Thursday, February 08, 2007

Where's Ray? Where's the Vista Campaign?

Random unconnected things...

Where's Ray? I'm sure Ray Ozzie has been busy being the wizard behind the connected services scene of the future, but he's just plain running too silent for my comfort. And I'm sure with Mix07 he's going to go through presenting some new technology we're thinking about... perhaps even add single 2007 entry to his unloved blog. But if Ray is the bridge to the connected future from the present Gates, we all need more obvious leadership infrastructure getting us there, and more engagement from Ray and his brigade about what's happening and what kind of coherent vision is coming about. Silence makes me edgy.

Micronews, RIP. To me, Micronews died when they dropped Dilbert. When I joined Microsoft, I was quite delighted with my weekly Micronews and it's rather direct view of what was going on. I viewed it as a benefit and an affirmation of my good decision to join such a groovy company as Microsoft. Of course, I was also thrilled to get an espresso coupon, let alone "thank you" movie tickets (thrills came a lot easier to SDEs back then). Anyway, Dilbert was funny because it seemed so foreign to the Microsoft way. "Pity the people that's relevant to!" I'd chuckle.

Then Dilbert became more and more relevant, and eventually faded... in the meantime, Micronews came the place for softball promo questions and more rah rah Oprahesque-profiles than the occasional forthright question.

Micronews then went electronic and now has been dispersed into the bits of history. In a way, something like a weekly Micronews is needed more than ever, if only to connect the very disparate parts of Microsoft together so that we have a clue what the hell all these 70,000+ people do. Or even to let us know where Ray is. If the original 'zine spirit could come back, it would be worth it.

Vista Ads. We did ship Vista, right? Do you think the world knows about it? Has Microsoft done a good job of owning the message about Vista? I don't think so. So far, the message has been more dominated by lukewarm "eh" reviews and bloggers looking for any scrap to fuss loudly over to get some link love. My worst fear was that Vista would slip out into the world like XP SP2 (copies of which we should have carpet-bombed the world with to justify the importance).

What's our campaign slogan, "Microsoft Windows Vista. Hey, you're going to end up with it anyway."

Death. Taxes. Vista?

That's not worth $500,000,000 in my book. So far, the Vista ad I've heard talked about the most is the latest Apple Allow or Deny ad. What does it take for us to own our own marketing? Joe Wilcox did notice the "Wow" ad on TV the other night and discusses it in comparison to the Apple ad (which then brings out the Apple apologists swinging blindly in the comments at the slightest besmirch to Apple).

How about a marketing campaign that makes us all say, "Wow. That was worth $500,000,000!" That would be a refreshing change.

What's a matter you? WhatsWrongWithU? Me? I don't like us spending shareholder money on campaigns that seem pretty insulting to our customer. And that use Google Analytics technology for tracking usage. WhatsWrongWithUs? We waste money on crap campaigns, it would seem.

When Microsoft sneezes... Yes, in the last post I returned to tooting my scratched and beaten "fire! fire! fire!" horn. Brier Dudley noted that and pondered the devastating economic impact a mass down - mmm, er - rightsizing would have. But what we have going on right now is just as poisonous to the local economy. Like sepsis, we continue squeezing hires into a region that's packed and it results in increased stress and strain. I heard once that every Microsoft job supports two other local jobs, so it's not just Microsoft bodies popping up and driving around and finding a place to live. (Well, maybe that "two" figure was back when new shiny sports cars would spring up after every review cycle, but you get the idea.)

Microsoft in the Puget Sound is full, and I'm beginning to be about as welcoming to new hires (and the crowding and economic strain they bring) as Oregonians to Californians. Especially when the quality of hires matches this story from the comments:

Case study, our org. We had 5 busy, excellent IC's. We had more work. We had to hire. We kept turning them down, but lead pressured us to let some people through because we HAD to get the extra work done, and we didn't have enough time to do it ourselves. We did. We got one productive person, one neutral person, and one person who is after 6 months on our team still a time drain on the productive members of the team. The net manpower effect was an improvement of around 1.5 for the price of 3. MSFT would rather hire 3 mediocre performers than pay for 2 superstars.

How did we handle this?

We created another layer of management so that there would be people to help the neutral and time drain performers, while having the minimum effect on the high performers that don't have time to baby sit. We were split into two teams of 4, with two new people brought in as leads to give extra attention to developing the two FTEs that should have been no-hires. Now it's a net improvement of perhaps 2, for the price of 5. So in our org, the quality of individual we've been able to attract lately has had a direct affect on the number of layers of management in our org and the amount of headcount bloat.

So should leadership's upcoming Microsoft success book be How to do Less with More!? Reads Good to Great backwards indeed...

Bad Dogfooder. Who is feeling sheepishly bad about dogfooding? Me. Sure, like everyone I dogfooded Office 2007 Beta2 onwards. I suffered through, and while Outlook 2007 seemed to have a few folder-switching hickups against Exchange and I usually had to give it fifteen minutes to settle down when I booted it in the morning, the new features seemed worth it.

Then I finally installed my Company Store copy at home and enabled Desktop Search. You'd think I had just sprayed the inside of my poor mega-laptop with saltwater to induce non-stop fritzing. I've learned to meditate while Outlook ruminates over ten incoming POP messages of 69K. Perhaps it takes a few seconds over each incoming message or RSS feed to contribute to solving a Grand Challenge. Or it and Desktop Search have to play 333 iterations of rock-paper-scissors everytime a change has to be written. I don't know. But I feel bad for not dogfooding this home experience sooner and if I could do a six-month tour of duty to get Outlook back to 2003 performance I'd sign up in a flash.

For our customers' sake, I hope that I'm the only one and that there is just something funky about my setup... we'll see, given that I haven't had time to go Russinovich on it yet. In the meantime, it serves two lessons for me: (1) yes, you suck-it-up and dogfood at home, too; and (2) performance is a feature.

Other comments: some additional comments from the latest post worth calling out, including one on bad decision making:

Microsoft's main problem isn't too many employees. It's an inability to make strategic decisions and then trust in them long enough to see them through to implementation (and ultimately, to payoff).

Inside of Microsoft, decision-making is distributed among too many layers of managers, and every decision must be endlessly questioned and second-guessed. No decision is ever final or certain. No decision is ever 100% embraced consistently by all managers up and down the management chain or by managers of parallel teams that need to work together.

:

Decision-making power needs to be taken away from middle-managers (who also tend to come and go pretty frequently, further muddying the decision-making process by taking and bringing different opinions with them) and returned to the hands of qualified "benevolent dictators" at the top (who generally stick around for terms long enough to span several releases of a product and therefore see their strategic vision through to completion). Middle managers should be stripped of all strategic decision-making power and instead simply provide personnel management.

A snippet from a nice level-pulling comment:

The company wants ambitious first string superstars who work their butts off, but is only willing to pay for ambitious third string mediocrities. Or first string superstars who aren’t as ambitious and would be happy with an interesting job with good benefits for the family. But the company doesn’t want them either, and is pulling levers to chase them away. But it isn’t pulling the lever to attract ambitious talent with the kind of potential rewards that matter to that kind of person. So, the ambitious first stringers go to Google where they can still (potentially) become millionaires, the unambitious first stringers leave to have a happy life, and the ambitious third stringers fill the ranks.

From SteveL on effective MSR transfer of skill and ability inside of Microsoft:

What I've seen work best is if the researchers move into the product groups to help implement it. Not only are they the best positioned to xfter the technology, they learn a lot by building products. Like test centric dev, team processes, project management, etc, the stuff that individual researchers in and R&D lab dont do so much of. Then, once the tech is transferred, when they go back to research, they take with them what they've learned.

MSFTExtremeMakeover takes on senior leadership (oh, and my apologies for jinxing things in the last post when I remarked how the stock hadn't dropped below $30):

It would also be nice if faced with a near non-stop meltdown that's destroyed ~$20B of shareholder value and dropped the stock back through key levels that have taken YEARS to get above, the senior management got front and center and reaffirmed confidence in Vista sellthrough to date and financial projections for the year. Instead, the CEO and CFO are mostly AWOL, and not one senior exec has even bothered to refute ANY of the statements in the recent very negative Barron's article (generally credited with sparking the most recent selloff). The market continues to signal a lack of confidence in MSFT and its management, as it has for many years now, and - incredulously - the management team in small and large ways too numerous to list, continue to earn that lack of respect. Time for a wholesale change, starting at the top.

And one to end on:

Reading some of the comments I got reminded of a quote from Peter Drucker:

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things

The question is does MS have management or leadership? or neither?

Administriva: I'm not going to suffer through, or even send to CRF anymore, Mac vs. Windows posturing that's reactive and content free and/or dregs up crap. Life is too short to endure that. If you like what you got, spend time enjoying it. Or doing something useful. Cause you know what? I'm probably going to put up some pro-Vista stuff because there are some pretty sweet features in that little leadership disaster that finally made it out the door.


134 comments:

Anonymous said...

The company wants ambitious first string superstars who work their butts off, but is only willing to pay for ambitious third string mediocrities...etc...

Welcome to corporate middle age. That extra thickness around the waistline is only natural. When you're ready for your midlife crisis, there's an island next to IBM's in Second Life.

Anonymous said...

"We had more work. We had to hire. We kept turning them down, but lead pressured us to let some people through because we HAD to get the extra work done, and we didn't have enough time to do it ourselves."

Your lead understands that there is no reward for hiring a strong team. It comes down to this: hire for the curve. You hire one 4.x and then round out the team with 3.x hires. Makes for a stable team as the 3.x hires will stay around for 8-10 years, and review time is a breeze for the 4.x.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am having the same problem: checking POP accounts in Outlook 2007 is atrociously slow. After Qualcomm announced they were killing off Eudora I figured it was time to switch my home machine to Outlook. It's so bad I almost considered trying to switch back. Exchange is so much quicker it almost makes me wonder if they even bothered testing anything else.

Sean Hederman said...

As a largely pro-MS blogger I'd love to be doing my bit to push Vista, but frankly the bloody thing is disastrously buggy due to the crappy response from nVidia and Creative in getting their drivers to work.

I've heard a LOT of anger about this, and MS is 100% silent on the pain being felt by their customers due to the incompetance of a few hardware manufacturers.

The Nog said...

I don't think you can do anything about Vista advertising. Everybody knows it's just something that will come on their new PCs eventually. Flip3D is just not an exciting hook. The media is actually openly hostile now, asking Bill Gates irritating questions about Mac OS X during interviews (and hey, kudos to Apple for OS X).

There was a comment on Wilcox's blog that I believe is accurate, which was that Apple seems fresh because people aren't sick to death of Macs and haven't had two decades of the horror stories we've all experienced on Windows PCs. All those late night fix-a-thons are comin' back to me...

Anonymous said...

