Saturday, February 04, 2006

Recent Themes... Dilbertless in Redmond

Just and overview / commentary on some recent discussions and such...

LisaB

The comments here were pretty divided between (my paraphrasing):

  1. I'm so inspired by Lisa! I have new found hope! and
  2. Don't believe the hype! Less talk, more results!

As a nice compressed example of #2:

Brummel scoured Mini's blog and has picked off the top 5 points of contention. Patriotic employees view it as a good effort. Anyone with a brain will call it what it is - crisis management.

The way Ms. Brummel has been talking certainly leads to a lot of hope for some kind of revisions come the major review period. But even with that, someone mentioned how HR is trying to roll-out new tools for June (and running into strong, subtle opposition).

Regarding HR implementing change by this summer: looks like HRIT is honestly trying to put new tools into place for this June.

As of today, they can not succeed. Not because of any fault on their own, but simply because the people they partner with and work with do not under any circumstances want them to succeed. The current system has worked absolutely fabulously for them, and they don't want to change.

The follow-up comments there were very negative around the HR tools being worth the bits they are encoded with, especially if designed by the management that got us to where we are now.

Which begs the question: if a new compensation system / review system was implemented for this summer, what changes would you expect to see and expect to be acceptable? Is this a no-win situation?

You're not the people I thought you were!

A recent comment in an old thread probably didn't get seen by many. It is one person's shocking introduction to Microsoft team hubris upon joining a Microsoft training organization:

When I was recruited up to Redmond 5 years ago into a training organization, I was so excited! I naively visualized a dynamic, creative, and curious team of brilliant people – afterall, this was Microsoft! What a silly dream that turned out to be – in fact it was a total nightmare from day one! I found that most people on my team knew nothing (nor cared) about instructional design or web-based training (which we were charted to begin creating, and which is why they recruited me to their group) but because of the overly competitive environment, they spent most of their time trying to convince people that they were adding value and kissing the managements' behinds.

I've thought in the past that our internalizing and team member isolation from customers, partners, and competitors really ups the internal reality distortion and hubris field regarding how great and smart we are. A little bit of humble pie from time to time actually helps you realize how much more room you have to grow and improve, and let's you get to it. As is, some groups calibrate themselves to degrees of relative mediocrity. I guess for them The Curve is a blessing.

Next Microsoft

Best of luck to the Next Microsoft blog over at http://nextmsft.blogspot.com/ - I'm surprised more Microsofties haven't started their own public visioning blogs but I certainly realize it does take (1) a large commitment of time (quite larger than I'd ever dream of) and (2) endurance (or ignorance) of the risk involved if you cross the line and push some buttons. And a certain bereavement of not being able to kvetch over experiences with the A-list-bloggers you deal with on and off (yeah, yeah, river crying in progress). Anyway, the blog is also cross-posted over at MSN Spaces - here's a snippet from one of the comments there:

The simple fact is that since about 1998, Microsoft has not had to listen to any customer about how to make their [products] better. Listening to customers is inefficient and gets in the way of making "innovative" products. I personally heard Sinofsky tell a senior executive (from a large customer) that Microsoft knew what customers wanted and that we didn't need to ask them.

Prodigal Microsofties

Hmm, with Michael Howard noting that David LeBlanc is coming back to Microsoft, I wonder if we have the beginning of a Return to Redmond trend. Probably not. For most people noting their "good bye" notes here and that I've been able to follow-up with in email, they'd consider coming back if Microsoft could prove it had shaken off its slumbering, bureaucratic way that encumbered creating and shipping great software and if Microsoft also developed a compensation system that didn't celebrate dysfunctional personal excellence but rather something more productive towards Microsofties actually working together and helping each other out to create a great product (do we even have a value like that?).

The depart and return cycle, however, has also been discussed recently as the only effective way to get a promotion or higher pay, given salary compression issues. Yes, salary compression sure does suck. It's not fun to have a new hire coming in that doesn't know the first thing about creating and shipping world-class software getting paid just as much, if not more, than some people who have been around for a few years. Given that the three-year person hasn't probably even been getting cost-of-living raises, it's understandable that their pay is stuck.

My first mentor gave me this key advice which remains true: the best way to get a raise is to switch companies. It's a risk and Microsoft may not take you back in a year or two, but if you're that good realize that the job market for software folks is really hot (again).

You strike while the iron is hot and you look for that new dream job while the job market is hot.

Like this Mini-Microsoft commenter who has made the leap:

I agree 100% that the longer you stay in the company the bigger [penalty] you pay. That is one of the reason I left Microsoft couple of months ago. I was hiring fresh college graduates making more money that some of my folks who were in the company for 3 or more years. I had a L60 employee(3 year at MS) making $6K less than someone I hired from college at L59. Then the thing that really blew me away was when one of my peers who left the company 2 years ago, rejoined MS and came up 2 levels higher. I know when he left MS in 2003, he was L61, and now he comes back at L64, and I was stuck at L62, and fighting hard to make it to L63. So that revolving door really works.

I still miss Dilbert, but...

While I do miss Dilbert being in the Micronews, I can read him anytime I want anyway thanks to the internets. I think we dropped Dilbert about the same time Dilbert started getting too relevant (that was probably dead canary warning #3). Well, that was replaced with Bug Bash, and it actually does have sharp moments as it has grown into its own. It's interesting which ones, internally, don't show up externally.

See Bug Bash's Tips for Rapid Advancement as you prepare for the major review. The mid-year stack ranks should be about all wrapped up now. Now we go into the five-month-long knife fight to get that 4.0 for your major review.

Administrivia: although they are not in the least related, both Blogger and my mail service have had a series of interruptions as of late. Sorry about that. If you feel something was lost in the outage, please feel free to resubmit or resend.

127 comments:

Anonymous said...

First post!

I've heard of FTE going CSG then returning as FTE with the bump in level and salary.

Off topic, but we should have a "post-mortem" type of meeting for the company itself. Yeah, not the correct term, but you get the idea. Let it all air out, the good and the bad.

About a year ago, there was an internal Sharepoint list that had comments about cafeteria and food service with people actually signing their alias/names. If we are that passionate about that, how come the same passion doesn't apply to the Co.? Have we all just given up?

Anonymous said...

Here's a great comment on MS not listening to customers Graphing in Excel (third paragraph).

Anonymous said...

...So I joined M$. Sorry mini - the flab just got flabbier - don't blame me - blame the interviews. I don't know why I was selected... I don't even know how to program in Windows properly ( i am unix guy).

Should I be happy ? Everyone around me tells me that M$ is a coveted place to work in . So, why is it that I am having doubts about the experience ?

I am in a project - which I don't really like much. I tried hinting it to my manager, but he took a different line saying that I need to prove myself and need to show what a great coder I am . But after 6 years of industry experience where I have done quite well, do I have to prove myself again ??

Well, i could try proving myself - but I can't prove myself when I am working on something that I don't enjoy working. Blame it on me - but that's the way I am. I have had enough experimentations on projects in the past to figure out that projects which don't interest me make me a mediocre player and those that interest me makes me a black-belt - hours pass and I don't worry about 40hrs week or weekends ( I am not married). If you like fighter-jets, its very difficult to go all raah-raah for steam boats - no matter how advanced they would be.

My previous company was quite small - about 100 people... and you could feel the energy level. Here however, there is no perceptible energy level. I agree with MarkL's post in the recent part about it.

Now, I am in a delima - do I go and say bluntly to my manager that I don't find this work interesting ? Or do I just switch jobs ?? ( mini would be rooting for this ;-) ).

M$ is better than other big companies that I can make out - but it is not the 'innovative, high energy' place that people seem to be talking about - unless there is some other M$ around that I am unaware of. Maybe I have become too used to the small company environment in the last 2 years. Or maybe M$ is really a sloth now.

Anonymous said...

(The quote from next Microsoft)
"The simple fact is that since about 1998, Microsoft has not had to listen to any customer about how to make their [products] better. Listening to customers is inefficient and gets in the way of making "innovative" products. I personally heard Sinofsky tell a senior executive (from a large customer) that Microsoft knew what customers wanted and that we didn't need to ask them."

Ooooh! So someone says that Sinofsky said . . .

I don't care about trolls playing telephone.

The core message is that we don't care about customers.

This is complete BS. Is Schwab a customer? Yep, it still is. In part, that's because of the last feature I worked on. One they DEMANDED if they were going to do a Windows rollout. Is Exxon Mobil a customer? Uh-huh, and I helped their IT folks solve some problems with their OS rollout, too (not their problems so much as our own, but I believe the current team has finally fixed it for Vista). I could go on. Take away: customers (HUGE customers) talk to us, we listen, and we solve problems for them. Neat, eh?

I didn't work here in '98. If someone is implying that we don't care about customers, that's a someone who is either external and tryig to sew discontent whom I'd rather ignore or an internal someone I (dcoop) would just love to talk with.

I put up with way too much crap every day. The last thing I need is someone telling me I don't care. If I didn't care I'd actually follow Mini's advice and move on to greener pastures. There are lots of them out there. I've looked. Who knows? Maybe eventually I will. But for now I actually get some strange kind of job satisfaction in knowing that I make things work, with any luck at all I make them work better, I help ship software that everybody uses, and most important of all I listen to customers and make their lives less painful ('cause I'm not sure how to just give them bliss).

I don't mean to seem all rah-rah and quite frankly I'm not at all a cheerleader in real life. I like it when people call out REAL problems. I love it when others offer solutions. Straw men like this just piss me off.

Why did you focus on this one again?

Anonymous said...

I've been a recent reader of this blog and quite enjoy reading the different views of fellow citizens.

Does anyone know if there is are parallel blogs run by our major competitors? It would be even more useful to know what they think/write about (or if anyone has been brave/frustrated enough to start something like this).

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If you want to keep people from popping out and back in at a (slightly - maybe 10%?) higher salary, you have to make it financially disadvantageous to do so. Back in the days of options and stock runup, you might lose $200K worth of options in order to raise your salary by $10k. Perhaps the solution is for 60 percentile and up performers to get 6-8 year stock awards, with the majority of the stock loaded on the back end.

Another phenomenon I don't remember seeing discussed here, which needs to be solved, is the good performer who is in a crunch-mode group and isn't allowed to interview. If the person quits, they come in through an entirely different recruiting stream, and can get hired into a different job immediately (esp. if you know the people in the other group already and have already done informationals with them).

To the last poster who seems to like to call his employer "M$", I'd say that your best option is to quit. You seem to not like MS, to be honest I believe that you aren't likely to find a job that you enjoy at MS.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question about the supposed new HR tools...what would they look like, what would they do, and would they be accepted by the employees?
I do think it is a catch-22 situation...if they do nothing, everyone complains, but if they try to make a change, everyone complains about having to figure out the new processes.
Personally, I agree with a previous comment that if MS has the chance to lead the industry in employee metrics. With the "paperless" office, wouldn't it make sense to track all an employee's contributions, and objectively measure them? (Either on the curve or not...)
I think there's a chance for a real innovative solution here...I sure hope the company is pursuing it...

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think we're too slavish to existing customers who seem to just want minor improvements to age-old products that are our proverbial cash cows.

The alternative is to be innovative, to build new markets, to experiment and gets lots of things wrong along the way but not worry about it. To lead.

