Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Whole Lotta Movin' On!

For a while, I'd post just about anytime someone I thought was a Big Cheese decided to move-on from Microsoft. For me, it was two things:

  1. A harbinger of change given some of the most loyal Microsofties who bleed multi-colored logos decide to pack it up, and
  2. Attrition is attrition - good, bad, or indifferent - and it was the right direction for company growth, no matter how influential the departed might be.

Then it just became too much to always note such partings. Lately, there's been more than one time I grumbled at someone to go check with That Architect or This PM Lead and they wander back to my office after a few minutes: "Who?"

I type the name into Outlook and get an error. Damn, I didn't think that they spelled their name funny or anything. So I find some random meeting with that person from the recent past and double click their name in the attendee list, and get a weirdly blank Outlook property dialog.

"Ohhhhhhh...," the realization hits me. "Huh. Sorry, I guess they've moved on." (I'll be damned!) "I'll track down who's handling their area now." (I'll be damned!)

Mr. Todd Bishop points out various interesting departures as of late and even further back:

Congratulations all! Again, I'll go for any attrition we can get. But are the right people leaving vs. the right people staying? There does come a point where you're left with a bunch of risk averse troops and no heroic generals. And I'm not quite sure what kind of uninspired, mediocre results you get, but at that point you've reached a point where you're back to destroying the village to save it.

Hey, Jackson Fish Market is hiring. As are lots, and lots of techies. And if you're interested in, say, the local Seattle scene, you should do what I do and go to events like Ignite Seattle (one's coming up this very Thursday, April 5th) so that you can get outside the Microsoft distortion bubble and talk with other techies regarding what they're doing and what they are passionate about.

It might be A Good Thing for you and your post MYCD-self. You can at least build your work network. That's a big first step.


42 comments:

Anonymous said...

And I'm not quite sure what kind of uninspired, mediocre results you get ...

Vista
Live
Zune
...

Anonymous said...

Oh come on WhoDa, don't get down on all the people leaving...get excited about the new VPs getting promoted! That's where all the good news is...
For example, Christa Davies, Corporate Vice President, Welcome!

Anonymous said...

Go work for Hillel? And you think your current manager at MSFT is bad?

Anonymous said...

The H1B visa cap was reached on the first 2 days itself!!!
They recieved 150,000 applications and can only give out 65000 visas. so they are holding a lottery :s
This means that 85000 completely qualified people, who wouldve been accpeted last year, will be summarily rejected this year.
thats 85000 employees that compnies like Microsoft was counting on.
I know people who have already been waiting for a year.
it is likely that many will join the local operations (eg Microsoft India or MS China)a nd jobs that wouldve stayed in the US, will be offshored instead - lose-lose situation this...

Thoughts people?

by: NewlyAssimilated

Ihar Filipau said...

> What happens in the CRF stays in the CRF

I think WhoDa you have gathered enough material to start project on MSFT make over.

What I think is really needed is an community platform where people (softies and bystanders) would be able to add recommendations about what/how to improve in MSFT.

Critique is good - but it is only a half of step. Hiring process - is also a half of step (from different point).

I (disclaimer: non-softie) had recently a talk with my upper manager. What really startled me was lack of knowledge on what's happening in department. And manager had actually acknowledged that he lacks time and most importantly he lack any kind of mechanism to really be able to communicate with simple workers. The guy might want to help - but chooses not to interfere to not cause even more stress. And middle management of course make sure to polish picture so that no hummer would fall on their heads.

In light of that /enlightenment/, I like to propose you to entertain an idea of portal (probably wiki-based, moderated as Mini now) where people would be able to speak about what's wrong with MSFT and how to change that.

Platform/portal for grass-root effort is really missing. Place to piss on management like Mini/Extreme right now it is good and serve its purpose - but it just to release the steam. But something constructive is also needed. Place where "kim limited II" would be able to speak about his problems and with help of others to state a problem and propose solution - in a form consumable by management.

I understand that sounds silly. But well something needs to be done - to improve the communication between management and personnel. And I had no better ideas at moment.

Anonymous said...

I left MS about a month back after 7 years and I have been very happy about my decision. I still own a bunch of the stock, so I hope it will go up, but considering why I eventually decided to leave and the state I left in, I have serious doubts...

Anonymous said...