"Joe Wilcox did notice the "Wow" ad on TV the other night and discusses it in comparison to the Apple ad (which then brings out the Apple apologists swinging blindly in the comments at the slightest besmirch to Apple)."
I think we should probably ask more often why MS doesn't have such a loyal following.

Chad said...

Re: Dogfooding.

This relates to beta testing as well. I wish I had done more day-to-day home-use testing. I looked forward to using Outlook 2007, but in the end I've settled on Gmail for my domain. Same with Vista/IE7, there are a lot of obvious bugs and issues that if I had done more day-to-day testing I would have reported on. Maybe it's a case of everybody assuming that somebody else has reported on and is addressing the obvious problems which results in nobody addressing them?

Brier said...

You're sounding like dear old Emmett Watson on his Lesser Seattle crusade, except your's is Lesser Microsoft.

We should yack about this over oysters and beer at his place in the market sometime.

(http://www.washington.edu/alumni/columns/sept01/watson.html)

Anonymous said...

Wow is an overstatement. 95 was a wow. Vista is a "uummmm?" an "interesting" and a "cool". Not a "wow".

XBOX 360 and XBOX Live is a "wow".

Anonymous said...

Why can't we (MSFT) get organic food in our cafeteria? Seriously, Google should not have a higher quality campus life.

TheKhalif said...

Then I finally installed my Company Store copy at home and enabled Desktop Search. You'd think I had just sprayed the inside of my poor mega-laptop with saltwater to induce non-stop fritzing. I've learned to meditate while Outlook ruminates over ten incoming POP messages of 69K. Perhaps it takes a few seconds over each incoming message or RSS feed to contribute to solving a Grand Challenge. Or it and Desktop Search have to play 333 iterations of rock-paper-scissors everytime a change has to be written. I don't know. But I feel bad for not dogfooding this home experience sooner and if I could do a six-month tour of duty to get Outlook back to 2003 performance I'd sign up in a flash.




Wow, I haven't noticed a problm with POP3. As a matter of fact Outook 2003 was much worse for me as I couldn't get it to display an Exchange and POP3 account in the same instance.
When I upgraded, it seamlessly allowed me to create a folder for my POP3 acct.

I actually think 2007 is the ONLY version of Office. The ribbon bar is a brainstorm.


As far as Vista, it is getting a raw deal. No SW will be 100% problem free, especially when backwards compat has to be maintained.

Don't get me wrong I hoped Vista woul dbe the ultimate THIN CLIENT, but it IS much beter than XPSP2 fromqhat I've seen. With the same basic settings and HW my machine is "seemingly" more responsive.

It has definitely come light years since RC1.

That "Vista, you'll end up with it anyway" is pretty funny though true. It's not a step back though.

I would have it as my main boot but nVidia doesn't have a driver with horizontal span for multimon.

My games play great. All of my apps work, all of my devices have drivers.

Vista, get it before it gets you.

paul said...

Ray is still in beta....

As for the Vista campaign, how much money was Edelman PR paid for their sloppy work?

They got Microsoft and AMD to send laptops to bloggers who never blogged about Vista. Edeleman's own blogger Steve Rubell got his photo opp with BillyG, but he never blogged about the wonders of Vista.

We demand a refund!

Anonymous said...

I'm a C# programmer in a 10 person shop. We do custom programs for small clients.

Our Microsoft partner has been pushing us to start looking at developing for Vista. While we can't do much yet (most of our clients are on XP, so making use of Vista features is out of the question) we decided to get a couple of Vista boxes to start getting used to it.

I know you'd like to hear positive news about Vista, but we ended up sending both back to Dell this morning. Out of the box, both machines reported driver conflicts. Updating didn't help. The video cards were unrecognized. Now, this may be Dell's fault rather than Microsoft's, but Vista gets the blame.

While the whole "developers, developers" chant gets mocked, we always liked that focus here. But at this point, we aren't even considering Vista until the first service pack comes out. If you can't get developers on board, the general reaction in most corporations is going to be to sit on XP and wait for the next upgrade cycle.

Anonymous said...

Mini, kudos on best post in awhile, including the great selection of comments.

Anonymous said...

I have been running Vista and Office 2007 on a underpowered machine at home for a year now - no driver problems and good enough perf on a 512MB Athlon 2800.

I never had any gfx problems (ATI9600).

The negative reports are surprising - are those upgrades or clean installs?

Anonymous said...

I've seen elsewhere people suggest that the best thing to do is push the promotions in 6 months or so and I have to agree.

I've been waiting for months to purchase a new computer (waiting on Vista) and ordered one right away when it was available.

The one program that I have to use that keeps me from even considering other platforms does not run on Vista. From what I read, whether it's hardware or software, this isn't so uncommon.

I think the best thing would be to keep marketing low key and then, once some of these issues are taken care of, really push things. When your only real competition is XP, it's not like microsoft is losing money if people don't go to vista right away, and you'll save people a lot of trouble.

I'd like to think that's the strategy that's being pursued where they know that they have to push it somewhat, but it really isn't ready for most people to upgrade. If that's the case, most of that $500 million might just be waiting to be spent in later pushes. It makes sense given where the product is and where the market is.

Anonymous said...

>Where's Ray? Where's the Vista Campaign?

Working on the super-rif-reorg; keeping sales down till stuff is fixed.

BizDog said...

MS is TERRIBLE at marketing and the reason is to excel in a marketing function at MS you only have to be good at vendor budget management. No 4Ps, no viral marketing, no think outside the box, no creativity and no accoutabiltiy other than "spend your budget or the CVP rips it back".

Matthews should go as not one of her ideas in recent years has been worth her weight in salt. Ditto for Sievert who tanked AT&T Wireless, but his MS buddies bailed him out with a cool job with WC and he prmptly proceeded to tank Vista. Truly shameful. And don't get me started on the office cluster of IW.

Most of the launch marketing was done entirely by vendors. That's right vendors. People who have no real accountability to our partners and customers, people who don't know our products and people who many times don't care either. A few tried in vain to get the attendtion of our senior marketing execs - office in particular. Only to be drowned out and the mediocrity continued.

We hold up "marketing superstar" FTEs whose only core competency is vendor budget management. Case in point - the #1 ranked employee in my CVPs org below L64 was a person who literally did nothing except manage a vendor budget for a project that was scoped by yet a different vendor. Unbelievable!

We need serious turnover in our senior execs. Starting right at the top. When your only accountabilities in marketing is how much of your budget did you spend and vendor management you're toast in the market - game over, end of story, done.

So... launch - what launch? Oh that's right, let me call my vendor and find out what I'm supposed to say so he can bill me for it and I'll hit my spend targets. Back in an hour...

MSFTextrememakeover said...

Good post Mini - thx. Lot's of stuff there to chew over. WRT Ray, interesting to hear he's gone walkabout internally as well - I thought it was just externally. I'm sure he has tons on his plate, but it would be nice to see/hear from him more. IMO, MSFT's vision for technology overall is being articulated by too many different spokespeople/groups in often conflicting (or at least seemingly so) ways. As a result, it's getting pretty diffused/lost. Someone needs to be a focal point to get in out more succinctly and clearly, and hopefully generate some excitement/buy-in along the way. I have no doubt that Ray can do the former. Can he do the latter? Will he? If not him, who?

Anonymous said...

A litte too early to say if Ray will stick around. During recent history, the half life of senior level hires has been 2 years.

Anonymous said...

How about the Office 2007 campaign?

Great post BTW

Anonymous said...

Really, we're in a pretty hard marketing situation. I work in field sales and we're only competing with our own products. Mac and Linux aren't even on the radar of most customers we deal with. So, whereas normally, you get a lot of mileage out of comparing yourself to a competitor, here we have to compare ourselves to... ourselves.

In sales, this is bad enough, but for marketers it's worse. After many years of Windows development, Vista is better, but not better in exciting ways. They can't attack XP, so that route is out. If they talk up the features that are shared with XP, people will think they already have everything Vista has to offer. Vista is really more of a collection of subtle improvements than a radical departure. The few features that are really new just aren't that great. Oh, and improved security is not something you want to talk about (we have been told that we should be careful when pushing that in sales calls for fear of making XP look too bad).

It's just a bad situation where, over time, the market has grown tired of hearing generalities about how great Windows is, but the specifics sound even worse.

I think this is some of why they set the bar so high with some of the exciting features that were in Longhorn. But, as we all know, we aren't selling those features anymore.

The truth is that little of this matters. We have customers that want to stay on XP, we supply them. We have customers that want to jump to Vista, we supply them. For all the talk about how this launch isn't going well, it doesn't really matter because of the same thing that makes marketing tough--we're only competing with ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, another post so soon! Remember that Powell quote about optimism and force multiplication? Well, even though your stuff isn't very chearleaderish, it's very optimism-inspiring to hear from the person trying to drive some great changes in our beloved company. Thanks, and keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is a sinking ship, and the problem with Microsoft is its executive leadership. In order to change Microsoft and its corporate culture, you have to remove the cancer at the core of Microsoft. That cancer is Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and their cronies. Gates is leaving, but it will take the shareholders to get rid of Ballmer. But until the cancer is removed Microsoft is destined to fall off the top in the next 10 years.

Bill Buchan said...

Great post again.

I too have been struck with Vista's apologetic launch.

However, perhaps someone from Vista-land can tell me I'm wrong on these points:

http://www.billbuchan.com/web.nsf/d6plinks/BBUN-6Y9NXJ#Comments

Does Windows Restore (itself a cool and funky addition to the product) in fact miss out CD-ROM drive letters ?

Cheers, and keep up the good work.

---* Bill

Anonymous said...

Agree with above poster...we know the experience isn't that great, so we're not pushing Vista "super" hard. We'll let drivers/OEMs/Apple catch up, and then turn on the marketing. Maybe in time for SP1. Personally, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop...as Vista/Office2007 sales pick up and stock is looking up, this RIF rumor will become a reality. (It seems to be the case that once something starts to swing the stock higher, the powers-that-be tank it.)
Also agree with above about Senior Management. Look at public statements last week--Bill does some exec announcement about trusting our computers, and Steve Jobs does one about ditching DRM. (Ok, I had a bunch more to type here, but respecting mini's wishes, will cut it.) The point I'm trying to make is : which company seems to be reaching out to tech geeks/mainstream users?

Anonymous said...

First bring back the MicroNews (electronic version is fine; we were striving for the paperless office around here at one time...) Next bring back the MicroNews ads; you know the real ones. Not this Expo free for all crap where every nutcase case in the world is contacting you. Either that or fire the Public Folders back up. They're slowly chippping away at the things that made this place cool.

Anonymous said...

"Mac and Linux aren't even on the radar of most customers we deal with."

Mac I can see. Linux you have got to be kidding based on industry growth rates and even the comments of your own management (who say the Novell/SUSE upgrades have been flying out the door much faster than expected). Maybe it's time to start dealing with someone other than the desktop people in your assigned customer base?