Small companies have to do this since they know they can't compete with Windows and Office but Microsoft seems to do very little and teams that try are the first to get the axe when the latest budget crunch happens.

Sad.

Anonymous said...

I’m so sick of MS, I’ve joined 4 years ago and I had already 8 managers/leads (whatever you want to call it) those who decide your review…
In this period I only triggered one of those changes; the saddest thing is of those 8 only one was a very good manager, the rest were in the following categories: incompetent, liar, average, puppet, evil.
All these except for one were re-orgs, report changes, loans to other teams, etc.
Yep, all this can really bust your career!

So LisaB wanted suggestions, here are some to alleviate the current state of middle management at MS:

1. Get rid of the “permission to interview” concept, it’s just plain stupid + you don’t need permission to interview with other companies

2. Get rid of bad managers sooner rather that later: if you implement the first suggestion it will be easier to identify those, + there are plenty of them

Btw, I’ll probably leave MS very soon; it’s just that right now is not a very good time personally

Anonymous said...

>> Sinofsky tell a senior executive (from a large customer)
>> that Microsoft knew what customers wanted and that we didn't need to ask them

Sinofsky would be right if in fact Microsoft knew what customers _will_ want by the time product is ready to release. Listening to customers three years before release is not only a waste of time, it can be harmful, too. I'm not talking about the existing issues of course, you gotta feel customer's pains, but about the new features. Look at R&D South, for example. They religiously avoid using focus groups when coming up with features. Why? Many reasons. First, people don't know what they want themselves. Second, by the time product is released they'll want something else.

Trouble with MSFT is, I see WAY too many PMs around who can't innovate their way out of a wet paper bag. In our team there's only one PM who knows his shit, and he was promoted to a lead last year, so he doesn't do much PM-ing anymore.

Good PMs are hard to come by, so we end up hiring people who don't belong in PM. Their specs are then forced onto devs some of whom know better but don't want to fight with PM and tell them they're stupid. As a result we end up with mediocre products.

Anonymous said...

Why do I feel the need to have a blog comment version of follow-up/status mail? Stupid work habits!

When I read the originating comment I replied to, it turned out to be an ex-Microsoftie. The offer to talk about it isn't going to happen.

There is such a thing as good attrition. Was that person part of it? I don't know, but I have to wonder.

- Drew

Anonymous said...

the whole M$ thing is threadbare.

Dunno why you joined the company in the first place, but it sure reads to me like you need to leave it. All other issues aside, if you don't fundamentally agree with your employer's strategy, history and direction then you should get out before you get really disenfranchised. I don't know you (I hope), but I don't really think you can contribute anything of value given your attitude.

I assume as part of your hiring contract you discussed salary, and got allocated stock. Which would make you a J$ (in the scenario where your first name is Joe. Amend as appropriate).

My real gut feel after reading that post is that I am sorely disappointed in our hiring & vetting processes...

Anonymous said...

Google Jobs
At Google, our strategy is simple: we hire great people and encourage them to make their dreams a reality...
www.google.com

Anonymous said...

I personally heard Sinofsky tell a senior executive (from a large customer) that Microsoft knew what customers wanted and that we didn't need to ask them.

Ooooh! So someone says that Sinofsky said . . .

I don't care about trolls playing telephone.

The core message is that we don't care about customers.

This is complete BS.


Microsoft only reluctantly moved to adding PDF support after Massachusetts announced plans of getting rid of software that only supports proprietary formats.

Sinofsky made some comment about PDF support being added because of emails sent to mswish@microsoft.com. Sure.

Microsoft "cares" when large populations of customers put pressure on them. Anthropomorphizing a company and saying it "cares" about customers is deceitful.


Massachusetts Finalizes Plans to Phase Out Microsoft Office

"Friday, September 23, 2005

The state of Massachusetts has finalized a proposed move to an open, nonproprietary format for office documents, a plan that involves phasing out versions of Microsoft's Office productivity suite deployed in the state's executive branch agencies."



Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky Discusses Support for the PDF Format in Office “12”

"REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 2, 2005 – At the final session of the yearly gathering of nearly 3,000 Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVP), Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of the Microsoft Office product development group, showcased support for the PDF format in the next version of Microsoft Office, code-named Office “12.” To learn more about this customer benefit, PressPass spoke with Sinofsky."

Mass. warms to Microsoft Office standard

"Published: November 28, 2005, 8:01 AM PST

The governor's office of Massachusetts said Microsoft's effort to standardize Office document formats could meet the commonwealth's procurement guidelines.

The state is "optimistic" that Microsoft's Office Open XML document formats will meet the standard for an "open format" set by Massachusetts, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Gov. Mitt Romney."

Anonymous said...

If you want to keep people from popping out and back in at a (slightly - maybe 10%?) higher salary, you have to make it financially disadvantageous to do so.

People should pop out and back (if they want) to gain some perspective on the curve based "reality" they are fed by their managers at Microsoft.

The only way you find what your work is really worth is through job offers from other companies and working in those other environments.

Anonymous said...

Good PMs are hard to come by, so we end up hiring people who don't belong in PM. Their specs are then forced onto devs some of whom know better but don't want to fight with PM and tell them they're stupid. As a result we end up with mediocre products.

Fire everyone who hasn't worked on a shipping product in the last five years.

Anonymous said...

When I read the originating comment I replied to, it turned out to be an ex-Microsoftie. The offer to talk about it isn't going to happen.

What originating comment are you referring to?

What offer to talk about "it"?

It would help if people actually knew what you are referring to.

Anonymous said...

Another phenomenon I don't remember seeing discussed here, which needs to be solved, is the good performer who is in a crunch-mode group and isn't allowed to interview. If the person quits, they come in through an entirely different recruiting stream, and can get hired into a different job immediately (esp. if you know the people in the other group already and have already done informationals with them).

What's wrong with that?

It is no different than someone coming into a job from the outside.

People are allowed to do what they want within the law in this country.

Anonymous said...

I do think it is a catch-22 situation...if they do nothing, everyone complains, but if they try to make a change, everyone complains about having to figure out the new processes.

New processes. Same managers.

What do you think is going to happen?

People are going to figure out a way to do what they want no matter what process you put in place.

They'll still hire their friends.

They'll still give the choice assignments to people they like.

They'll still get rid of whoever gets in their way by whatever means they can.

"Process" isn't going to save you.

Anonymous said...

I am in a project - which I don't really like much. I tried hinting it to my manager, but he took a different line saying that I need to prove myself and need to show what a great coder I am . But after 6 years of industry experience where I have done quite well, do I have to prove myself again ??

Well, i could try proving myself - but I can't prove myself when I am working on something that I don't enjoy working. Blame it on me - but that's the way I am. I have had enough experimentations on projects in the past to figure out that projects which don't interest me make me a mediocre player and those that interest me makes me a black-belt - hours pass and I don't worry about 40hrs week or weekends ( I am not married). If you like fighter-jets, its very difficult to go all raah-raah for steam boats - no matter how advanced they would be.


It sounds like you already know the answer to your questions.

The "new guy" never really gets to work on the interesting stuff unless Microsoft has some desperate need for someone's skills.

You can try to find a different project you like within the company or you can look for one outside the company.

Some people need excitement in order to be able to focus.

Anonymous said...


Fire everyone who hasn't worked on a shipping product in the last five years.


Interesting concept!! But wouldn't this include most of upper management? (Actually, this would be kinda cool...)

Anonymous said...

"At Google, our strategy is simple: we hire great people and encourage them to make their dreams a reality..."

By copying? Great! Microsoft hire great employees. Proof:- even you opened an office nearby to steal some greatness.

Google hired great employees? Proof. Nothing yet. You have a long way to prove yourself before making such arrogant statements. Otherwise, you know what may happen to you. Arrogance is the start of extinction. Whatever logic you apply to Microsoft holds true to you too.

Anonymous said...

"At Google, our strategy is simple: we hire great people and encourage them to make their dreams a reality...
www.google.com"

Mini, since when you let people advertise on your blog. You sure could charge thousand bucks for this comment on your blog. This is so targeted.

Anonymous said...

I’m not sure how is in other disciplines at MS, but I’ve seen many test leads not doing any product work (for instance: owning the testing of a feature personally) just “managing people” going to meetings, etc. I thought that test managers were doing this “vital part of the job”… so what are test managers really doing? What is it like the day to day job? Are they affected by the curve?

Urp. said...

Fire everyone who hasn't worked on a shipping product in the last five years.

What, everyone that works on Windows? That's certainly throwing the wheat out with the chaff. Although there are a few pieces of chaff I'd like to boot pretty fucking far.

Anonymous said...

>> Get rid of the “permission to interview” concept

Hallelujah to that. That would solve a TON of problems right away. Don't like it? Move on to another group. It'll be pretty turbulent during the first year, true, but good people will end up where they want to be, sooner or later and that's the only saving grace for this company. Get good people to do what they love to do, without having them to risk a 3.0 simply for asking a permission to interview from some asshole, who most likely is the reason why you'd want to change groups in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I work in a division that is essential to the business but isn't well respected. We went through a big push to build up our image in the customers’ eyes. With a recent re-org customer relations was shifted to a different team in the re-org. Within 6 months, they have completely screwed our image.
They were rarely available to the customers we are chartered with serving. As a result these customers had to come to other teams who were in their offices. What did we do? We helped them of course. We became victims of our own success. We did their job so well that during a recent team meeting it was discussed that we should take back that communications piece.

Mother Nature is more fair that the advancement, career and compensation policies at Microsoft. In nature if the lame gazelle can't keep up with the pack, it gets eaten by the lion. At MS, the gazelle that has fallen behind is rewarded for their lameness. They are moved from night shift to day shift so that management can "keep an eye on them" or promoted off the team "because they made all the necessary requisites" for the position. Never mind that the rest of the team was picking up their slack for the last year as they ignored the daily responsibilities. It was preached in the various manager training classes that you should not let an underperformer leave your team. You shouldn't dump your problem on someone else. You either need to manage that person up to an acceptable level or manage them out, meaning termination.

Management doesn't realize the value their directs bring to the team. The 4.5 or 5.0 review score lists something to the effect of "increases the financials of Microsoft". If one of the star performers leaves, the projects that they are on are going to take a hit in the deliverables. By the time management realizes what that team member was contributing, the remaining members will be hurting badly, management won't admit they were wrong, blame the missing team member for the setbacks in the projects they were involved with and basically wordsmith it to the GM in such a way that they should be rewarded for dealing with adversity. Dealing with adversity!, that's what were going through right now, and we are not getting any rewards.

Anonymous said...

What, everyone that works on Windows? That's certainly throwing the wheat out with the chaff. Although there are a few pieces of chaff I'd like to boot pretty fucking far.

The "wheat" would probably be smart enough to figure out a way to morph the operating system into something a lot better in stages if you "only" gave them five years to ship something.

Anonymous said...

All good thoughts...but misses the main point that accountability needs to start at the top: Billg and Steveb need to move onto their next gigs.

It is unbelieveable that with the stock flat for nearly 5 years, and way underperforming the market, Messrs Billg and Steveb are forced to admit "we have no strategy for growth funded by our immense retained earnings, so we're giving it back to you as dividends."! Ouch.

If the Microsoft Board was stronger and more active, they would have acted upon Messrs Ballmer and Gates years ago.