Is there anybody who actually misses Hillel? Sure, he's creative, but that's masked by the general asshole-ish nature permeating that group of people (Dean, etc.). I'm happy to see part of that attitude gone.

Anonymous said...

The UK started hiring immigrant labor to fill a supposed IT skills shortage, all it did was drive down wages and older IT people lost their jobs, and ended up on the labor scrap heap. Be careful what you wish for!

Anonymous said...

This means that 85000 completely qualified people, who wouldve been accpeted last year, will be summarily rejected this year.
thats 85000 employees that compnies like Microsoft was counting on.
I know people who have already been waiting for a year.
it is likely that many will join the local operations (eg Microsoft India or MS China)a nd jobs that wouldve stayed in the US, will be offshored instead - lose-lose situation this...


Judging by your spelling and grammar I'm guessing you're an H1-B visa owner and/or applicant.

Companies like Microsoft can find the employees with the talent they need right here in the U.S.A. but they would much rather have cheaper immigrant labor.

I say corporate America is bluffing when they claim that if the H1-B visa program isn't expanded the jobs will be exported to foreign countries. Middle class American's should hope that Congress calls corporate America's bluff.

Anonymous said...

Where is only one option to survive.
Just divide.

Anonymous said...

For example, Christa Davies, Corporate Vice President, Welcome!

Then there's Jean Sheldon, new VP in my division. Her description of her halcyon days at Microsoft is that she designed the envelope printing feature in Microsoft Word, and the fact that she could tell customers in 20 languages that she wouldn't do an Office hotfix for them. So much for pushing out rest-and-vest. And Sinofsky doesn't even have to deal with her anymore.

The said...

H1B should be reduced to zero. There are plenty of equally qualified unemployed natives or new citizens who could've taken up the same jobs.

It's just a way for companies to low ball people's pay.

There are better programs to bring in real foreign talents.

Anonymous said...

Is there anybody who actually misses Hillel? Sure, he's creative, but that's masked by the general asshole-ish nature permeating that group of people.

I only have met Hillel briefly, so I really can address this comment. But I do believe that Hillel and others in his group were the epitome of what Microsoft lacks; people who give a damn, who want to do better and who can't stand whining about how hard it is.

Anyone who saw the early visions of Longhorn, knows that Vista is a shell of what was envisioned. The envisioned would of rose above OS X, instead we're left with a wannabe also ran that still is susceptible to a bug in GDI.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

Rejoice, rejoice. Another one bites the dust. Namely me. I've packed up my troubles in my old kit bag, and I'm smiling, smiling, smiling. On my way to a startup. More money by the month, and the chance of a big pay out if it all works out. Cannot WAIT to get out of here. A few days remain.

Meanwhile, I was wondering why in the hell my Outlook Express was only doing spell check in French, all of a sudden. Then I found the KB article that tells me how Office 2007 apparently replaces many spell check files with new files that are incompatible with Outlook Express. So now, since I was audacious enough to install Office 2007, I can't spell check in English. Sweet.

Who the hell tests this stuff? This is idiocy of the highest order. I mean really. It's... depressing. I think that's the best word for it.

I'm FREE! FREE!!

No more Commitments. Ahhh, what a world, what a world.

Anonymous said...

Vista graphics bling is rather controvesial, many do not like it. See http://slashdot.org/articles/07/04/04/1717237.shtml and ignore the dumb ABM comments. Some people have valid points to make about the disfunctionality of Luna. I am not sure that contribution to the resulting Vista UX actually makes you a "guru". Rather a person of influence in an important product launch. And I would think twice about hiring such individual for a project.

Anonymous said...

Hey people, an early Easter present...level transparency in titles in Windows Server. Time to play another round of "guess who's a partner".

Anonymous said...

There are better programs to bring in real foreign talents.

As someone who's been waiting for a green card for 5+ years, I can tell you there are *zero* programs to bring in foreign talent. Your misconception is common though, since while Americans believe there is such a thing as a legal immigration system for employment, a workable legal immigration system has not existed for many years now.

Anonymous said...

I'm FREE! FREE!!

LOL! Yeah, I felt the same way!

I quit a few months ago after many years in Redmond. Turns out the Seattle-area job can support healthy MSFT attrition, so go for it, people!

Of course, I DO work in a cube now and my benefits have a small co-pay, but I use better hardware and I'm having a lot more fun.

