Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pre-Town Hall, Posters, and Micronews

Post-Town Hall Update: so, what did you think? Nothing too shocking. Rather than address the whole Limited label issue HR just decided to go with percentages. No more Limited II, true! Now you're just a 10%'er and your manager gets to beguile you with numbers. It still means: time for you to leave.

Speaking of being beguiled with numbers: can someone put a spreadsheet together to compare similar stock awards under the old and new programs? Given the stock going up two bucks a year and the stock going down two bucks a year. My very shallow first impression is that you lose if the stock price goes up, but that surely cannot be. No one would design something that way and say, "Hey, at least the stock is going up! Stop yer whining!"

Meh.

Administrivia: I'm having an unhappy blog connection, so things might get blocked up here and there.

The Week Ahead: it's a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday. I value this and I believe it helps build a bridge between executive leadership and the rest of us everyday contributors. And it looks like a potential w00t! fest: it's not myMicrosoft 1.1 nor is it myMicrosoft 1.5, but rather myMicrosoft two-point-freakin'-oh. That turns my expectation dial up to significant.

What are some example announcements or topics you'd like to see that puts Microsoft on an efficient and productive path with appropriately reward and motivated employees? Some of my top of the mind include:

  • Reflection on our awesome package: I think before you look at any changes or other rewards and compensation, you do need to take a moment to reflect on our total compensation package. It is still awesome, especially the medical benefits. Sure, they could be better, but they were great when I joined and have just become even more awesome: way more than any company I've worked for (or have considered working for).
  • Limited and Limited II: aka, "Dumb and Dumber." If during the past year no-one in HR has managed to do something about this poorly chosen designation, let alone the Limited II insulting moniker, everything else is useless. Limited II is today was the trended 3.0 used to be: a demoralizing kick in the pants to what is an effective, valued employee. Should a Limited II stay with Microsoft after that slap to the face, you are setting a low performance bar for them to drop their contributions back to and meet. Why would any review system have this? If this is fixed, I wonder whether to clap: "And, hey, we fixed this abhorrent insulting mistake we shouldn't have made, just for you." "Yeah! Hurray! OMG, you're soooo awesome! Hopefully you break something else this year so that you can fix it next year and we have something else to clap about!"
  • Internal transfers: easy and easier. Only if you're moving between job descriptions (e.g., SDET to SDE or SDE to PM) should you go through a full-blown interview loop. A hiring manager can decide an interview loop would be appropriate but would have to get HR's buy-in. And if it's just between teams in a product group (say, between Access and Excel), it's just a done deal. Excellent teams with excellent leadership should find it easy to attract the best in the company. And poor teams with poor leadership should likewise discover themselves giving over a bunch of empty offices.
  • Hiring: I want internal transfers to be easier as part of load-balancing within Microsoft and to stop the hiring madness. But I know the madness will continue. We have to ensure that the best are getting in and that the best actually want to be here and can be effective. Hiring should be clamped down on, and we should go through a year of where only Microsoftie interviewers who have made the best "no hire" or "hire" decisions for candidates - matching their feedback on hired candidates career velocity and reviews - are put on loops. Everyone else has to go through retraining to get back on.
  • ESPP: back to 15% and the way it was. No clapping for this because it's just fixing another dumb mistake that shouldn't have happened in the first place.
  • 401k: And in addition to a pony and a milkshake, I'd also like Microsoft to match our 401k at a higher percent and even contribute some to it as well. The stock isn't working out as a retirement plan, so Microsoft should make this their focus now in retaining employees who suddenly have that, "Ooo, I need to think about retirement" revelation.
  • Tool fatigue: the Rube Goldberg machine that is our current review system toolset has to be streamlined. I feel bad enough managing my career vs. focusing on getting great results for my product team, I really don't want these tools managing me and sucking up a week here and a week there for my team. It's so bad I want the return of the old Word document. Again, I feel a bit abused if I clap for simplification here: you made my life suck and now you're making it suck less. You're... awesome? (Well, okay, I guess you are awesome. You pushed for a change for the better to address employee concerns. I think it just got a bit too Frankensteined up along the way.)
  • MSPoll: early results from the latest MSPoll are... ? And don't go and sugarcoat any bad results. I think you can rely on InsideMS to bring-up ad-hoc discussions of the bad numbers. Please don't let it come up that way.

I really don't care about Bread and Circuses like food service, dry cleaning, and the like (but, uh, please don't take my Starbucks machine away because I've become quite addicted, even to its little brewing cycle clucking).

I'd appreciate Mr. Ballmer taking this chance to hit the reset button and go over major changes in what we value in this company. First of all: we reward for shipping and for profits. Followed by accountability. In addition to a second milkshake, I'd also like a change in perspective about the stock: if the stock price is not a valuable measurement of a publicly held company, what is? And if anyone dares to put up a one-year chart and strut about saying, "Hey, hoo-yahh, lookie at that break-out stock performance!" they, and anyone who cheers, deserves a solid dope-slap to the back of the head. Gee, how did we get all the way down into that slump to begin with (remember: Wall Street + $2,000,000,000 surprises = huge stock drop)? How does the last five years look?