"we're only competing with ourselves."

And based on ever-slowing actual adoption rates (versus bigger numbers simply due to a larger installed base), doing a pretty lousy job of it. You have to earn an upgrade by [really] wowing your customers - it's not yours by birthright. Some people at MSFT get that. Too many (it seems), still don't.

Anonymous said...

"frankly the bloody thing is disastrously buggy due to the crappy response from nVidia and Creative in getting their drivers to work."

I have excatly the same experience and it's beyond me to see thet MS let's this pass without any action since users will see this (again, I might say) as an OS issue and not a driver related issue.

In other words it reflects really badly on the new Vista OS.

Anonymous said...


As a largely pro-MS blogger I'd love to be doing my bit to push Vista, but frankly the bloody thing is disastrously buggy due to the crappy response from nVidia and Creative in getting their drivers to work.

Welcome to the pain us Linux users have been feeling for years, due to the apathy of nVidia, ATI etc.

Anonymous said...

"in comparison to the Apple ad (which then brings out the Apple apologists swinging blindly in the comments at the slightest besmirch to Apple)."

Every platform has its 'apologists'. Apple's can be particularly vocal, but they are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Apple is on the up, and the old knee-jerk defensive paranoia of old is looking increasingly idiotic.

As new users join the camp, the background noise from more normal users will rise and eventually marginalise the minority of 'shriekers'.

From my point of view, as an outsider to Microsoft, but a potential customer, I see a Microsoft as an increasingly nebulous entity, very good at making pronouncements and 'leading the industry', but not so hot on the implementation. It's not all bad by any means, but when the gloss rubs off, the patina underneath looks dull. Where are you really headed? What's really important to you? Who's really in charge? Where's the spark? All mouth, no trousers. That is the perception.

I use a Mac at home through choice, but have no particular philosophy to espouse about this. I'm one of the new Apple users, the ones that are less likely to shriek, and have never been part of any ignored or oppressed computing minority. Why? Apple users are becoming comfortable and normal, no longer 'ignored' or 'oppressed'.

All this has to be a little worrying. I really think the game has changed, and Microsoft is going to have to change with it. I hope they do, both Apple and Microsoft need to be at the top of their game, there is a weird creative symbiosis here, ripe for exploitation for both parties. Without one, the other is weakened. It concentrates the mind - or it should do.

Anonymous said...

I dont quite understand this Mac vs PC brouhaha. The market segments seem quite different - Mac is still a niche segment. Most companies, small and big are Windows based. Most Mom & Pop users are also windows based because they probably just order from Dell or the local Bestbuy. Almost all gamers are obviously on the PC platform. So what gives? It will take time for Vista to get widely adopted, but its just a matter of time. And time is something Microsoft seems to have plenty of.

What I am really concerned about is the hiring process, quality of people we are bringing in and the reason for it. My org has been hiring a lot the past few months and candidates that come in with about 5 years experience or more are entering with insane salaries way above the existing top performers at the same level. And the worst part is the hiring managers have no say on how much these new hires get paid. In fact in some cases, they are hired at 1 or 2 levels above what's indicated in the job description - without even consulting the hiring manager who interviewed the candidate! I, as hiring manager say "Hire" for someone at Level 60, but the new hire comes in at 62. But then again, I am just a hiring manager. I wouldn't know any better.

Anonymous said...

Overwhelming reason to buy Vista - Media Center rocks.

Overwhelming reason to buy Office - productivity is majorly higher (it's so much easier to discover stuff). And it works on the same machines that run 2003.

Anonymous said...

I think we should probably ask more often why MS doesn't have such a loyal following.

I think you should ask what happened to your loyal following. Midnight sales of Win95 is only one past reminder of what you've lost - despite what the Slashdot/ABM crowd spews, a lot of folks in the marketplace (devs and users) used to be rabid 'soft fans, because you made the best software.

What happened to the products over the past 10-15 years? They've stagnated, bloated, overcontrolled by the marketing and feature checklist police, or been swept aside by the forces of progress.

You wanna get back on top? Make great products. There are a lot of folks out there who are forced to use MS software - quite a few of those would be rooting for you to make a comeback. Office 2k7 is a fabulous start; Vista, not so much.

Thin out those middle managers who aren't contributing to greatness, and remember, it's all about the software.

Anonymous said...

The messaging I've seen about Vista so far has been ridiculous. Bill Gates went on The Daily Show and the only features I remember him mentioning were security and parental controls.

Really? Parental controls? Maybe this is a big deal for a few people but I imagine it's simply a non-issue for most Windows installs. What about office computers? What about personal laptops? What about everybody who's outside of the age band where young children are living at home? This whole thing just leaves me scratching me head.

When Apple promotes a new operating system, they point to half a dozen simple, easy things that are obviously useful and then everybody upgrades. Who didn't say "that's a GREAT idea" when they saw the widget that tells you if a flight is on-time or not? How hard would it really be for Microsoft to come up with some ideas like this?

Anonymous said...

And the worst part is the hiring managers have no say on how much these new hires get paid. In fact in some cases, they are hired at 1 or 2 levels above what's indicated in the job description - without even consulting the hiring manager who interviewed the candidate! I, as hiring manager say "Hire" for someone at Level 60, but the new hire comes in at 62. But then again, I am just a hiring manager. I wouldn't know any better.

Is that really true?

Who sets the level? From discussions during my negotiations when I joined the company several years ago (before they began being kinder to new hires), it was the department I was hiring into that they had to check with, on this. HR by themselves could not give me a higher level than originally offered, when I dug in my heels and asked for a level that was only insulting and embarrassing rather than the completely unacceptable one offered. That doesn't sound like "no say." Did they check with the AA rather than the hiring manager?

On my team, there are two senior SDE's with many years' experience who can point to many successful projects. We work hard. There is another senior SDE with 5 years in the industry, works carpool hours (8-5), and frankly his code and architecture knowledge isn't in our league. Not even close. SOMEONE's leveled wrong. Either it's the two of us, or it's the other guy. I honestly don't know which, but have my suspicions: the carpool-hours guy was hired last year.

Does anyone know if it helps to put comments about levelling (HIRE for level 60 or below, NO HIRE for 61 or above) into the interview tool comments? Does it help to go speak directly to the AA? I guess I'm looking for how I, here on the ground, can help minimize level inflation.

IMHO, if a hiring manager lists a position at L60, he or she knows a lot more about what CSP level is required for the job than anyone else. For example, he or she may already have 2 L60's with similar responsibilities. Bring a peer of those L60's in at L62 and... voila, it's a manifestation of one oft-discussed issue. Before that hire gets brought in at L60, they should go back to the hiring manager and ask, "Where's that person in relation to your existing staff's skills?" and if it's necessary to hire someone OF THE SAME OR LESS SKILL LEVEL ABOVE L60, ADJUST EVERYONE'S LEVELS, OR GIVE A PASS ON THE L62 GUY if they're not willing to give existing, proven talent the same comp.

If this is how it works, this is broken. This is REALLY, REALLY broken. Lisa, you out there?

[I'd love to say I live in a fantasy world where the L62 will stagnate at level and the L60's will catch up. In my org, we promote as much based on tenure (time in level) as ability. So fact is, they won't.]

Anonymous said...

"I, as hiring manager say "Hire" for someone at Level 60, but the new hire comes in at 62."

The optimist in me says HR is doing you a favor by providing 3.0 fodder.

Anonymous said...

>"All this has to be a little worrying. I really think the game has changed, and Microsoft is going to have to change with it."

and

>"I dont quite understand this Mac vs PC brouhaha. The market segments seem quite different - Mac is still a niche segment."

I am always amazed at how rattled softies get by Apple success when MS and Apple have always been different in that one is a single product/company experience-glad its there, and the other is hundreds of product experiences/choices and not selling to the same mindset, glad that's there too.

But then I was considering that a couple of things indicate maybe MS has lost sight of the vision of who they are in that Vista seems to be trying to compete with Apple's OSX an XBOX is really just a low cost computer sold and marketed as a gaming/entertainment device. Both of those positions fight what MS should really be doing, i.e., focusing on OS experience with its partners and individual system builders.

Personally, I think some of the better off partners should get together and offer to buy XBOX division from Microsoft and be on their way which would free them from being restricted from building great PCs, game platforms and music/entertainment/video devices. That should be the focus and it needs to be apart from MS.

As part of the agreement, MS and XBOX should agree to release games to both PCs and consoles on the same day, therefore advantaging both companies (note I said companies, not divisions)

Two cents worth from a customer who would be better served.

Anonymous said...

""MS is TERRIBLE at marketing and the reason is to excel in a marketing function at MS you only have to be good at vendor budget management. No 4Ps, no viral marketing, no think outside the box, no creativity and no accoutabiltiy other than "spend your budget or the CVP rips it back".""

This explains so much.

Anonymous said...

"[I'd love to say I live in a fantasy world where the L62 will stagnate at level and the L60's will catch up. In my org, we promote as much based on tenure (time in level) as ability. So fact is, they won't.]

But how long before the L60 folks catch up? 1, 2, 3 years? And until then aren't they getting a raw deal?

Btw, I am the original poster on this topic and someone pointed out that the AA might have had a hand in the overleveling. Good point, but still the AA should have consulted the interviewers in the loop. AA is not God.

The hiring process is indeed really really messed up. People are bringing up this issue time and again on InsideMS but Lisa seems to be in denial. She keeps saying its not true in most cases and whoever suffers through this, she tries to console them by saying this is true of most large companies (as in new hires getting hired at much highers salaries/levels than existing ones)

The optimist in me says HR is doing you a favor by providing 3.0 fodder.


Sigh, I am at a loss of words for this kind of attitude.

Anonymous said...

Anyone knows what level 59s are getting when hired these days?

Anonymous said...

Whats all the fuzz about Vista? You know, it's just an operating system? The thingy you run your applications on... the applications you use?

My applications work perfectly right now on XP, why should i change to Vista? Does it make my applications run faster (no, not start faster), does it smell better?

Sometimes it seems like MSFT thinks that all companies and human beings just exists for the sole purpose to buy and run MSFT software, and are honestly supprised when they don't throw themself into the nearest SW store to buy anything new MSFT graciously has to offer.

Have all you MSFT:ies upgraded to Vista? Yes, all 70k+ of you, on and off campus? What you say? You havent had the time... You are conserned about driver issues, and maybe that some third party software not running that good, oh and some hardware is pretty old and need to be upgraded/replaced, and it takes a hell of a lot of time to backup all your stuff and reformat and reinstall...

Yeah, now you know why every man, women, company doesn't just run out to get a copy of Vista just because MSFT snapped it fingers.

"Death. Taxes. Vista?"

I would say "Death. Taxes and Windows" because you have over 90% of the desktop and some form of Windows is probably going to run on 90% of desktops for the foreseeable future. So chill...