Accountability and change happens at the top. Not at the bottom. So whatever LisaB listens, says, or does...wont matter a bit till Gates and Ballmer are doing something else.

Otherwise it will be more of "blah, blah, blah" and "phoo this, phoo that" to borrow some executive phrases.

Good luck. True change is hard, hard work.

Silicon Valley Product Manager

Anonymous said...

Dunno why you joined the company in the first place, but it sure reads to me like you need to leave it. All other issues aside, if you don't fundamentally agree with your employer's strategy, history and direction then you should get out before you get really disenfranchised. I don't know you (I hope), but I don't really think you can contribute anything of value given your attitude.

Why I joined - cause to the outside world M$ is a rockstar company ( or is it 'was'?). My dad, sis, friends use Windows - and I thought it would be a good idea to work on something that they are going to use.

BTW, are you a PM ?

Since I may be knowing less of the strategy, history and direction vis-a-vis a person who has been here long term, why don't you spell that out for me ? My take on this :
Strategy: provide technology to the masses.
history: something to learn from and repeat the mistakes (DOJ,etc) again.
direction: Be the best in software (not just revenues).

It sounds like you already know the answer to your questions.

The "new guy" never really gets to work on the interesting stuff unless Microsoft has some desperate need for someone's skills.

You can try to find a different project you like within the company or you can look for one outside the company.

Some people need excitement in order to be able to focus.


Thanks for the advice. Its as I was thinking.

Anonymous said...

remember what Devo has taught us: "The fittest shall survive yet the unfit may live."

test2dev said...

Dear Flab... sorry, but job interviews are not just about proving you're good enough for the job. You also should use them to prove to yourself that the job is the right one for you. A good programmer is a good programmer. If you really are a good one then it doesn't matter if you're a Unix guy... you should be able to learn Win programming pretty easily.

there are lots of diverse groups at MS, all with different energy levels etc... If you want to try another one then you'll have to be good to your current mgr because you'll need his permission to interview.

Use your time now to meet others and learn about their groups. If you do enough of that you're just about guaranteed to find an opening you'd like.

Anonymous said...

>> By Anonymous, at 11:11 PM
>> Thanks for the advice. Its as I was thinking.

No dude. You're thinking what I was thinking first year in school. Very hard, school, very technical. My high school superstar status was suddenly gone, and some folks around me seemed just plain smarter. That never occured to me before, so I was kind of depressed. And believe me, some things were extremely unexciting to me.

I put my depression to good use, I studied like mad and got all "A"s ("5"s in my case, as this was in Russia) on the first exams. Many folks who seemed smarter got "C"s ("3"s). So I figured that appearances are often not what they seem, and everything is in my hands if I put in some hard work and good attitude. You need to realize that while you're unlikely to become an integral member of the team you've joined right away, down in the trenches meritocracy is still very strong. If you seriously kick ass and don't behave like asshole, you'll earn other people's respect. And that will, believe me, trickle up to your manager if he/she is not complete asshole.

Anonymous said...

Two comments:

1) To the Google recruiter -- dude, your "fabulous" processes are already broken. I know three very good MSFT people who applied to your jobs website and have never even received an automated acknowledgment of receipt.
2) About Lisa Brummel -- she's apparently a great person with a lot of energy and desire to change but she isn't The Second Coming. We all have to be prepared to back her up; she's just one positive person in a sea of executive inertia.

Anonymous said...

About on that instructional designer/trainer's experience:

I'm not surprised. The user assistance and user education teams are generally a mess. That's true of the business unit I left and true of parts of the business unit I joined. A friend of mine got a job in a third business unit where they are cleaning house after clusterfuck management.

In a way, it makes sense because UA/UE is often an accidental career path for people who couldn't find other jobs or for people who are looking for something less stressful. You don't hear people saying they want to be a tech writer or trainer when they grow up.

Frequently, you see technical people that know nothing about UA/UE, or "technical" writers that can't program their way out of a paper bag. It is a rare individual that can excel at both the technical aspects and the UA/UE aspects. The result is constant turf wars and squabbling between factions.

You thing the process wars are bad on a dev team, try a UA team. They don't have specs to implement. They don't have a standardized quality bar. They don't have TAP programs or other high-profile customers to hold them accountable.

The curve is bad for UA/UE people, because they're stuck being compared with all the others in their discipline. The managers are usually less technical people (because the technical people don't want to deal with 25 hours a week of meetings, including the table of contents committee meeting, the strategy meeting, the war meeting, and other useless committee meetings). That really hurts the technical people that spend more time with their product teams and less time kissing ass. It also hurts the people like our commentor, who has expertise that was gained outside Microsoft that is simply tossed out the window. Welcome to the system.

Anonymous said...

Re: listening to customers. I've watched countless usability studies where the user fails at a task because a command is poorly labeled, or a dialog box is poorly worded, or deleting some text does something completely unintuitive, etc. Everybody knows it's a usability nightmare but nobody ever does anything about it because even the smallest change is completely bogged down in process. If you want to move a command from one menu to another, you have to find a PM to sponsor the change and a tester to test it and then you all have to meet with localization and the documentation people, and then the GPM hears about the change and says, "we shipped it this way before so we can't change it now," and your manager wants you to focus on the "innovative new" TurboWidget XL instead. So the 2-line fix never gets made and we can look forward to n more years of users bashing their heads on the keyboard trying to use the feature in usability studies. And thus the great circle of Microsoft software continues.

The Nog said...

"A-players hire A-players. B-players hire C-players." - Steve Jobs

Microsoft will continue its bloated plight as long as you have too many crappy managers, crappy employees, and crappy executives. Cut the fat. But nothing will happen, because letting a bunch of people go would send stocks down and cause bad press, sort of an admission of the problems plaguing the company internally. Microsoft needs a high-level badass to come in and lay down the law. People should be afraid of sharing an elevator with them. :)

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft will continue its bloated plight as long as you have too many crappy managers, crappy employees, and crappy executives. Cut the fat. But nothing will happen, because letting a bunch of people go would send stocks down and cause bad press, sort of an admission of the problems plaguing the company internally. Microsoft needs a high-level badass to come in and lay down the law. People should be afraid of sharing an elevator with them. :)"

Unfortunately, I agree with this. Suspect it will come in the post-Vista fallout wave which unfortunately, also seems in the cards.

Anonymous said...

'My high school superstar status was suddenly gone, and some folks around me seemed just plain smarter.'

What do you do if the folks around you seem less smart, make the wrong decisions over your protest again and again and get promoted while you're stuck with a laughable salary for hours invested?

Anonymous said...

People should pop out and back (if they want) to gain some perspective on the curve based "reality" they are fed by their managers at Microsoft.

All this complaining about "the evil curve" is starting to get wearisome.

The curve works. I've worked in a number of different teams, kicked ass, and gotten stellar reviews, including 4.5, working for nine different managers over the last six years. And I've worked in some pretty dysfunctional teams, with backstabbing and petty politics and a lot of groaning about "getting screwed" on the review by the average performers.

You want to get hooked up on your review? Find the area that everyone is worried is going to fail. Without being asked, simply go fix the problem. Just get the job done. You might need to throw some elbows around and step on a few toes. The people who "own" the problem area but have been failing to make something happen for months might be unhappy. Too bad for them, they should have done their jobs. I think people need to spend less time complaining and more time rolling up their sleeves and proactively making things better.

Another thing: people seem to think that their manager holds all the cards in the stack ranking process. That's simply not true. If you really want to get a solid review score, impress your peers in the other disciplines. If you're a dev, make sure that PM and test leads and managers have a clear picture of the value you bring to the team. They won't let your manager knock you down half a point because he wants to get his underperforming buddy he brought over from his previous team an undeserved 4.0. They'll stick up for you if you deserve it.

But you're also responsible for educating your manager and convincing them that you rock. Manage your manager. Own your career. If you find you're not getting the props you deserve, find another team. There are lots out there.

Sure, the raises have been abysmal for the last few years. We've made some big mistakes as a company. Longhorn's been a debacle. PM's at Tech Ed have to demo how to use Google to find stuff on TechNet because our search is completely broken. We're not as competitive salary-wise as we could be given that the stock has been utterly flat and that it's still a big theoretical chunk of the compensation pie. That needs to change.

We also need to do a major house cleaning and get rid of all those contractors who were converted to blue badges in late '99 and early '00 due to the CSG lawsuit but who never should have been hired in the first place. I don't think we have a big problem rewarding strong performers. We do have a big problem continuing to keep a lot of dead weight on the books.

Cut loose the dead weight and useless middle-managers who are hanging around waiting for the stock to go up (those who haven't been made "architects" already), push for a return to tightly-coupled pm/dev/test feature teams who have autonomy to make decisions and don't need to spend all their time doing management reviews but instead are trusted to do the right thing (imagine having managers who actually tried to remove roadblocks to getting work done...what a concept) and given the means to do it. Half our problems would be solved right there.

Will it happen? Sure. If we make it happen. Waiting for "management" to solve all our problems (of which there are plenty) is abdicating our responsibility. I hope LisaB forces through some changes, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for a silver bullet.

Anonymous said...

The curve works. I've worked in a number of different teams, kicked ass, and gotten stellar reviews, including 4.5, working for nine different managers over the last six years. And I've worked in some pretty dysfunctional teams, with backstabbing and petty politics and a lot of groaning about "getting screwed" on the review by the average performers.

Reading the rest of your post, you sound like someone who got really good at playing the visibility game. Good for you.

Average performers on a relative scale. Are they average on an absolute scale in terms of the skills they have and the ability to apply them?

To make it really simple for you, if you fired everyone who got less than a 4.0, who would get less than a 4.0 next time?

Anonymous said...

Without being asked, simply go fix the problem. Just get the job done. You might need to throw some elbows around and step on a few toes. The people who "own" the problem area but have been failing to make something happen for months might be unhappy. Too bad for them, they should have done their jobs

Nice. That's a big part of the problem. We have a bunch of half-assed climbers running around hijacking projects so they can make their bones in the next review cycle. Meanwhile, whatever the fuck the "superstar" was supposed to do doesn't get done, because he's too busy "saving" something more high-profile that probaly wasn't even in trouble.

The basic fundamentals needed to ship a product don't get done right because too many people are trying to be rock stars, and rock stars don't do the dishes or mop the kitchen. They're too busy making a dancin' fool of themselves out on stage.

You, mr. Anon, are part of the problem, not the solution.

Anonymous said...

>> What do you do if the folks around
>> you seem less smart, make the
>> wrong decisions over your protest, etc, etc.

Someone once said. Give the world the best you've got and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You aren't making any friends by behaving like a pompous know-it-all asshole. You aren't helping your career either. If you don't like what you're doing, work hard for a year, earn your 3.5 (at least) and move on to something that interests you more. You gotta learn to play the game here. There are groups that don't like straight shootin' feedback for people who know their stuff (I was hired into one). There are groups where ability to deliver a well reasoned smackdown is valued, too (within limits) and feedback provided by ICs is heard. I work in such a group now.

One thing you need to understand - your past doesn't mean shit at Microsoft. You might have been some kind of UNIX coding god in your past life, but here you're at the mercy of folks who have been around for several years. Let me reiterate, you need to have certain tact. Say things when they will be heard, support them with reasoning, don't say things that won't be heard, pick your fights, realize that some things are just not gonna happen. Most of all, be positive, even when delivering difficult messages. Never ever insult anyone, bozo bit sticks forever around here. It's incredibly hard to get back to normal relationship with coworkers once they've flipped the bozo bit on you. I've never seen that happen in my N years at Microsoft. You seem to need a mentor really.