I'd also expect all that Quests that the L68+ Partners have been involved with to turn into results that Mr. Ballmer is going to put into action and share with us. Otherwise... what were all those Quests for?

Anyway, I look forward to reflecting on the changes coming this week and then dialing things here at Mini-Microsoft down to low-key here and await the FY07 results.

A Plan For The Posters: this past week my mailbox came stuffed with gobs of promo-stuff, including a glossy about the Technical Community Network. Look, there's Queen Gertrude's observation over protesting too much. Bragging too much is a sign, too, and a rather desperate one at that. And as I flipped that TCN into a recycle bin to let it join a large stack of its siblings, I looked at the weekly replacing of the internal promotional posters. Okay, I'm not going to complain. Complaining doesn't solve anything. My solution to all the expenses around this mostly ignored internal promotion stuff?

The return of hardcopy Micronews. Slick. In color. Ad supported. That's right. No more posters. Your group advertises in Micronews instead. And if you really want to put up a poster, well, you still give a percent over to the Micronews budget. One pro being that people will have your website address in front of their computer vs. having to remember it after wandering the halls. And I'd expect Micronews to change and be less of the softballer it ended as but rather an advocate of engineering excellence across the company and to have a hard-nosed Microsoftie editorial freedom. We have a bunch of great writers: have the editors grab interesting blog posts or have those internal / external bloggers write an occasional piece. Summarize great resources in Microsoft. For instance, we have fantastic training at Microsoft: have a monthly summary of some of the more interesting classes.

And sure, have an online version, too.

Finally: two interesting news bits I saw today:

Microsoft claims software like Linux violates its patents - May 28, 2007 - an interesting confrontation to manage. We've been circling this boxing ring for a while, and it looks like we've at least put on our gloves and have started jabbing the air to warm up.

Why Doesn't Microsoft Have A Cult Religion - Microsoft Blog - InformationWeek - it is rare to see a Microsoft fanboy. It's something I've tried to work on for my responsibilities and my desire to build relations with the Alpha-Geek crowd. I think we need to cultivate fandom. If we can't, we have to be honest as to why people are not fans of our technology and our products. A snippet:

Think about it. When was the last time an editor was fired because of a scathing article entitled, "10 Things We Hate About Microsoft?" When was the last time a group of developers stood up at a VS Live show and shouted ... "Yea, man! Orcas Rocks! Language Integrated Query is da' Bomb! New and improved ADO.Net? Oh, no you didn't!" It just doesn't happen.


136 comments:

Anonymous said...

Our comp structure sucks.

I say that having looking at 4 offers a year ago, and decided to join MS, based on the interesting work I was offered, the location, some career development reasons, and the quality of co-workers. I turned down other, substantially higher offers for the intangibles involved. The medical care is an awesome benefit if you have a family.

I'm not complaining, but I am seeing smart co-workers leaving because the total package isn't awesome.

Who da'Punk said...

I am seeing smart co-workers leaving because the total package isn't awesome.

What would convince them to stay (I can't believe I'm asking that)? What would make our package suck-less?

$$$? What was the difference between your offer at Microsoft and the other offers? $5K? $10K? And was the location Seattle?

Joe said...

Mini -


It could be said that MSFT was fighting a proxy legal war thru SCO for a couple years.

Sure MSFT may have "finally" opened up a direct Patent fight with OSS, but the legal might of the big companies behind it are intimidating.

IBM, GOOG, SUN, and many more are going to come to the defense of the penguin.

And, I'm sure that there are hundreds of patents in their portfolios that will be brought out to beat MSFT with.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft compensation package is top notch.

I joined 2.5 years ago as an SDE/T and recently left for an SDE job at another well known company in the area. I had a few offers at other companies up here as well, all about the same package.

The job I took has higher base pay than MS -- but insurance co-pay, ins premium for family, bonus plan, etc, weren't as good.

Being in test was like getting kicked in the nuts everyday, so I left regardless.

Sriram said...

This comment is going to sound like corporate cheerleading but isn't. I was (and am) a Microsoft fanboy - way before I joined the company. have fond memories of long flamewars - including one with Stallman himself :).

One mistake a lot of people make is to not see the MVPs we have, the number of people on www.asp.net or MSDN forums or the Microsoft newsgroups or even sites like Neowin. Just because they don't turn up on Digg/Slashdot/Techmeme doesn't mean they don't exist in large,large numbers.

New hire, despite the comp said...

What would convince them to stay?

I can't believe I got you to ask that! :)

There's a lot of resonance with your blog--which I was reading before I joined. Things like less red tape, faster ship cycles, more awesome products. More teamwork would also be helpful. There's value to competition, and there's value to working as a team, and helping make others great.

Comparing packages (with signing and expected bonuses, stock, options, etc) over a 2 year stint, it was a 35% (top-line) difference from the MS package to the top package. With tax and cost of living differences against Silicon valley, it was a smaller difference (I figure on the order of 15-20%. Depends a lot on how you count the impact of taxes, cost of gas, cost of sitting in traffic for an hour each way..)

neo man said...

