leave on good terms, Microsoft, as it is today, will always welcome you back. Where's the risk?

dB. said...

I violently disagree.

I strongly believe that to get a little wiser you must work for a big company at some point. I also think it's a good place to start a career, mostly because there's a wealth of maturity to be taking example from. You are also allowed to make mistakes, a unique feature of this industry.

Smart people work for other smart people and smart products. Choose wisely and you will succeed. People make all the difference.

Anonymous said...

Offtopic: Mini-Microsoft pop-culture sighting over on Wired magazine, December 2005 issue, page 066:

Wired mini-Microsoft
Tired Mini Cooper
Expired iPod mini

URL:
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.12/start.html?pg=20

Anonymous said...

1. MS is no longer a developer's company
2. 9000 developers, 5000+ marketers, 18000+ sales people work at Microsoft
3. The cheiftains at MS today are all ex-Sales and Marketing folk
4. Steven Sinofsky deletes posts that mention "minimsft" or the dreaded BusinessWeek article if someone refers to them while asking a question.

Mini - if someone needs a job, MS will give them one..remember it pays..but if you want a real job - get the hell away from here.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini:

I hope you read about the Google Caste System at Google. You should blog about it. I hope you understand the pain in sitting and fixing bugs till 2:00 AM.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_49/b3962001.htm

Excerpts from Business Week Article.

The suits inside Google don't fare much better than the outside pros. Several current and former insiders say there's a caste system, in which business types are second-class citizens to Google's valued code jockeys. They argue that it could prove to be a big challenge in the future as Google seeks to maintain its growth. They deem the corporate development team as underpowered in the company, with engineers and product managers tending to carry more clout than salesmen and dealmakers.

Anonymous said...

People have been whining about how big Microsoft has "become" for about 25 years now. It's all relative. It will never get any smaller (unless it gets broken up). Personally, I embrace the size, it's pretty easy to do cool stuff off in some corner that nobody notices and just have a blast.

I happen to think msft is a great place to learn your trade as a developer, maybe go work somewhere else for a while after that, come back if you miss the benefits and want a chance to make a big difference in the industry. And it is an odd industry to be in, probably the peak of capitalism, so if that's not your bag then msft will not be for you.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Mini on this one. I came to Microsoft in 2001 straight out of the University of Michigan. I have spent 3 years in MSN and 1 year in Windows. I must say that the MSN world is completely different from the Windows one. My opinions are valued, I have learned so much, I have been given the chance to take significant risks, and, most importantly, I have been given the chance to grow.

The stagnant stock price has been annoying, and the golden-boy press coverage that Google gets makes me want to hit my head against the wall. However, I really do love this company and am proud to be a part of it. I know what we are capable of, and I can't wait for the rest of the product pipeline to come out.

Ferhan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Yes, Mini, it should be so easy just to unveil yourself and get fired. No one should be allowed to post anonymously because, of course, there's no retribution at Msft.

Anonymous said...

I think that Mini is a bit hasty in discounting Microsoft as a full-time option. Look at it this way: going Microsoft is not a lifetime decision.

Microsoft is one of the world's most respected companies. You put that on your CV or resume and everyone knows exactly the caliber of person they're talking to. It's not a negative point.

Every large organizations has areas where it can improve. Corporate != Utopia. Also, not all groups in MS are created equal. All things considered, I think I made the right choice in choosing Microsoft over companies like Google. Despite limelight appearance now, there's going to be a day of reckoning.

If you're looking at the Microsoft level of salary, it's not about money anymore. You're not going to be starving. Pick a company that suits your style. Whether this is a fast-paced and nearly chaotic place like Google or a bellwether like Microsoft is up to you.

Who da'Punk said...

Comment scrub. Boy, some folks sure have high standards about pay == complicity. Again, if you want to rant about me and not the topic for discussion, feel free to do so in your blog / web page / Mini's a poo-poo head support forum.

It's interesting to read people's point of view of starting out of school at Microsoft / BigCorp and how it's worked for them. Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

As usual Mini fails to caveat his posts with the fact that he works in just one part of Microsoft and can't speak for every division or every product group.

There are places I'd love to work at Microsoft (MSN, XBox), places where there isn't engough money on earth to pay me to join (Windows, MBS) and some places in between (Office).

Since Mini works in Windows and seems incapable of finding another job (if I thought my job and employer sucked as much as he did, I'd leave) I'm not surprised he's providing the advice he's done in this post.

PS: This blog has definitely become a better Slashdot. Why trawl through all the Open Source and Google posts to find the nuggets of anti-Microsoft hilarity when I can just subscribe to this blog. Definitely a good counterweight to having Scoble's blog in my reading list. ;)

-- Dare

Anonymous said...

Everyone like Mini who thinks they have too many incompetent co-workers should quit Microsoft and form one or more companies to compete with Microsoft. When Microsoft starts to fail because of the supposedly incompetent people left behind, Microsoft will have to use massive layoffs to cut costs. They'll then be desperate to rehire all those competent people who left. Time to put up or shut up.

What do you mean when Microsoft starts :) to fail? Are you completely blind? If Microsoft were an aircraft it would be sucking geese into its main engines - Windows and Office – right now and the backups would be inoperable because they were never built. (Web 2.0, Internet Services, Web Services – whatever you want to call it). Bill sent out the sea change memo in 1995. At that point we rocketed out of the gate, slaughtered Netscape, and sat on our hands for 10 years. Today, we’ve got nothing and the rest of the industry is moving in for the kill. My advice to job candidates: Catch a different flight. This one isn’t going to make it.

Anonymous said...

That's iit! Mini is just another Google shill! let's see him prove he works at Microsoft.

After all, all we have to go on is the fact that some clueless pen-pushing Business Weak journalist once met a man with a blue badge... All of a suddeen, there's this "Microsoft insider" telling everyone that MSFT products suck and every potential hire should stay away.

If there really is this guy on the roof of Building 39 with a megaphone telling everyone that Microsoft sucks so much, will somebody from Office please go get a God damned rifle and pop a cap into the creep?

JASG said...

I agree with Mini about internships, internships are good anywhere to get an idea of what the company is like and it is almost like a pre-hire vetting process. Both sides get to see if it is worth working there and if the personal goals and social spaces can be realized there.

I disagree with Mini about working there, personally I am having the best time I have had in a job in a long time, and feel like I am helping out people without having to be in the spot light, having to have an agenda that would be approved of by Rosabeth Kanter (stealing other people's resouces), and I can be the person I am there without any social or political issues.

Personally if this sounds good to you, go work for Microsoft. If this does not sound good to you, don’t.

Anonymous said...

Since Mini works in Windows and seems incapable of finding another job (if I thought my job and employer sucked as much as he did, I'd leave) I'm not surprised he's providing the advice he's done in this post.

Thank you Dare. Several people have made this point including myself and all Mini does is yank our posts with the same "It is my blog" line. Well it is the holidays and he is home - the secret is always to post during the work day when he is scared to manage the blog from work.

Last thing, Mini is not in Windows. He was unaware of the BrianV and troops meeting until another creep mentioned it here.

Okay Mini go ahead and yank this post. COWARD!!

Who da'Punk said...

I guess it's time to experiment with comment moderation that's been added to Blogspot. Should anyone regret or bemoan this, you only have to look above one comment as to why it should be worthwhile in the long run.

My initial rule for comment moderation is simple: would your Mom be embarrassed to read what you just wrote (God rest her soul, if need be)? Maybe she wouldn't understand it, but if you'd be blushing as she looked up at you after reading what you just wrote, please don't bother.

Especially consider those one sentence zingers some folks like to throw in at the end. Sometimes an entire great comment can be torpedoed by an offhand petulant indulgence.

Let's see how it goes.

TheKhalif said...

Along with flattening the company through identifying and pushing out the burned-out and the deadwood.


I have to disagree here because it is NIGH impossible to say who is actually a good employee with a bad manager so the idea should be to identify overlap in job functions. A good example is a Windows team I was on that had six team members and 3 managers.

Another good flush system is to ask who would take extra work or expand their area to include other components.

If, as you advocate, let go of a good deal of the management force or redefine their responsibilities, I'm sure "stars" of all kinds will be "appearing from nowhere" as the political weight comes off the shoulders of the people who ACTUALLY DO THE WORK.

TheKhalif said...

You might guess that with the talk about how people are our most important asset, MSFT could cough up the $1k for an extra dev machine. Wrong.


This is an unfortunate occurrence in most SW shops. Mainly because nontechnical people have no idea what timing issues are.

A lot of bad SW happens because devs are forced to develop for Server on a "barely workstation" dev box, so when the product is deployed it behaves totally differently.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean when Microsoft starts :) to fail? Are you completely blind? If Microsoft were an aircraft it would be sucking geese into its main engines - Windows and Office – right now and the backups would be inoperable because they were never built. (Web 2.0, Internet Services, Web Services – whatever you want to call it). Bill sent out the sea change memo in 1995. At that point we rocketed out of the gate, slaughtered Netscape, and sat on our hands for 10 years. Today, we’ve got nothing and the rest of the industry is moving in for the kill. My advice to job candidates: Catch a different flight. This one isn’t going to make it.

By start to fail, I meant something other people (including Microsoft management) can see like a substantial loss in profits.

My point was that, if your goal is to see Microsoft become a more lean company, it would happen faster if the super contributors just picked up and started their own companies or worked for some other company for a while.

Like Mini said, you can always go back after Microsoft management cleans house.

They will only make those kind of changes if they start to lose money. Until then, where's the problem for them?

Encouraging people to leave hasn't worked so far in reducing head count. The number of people employed by Microsoft is increasing and will continue to do so while they remain profitable.

Maybe time to try a different approach?

In Silicon Valley, people are more entrepreneurial. They will leave a company to develop a product and then sell it back to their former employer.

If you're great at what you do, it beats politicking for a high score just to get a reward not close to matching what you would get for selling a product to a large corporation.

The Nog said...

As an outsider, it's always fascinated me how paranoid Microsoft is, and how predatory. For instance, why the digital media push? Why does Microsoft care if people are using one audio or video player or another as long as they're running them on Windows? Why does Microsoft care if people are using Google or Gmail as long as they're doing it in Internet Explorer? Microsoft chooses to ignore that it already has near-total platform dominance and ends up stretching itself thin competing on so many fronts as though it's in constant danger, instead of focusing on the markets it's good at.

This fumbling around and bloating of the company has, unfortunately, fulfilled its own delusion and put the company in danger. All these divisions and initiatives and new platforms and new markets have made the company huge with bloat. I think at this point, all it would take to bring the now-stagnant Windows down would be for Apple to release an OS X package for generic PCs--people would flock in droves to a modern desktop operating system with much less security and spyware problems. OpenOffice is starting to gain a little steam, and if the suite continues to improve, Office is in trouble as well. Just look at the fight over OpenDocument in Massachusetts.

It seems like Microsoft keeps getting caught by surprise by something every couple of months. The Office Live and Windows Live stuff doesn't impress me. It is, again, one more division, one more platform, one more initiative to add to the bloat. It's another responsive action to somebody else (Google) in order to please shareholders, instead of an innovative drive originating within the company. Microsoft in the past few years has been little else but reactive behavior.

Microsoft needs major product trimming so they can regain their focus and stop reacting, reacting, reacting. With product trimming would come employee trimming. Right now, they look like a kid standing in the middle of the street with rush-hour traffic zooming past them, and people yelling at them to get out of the way.

Anonymous said...

I suspect I will agree with the descision to use moderated comments. While I could tolerate people randomly badmouthing HR, it got really bad when people start saying thing like "I know who mini is". Or worse yet, when people decended into racist vitriol.

And now for the meat of this comment:

I think the descision to join MS really needs to be made in the context of who else you have offers from. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to join MS if my other offers were for something like working in the IT department of some bank. But I can't imagine coming to MS if Google made you an offer. I've spoken to new grads who have received offers from both companies, and Google is better in almost every dimension. The size of the stock grants MS is giving new hires is absolutely pathetic. You will get more money from the free food Google gives than you will from the MS stock grant.

I do agree with the advice to stay away from the windows org. If you are joining MS, try to get into a v1.0 product.