Anonymous said...

We also need to do a major house cleaning and get rid of all those contractors who were converted to blue badges in late '99 and early '00 due to the CSG lawsuit but who never should have been hired in the first place.

Cut loose the dead weight and useless middle-managers

Will it happen? Sure. If we make it happen.


What exactly are you advocating we do?

It sounds like we need a lot of trunk space to be involved in this plan of yours.

Anonymous said...

I put my depression to good use, I studied like mad and got all "A"s ("5"s in my case, as this was in Russia) on the first exams. Many folks who seemed smarter got "C"s ("3"s). So I figured that appearances are often not what they seem, and everything is in my hands if I put in some hard work and good attitude.

In the school where you got all "A"s, did they grade on a curve?

In a company full of people who got all "A"s, chances are you're one of the people who is going to get a "C".

Anonymous said...

Re: listening to customers. I've watched countless usability studies where the user fails at a task because a command is poorly labeled, or a dialog box is poorly worded, or deleting some text does something completely unintuitive, etc. Everybody knows it's a usability nightmare but nobody ever does anything about it because even the smallest change is completely bogged down in process.

Yeah - just look at Outlook 2003's Options dialog box - OMG, I can't believe that you guys have not fixed that abomination after all these years; you just keep adding stuff to it.

I've had to walk people thru that thing over the phone or in text emails - do you have any idea how much fun it is to check the status of a COM add-in?

Anonymous said...

The curve works. I've worked in a number of different teams, kicked ass, and gotten stellar reviews, including 4.5, working for nine different managers over the last six years.

You worked for nine different managers over the last six years?

Why?

Anonymous said...

So the 2-line fix never gets made and we can look forward to n more years of users bashing their heads on the keyboard trying to use the feature in usability studies. And thus the great circle of Microsoft software continues.

Office 12 .... its got wings ... er ... ribbons

If they made millions shipping it the way it is because they've got a monopoly, you might as well find a different project where that isn't true if you want some job satisfaction.

They really don't have a reason to listen to what you say.

In over ten years of working at Microsoft, I never met anyone who worked in "usability".

Anonymous said...

"A-players hire A-players. B-players hire C-players." - Steve Jobs

A-players hired A-players.

Because of the curve, most of them got B's and C's.

The A-players who got C's got fired.

The A-players who got B's felt themselves sliding down the curve towards termination and hired some C-players.

Welcome to Microsoft.

TheKhalif said...

The curve works. I've worked in a number of different teams, kicked ass, and gotten stellar reviews, including 4.5, working for nine different managers over the last six years. And I've worked in some pretty dysfunctional teams, with backstabbing and petty politics and a lot of groaning about "getting screwed" on the review by the average performers.


Don't you find it interesting that pople are complaining about employees who stab each other in the back by doing their work and you mention that's how to advance?

How about the fact that you say avergae performers are complaining but you say words like "visible to peers" and managers. These are the problems. IF you do your work there should be no reason to get a bad review.

I guess though as long as you think that way, MarkL and ChrisHows will be leaving you to do their "work of up to 10 people."

Look at it this way. Take all those peopel who are complaining and simulate firing them. Then simulate firing the same amount of managers.
I bet you get a lot more work doen with the complainers than with the managers.
In other words, you ae not God's gift to IT, no one is. If you think that much of yourself, you are definitely one of the problems.

Hope this doesn't seem harsh.

Anonymous said...

You worked for nine different managers over the last six years?

Why?


Why do you think? Mostly because of reorgs.

To those who felt like I was advocating backstabbing, that's not true at all. But throwing up your hands and saying, "hey that's not my problem. Bob owns that" is one of the main reasons we have so many projects that crash and burn.

It's not about "trying to be a superstar." I try and avoid high visibility. I'd rather be heads down getting work done, so that's what I aim for. The important thing is to channel that energy into the right projects. I've had managers tell me I have to do x and I just don't do it because it's the wrong decision and they don't understand what they're talking about. So I do the right thing and in the end everyone's happy.

Look at it this way. Take all those peopel who are complaining and simulate firing them. Then simulate firing the same amount of managers.
I bet you get a lot more work doen with the complainers than with the managers.


I definitely agree with this. I never advocated firing the complainers. I bitch all the time. The grievances are legit. But instead of just venting, my point is we should all channel that frustration into solving problems.

If you can fix something but hold back because it's someone else's problem, you're only hurting the company.

Anonymous said...

God, this is going nowhere!

I've been reading this stuff for months and the same comments keep on and on getting made.

After just about every comment from Mini, we get some genius write in, and say "You know what we need to do? We need to sack SteveB!"... and then some other dweeb cuts in with "Dude, that's the most inciteful thing I've ever read on here!"

Inciteful? Have you actually been doing any reading? It comes up every few days.

And it's true.

And it ain't gonna happen.

Steve likes Steve! Steve thinks Steve is doing just fine! Steve learnt, as a youth, that one way of winning the esteem of his peers was by "being good with computers" (the fact that Steve hasn't actually been any good with computers since the days when Mallard BASIC was a serious competitor, is immaterial... Steve still hangs around here because he thinks that's what we all think. In some ways, Steve could be said to be similar to that worst kind of open sourcer: contributes nothing, while managing to make the rest of us look like some kind of weird lunatic cult).

Saying "let's get rid of Steve!" is like... well, it's like...

USECASE:
Imagine you're in a prisoner of war camp, and everyone is trying to think of a way out, OK...? Ya know the kinda thing: "Do we dig a tunnel?" "Shall we scale the fences?" "Do we take on the guards?" "What about forged documents to get us across occupied France?"... And then suddenly someone shouts "Hey, I know! Let's go to a discoteque!"... and the guy beside him goes "Awesome! Dude, you totally ROCK! I would never have thought of that!".

That's what saying "Let's get rid of Steve!" is like... OK?

Yes, being at a discoteque, is preferable to being in a prisoner of war camp: just like being in a company with someone other than Steve running things, is better than being at Microsoft, right now. However, can we get real, please? He's not going anywhere.

(In fact, I hope LisaB reads this and brings it up with senior management. I can just picture the scene:
SMT: Any interesting comments, over at 'Fifth Column Online', Lisa?
LisaB: Nothing really, except some of them apparently think Steve is a bit like an open source guy!
Steve (inwardly): Yes! They think I'm a kernel hacker!

Anonymous said...

I sent my resume to Google, Yahoo and a bunch of others. Goodbye microsoft

Anonymous said...

As an outside perspective this "theme" seems to have attracted more anonymous positive responses. "No Dude" is one and "fix the problem" is another.
The people that I have met (and not)and correspond with regularly as a part of testing are genuine in their enthusiasm about upcoming products, in the pipeline so to speak. We test these and provide feedback along with running our business daily, totally free of charge (an example, stock options) to help make the products we use "better" and have personally seen these results!!! We are working with a great team and have been from the start of this particular application. In essence I am happy to volunteer my time to make the products we use better so we won't have to use (insert company here) and try to make it work.

Customer

Anonymous said...

What do you do if the folks around you seem less smart, make the wrong decisions over your protest again and again and get promoted while you're stuck with a laughable salary for hours invested?

I left, but of course, I don't advise the same for you b/c that may violate the non-solicit clause that msft has employees sign when they join and is in effect until a year after you leave.

Anonymous said...

If you can fix something but hold back because it's someone else's problem, you're only hurting the company.

You're also improving your review score.

The more people who fail the better you look.

If they can't pull their weight, let them fail and get fired.

Are you really hurting the company?

It is the system the company put in place. Use it.

Anonymous said...

On Mini's Identity.

Not that it matters, but is it obvious to everyone else that Mini is clearly a woman?
Just wanted to mention it since somehow it seemed many assumed mini to be a man.
There are several key statements from Mini over time that, with total objectivity and no sexism involved, have scientifically been proven to be written by a woman.

Thanks.

Who da'Punk said...

… is it obvious to everyone else that Mini is clearly a woman?

(I certainly don't want to start a theme on this [thank goodness for moderation] but it's worth one quick response.)

Oh, my. I might have bigger issues beyond pushing for Microsoft to lean itself down into an agile and efficient fantastically explosive software corporation. In some way (having to do with taking a fair view), I do feel complemented.

So, ah... thanks?

Cheers,
Mini.

Anonymous said...

This is complete BS. Is Schwab a customer? Yep, it still is. [blah blah blah.] Is Exxon Mobil a customer? [Yawn] I could go on. Take away: customers (HUGE customers) talk to us, we listen, and we solve problems for them. Neat, eh?

That's nice. How about all of who are not huge? Send a message to mswish@ and hope it's not routed to NUL:? I work for a company of about 50 people. We are a "Gold Certified Partner", whatever that really means to anyone over there. Have you ever tried any of the 'OEM preinstallation tools'? They're a joke. How about Remote Installation Services? Great technology, poorly documented, and buggier than an ant farm. And perhaps someone can tell me how I'm supposed to troubleshoot problems that only generate an error like this one:

The DHCP service failed to register with Service Controller. The following error occurred:
The operation completed successfully. .


And how many times have I foolishly tried clicking on that more information link, only to have the Microsoft site helpfully tell me that no further information is available on this event.

Anonymous said...

I just got off the phone with an MS recruiter. He had called me at my office line several times, always with info-less messages like "This is Bob. Call me back." Never saying he was from Microsoft. I never returned his calls as a result. Then he emailed me at my work email, this time disclosing his employer (his email address would have given it away) but not his purpose. So out of curiosity I called him back. I've never heard of companies cold-calling employess of other companies as a means of recruitment. Has this been the norm at MS? I'm also not sure if it says good or bad things about my current employer...

Anonymous said...

I have been hanging around for a while now and even posting occasionally and now that I have been away from Microsoft for a while, I notice former 'softies parroting language that is counterproductive.

Some phrases that Microsoft needs to drop:

Raising the bug bar - A bar is a bar is a bar. You either meet it or you don't. You don't move it so that you can claim success.

Across the company, set a standard set of f-ing quality bars that are acceptable for self-hosting on a client, for self-hosting on a server, for beta, and to ship and DON'T F-ING MOVE THEM!

Otherwise, managers will do anything to ship, even if it is crap.

Test: "This bug kills the user."
Dev: "How often?"
PM: "Hmm, only 1 in a thousand, okay ship it."

Throw it over the wall - This is so disrespectful of other teams and makes the assumption that even if you produced crap, as soon as you "throw it over the wall" that it is not your problem anymore. It assumes that there is no inter-team cooperation.

Individual Contributer - Nobody does anything in isolation. We all build on what other people have done, borrow ideas, borrow tools, borrow libraries. The idea that any of us contributes in isolation is a falacy and creates overly inflated egos and overly inflated views of self-importance.

We met the [insert milestone] date - Dates will arrive even if we don't do anything. What we should be celebrating is achieving a [milestone] of quality work. "Meeting" the date is meaningless if the code is too buggy to use.

Edge case - Really? How many users do you have? If you EVER see something happen inside the walls of Redmond, that something is guaranteed to happen again at least a few hundred thousand times in the the real world over the next 10-15 years before the software is retired. Remember, Windows 98 is still out there in the corners of the corporate world!