What a refreshing post, I was able to agree with a lot that was said.

My offer coming to MS was a little less than I hoped for. However, since joining it as been a series of small gains. The last (more typical) company I was at it was a series of small nicks. Is it any wonder I'm feeling more positive to MS over time?

Anonymous said...

From the you heard it here first dept
So here is what you are going to hear about your stock awards from LisaB: we are going to move from a share basis to a value basis . Yeah I dont know what it means, but I can guess that instead of being given a 100 shares, you will be given shares worth 3000 dollars (assuming current market price is 30). So the last link between employee compensation and Microsoft performance has finally been cut.
All you LisaB fanboys - smoke that.

Anonymous said...

Why no MS fanboys? It's because Microsoft is viewed by the outside world as a monolith. No matter how good some piece of the company does (and it seems like DevDiv and Server are doing great things), there will always be some other piece which screws things up. It's hard to love a horizontal company like Microsoft.

Recent news, like Bill Hilf's statement that "Linux is Dead" and Brad Smith's discussion of Linux violations of IP do not help matters for MS-supporters like me. It just riles up the FOSS heathen. I don't know what the finances say exactly, but I wonder if increasing the importance of Patents in software will affect Microsoft's earnings positively or negatively (it seems like MSFT has been losing a whole lot to patent trolls). I usually like to point out to FUDsters that Microsoft is rare to sue anyone for patent violations (I've only been able to dig up one case against Belkin), but now that may no longer be true.

With the latest wave of technology that appeals to the consumer and small developer (Office 2k7, silverlight, .NET 3.0), Microsoft could develop a big fan base. The big-wigs just need to avoid doing anything indefensible in the court of reasonable public (web) opinion.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with your general position on internal transfers.

I definitely don't think that people should be held hostage in a group that sucks. We should remove barriers that prevent good people from getting stuck in bad groups -- talented, high performing individuals shouldn't be held down by bad managers who can't fathom what would happen if the one rockstar on the team left. That situation is symptomatic of deeper managerial problems and we should fix those in other ways (i.e. if the group is underperforming, kill it and let those resources be invested elsewhere). I get the general impression that you're in favor of terminating charters sooner rather than later if the writing's on the wall, so I think you'd support this.

In that world, you absolutely want internal transfers to go through some form of a loop in order to transfer jobs. Internal loops are what keep underperformers from floating between underperforming groups where lowered levels on contribution is the norm. True rockstars shouldn't have any problems getting through a loop with another team if they really are rockstar enough to meet the bar. And if you can't find a group that you'd like to work for and loop well enough to convince that group to hire you, then you probably should go find a job someplace outside of Microsoft.

Speaking as a senior PM on a team with open PM headcount and who has personally "no-hired" more than one internal candidate, I'm glad we have internal loops. The reality is that teams vary widely across different divisions within the company, and success in one part doesn't necessarily translate into success in another part. As long as the team doing the hiring has to contribute the headcount for an internal hire, then I think that team gets to interview whoever they want however they want without getting HR involved to find the best person for the job.

There's another spin on this issue, too -- one of the problems inside of Microsoft right now is the various personality cults and fiefdoms that exist within management. By putting internal hires solely in the hands of the hiring manager, you're just letting these things proliferate.

Loops are necessary things. Quality candidates shouldn't have any problems getting through them anyway.

Jamie said...

...we should go through a year of where only Microsoftie interviewers who have made the best "no hire" or "hire" decisions for candidates - matching their feedback on hired candidates career velocity and reviews - are put on loops. Everyone else has to go through retraining to get back on.

Two questions...
(1) Is there data that correlates hire/no-hire decisions with actual performance of those hired? Is that info actually collected and available?
(2) What is the thinking behind this suggestion? Why do it? Reading between the lines, I'm guessing that there's some perception of something broken in the interviewing process, but I'm hesitant to deduce the problem from the proposed solution.

Anonymous said...

>We've been circling this boxing ring for a while, and it looks like we've at least put on our gloves and have started jabbing the air to warm up.

'Making sense of Microsoft's open source fetish'
http://weblog.infoworld.com/openresource/archives/2007/05/making_sense_of.html

read down till you come to the part in the article which says:
"Because here's what happens the day Microsoft sues Red Hat, Ford Motor Company, or whomever:" and then read on.

Like I said, I can't wait for Microsoft to file the first lawsuit against a customer. Bring it on Smith.

Anonymous said...

we are going to move from a share basis to a value basis . Yeah I dont know what it means, but I can guess that instead of being given a 100 shares, you will be given shares worth 3000 dollars (assuming current market price is 30). So the last link between employee compensation and Microsoft performance has finally been cut.

From what you describe, this sounds like a minor change to improve clarity.

Communicating to people the stock award opportunity based on budgeted current cash value rather than budgeted quantity of shares just seems more to the point.

MS doesn't have to rebalance the documented share amounts yearly based the on stock price. Adjustments based on employee market value would be more visible without translation, the way you can compare (leaked?) salary band charts year over year.