Anonymous said...

>What do you mean when Microsoft starts :) to fail? Are you completely blind? If Microsoft were an aircraft it would be sucking geese into its main engines - Windows and Office – right now and the backups would be inoperable because they were never built. (Web 2.0, Internet Services, Web Services – whatever you want to call it). Bill sent out the sea change memo in 1995. At that point we rocketed out of the gate, slaughtered Netscape, and sat on our hands for 10 years. Today, we’ve got nothing and the rest of the industry is moving in for the kill. My advice to job candidates: Catch a different flight. This one isn’t going to make it.<

This is the most ignorant posts that I have read on this board. Don't listen to idots like this. This is someone who does not like Microsoft. He probably works for one of our competetors. If he says he works for the company, I say he or she is lying and to prove it. There is some really good constructive feedback on this board to improve the company and then you get people like this that come in here to bash the company or complain and offer no viable soloutions. Microsoft has challenges. It always has. Microsoft is at it's best when challenged by a viable competetor. We have the financial resources and some bright folks working for us. We have great products in the pipe. We are still the industry leader and we will continue to be contrary to what some folks would like to say on this board. We are the most respected company in the world. Bill Gates is still a rock star. There are really good people about Microsoft who are positive and passionate about what they do. We are not perfect there is work to do to get the stock price up but I would rather be here than anywhere. Besides if you come on board do great work, add value and decide you want to go somewhere else down the road, you can write your ticket to anywhere you want to go.

Anonymous said...

You guys are massively handicapped right now by a shroud of negative perception due to Bill and Steve's mismanagement over the years. Get rid of them and you start to lift that shroud.

No truer words were spoken - with the monopoly at his back, Gates was the man, popping out 'genius' books like The Road Ahead and Business At The Speed of Thought. I'm waiting for the third book in the series: How to Get Beat By Google and Survive.

Anonymous said...

I think at this point, all it would take to bring the now-stagnant Windows down would be for Apple to release an OS X package for generic PCs--people would flock in droves to a modern desktop operating system with much less security and spyware problems. OpenOffice is starting to gain a little steam, and if the suite continues to improve, Office is in trouble as well. Just look at the fight over OpenDocument in Massachusetts.

Face it, the industry’s epicenter is shifting (back) to the silicon valley. Sun, Apple and Google are engaged in backchannel communication on how to lower the boom on Microsoft (without lowering the boom on each other). Microsoft was particularly brutal in how they discharged their monopoly during the ‘good times’ – a fact still fresh in the minds of those who were humiliated during that reign. Aggressive comments and chair throwing will only accelerate what is going to happen.

Who da'Punk said...

Quick check-in: the moderated commenting system is working well. I was worried when I approved a batch and it took one (from The Nog) a looong time to appear, but it wasn't lost so that's good.

I've only punted ones with rather randy language, pokes at poor-ole-sensitive soul me, and one I couldn't quite figure out the intent.

Obviously during the week comment publishing will be a morning / night sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

I noticed a couple of people mention they wouldn't want to work in the windows group -- why are people down on this group? I assumed since it's the biggest and most money makingest it would be a place where people want to be...

Along the same lines, what do people think of the exchange group. Especialy if you've working/worked there.

Anonymous said...

Windows has a couple of "mafias" that are active and powerful. The old timers have formed a powerful and self-serving club that manages to maintain power and avoid accountability.

Who has paid for the obvious lack of overall Windows? Almost all of the long time Windows test managers who are responsible for enforcing quality throughout the years have been promoted to general manager level or above despite having signed off on the piles of poo that have been released by Windows division for the past 10 years...

The reorgs seem to regularly occur but the heads of subordinate teams hardly ever change even when their orgs no longer are reactive to changes in the business climate.

There also is a mafia of sorts within certain Windows teams with a particular ethnic group that shall remain nameless. No value judgement here, mini...just a simple statement based on my past experience.

In short, if you are fresh out of college, spend a few years in Winodws to get the experience. I learned a lot and had some experiences that cant be replicated. Be prepared to move on quickly to a V1 team.

If you are entering MS as a middle manager and you have any desire to be an agent of change - go somewhere else. You'll be perceived as a threat and get eaten alive by the mafias.

Anonymous said...

It seems like Microsoft keeps getting caught by surprise by something every couple of months. The Office Live and Windows Live stuff doesn't impress me. It is, again, one more division, one more platform, one more initiative to add to the bloat. It's another responsive action to somebody else (Google) in order to please shareholders, instead of an innovative drive originating within the company. Microsoft in the past few years has been little else but reactive behavior.

You could look at it another way.

Microsoft lets other companies take all the risk in bringing a new idea to market.

They wait to see which ideas produce results for other companies. After which, they then commit to building a product to compete in that market.

Essentially, they use other companies to do a lot of their market research for them.

Anonymous said...

Easy: if you are working in a small group, you are more visible and thus get more recognition (everyone knows what you contribute).

You have less of that in large groups, but they tend to have all the good political backstabbing and harsh competition - worth learning how to deal with at an early point.

Also, in a large group you are a cost factor, but small groups don't really have to deduct what they pay you from their profits (because there aren't any). Draw your own conclusions.

Summary: get tempered for a few years in windows or office, then move on to a greener pasture and further your career.

Anonymous said...

I made the choice to, and every day I re-consider my decision. My most recent disappointment:
Thomas Lutz (Microsoft Austria): "...the aim of free software is not to enable a healthy business on software but rather to make it even impossible to make any income on software as a commercial product,"
As a company, is this really our plan? Does he have any clue about "free software"? Does he use it?
This is as bad as the "cancer" comment. Somebody really needs to develop a strategy here, and communicate it.
For people with offers outstanding, ask yourself if you don't mind being represented by people like Mr. Lutz above.

Anonymous said...

"There also is a mafia of sorts within certain Windows teams with a particular ethnic group that shall remain nameless. No value judgement here, mini...just a simple statement based on my past experience. "

Yes COSD, NDT are elements of that mafia

Anonymous said...

Mini-microsoft is a kind of utopia. Can we develop all this bunch of software with smaller company? No we can't. Not such smaller. Can we kick of all current non-efficient managers? No we can't. Why we think that smart and efficient people will be left in the company if we start massive fire? Who will select? Current managers, obviously. I personally think, that smart stuff will be fired first, all trouble makers and idea generators. Most of them will not wait, that will go themselves.

The only thing we could try is splitting. Splitting to several mini-microsofts. And I beleive they must concurent a little with each other. Without concurency we will have what we have - stagnation.

Even with splitting, I would not expect instant progress. This is unlikely. Only maybe something will grow up in future.

Anonymous said...

What about the question of whether or not you should work for Google? I see lots of downsides there as well, I don't think either company is the answer.

At Google, your stock options strike price will be 420 dollars if you start today. Do you really think those options are going to be worth anything once the market finally corrects? Do you want to work with lots of mid 20 year old recently made millionaires if you aren't already one yourself? How long until Google turns into Microsoft once its own mafias take hold?

Anonymous said...

The question: Should you work for MSFT?

The answer: If you'd fit in Windows, maybe; if you'd fit in MSN, no, b/c we need less MSN-style hack devs and political PMs, not more; anywhere else, yes.

The sub-question: Should you work for Windows?

The sub-answer: If you'd fit in Shell, no, b/c Shell is one of the prime reasons we're late; if you'd fit in COSD, hell no, b/c we need less bureaucrats, not more; anywhere else, yes.

dead wood said...

It is a good place to learn and get experience. Since leaving, the things I miss most are the brownbag talks, the MSR lectures, and the available courseware.

I would say go ahead and take the blue badge if it is offered and learn everything you can in a couple years. After the first year, if your review score drops below a 3.5, start interviewing externally.

Anonymous said...

I think some of this is down to a self-motivation issue.

Remember that success is down to optimising what you control. And if you don't control anything in your job I'd suggest speaking to HR and looking for a change.

After 6 years here I know I cannot change the whole direction of the company - but I do feel I can contribute.

Moreover with Xbox 360, Live.com and Vista on track) it seems to be that there has never been a better time to be here. So if a friend asks - and they often do - I say that MS has challenges - but it is a great place to work where one can make a difference - if you are the right person in the right role.

Anonymous said...

To the original question ("Should I come work for MS?")...irrespective of the "out of school" part or not, I'll give you my two cents as a (competent) senior manager:

First and foremost, it all depends on the group you're in and the manager you have. That is fundamentally no different than a small company except in one very important regard. In a small company, if your manager is an idiot and your group (or company) is not doing anything interesting, your situation will deteriorate quite rapidly. To the point of corporate extinction. At Microsoft, incompetence is a self-feeding prophecy and those dull groups and incompetent managers are allowed to thrive. Sad, but true, and in this regard I am wholeheartedly in Mini's camp.

You really need to do the research during your interview and ask good, probing questions. In my experience, most college interviews do not take on this critically important line of questioning and, as such, I find those candidates immature and no hires. During the interview, you need to be dilligent about getting answers to questions such as, "Is this a team where dissenting opinions are valued and nurtured?", "Is this a team where I'm given responsibility early and will have the opportunity to show what I can do?", "Is this a manager who is courteous, respectful, and demanding?"

If the answers you find are satisfactory to you, I see no problem with coming to Microsoft. Like other folks have mentioed, Microsoft is a company with a sterling reputation and one which will be a very, very good addition to any CV/resume.

Further, I find most of Mini's comments (and those from the peanut gallery) to be rife with inaccurate assumptions about Microsoft's business, a callous disregard for the significant contributions still provided by Bill and Steve, and completely immature regarding how a $56B+ company should actually be run.

Take, as an example, the "18,000 salesperson" comment someone made on this thread. Yes, we have 18,000+ salespeople. Did you think to ask why? Microsoft is not solely a consumer business anymore. The bulk of our sales come from Enterprise Agreements and volume licensing agreements. These are LONG-TERM purchases made for SIGNIFICANT dollar amounts by nearly every company on the planet. That is a large surface area to cover and because of the amount of money involved, requires a lengthy sales process (convince you of the benefits of the product, do a proof of concept, prove the proof of concept, close the sale, engage in significant post-sales communication to drive renewals of agreements and further sales of other products). While the consumer sale is still critical to our success, getting and staying smart with the enterprise and small/medium business sales process is critical to our future. Get out of Redmond, go do a rotation or get a job in the field, and you'll see exactly what I mean every single day.

I realize that a worker bee in a 56,000 person company has little visibility into all of this, particularly, if your job is to write or test code. I did that job, too, at one point, and it is indeed easy to play armchair marketing or sales guy or even armchair Bill/Steve. But, the reality of the modern Microsoft does not present itself with easy answers to complex questions. Microsoft is a large and important company, a key driver of the world's economy. If the answers were simple, believe me Bill or Steve are smart enough to have acted on them. Instead, the answers require significant thought, long-term investments (such as the sales process), and patience.

Anonymous said...

Hi

Bit of a risky post - dont think trashing your empoyers grad recruitment program is "reasoable"

Better hope that HR isn gunning for you cos if u are you could be in for a world of hurt.

A bringing the comapny into disreute diisciplin could be hard one to defend - or are you looking for Redundancy

Then again with my HR/IR hat on Ms isn't exactly Premier League status.

Rds Pepone

Anonymous said...

I came into Microsoft six years ago from a VP position in another public company. I left a year ago with my self-esteem at an all-time low. I came in with 25 years of experience in the software industry, and my last manager (I was a level 67) had two years of management experience. I found myself in the position of doing things his way to get a good review, or doing things my way, having a successful project, and getting a poor review. I chose the latter. The project was very successful, and I got a 3.0 because I 'didn't understand how things got done at Microsoft' (literal quote from my review) I am now running a very successful company as CEO.

I would actually recommend Microsoft for a new college graduate, I think it is a great place to gain very valuable experience and grow your resume. At the point where you begin to have your own opinions, however, it is probably time to leave and find a better place for the second stage of your career.

Anonymous said...

Dont listen to Mini! Especially if you are fresh out of college, Microsoft is one of the best places to work at. I spent 3 years there and then left to start my own company. Just being able to say I worked at Microsoft opens many doors for me. Besides, inspite of all its flaws, the Windows division ships world's largest and most complicated software. No better place to learn how to do that!

