Monday, February 27, 2006

Of Cogs, Bozos, and Backbones

Okay, time for another post-break of random goodness...

The post The incident at the WinClient All Hands by Drie over at Of Cogs (and other aspects of life inside MS) provides some insight into a BrianV meeting and guest-star Kevin Johnson. Kevin: sounds like Papa needs to get a brand-new shtick before everyone knows the punch-line. Having clarity and enthralling indignation is easy come resignation-letter writing time. You could say this whole blog is one long resignation letter, should Microsoft not re-invent itself into the Next Microsoft.

I think everyone would be a lot more impressed with a contemporary update of that letter, written to Microsofties, our customers, our partners, and our shareholders. Not resigning, but frankly admitting where we were, where we are, and where we need to be to be successful and how we're getting there.

Is Google not all that it appears to be? I'm still waiting for that Mini-Google site to fire itself up. Perhaps being hosted at MSN Spaces for a delightful bit of irony? Anyway, Valley Wag is a fun read, between letting us know that Googlers have pay-raise issues, too, and that Larry Page is just this close from throwing chairs over bad 20% usage.

Mark Shavlik, an ex-Microsoftie and now CEO, has an interesting post: Microsoft employee perspectives. Snippet:

Rapid success is not always good, growth comes fast and internal structural changes come slower creating a company that could be out of balance. Hiring can go too fast, where the quality of available to hire talent is not large enough to meet the needs of the business. That is a tough point for a company. One of the HP founders apparently said a company should only grow as fast as it can find quality people to hire, but if you do that do you miss markets? I am not sure, but I have found its better to grow at the rate at which you can hire great people.

And some people were so desperate to fill positions they'd hire just about any bozo, or bozos to fill up the 3.0 quota to reward their current team. What do we do with the bozo's that have us going around making us flip the bozo-bit all the time? First rule: don't hire anymore bozos! I think we've already had a bozo explosion and now we're dealing with the aftermath from explosive growth and low standards. Anyway, we shouldn't want to do that again. Guy Kawasaki put up the initial post of how to avoid this mediocrity bozo bloomer, followed by Scoble's take from a Microsoft-bozo / anti-bozo point of view.

Though I'm afraid the bozos are going to starting harrumphing "Scrum! We got ourselves some scrum, right here in Salmonburg city!"

Results. Accountable results.

As for the occasional external commentary on the Mini-Microsoft blog, I'm seeing a lot more of this as of late:

[...] Same goes for blogging if the blog is relevant, although I doubt that Mini-Microsoft will be listing his on a resume anytime soon...:) Speaking of Mini, anybody notice lately that his/her blog has basically degenerated into a bitch-fest for MS employees? Mini throws out the raw meat for a few sentences or paragraphs, and the piling on in the comments commences immediately. I read the comments more than his stuff

This past post was probably a prime-candidate for that observation. I went into low-moderation mode, just about making it appear as if moderation had been turned off. Some folks put up some great discussions, and some folks went off on wild, argumentative tangents. And some folks broke out the "nyah-nyah" factor that at least makes everything else look better by comparison.

Anyway, it's an interesting conundrum that I've typed myself into. How can you be critical, perhaps even constructive in your criticism, and not become the patron saint of the eternal complainer? Let alone a negativity magnet? Perhaps the very people you're trying to hunt down and move out of the company? The whole "bad attitude" post was perhaps too oblique in taking that on.

To quote Jeff Raikes... it's a pickle.

As for this past post, there was a nice thread of comments discussing loosening up the internal hiring process. One commenter waved a yellow flag, though, cautioning about what it was like at Enron from a note put up by Malcolm Gladwell:

Among the most damning facts about Enron, in the end, was something its managers were proudest of. They had what, in McKinsey terminology, is called an "open market" for hiring. In the open-market system--McKinsey's assault on the very idea of a fixed organization--anyone could apply for any job that he or she wanted, and no manager was allowed to hold anyone back. Poaching was encouraged.

Yes, if we start trending towards that you'll see posters slapped up every week for each group with new, open positions, leading to wine and cheese events where you'll hear embolden tales of innovating against all the odds... so I don't think we need to go that far. People shouldn't be burning through the corporation leaping from group to group every quarter. But you shouldn't be inhibiting them, either, worried about the worse case offenders. All this delay of being able to interview represents one of the worse behaviors of fiefdom building... people getting lost inside the corporation once they are hired just isn't productive or worth all the money Microsoft and the shareholders have invested in hiring them and training them.