Without rebalancing, if stock grant amounts were fixed year over year and the stock is going up, it would cost MS more to give the same awards out, while if the stock is going down, people would feel cheated.

In your hypothetical "value" scheme there is still a link to company performance - after you get your restricted grant, you still want the stock to go up before you vest.

Anonymous said...

I like parts of the post, but...

Limited II is today was the trended 3.0 used to be: a demoralizing kick in the pants to what is an effective, valued employee.

They're just going to drop down to plain old limited and then they can kiss their employment goodbye. Somehow that's a good thing?

A hiring manager can decide an interview loop would be appropriate but would have to get HR's buy-in.

No way. I do not want C managers letting in more Cs or empire builders bringing in their cronies without at least a crack at filtering them out. Although I suppose getting rid of limited II works well with this scenario since duds can dropped straight to limited and fired more quickly.

Let's beef up the interviewing course instead with a week of intense live interview pratice instead so that loops are focused and productive.

ESPP
401k


I want neither because that's a losing scenario. Bumping up the pay won't have any lasting effect on morale.

You want movement in the stock? Spend the money doing better engineering (I won't be touching Vista until SP1) and cooler stuff that will interest the pro, e.g. Powershell. This will help us get more credibility with computer professionals as well as help us recruit better people.

Anonymous said...

>> senior PM on a team with open PM headcount
>> and who has personally "no-hired"
>> more than one...

You'll end up hiring a dude whose bullshit comes the closest in smell to the kind you're accustomed to. He won't necessarily be good or bad, you'll hire him on the smell alone.

A senior PM should realize that a successful interview loop is not a guarantee of a good hire. Just like a bad loop doesn't give you a guarantee that the guy/gal would not be good in a particular position.

You can not determine if the person is a good or bad fit within 40 minutes or by having him write some code to solve a BS problem on the board. Personally, I think I've totally wrecked every single loop I've been on (someone must have said hire, though, so probably I'm mistaken). Yet I got hired, I'm progressing steadily through levels and every time I move from one group to another PUMs and GMs beg me to stay. Why did I screw up in the loops? Because I just can't do it on the whiteboard. My brain freezes when someone is watching over my shoulder. Give me Notepad at least, or a sheet of paper, and I'll code up anything.

For me, internal loops are an impediment. I'd rather replace them with test assignments. Throw me in the middle of a problem and let me solve it. See how I do. Invite me for a non-technical interview to see if I have communication or attitude issues. THEN make a decision. That'd at least be fair.

Anonymous said...

When Steve Jobs talks, it's about specific, concrete, tangible, valuable improvements to Apple products. When Ballmer talks, it's about upgrade cycles, stock prices, market share, etc. and maybe some incoherent drivel about empowering customers. The message? Apple improves its products to help you out and Microsoft tries to take your money. Is it really a big mystery why Apple has rabid fans and people resent being locked into Microsoft software stacks?

Anonymous said...

Why no Fanboys ?

When was the last time Microsoft had something with the 'coolness factor' in it ?

In linux, I find it incredibly cool to see all that code. I find it cool that something does not work and instead of whining I actually can fix it.

In Apple, I find the UI and Steve Jobs incredibly cool.

These above are out of the box. OTOH, a vanilla installation of Win does not give me any coolness factor. Nor does Balmer or Gates inspire any feeling of coolness factor.

The only good thing about Windows is that I can play games on it ... but with Microsoft pushing for XBOX games first, it may be killing its market for that too. (I find Wii to be cooler than xbox - so if I go for a box to play games - it would be the wii).

And you wonder why no fanboyz ?

Anonymous said...

As a HR manager, I see our leaders only paying the partners.

Inspite of mspoll, everyone is going to be disappointed with the merit increase this year.

Anonymous said...

First of all: we reward for shipping and for profits. Followed by accountability

-
Wrong. We reward for boondoggle ala search and adcenter team promos.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft says software like Linux violates its patents"? Bring it. You'll be sorry you ever went down that road, believe me. You're so confident of your patents you won't even say which ones they are, for fear of having them invalidated.

c said...

Internal loops are important. The easiest way for leads to get rid of poor performers is to convince them to switch teams. Teams run loops to protect themselves from hiring someone else's problem.

Also, levels still mean radically different things across teams, and interview loops guard against that too. There's no comparison between, say, a level 63 SDE in Office vs. MSN.

Anonymous said...

MS software is on over 90% of the worlds PC's. I've never heard of a cult comprised of the "majority".

Bonsai said...

> Also, levels still mean radically different things across teams, and interview loops guard against that too. There's no comparison between, say, a level 63 SDE in Office vs. MSN.

Which means that Microsoft value less people working in Office/Windows than people working in MSN/Live (imagine two ideal twin-workers, one in Office, one in MSN -- MSN guy is paid more, hence, he is worth more to this company).

Anonymous said...

How much I should ask for if I leave MS? I know everybody took a paycut when joining MS but now I am negotiating with a new offer also in Seattle, should I look for 30% salary bump or more?

Anonymous said...