Anonymous said...

The suits inside Google don't fare much better than the outside pros. Several current and former insiders say there's a caste system, in which business types are second-class citizens to Google's valued code jockeys.

MSFT had this same caste system When I joined in the mid-90s. In fact, there were no suits involved in product development. The MBAs were way downstream, tasked with figuring out how to pitch what the product development teams cranked out.

By the time I left this year, anyone on the product team with any ambition was dressing in business casual and trying their best not to get saddled with petty individual contributor tasks such as designing and building a product. There's much more status in tracking other people's progress than in making progress yourself.

My conclusion - keeping the suits in their place is a sign of a healthy software company.

Anonymous said...

"Further, I find most of Mini's comments (and those from the peanut gallery) to be rife with inaccurate assumptions about Microsoft's business, a callous disregard for the significant contributions still provided by Bill and Steve, and completely immature regarding how a $56B+ company should actually be run."

And I find comments like this both comical and sad. I guess you missed all the posts that included undeniable facts such as MSFT's growth being the slowest in its corporate history and one of the worst in large cap tech? The ridiculously bad stock performance over the past three years? The inability to ship a new version of SQL short of 5 years? The 3+ year delay in Vista? The joke that is MSN search and advertising revenue? The complete lack of visible accountability for consistent unperformance in the emerging businesses as evidenced by such items as the recent "promotion" of Burgum? The ongoing dilution in the stock despite the massive buybacks? The industry-leading level of insider selling? I'm also getting pretty tired of the "we're a $56B company" so - by implication - slow, ineffective, anemic growth, etc. should all be expected". Tell it to GE.

Bottom line, there are numerous issues being raised on this blog that are objective, substantive and raise serious questions about whether MSFT is on the right path and by extension, whether Steve/Bill are still the best choices to lead. So do us a favor and don't deny their existence just because you personally are unable to address them.

Anonymous said...

I was invited to apply for a SDE position on the WinFS team. After sending in my resume, and doing some research over a weekend, I declined the phone screen. My reasons?

-- Cost of living in the Redmond area.
-- Stack/rank employee reviews (I prefer to be graded on my results, not on a curve.)
-- Impressions from friends who had worked there. They said that all the MSFT people were unusually internally competitive (aka sniped at each other) in an effort get a better review.
-- Area weather.
-- Big company with stagnant growth.
-- "so-so" salary.

I thought about just going there for a year or two, just to get "employed at Microsoft" on my resume, but didn't want the hassle of selling my house, relocating there, renting a cheap apartment (maybe with roommates, yuck), and then get a bad review through no fault of my own.

Anonymous said...

To the guy above that thinks it just depends on which group you are in, think again. I worked in the XBox group in the Mil buildings. I can tell you that we were treated like the bastard step children of MS. We basically got nothing we asked for or needed. We had to write our own tools, it took an act of God to get approval to order Windows books from the MS Marketplace. They wanted me to research and do a game, but it took me three weeks to get approval to purchase a stupid $14.00 book. (Yeah I could have just purchased it myself, but that wasn't the point. I purchased all my own research material which is why I took it with me when I left).

The reason XBox got shafed was because of the (Unidentified) moron exec above that made the following decision).

The business model was determined to take 3 years to break even after sales of hardware and income from licensing. Only half the head count was given from the start that was determined to be needed to produce the games desired. Then when fewer games were released and sales were lower than expected, we were told to produce more games, but we still couldn't have the head count. (Smart huh?). Then if that weren't a big enough problem. (Here comes the biggie messup). This was when MS decided to make each division financially responsible for itself. MS decided to purchase Rare Entertainment in England for some excessive value of $450,000,000.00 or more. But since that was never budgeted or planned, and just appeared as an opportunity, MS never found the money for it. What they did do, was say, hey this is a game company so the money should come from the XBox Divisions Budget. Instant killing of the group. Now they were another almost Half Billion dollars behind the eight ball that they never had anything to do with. So, not only couldn't we hire anyone, but we had instant issues with needing to RIF LOTS of people. We had some one June, then in Oct, Then Dec, Then Jan, and then again in Mar. How many people can you RIF in a group already understaffed and expect it to be functional. They just burdened us with more work, like the 75-100 hour weeks weren't long enough. The benefits were good, but the treatment was terrible.

The executives make all the MAJOR mistakes that cost MS people, products, and opportunities, but then they get the super high salaries, bonuses, etc., while lots of good people get RIFs. Yeah they have 6 weeks to find something else in MS if they were invited, but depending on when during the year this happens, that doesn't offer the RIF'd people much

Anonymous said...

Was the book that someone above recommended the following book? The one below is an incredible book, but I wanted to hear what others thought of it.

"Corporate Confidential" by Cynthia Shapiro

Corporate Confidential at Amazon. I think the book's web site is at Corporate Confidential The Book

I would be interested in hearing from any others that have read the book. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You say full-time: NO

But, I would disagree slightly. There are things in certain groups at microsoft that make extremely valuable knowledge to newcomers, certain processes in building quality software - albeit slow moving, are nevertheless important. I believe the models and processes, testing and verification methods that have been built for robustness and quality are something to notedown and learn from here.
Though I never stop to wonder whether a more fast-paced company can still provide that depth in development, with all the fun that microsoft workplace is missing.

TheKhalif said...

Further, I find most of Mini's comments (and those from the peanut gallery) to be rife with inaccurate assumptions about Microsoft's business, a callous disregard for the significant contributions still provided by Bill and Steve, and completely immature regarding how a $56B+ company should actually be run.


I think Mini's problem is that the "Worker Bees" are the ones to suffer. I think it is much easier (from WinDiv experience) to replace a manager than a "worker." There are plenty of ways to root out deadwood. I have yet to se any of them. I was in B43 through 4 or 5 reorgs and nothing ever changed. Maybe because the managers stayed the same.

Anonymous said...

"There are places I'd love to work at Microsoft (MSN, XBox), places where there isn't engough money on earth to pay me to join (Windows, MBS) and some places in between (Office)."

Gee Dare, shouldn't there be some caveats to these comments as per your earlier direction to Mini? Are you personally aware of all jobs in these divisions and certain that none are fun? Even if true (dubious) is it wise to make such a comment when the workers in Windows and Office provide the bulk of the profit so that you and other emerging group members can have such fun and rewarding jobs?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
>To the original question ("Should I come work for MS?")...irrespective of the "out of school" part or not, I'll give you my two cents as a (competent) senior manager:

First and foremost, it all depends on the group you're in and the manager you have. That is fundamentally no different than a small company except in one very important regard. In a small company, if your manager is an idiot and your group (or company) is not doing anything interesting, your situation will deteriorate quite rapidly. To the point of corporate extinction. At Microsoft, incompetence is a self-feeding prophecy and those dull groups and incompetent managers are allowed to thrive. Sad, but true, and in this regard I am wholeheartedly in Mini's camp.

You really need to do the research during your interview and ask good, probing questions. In my experience, most college interviews do not take on this critically important line of questioning and, as such, I find those candidates immature and no hires. During the interview, you need to be dilligent about getting answers to questions such as, "Is this a team where dissenting opinions are valued and nurtured?", "Is this a team where I'm given responsibility early and will have the opportunity to show what I can do?", "Is this a manager who is courteous, respectful, and demanding?"

If the answers you find are satisfactory to you, I see no problem with coming to Microsoft. Like other folks have mentioed, Microsoft is a company with a sterling reputation and one which will be a very, very good addition to any CV/resume.

Further, I find most of Mini's comments (and those from the peanut gallery) to be rife with inaccurate assumptions about Microsoft's business, a callous disregard for the significant contributions still provided by Bill and Steve, and completely immature regarding how a $56B+ company should actually be run.

Take, as an example, the "18,000 salesperson" comment someone made on this thread. Yes, we have 18,000+ salespeople. Did you think to ask why? Microsoft is not solely a consumer business anymore. The bulk of our sales come from Enterprise Agreements and volume licensing agreements. These are LONG-TERM purchases made for SIGNIFICANT dollar amounts by nearly every company on the planet. That is a large surface area to cover and because of the amount of money involved, requires a lengthy sales process (convince you of the benefits of the product, do a proof of concept, prove the proof of concept, close the sale, engage in significant post-sales communication to drive renewals of agreements and further sales of other products). While the consumer sale is still critical to our success, getting and staying smart with the enterprise and small/medium business sales process is critical to our future. Get out of Redmond, go do a rotation or get a job in the field, and you'll see exactly what I mean every single day.

I realize that a worker bee in a 56,000 person company has little visibility into all of this, particularly, if your job is to write or test code. I did that job, too, at one point, and it is indeed easy to play armchair marketing or sales guy or even armchair Bill/Steve. But, the reality of the modern Microsoft does not present itself with easy answers to complex questions. Microsoft is a large and important company, a key driver of the world's economy. If the answers were simple, believe me Bill or Steve are smart enough to have acted on them. Instead, the answers require significant thought, long-term investments (such as the sales process), and patience.<

I have to say out of all of the posts written over the past few months it is refreshing to hear reasonable and rational thinkng here. Your post is thoughtful, insightful and intelligent unlike 80-90% of the comments in here. Thank you for raising the bar.

Anonymous said...

>> Yes COSD, NDT are elements of that mafia <<

>> if you'd fit in COSD, hell no <<


What exactly are COSD, NDT?

Anonymous said...

I realize that a worker bee in a 56,000 person company has little visibility into all of this, particularly, if your job is to write or test code. I did that job, too, at one point, and it is indeed easy to play armchair marketing or sales guy or even armchair Bill/Steve. But, the reality of the modern Microsoft does not present itself with easy answers to complex questions. Microsoft is a large and important company, a key driver of the world's economy. If the answers were simple, believe me Bill or Steve are smart enough to have acted on them. Instead, the answers require significant thought, long-term investments (such as the sales process), and patience.

This is very condescending.

Sure, Bill and Steve believe they are making the best choices for Microsoft and, so far, Microsoft is still making a lot of Money so who cares what people have to say about their work environment?

Microsoft has never been particularly efficient about shipping major releases of software for a variety of reasons.

For example, managers seem to have a lot of latitude when it comes to hiring friends especially at the GM level. On the last project that I worked on, several project resets were the result of putting the most qualified friend in a key position instead of the most qualified candidate in the key position. We went through several iterations of friends in various positions resulting in several project resets.

I, as someone looking to make the best choices for my life, do not have to be patient while Microsoft solves its problems. I have the option of finding a better work environment for myself now.

Anonymous said...

I came in with 25 years of experience in the software industry, and my last manager (I was a level 67) had two years of management experience.
Exactly! MS's way of organizing development is stupid. The keyword is the "process". The process was created by someone who never did anything real. "PMs are writing specs. After that developers implement what is written. After that testers test the code. And ship it!"
Most of PMs never wrote a single line of code. They just do not know how things work. I found that PMs love to design UI -- this is obviously a result of some college course. In fact, sometimes noone understands how the new thing must be done. We need some research and prototyping before any specs are written. And most of PMs are unable to do that.
What testers are doing is mostly "writing test plans", after that "writing automation", after that "making performance test infrustructure", as a result the product is shipped almost untested. Hopefully beta-testers will file some bugs.
What developers are doing? Everything. They are writing code, testing code, filing bugs, fixing bugs, helping PMs to write specs, communicating with customers, etc.
What is the result? Thanks dev team for the help in shipping of our product!
BTW, What did you do last months? Fixing bugs? Not impressive. Why do you have so many bugs? 3.0.
The entire MS's process is bug-driven. Let's do some raw code in couple of weeks. After that we will file bugs and fix them during half of year. As a result the product will be rewritten couple of times, but not as a part of normal process, but as a set of bug fixes! No bug no problem. And PM with Test Lead will decide what allow to fix and what to do not. Make code clearer and API more logical? Never! Let's fix this in UI.
I have not seen such a stupid system during whole my life in Europe. It is strange that MS could do products which we have. Probably this is a result of the last 5 years.

Anonymous said...

so to the person who left this comment, were you able to find any place that met all of your criteria, or are you unemployed?