(Yes, in my post-MS life, I have seen co-workers repeatedly hit bugs that Microsoft Developers have classified as "edge cases" as an excuse to not fix the bug and it drives end users completely apeshit!)

Anonymous said...

I sent my resume to Google, Yahoo and a bunch of others. Goodbye microsoft

Ha Ha Ha.... Oh my God. I spoke with my best friend, soul-mate and ex-msftie who started in GOOG this year. The halls are trembling out their in Cali and suddenly several employees have options under water already - remember it took MS several years.

Soon the GOOGites will have the scales peeled back from their eyes and know that the world has figured GOOG is a one trick pony. The stock still has a long way to fall and it is going to fall more.

You want to join Goog? Ping me and I will send you a recommendation. According to my friend, yesterday Goog announced the deal with PC makers that will allow them to pre-install Goog apps on new PCs. Before the unmasking of GooG this would have caused their stock to jump 30 points, because MS is about to be dethroned in the eyes of MS haters. Well the reverse happened and the stock plunged some more.

There is utter fear and trepidation in the hallways of Goog. My prediction? A mini-Google blog is in the horizon for disenchanted employees to vent about the cessation of the free food in the cafeteria. Oh believe me those days are coming.

Do No Evil my a@$

Anonymous said...

We also need to do a major house cleaning and get rid of all those contractors who were converted to blue badges in late '99 and early '00 due to the CSG lawsuit but who never should have been hired in the first place. I don't think we have a big problem rewarding strong performers. We do have a big problem continuing to keep a lot of dead weight on the books.

Really!!! I was a WFP (Work Force Planning) hire. I carry a lifetime review average of over 4.0 over 6 years, and have successfully held 4 positions on the same overall team.

This type of discrimination is unacceptable. Grow up. None of us were 'converted' we all had to interview with a full loop.

Some of us have a real passion for this, and have thrived and excelled. Do you realize how hard it was 6 years ago to get a FT Req. for a job a contractor was holding?

Anonymous said...

I did my MSc for Microsoft under a Rotor scholarship back in the early 2000's when .NET was still in its infancy. It worked out pretty well, evet went and worked in Cambridge R&D for a bit, and in Seattle on the .NET Project 7 team.

Circa early 2005, for various reasons, I was living in Seattle and applied for a job, I breezed through the logic questions etc.. then went through the recruitment and, yeah, it didn't work. It must just be me, but I can't code on a whiteboard while someone watches me. It just doesn't work. Coupled with the fact that I had to do it in C, a language I hadn't used in 7 long years, I was a bit unprepared for it. The first 2-3 went pretty well, was nice to chat to people who had done their degrees at Yale, Stanford etc.. the last one I completely stuffed, was pretty embarrassing.

I remember one particular discussion with one guy from the XML Messaging/RPC team talking about a team connected with the Avalon dev, that had had to go through, I think, five different iterations of development, that is recoding, before they had a system that was extensible and maintainable. I remembered thinking, "gee, five times, is that normal?". Like the good recruitment prospect I just smiled and nodded, and thought, "They know best!".

Anyhoo, for any of you recruiters out there, getting people to code a problem on a whiteboard while you sit there breathing heavily is *not* good interview technique. All I'm thinking about is, "hmm did he/she just sigh?", "I think it was sigh", "that must mean I'm doing something wrong, gah, damn it!"...ad infinitum.

After reading all this, sounds like it wasn't that bad. And as it turned out, I landed a very good job, in a different country, and am off soon to ply my trade in the frozen wastes of Finland.

Anonymous said...

"Soon the GOOGites will have the scales peeled back from their eyes and know that the world has figured GOOG is a one trick pony. The stock still has a long way to fall and it is going to fall more."

Very true. Google is buying customers! This has two effect. One, profit margin slides. So you need a lot of heads for slightly more profit. Result - average profit per head decreases. Bye-bye luxuries and huge funancial rewards.

Two, such a company does not remain cool for a long time. Currently Google is cool because its users are willfully choosing Google. But if the users are forced to use Google for Dell's profit then cool status goes down th drain.

Anonymous said...

Mini Mini eeez not a woman! And Lala is not a sidekick!

Anyhoo, now that that's out of the way...

For the guy who said MS needs to drop the phrase "raising the bug bar", either you never shipped a product in your life, or else someone else dragged your ass across the finish line. The closer you get to shipping, the fewer bugs you fix. Every time you change something, you run the risk of breaking something else. When you've got lots of time before you ship, that's fine - you fix whatever you can. When you're at the end-game, you stop. You don't fix little bugs because of the danger you'll introduce big bugs, and introduce them so late you won't catch them before you ship.

No product is ever perfect. Shipping means picking a set of flaws you're willing to live with so you can get all the good things you've done out to your customers. It ain't unique to software either - every business has that same call.

Yes, MS has blown that call in the past (worse than the Refs in the BettisBowl even). But it's a call you've got to make, or you'll be forever fixing "just one more bug."

Sounds like you've already left. Funny, I could swear you must be working for Amitabh.

Anonymous said...

This type of discrimination is unacceptable. Grow up. None of us were 'converted' we all had to interview with a full loop.

I know for a fact this is not true. It may have been in your case, but it certainly wasn't universal. I know a half dozen or more convertees whose "loop" consisted of a brief one-on-one with their manager. And several of these are people who would never have made it through a full loop, or even half of one. Not that there weren't good hires during that time, but I'd bet MS brought on more dead weight during the '99/2000 timeframe than during any other five years combined.

Worst part? These are the folks who will be sticking around no matter how many perks get taken away. It's not like they have the ability or the desire to try their luck anywhere else. And the unfair review system is hardly a deterrent to people who never finished near the top of their class anyway.

A company-wide review and expulsion of these barnacles is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

Even A No-Op can fail upward...

There is this guy named Anoop. He came to the company in 1998 when the start up he co-founded (vxtreem) was acquired. Anoop was an academic type so he went right to work in MSR (as Brian says - "where the rubber meets the sky") He pondered great things. The "ringcam" project he started in MSR could make a 360 video recording of any conference room using an array of cheap webcams (http://research.microsoft.com/~rcutler/ringcam/ringcam.htm).. It would revolutionize meetings!!

And this fanciful technology caught Bill's eye too. Soon the two were fast friends. Bill was doing demos.. Anoop was glowing...

There was no product forthcoming.. But Bill was convinced about Anoop's prowess and made him his personal Technical Assistant.

So after a mere 5 years with the company Anoop was rubbing elbows at the top... And only months later the RTC team needed a new leader to make the Placeware acquisition a success. Anoop had been the "sponsor" of that deal and was looking for a line job at the VP level.

Anoop was a natural for it (sort of). While a bit of a "professor", he had worked on video, conferencing, and he was passionate about "collaboration". Placeware was #2 in the web conferencing market behind the dominant leader WebEx. Anoop was pretty sure that MS could beat WebEx if they put the shinny MS logo on the Placeware service, spent $20-30 Million in marketing, and called it "Live" Meeting.. Unfortunately, like the ringcam, that vision never materialized..

With the VP title, Anoop had also inherited the original RTC team who were off building a platform for IP Telephony (something like Skype). Their vision was that Windows machines could be great replacements for the telephone. Anoop did not know much about telephony but he "knew" that computers and telephones should work better together (because Billg had said so in a memo). So Anoop looked into it and decided to adopt a product strategy called CTI (computer telephony integration). CTI has been around in the "real world" for many years but has never really caught on (mostly because it requires lots of expensive stovepipe legacy gear working together).

A CTI service called "ET" was prototyped on campus and launched for employees (proof to Anoop that it would be a huge success in the real world). After a couple of years in development the product was launched. Lets just say it has not impacted the world the way that the IP based services have (e.g. Skype).

Anoop's passion for visionary projects has not worked out so well (for the Company).. But Anoop will be OK.. don't worry about that.. Last week he got the Exchange team.. and in a few short years he has "built" an empire.. err.. I mean "business" that is bigger than $1B..

Pretty "fantastic"..

Anonymous said...

Trouble with MSFT is, I see WAY too many PMs around who can't innovate their way out of a wet paper bag. In our team there's only one PM who knows his shit, and he was promoted to a lead last year, so he doesn't do much PM-ing anymore.

Good PMs are hard to come by, so we end up hiring people who don't belong in PM. Their specs are then forced onto devs some of whom know better but don't want to fight with PM and tell them they're stupid. As a result we end up with mediocre products.


OMG. This comment is so dead-on accurate that it deserves repeating. Thank you for the great comment!

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of companies cold-calling employess of other companies as a means of recruitment. Has this been the norm at MS?

That's standard recruiting practice at most companies.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the "permisssion to interview" concept is a problem.

I can understand the desire to keep people from moving around mid-project, but the cost is pretty high.

I was a 4.0 performer on my team, having created two of our test frameworks and being one of our best coders of automated tests. However, due to frustration with our management (mainly a complete inability to meet deadlines and a pathological aversion to promotion -- all lead roles had been filled from outside the team for nearly five years), I wanted to switch groups.

I looked for jobs on the Microsoft careers site, and found some that looked interesting. I asked for permission to interview, and it was denied -- my manager told me he needed me to stay on the team for at least six more months before interviewing elsewhere. Note that we were a year from shipping, and six months would have me waiting straight through a review cycle (where I would presumably get the "we know you're leaving, so why waste stack-rank on you?" 3.0 or 3.5, as one of my friends had just done a couple months earlier.)

Before being denied permission to interview, I wasn't even looking at jobs outside MS -- just the internal site. After that... well, I don't work at MS anymore. Turns out you don't need permission to quit.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to remind everyone that it's manager feedback time. Remember in your verbatim comments to include your manager's name and/or alias so that further up the executive chain they can identify the good and bad managers. And just in case you wonder, yes, in my years at Microsoft I have seen changes come from VERY negative feedback. If you really want to make your changes in your group, get together with your peers, form an alliance (hey, we can all learn something from "Survivor") and slam your boss...with some good verbatims and low scores. If you can couple this later with low OHI, be ready for some changes. Good luck and happy hunting.

Anonymous said...

Off the current topic BUT interesting...

You people at MS are truly "business geniuses" and here is why.

MS makes a bug ridden, security flawed OS and then charge customers to fix these flaws by making a security product to sell for $49.95 per year/subscription.

MS is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is accelerating their campus expansion to relieve over crowding and to make room for new employees - room for 12000 employees.

Maybe they figure a lot of people will stop complaining if they get their own office.

Microsoft Puts Campus Expansion on Fast-Forward

REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 9, 2006 — Over the next three years, Microsoft will add 14 buildings and a total of 3.1 million square feet (288,000 square meters) to its corporate campus in Redmond, Wash., enough to provide office space for approximately 12,000 people. Seven of the buildings will be new construction; the other seven are existing buildings that Microsoft recently purchased.

Anonymous said...

To the pop out and then back in: The sad reality that the easiest way to get a raise is to leave and come back is very true elsewhere, as are many of the issues that are endemic here.

We need to stop thinking of MSFT as so unique...an extension of our hubris perhaps? Maybe at one point MSFT was unique, but no more. It's a big ponderous place that has exceeded its management's ability to effectively manage it...well at least manage it to MY liking. ;)

Adobe has many of the same issues only the politicking there was way worse. But I think that the review process, modulo the politicking, is better...when I was a manager there we had a budget target to hit for raises, but there was no forced curve.