Joe is right. If Big Blue wants to sink Microsoft with patents, they will win, big time.

Did you know that IBM has a patent on auto-scrolling if you fill in the bottom line in a terminal window? Obvious to us today, but it wasn't in the 1950's when the video terminal was being invented, was it?

Anonymous said...

Which means that Microsoft value less people working in Office/Windows than people working in MSN/Live (imagine two ideal twin-workers, one in Office, one in MSN -- MSN guy is paid more, hence, he is worth more to this company).

Why is this surprising? The best rewards should always be in the riskiest/unproven areas. Rest assured that the people who created Windows/Office have been amply rewarded - just like the people creating MSN.

Anonymous said...

In your hypothetical "value" scheme there is still a link to company performance - after you get your restricted grant, you still want the stock to go up before you vest.

and that is different from Joe investor putting his bonus into Microsoft shares how?

I am surprised this piece of information hasn't gotten the kind of publicity it should have. As an earlier poster says "the last link between Microsoft's performance and employee compensation has been cut". Spare us the trouble of paying Fidelity $20 or whatever to make the trade, and just give us deferred cash bonuses because that's basically what this is.

Why do I care if the stock goes up or not? I'm going to get the same money regardless. Even that tiny sliver of a dream of striking it rich is gone for most of us now.

Anonymous said...

"Did you know that IBM has a patent on auto-scrolling if you fill in the bottom line in a terminal window? Obvious to us today, but it wasn't in the 1950's when the video terminal was being invented, was it?"

Didn't you know that patents have a limited life span?

Anonymous said...


>Wrong. We reward for boondoggle >ala search and adcenter team >promos.


This is so true. This needs to be fixed. More competitive team in Windows, Office & Server+Tools don't need additional incentives to attract candidates. While other badly run team use additional perk like level up/gold stars to get their candidate.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that IBM has a patent on auto-scrolling if you fill in the bottom line in a terminal window?

Yet another argument why software patents are so much rubbish. Hopefully the EU will continue to reject this nonsense, and hopefully our Supreme Court will eventually reject it as well.

Anonymous said...

Spare us the trouble of paying Fidelity $20 or whatever to make the trade, and just give us deferred cash bonuses because that's basically what this is.

The value will vary between when the stock is granted and when it vests - I guess you don't consider that important.

To your point, the potential range of future stock grant value probably is in the noise for most employees' financial planning. Sure enough I only look at the stock price because I have options.

Alyosha` said...

We are going to move from a share basis to a value basis.

If this is true (and it may not be -- right now it's at the credibility level of "I heard it on Mini's blog") -- if this is true, it would be a very bad move indeed.

Microsoft stock should be going up. I know it hasn't been lately, but let's just say we've had a few anomalously bad years. My hypothetical 100 share grant, spread over four years, looks like 25 shares at $30, then $33 the next year, then $36 and then $40 (say). So rather than $3000, my award is worth a little more than that -- $3475, in this scenario (which excludes inflation and future time value of money).

Moving to a value basis means that I get $750 each year in four equal dallops: 25 shares at $30, then 23 at $33, then 21 at $36 and then finally 19 at $40.

Why would Microsoft do this? They're doing me no favors. The only party that seems to benefit is the company.

Or maybe they've just thrown in the metaphorical towel on our stock price?

Anonymous said...

Here is an idea for hiring from the field: FY’08 is the year of promote from within!

No more slotting. If by some chance a role is slotted, hard to break GM habbits, any employee can challenge that slot in an anonymous and protected manner. Also, any role filled by an external hire must go through a team review and win majority support of a group of peers or even directs. Finally, roles with directs should have representation from the directs in the interview loop.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Microsoft Fanboyz exist, but aren't quite as visible. Maybe we show up to work thirty minutes early, check out a couple of Microsoft blogs over a cup of coffee at our desk, then get to work instead of spending all day on /. or somesuch. Maybe we have whitepapers to read, problems to solve, and customers to service. If that were the case, instead of fan sites, you'd have purchase orders for Enterprise Licenses.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find it was Hamlet's mum, who "doth protest too much".

Anonymous said...

As a non-Microsoft person, I'd add that Microsoft won't get involved in a patent war with open source advocates like IBM - there can be no clean victory in that battle and Microsoft can't afford more court cases.

The uncertainty on this cuts both ways: Linux is hurt, but if other companies call in their patents, there's no doubt at all that Microsoft will be hurt as well.

This is a storm in a teacup, a comment that will be quickly forgotten by all parties. That is, unless some execs desire a war of attrition.

On another front - Microsoft has no cult following? Go to any reputable tech site and look for the people who say "I hate Apple" or "Linux suxors" and you'll see there's a cult of Microsoft. That story just isn't believable when you see what people quite openly say.

neo man said...

"How much I should ask for if I leave MS? I know everybody took a paycut when joining MS but now I am negotiating with a new offer also in Seattle, should I look for 30% salary bump or more?"

You are wrong, I got a pay increase coming to Microsoft, just not the 10% one I was hoping for. However, when benefits are factored in, I'm way ahead of where I would have been with a 10% raise and the same crappy benefits. Microsoft is no longer paying so poorly.