Anonymous said...

If you'd fit in Shell, no, b/c Shell is one of the prime reasons we're late

No, Avalon and WinFS are the prime reasons we're late.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am the anonymous who had asked Mini for his views.

Thanks for the post, and others for their insights into the company.

Well, I am not starting fresh from college as some of the assumptions seem to be, but I am sure the knowledge will help people who are joining straight from college.

It seems that quite a lot of people have a negative impression , but then again quite a lot have a good impression.

Processes & managers seem to be the universal bane all around, and it seems to be more so in Big companies. I work for a pretty big company, but the policies here make me feel like I am having to work in a straight jacket. Policies like blocked websites ( I cannot access any of the game review sites - like gamespot etc , and you guys are cribbing about xbox stuff!!), blocked messenger services ( its for security purposes is the answer given), etc. So, for me, it boils down to a decision between the lesser of two evils.

Again, like a lot of people have pointed out the group would matter - and then too quite a lot does matter if you like working on that stuff or not. I am not too sure about liking what I would be working on , but for me it would be a new experience, as instead of just cribbing about things not working fine, I would probably be in a position to fix a few of those things ( or is my assumption wrong, and I cannot fix things which I think are worng??).

Well, I have decided to join MS, and be optimistic about it. IF you guys are still working there it could not be that bad :-) . And IF the situation comes to such a passe that I don't feel like working in it anymore, I am sure , as many have pointed out, it will be an impressive addition to my resume!

For mini - you said no for a full time job, but as I understand , you are a full time employee ? If so, why are you saying a person should not join ? If it is just for making MS leaner - I doubt it would happen , as MS is ever on an expansionist path - and for that you do need more people.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me?

Microsoft is a great place to work for.

Is this blog fictional, recently I have been looking around this blog to find some thing like "Everything posted in this blog is purely a product of the writer's imagination and has no correspondence to the real situations".

Microsoft has more than 50000 employees. And its a difficult task for any company to keep that many employees satisfied. However, working at Microsoft, for a long time, I did not find a single guy who is so strongly obsessed with the philosophy that Microsoft is heading towards trash. Everyone is happy, proud overall.

Microsoft makes sure that you have total freedom to do your work by taking care of any obstacles you face. If you are at Microsoft, you are responsible for how creatively and smartly you work and you can exercise your full talents and vision without worrying about petty things like you would have to at other companies.

Come on guys...if you are in this company...you are the solution to the challenges that the company is facing. It is the value you have and exercise as a developer, tester, lead or a manager that defines the value of the company.

Anonymous said...

As the person who commented about "worker bees" originally...let me make myself clearer...

There ARE certainly (CERTAINLY) groups inside of Microsoft where there is incompetent management (AND staff!). By NO MEANS am I saying that Microsoft is perfect.

I think my comment to would-be employees is very valid and emphatically true. But, it's also a true statement no matter where you want to work. If you're not asking those kinds of questions of a prospective employer, what on earth are you doing in the interview?

As for being condescending...I will only say that "there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy". The statements on this comment board show a distinct lack of knowledge of the basic fundamentals of our business and a further lack of foresight into what it takes to grow a FIFTY-PLUS BILLION dollar company. Building products is only part of the story in the modern Microsoft. There are so many more things that go into whether or not a given product is a success or failure. Those things require resources and people, and a great deal of patience, so making blanket statements about Microsoft being too large and slow are patently irresponsible and uninformed.

>>> I, as someone looking to make the best choices for my life, do not have to be patient while Microsoft solves its problems. I have the option of finding a better work environment for myself now. <<<

Hey, I have this conversation with my extended staff all the time. Look, you do what's right for your own circumstances. Everyone is different, everyone's career goals are different. My job as a manager is to figure out what that is, and put people in a postiion to succeed based on their skills and interests. Most folks have no idea how to manage people (they think it means "assigning work").

>>> To the guy above that thinks it just depends on which group you are in, think again. I worked in the XBox group in the Mil buildings... [snip, snip] <<<

By "group" I meant your immediate working unit. If you've got a great manager, someone who knows how to use his/her people effectively, someone whose star is very much on the rise, and someone you actually admire, you can do well. Believe me, there are a few out there. And, if you've got a horrible situation, get out of it! Leave the company, interview elsewhere, complain to senior management. Staying and kvetching is not the act of an employee who takes charge of his/her career.

Like I said, I wholeheartedly concur that there are some groups that are nuclear waste zones. Heck, there are certain managers and executives I wouldn't ever work for again, under any circumstances whatsoever.

But, before you make blanket statements, I suggest first getting really, really informed about the business.

I will also add that I am a long-time employee (11+ years) and the big reason that I'm still at Microsoft ties back to both prongs of my comments. There are many things I have left to learn about our business, and all of these things will set me up for my future endeavors outside of Microsoft. So, yeah, I'm here partly for experience/resume building and partly because I really do believe the long-term strategic bets that we've made will in fact pay off.

Anonymous said...


To the original question ("Should I come work for MS?")...irrespective of the "out of school" part or not, I'll give you my two cents as a (competent) senior manager:


Your comment that Microsoft is a company with a sterling reputation is a bit over the top. Maybe you need to go back and review Billg’s videotaped deposition with David Boies. Microsoft has won a good deal of respect on its own. No question. Others rightly argue that Microsoft has been holding a ball bat over the marketplace. Unfortunately, I find this latter fact far too pervasive in the shaping of the company’s DNA. In the eighties and nineties this manifested itself in a bunch of mean technical guys throwing their weight around. Today, management is being impacted with something else. Today, the currency for getting ahead at Microsoft is a sociopathic cross between cheerleading and toadyism. And it can be practiced by anyone, skilled or otherwise. Word to new hires: it will be very hard for you to move from group to group quickly enough to evade this layer of management/socialites that add nothing to the value of the company but who sign reviews and paychecks.
That said, this is practically the only drawback to coming to Microsoft. There are a ton of cool things to work on at Microsoft. The pay and benefits are good. Its too bad that smart people can’t be programmed to work for dumb people and like it. Microsoft would be set. In my opinion, getting smart, rational and thoughtful people into management positions (I would start at the top) is the greatest challenge Microsoft faces. Fix that and have another 30 years.

Anonymous said...

is posting still turned off?

Anonymous said...

Sun, Apple and Google are engaged in backchannel communication on how to lower the boom on Microsoft (without lowering the boom on each other).

From another point of view, Microsoft (which ironically had the first x86 unix, Xenix) is still using a "Windows-Only, Anything But Unix" strategy. The other three can support each other by each not having to do all things. After all they all run Unix.

But Microsoft with its "It's Windows or Nothing" attitude has to do everything from development to marketing. They really don't have enough resources to compete. They are in the position of Apple pre-OSX. Think of the economies of scale which would result in the use of a MS-Unix as the Operating System base.

Time to throw out those dinosaurs, Gates and Ballmer, and rejoin the modern world

Who da'Punk said...

is posting still turned off?

No, but moderation is turned on, meaning two things:

(1) I've got to scan through the pending comments and then go through Blogger UI to select and publish them. I do this a couple times a day. So there's a delay there.

(2) When I bulk approve a set of comments, they don't all appear at once but rather seem to be throttled to show up over time, usually within an hour of approving.

Sorry for the delay oddness.

Anonymous said...

"If you are at Microsoft, you are responsible for how creatively and smartly you work and you can exercise your full talents and vision without worrying about petty things like you would have to at other companies."

Petty things like better pay? I'll open my kimono for you. My base compensation went up almost 50% by moving to a similar software management position (same size development team) with a competing Fortune 100 company (not even Google). As far as bonus, this particular company shares profits with employees when it does well so annual bonuses last year were multiplied by 175%. You tell me if I would have made $58k in annual bonus alone as a level 62 at MS plus options that are more in the money than any stock grant. here is the kicker - I'm no star...not a dirtbag either but no star.

I seriously doubt the whole 65th percentile compensation argument at MS now...I'm beginning to think based on my experience with other people that have left that MS compensates in the 20-30th percentile. I know very few folks (none actually) that have not made significantly more money right here in Seattle with less politics and hassle.

Your whole post reminds me of senior managers that have the well learned PR communication strategy of always asserting that Microsoft is good and treating the details as tactics.

Anonymous said...

The most invigorating and interesting post-and-comment give and take on this blog in a long time! Here, here, mini!!!

Anonymous said...

"Over here in MSN/Windows Live, things seem markedly better."

Seriously, I laughed outloud when I read this. Markedly better than what, being horsewhipped and having someone pour salt on the wounds?

Oh wait, it isn't much better than that either.

Anonymous said...

The statements on this comment board show a distinct lack of knowledge of the basic fundamentals of our business and a further lack of foresight into what it takes to grow a FIFTY-PLUS BILLION dollar company.

put the pencil down, sparky. The coal that fires technology companies is innovation. In other words, if Microsoft were an oak tree it would be shedding acorns of innovation. Some among those acorns would take root grow large, and one or more would eventually dwarf the original oak. Microsoft has spent all its time sending people up the tree to scotch tape and super glue acorns to the (Windows) oak so that the acorns never hit the ground (when they do hit the ground they are somehow grafted back to the tree). This is NOT how 50B companies become 100B companies. Microsoft needs to black box its best acorns and, unfettered by the cross-org goals of other groups, nourish that innovation. Yes, most effort here will be wasted. But eventually, out of the box will come a phenomenal insight about a product or service, at which point you build it and put marketing $ behind it. I originally thought that MS Research was the company’s ‘black box’ but am not sure now. If you are batting for average trying to get your company from a 50B company to a 51B company you will eventually wind up a 40B company (and one standing in the middle of the road with wealthy innovators zipping past it).

Anonymous said...

As for being condescending...I will only say that "there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

I reply with: "When all you have is an MBA, everything looks like a business plan."

Believe it or not, us "worker bees", the very ones upon whom your success depends, do have the wit to recognize when:
-a division or business unit is floundering around without a strategy
-teams are asked to rush out a product because of bad decisions or just plain being caught flat footed by the competition
-commitment to advancing engineering practices are only paid lip service (e.g. TwC vs. schedule, guess which loses?)
-products are bleeding money with little hope of positive return
-etc.

It is the hearts and minds of our "worker bees" and their counterparts at every business and home on the planet that we must win in order for Microsoft to continue to prosper.

(May I refer you to this paper: http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf. Despite the title, it is an genuine research paper whose implications you may wish to contemplate.

I respectfully also submit that the sort of dismissive, hand-waving, and arrogant "You philistines cannot appreciate the greatness of our plan", displays a need to focus on the "Strategic Leadership" core competency.)

TheKhalif said...

Well, I am not starting fresh from college as some of the assumptions seem to be, but I am sure the knowledge will help people who are joining straight from college.

It seems that quite a lot of people have a negative impression , but then again quite a lot have a good impression.




Some of them will even be the same person. Microsoft is a love\hate proposition, especially for "ICs."

Anonymous said...

If you are at Microsoft, you are responsible for how creatively and smartly you work and you can exercise your full talents and vision without worrying about petty things like you would have to at other companies.


I'll warn you- when you drink the Flavor-Aid HR gave you, watch out if it has an aftertaste of bitter almond...

Have you read ANY of Mini's posts? Or any of the commentary on mini's site? At all?

Yeah, I'm sure some places at MS are a veritable paradise on Earth for an individual such as yourself. Good for you. You had a good manager and worked in a good group. I've had chances to work in places like that. I've also seen hyena-like behavior when it comes to review scores, incompetent technical and staffing decisions repeated over and over again, and a share price that's stagnated for 5 years now.

Pretending that the worker bees are fully empowered in a corporation of 50,000 people is silly. The biggest ability they have to be empowered is to leave and go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Why did I come here to work and MS and why do I stay?

Because it meets my goals for work (no, I am not in Windows or Office, nor do I want to be). Now, we can quibble about whether you like my goals, but they are mine after all.

My advice to those considering coming here is...

First, do your homework: think about your goals, read the MS blogs, talk to those of us who work here, pay close attention in interviews, filter out the BS, etc.

Second: if working at MS meets your goals, whatever they are, then sign up. If not, find someplace that does. Simple in a free society.