After having worked at many other companies prior to coming to MSFT, like any place it has its pros/cons. I would love MSFT to have the pros that I want and none of the cons...but that just isn't realistic: no other company does that either.

I would like to see more passion and excitement for the work that people do. I agree that it seems lacking in many groups.

Anonymous said...

"Two, such a company does not remain cool for a long time. Currently Google is cool because its users are willfully choosing Google. But if the users are forced to use Google for Dell's profit then cool status goes down th drain."

Meanwhile, MSFT's stock continues to burrow a hole into the ground on just the threat of what GOOG can do, and mgt is busy pondering how to spend another $1B in campus expansion to house the ever growing bureacracy that's bringing the company to its knees and allowing GOOG and others to literally run circles around it. Are these guys braniacs or what?

Anonymous said...

Anoop's passion for visionary projects has not worked out so well (for the Company).. But Anoop will be OK.. don't worry about that.. Last week he got the Exchange team.. and in a few short years he has "built" an empire.. err.. I mean "business" that is bigger than $1B..

Exchange is $1B out of that division's revenue - makes it look more successful if you get handed a product that is already profitable.

Thanks Uncle Bill!

Everything that is old is new again. Exchange is having another crack at "unified messaging".

Anonymous said...

Re: Google being a one-trick pony: why do you say this like it's a bad thing? If they are, then television networks, newspapers, etc., are also one-trick ponies for supporting themselves with advertising. Intel is a one-trick pony for only making processors, BMW is a one-trick pony for only making cars, etc.

A lot of times I wish Microsoft was a fewer-trick pony. We should only be entering markets because we have something interesting or valuable to contribute to them, not just because they're there.

Re: coding on a whiteboard. A whiteboard exercise will not tell if you're good at designing software but it does measure some aspects of programming ability. If you can't think of things like null pointers, negative numbers, integer overflows, buffer overflows, algorithm complexity, etc., as you're coding then do you really deserve a position as a professional software developer?

Anonymous said...

Google Schmoogle...

I see way too much emphasis on Google here.. Google this.. Google that..

Google is big and getting bigger.. The googites are having lots of fun being the Valley's most arrogant company. Lots of BBQs and free food.. Fancy offices and cool cars in the parking lot (sound familiar circa 1998?).

You can get a big offer from Google.. So what..

When companies get big they always slow down. Then they go through alternating periods of lethargy and vitalization. These revitalized periods usually have to do with new leadership or big market shifts. Take Apple for example. Apple is HOT!! Apple is more vital today than ever.. But they had some very hard times to get through. Apple is the cult of Steve and he is taking them on a new mission.. They have identity and purpose. Microsoft has no mission, no purpose, and few exciting projects (xbox... ... ??). Its leaders are in cost reduction, lethargy induction mode.. And added to that, the best performers tend to leave companies in these times -- making it worst for those who stay..

If you really want "mini" you need to think mini. Small has lots of upside. But being "mini" has lots of risk too. Big and stable do not go with fun and nimble.. The guys who are going to make it at Google are already there..

This is hard to hear because Microsoft employees tend to be believers. I know what it means to love Microsoft. You can't stand to see "your" company falling down; your leaders being dorks.. You may never find another love like this. And it hurts..

I also know what it means to leave. It is hard.. and it is also very possible.. And you eventually get over it. And if you are lucky you find a new love..

If you really want "mini" sometimes it is best to go out and make your own thing happen. You have to stop bitching at Sinofsky and Lisab and go get your own diamond in the rough.

Anonymous said...

"For the guy who said MS needs to drop the phrase "raising the bug bar", either you never shipped a product in your life, or else someone else dragged your ass across the finish line. The closer you get to shipping, the fewer bugs you fix."

That was me.

I am not saying that the product need be perfect, just make it completely clear at the start what the bar is going to be and don't move it. If your goal is to release a shitty product, say so in your project plan and stop wasting the time of your developers, testers, and war team that they spend arguing over where the bar is.

For the record, my Microsoft ship-it award has three stickers gained over 5 years. My post-Microsoft track record is 4 products shipped in less than a year.

It is amazing how much more quickly you can ship code "code complete" means passing a pre-defined quality bar instead of just checking in enough code to make it appear that all the features are in place before 8am on some calendar date.

Face it, some products just shouldn't be shipped.

You can have different bug bars for different milestones, just don't move them out of convenience. Moving them arbitrarily so that you can "meet the date" just wastes a lot of time and takes the ownership of "quality" out of the hands of the testers.

If everyone knows that the bar has the flexibility of a bungee cord, the bar is useless and all the argument around if a bug meets the bar or not is an amazing waste of time.

"The closer you get to shipping, the fewer bugs you fix." ...I agree, only if there are fewer bugs to find and they are truly lower-severity bugs. If you are still getting a lot of bugs, perhaps you shouldn't ship. Perhaps a manager selected the wrong date and should be held accountable.

Microsoft is still a curse word in the vocabulary of many IT people because people like you decide to ship because we reached some arbitrary calendar date.

Anonymous said...

To the pop out and then back in: The sad reality that the easiest way to get a raise is to leave and come back is very true elsewhere, as are many of the issues that are endemic here.

In Silicon Valley, it is easier to pop out and back.

You have to really look around in the Puget Sound Area to find software development companies. A lot of them don't have a very high profile even though they may be doing interesting work.

I believe Microsoft's attrition rate would be higher if people were aware of what is out there.

Anonymous said...

Exchange is $1B out of that division's revenue - makes it look more successful if you get handed a product that is already profitable.

You bet! Its all part of anoop's grand collaboration vision. Err.. I mean "Unified Communication"...

You find some product that has something to do with communications and if it is profitable you add it to the team (hence the "Unified" part).

Meanwhile in Redmond -- its off to integrate some voicemail.. someone dust off the TAPI source tree, get some modems... and lets party like its 1995..

Meanwhile in the world -- an IP communications revolution is raging.. Vonage is going public, Skype is the defacto consumer VoIP experience, and Cisco and Avaya not so quietly walks away with the enterprise.

It's so friggin' embarrasing.. total meltdown.. And these no-ops get promotions and big teams..

Based on what?

Anonymous said...

A perspective from a college hire 2 years ago. Reading this blog makes me feel a little guilty because I don't want to invest more time in staying at Microsoft to "Help make it better" and perhaps try and implement some of the suggestions given in the comments and in the blog. But, as is reflected elsewhere in comments, seniority rules here and young college grads don't get much opportunity. I almost feel as if Microsoft should abstain from recruiting college people because working here kills the passion and desire to put your ideas into action as you start to worry about how you're nailing all the bullet points on the 4.0 expectations.
I honestly think it is death here for anyone young and passionate about software.

My salary is paid to me to hand author XML and Perl. I kid you not. And my group is considered one of the more opportunistic groups!

Working at Microsoft is like being back in public high school, and an abominable step backward from college.

Anonymous said...

Wow. We're going to radically expand the headquarters campus which is already completely out of touch with customer reality. OK, all you ex-Digital MSFT employees -- does this sound like deja vu all over again?

Anonymous said...

$1 Billion expansion with 12,000 new worker bees

Oh guys this isn't for the development side of our business, it is for 12,000 new customer service reps to take all the calls from customers bitching about how they spent all this money for a product (Vista) that crashes every other day.

But seriously, isn't it funny how everyone in the trenches who actually do all the work are calling for reduction in numbers and then corporate management does the complete opposite.

BillyG and StevieB great job listening.

Anonymous said...

A perspective from a college hire 2 years ago. Reading this blog makes me feel a little guilty.......

I kinda of disagree with you about working at MS as a college grad.

The key is to spend two years here, learn as much as you can (from other people at the company but mostly on your own), stick it on your resume and then leave. Its still pretty cool to have 2 years at Microsoft. At least you can tell people, you can build code with bugs all over it.

Anonymous said...

The guy who has been doing bug bash is leaving MS. I wonder what the next cartoon will be.

Anonymous said...

"I believe Microsoft's attrition rate would be higher if people were aware of what is out there"

So how do you find out what is out there? I mean Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice...they are suck big time with very little success. I've tried to get some feelers out there, but am having a hard time knowing where to look. My passion for MSFT has just been sucked dry this last year. Could it be reinvigorated, absolutely, but that would take a Lisa/Steve sweeping change in the next six months. They don't have the balls.

Anonymous said...

But, as is reflected elsewhere in comments, seniority rules here and young college grads don't get much opportunity. I almost feel as if Microsoft should abstain from recruiting college people because working here kills the passion and desire to put your ideas into action as you start to worry about how you're nailing all the bullet points on the 4.0 expectations.

Even with all the whiz bang processes, tools, and smart people at Microsoft, the best place for a new college graduate is a small company where they can really be responsible for building something.

Working at Microsoft early in your career prepares you for being a cog in the machine later in life.

Anonymous said...

But Anoop will be OK.. don't worry about that.. Last week he got the Exchange team..

Does moving Exchange out of the group where SQL is located signal the end of Exchange trying to use SQL Server as the storage for Exchange?

Or, is it just delayed for another decade?

On the road to Cairo ... Pfft!

Anonymous said...

We're going to radically expand the headquarters campus which is already completely out of touch with customer reality.

How many new products will Microsoft come out with to justify this expansion?

According to Microsoft's product list, Microsoft sells about 650 products including software, books, hardware, etc.

Anybody here work on Zoo Tycoon?

What about gaming’s notoriously naughty squirrel Conker?

Here's one for the kids. Do you work on Voodoo Vince? It is about a tattered-but-tough voodoo doll on a quest through Louisiana to find its keeper. Pinhead for kids?

After that one, I don't want to even speculate on what Microsoft might come out with next.

Anonymous said...

Oracle cutting employees and embracing OSS. MSFT expanding its campus to the tune of $1B, adding 4-5K employees this year alone and fighting OSS tooth and nail. Hmmm...remind me again why the stock isn't performing and is actually declining? Love the excuse for the rapid campus rollout - confidence in the future. Right. More likely they wanted the campus expanded before the stock tanked and shareholders pressure would have negated such a plan. More bs from the most untruthful management team in tech.

Anonymous said...

I've never quite understood why the Puget Sound area complexes just keep growing larger and larger. If we've got to add buildings, can't we overpopulate someplace other than Washington? :p

Anonymous said...

Microsoft will probably rely more on acquisitions for new products as it struggles to come out with new products on its own.


Here's one that allows Microsoft to filter what employees see on the Internet.

Microsoft Announces Beta Availability of ISA Server 2006 and Acquisition of a Web-Filtering Product from FutureSoft

PressPass: What role does the acquisition of the DynaComm i:filter Web-filtering product play in strengthening Microsoft’s security product offering?

Kummert: This is a product that enables business customers to manage access to the Web in their environments. In addition to productivity concerns associated with unmanaged Web access, phishing attacks, malicious Web sites and other Web-based threats are leading to a growing security concern for our customers. Consequently, enabling customers to manage Web access in their environments is an important area of focus for our edge security offering. The acquisition of FutureSoft's DynaComm i:filter technology is another example of our broader commitment to providing a more comprehensive and integrated security offering to our customers while simplifying the user experience.