(Actually, that whole article from Malcolm Gladwell, The Talent Myth, reprinted from the New Yorker, is an excellent read.)

As for financials, Microsoft Nears Xbox Equilibrium has this nice little challenge to Liddell regarding Mr. Liddell's preference of buybacks over dividends:

...a large asset management company who questioned Liddell from the floor (and was thus anonymous under conference ground rules.) "Microsoft is still overcapitalized," he said. "And that's why the stock hasn't moved," he said.

He added that investors don't want to see Microsoft embark on a series of acquisitions. "The market fears that Microsoft will throw a lot of money to buy media or Internet-related companies. "We're strongly opposed," he said.

I hear backbone cracking into firm alignment! What have analysts told us before? A significant dividend on a reliable schedule would boost the stock. And, yes, please, no more acquisitions. How about this week's Microsoft Research Tech Fest show off all of the innovation we're quite capable of without having to go and buy companies? Every acquisition is a failure on our part to innovate and another reason we have to ask, "And why do we have all these people around?"

Finally, looks like BillG and I might agree on reducing the amount of folks working on software development at Microsoft. One commenter notes that LisaB's internal site has a version of that wonderful Ten Crazy Ideas paper that includes feedback, including from BillG and the ever so dreamy AlexGo. One the point about reducing dev team headcounts:

I think Mini would be heartened by one of Bill's comments regarding reducing headcounts on large dev projects:

BillG: “Headcount cuts. This is very tempting.”

Tempting indeed. Give into temptation! Give our bozos the bums rush to B-as-in-Bozo-FE!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Microsoft Campus Expansion... foo!

Let's slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine! Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!

"$%#@ you, the horse you rode in on, your little dog, and your little company-aspirations, too!"

So Mr. Barr was first out with a summary of Microsoft's revised Redmond campus expansion plan. What do you know, the athletic fields are back! What is the name of the technique where you share a plan to take something away and then people complain fiercely and then you give it back without it ever costing you anything but letting them feel as though you're listening to them? There should be a name for that.

I have a future pastime to look forward to that is especially called out in the recent color-map: a round-about in the center of campus?!? Oh, you know I'm going to have to bring my picnic and sit down (at a safe distance) and enjoy that show. When the everyday bright, good-looking Microsoftie drives onto campus, anything they've learned about being a considerate, safe driver gets flipped right off: "Faster, faster, Puddy-cat! Must! Be! First!" A round-about is certain to be better entertainment than Project Gotham.

Anyway, the expansion certainly seems like a series of nails on the coffin of any aspiration for Microsoft to slim down into a company that management can handle effectively. Now, I feel for the folks who are doubled or tripled up and continuing to do a great job. It seems odd that our leadership didn't see the overcrowding coming. So it seems like a good move to acquire and spread to relieve the pressure that we're currently under, though I continue to believe the best way to relieve that pressure is to release everyone not contributing to the success of the company. And then resell and make a profit on any of these edge buildings we no longer need.

As for continuing to grow and to hire people: why? How about first looking inside of Microsoft and making it easier to move within the company from job to job, especially considering there are two big groups wrapping up major product waves? It's highly unproductive towards our company that once you're inside Microsoft it's probably harder to move to another group than if you were an outsider. Try loosening the restrictions first so that:

  • Anyone can interview and move-on when they like. You plain don't need permission to interview. The new boss and old boss can negotiate a transfer timeline, if need be. Just see if managers don't change a tad if they realize they actually need to value and re-recruit their people vs. banging the drum and chanting, "Code! Code! Code! Code!"
  • A lighter interview process: interview with your potential future boss and the as-appropriate. It boggles my little mind as to why this is treated as a full-press interview.
  • Support aggressive internal recruiting. Technical recruiters should know the rhythm of our product groups and when it's best to recruit people internally to new positions. This allows people to continue grow and unleash their energy vs. staying in the same group and job until they suffer skill-attrition and become more of a liability than an asset.