Anonymous said...

Oh, Vienna with WinFS in about 2 years?

Did someone forgot to multiply with Pi or have you not learned anything?

This one will be exciting... :)

Anonymous said...

>I think we should probably ask more often why MS doesn't have such a loyal following.

That is like a water utility asking why they don't have as loyal a following as Evian spring water. Despite the sound and fury from the Apple and ABM camps, we are still quite firmly in the lead...for now. (However, given MS's lack of direction, whether we stay there remains to be seen.)

A danger I see that hasn't really been talked about is that we are not doing enough to appease computer professionals both in our technical (e.g. VS, Windows Server) and general audience products. Look at how long it took to add a decent shell for Windows! This hurts us directly because they control or influence technology purchasing and indirectly because MS is percieved as uncool by younger people which reduces our ability to hire and keep good people.

Anonymous said...

My applications work perfectly right now on XP, why should i change to Vista? Does it make my applications run faster (no, not start faster), does it smell better?

Here's is a partial list of improvements in Vista.

Any other questions?

Anonymous said...

[OP says] "someone pointed out that the AA might have had a hand in the overleveling. Good point, but still the AA should have consulted the interviewers in the loop. AA is not God."

(I'm the OP of the post to which you replied) The AA is in many cases somewhat removed from the daily workings of the team, and may know less about the relative levelling of people on the team than ANYONE else involved in it. It's the hiring manager who's going to have to deal with this person and their teammates at review time, and thus face the consequences of that levelling decision. He/she needs to have that say from the beginning.

"The hiring process is indeed really really messed up. People are bringing up this issue time and again on InsideMS but Lisa seems to be in denial. She keeps saying its not true in most cases [...]"

It may not be true "in most cases." I only know that our group could use some "right-sizing" and "right-leveling". And if the right-leveling causes attrition, then that's the way the ball bounces. If that happens, MSFT would gain evidence that they have a pay issue in the technical disciplines and deal with it, either by re-levelling the different career stages in the technical disciplines relative to other disciplines, or raising pay scales for the levels across the board.

Of course it won't ever happen. But we can dream, and we can dare them to do outrageous things like that. Perhaps some exec will read this and cringe a tiny bit at the chaos this would cause, and then think a bit about why this would cause such chaos. Answer: because things really are broken. And the longer they stay broken, the more difficult they will be to fix, and the more damage will be done to the company's ability to ship world-changing products.

By the way, I have another observation on levels. Our group contains some 10-20 year MS veteran/bounceback-retiree ICs. When the retitling swept through and a few of us checked the address books, it was very surprising. Some of the very best, most competent people in our group are leveled in the upper-entry-level range for our discipline. (61 for a dev, anyone?) And, they're content. They have two homes, no mortgage, etc. They primarily live off their MSFT retirement, and are here because it's fun to them to do what they're doing, and to earn a toy budget.

One reason HR might not want to relevel across the board is that it's not necessary to relevel people who don't feel the salary pressure that many of the rest of us do.

Talking to Lisa, again-I challenge you to make "right-levelling" a part of the ranking/review process this year. Within each title group, look at those in it, and see if there are major outliers (with obvious differences in responsibility and skill) in either direction, and fix them. If this would be done in our group, it would be clear that the recently-hired senior SDE is much closer in output quantity/quality to the midpoint of the SDE 2 group. Then a discussion could be had on options for fixing it (reduce his level to SDE 2 but let him keep his salary though with reduced bonus/raise possiblity due to being at the upper end of the SDE 2 pay scale, increase levels of his current peers, whatever).

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with many comments above, Vista's adoption rate does not matter on the desktop. Mac and Linux are not real competitors there. Upgrades are not common outside of system upgrade cycles. Computers will sell if they have Vista on them, they'd sell if they still had XP on them. Either way, we make our profit.

Only we can break our dominance of the desktop and we could only do it through a total meltdown. In spite of the fear, we aren't anywhere close to that point. As management has seen, something else will have replaced the desktop as the key platform long before we lose our grip there.

The key is to use our dominance to establish positions in these new markets so that whichever one expands, we're ready to jump on it. This is the Xbox, Windows Mobile, Zune, etc strategy. Yes, in spite of the horror at the losses, this is a great strategy. A few billion (or even tens of billions) _invested_ in order to be ready for whichever way the market moves is a much better use of those profits than buybacks or other short-term efforts to move stock prices.

We could have left XP unchanged and still dominated the desktop market for the next 5-10 years. The fact that we're still focused on innovation is more about preparing for the next market, whatever it turns out to be, than worrying about this one. All the complaints about how minor the changes in Vista are ignore the fact that this is a mature market. This is how things are going to be. It's why management's focus on new areas makes so much sense.

Anonymous said...

We have a winner of the prize for the simultaneously most and least sensible comment prize. Most sensible part:

Computers will sell if they have Vista on them, they'd sell if they still had XP on them. Either way, we make our profit.
...
We could have left XP unchanged and still dominated the desktop market for the next 5-10 years.


Amen!

Least sensible:

The key is to use our dominance to establish positions in these new markets so that whichever one expands, we're ready to jump on it. This is the Xbox, Windows Mobile, Zune, etc strategy. Yes, in spite of the horror at the losses, this is a great strategy.


Except that successful companies in midlife are notorious for pouring money down ratholes in vain attempts to relive their glory years. And Xbox360 and Zune look dark and deep.

Anonymous said...

We need more engagement from Ray and his brigade about what's happening and what kind of coherent vision is coming about.

I'm sorry, but this is NOT what you need. You do NOT need vision from Ray. At this point, what you need from Ray is code!

I have a very long history with Microsoft, and I am no longer a softie. One of the reasons I left is the whole vision/strategy vs. code problem. In the old days, production quality code really mattered a ton. In the new Microsoft, from Forum 2000 onward, code was much less important. What really mattered was laying down a vision and a strategy. If you could fool willy-g and monkey-boy with a vision in powerpoint you got funding. If you could trump someones code with a better vision (again in powerpoint) you could kill their project, steal their resources, etc. Lets look back at the goat rodeo that we now know as vista... The "vision" for WinFS was awesome! The powerpoints and flash based wonderware was compelling. If anyone poked a hole in the "vision", Davidv was there to draw another slide and keep the vision alive... Willy-G and Monkey-Boy loved the vision and bet the Company on this thing. Peter and crew tried hard to write code that matched the vision, but ultimately failed because the vision only worked on paper... How many other Vista visions failed pre-market, or are currently failing in the market right now?

I don't think you want a "vision" from Ray. Instead, I think you want Ray to help you get back to basics. Back to an environment where production quality code matters. Where the code is what "sells" the vision, rather than using a powerpoint based vision to justify building a new army.

So where is Ray? I'm not sure he's the right man for this. Code in this new, internet environment is very hard. You have to make tradeoffs. You have to have a focus. You have to adopt the incremental innovation model where you drizzle out features several times a week. Ray is a great guy, but, until he engages with code, until he deploys code worldwide from his workstation, until his personal pager goes off when an error threshold is reached, until he personally engages with developers, answering their questions on support message boards, debugging their missing closing tags, etc., in my book he's just a guy with a "vision".

Vision isn't going to usher in the new era for Microsoft. Its going to take real code and a real understanding of the new model thats possible when you start delivering a platform of services on the internet.

I wish Ray all the luck on the world. My advice to Ray is to simply delete office from his computers and instead install emacs.

-an ex softie, now working somewhere else

Anonymous said...

All the complaints about how minor the changes in Vista are ignore the fact that this is a mature market.

And that claim ignores the fact that there were actual revolutionary new features (WinFS, etc.) that had to be cut.

I'm not a doctor, but between this and the Xbox/Zune comment, I'd recommend ratcheting down the dosage on the koolaid.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm a MSFT re-tread. (got in, got out, got back in again). For the record, I left as a level 63 SDE and came back into UE as a L-60. That was a bit of a hit in the bi-monthly paycheck from my L-63 heyday, but I can do L-60 work in my sleep so I'm happily sandbagging and enjoying a much healthier work-life balance. Besides, I imagine that it looks better to be a steller L-60 than a burned-out (i.e. fried and toasted) 63.

So, to all the level-purists, I ask you, does that make me a bad person? Am I a fool? Am I cheating MSFT? Are they cheating me?

If, someday, I feel motivated to fire on all my L-63 cylinders again, I'll give them a L-63 (or better) performance if they want to pony up the corresponding compensation. In the meantime, it seems to me like we have a fair deal between us. I deliver L-60 (or better) performance, they deliver L-60 pay, and all is right in the world.

Anonymous said...

"Computers will sell if they have Vista on them, they'd sell if they still had XP on them. Either way, we make our profit."

With one, small(?) exception: XP R&D is amortized. Vista at $6 Billion...IS NOT! So, XP would be the more profitable, now, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

All the complaints about how minor the changes in Vista are ignore the fact that this is a mature market. This is how things are going to be.

If Microsoft just polished up XP and sold the update for $50, everybody would buy it and be happy.

The complaints are because Microsoft promised huge changes, devoted thousands of people and billions of dollars to huge changes, eventually failed due to bad planning and mismanagement, and finally shipped a bunch of minor changes that require twice as much RAM, cost > $100, and don't work quite right with peoples' current hardware/software.

Anonymous said...

"Overleveling" is a direct result of Microsoft's "move 'em up or move 'em out" personnel policy. Managers are constantly under pressure to either promote their people or push them out of the company. Which one is easier and considerably more fun for the manager? Promotion. Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

In fact in some cases, they are hired at 1 or 2 levels above what's indicated in the job description - without even consulting the hiring manager who interviewed the candidate! I, as hiring manager say "Hire" for someone at Level 60, but the new hire comes in at 62.

Maybe 62 is the market price and candiates would not consider the position at Level 60?

Anonymous said...

That was a nice one from Drucker. Here is another that seems apropos at Microsoft:

"So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work"

Anonymous said...

That was a nice one from Drucker. Here is another that seems apropos at Microsoft:

"So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work"


Particularly apropos for anyone who has seen the HR deck for midyear reviews, or waded through any of the hours and hours of reading and data entry (nevermind the training, manager meetings, etc.) that accompany this brand-new vision of how we're supposed to (apparently) spend about 8 months of the year either working on, reviewing, revising, talking about, or learning how to update our careers or performance measurements.

Are we actually supposed to do our day jobs at some point too? Or is that incidental now?

I used to work at IBM, and even there, we didn't have this kind of mind-numbing, process-upon-process bureaucracy around *anything* - nevermind around something like "career paths."

My favorite part was a sentence on one slide saying this was all because "You asked for it!" Not in my wildest dreams would I have "asked" for this kind of B.S. I like my job. Can I just do it, please? At least some of the time?

Or I will be just another ex-MSFTie wondering what the h--- happened to such a great place to work.