Of coarse if you have only a few years in you are probably making in the $80's ... what do you expect?

Still I wish you luck! We all benefit from wage inflation for software development!

Anonymous said...

Why is this surprising? The best rewards should always be in the riskiest/unproven areas.

>
You should have your head examined or fused with Balmer/Gate. Rewards should be for adding share holder value.

Adding risk to a safe project should not be rewarded. This happened in the longhorn project.

Scurvy said...

Microsoft's medical package is no longer that great. It was great in 1990, but not now. I work at a startup with better medical benefits (amongst other things).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
> MS software is on over 90% of the worlds PC's. I've never heard of a cult comprised of the "majority".

So, by your logic, the IPod wouldn't have fanboys either.

Anonymous said...

So...just got done with the townhall...and WOW. There is nothing there. Shipping services? Like who among us wasn't already shipping things for free? To me myMicrosoft 2.0 (more like 1.01) is all about messaging. OK, so the descriptions are gone...doesn't change the low comp numbers or vast discrepancy in level comp below L65 and above. Nope...there is nothing here. This will be my last year at Microsoft. August 2008 I am GONE just after getting that bonus payout from this next round. (why not now? personal stuff, don't ask)

Anonymous said...

well mini, did you watch the town hall? was it everything you hoped for?

my eyes literally bugged-out of my head when lisa announced the *reduction* in the stock award program, which is now 100% neutered since it's based on a dollar award and not a share award, and unvested grants dialed-down as they vest if the stock price increases so that you only receive the exact $$ amount.

lisa MADE NO SENSE as she was trying to justify this as a good thing for employees -- that even though our unvested awards will no longer have any potential to increase in value that somehow we'd all be magically thrilled N E WAYZ if the stock price climbed.

why can't our executives ever learn?

why bother asking. for me, after today's cluster it's really, really time to stop fighting the good fight, admit defeat and go in search of a happier place.

Anonymous said...

No more Limited 2! I was looking forward to mini's bitch about it after this review cycle!

Anonymous said...

I had a pleasant surprise today where I work for a Large Canadian Corp. I was at a meeting with the CIO and GM. In the past we have dabbled with a few linux projects and that was all that was permitted. After the bluster from MS about "patents" there seemed to have been some reaction to it at the upper levels of the Corp. As of Today we are to start shifting to more Linux and Open Source gradually. Also Vista has been pushed to the side lines for more compatabilty studies.

Interesting times, as one person put it,IF MS is prepared to bluster at Open Source and Linux there must be something there that worries them.

Anonymous said...

On review you get the % position in your level. That % position translates now into $$ instead of # of shares. On 8/31 those $$ are converted to shares at the price of closing that day, and YOU GET THE SHARES. Then these shares vest 20%/year as before.

The change implies that now MSFT budgets exactly the $$ to distribute, instead of # of shares that moved the final $$ that would cost. It's better financial planning. For employees it's the same thing, no change.

Anonymous said...

>It's better financial planning. For employees it's the same thing, no change.

May be it is better planning but for employees it is not the same thing.

If the stock goes over a period of time, it is a bad thing for employees. If the stock goes down over a period of time, it is a good thing for employees.

Anonymous said...

The comments on insideMS regarding the new stock award plan show how retarded the few trolls that still post there really are.

Anyone that thinks employees lose if the stock price goes up is a freaking idiot.

Anonymous said...

and unvested grants dialed-down as they vest if the stock price increases so that you only receive the exact $$ amount.


Can someone else confirm this?

This is ridiculous. What is the incentive for employees to work harder to increase the stock price while waiting for their awards to vest?

Anonymous said...

"If the stock goes over a period of time, it is a bad thing for employees. If the stock goes down over a period of time, it is a good thing for employees."

You got it WRONG. On 8/31 you GET THE SHARES!!! Nobody will take the shares from you once granted... then they vest as usual, but they're the same shares.

I don't get where so many people got it SO WRONG!!... :-(

Anonymous said...

I completely missed the talk about stock compensation; fricking perfect timing for people to walk up and ask questions grr... but these days I could care less about that compensation since it sucks rocks.

What really peaked my interest, again I missed most this due to pinheads, was the question from the gentleman in the audience about some Ameri-something finacial provider. Did it sound like he was asking about a possible change to the 401K provider?

If they hire some flipping front end load based mutual fund provider to manage the 401K plan I am going to be really pissed.

Anonymous said...

With every string of comments on this blog, I feel more and more confident of my decision to leave Microsoft. I don't know who all the folks getting 30% raises are, but I took a 15% pay cut and a MAJOR hit on the benefits to get out. It was worth every dime, as my quality of life has increased more than proportionally. I ride the bus to a downtown startup instead of crossing the lake. I work with a passionate crew of folks who don't agonize over reviews.

Get out. Seriously. It's not worth it. If you are creative, energized, and team/goal-oriented, greener pastures await. Let Microsoft have the staff it deserves as a crew of sociopaths fight over the last bits of value remaining in the few maintenance projects left over now that Windows appears to be dead-ending. Sure, there's cool shit going on in dev tools and in the Server teams, but the days of the monopolies are over.