Remember when working at MSFT was fun?

Anonymous said...

"I only have met Hillel briefly, so I really can address this comment."

You aren't therefore qualified to make a serious observation. Others that have actually been part of that group have voiced an opinion much more in line with reality.

In my opinion, the entire group of which Hillel was a part was exactly the type of incestuous group that many people have complained about at MS.

Ned some context?

- With few exceptions, the majority of the leadership within the shell team under GM-turned-VP Joe actually started from the IE Mac team (and hired each other from a previous company out east where they all worked together before that). I've personally heard Hillel brag about an otherwise dubious claim of never having had interviewed for *any* position at Microsoft. If actually true, then why would you believe that such nepotism would not continue throughout his career. The group started together, hired each other, rose together, and viciously protected each other.

- They sure spent a lot of time as a group on the "internal message" defined as "the spin to their own team". Sounds like you fell for the spin hook, line, and sinker...if you didnt realize that Hillel seemed razor focused only on making VP at the expense of anyone else.

- Want concrete examples of the nepotism on the team? Did you know that Hillel's wife worked with him as a director on the same team for a number of years?...this after being a relatively low horseholder on the WinME team. Having one's wife as a senior manager on the same stack rank team certainly made for interesting dynamic at review time when two director-level were essentially making the same observations. I have no issues with marriage within the same company but this is the first time in a major corporation that I've seen husband and wife share such powerful director level positions. WinME...I'll leave it to the reader to determine if that was such a shining example of software development work that merited promotion to director level a year or two after release. Even if she was worthy of such promotion, who would approve of such a management structure without previously spinning consent from the higher managers involved.

My opinion is that MS is much better without the likes of hillel and other people previously mentioned. Bt read other threads about how to get promoted at MS and you'll see similar traits. I'm not surprised that people like Scoble are such a fans of Hillel as they are of the same BS spewing, nepotistic, self promoting feather but I'm rather surprised that WhoDa would be such a fan epecially if he/she had direct knowledge of Hillel.

Oh well, if nothing else, the amount of self-serving BS has been lessened by his departure.

Anonymous said...

Good attrit Vs bad attrit ... I think the exits are all bad.

MS has lost its way - the bureacracy and politics are stifling. What's worse is that we are only inventing creative ways to keep the customer as far away from ourselves as possible.

Of course some of this starts at the top, the early successes have come easily that we think everything is going to be easy and we look for shortcuts.

For eg, today, I saw Steve Ballmer in his spanking new land rover heading west on 520 by passing the traffic by just using the HOV lane. He was the only person in the car. I understand being in a hurry but it speaks of a mindset and an approach that hurts us a company.

dB. said...

H1B should be reduced to zero. There are plenty of equally qualified unemployed natives or new citizens who could've taken up the same jobs.

May I please ask those "plenty of qualified unemployed natives" to drop me a resume? This applies to those microsofties that want to move on too. Help Mini achieve his attrition goals! We're hiring heavily here in New York City. (Me = dblock at dblock dot org).

Meanwhile, I was an H1B @ MSFT. I think I'd hire myself twice over a bunch of lazy overpaid natives.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I DO work in a cube now and my benefits have a small co-pay,

You may find that your insurance is more expensive than you ever dreamed when you really need it. I hope you don't, but I was outside Microsoft for over 20 years and often burned on crappy medical insurance. Good luck though!

Who da'Punk said...

... but I'm rather surprised that WhoDa would be such a fan epecially if he/she had direct knowledge of Hillel

Can't say that I worked with or for Hillel. But I saw his influence on occasion, and perhaps that was a bit mesmerizing without slogging through the nastier bits.

Anyway, I'm not doing much in the way of thumbs up or thumbs down, just noting that some folks of some kind of influence have moved on, and pondering over that.

Anonymous said...

May I please ask those "plenty of qualified unemployed natives" to drop me a resume?

Remember the old supply-and-demand system of capitalism? Employers who don't offer high enough compensation packages don't get lots of applicants... So they complain about how they can't find qualified applicants, then bring in foreign labor under H1B or outsource labor through offshoring.

(Sucks for the American worker to compete against cheaper global labor, but at least we can buy countless products at Wal-Mart for far less than the cost of anything made in the USA.)

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini,

At the last ignite we had a talk called Escaping the Empire. I hope you're in the crowd later tonight.