If we had more fluidity to Microsoft careers, you'd have some good business Darwinism where healthy groups attracted appropriate growth and unhealthy groups shed team members until the leadership got fired off and replaced with something better. The only good reason I can see for having a heavyweight process is that it helps groups identify and avoid some of the deadwood hired during the major expansion years. But just about anyone can suss them out. And hopefully a revised performance review process that doesn't encourage keeping 3.0 filler around to make up the bottom of the curve will make it way easier to move the deadwood out.

Jeff Raikes All Hands with special guest star Lisa Brummel

Along comes a comment:

If you're really into seeing what our executives are saying internally as of late, you should:

(1) go by our internal website for serving up cached videos, (2) go to Monday's listings, (3) Watch JeffR's all-hands meeting.

Well, not all of it. But JeffR does address some of the concerns that you see bubbling up here and near the end, before the Q'n'A, LisaB shows up to do a short version of her listening tour.

At the end of last week, some interested folks gathered around my peer's laptop at lunch to watch this off of http://studiosmedia/, all of us agreeing anyone could skip through any boring parts. Well, actually, we first found LisaB's presentation about an hour and a half (Oy! Is this an All Hands or The Company Meeting?) into the video and that's as far as we got, other than enjoying Mr. Raikes mea-culpa over office space at 1:20-ish. It's a pickle, alrighty.

If you missed a Listening Session and want more than what Lisa's internal site provides, this video provides a great, quick summary of what the LisaB buzz is all about. Interesting quotes:

  • "The curve is essential to the people agenda we have at this company."
  • "I would like to see the curve go away."
  • "In the end, the curve needs to change."

To think about the potential for big change here that will be industry-leading and help Microsoft re-invent itself just makes me go quoting Jean-Louis Gassée.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Comments, GM vs. PUM, and random links

(I've been busy typing along the weekly post and I didn't like how long the post was getting. So, I'm extracting out the miscellaneous stuff from the end of the post and putting this up first.)

"Oh, the comments are the best thing here!"

For the comments are the shiznet here inclined, you might want to check-out this new Co.Comments.Com comment service Scoble mentioned recently. does indeed track new comments here over time, vs. you having to reload each and every page. I haven't tried every feature, but there also seems to be a way to subscribe to all the posts you're tracking so that you can be back in RSS land. They have some HTML goo I could flip into here to make comment tracking easier - let me know if you think this is worth while. It serves as a nice bridge until a comment RSS feed starts happening here at BlogSpot.

The GM versus the inbred

Not quite The Hills Have Eyes, but still a scary story of when a GM meets an inbred PUM and they just disagree (snippet):

They say perception is reality. I left Microsoft a year or so ago after being there five years as a GM. When I started at Microsoft, I too loved the company. I had the passion everyone speaks of so fondly.

I then ran into my first 'professional Microsoft' PUM who was running a 300 person organization creating nothing. I called bullshit on his efforts, and had no idea what I was stepping into. This individual was hired into Microsoft from college (what I refer to as a 'Microsoft inbred') and had never experienced real life. I have three successful startups behind me, 8 rounds of VC money, VP of two different public companies. Guess who won the battles? Not me. I ended up working for someone with little mnagement experience, also a Microsoft inbred, and the rest is history...

Another ex-Microsoftie has thrown in the towel, too (snippet):

[...] Things were great the first couple of years, I loved being a part of the MS culture and well the options at the time more than made up for the lack of salary and long hours and political BS. I learned so much and had a blast doing it!

but... after many years of salary compression, incompetent managers, watching the people that couldn't even pass a tech screen get hired anyway just to fill a spot while my teammates and I had to take up the slack I have decided MS sees no value in a long term dedicated employee so I put my notice in...

The village isn't destroyed yet, but it's suffering damage.

Other web going ons

(1) The blog 64-Bitter starts off with the post I'm just not that into you, talking about leaving Microsoft after ten years:

You stay because you are averse to risk, crave stability and are scared that you can't do better.

Well, I'm sorry, but I'm just not that into you any more. I can't die the death by risk aversion. I wish you all the luck in the world, because I have a lot of friends there.

(2) There are a couple of posts at about being a Microsoft intern in Canada. Yah, we treat our group's interns a lot different than it sounds like this blogger is experiencing...

(3) Next Microsoft continues along at and - the MSN Spaces area (it's still branded MSN, right?) gets more comments and - who-da-whatza?!?