Our company meets regularly with major enterprise players in the financial sector, and these meetings confirm the sense articulated here: Office 2007 is gaining traction, but no one wants to touch Vista. It may be that Vista was a great operating system for 2000.

It really saddens me to see what Microsoft has become, because I loved my first five years there. The second five, not so much.

Anonymous said...

Based on MyMS 2.0 it's clear that bad marketing and spin has now infested our HR organization as well. It's all rebrand, retitle, 'better communication' with no substance at all. This took a year to develop? Transparency only goes up to L67, and the partners continue to reap the huge imbalanced rewards.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the comments about the change in stock awards makes me wonder how we hired so many idiots. There are people who can not understand a simple description of the change. How can you expect this people to deliver high quality software? And then they have the guts to demand better pay? They won't get hired anywhere outside Microsoft. Day after day I get this growing feeling that I'm working with a bunch of morons. Hope that I won't morph into one.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, people are overcomplicating the stock thing. It's not that hard, basically swapping money for shares, easier accounting. Basically what you want is for Ballmer to open his mouth about 2 days before the grant to dive the stock so that you get more shares.

But that's not the news. STOP TALKING ABOUT THE STOCK!!!!! There is nothing to see there. The news is that myMicrosoft 2.0 is NOTHING. It is paper thin. Most of Lisa's slides were about transparency and communication. So they're finally getting closer to telling it how it is. Gold Star transparency? Doesn't fix that absolutely discretionary and arbitrary process to get one. C'mon folks, where is the rage?

myMicrosoft is DEAD...now I'm convinced that Lisa doesn't read Mini or even her own blog. There are so many great ideas out there, but we have an HR that is sitting on their hands doing a Limited II job. Well, you know...maybe I will too.

Oh, and the guy with the long winded question about Ameriprise? Total plant. He was reading his question. Ballmer planted him to eat up time in Q&A.

Anonymous said...

Wait until Debra Chrapaty takes HR away from Brummel.

Anonymous said...

Why? What about Debra Chapraty? Is she the heiress apparent? What do you mean?

Anonymous said...

Wait until Debra Chrapaty takes HR away from Brummel.

Debra Crap-aty take over? Please. I've attended a couple of all hands w/ her as a guest speaker and I was far from impressed. Even if she were to take over it would be more of the same BS. My prediction is Lisa is getting her financial house in order (selling) preparing to bail out in the next year to 18 months.

Anonymous said...

There IS a difference with the new stock grant method.

Every good finance person will tell you that the value of any investment that you make is determined on the day that you buy and not the day that you sell.

Suppose you receive $3000 worth of stock. If the stock price is $25 on the day you receive shares and then goes up to $35 a year later, you receive 120 shares and earn $10 per share. 120 shares x $10 = $1200. If the stock price is $30 on the day you receive your shares and then goes up to $35 a year later, you receive 100 shares and earn $5 per share. 100 shares x $5 = $500. That’s a big difference. You are better off if the stock price dips on the day shares are granted!

Who is the moron HR???

BTW, did anyone walk out of the meeting today feeling inspired and motivated? I loved the question that the person in the audience asked about whether Microsoft factors in its corporate mission in making decisions around acquisitions and product decisions. The answer from Steve was so lame. You know that Bill G would have answered that question differently.

Anonymous said...

God, all this talk about the performance process. It hasn't gotten less arbitrary, just more time consuming. There used to be a program called the PIP. Remember that? I remember hearing rumours about people who were put on the PIP. My understanding is that their stock vested quickly (never sure how that was a punishment?) and they got micro-managed until they either quit or their performance improved. The current system feels like MS just put everyone on the PIP.

Anonymous said...

>Why? What about Debra Chapraty? Is she the heiress apparent?



That's the rumor that's been floated outside of MSN.

Anonymous said...

>>Why? What about Debra Chapraty? Is she the heiress apparent?


If she personally hired Wallent to be on her team, as opposed to having him put there by someone else, she's not fit to run a lemonade stand, much less an HR department.

Anonymous said...

Let's say you were given a value of $3,000. The current market rate is $30.

3,000 / 30 = 100 shares

Let's say MSFT goes down to $25.

100 shares * $25 = $2,500.

Then that means you lost $500.
In the old stock award system, I never feel that I lost money. In this new stock award system, I can get the feeling of "my shares are underwater" again.

Isn't it the purpose of shifting from stock options to stock awards is to prevent the "underwater shares" situation?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it the purpose of shifting from stock options to stock awards is to prevent the "underwater shares" situation?

Sure, it does prevent this. But it also implies that management thinks the "underwater shares" situation is likely in the future. Or they are trying to cut benefits but are trying to present it in this manner so people think they are only trying to stave off the downside. Either way it indicates management is pessimistic (or cynical) about the future, no?

Anonymous said...