Brady Forrest, Ignite Seattle Organizer & ex-MSFT

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini,

Just wanted to let you know that the rss feed for comments has been broken for this post and your newest post. Adding them to my reader adds the feed for the blog, not the posts.

fyi

Anonymous said...

The H1B program should be eliminated completely. If US companies want to import foreign workers, said companies should be forced to provide green card sponsorship instead. Why train H1B workers who will simply return home after a couple of years and compete with native workers. Instead, give those workers the opportunity to stay, contribute to society, raise their families, and pay taxes right here in the States.

Raise immigration quotas for skilled workers and eliminate H1B entirely.

Anonymous said...

Misery as they say, likes company.. so-
For those hired by MS but held back by the H1B mess, they may wanna check out this group:

http://groups.google.com/group/Microsofties2b?hl=en

People's lives depend on this thing.. It would be grwat if you could pass the url around to people you know who are stuck due to the inavalibility of the H1B visa.

oh and btw.. H1B or Offshoring. You choose.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind foreign workers. I do mind the H1-B program and the employers who use it to bring in planeloads of indentured servants (sharecroppers?).

What I'd like to see is a change to H1-B. Let any visa holder have the freedom to work at any job they like. Moving from job to job (and company to company) should not be a red-tape nightmare for them. It would increase the number of skilled workers and it would increase salaries. Better for them, better for us!

Anonymous said...

oh and btw.. H1B or Offshoring. You choose.

Nice threat. Very nice.

Anonymous said...


What I'd like to see is a change to H1-B. Let any visa holder have the freedom to work at any job they like. Moving from job to job (and company to company) should not be a red-tape nightmare for them. It would increase the number of skilled workers and it would increase salaries. Better for them, better for us!


Such a program already exists. Its called a green card. Unfortunately for many years now the green card process has been horribly broken with Congress dumping tons of applications into the legal queue using 245(i) (relief for illegals) leading to extended processing times for labor certification, multi year FBI name checks for security purposes and quota unavailability depending on country of origin.

In the absence of a reliable timeline for getting a green card employers have increasingly turned to the H1B which is a temporary worker program to get employees into jobs that are essentially permanent in nature.

Anonymous said...

oh and btw.. H1B or Offshoring. You choose.

Nice threat. Very nice.


Its not a threat - its a fact. What do you suppose MS will do when more than half the international people it hired will not be granted H1B visas (because their name didnt come up n the lottery)?
These people will be placed in the MS branches in their own respective countries. So instead of COming to the US and competing with the US worker on equal ground, they work at 1/12th the salary and contribute to their own nations economy instead of Americas.

This is a lose-lose situation for the person who got hired, for the US, for the US worker and for MS.

Anonymous said...

These people will be placed in the MS branches in their own respective countries.

Right, but presumably housing these employees in an offshore location is even cheaper than H1-B holders in the U.S. So, why even bother with H1-B? Let's fire half the U.S.-based engineering staff right now and hire staff in offshore locations. Microsoft will save a bundle on salaries.

Why do you suppose Microsoft doesn't do that right now? Could it be the low quality coming from and the difficulty managing offshore employees? There must be some reason for it.

Anonymous said...

I would be careful about generalising that those individuals on H1-Bs come from countries where they would earn 1/12 salary. A good proportion of MS Corp Hires are from economies where the MS Package is better than in Redmond. The natural next question is "then why do they want to come here?", the answer for many is to do the Corporate function (Engineer/Sales/BG Marketing etc) that they see as a fulfilling role. For those that do go back to the subs - 18 months later than can move to Corp on an L1 visa for which there is no Cap and under L1-A one gets 7 years before needing the greencard (a process which commences after 12 months of being @ Corp).

Anonymous said...

Right, but presumably housing these employees in an offshore location is even cheaper than H1-B holders in the U.S. So, why even bother with H1-B? Let's fire half the U.S.-based engineering staff right now and hire staff in offshore locations. Microsoft will save a bundle on salaries.

Why do you suppose Microsoft doesn't do that right now? Could it be the low quality coming from and the difficulty managing offshore employees? There must be some reason for it.


Regardless of what you believe, money or quality is not the topmost consideration here. What you are proposing is a very drastic change that would have tremendous business impact. For example, would the majority of our current engineering staff in Redmond want to relocate offshore? If not, then how do you ensure that business continues as normal?