Anonymous said...

What does it mean to get a gold star bonus award, is that highly selective? Typically what is the award amount?

Anonymous said...

Poster writes: "Maybe 62 is the market price and candiates would not consider the position at Level 60?"

That's my point. Market price for a set of skills at a certain level of ability X is currently N. Existing employees at skill level X are compensated at N-10K or therearounds. Pay seems to currently depend on WHEN YOU CAME IN, more than on performance once you get here (annual increases aren't keeping up with market rate increases for new hires). And this does not seem like a way to retain the best and the brightest.

Anonymous said...

I have a very long history with Microsoft, and I am no longer a softie. One of the reasons I left is the whole vision/strategy vs. code problem. In the old days, production quality code really mattered a ton. In the new Microsoft, from Forum 2000 onward, code was much less important.

Maybe you were in some other group, but I've been a developer at Microsoft since 1995, and if you go and there's a huge difference between the code quality of code written when I started and now. Code these days (at least in Windows) is written with security, robustness and maintainability in mind. That most certainly wasn't the priority when I started -- number of lines and time to ship were the primary targets.

Anonymous said...

>> revolutionary new features (WinFS, etc.) that had to be cut

I've heard well respected people from COSD say that WinFS is a solution in search of a problem, and it is not clear to them even now why it was pushed so hard (aside from it being BillG's pet feature).

The cost is insane, though, both direct (money, SQL 2005 ship cycle length) and indirect (burn-out of quality people in both SQL and Windows).

I think this corpse should remain buried.

Anonymous said...


So, I'm a MSFT re-tread. (got in, got out, got back in again). For the record, I left as a level 63 SDE and came back into UE as a L-60.


This is not possible. You always keep your level and seniority when you rejoin. However this is for the same dicipline.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm a MSFT re-tread. (got in, got out, got back in again). For the record, I left as a level 63 SDE and came back into UE as a L-60.

This is not possible. You always keep your level and seniority when you rejoin. However this is for the same dicipline.


As he said -- he came as UE (User Education), ie tech writer, which is different discipline.

However this example says something how much we value UE -- if experienced SDE is L60 Tech writer, it is no wonder our documentation is abisymal...

Anonymous said...

This is not possible. You always keep your level and seniority when you rejoin. However this is for the same dicipline.

Huh? When I quit, my lead tried to convince me to stay by saying that I wouldn't necessarily be able to come back. If it's not clear that a former employee (with good review scores, who left on his own volition) can get a position at all, what makes you think they're guaranteed a position at their old level?

Chad said...

The "Wow" ad reminds me of the Apple "Think Different" ad from the 90s which had a narrator speak over the images of famous people. Kind of a relaxing ad, not too shabby.

In response to the "bad decision making" - This seems to allude to (once again) Fred Brooks' Mythical Man Month, where Brooks describes the process of managing a large software project by having one principle surgeon (or in this case, a manager or software architect) to make the big decisions and guide the process along. Even decades after this book was written, a lot of the words hold true to today. Even trying to get two people to decide on something can be a challenge. One person needs to lead the project, yet be kept accountable for the rights and wrongs which are done along the way.

Anonymous said...

Regarding hardware support from NVidia, I have to say that Vista actually helped.

I bought a laptop last April with a GeForce Go 7400. It was advertised as for "midrange gaming". Not only is this one of the few pieces of video cards that NVidia's unified driver fails to support, but the latest driver for it hails from the month I bought it - April of '06. Needless to say, newer games using DX shaders fail to work correctly, if at all.

When upgrading, I found the WDDM driver provided by Vista is actually newer (out of necessity of a newer OS, it would seem), and things are now working as expected.

While I understand the point of view that "Vista is broken" when NVidia can't be bothered to ship anything beyond beta drivers, the onus is completely on them for not backing their own plays. I have shunned ATI for years due to this kind of thing (anyone who remembers the "Rage" series knows that they were labeled quite appropriately), but now NVidia seems to be dropping the ball, leaving me wondering if I should abandon them. First they lose all those juicy console chipset contracts to ATI, and now they don't even have decent driver support for the new OS. Perhaps this is an omen of things to come...

In any case, there is a lot of hardware out there that appears to be undersupported for Vista, including my laptop, that were touted at "Vista Capable" - they even have a handy sticker on them that says as much. For while I now have better video support, my Smartcard reader and a few other components are unrecognized by Vista, and they don't have drivers available at all. I sure hope someone in MS is holding these guys accountable...

Anonymous said...

Market price for a set of skills at a certain level of ability X is currently N. Existing employees at skill level X are compensated at N-10K or therearounds. Pay seems to currently depend on WHEN YOU CAME IN, more than on performance once you get here (annual increases aren't keeping up with market rate increases for new hires).

Bingo. And to compensate for market pressure, HR puts them at a higher level rather than adjusting the pay scales. Talk about putting the cart before the horse...

You will never see a "releveling" for those with seniority v. new hires, because either you hand out a bunch of raises (which seems to be the only cost MS is that miserly about), or you lower a bunch of peoples' compensation, which would be a morale-destroyer at best and a breach of contract at worst.

Anonymous said...

UE is definitely under-appreciated at MSFT, but that's fodder for another thread or another blog.

Anonymous said...

>>Anonymous, at Sunday, February 11, 2007 10:51:20 PM wrote:

this brand-new vision of how we're supposed to (apparently) spend about 8 months of the year either working on, reviewing, revising, talking about, or learning how to update our careers or performance measurements.

Are we actually supposed to do our day jobs at some point too? Or is that incidental now?

I like my job. Can I just do it, please? At least some of the time?

Or I will be just another ex-MSFTie wondering what the h--- happened to such a great place to work.


Amen, brother, amen. At some point in time the Legal and the Human Resources Departments took over running the company and it was at that point that Microsoft stopped being a fun place to work. The company has been hijacked by a bunch of lawyers and HR zealots.

Anonymous said...

It's that open source guy again.

I went to the local Vista launch, and was only one of about ten to fifteen people who turned up. I had subconciously expected something more like the 1995 release of Windows 95.

And the staff at the computer shop the launch aka "release party" was at, were remarkably low-key about it. The party itself was incredibly low-key as well.

I played with Vista. Being a good techie, one of my first moves was to take a look at the Control Panel. I couldn't see anything dramatically different.

I can only see one good reason why I would get Vista before the curve - if I was hired as a C# developer at some company and they shouted me a new computer with Vista on it. Otherwise, I'll be waiting until the people who've been relying on my good services as a techie, start getting Vista and start crying out for help.

Sorry, Mini, can't be excited about something that even the people selling it can't get excited about.

Anonymous said...

When I quit, my lead tried to convince me to stay by saying that I wouldn't necessarily be able to come back.

Reportedly there is a blacklist of some sort maintained by HR that people can be added to. I assume it's usually for people that are fired for misconduct but I wouldn't be surprised if it could be abused.

Anonymous said...

"Reportedly there is a blacklist of some sort maintained by HR that people can be added to. I assume it's usually for people that are fired for misconduct but I wouldn't be surprised if it could be abused."

there's a rehire/do not rehire check box on your jacket. So if you get asked to leave due to politics, or simply quit but your boss feels you left him/her hanging, don't be surprised if your jacket reads "do not rehire" regardless of your lifetime performance scores and reviews.

Anonymous said...

What's a level 59 being hired in at these days?

I just left my Level 59 job, the level is between $68,000 and $78,000. I was at the top of my level doing great work, great stats, and couldn't get promoted. Over time, I found out it was because I just happened to be working on a product that management couldn't wait to hit the end-of-lifecycle.

Now, I'm a vendor, and I'm making $130,000 a year. And I don't have to put up with the corporate political bullsh-- that kept me down, mainly the stupid review process because I didn't go bowling with the boss' team every Wednesday night (no sh--).

Now, I have a job that's singular in focus, and I can't wait to get on campus every day to do my one little complicated job that I do incredibly well, and I am well-paid for the excellent work that I'm putting in. Blue-badging is dead to me.

Anonymous said...

Now I know why none of our HR-related worries are ever heard by senior mgmt...
They're too busy playing golf while the VP of HR wants to talk to them!!
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/01/27/business/20070128_BALLMER_SLIDESHOW_4.html

Anonymous said...

re the Evian water vs local water utility comment..

Utilities (govt sanctioned monopolies) are strictly regulated.

Still want to promote the Microsoft-as-utility analogy ?

Anonymous said...

"At some point in time the Legal and the Human Resources Departments took over running the company and it was at that point that Microsoft stopped being a fun place to work. The company has been hijacked by a bunch of lawyers and HR zealots."

I'm not a 'softie, but I do have a friend who works as a Windows developer there... and used to work with me at another large corporation, and yet another one prior to that. From that experience, I can honestly say that "lawyers and HR zealots" are the norm for such companies. You can't make the lawyers go away, ever: once you reach a certain size, you're a target. Class action suits, antitrust, IP disputes... hell, given the ubiquity of Windows probably even personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits will need to be dealt with eventually.

HR zealots: good HR people are a real asset, and not as common as one might expect. But they're in the conflicted position of having to support and retain employees on one hand, and minimize expense to the corporation on the other. That makes it difficult to define exactly what a "good" HR person is: it depends on who's measuring.

Understand that corporations run for the benefit of the stockholders. You will wind up disillusioned if you believe that it's about customers, or product excellence, or a good work environment: those are all secondary goals in service of the primary goal: to make good returns for the stockholders. Running a corporation needs to be a dispassionate undertaking, and hard decisions need to be made to maximize those returns. While Microsoft hasn't been enormously successful with those returns recently, the point is that you need to view a corporation from the proper perspective in order to understand why decisions get made as they do.

I have also worked for a very small company, where everyone knew everyone else, and it really was all about the technology and the employees. It translated directly to profitability without all the competing concerns larger companies need to deal with, and a lawyer was just a local guy we'd consult on occasion. HR? That was the boss. Best job I ever had... until the owner sold it to a large corporation!

Mini thinks Microsoft Corporation can change; I think Mini is young and naive. Individuals within the company may want it to change, but the cells in a liver don't get to vote on whether it should be a heart instead.

You want change, or a rewarding job where you can have a real impact on yourself, your coworkers, and your customers? You think you can handle real accountability? Go find a small company to work for, or start your own.

Yes, Microsoft software touches millions of customers. Is that more important than having more personal relationships with dozens or hundreds or thousands of customers? Depends on how your ego is wired, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

>Still want to promote the Microsoft-as-utility analogy ?

Offtopic, but the analogy is truer than you think. MS is already under a consent decree in the US and anti-trust actions across the globe. That, in turn, has led to a paralyzing fear of being sued that prevents MS from making any big moves.

We're already quite regulated enough, thank you. Enjoy your Evian.

Anonymous said...

Now, I'm a vendor, and I'm making $130,000 a year.