DynaComm i:filter - Enterprise Internet Filter

DynaComm i:filter is a state-of-the-art Internet filter with the capabilities to protect your organization and your employees. Manage, filter and report on your organization's Internet usage quickly and easily. Prevent access to pornography, gambling or time-wasting sites that consume bandwidth and reduce productivity.

Anonymous said...

Now employees, you need to stay the course. We're super bullish about our future. Well, not "our" future as in MSFT's and yours but our future literally. Why? Because while your options are underwater, ours aren't and we've been bailing away:

Insider Selling

But shhhhh! Don't let the market find out. What? Too late? Oh well.

Time for a chainsaw to the entire senior level. Despicable.

Anonymous said...

Personally I think there is a lot to be said for getting away from Microsoft for a while and not drinking the Kool-Aid on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

OK, all you ex-Digital MSFT employees -- does this sound like deja vu all over again?

Wow, and old DECWest guy reading mini? I thought all you old timers were long gone by now?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the campus expansion, I predict that the commute time from Seattle to Redmond will double in 3 years.

As a result, even more startups will form in Seattle populated with ex-sofite. I also expect Amazon, F5, Adobe, RealNetworks, Atachmate/WRQ, and all of the other software development shops in Seattle will have an easier time filling their open positions in the next few years.

Anonymous said...

"I've never quite understood why the Puget Sound area complexes just keep growing larger and larger. If we've got to add buildings, can't we overpopulate someplace other than Washington?"

Yeah, I've wondered the same thing. I mean given the "humanitarianism" of BillG you'd think that we'd try to stimulate some other areas like the midwest and benefit MSFT through cheaper salaries as well as stimulate some economies. Makes me think that we don't believe in the collaborative nature of our software.

Anonymous said...

So how do you find out what is out there? I mean Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice...they are suck big time with very little success. I've tried to get some feelers out there, but am having a hard time knowing where to look.

Here's one Google search you can do to find some companies that are interesting and may be hiring:

software startup financing site:.seattlepi.nwsource.com

I have included a couple examples below.


You can also look in local business publications for articles on companies in the area.


http://www.tableausoftware.com/jobs.htm

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/188614_stanford31.html

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Tableau making name for itself
Founders of Fremont company well-known in Stanford circles

By JOHN COOK
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Stanford University's computer science department is an engine for economic growth in Silicon Valley, producing the entrepreneurs who created the technologies behind companies such as Google and Yahoo!

Now the Pacific Northwest has the chance to benefit from some of the brightest minds at the world-class computer science department.

Tableau Software, a Stanford spinout that quietly set up operations in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood last year, is announcing $5 million in a first round of funding today.

http://www.netmotionwireless.com/aboutus/jobs/

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/funding.asp?company=NetMotion+Wireless

For more news on startups and venture capital news, check out John Cook's Venture Blog at http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture

In the Money

NetMotion Wireless

Amount: $3 million during the week of 7/26/2004

By JOHN COOK
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

NetMotion Wireless has landed $3 million from existing investors – bringing total financing in the 3-year-old software startup to $22.4 million.


(article describing financing opportunities for startups in the area)

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/256773_venture24.html

Robbie Cape, who left Microsoft Corp. in March to create a new digital home software startup called Kasayka Corp., was one of those who attracted financing in the fourth quarter. The 36- year-old entrepreneur pulled in $3.3 million in a first round of funding from venture capitalists and angel investors, money that filled the company's coffers even though it is still a few months away from disclosing what it does.

Cape, whose stealth startup is located in Pioneer Square, said it is relatively easy to attract capital these days.

Anonymous said...

>>> Mini, since when you let people advertise on your blog. You sure could charge thousand bucks for this comment on your blog. This is so targeted.

This got me thinking. What if Mini is an ex-Microsoft that works now for Google?

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the $1 billion investment to add new buildings. Does anyone know why Brad Smith was designated to represent MS at this event?

--Is MS so concerned that their other executives will say something so controversial that they have resorted to having their lead attorney do PR?
--Is Brad on track to move into a more senior level position and we can expect more press related events in the future?
--Did MS think that Brad might have more influence over governor Christine Gregoire since they are fellow attorneys?
--Maybe Brad is the only one they could get to say publically that this is a good idea? ;-)

I found this odd given that I would expect our lead attorney to be heads down on legal issues.

In any case, I think it is interesting that Brad reports directly to Steve Ballmer, and LCA attorneys seems to be completely separated from the product groups. This is different than HR where the HR Generalists and recuriters report up to the 3 division presidents (if you factor out Jim Allchin that is) rather than Lisa Brummel.

My experience with this structure is that LCA always seems detached from the business and less accountable as a result of this set up, but HR generalists and recruiters on the other hand sometimes can't follow proper (ethical) policy because they are under so much pressure from senior managers and executives on the business side to do what these managers and executives want.

It seems it would make sense to have LCA, HR, and other corporate shared services falling under the same umbrella rather than being so disjointed.

Anonymous said...

"...can't we overpopulate someplace other than Washington?"

...you'd think that we'd try to stimulate some other areas like the midwest and benefit MSFT through cheaper salaries... we don't believe in the collaborative nature of our software.


Don't forget the Fargo campus. Fargo now have all of the low paying finance clerk jobs that used to be in Redmond. At least the jobs stayed in the US.

The Fargo campus could be considered IC headquarters. There is a glass ceiling for high level positions unless you're actually in Redmond. Never-mind the fact the fact that most people in Redmond never leave their offices and actually communicate with others.

Generally speaking it is fairly hard to recruit development staff to Fargo because of the weather, and college graduates in the area don't want to work for MS.

Regarding the collaborative nature of our software... Has anyone actually tried to use Live Meeting? How about Groove? You would never actually build a business using these products... They're something you sell to customers as innovations.

Anonymous said...

Mini could I make a humble request? What do you think of having one post solely dedicated to discussing the things we love about this company? No sarcastic comments, no bashing - just talking about the good stuff (as long as its not confidential)? I've been a longtime reader, even contributed quite a bit in the past year and yes I know theres a lot of things I'd like to see changed around here but theres a lot about the company which is still fab. Maybe some of the things have nothing to do with software (how many companies do you know of that will match $17 for the hours volunteered by their employees?) but some of the things definitely make this place a great company to work for...

Anonymous said...

>HR generalists and recruiters on the other hand sometimes can't follow proper (ethical) policy because they are under so much pressure from senior managers and executives on the business side to do what these managers and executives want.

--
You are complaining that you are held accountable? No, you dont report to senior managers. You report to other HR managers who are also not accountable.

Anonymous said...

"What do you think of having one post solely dedicated to discussing the things we love about this company?"

I second this demand. Frankly, the mood on this blog is quite opposite to what one can see in Redmond. Most employees are energetic and passionate about making a change in people's lives. So may be Mini has been successful in creating a platform for losers? (no bad feelings but a technical possibility). I would love to see the reaction of readers to an all positive post.

Who da'Punk said...

"What do you think of having one post solely dedicated to discussing the things we love about this company?"

I second this demand.


Yes, it's certainly been on my mind lately. I agree things have been a bit unbalanced as of late. As I've taken advantage of today's lovely weather to reacquaint myself with my garden, I've been thinking on this.

TheKhalif said...

Yes, it's certainly been on my mind lately. I agree things have been a bit unbalanced as of late. As I've taken advantage of today's lovely weather to reacquaint myself with my garden, I've been thinking on this.


I think the greater problem is that the average rank and file employee doesn't have much good in their day. MS is THE software company. It is encumbent upon mgmt to MAKE SURE that every employee is happy and empowered to truly contribute.

I have noticed that very few people complain about their salaries, and most cmplain about the mess that mgmt is making of the company right now. I for one LOVED working in Windows and hate that there was too much counter-productivity to stay. I hope that MS returns to a time when a blog like this is unnecessary but I don't think I'll hold my breath.


I am stretching my brain to find positivity, but if you have to look beyond employee-empowerment to commuity involvement, it is no wonder innovation is seemingly dead.

Anonymous said...

RE: the Fargo comment above

Mini, I think this could take another whole topic up. "Cross-site collaboration"...how many ICs have heard this? How many sites are all working together on the same products? And how many of these products have shipped? I keep hearing how we are blazing new trails in the industry, having so many different groups all contributing to the same product. But it seems to kill productivity! Worldwide developemnt seems to be working for some of our competitors...but I don't think we've figured out how to do it yet.
(Oh, and yeah, let's build a BUNCH more buildings out in Fargo. Maybe a different building for each Vice-President (as an upgrade from an office)! I'm sure there's plenty of room...

Anonymous said...

What do you think of having one post solely dedicated to discussing the things we love about this company?

Ok, Here is my list:
- High speed internet access
- Free soda pop
- Comfy Chairs
- 9-5 work hours
- Good pay without having to work too hard

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's certainly been on my mind lately. I agree things have been a bit unbalanced as of late. As I've taken advantage of today's lovely weather to reacquaint myself with my garden, I've been thinking on this.

I think the best way of saying something positive about Microsoft is through a press release announcing that a product is shipping.

Anything else is just public relations.

Anonymous said...

"Ok, Here is my list:
- High speed internet access
- Free soda pop
- Comfy Chairs
- 9-5 work hours
- Good pay without having to work too hard "

This list is just a footnote. My list would include:

1. Explosive growth potential.
2. Passionate and talented employees.
3. Empowered with resources to change the world.
4. Allowed to be self criticizing.
5. Open culture. (other companies would have fired Mini by now)
6. Product line as diversified as any company in the tech industry is a competitor.
7. Can weather any environment.
8. Have patience and determination to win.
9. Social citizen (giving compaign).
10. Customer focused.
11. Highly ambitious.
12. The goal is to improve people's life with technology.

Anonymous said...

"- High speed internet access"

Are you joking. I haven't had this paid for since my first group. I'm telling you that the fringe (i.e. those things that are gray areas in a manager's discretion to allow expensable items in a group's budget) benefits are totally disappearing. The company expects you to work at home (i.e. the email you get on a Friday late afternoon asking for a PPT due by Monday), but they won't pick up the tab for ANY of the infrastructure to do that work at home.

The sodas aren't that great, my seat sucks (as does that of my office mate in our cramped shared office). And "good pay" are you high?

I will say that one of the great things about working at Microsoft are the great people. I'm not blowing smoke. If you filter out the bad managers, people that take credit for others' work, just plain dicks, and sponging execs...well after filtering all those out, you still have some REALLY great people that are a pleasure to work with. My thought is to gather a few dozen to a hundred of those types and go start something outside...make it compelling enough to MSFT to be bought and then cash out or come in at a very high level.

Anonymous said...

"What do you think of having one post solely dedicated to discussing the things we love about this company?"

What the . . .

Are you kidding me? I was the same person who was trying to behead trolls here a few days ago, but that suggestion just sounds like a completely disingenuous idea given the kind of unhappiness we've seen in the comments here. Let's all smile and be happy? Shut up and drink the Flavorade? Let's just shut down the dissent and have a Valium day? Oh, my. That would surely be jumping the shark.

Try Micronews, baby!

Anonymous said...

I like a few things about Microsoft:

- Flexible hours. I can come in at 11AM and go home at 7PM and no one will say a thing as long as I perform well.

- No dress code. Want to dye your hair green and wear shorts to work? Go ahead!

- Medical insurance. Even with shitty Premera, Microsoft is still better in this regard than a lot of companies out there.