I agree with the "starts at the top" comments. As long as the two college buddies are running the show...it is what it is...and it's unlikely to change.

Thanks mini for a very thoughtful blog.

Anonymous said...

Building products is only part of the story in the modern Microsoft. There are so many more things that go into whether or not a given product is a success or failure.

Which brings this "worker bee" to the often haphazard approach Microsoft takes to doing market research on what customers want in their products.

The odd thing is that Microsoft has all kinds of experts in various market research techniques (e.g. conjoint analysis) but they don't use them in any consistent way.

If you can't figure out what you want to build and keep changing your mind, it takes longer to ship and costs a lot more to develop 'cause you keep doing things over and over again.

Many people at Microsoft are very much under employed so "worker bee" isn't quite the put down I think was intended by the manager that used it.

Some of the worker bees in our group were people formerly employed as nuclear physicists who were employed to do performance testing of our product.

(How did such a concentration of nuclear physicists happen to occur?

Answer: A whole lot of latitude in what hiring managers are allowed to do.)

Another little "worker bee" who was also a former Marine called this inefficient use of human resources "a waste of human life".

Which brings us back to management ...

Anonymous said...

Does this apply only to Engg positions (dev, test, pm) or even the marketing org? I'm thinking of applying for a marketing position at MS; your thoughts will be much appreciated

fCh said...

Mini, you state your advice for wanna-be MSFT employees in such terms:

In short, my opinion is:

Join for an internship: Yes.
Join fulltime: No.


If you do so for the sake of consistency I can understand, yet qualifying your recommendation would help. Not being an insider myself makes it harder for me to evaluate the correctness/value of your desire for a smaller MSFT. I take your words at face value. However, don't you think new talent, when genuine, can push out the nops? I understand that what I am saying is not the straight line to your objective, but for how long can you risk not hiring in the next mini? The more valuable people look at a problem the easier is to find a solution, and, if you agree, there is not enough of you around even to push for a mini-solution...

Cheers, fCh.

The Nog said...

You could look at it another way. Microsoft lets other companies take all the risk in bringing a new idea to market. They wait to see which ideas produce results for other companies. After which, they then commit to building a product to compete in that market. Essentially, they use other companies to do a lot of their market research for them.

The ol' "R&D South" joke. But even if this was purposeful on Microsoft's part, what it's done is given Microsoft the image of a stagnant dinosaur. Google gets the press and the thunder for Gmail, Google Maps, and even AJAX. Apple gets the glowing press for integrated search in OS X Tiger, "no viruses and spyware in five years," digital media with the iPod (and upcoming Intel-based Mac Mini DVR if rumors are to be believed), and so on. Hardware-accelerated drawing in Windows sounds cool at first until you realize Quartz started it in 2002. Letting products stagnate while waiting to see what innovations other competitors put out first is a dangerous way to do business. That can kill market leadership overnight in this industry.

In the past, Microsoft could get away with this by including things in the desktop. Combat the upstart Netscape by including Internet Explorer in Windows. Combat AIM by including Messenger in Windows (and forcing it on startup...and removing the ability to uninstall it...). Now, Windows hasn't updated in five years while the web has grown as an application delivery mechanism. Can those past strategies continue to work when Vista comes out? I think it will be more difficult for Microsoft to try to integrate a vertical platform to keep out competitors, because the web is so pervasive in introducing those competitors, and because Vista is coming so very late in the game.

The baffling part to an outsider is that Microsoft is so big and has such a store of resources, you'd think they'd have been the first ones knocking out all these innovations left and right. But reality isn't that simple, and the truth is that when a company gets too big, it slows down.

Microsoft needs to streamline, as Mini-Microsoft has been saying since the beginning. Its various symptoms can be traced back to its unmanageable size. The company is slow to move on things. Office should have been on the web long ago when .NET was first gaining traction. Why are we getting it six years later?

Prune thyself, Microsoft!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is well beyond the usual retorts and rhetoric, and I enjoy it very much. Especially this post and the comments it's drawing in. I was curious as to whether you have had any indications that Mr. Gates or Mr. Ballmer have ever spent time reading your site?

TheKhalif said...

I understand that what I am saying is not the straight line to your objective, but for how long can you risk not hiring in the next mini? The more valuable people look at a problem the easier is to find a solution, and, if you agree, there is not enough of you around even to push for a mini-solution...


I have to agree with you there. Mini sometimes sounds like the current administration except that he advocates smaller rather than larger.
No offense Mini, but ofttimes you sound as tyrannical in your desire to out and out fire everyone who doesn't seem to fit your view of "hard-working" and "super-gifted." I admit though that I sometimes enjoy reading your "rants," as politically incorrect as they are.

Anonymous said...

Whether you want to join MS at this stage with MS population racing beyond 56000 is a tough choice.

From what I gather there are good/bad apples in every company.

The dissenting attitude comes from people who were pissed off mainly due to the increase in group size, performance review process, and MS stock price.

I know for a fact that MS doesnt pay good salary. The benefits may be good, but come on people in a given year how many times do you really make use of them? Soda, free water, free towels(I know I am not going there ...)

MS always had the Windows/Office monopoly and that helped them push out their products. MS never had a creative arm, but had a strong cash flow and a pretty good marketing team.

Now what pisses me off most is, the whole idea of this blog that MS must stop hiring and cut back in size.
Is it even possible?
How long is this ranting going to go?

I have been a regular reader of this blog and I can see that people in Windows development are highly pissed. What about the people from Office/MED/RTC, etc?

Based on purely the blogs and the shitty pay scale, I dont think MS is the company to work for if you are really experienced. It is definitely worth being a Microsoftie, after all what is the point when you are being paid in peanuts?

Now the other point I have is since this guy started this blog and we have all made him a demi-god, where is this blog going to go?

MS/Business week seems to have noticed this blog on and off.

Does MS really care?
Does anybody care what they write here doessnt mean much?
I am not trying to ridicule your hurt/dissentment/feelings but what good is this venting out strategy for?

It looks the sole purpose of this blog is never going to happen, and ONLY the outsiders get to see how shitty MS CEO/President is.

This is my IMHO.

Of late, whenever there is a blog entry criticisng Mini or his thoughts the entry gets yanked.
I hope it doesnt happen to this one.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I started as an intern for MSN, 6mos prior to accepting an offer letter. It is/was the greatest company Ever. You are still surrounded by scary smart people that you will learn from, (though many are leaving).

After 12mos, I realized WHY the company's stock hasnt moved, WHY the impending threat, and eventual Non-effect MSFT will have on the Web. And how it WILL slowly slip into IBM's shadow as a once dominate, but now blue chip company.

The Iceberg has hit, its just a matter of how fast the tanker will sink...

Beaurocracy, Politics, and way too much management. I still feel very privlidged for the opportunity, but i agree w/ Prior posts: intern, work for a few months, and move on to a company that is changing the world through exciting innovations, and where you really love to work 12-16hrs a day....caz it sure as hell isnt at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

My advice: definitely interview and ask each hiring manager for their teams MSPoll results and comments for the last few years.

In the poll are questions like how people there feel about their workgroup overall, decision making, accountability etc. That should tell you quite a bit about the team you may end up in.

My favorite question is "Would you recommend your team as a great place to work?" More than 10% saying "no" would be a bad sign.

If the manager won't give you the information then they've got something to hide - stay away.

Anonymous said...

WinFS and Avalon were the only components in Windows that were even remotely innovative from an ISV perspective.

They both got majorly whacked and haven't been part of Windows for more than a year. Yet Windows still slips, the CTPs have been lame and the former managers are all still there. Gotta love the accountability in that division.

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that MS doesnt pay good salary

I drank the MS kool-aid ages ago. I really love MS but I don't know how much more I can resist the temptation to leave. A high performing L64 not cracking 110K is really pathetic when I can get almost twice outside.

A confession: My junior MS friend and I interviewed with Google and got offers. Very very very good offers including signing bonus. Family issues made this a very tough choice for me. Uprooting the wife and kids to CA was going to be too traumatic in too many ways to count. The Kirkland office didn't have an equivalent position. I declined my offer but my friend accepted. He is a bachelor unencumbered by nothing. He started in CA 3 months ago.

I often wonder if this was the right choice and 7 times out of 10, the answer is Yes. I just love MS too much. Also in 9 years I have made a name in all the groups I have worked on, cranking out ungodly levels of productivity. I have earned my stripes, do I really have the stomach to start afresh at Google? 'Cos despite the high position I was offered (not Dev or Test mind you), it is still a restart.

Anyway I am still here. Next time, I am not so sure MS will win the battle for me cos like Latrell Sprewell, I have to feed my family after all.

I understand that the company cannot actually force our stock to go up despite what the younger folk think (believe me, we have played the wall street game for years now without much to show for it). However, the company can do something about wages. Boeing machinists take home much more than we do. Microsoft is definitely in the 30th percentile of wages in the IT industry. Okay even if it is in the 65th percentile as they say, does it make sense to strive to be #1 in every area of software but when it comes to wages, we gladly take the last position?

On an unrelated topic, Mini thanks for moderating. You can filter out those external folks who want to piss on our graves with those tawdry posts. Or the HR/Dev v Test posters:)

Anonymous said...

Actually noone understand what is it going to be in Vista without Avalon and WinFS. The only thing everyone is sure about is that they will need a memory upgrade.

Anonymous said...

And how it WILL slowly slip into IBM's shadow as a once dominate, but now blue chip company.

Heh, there are a *lot* worse things than winding up like IBM. They're doing pretty well for themselves, I'd say.

Anonymous said...

"Gotta love the accountability in that division."

There is little, if any, acccountability in the "old guard" windows teams and I dont believe that there ever has been. Avalon has had essentially the same management as the IE team that shipped the "most secure browsers ever" like IE5.5 and IE6...I also just heard that the test manager that signed off on those insecure and oft-patched piles of poo left to become a General Manager within the security team of all places. In short, it seems to be the same faces just changing places upward until retirement (when the next set of buddies takes over)

A huge part of the problem is the way that Microsoft rewards. They reward for shipping...not for staying around to find out what customers actually think about the product. Microsoft outsiders can now know why many products release in July and August....annual bonuses are paid in September! If you know that your team is going to release something that is crap and you are a senior manager with sizable bonus potential, you'll ship your product, get your bonus safely in your bank account, and transfer to another team before the chips fall...happens more than you'd imagine. There is no tie-in what-so-ever to customer response to the release.

My mom told me to never complain without at least some sort of proposal to fix the problem so here goes...I'd like to see Microsoft go back to the twice yearly bonus system with one change. This likely has a rat's nest of issues but I'll summarize my thinking anyway.

I'd propose one 6 month bonus payment for individual performance and one 6 month team oriented bonus based on the customer satisfaction of the prior release that people stayed through (maybe even everyone on a team that shipped getting the exact same team bonus - good or bad). Have the team bonus for development teams based on the sales projections and/or uptake rates to better align with the concerns of the field - make these goals known throughout the group as the product is being developed. This would give people some incentive to hit and exceed quality goals based on the customer and not some arcane quality metric that customers dont care about. Thinking about bulk "won't fix"ing bugs in the PS database? Could blow the bonus. If you create something that people love and stores cant keep on the shelves...great bonus. If there is a bad release or heating issues or extremely critical security issues that were missed or whatever reason that uptake isnt as projected, there is some incentive to at least stick around and do the quick SP1 work to try to make customers happy again and quickly. Successful release or not, transferring away after release would not help or hurt your bonus but not staying through release or not releasing at all should hurt with a really low team oriented bonus.

In short, rewards drive desired behaviors and reinforce past behavior. Microsoft should use them to do just that.

mini-fan

Anonymous said...

"WinFS and Avalon were the only components in Windows that were even remotely innovative from an ISV perspective. "

Perhaps but there were certainly other technologies as well but maybe more IHV with some ISV focus. Some of those are still on track for vista.

Anonymous said...

Mini- Here is a good topic for the next Blog.

A couple of co-workers and I were discussing the current state of Microsoft. We have each worked at MS for over 5 years and have seen the company go from the best software company in the world to work and have fun, to a place were you can’t wait till 6 to head out the door.