Hey - how did you become a vendor? Can you describe this a little more?

Anonymous said...

>> Blue-badging is dead to me.

To all the orange badgers who think contracting is better. Please at least hint at who your employers are. If you want to persuade someone, that will make your pitch more effective.

Anonymous said...

Blue-badging is dead to me.

Ditto.

Networking is important in business, this is true. But at MS, who you know and what they think of you and your group (whether it be true or not) is all that can provide rewards. So you must either shamelessly self-promote and/or steal credit, or you get Kimmed.

When I was hired at MS, I was so excited. This was going to be my life. I used my new email alias for everything, switched over to all the partnered employee resources like Fidelity and Amex, all that stuff. But after a few years and ho-hum reviews, the reality of how rankings are actually handed out became apparent. MS rapidly lost it's luster.

Now I'm in a similar boat - contracting and being compensated far and above what MS was willing to pay, and all I have to do is perform my duties well. The MS stint and the free certifications on my resume help a great deal in landing gigs.

MS promotes such a negative view of contractors, it's understandible how FTEs react to the concept of "going mercenary". This works to the corporation's benefit, I suppose, particularly during those times where everyone is putting in 60-70 hour weeks...

Anonymous said...

I am a former MSFT employee. I know work for a large customer of Office in the Seattle area. Outlook 2007 seems almost un-useful from home to the Corp Exchange Server. Beta 2 Refresh was fine. Any actions from marking a message as read to sending email takes 5+ minutes, where Outlook 2007 interface "freezes" up.
I thought Outlook had gotten rid of the nickname of Outhouse, looks like I may need to bring it back.

Anonymous said...

Pay seems to currently depend on WHEN YOU CAME IN, more than on performance once you get here (annual increases aren't keeping up with market rate increases for new hires).

Ah yes, that old problem. And I do mean OLD. I was hired in PSS in 90, transferred to a STE position in Systems in 92, got promoted in 93 and 95. In 98 my boss gave me my second 10% raises in a row and APOLOGIZED that my pay was still "a bit low" compared to what new hires at my level were making. He sheepishly admitted that he'd even played the "You don't want to look like we're discriminating against her because she's a woman, do you?" card to get me raises....

Bottom line, MSFT will either change its compensation scheme to include "cost of market" increases or it will continue to have this particular problem.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Not that you ever left, but this harkens back to the blunt reality of earlier posts; 80% critical, 20% rah-rah. This is a good ratio imho; offsets the 95%-99.99% rah-rah we get from inside the company.

Anonymous said...

Understand that corporations run for the benefit of the stockholders...

Ha!!!!

Can't wait for Mr. MSFTExtremeMakeover to comment on that one.

Actually, corporations are run for the benefit of the executives. After all, it's the executives who are doing the running.

If MSFT had been run for the benefit of the shareholders, the stock would not have been mired where it is for so long.

Anonymous said...

Anyone catch Ballmer's comment at TechReady last week where he said he'd like no humans in Services (that's consulting and support) in 5 years? That's roughly 10,000 employees. And he said this to half of those, then quickly back-tracked once he realized he wasn't addressing investors.

It's certainly one possible plan to reduce headcount (yea!), but definitely not the right execution/communication plan.

Anonymous said...

For those asking about vendor opportunities... jez, just put your resume out there on Monster or Careerbuilder, etc. and in about a week or less you'll be getting dozens of calls. They have recruiters with orange badges camped out in our cafeteria for god's sake doing interviews daily. If you can't get their attention, you're not even trying.

Anonymous said...

"If MSFT had been run for the benefit of the shareholders, the stock would not have been mired where it is for so long."

Whatever, dude. I don't recall any revolts at any of the shareholder meetings, do you? That definitely would have happened if there were major unrest, executives or not.

Anonymous said...


http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/01/27/business/20070128_BALLMER_SLIDESHOW_3.html



Says it all.

Anonymous said...

It's like there's some contractor "disguising" posts in a clear marketing attempt. They go from early on complaining about pay, to contractors claiming they are so happy now that they left and are now contractors, and then hint you should be asking vendors about employment opportunities and recommend posting your resumes.

I'm not into conspiracy theories; this is blatant, obvious and retarded.

We don't want to be contractors, we love this company. Stop it! Your comments are extremely annoying.

Anonymous said...

Where's Ray?

I think its more like:

Where's Steve, Ray, Kevin, Chris, Jeff, Lisa and Robbie?

No face time anymore? Are they ashamed or not proud of their accomplishments and don't want to tell all the employees?

8 years ago they (OK, just steve and bill) were everywhere on campus - interested, engaged and seemed genuinely interested.

The most I see of them anymore is when the helicopter lands in the polo fields. And then I think of our groups morale budget and how much that one (usually 2 - 3) helicopter fee could bring into our group.

But at least we have towels back :-)

And why is Bob Herbold still being paid? I enjoyed his "Tame the Cost Beast" speeches but why is he still around if he retired? Why is he on the payroll?

Anonymous said...

Understand that corporations run for the benefit of the stockholders. You will wind up disillusioned if you believe that it's about customers, or product excellence, or a good work environment

That's a very short-term view of things. Screwing employees out of towels made immediate "business sense"--i.e., added a few dollars to the bottom line with very little objective difference to the work environment, but its effect on morale and subsequently productivity and profit may still be felt a decade later if it caused valuable and influential employees to slack off or quit altogether. How many times have we been screwed out of towels, figuratively speaking?

The iPod was not the first MP3 player on the market and it is arguably not the best, either, in terms of features or price. Not by a long shot. But the key to iPod is customer focus and product excellence, and that's why Apple has the vast majority of the MP3 player marketshare and is outperforming the S&P 500 by such a spectacular margin. So you and your business major friends may think you have special insight into the non-intuitive, cutthroat nature of business and the market but ultimately I think you've outsmarted yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Ray has stepped back to reassess his commitment to put some sanity into the Live strategy.

To wit:

Office Live is a disaster. Usability sucks, support sucks, and there is a lot of infighting between them and the rest of the Live services. Also, it is beset with many of the same problems as previous projects like NetDocs and Hailstorm: not enough focus on what the customer wants and too much focus on fancy code. Coincidentally, many of the same leaders from those projects are now leading the Office Live project.

Windows Live is just the MSN pig with some lipstick. Teams are writing code with no real coordination or focus, and no idea how their projects are going to make money. Blake Irving is the perinneal absentee VP, and has no control over his world. Berkowitz has already about had it with the disarray, and will likely be leaving real soon now.

"Live" is .Net all over again. No one knows what the hell it means, even those who are supposed to be leading the effort. Ray wasn't around during the .Net days, so he is getting a dose of what it is like and he doesn't like the taste.

Anonymous said...

I'm not into conspiracy theories; this is blatant, obvious and retarded.

Actually, I like to read Mini to keep a touch on the true pulse of Microsoft, as compared to the Businessweek chum. Yes, I have chimed in a few times about contracting (I am not the only one), but certainly not as a "marketing" attempt in any way.

I suppose could mention some companies I have worked with, as one poster suggested, but there's no point. All there really is to it is to avoid the meat market agencies (the big 'V' and the big 'E', if you catch my drift). Having your own corporate entity makes a big difference too. But beyond that, my point has always been that Microsoft is not paying what the market says we are worth, particularly if you are in operations or some other area where the rubber actually meets the road (i.e., not a PM).

The fact is that, while I managed to get a house as an FTE with 5+ years experience, I was shopping at Wal-Mart in Renton (if you've been there, you'd understand what this means) and barely keeping the checkbook balanced while working for the richest man in the world. In the 9 months since I have left, I have more than doubled my income, bought investment property, and see a much brighter future for myself and my family than when I was at MS - all while doing the same work. I'm sorry if you think it's marketing to say so, but know that all I am is a jaded Softie who bettered his situation, and just wants to spread the perspective.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"Whatever, dude. I don't recall any revolts at any of the shareholder meetings, do you? That definitely would have happened if there were major unrest, executives or not."

There haven't been any revolts at a shareholder meeting - yet. It also wouldn't much matter since the major holders are institutions which are really more the focus of the analysts meeting. For both, the fact that Gates and Ballmer (alone) control a huge chunk of the company makes a serious shareholder revolt more difficult. That said, you may have noticed the stock is down 50% since 00 and has underperformed all major indices for most of the past 4 years. So investors - both general and institutional - have clearly voted with their feet if not their mouths, dude.

Anonymous said...

> And why is Bob Herbold still being paid? I enjoyed his "Tame the Cost Beast"
> speeches but why is he still around if he retired? Why is he on the payroll?

And his only report is an administrative assistant :)

And they booted Jim so easily, while giving some old buddy sinecure?

Anonymous said...

Ray isn't the answer. Ray has vision but his execution lacks significantly. Have any of you actually used Groove? or Notes? I'd rather swallow glass than work with either of those gems.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly, you guys who work at Microsoft with blue badges are really smart. Then why haven't you figured out that being an orange badge is so much better. Even you mini... it's much better as a CSG.

Let's see: double the pay, far fewer meetings, and no performance review. The 100 day break in service thing sucks but you can easily find filler jobs or take a well earned long vacation. Microsoft is a great company to work for - as a CSG.

I know you guys love the company but the mediocre pay says a lot about what the company thinks of you. You guys are all suckers falling for the company song and dance.

Anonymous said...

"Understand that corporations run for the benefit of the stockholders. You will wind up disillusioned if you believe that it's about customers, or product excellence, or a good work environment."

Thank God most companies are not publicly traded. This freedom allows them to focus on good products, customers and work environment.

Then again, most companies by their natures, are sensible enough to know this. When the marketplace becomes manipulated by monopoly, once reasonable men become enamored with their power and riches and cease to be creative and civil.

Witness the Exxon's, Enron's and Pfizer's and Halliburton's of the world. Each is/was protected by some loophole of US government regulation which permits windfall profits.

Microsofties, unless grown men and women who run your company can self-regulate themselves into humility,civility and creativity, you are doomed to mediocre products, joyless workdays and sophomoric bureaucratic power struggles...forever!

Anonymous said...

Where's Steve, Ray, Kevin, Chris, Jeff, Lisa and Robbie?

One of the things that drives me crazy is the "Release to Production" party that gets underway when the code has been dropped but has not actually been implemented. Dev, Test, and PM all get hammered and pat themselves on the back for a job well done, while we morlocks desperately try to get their stuff working in the Crucible of Reality.

I think something along a similar line is happening among Executive management right now.

"Shipped equals Success! Time to kick back."

Anonymous said...

>"Where's Ray?
I think its more like:
Where's Steve, Ray, Kevin, Chris, Jeff, Lisa and Robbie?"

Could be. Maybe they are holding back to give Yahoo Pipes, Google heuristics, Apple iPhone, Linux server, Nintendo Wii and others to come up with great new ideas to copy for the Next Big (MS) Thing.