- Smart people around me, for the most part. It's just not the same outside, and folks who have been with the company for a long time tend to forget just how moronic people can be.

2 the guy above with a long list with manager-speak in it. Pass me your crack pipe dude. We re not changing the world anymore, we're down to putting out fires.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the system is competitive but it doesnt have to be unfair. LisaB, if you are reading then this then you may want to think about it a bit.

A true 3.5 score means a certain level of performance at a given level (say L63). The same level of performance at a higher level (say L64) would mean a lower score (say 3.0) and I can understand that because performance expectations are higher. Does it mean that you get no raise, no bonus, and no stock at the higher level? Is this even consistent across groups, i.e. the same score, same level, same penitration in the compensation gets you the same reward?

Personally for me it is academic, since I dont work at MS anymore. If you guys really care then you should take a long hard look at the corrupt culture within Microsoft before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize this was supposed to be a "wish list" exercise:

1. Explosive growth potential.

...never mind that it's easy to brag about "potential" when you haven't done anything in years.

2. Passionate and talented employees.

...pitted against backstabbing colleagues in a ridiculous ranking system that serves to dull the passion and reporting to inept managers seemingly determined to squander the talent.

3. Empowered with resources to change the world.

...and many other "feel good" marketing slogans. Collect 'em all!

4. Allowed to be self criticizing.

...at least in the most literal sense. You are welcomed, if not encouraged, to criticize yourself. If you don't, your management will anyway.

5. Open culture. (other companies would have fired Mini by now)

...as would MS if they could figure out who he was.

6. Product line as diversified as any company in the tech industry is a competitor.

...all of which (save two) have never made money and will continue to flounder for the foreseeable future while management reaps millions in grants.

7. Can weather any environment.

...as long as overseas labor continues to be cheap.

8. Have patience and determination to win.

...even if that means waiting for the competition to die of old age.

9. Social citizen (giving compaign).

...and other public goodwill maneuvers.

10. Customer focused.

...as long as the customer is named Bill or Steve and lives in Medina.

11. Highly ambitious.

...yet criminally underachieving.

12. The goal is to improve people's life with technology.

...and five years later, maybe a version of the technology that actually does what it was originally marketed to do. If the entire project isn't scrapped by then.

Damn, since when did they start offering Kool-Ade IV drips?

Anonymous said...

WOW! You are smoking some great stuff there!

1. Explosive growth potential.

For whom? Level 65 employees?
Or are you talking "explosive" on a geologic timescale?

2. Passionate and talented employees.

Some. Those who were not fortunate enough to make their millions in the early years are having their passion stomped out by the review process and bad managers.

3. Empowered with resources to change the world.

You must be a partner. Level 59 employees aren't empowered to take a dump without a potty-pass.

4. Allowed to be self criticizing.

Sure. You don't really need this job, right?

5. Open culture. (other companies would have fired Mini by now)

Other companies can treat employees like cogs because they are just doing simple tasks.

6. Product line as diversified as any company in the tech industry is a competitor.

Which only means that we probably won't be completely closing the doors any time soon despite the huge levels of mismanagement.

7. Can weather any environment.

Maybe.

8. Have patience and determination to win.

Only in some areas. In many other areas we only do the bare minimum and then panic when the market produces something better.

9. Social citizen (giving compaign).

...and anti-trust lawsuits on multiple continents.

Dare I mention Steve Ballmer chanting "Kill [insert competitor here]" in front of product groups?

10. Customer focused.

I don't know if I should laugh or cry. I have yelled, screamed, and pleaded to get customer information and I barely got anything after years of struggling. Then, I was re-organized to a different product.

11. Highly ambitious.

You are right on the money there...there is enough ambition to be another Enron.

12. The goal is to improve people's life with technology.

Were you injected with the company line?

Anonymous said...

"Empowered with resources to change the world.

You must be a partner. Level 59 employees aren't empowered to take a dump without a potty-pass."

I am not a partner nor level 59 either. I have no reportee. I am at the bottom of the tree. But what I have seen is that whenever I have ideas, I have approached the highest person whom the idea had been relevant and it had been well appreciated. The only question I was always asked is how does it improve our products for our customers.

I did not write the explanation of my 12 points but if you want I could point to concrete evidences. For an example, the quality of our employees is considered so high that one of our competitors open a shop next door just to attract us. You just have to include a keyword "microsoft" in your resume and your resume will be given proper attention.

Each one of us have an equal chance to become big at Microsoft. But believe me closing our eyes and not seeing the positive is not going to help. Microsoft is as good a company as any other if not better. Both for employees and for customers.

Anonymous said...

5. Open culture. (other companies would have fired Mini by now)
9. Social citizen (giving compaign).



For a company with an open culture, you sure made some guy calling himself Roy Williams really mad.

Microsoft abandons gays

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini,

Your blog is very interesting overall, and especially some comments are even more interesting. Of course, some other comments are obviously posted by "M$" haters (who naively pretend to be MS employees), or by sour-grape ex-MSFT fired persons, or Google propaganda, etc. Mostly discernable, given enough thinking.

But, the main reason I come here is that once in a while, I see here thoughtful posts from real MS employees that have something to say.

My biggest problem with your blog is a technical one. This stuff is very hard to read/browse in the first place. It's like reading assembly. (Not that reading assembly isn't fun - I actually enjoy it, if I have enough time)

I just don't really have patience to read the whole web site just to make sure that I read the best comments (which are probably less than 10%). So, on the top of my head, here are some proposals:
1) I would love a "Top 100 comments" list, updated once in a while...
2) Some sort of structure is badly needed in this long, flat list of comments. We have here lots of comments, mostly from this guy called Anonymous, and is not always clear who responds to who. Maybe this amorphous communication pattern discourages an actual dialog.
3) Some sort of user-driven voting?
4) If not voting, at least some way to mark "NOISY" comments, similar with theserverside.com.

So, time to move to a better blog hosting solution?

Anonymous said...

Raising the bug bar - A bar is a bar is a bar. You either meet it or you don't. You don't move it so that you can claim success.

Across the company, set a standard set of f-ing quality bars that are acceptable for self-hosting on a client, for self-hosting on a server, for beta, and to ship and DON'T F-ING MOVE THEM!

Otherwise, managers will do anything to ship, even if it is crap.


ANY software company raises the bug bar when it gets clear to shipping. You don't fix minor bugs five minutes before you are done.

In general, this is not a bad concept. Read this blog entry for more information...

http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2004/12/30/344424.aspx

Anonymous said...

>> You don't fix minor bugs five minutes before you are done.

Well, first of all, all minor bugs are punted way before the bug bar is even established. Bug bar serves one purpose - and that is to punt "tough" bugs to the next release and spread the blame across multiple people (war room) if something goes wrong with no one in particular being accountable.

One other question I have is, why not fix minor bugs prior to shipping? Sure, you will ship a week later, but isn't it better to ship without minor bugs than with them? No one on the outside will remember you've shipped two weeks late, and everyone will remember a shitty experience with your product for a long, long time.

Who da'Punk said...

I just don't really have patience to read the whole web site just to make sure that I read the best comments (which are probably less than 10%). So, on the top of my head, here are some proposals:

A while ago, I wrote up a navel-gazing post called Bloggity Thoughts or such where I posed what kind of evolved blogging solution I'd like. Ended up sounding a lot like /.

I read every comment and flag the interesting ones. Probably the only solution I could do in the near term is start a sister blog to just publish those to.

Or if blogger would have an Atom / RSS stream either for all comments or a per post stream. That would be good enough. Or an option for each comment for me to say "publish this in the comment stream" when I approved the comment.

It's an interesting problem that I don't think there's a good solution to, yet.

Thanks.
Mini.

c said...

One other question I have is, why not fix minor bugs prior to shipping? Sure, you will ship a week later, but isn't it better to ship without minor bugs than with them? No one on the outside will remember you've shipped two weeks late, and everyone will remember a shitty experience with your product for a long, long time.

Because at some point you have to pick a schedule and stick with it, and postponing minor issues is part of that. The final builds go through a LOT of testing in a ton of variations. If you make a minor change you need to either retest everything it could possibly have affected or use the "hope and pray" method. It's less risky to make those fixes early, because they'll get covered as part of the full validation passes happening later. But once you're almost done, you have to be extra careful - because fucking up might mean you're shipping a new and worse bug.

Anonymous said...

One other question I have is, why not fix minor bugs prior to shipping? Sure, you will ship a week later, but isn't it better to ship without minor bugs than with them?

Ignore the schedule for a moment. There are at least three other extremely good reasons to stop making changes including "minor" fixes:

1. The magnitude of the bug and/or fix is unrelated to the size and potential impact of the change.

Sure, it's just adding or removing a button, but this can be a lot of code. Or sure, it's just a one-line change, but it can affect everything. I've seen junior teams not understand this, go in and make the one-line minor fix that won't affect anything else, and then spend a week fixing all the regressions that fell out of that fix or else revert the change. Oops.

2. You don't have the information you really need to make the decision to fix/not-fix.

Software is poorly documented. Neither the person making the change, nor the people evaluating whether the change should be made have any objective pre-existing assessments of all the dependencies. All you have to go on are the on-the-spot descriptions, and they're all biased (either the person does or doesn't want this change to be made -- no one's ever neutral about it). So you get people insisting the fix shouldn't be made because it could break everything (when really it's a minor fix) or insisting the fix won't affect anything (when really it will).

3. It's more than just the code.

There's more to making a fix than just the code. There's the long-term stress testing, which needs to start over every time the product changes in any way. There's the documentation of how the product works. Maybe it worked the way it did for some reason that's not written down anywhere, and your last-minute fix breaks several important customer scenarios. These are not hypotheticals, but real-world examples from the things I've seen go wrong with last-minute fixes.

Once you've shipped enough software, you don't need these reasons enumerated. You understand that (in 99% of all situations) a period of stability is required to ship a successful product.

All that said, the original poster is right -- moving bug bars is a bad practice. The focus needs to be not on hitting a calendar date, but on truly achieving a functional/quality bar. Unfortunately, this is very hard to achieve in practice because everything's in motion.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, that's just a bunch of horse crap. Here's my point by point rebuttal:

>> The magnitude of the bug and/or fix
>> is unrelated to the size and
>> potential impact of the change

Agree. But there are situations when with ANY fix at all situation will improve. I.e. you'll ship without a known security hole, or component that doesn't work will start working. There are also situations where issues are well localized and can be fixed with little to no risk. We're not fixing these issues currently. We punt some scary shit, release after release until shit hits the fan and someone dips our faces into it.

>> You don't have the information
>> you really need to make the
>> decision to fix/not-fix.

I see. This is a manager speaking here. He thinks punting bugs at random without considering future repercussions makes him more important in the "war room".

ICs worth their salary usually have enough information to make the decision. Trust your ICs. Ask them whether or not things should be punted. Be willing to prefer quality engineering over arbitrary scheduling. It's not that hard, but it does require serious balls, which many MSFT managers lack.

>> It's more than just the code

Bull shitake. It's all just the code. There are situations where "known bad" situation is preferred to "unknown, but possibly good", but those are rare. Usually it's just about error checks, exceptions, logic flaws, silly shit like that that an IC can fix if given enough time. What would all the managers do then? If there are no problems they're not needed.