The main reason we think Microsoft is no longer the greatest company in the world to work for is TRUST. (or the total Lack of Trust)

Nobody trusts anyone anymore. Here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself.

Do you trust you team members?
Do you really trust you manager?
How about the GM’s and Directors?


From the OHI results I think we all know nobody trusts the Executives and their Vision/Leadership.

So what can we do to help Microsoft and fix this? Well out little brain trust could not come up with a solution but eliminating Stack ranking and reward teams and units may be a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

Never mind, Srivastava and his buddiess at COSD have given up breta testing now, so we'll ship on time ;)

Anonymous said...

WinFS and Avalon were the only components in Windows that were even remotely innovative from an ISV perspective.

They both got majorly whacked and haven't been part of Windows for more than a year. Yet Windows still slips, the CTPs have been lame and the former managers are all still there. Gotta love the accountability in that division.


I disagree. The work in the Color space, IE, LDDM, perf, and many other places is innovative. WinFS and Avalon were two of the most visible innovations, but they were not on plan to ship with the OS regardless. Arguably, Avalon was much closer. The fact that so much time was spent integrating those and a few other big pieces deeply into the OS is one of the reasons Longhorn is late. When you decide to completely change some of the biggest pieces of the OS, then require higher layers in the OS to build on those at the same time, you're not on a path to success. Detangling that mess takes time and effort.

On the management side, look carefully. There are several significant changes at high levels in Windows. Is it enough? Remains to be seen. It takes YEARS to turn a ship that big (which reinforces Mini's overall point).

Anonymous said...

"I understand that the company cannot actually force our stock to go up despite what the younger folk think (believe me, we have played the wall street game for years now without much to show for it)"

Implicit in these types of comments is that somehow, despite mgt doing everything right, the stock just isn't moving. The reality is that the stock has been flat-lining for three years because revenue growth has been decreasing steadily (to its current anemic rate), earnings have grown even less for most of that period (thx to major execution failures as well as massive charges relating to emerging bet failures, legal settlements, emp comp) and mgt has continued to massively dilute the stock (mostly to pay execs). All this in turn has helped foster a perception of a mgt team/company that isn't focused, is reactive and isn't accountable. Combine weak results with poor perception and you get a flat-lined stock. Start addressing some of these issues, and the stock will start to move - not like the old days but at least at the market vs the pathetic performance of the past three years.

Anonymous said...

very interesting comments about joining MS or no. I just left MS a few weeks ago, after almost 10 years. It took long time to convince me to get out MS as I was so comfortable, knew how to game the system, get work done by my reports, game the review system so that my stars got good reviews. Finally i figured out that I am getting far away from what i joined MS.

I came to MS almost out of grad school, and MS has been really good to be the first 4 years, I was learning new stuff etc, then it was exciting as lead, as I was managing people and stuff, but slowly I realized that I had to play the positioning game. Finally last year became a manager, and the politics increased further and only thing I was doing is looking after myself and some of my key reports. It was basically a "old boys club".

After reflecting on what I have been doing i decided that I am going nowhere, so decided to quit and have joined a small startup.

I think MS is still a great place for college grads, interns and anyone with less than 2 years experience. Spend 3 or 4 years and then move on(dont spend 10 years like me). I am having a tough time trying to get out of my MS mode, and that does not work in a startup.

Trust me: MS on the resume talks. There are so many companies who look up on MS employees.

Manuel Dargulis said...

As someone actively looking for his first full time job, I maybe don't have quite the power of hindsight that Mini does, but perhaps a bit different insight.

I interned at Microsoft last summer, and the odds are good that I'll go back there. Regardless of what Mini says, I simply haven't found any companies offering the resources, the quality of employees (sure, there are some morons, but there are morons everywhere), and the range of opportunity that Microsoft does.

I interviewed (abortively, as it turns out; they filled the spot already) with Apple, but I saw no reason to prefer working on i-apps and Unix internals than to work on Office and Windows internals (other than that I actually use Apple products). I talked to Google at job fairs (regrettably, they didn't wish to continue the conversation) and found them arrogant, a bit nutty, and, while attractive (possibly more so than MS), not nearly as perfect as people seem to think they are. Financial companies for the most part didn't interest me; why play tech support to some Wall Street hotshot when you can work at an engineering company that makes you the hotshot? And I even interviewed with a tiny startup, but betting my first job on the not-so-amazing idea--and bank account--of a couple of over confident brothers wasn't my idea of a great plan.

So on the one hand, it may be easy enough for Mini to say "go somewhere else"--you always see the flaws in your own organization best, and the grass is always greener on the other side. But I'm curious what companies Mini would suggest instead--there are only a small handful with the resources, range of products/opprtunities, and, simply, clout and prestige of Microsoft. And none of them are a knockout against MS.

Anonymous said...

Refreshing to also see the "Honcho of Office Development" responding to a posting here. (You can't fool a linguistics specialist who has studied people's writings for a living before)

I know - Microsoft's pay scale has huge disparity. Given that a GM makes close to 500K and bonuses of 200+K and 2 levels below they makes 20% of the GM...this is NOT industry standard.

But - come on, if you are getting paid that much cash - why would you see the things that are not working.

Also, 18,000 sales people ->> I think the person meant to show the college grads that Microsoft was not the "geek-centric" tech company it was 10-15 years ago.

You need to understand that many people want to work for a tech company with a geek inspired creative culture, not a marketing/sales driven one.

Once again, if your pockets are full and you have been here 15 years, why would you see a problem :)

Steve Doria said...

Thanks for repeating your statement that was made here about taking risks while one still can. Your advice, Scott Burkun's Why I Left Microsoft, and Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford make me more comfortable with my decision to seek out startups and sometimes small companies at this point in my life. It also reinforces my fear of being an easily replaceable cog in an established, slow-moving development machine. Thanks Mini!

Anonymous said...

How is the india office of Microsoft doing ? Same problems ? What work do they do ?

Anonymous said...

About whether or not to work at Microsoft. I agree that the internship is a great opportunity - come check out the company.

All I can say about fulltime is I'm not there anymore. My new job pays slightly more than Microsoft, but I have a ton less stress, anger, and headaches. Work is calm and enjoyable. My new company schedules realistic workloads and doesn't expect gut-busting heroic effort. I have a life outside work.

It seems like Who Da Punk (everybody calls him Mini but that's the name of the blog) has the following message: are you top notch? willing to work huge hours in grueling conditions? for a company that might screw you over for political reasons and only pays mediocre wages with stagnant stock? Not exactly a compelling recruiting pitch.

Anonymous said...


I will also add that I am a long-time employee (11+ years) and the big reason that I'm still at Microsoft ties back to both prongs of my comments. There are many things I have left to learn about our business, and all of these things will set me up for my future endeavors outside of Microsoft. So, yeah, I'm here partly for experience/resume building and partly because I really do believe the long-term strategic bets that we've made will in fact pay off


You are a long term employee, that is heading up a development division that is one of the 2 core products. We all know that and as long as you are making the moolah, are one of the hundreds of GM's or VP's why do you care about worker bees anyway?

I was with MS for 8 years, I quit early this year to work for a company in the local area. I gave up on a lot of the options I earned over the years as well as no promotions for the last 4 despite consistently get a 4.0 on performance for the last 3 years. Reason - no room for growth as MS kept hiring newbies for the top positions.


1. Do you think a worker bee deserves to be paid 10-15% of his GM's pay? Also, why do GM's and VP's get outrageous grants (50,000+ stock) whereas worker bees get 200-600 over 5 years?

2. The GM's are frequently hiring, as someone brought forth, their buddies (some from outside Microsoft) and some internally.

3. What is the motivation for a worker bee to slog, get it done and just make a paycheck with no hope for promotion or incentive. Policy should enforce internal growth for performers..


If you are a GM/VP and above or are receiving compensation that you probably will not receive when you leave MS since you have been here way too long and can't possibly perform elsewhere, you should not comment on worker bees that can work anywhere they want to work at, but choose MS and got chosen for their skill.

Now, the killer - I received more in stock grants, all vested, when I signed up for this new job than MS had given me in 8 years!

On the other hand - if you are a new grad - I think you are better off working in one of the non-core divsions (no windows, no office - they are huge, you get lost, you work hard but no one can see you, they cram you 2-3 in a room etc,..)

Anonymous said...

If you want to make Microsoft lean and mean again, I suggest you focus less on the futile exercise of pressuring management to change and more on changing management itself.

Amen to that.

Mini you want to write a think week paper with that suggestion?

Genshie said...

Regarding the question "should I work for MS?", here is my opinion. Below is my parting email to Mr. Ballmer before I quit a few weeks ago. Not sure if he ever got the chance to read it. Maybe now that it is on here he might. So far, I have not a single regret!

Kurt G.

11/13/05

The Maniacally Mercurial Man from Michigan

Dear Steve,

Let me start by saying you are a mercurial and maniacal man from Michigan. You throw full water bottles across a stage in mid-scream while the veins on your forehead rage like the Nile in flood. You scare and inspire people simultaneously with bulging eyeballs and junkyard dog behavior that supercede even Mister T. You sprint up and down auditorium aisles wearing a red argyle sweater slapping high fives like you are back in the good ole Harvard football days. More than all of these redeeming qualities, you inspire people like me to be driven and passionate about succeeding.

I have never witnessed a more intense and un-PC Chief Executive who speaks his mind however difficult it may be. Could it be your family genes, or is it that wholesome Michigan upbringing which gave you these characteristics? I know it well for my Mother and her six brothers and sisters all grew up in Royal Oak about the same time you did. Whatever the case, I am continually inspired by your sincere demeanor, dedication, motivation, focus, and commitment to never give up no matter what. As a salesperson, an athlete, and an all-around hard worker, these are the characteristics I look for in a leader in order to be inspired to win.

When I came to Microsoft in 2003 through the PlaceWare acquisition, I was hoping that through hard work and success, my future with the company would flourish into a wealth of new opportunities. Like my friend once said, “Working for Microsoft is like playing baseball for the Yankees.” Being in the “big bet” RTC space at Microsoft, I was ecstatic and ready to kill my number every quarter as a Live Meeting solution specialist.

I went to MGB in 2004, and the highlight for me was your speech (and trust me, I am not the ‘rah-rah’ type of person). I left Atlanta with more motivation to win than ever before, returned to my own little corner of Microsoft, and all that motivation went whirling down the toilet. I looked at our unqualified leaders, winced at their employment practices, cringed at their political gaming, and was depressed to see so many talented individuals either get fired or quit in frustration. The hopes of attending another MGB to get me re-energized were dashed in 2005 when Microsoft decided against bringing anyone from Live Meeting at all – as if to say budget cuts are important than our inclusion in a morale boosting event. After that I thought to myself, “What’s the point? Why should I care anymore? It is futile to try and make a difference in this job.”

We finished last quarter at about 50%. Hopefully you know that. Is it a personnel issue or a leadership problem? Based on my observations, of the roughly 30 inside sales reps that came here post-acquisition, only six remain. On top of that, a majority of the sales reps who were hired by Microsoft after the acquisition have already departed, many of them who were top performers at the chief competitor, WebEx. Our group has gone from a dedicated core of knowledgeable specialists to a revolving door of salespeople who are either set up to fail or who are smart enough to see through the futility and either quit or do nothing.

If it isn’t bad sales talent that is making the organization fail, then what is? I think it is a combination of two elements. There is a widely recognized term that “the success or failure of a team largely falls upon the leader’s shoulders”. Who are the leaders in RTC, and what are their qualifications? It seems that a number of appointed leaders in our group have been selected based on their “buddy system” politicking relationships and not on their actual qualifications. Does it bother you that our sales GM is a career marketing brand manager and has never run a successful sales organization in his life? Wouldn’t that be a logical prerequisite for being a sales GM?

Another example of unqualified leadership was an inside sales manager who got hired by his good buddy and former co-worker, our inside sales director, who of course was a good buddy of the sales GM. What were his qualifications? Well, he was a product marketing director, and had an advanced engineering degree, but never managed a sales team in his career; and it showed. Within six months of his arrival, the only things he achieved were multiple HR complaints, driving virtually every sales rep on his team quit, and finishing each quarter below 50% attainment before finally walking out the door and leaving a catastrophe in his wake.