Actually, XBOX actually has done a pretty good job at on line innovations and gamer support. Saving grace for Zune I suppose. Maybe Ray ought to give the whole live thing to XBOX live to manage. What do I know.

Anonymous said...

If you’re the type of person who’s happy just doing your job and not interested in climbing a career ladder, I can’t figure out why you wouldn’t want to be a contractor at Microsoft. I spent ten years at Microsoft as a full-timer and another five or so years as a contractor, and I have to say that my contracting years were far more lucrative and fun. I’ve since moved out of the tech world entirely, but I recall the following:

Positives of the contracting life:
1) The pay matched or soundly beat what I made as a full-timer doing the same work.
2) I was paid for every single minute I was there (i.e. working late = more pay). For a while, contractors were even getting time and a half for overtime. Alas, those days are gone.
3) The free drinks and towels were there for everyone. I was always included in my groups’ morale events. I was never treated poorly by full-timers. I produced well and was thus treated as an equal.
4) Volt provided a free bus pass, 401(k) plan with matching, direct deposit, etc, just like Microsoft did.

Neutrals:
1) Having to take time off every year or so. Personally, I loved this since I have about a nine-month attention span work-wise, but I could see where having to leave might get on a person’s nerves. However, this encouraged me to switch jobs every year and I got to meet entirely new sets of great Microsoft people, learn new ways of doing things, and touch a wide spectrum of products.
2) Can’t take advantage of ESPP. As it turned out, that didn’t really matter, but I made some good money on this when I was a full-timer and the stock was going gangbusters.
3) No stop options/awards. Again, the stagnant stock price made that a moot benefit.

Negatives:
1) Sharing an office. Ugh. The officemate lottery was not good to me. Take showers, people, and please chew with your mouth CLOSED.
2) Nowhere near the great vacation benefits that full-timers get.
3) The health insurance offered by Volt is awful. Can’t speak for the other agencies.
4) Contractors aren’t allowed to take the awesome live training courses offered to full-timers. Sure, online training was there, but I really missed the live courses where I felt I learned a lot more.

So, like anything in life, contracting/vendoring has its pluses and minuses. However, for me, a single healthy person who likes to work in short, concentrated doses and then take time off to enjoy life, contracting was the only way to go.

Anonymous said...

What’s up with Career Velocity anyway?

MSFT is the first company I’ve ever worked at that’s even mentioned the term, let alone in the context of it being a factor in performance evaluation and not simply an artifact of it.

Up to a point, being in a position for a long time was a good thing, as opposed to a bad thing. If you were managing your career, it meant you were gaining experience and building relationships to make you a more solid performer when you did get promoted. If you were just hiding in a hole, well, you probably didn’t want a promotion anyway.

At MSFT, however, I’m hearing more and more about “career velocity” like it’s now a review goal. The irony, of course, is that it’s a goal you have very little direct control over, in comparison, for example, to how many modules you write or bugs you file.

Is it just some sort of Catch-22 so they can tell you at review time “Gee, we can’t promote you because you haven’t been promoted fast enough?”

In any, reasonably sane company, promotions come rapidly early in your career and then they slow down. This made sense because as your scope of influence and span of control grew linearly, the network of people and skills necessary to succeed grew exponentially. Consequently it would take longer and longer to make that happen at the higher levels.

It seems, however, like “career velocity” is being used as a performance metric to identify and encourage the most talented. In reality, as compared to other, more objective metrics, maximizing career velocity only identifies the most ruthless and the most junior.
If used as a review criteria and taken to the logical extreme, you’ll end up with ruthless but clueless (because the ruthless will almost always out-maneuver the talented) managers leading a group of perpetually unskilled, junior people because as the people stay in a role long enough to become expert in that role they would get edged out because their career velocity had leveled out.

The new people will find it exciting as they learn and grow (rapidly) but they'll just be re-learning what the last crop of "leveled-out" folks already knew. Unfortunately they left before they could pass that wisdom on.

Hmmm…

Anonymous said...

Before I left Microsoft, I was on a team of forty or so people that had been working on shipping a relatively small application for years. Several project “refocusings,” a poorly executed attempt to adopt the so-called "agile" development process, and frequent personnel changes at all levels eventually killed the effort. The team was disbanded and I quit Microsoft frustrated and bitter. Millions of dollars had to have been wasted.

A year after leaving Microsoft, I got a contracting gig with a small company working on the exact same product. A team of five people managed to ship it in four months. Yeah, we were crammed into tiny offices, our rented building’s roof leaked, and we were always out of toilet paper, but we did successfully ship the product to market (where it’s selling nicely).

So when I see people saying that thinning the bloated ranks at Microsoft isn’t going to solve the company’s problems, I have to shake my head. I’ve see first-hand that small, poorly-funded teams with zero to no management and no defined process can outperform large, multi-tiered teams with all the assets in the world at their disposal. If you can’t recapture that naysayers-be-damned entrepreneurial attitude that Microsoft once had (many, many years ago), I would say that Microsoft’s days as a technology leader are very likely over. All you will have left is the momentum generated by past successes, and that won’t last forever.

Anonymous said...

About vendor opportunities, I can attest that they exist, you just need to look around. After five years as an SDE, stagnating at level 60 and close to burning out, I jumped ship to a consulting company specializing in Microsoft technologies 1.5 years ago. I've spend most of my time there working back at Microsoft as a vendor. The compensation was only 15% better for myself, but what really made it worth my while was the stress-free 40 hour weeks, a real work-life balance, and feeling appreciated. Though they were billing Microsoft for my time a multiple of what they were compensating me, I have been very happy there. Had I wanted to maximize my income as a vendor, I could have found ways to do it with lesser overhead, but that wasn't my goal.

I have recently found an even better opportunity at a very small company, but if anyone wants to look around, I highly recommend my former employer, which shall renamed unnamed; if you want a hint, they wrote the original version of Enterprise Library for Microsoft.

Ruben said...

Perhaps this is slightly offtopic, but I find this article on Vista and DRM interesting - the fact that it comes from Bruce Schneier not being the least significat bit about it.

Here it is in case you want to comment on it:

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/02/drm_in_windows.html

Anonymous said...

Watching TV the other night, I saw commercials for both the Mac and Vista. After watching the commercials, I would take Mac over Vista. Vista said absolutely nothing except that it was "Wow" (whatever that is supposed to mean). Mac pointed out the annoyances of the firewalls that Vista requires. I thought it was amusing.

I might take some time today to see more about what Apple has to offer. My wife already told me she doesn't want Vista to touch her computer. I don't blame her, I don't want it on my computer right now either.

Anonymous said...

>Windows Live is just the MSN pig with some lipstick.

Amen to that. MSN survives because it emulates Microsoft top management. I.e., not a clue about what its doing, couldn't make money if they printed it and continues to draw down the stock and corp value day after day year after year for ten years now in both partner costs and in propping up that money losing organization.

Anonymous said...

>"Perhaps this is slightly offtopic, but I find this article on Vista and DRM interesting - "

Interesting is an understatement. I am a long time customer who is well aware of the MS strategy to own the entertainment by hobbling its access on personal computers.

This time it will bite MS in the end (pun intended) as EU and most customers are already aware the fix is in and will just say not to the MS crack habit this time.

Anonymous said...

This is slighty OT but kinda funny, I thought (humor always has a kernel of truth I've heard...).

AAPL and MSFT decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, AAPL won by a mile. Bill Gates, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was that Steve Jobs Team, had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the MSFT Team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, MSFT management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion. They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to AAPL, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1 person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the "Rowing Team Quality First Program", with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses; the next year Steve Jobs' Team won by two miles.

Humiliated, MSFT laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment.

The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's racing team was outsourced to India.

Anonymous said...

Did you check out what's on the whiteboard?

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/01/27/business/20070128_BALLMER_SLIDESHOW_4.html

Of course, as the original poster alluded, the action(s) talk, and the b*llsh*t walks.

Anonymous said...

The stock finally starts to do okay and our CEO goes out and talks - the stock tanks $.51 after hours... hmmm.

Anonymous said...

>Where's Steve, Ray, Kevin, Chris, Jeff, Lisa and Robbie?

Tanking stock one percent when when Balmer tells analysts they analyzed too high:
http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=262


And keeping it from tanking more by hiring several analysts as evangelists:
http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=261

Does anybody think it a bit of a conflict of interest to have outside, supposedly neutral analysts who are there for the stock value estimates one day being on the payroll stock value advocates the next?

Anonymous said...

Hey, just because most groups in MSN are frantically flushing money down the toilet doesn't mean that all of the MSN groups are unprofitable.

Anonymous said...

It's like there's some contractor "disguising" posts in a clear marketing attempt. They go from early on complaining about pay, to contractors claiming they are so happy now that they left and are now contractors, and then hint you should be asking vendors about employment opportunities and recommend posting your resumes.

I'm not into conspiracy theories; this is blatant, obvious and retarded.

We don't want to be contractors, we love this company. Stop it! Your comments are extremely annoying.


Dude, I'm the OP of the "blue-badging is dead" post, and the only conspiracy is in your head. I couldn't care less if you quit and go to contracting, I have no interest in rounding up more people, there's plenty to choose from; I post because I'm still in shock that after 16 years at MS as an FTE that I was so dedicated with very little reciprocation whatsoever, and that it took me so long to get off the gerbil wheel. I totally agree with the previous poster's "pro/cons" list of contracting/vending. If that's annoying to you, then our comments have found their mark somewhere in your career, eh? But I like being productive with a small group of people, and I sure don't mind MS and fellow outsourcers saying to me once in a while, "Great job on that!" In fact, the lack of the latter is probably what sucked the most as an FTE. But you've gotta do what's best for you. Me, I like getting paid for every hour I work.

Now, it's time for me to get up and get to work! :) I'm betting you're not leaping out of bed at 4:30am to get to work.

Anonymous said...

Can we get rid of Ballmer NOW? Please?

finance girl said...

You all did see the article in yesterday's WSJ, "Hasta La Vista"?

Whose stock goes down at the same time that major products are launching?

One guess.

$31 is gone for good.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I left as a level 63 SDE and came back into UE as a L-60. [...] Besides, I imagine that it looks better to be a steller L-60 than a burned-out (i.e. fried and toasted) 63.

So, to all the level-purists, I ask you, does that make me a bad person? Am I a fool? Am I cheating MSFT? Are they cheating me?


No to the above. Is MSFT cheating you? Not necessarily. I don't know how you do in September. But if you're happy with your deal, then I supose all is fair. You get to hang out at Microsoft. Microsoft gets one helluva deal. You're both happy.

It seems sad, though, that someone with proven L63 technical skill, is only worth a L60 to UE. For the record, my skills compare favorably to an SDE multiple levels above mine, too. (Test, you have company.)