Update: Just got an invite to a discussion on this exact topic from the Director of Development excellence. Eric Brechner is a great guy I respect and enjoy his columns and feedback, and I am looking forward to attending this.

Congrats. Sinofsky in the comments and Brechner brainstorming! Hope that turns out well for you.

(4) Oshoma Momoh has a few notes on compensation, looking back at Microsoft after moving on:

(5) Mr. Bishop over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a copy of Sr. VP David Cole's Goin' Fishin' internal email: MSN leader announces leave of absence.

(6) CNet reported that Mr. Gentoo-Linux Daniel Robbins left Microsoft. I haven't been able to track down the reason. Does it mean anything in the larger scope of things?

(7) A commenter provided a link to the story Lacking identity, Microsoft stock crawls along. Relevant snippet:

[...] Microsoft shares have underperformed every major equity index since the start of 2002, a slump that could continue until the world's largest software maker finds a clear investment identity as a growth stock or value play, fund managers and analysts said.

Basically, it appears that Microsoft stock is stuck in limbo with no obvious leadership to get it out. Are we a growth company or are we value company? Right now, it's not clear to the outsiders what path our leadership has chosen to direct the company towards. Uncertainty and doubt. Never a good combination on Wall Street. Another snippet:

"The company undoubtedly is doing some of the right things, but it's not going to move the needle for some time on a company of that size," said Scalise at Duncan-Hurst Capital Management.

Ah, if company size is an issue, I've got a great idea how to take care of that.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

"Rarely does a bad attitude solve the problem."

The comment request seemed simple enough...

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?

Yeah... but no.

Yet I would like to calibrate my outlook here (and I'm not talking about making that Outlook Beta1 actually run fast without my laptop's CPU melting into my desk and hard disk paging clear through time into next Tuesday). While I'm all out of Pollyanna flavored Kool-Aid, I do want to make a few things clear about my perspective.

All the way back from that Blast Off post (ah, yapping alone in the blogverse) to the Back to Basics post, I've done my best to make it clear that I love Microsoft and that I don't want to work any place else. Like most Microsofties, if there was someplace else I wanted to work, I most likely could get a job there (though I'd really have to ponder bopping an interviewer on the nose if they asked me something about resistance between a knight's move on an infinite plane of resistors... what, while bisecting all the of gas stations in the USA?). So I'm staying. And I'm rolling up my sleeves to make a difference at Microsoft. Daily. I enjoy what I do and I'm empowered to make a difference, mainly because I've decided I'm going to make a difference. Microsoft is that kind of place.

And here at Mini-Microsoft? Here I do point out the issues as I see them. Dudes and Dudettes, it takes less than three minutes to get your own blog, if you don't have one already. Want to extol to the world about the greatness of Microsoft (and it is great, don't get me wrong), type away! And by golly, if you direct link to one of my posts, it just happens to show up down at the bottom. That's a great way to provide any point / counterpoint you might ever want, free of my little moderating.

But as I continue pointing what I think are issues to be solved, I'm worried. Worried that we've all taken such great indulgence in pointing out all of the problems that no solution can ever work. You know, any solutions that come up are not going to solve the problems to everyone's enjoyment.

In most ways, I'd love to be in Lisa Brummel's shoes right now. She has such a fantastic problem solving opportunity in front of her... one that almost no one in the history of corporate culture has so grabbed by the horns and said, "I hear you, and I'm going to fix this." It makes my eyes dilate to just imagine having such a powerful and terrifying opportunity. She has the potential, working with the executive leadership, to transform employees' careers, and therefore Microsoft, into something explosive and far beyond what Microsoft is today.

But in a few minor ways, Ms. Brummel is the last person I'd want to be. In one sweeping move she kicked over Pandora's box, flung the Genie out of the bottle, and popped that dang cork out. Expectations, including mine, are so exceptionally high you've got to wonder how anyone, let alone everyone, are going to be satisfied with where it ends up.

And folks are going to complain.

I look at some of the comments posted here and I've really, really got to ask you: geez, why do you work at Microsoft? Now I know folks ask me that, but it's because I know these problems can be solved and the resultant Microsoft will be such a fantastic corporation that it will be worth all the risk of putting up a few web pages in public to say, "Eh, the executive leadership looks naked to me. And that mole on his butt might be cancerous. Better have it looked at."