The other troubling element revolves around leadership ignoring the ideas of our most successful salespeople. In the Live Meeting group there have been numerous individuals who have had exceptional successes. They know how to win and have ideas that may help foster a positive change. Some of these folks came from WebEx, a company which is undeniably successful and still holding its own against Microsoft. Without question, we have a lot to learn from that company. However, the only thing we have managed to learn is how to steal their employees and then make them quit in utter frustration after being sold a bogus bill of goods.

Management’s process has been to give us a window dressing show where they listen and sound enthusiastic, write the ideas down, go back to their office, and throw all the ideas in the round file cabinet so they can continue working on their political campaigning. In nearly three years, never have I seen any ideas from successful sales reps employed in our group. That’s probably why most of the successful reps have already quit and moved on. There is no bigger morale killer than having a pseudo-interest in what your successful employees have to say to help affect positive change.

I will not write a rant email and propose no remedies, as I am definitely not without any faults. Just a few weeks ago, my new manager told me that I suffer from poor perception and need to be “more corporate”. Funny, I don’t remember seeing that as one of the core Microsoft success factors in the competency toolkit.

Although you’ve heard it a million times before, here is my suggestion; trim the fat. In the process of trying to be all things to all customers, growing unqualified and multi-layered leadership continues to mire the company’s morale. Through shoddy acquisitions like PlaceWare, Microsoft is sinking within its own quicksand of management corpulence that ignores its most productive employees and instead suggests they be “more corporate”. You stress to us the importance of commitments versus goals, yet when executive leadership fails, they don’t get fired; they just transition to a different business unit in order to wreak havoc on a new set of poor souls. Political moves such as this do nothing but further frustrate your most talented employees and lead them to desertion.

Does trimming the fat mean splitting Microsoft up into different companies, selling off portions of the business, or just making massive leadership cuts? I will not say I know the answer, but I do know that Microsoft is getting too big for its own good, both from a product and management perspective. And I’m not taking about reorgs here; God knows we’ve done enough of those. I am talking about making hardcore cuts. It would be a shame to see Microsoft become another Digital due to smaller yet leaner and meaner competitors like Google, WebEx, Adobe, and others who continue to team up for battle.

In closing, I will be announcing my departure today, and unfortunately, I am really happy. Not that it even matters, as there are many folks who leave Microsoft on a regular basis, but therein lies part of the problem. Great talent isn’t being lost because competitors appear that much more attractive; it is because Microsoft is becoming that much more unattractive.

So until you, the Maniacally Mercurial Man from Michigan, take charge and do some serious internal shakeups with the vein popping intensity you possess, Microsoft may forever be a porky political Purgatory stifling the morale and productivity of its most talented employees. My buddy was right; working at Microsoft has been like playing for the Yankees - The Yankees of 1990 when they had a .414 winning percentage.

I greatly appreciate your time, inspiration, and willingness to read the honest feedback of one solitary employee in 60,000.

Sincerely,

Anonymous said...

So, I've read through this whole thread... but didn't see any mention of the new MSN adCenter team. What's the deal with that group? Cool folks? Smart? Sane? Respected within the company?

Anonymous said...

Mini, pls cut and paste this Ballmer letter as your new post. It speaks for itself, and some folks may have missed it. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Microsoft has indeed gotten very large. In some cases, it's difficult to get different divisions to agree on priorities. For example, if you're dependent on a particular piece of technology in another division, but that technology is being targeted at one or more completely different market segments, you may find yourself out in the cold when it comes to meeting your needs. What Microsoft needs is a set of high-level priorities which govern how technologies will be mapped, from a company perspective. You can't allow individual divisions to set company-wide strategic direction, when they're primarily only looking after their own interests.

Another problem is that incompetence isn't really being punished anymore. Not like the old days. Let's say that your group fails to deliver a technology. I won't name any, because we can all think of numerous candidates, if we really need to. It used to be that your group either got killed completely or rolled into another group to be consumed. Many of the original group members probably left, after this happened. But not anymore. Teams are allowed to continue making the same mistakes over and over again. Yeah, sure, MS is pretty quick to remove things from Vista and other products when it sees the writing on the wall. But I can't count the number of teams that failed to deliver and yet still continue to limp along.

What's happened to people? Are they lazy? No, I don't think so. Are they stupid? Maybe some are, but not a lot. Are we too forgiving of error? Yes, we are. Do people appreciate the consequences of failure? No, they don't. Are people truly dedicated to building great products? I don't know. This place is a ghost-town after 6pm and on weekends. There's very little energy anymore. It's all so corporate. Too corporate. Too sheltered.

Don't get me wrong: There are things that MS can do to fix these problems. The first problem can be addressed by having management completely map out market segments and map technologies to them in a kind of distributed weighted graph. These are the company priorities. Violate them and you either have a very good reason -- or you're toast. As for the latter, MS is faced with a potential attrition problem if it comes down too hard on accountability. People could potentially defect to Google. But very clearly, Google can't absorb that many bodies.

I still believe that MS is THE BEST company to work for. I just wish that it were BETTER.

Anonymous said...

"So, I've read through this whole thread... but didn't see any mention of the new MSN adCenter team. What's the deal with that group? Cool folks? Smart? Sane? Respected within the company?"

DOA

Guy with friends at MS *and* Google said...

> Do people appreciate the
> consequences of failure? No, they
> don't. Are people truly dedicated to
> building great products? I don't
> know. This place is a ghost-town
> after 6pm and on weekends. There's
> very little energy anymore. It's all
> so corporate. Too corporate. Too
> sheltered.

You know what? I think you've fallen victim to the same mistake too many others make... assuming that taking responsibility, giving 100% at work and exuding energy and drive are all synonymous with working overtime.

I'm sorry, but I think that's absolute bullshit. After a certain number of hours, anyone who is remotely human starts producing less-than-stellar work, starts being able to concentrate a bit less. Multiple-all-night codathons, frankly, typically produce garbage.

Are there crunch times that are necessary and important? Sure! But looking down on people who actually have a life (maybe even a family, kids?) and -- shock of shocks -- actually want to spend some of that life outside the office on weekends... that's just pathetic, IMHO.

You know why Google's so successful? It's not because of all the money and not because *some* engineers work seemingly 24x7. No, it's because that company hires interesting, diverse, creative people who have (and value) lives outside of work. And they bring their experiences into work, apply them to their work. Having hobbies, passions outside of coding... actually leads to more successful coding. Crazy but true.

So instead of suggesting that Microsofties work longer hours, work "harder"... how about ensuring that they work *smarter*? Give them the tools they need to get the job done. Train managers to be leaders, and hold them accountable for their people skills (or lack thereof). And if some people routinely work more than 40-45 hours per week, then either they're wasting time at work and are unfocused OR their manager isn't supporting them adequately.

When employees are happy, passionate about their work AND their personal lives, they do better work. Period. Focus on that, and MS will find Greatness once again :).

PheonixPundit said...

I have a comment on the guy who asked you suggestion...That guy should not join MS, you know why? He lacks individuality and confidence, which is no way matching the expectations from Microsoft's employee culture.

I am posting this comment, since i dont have a blogger account.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mini,

I have been offered a Grade 62 level position...How does it stack up in the overall MSFT food-chain? Is that a middle-management position? How are the grade levels structured at MSFT? If can you let me know that would be great.

Anonymous said...

I have been offered a Grade 62 level position...How does it stack up in the overall MSFT food-chain? Is that a middle-management position? How are the grade levels structured at MSFT? If can you let me know that would be great.
Will you have people reporting directly to you? if so, do they have people reporting to them ? if the answer is no to these two questions you're just an IC (Individual Contributor). If the answer is Yes to the firt question, you're are located around the first floor of an 8 stories building , if you know what I mean. Got to climb up quite a bit to be a middle-mgr nowadays.

Anonymous said...

I have been offered a Grade 62 level position...How does it stack up in the overall MSFT food-chain? Is that a middle-management position? How are the grade levels structured at MSFT? If can you let me know that would be great.

Will you have people reporting directly to you? if so, do they have people reporting to them ? if the answer is no to these two questions you're just an IC (Individual Contributor). If the answer is Yes to the firt question, you're are located around the first floor of an 8 stories building , if you know what I mean. Got to climb up quite a bit to be a middle-mgr nowadays.

It is a IC role and they have come back with L63 position...what grade levels are considered middle-management with management responsibilies?

Anonymous said...

Can any Microsoftie post base and bonus pay for the various scales .. say L62-67?

Anonymous said...

This is in response to the person who asked about marketing organization. I recently left Microsoft. Marketing organization is even more political than program management or dev. teams. It is even more difficult to measure one's performance since everyone runs around claiming to be "strategic", which translates into creating more Powerpoint slides which no one reads. I would imagine that the performance rating is driven even more by politics and backstabbing than technical groups.

Anonymous said...

I was at Apple for several years, and left them to start my own business fairly recently.

Before I worked at Apple, I held MS's developers in very low regard, based on the quality of your products. Then I had occasion to work with a few of you directly, as well as a few Apple colleagues who had been at MS previously.

What I found was that the MS people I worked with were pretty good coders, and could often invent a clever solution to a programming conundrum. What I did NOT find, was much in the way of imagination on their part. IOW, they could code it, but not dreaming up what to code was beyond all but one of them. Overall, I'd place MS's developers right smack in the center of the bell curve for coding talent, of the developers I know around the valley.

When it comes to management, it's a different story. Each and every MS manager I've dealth with to date has been as dumb as a stick. They are the strongest argument I could ever make against hiring non-techies to manage engineers. The quality of MS's Macintosh apps (such as it is), is thanks entirely to the coders who work on the apps, often ignoring or misdirecting their managers. We're talking Dilbert here, big time.

Steve Balmer is a blithering idiot, and Bill Gates is a mediocre hacker, who never gave a shit about the quality of his work. Truth to tell, I doubt that BG even has the capacity to *recognize* quality. Ever since MS caught IBM's fumble and walked away with the mediocrity franchise though, the press has been duped into thinking that MS is a technology company.

MS is NOT a technology company, it's a marketing company. Any engineer joining MS and expecting to be anything more than a cog in the machine, will be bitterly disappointed.

Anonymous said...

"So, yeah, I'm here partly for experience/resume building and partly because I really do believe the long-term strategic bets that we've made will in fact pay off."

Re the latter, you've got to be kidding.

Anonymous said...

Mr. L62... no L63 person. If you don't have enough of a clue to know whether you're joining to be a manager or not, kindly stay the hell away.

Anonymous said...

MS is NOT a technology company, it's a marketing company. Any engineer joining MS and expecting to be anything more than a cog in the machine, will be bitterly disappointed.

Essentially, true. Gates, Ballmer, KJ, Raikes, Rudder and Bach are basically front guys. Gates has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. However, his technical contribution to the company is arguable. He stated, in early days, that he went through developer code line by line. But this was likely to strip it down to run in the memory allocated. And it was all stripped versions of existing languages, Basic, Fortran etc. Paul Allen is the one that brought the Altair to Gates' attention and pushed him to get involved. Its probable that once Allen saw Gates' interaction with Ballmer he found it convenient to NOT return to Microsoft after taking medical leave to deal with Hodgkin’s disease. The rest, of course, is history.

Anonymous said...

"I really do believe the long-term strategic bets that we've made will in fact pay off."

Such as .... if you can name 3 big bets that are original vs. catch up to others id be surprised.

c said...

62/63 is around the typical level for a Lead - someone who has ICs reporting to them, and who reports to the team's Manager for that discipline.

You can run all the way up the ladder as an IC. There are seperate career tracks for ICs and leads. It's considered easier to get to a really high level as a people manager. Unfortunately, that's exactly what a lot of mediocre people thing as they opt into management - "this is where the money is!"

Anonymous said...

62/63 is around the typical level for a Lead - someone who has ICs reporting to them, and who reports to the team's Manager for that discipline.

If you're a level 61 working for a 62/63, what are the chances he/she is going to recommend you for a promotion if they think you're bright enough? Or, is that a group decision?