OTOH, what you are saying may become a reality in the longer term due to differential hiring rates in US and offshore. If the subs can staff up faster than Redmond, then they will naturally end up owning more work, gutting Redmond in the process.

This is what the current green card and H1B limits are encouraging. I daresay MSFT management is aware of this, but is unable to convince Congress of it.

Anonymous said...

Is any of you a manager waiting for an H1-B employee to arrive? If so what is your policy in this case?

would you be willing to let them join their local country Microsoft branch (Say IDC) and work remotely for a year until they can get an L-1 or H1b visa and come to Redmond next year?

Anonymous said...

oh and btw.. H1B or Offshoring. You choose.

Nice threat. Very nice.


Very nice indeed. This is like Hitler telling Poland to either surrender or get destroyed.

False choice.

The reason why H1B is used instead of offshoring is because they are unable to offshore the H1B.

The comment about a H1B being an indentured servant is right. If you get fired or laid off, you lose your visa. No if/and/but about it.

H1B should be terminated. European countries have long term work/immigrant visa for exceptional professionals not tied to a job or a company - we need to have something like that.

Let's put an end to H1B.

Anonymous said...

I too have only interacted with Hillel a couple times, but if I can't make an unsupported assertion in an anonymous blog comment, where can I make an unsupported assertion?

anyways... he's an awesome salesman. Just one presentation from him convinced me to take a job on MSN (not on his team) back in 2000, a decision I regretted immediately and fled from there at my first opportunity. If I were hiring a marketing hack I'd give him a call.

Anonymous said...

anyways... he's [Hillel] an awesome salesman. Just one presentation from him convinced me to take a job on MSN (not on his team) back in 2000, a decision I regretted immediately and fled from there at my first opportunity. If I were hiring a marketing hack I'd give him a call.

Hillel is almost unparalleled in his ability to sell the kool-aid.

But does that make the stuff the above poster said about him and his cronies untrue? Not at all. Those accusations are basically spot on. But if you were "in" with the crowd, you did well almost in spite of your actual performance. If you were not "in", well, you got what was left.

But let's not be confused on this point - that's not really any different from many/most middle managers at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Another departure: Paolo M.,
User Experience Manager for Microsoft's Entertainment Experience Group. His farewell note is here:
http://wildchicken.spaces.live.com/

Anonymous said...

I've worked closely with Hilel or in his organization for a number of years.

Here are my observations:

- He is a fantastic salesman. He can really get you pumped up. This is his core skill set

- All the comments about nepotism and how he was part of a clique that protected themselves despite their lack of results are completely true.

-- Deb Weisman was Hilel's wife and they were peers in the same division.

-- Tjerd was the head of MSX (the Longhorn UX team) who was married to one of his top designers Catelijne Bertels (sp?). Since they couldn't have her report directly to her manager, she reported to Hilel and Tjerd reported to Hilel. This was a complete farce...despite the reporting structure...Tjerd did manage his wife on a daily basis.

-- Hilel was all about politics and not about making hard decisions. He rewarded the people in his organization who played politics as well. Getting results was a lot less important than getting along with the right people in the "clique"

-- This was so bad, that my manager actually told me that the key to getting ahead was "who you were friends with...not getting stuff down."

Hilel and his cronies were what was wrong with Microsoft and his departure is a great thing for shareholders and employees.

Anonymous said...

I see a number of great posts/comments on the Business Groups, but is anyone really tracking ROI for Microsoft IT?

Strategic goals (that provide return to shareholders) are absent and there are layers and layers of overpaid middle-management churning out non-sensical powerpoints. Hardworking people are burned out or leaving. Knowledgeable people incented to stay behind develop impossible egos (needing occasional kicks on their rear which the do not get).

Meanwhile, management keeps doing what it does best - create tag words and spin numbers with crazy metrics. Being a cost center with no real product to deliver IT can get away with this, but for how long?

Microsoft has deep pockets but the resource wastage is mind-boggling.
Tens of Millions are wasted on $0 value prop to the bottom line. Vendors are minting money at ridiculous $250/hr rates for minimally experienced consultants. Management does not bat an eyelid as long as their ass is nicely covered.

I left Microsoft recently, excited about my new opportunity, but saddened at the missed opportunities and wasted talent at MS.