I do feel these pages have resulted in galvanizing discussions and people have asked questions about topics that they either never knew (you'd be surprised how many team members [aka, individual contributors] didn't know about stack ranking, let alone the curve) or only knew scant bits about (I didn't know about gold stars and the bench until the conversation here brought it into the spotlight).

Back to the complaining, to the lack of positivity, to the feeling of disempowerment and general grumbling towards anything anyone does that affects you. Okay, I've got to admit a reason I've put the light on our problems, issues, reviews, and wage-compensation is to let you think about it and decide whether it's worth toughing it out in this Microsoft environment or if you think your good looks and hard, dedicated contributions would be better invested in a different company.

If folks looked at the issues and honestly decided to leave Microsoft to find a job elsewhere, great. That's a good move for them and fulfills my own little agenda for a smaller Microsoft, one bit of attrition at a time.

If potential hot job candidates read some things here and told their recruiter no thanks and that the whacky curve and the stack rank sounds like austere corporate career BDSM BS, great. Much better they didn't find out a year or two later into their Microsoft career.

I have faith that change will happen at Microsoft. Change is either going to happen because we have executive leadership that steps up and cleans house or because the village is destroyed when enough of the pure talent moves on and all that's left are the village idiots leading meetings and initiatives of excellence.

If you don't share my faith, if you don't believe change is going to happen, if you don't think there are any solutions, if you don't think there is a cause worth winning here, well, then, my friend, get the hell out. I really don't understand why you'd stay in such circumstances.

I finished reading Seth Godin's "The Big MOO" today. It has some interesting points I'd like to thread together here. Mainly for you to think about with respect to: if you're staying at Microsoft, why? And how are you going to be part of the solution to all the hard challenges we have ahead?

"Rarely does a bad attitude solve the problem." True dat. I don't have a bad attitude. I'm pissed off. Our CEO is puzzled how we reached a state where lots of folks are doubled or tripled up in their offices. There's a Think Week paper from Liddell discussing how Microsoft can grow to a 100,000 person company. The people doing all the hard work aren't even getting cost-of-living raises. So now, that doesn't give me a bad attitude. No, it gives me an incredibly motivated pissed off attitude to ask, "Why?" That's the 64-point-font question.

"Ignore the critics and embrace the criticism." I'd say that's LisaB in action right now. And like agile software development, the solution to the problem is to be iterative. Whatever might start as a solution by LisaB is not going to be The Solution but (hopefully) an iterative series of disruptive changes to throw off what doesn't work and refine down what it takes to have a great environment to do our work and be fairly compensated, while not having to stop and add up the numbers and ponder, "Why are all those partners getting showered with stock and money and not being held accountable in the least?"

Kanban. The story about kanban in The Big MOO is interesting, given that I'm thinking about accountability right now. Quickly: Japanese car manufacturers moved to only having one or so spare parts to replace defects discovered while putting cars together. If they ran out, the entire production line would be halted while a replacement was procured. Ends up no one wanted to be responsible for supplying defective parts to the car manufacturer that might stop the entire line and quality from suppliers shot through the roof. Simply because higher quality was expected of them and that they knew they'd be very obviously held accountable. It'd be much better for all of Microsoft to have obvious gates that stopped product development until the quality improved. Because, if we don't hold ourselves accountable, our users will.

And you know it's a damn different environment now. Sometimes it seems every pissed off person has a blog. Maybe you remember those Visual Studio 2005 posts I put out when users got a hold of the RTM bits and started posting, "Dang, sure crashes a lot. Dubya-tee-eff?" I still have people come by to share their latest frustrations with VS on those old posts. It doesn't matter how solid all those components are if there's one weak link in the IDE that crashes. It all comes down.

A service pack to fix all of this cannot come soon enough. What are we teaching our users? Wait until VS releases its first service pack before deploying. Just like Office. Just like Windows.

Are you embracing that criticism? How are you making things better? Are you holding everyone accountable?

So this post started with a call to focus on the things we all love about Microsoft. I love the fact that Microsoft has the potential to solve these problems. It's the source of Microsoft's solution, whether through true, hard leadership or full-blown crisis, that we currently have a chance to influence. We'll come to a solution. And I plan to be along for the ride, because I love this company.

Even when it pisses me off.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Recent Themes... Dilbertless in Redmond

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


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 - 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.