Are they going to worry about their stack ranking curve and not promote you even though you deserve it?

Or, are they going to promote you and compete fairly?

Anonymous said...

As someone who was a dev lead (L64) for many year at microsoft, I should point out that it isn't uncommon to have ICs reporting to you that are a higher level than you are (L65 in my case). These are typically the code guru/expert guys who have no interest in managing but are super talented none-the-less. It simply isn't a big deal to have reports that are a higher level than you.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was a dev lead (L64) for many year at microsoft, I should point out that it isn't uncommon to have ICs reporting to you that are a higher level than you are (L65 in my case).

Being a L64, did you ever recommend someone for promotion to L64/L65?

You said you had reports with higher levels reporting to you but you never said if you actually ever recommended someone be promoted to the same level as you or higher.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why someone keeps saying that the "11+ year" poster here is the head of Office Dev. The head of Office Dev (as of 2 weeks ago) hasn't been here for 11 years... He's been here for 10 and only if you count some of the time before he came over as part of the Vermeer acquisition. And to be honest with you, I am not sure that he would ever waste his time posting here.

Anonymous said...

I left MS last year. When I left I was a L66 Group Development Manager (I had 2 Development Managers and a GPM reporting to me).

When I was a L65 the 3 years preceeding that, I did promote two people to a L65, and one to a L66. So yes, it is possible to promote someone who reports to you (or someone who reports to someone who reports to you) to a level higher than you. (Does that sentence even make any sense?)

L64-L66 is hellaciously competitive at MS. 'Lifetime 3.0s' are not allowed at those levels, and you have to REALLY game the system to make sure you always make out with a 3.5 or 4.0. Luckily, for all of the talking that the VP (and Sr VP) did about "no longer guaranteeing 4.0s for senior folks and managers", I never saw it happen. For the most part, unless you are a GM and your product completely blows it (and I can name some, but it would give away who I am/was), you are almost GUARANTEED a 4.0 for every review as soon as you reach L65. It is completely unfair, but it is a bit comforting to those of us who had families/lives/friends outside of work and didn't want to do the "bust your ass for 80 hours a week" thing anymore.

I left MS because a competitor gave me an offer that I simply could not refuse. Even with the Gold Star bonuses (whether they be cash or stock, and I kid you not April of '04 I received a check for $50k for my GS bonus!) and "Top X" (because X is an integer that always changes, but it is usually equal to 500) bonuses, there are companies out there that PAY. And I mean PAY.

Best of luck to the L62 "oops I mean L63" candidate who is considering an offer. If Recruiting for that particular team has been allowed to bring you in at a higher level OVERNIGHT, there are probably some chaos/dysfunction variables at play on that team... Ones which, if you are politically-minded can be worked in your favor over time to make you a very happy person financially.

Anonymous said...

'Lifetime 3.0s' are not allowed at those levels, and you have to REALLY game the system to make sure you always make out with a 3.5 or 4.0.

I had a run of 3.5's and 4.0's and never received a promotion.

Just before I left, I had a manager that used to cycle to work every day with a guy who had heart disease. He happened to be there when the guy had a heart attack and died.

Then, our PM tells me my manager got unnaturally excited when he saw me wearing a Polar heart rate monitor because he thought I had heart disease.

When I didn't become friends with this manager, he gave me less than favorable reviews.

I guess it works the way you say it does sometimes but it didn't for me.

Dee Doo Dee Doo ... you are entering the Twilight Zone!

Dah Dah Dah

I left rather than have a corporate psychopath stalking me.

Anonymous said...

Recently, a friend suggested that I check out the mini-Microsoft blog. I'm so glad I did! As a former Microsoftie, it is disheartening to see the problems that were there when I left are the same AND worse now. What a crying shame! After 8 years I left the company, because it was too frustrating to watch (and work for) narrow minded, inept managers with nothing on their minds but their own agendas. Too much talk about Customer Delight and People Are Our Greatest Assests with zero action and commitment to those words. In the 4 years since I left the only thing different is the size and scope of the problems.

One blog commenter wrote..."If you want to make Microsoft lean and mean again, I suggest you focus less on the futile exercise of pressuring management to change and more on changing management itself". I couldn't agree more! Change must start at the top and it is possibly time for Bill & Steve to move on. More than just personnel changes and much needed firing of crap employees is the need to break the company apart. At 60,000+ it is just too big and bloated. With a smaller size and truly qualified leaders who actually CARE about the good of the company and the customers they serve - Microsoft just might have a chance. But if Bill and Steve continue to turn a blind eye to the reality of life as it is - nothing will ever change!

I remember the company when it was small, nimble and quick. Unfortunately, those days are long gone! Very sad indeed!

Anonymous said...

"Be more corporate"
"Although you’ve heard it a million times before, here is my suggestion; trim the fat."

I'm in a somewhat similiar scenario myself, and naively thought the same way.

If you 'trim the fat', the people doing the trimming will be management. If your theory is that a chunk of the management in under qualified and hires syncophants, it's the syncophants (typically the fat) that will stay and the lean folks that will leave.

I have a strong track record of success, following a principle of 'do what's right for the company.' Following that principle, I've risen quickly in every organization I've been a part of.

In Redmond? Not so much.

If anyone else ran their business like this - without a $30 billion safety net - they'd be in bankruptcy without the ability to get funding. Our early success has provided a safety net for mediocracy.

There are groups where managers are going 'Rah! Rah! We rock!' building great perceptions when the reality for the people on the team is the exact opposite.

I'm reminded of the scene in Meet the Folkers where there's a trophy case full of sports trophies celebrating their son coming in 4th, 5th, and 7th place.

Personally, I'd prefer to spend less time patting myself on the back, and more time figuring out how to be #1. God knows we have the brainpower and the money to be #1, why celebrate mediocracy?

But does anyone say anything? Sure, but not to the people who should hear it. Everyone makes the comments to one another about it in hallway conversations and behind closed doors, but noone says anything to the people at the wheel of the ship.

Except, of course, the 1 or 2 poor bastards who try and say 'Seriously, this isn't working. Let's re-evaluate this.' We all know what happens to those folks.

Shunned like whores in Amish country.

This time of year, the politics are super apparent. How was your holiday party? Mine was something out of the American movies from the 80s where you have the school dance, and all of the individual cliques. You had your cool kids, your burnouts, your nerdy kids, etc. It was really kind of sad.

And the cliques are always there, the reason they're more pronounced is due to herding everyone into the same space.

The bottom line is that doing what's right for the company in many scenarios that it get's you branded as difficult and not a team player, to the point where you either give in to 'the system' or leave.

And what do we see? Alot of people leaving. With stock flat, average salaries and bad management, great people are leaving.

The interesting thing is that they're not abandoning the platform; they're not abandoning the vision, they're abandoning the company.

They're taking jobs at ISVs and in Enterprises that map to what their current roles are/were.

Think about it. This is an exciting time for us - new products, the ability to solve major business problems, we're ushering in the next era of computing. And these people have left. How fucked up is that?

These are people who love what they do, are great at what they do, but are frustrated because 'the system' is holding them back.

These are people with experience, who've seen the good and bad and are trying to make things work inside the company, only to be shut down or ostrecized because they're tampering with this hologram of false reality that's been established.

These are people who refuse to kiss ass or send gratuitous emails celebrating their own actions, and instead focus on making things happen.

And while everyone preaches that we need to be a lean, mean machine, you have to recognize that these losses are lost muscle not fat.

The people who have the luxury of thinking about leaving, are typically not the ones you don't want to leave.


But you know what, we have alot of money in the bank, and even if a good chunk of smart folks go, we've got enough to get by. While we won't be as successful as we could have been, we'll have some level of success (Windows 98 vs. Windows 95)

As a result, you build this self-perpetuating cycle of inadaquecy that only gets worse over time.

Now by all rights, I'm one of these guys and the question 'should I stay or should I go?' is one that enters my head far more often than I thought it ever would.

Does this mean that I don't love the company? Of course not. Does this mean I'm not incredibly passionate about the power of our software? Absolutely not. Does that mean I don't think Microsoft is going to change the industry? Nope.

Quite frankly, I challenge anyone who says they love the company more than I do. Seriously.

But you know what? I'm not one of those people who've only worked at Microsoft. I've worked elsewhere and know this style of management / human interaction is not the norm.

It's like any relationship. You can offer so much of yourself, but in reality the other party involved needs to make certain contributions. If they don't, you need to move on.

I know I can make just as much, if not more money elsewhere. That I'm at a level where I can have an almost equal level of freedom as I do today. You may say - 'But you won't have the level of impact'.

But in the world of Web 2.0, you have the ability to be incredibly agile with swift and painless distribution, and secure, reliable brokerage for people who want to pay you. The argument of impact is not what it once was.

Now people will challenge this and say 'My boss is great', 'My org is fantastic', etc. Having worked in different groups, I wholeheartedly recognize that this isn't an all or nothing type of thing. Everyone will agree, though, that the stink seems to be worst the closer you get to 98052.

The people I've met in the field organizations have the reality of customers day-to-day problems. They have quotas, milestones, measurable metrics - they may work the hell out of you, but I think the system there is more honest.

We joke that Redmond is surrounded by a bubble and reality is on the other side. There seems to be a bloated sense of self-importance or arrogance from being abstracted away from customers by both several layers of field and management.

Despite all this, I'd answer the question 'Should I work for Microsoft?' with a Yes.

Why? Two words: Kevin Johnson.

One of the encouraging things is the recent appointment of Kevin to his new role.

If you've seen Kevin speak, you've surely heard his talk about a resignation letter. At the end of reading it, he shares that it's his resignation letter from IBM.

There are definately some parallels between the issues that caused him to leave IBM to those we're seeing today.

He knows the field, he knows sales, he knows services, and he's buit his reputation being successful with customers.

Is he the scream and yell and get you all pumped up Steveb? No. But I don't think that's necessarily what we need at this point in the company's life. We're beyond that now. We need someone running the business, not running around on stage.

I don't expect major changes, but I'm willing to bet in a year, maybe a year and a half we'll see some decent changes kick in.

Kevin Johnson possesses the strengths we need. And as he seems to be on the fast track to the SteveB slot, I think I'm going to stick around.

Now, will I leave or stay in my current group? Magic 8 ball says 'Too Soon To Tell.'

Anonymous said...

Someone made the analogy this is like playing for the Yankees. and to a large degree it is. But for a smaller degree it isn't.

Your working as a team. Getting to the world series requires team work, and there are rewards for the team.

You know who's hitting and who's striking out. You know who's making the plays and you know who's dropping the ball.

There's an understanding of goals, a level of transparent accountability, people who go off their game are dropped to the minors, and there seems to be clear valuation for skills.

Who da'Punk said...

Now, will I leave or stay in my current group? Magic 8 ball says 'Too Soon To Tell.'

Thank you so very much for taking the time to write that up and share it here. I'm sure there a lot of people at the same crossroads.

Anonymous said...

There are groups where managers are going 'Rah! Rah! We rock!' building great perceptions when the reality for the people on the team is the exact opposite.

I'm reminded of the scene in Meet the Folkers where there's a trophy case full of sports trophies celebrating their son coming in 4th, 5th, and 7th place.



A very long campaign speech for Kevin Johnson. The very 'Rah! Rah! We rock!' stuff you were saying you thought was a waste of time.

There is a new crop of naive recruits produced every year by colleges and universities to join your personality cult.

Whether they're qualified or got their job from a friend higher up in management, managers try to get you excited about the project and get you to like them so you will work harder for that big fat bonus they'll get if the herd meets some deadline. Moo!

They think we're too high on free soda to notice the manipulation.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had read "Corporate Confidential" years ago before my career went down the drain. If you want to keep your job and advance in this company you cannot afford to be perceived as "disloyal"

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I know this is a bit late... but I've had so much fun reading all these comments.. its raised a few questions.
firstly I am a recent college grad with an offer pending from Microsoft(PM in a group within MSN).

1)I would *love* to hear about what PMs do (i have read plenty of general stuff on the net - spec and "do whatever is needed" to ship) but specific examples would be awesome.

2)Which are the *good* groups (and subgroups) to work for?

Thanks a lot folks!
newlyAssimilated