I am considering switching tracks to get more recognition for my technical contributions. You may be coasting in UE vs. typical SDE, but I'm not. Some UE roles require an SDE's technical skill and equivalent effort. I think I know you, and I think you know me. Would you really want my role for your kind of level? That's what I have, tho', because of how UE levels are set.

To those outside of UE, here's how levelling works within it. After the first couple of levels, it's all about cross-boundary collaboration, influence, project management and visibility. It's not about the technical quality of the docs you produce, how much you can improve the quality of a doc set you take over, or how many times users have raved about your content. Have you made your mark on other doc groups at Microsoft? Do managers come to your doorway when they want to know what's going on with the organization? How many task force meetings do you attend each week (yes, this counts as a positive)? Do you, even as an IC, coordinate the work of others on a larger project?

If you don't want those activities in your work day, and you "just" want to write docs that our users and devs can depend on when doing their jobs, you're an L60 like him/her, or 61 like me. And that is still the case even if your docs run circles around those written by the more political L62 or 63 down the hall with less writing skill and less technical skill, who's busy attending meetings and preparing presentations about documentation usability and what the next generation of the web doc feedback form should look like.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer, in case one of your assistants reads this BLOG .... please shut the *&#% up or I'm going to begin to agree with those who say you want our April options to stay under water!

Anonymous said...

I find all the people above plain ignorant who are blaming Ballmer for the stock fall afterhours yesterday.

First, if Microsoft truly believe that the estimates are high than we did not deserve that part of increase in stock price which fell yesterday. If our numbers are going to be lower in 2008 than what analysts believe then this stock fall is due.

Eventually all employees including Ballmer are hired by the stock-holders for business performance. Stock is a reaction. It is not clear whether this reaction is incorrect today or was it incorrect six years ago. From the plain numbers our stock is still over-priced based on high hopes from investors (they trust analysts and its their fault). Analysts price stock based on the past performance. Law of large number means that the past performance can't continue.

Therefore the stock was at least 3 or 4 times over priced during the bubble like many other companies. All other stock falls. But MSFT still did better than peers. I think MSFT investors are still getting more value than they deserve. MSFT anything over $25 price into future growth and buybacks. At the moment investors are already paid few years in advance, more likely till 2010.

I have never found anybody who has blamed Ballmer for failing financial target of Microsoft business. Therefore he is doing his job well. Those who prefer to keep stock price up on false estimates are like people who sell their own personal stuff by lying to a potention buyer (a lemon car is passed as a perfect car). Or these people see stocks as lotto instead of the economic engine of a capital market.

Fortunately Ballmer has better ethics and sense than these two types of people.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer said Vista will create a "small surge" in PC sales in fiscal 2008, but would not spur a big increase over normal growth rates.

Steve, I was in your office in early 2003 telling you that you were making the wrong bet on your "Big-Bang" "Integrated-Innovation" strategy. I told you specifically that you were imagining synergy that was not in code, and would never be built in a single swoop. I urged you to quickly change course and pursue an incremental innovation approach where we built incremental improvements, that over the course of 3 releases would result in a huge net increase in functionality. I warned you with fact after fact, that the synergy you fantasized about only existed in the powerpoint decks of your CTO's, your GM's and GPM's, and your VP's.

You told me that you were willing to bet the company on this "Big Bang" and that thanks to SA annuity licensing, you bought yourself ~2 years of cushion.

Now, after all of this you finally wake up to the fact that there is no "Big-Bang". That Vista is nothing more than a new OS whose only channel is the OEM channel where PC run rate governs adoption. Well duh! We predicted that years ago, but your irresponsible and delusional approach to management failed to embrace reality. The net result is that you wasted years of effort and a small chunk of change chasing your fantasy "Big-Bang", "Integrated-Innovation" model.

You are a convicted monopolist. You, more than any other business leader on the planet should have recognized what a fantastic opportunity you had. Given that windows will never spur an upgrade cycle and that the PC run rate would govern all sales, you should have used this to your advantage and simply drizzle out incremental releases yearly, and raise the price with each release. When you have a monopoly like you do, the one thing the market fears is a price hike. You are doing this with Vista (something you and I both know is THE ONLY REASON for having so many SKUs). You could have been doing this for the last several years.

In any other company, a CEO with such pathetic vision and track record of execution would have been ousted after the fiasco that we have seen with Vista. Maybe its time for you to be a man, admit that you failed miserably with Vista, and move on. You are a disgrace to this company.

Anonymous said...

From the horse's mouth:

"But Mr. Ballmer suggested that Vista’s release would generate only a “small surge” in PC sales. He said forecasts for sales in the fiscal year beginning in July were too high, noting that the analysts’ spreadsheet models called for strong growth in Vista sales, while at the same time predicting slower growth for the rest of the personal computer industry."


Good work Microsoft. This is the beginning of the end.

Anonymous said...

>"Hey, just because most groups in MSN are frantically flushing money down the toilet doesn't mean that all of the MSN groups are unprofitable."

OK, I'll byte. Which groups actually make money in MSN? Absolutely no reason to throw out the dogfood if its feeding the dog.

If a division is designed to lose money for the greater good, for example, a corporate ombudsman or various user support services that cannot ever justify a fee, that makes sense if it helps retain customers, but you can't ever justify propping up a money losing idea if it goes on for ten years, five years, maybe three years max.

Anonymous said...

I thought CEOs are supposed to increase shareholder value ! Everytime Balmer opens his mouth shareholders lose money. We are down almost $3 after launch cannot believe he is still the CEO.

Anonymous said...

OT— I just spent about five hours debugging someone's website that runs off an .mdb file. It turns out that the user had broken the .mdb file by naming fields with names that were reserved for Access' use. I changed the user-named fields and now everything worked.

The reason it took me five hours is that, while Access 2002 won't accept certain field names for use in SQL operations (or some such limitation), Access'
' documentation NEVER MENTIONS THIS in all the places I looked, and I spent a lot of time looking, including hitting every conceivable "online" help button and running every conceivable search.

Why does stuff like this still happen? Why can't the company make software that a reasonably intelligent person can use without running up against some production clusterfuck that was never fixed or documented in ten years?

Anonymous said...

Jon Udell's last podcast from Infoworld. Worth a listen for all those anti-everything. Good luck Jon, I hope the vision works. If only to shed a glow on those dark unlit halls where some evils may lurk in the walkabout Microsoft.

http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/gems/ju_mynewgig.mp3
http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/12/08.html

Anonymous said...

"...our comments have found their mark somewhere in your career, eh? But I like being productive ..[ra ra contractors are cool]..

Now, it's time for me to get up and get to work! :) I'm betting you're not leaping out of bed at 4:30am to get to work."

You're right--I'm not leaping out of bed at 4:30 AM to get to work. Because I'm still up at 2 AM working.

If you're happy being a contractor, great for you. I love working for Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Windows Live is just the MSN pig with some lipstick.

Tarted up as Ballmer's dancing partner, of course. Heck, it's this "interoperability" thing - he's not allowed to go dancing around the stage solo, these days. And who better than Miss Piggy with lipstick?

Yours Eponymously
Epon

Anonymous said...

Amen, brother, amen. At some point in time the Legal and the Human Resources Departments took over running the company and it was at that point that Microsoft stopped being a fun place to work. The company has been hijacked by a bunch of lawyers and HR zealots.

I work in legal and can confirm that we hate the time that is wasted on the career models and obsession with analyzing process. We need time to do our day jobs too!

Anonymous said...

>> Because I'm still up at 2 AM working.
>> If you're happy being a contractor, great for you. I love working for Microsoft.

Let me guess, you've been at Microsoft for less than 3 years. At 6yrs+ do end up working very late myself, but ONLY when there's interesting work, which doesn't happen often. I never work weekends either. You see, I have other priorities in life. Priority number one is family. Priority number two is actually having a life and staying healthy and sane. Priority three is work. This doesn't mean I slack off or don't take my work seriously - I work very hard. But if I feel that work interferes with my sanity or hampers my relationship with my wife and son, Microsoft takes the back seat. People who haven't been here long enough often don't understand that it's a marathon and not a sprint. The most important part in a marathon is to not kneel over and die in the middle of it. Which was kind of the point that the contractor was making.

Anonymous said...

>>By Anonymous, at Saturday, February 17, 2007 8:22:37 AM said:

Amen, brother, amen. At some point in time the Legal and the Human Resources Departments took over running the company and it was at that point that Microsoft stopped being a fun place to work. The company has been hijacked by a bunch of lawyers and HR zealots.

I work in legal and can confirm that we hate the time that is wasted on the career models and obsession with analyzing process. We need time to do our day jobs too!


That's great news. So, if Legal isn't the one leaning on HR to have such onerous and annoying people managment practices then perhaps it's just the HR Department's desperate attempt to make themselves relevant and important. Or perhaps it's the result of Steve Ballmer's love affair with Jack Welch and all things G.E.

Whatever the case, until Microsoft backs off on the annoying people management practices I can not recommend Microsoft as a good place to work nor am I eager to return to the company myself. I bet a lot of other ex-Microsoft employees feel the same way, and I bet a lot of current employees feel that way too.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the end of Heroes on NBC this week? I thought that was very cool that the "scenes from next week's show" was presented in the Flip 3D UI. That was pretty creative marketing that I haven't seen before.

Also, when I was at the movie theater to see Ghost rider over the weekend, they showed the Vista flip 3D in the ads before the movie started.

Nice to see other mediums being used for marketing, but it would be nice to see us match the frequency of Apple ads on TV.

Anonymous said...

...find all the people above plain ignorant who are blaming Ballmer for the stock fall afterhours yesterday.

He's the *^@$^@ CEO!!! You are plain ignorant for not blaming him. He has power to make sweeping changings to try to right this ship. Instead he's watching it sink. Look out our stock vs. AAPL over last 5 years. That stock is part of our compensation. And it is also measure of company's worth and growth. As CEO it is his fundamental job and responsibility to see it performs as expected. Maybe your expectation is much lower than ours for a company that hires smart people (oops, we hired you).

Paul Dietz said...

Almost all gamers are obviously on the PC platform.

Are they? A huge segment of the gaming community are the people consumed by WoW (which grossed $1.4B last year). WoW runs just fine on the Mac.

Apple was handicapped for years by lagging hardware. No longer. Microsoft should be worried about this.

Can Comertoglu said...

Hey!

I am a Program Manager on the Outlook team at Microsoft and I read your post discussing the performance issues you’ve seen in Outlook 2007.

I wanted to let you know that we’ve released an update designed to improve performance in Outlook 2007, especially for large mail stores. You can read more details about the update in this blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/willkennedy/ but here is a direct link to the download: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=C262BCFD-1E09-49B6-9003-C4C47539DF66&displaylang=en .

Thanks for your support.

- Can Comertoglu [MSFT]