(just to clarify, the above was me also) In general, we expect that the value of our shares should increase over the years that they vest. The fact that they changed this to a $ value indicates that management does not feel the same way... or that they do but they are trying to cut costs. I don't know which is worse.

Anonymous said...

Let's say you were given a value of $3,000. The current market rate is $30.

3,000 / 30 = 100 shares

Let's say MSFT goes down to $25.

100 shares * $25 = $2,500.


Let's say that you were paying attention during the Town Meeting. If you were, you'd realize that the case you describe won't happen. The actual scenario is:

Let's say you were given a value of $3,000. The current market rate is $30.

3,000 / 30 = 100 shares

Let's say MSFT goes down to $25.

120 shares * $25 = $3,000

You always get the same dollar amount -- the number of shares is adjusted based on the stock price at time of purchase.

Anonymous said...

What people seem to be missing about the change in the stock award policy is that the dollar value of the award is not planned to change with stock price movements. If your target level is $30K at $30 you will get 1000 shares while if next year the price is $40, assuming the same performance, you will only get 750. The shares from previous grants would have appreciated but compared to the old program your award at the time of granting will have a dollar equivalent which is 10K less.

To understand this imagine a very simple world where the stock price in year 1 is $30 and in year 2 it is $40. The price in subsequent years remains constant at $40 and you are not granted any more shares. Assuming the same performance in year 1 and year 2, under the old scheme you have a grant of total of 2000 shares while under the new one you will get 1750 (1000 in year 1 and 750 in year 2). The first batch of shares vests in year 2 and all shares are vested by year 7. Assuming the shares are accumulated, the value in the old scheme at year 7 is 2000 x 40 = 80000 and under the new scheme it is 1750 x 40 = 70000.

Limulus said...

Regarding the software patents, are they valid anywhere outside of the US? Also, it is more than a little suspicious that MS won't just come out with a list of the specific ones... If the patents aren't bogus (e.g. would get tossed if a lawsuit were ever actually brought) or easily circumventable, why not just disclose which ones they are?

As far as the apparent lack of a Windows 'cult' goes, think about the last time Windows inspired you with awe. When using it was a joy. When you didn't fear that malware was lurking around every corner, stalking you. When you actually felt like you were in control of your own system.

Its been a while for me; I think that was early on in my usage of Windows 98. Using Windows XP became an exercise in paranoia.

Right now I use Ubuntu Linux. I'm happy again :) When new releases are made there's always something spiffy to find. It has a buzz of enthusiastic energy like some frontier town that's growing extremely rapidly after gold was found in a nearby stream.

Bill Gates promised a 'wow' with Vista, so I went to Staples and had a look when they came out. My response was more of a 'meh'. "Wow" is booting up a Live CD to play with with 'wobbly windows' and the 'burn down' minimize effect. "Wow" is using Synaptic to install programs for the first time. "Wow" is reading the back of the CD sleeve where it says "You are encouraged and legally entitled to copy, reinstall, modify, and redistribute this CD for yourself and your friends"

Things like that add up for a nice user experience :)

My Mac user experience is limited, but I can see how, for less technically-oriented people, it would be a great OS and have a lot of awe-inspiring moments too.

I think a good example of how tepid an experience Windows has become is summarized in the story about how many people were involved in creating the Vista shutdown menu:

http://moishelettvin.blogspot.com/2006/11/windows-shutdown-crapfest.html

Of course, I think your feelings about the number of people working at MS and the bureaucracy it spawns are well known ;)

Anonymous said...

Why no fanboys? Are you serious?

- Microsoft Licensing - Kafka would love it
- WGA and activation - inconvenient (at best) for customers/enthusiasts/honest people who would pay anyway, amusing (and harmless) to crooks
- "me too" - constant not-quite-as-good copycatting... nobody roots for the envious latecomer, try doing something cool & original for a change
- Patches to the patches to the patches - 'nuff said, see last Tuesday's 100% CPU patch bug...
- Jackass executives and tradeshow droneclones who apparently are programmed to wear identical khakis and shirts and say "super" every third word
- Malware and viruses - who do you know who *hasn't* had a problem in the last couple of years?
- Vista
- dorky awful product names - Windows Live Messenger, Windows Internet Explorer, and so on - nobody thinks that's cool, it smacks of naming-by-committee. Silverlight - not bad.
- you're the borg. Bad impressions/experiences get spread around; good ones don't.
- sore loser: patent nonsense (maybe we will, maybe we won't... executive mumbo-jumbo), accusing Google of antitrust (are you serious??? pot/kettle)

- plus in all fairness very few people root for the overdog, that's just human nature

Anonymous said...

I was really dissapointed that they have decided to fix amount of awards in a form of cash value. Previsouly I could expect that while stock is moving up my grants value would be moving up as well. Now - it's basically a seniority bonus only and has nothing to do with company's overall performance.

Anonymous said...

My Mac user experience is limited, but I can see how, for less technically-oriented people, it would be a great OS and have a lot of awe-inspiring moments too.

For more technically-oriented people, too. The deeper you get into the arcana of Mac OS X the more fun you have. The nimble way it handles swapfiles, fragmentation, virtual memory and permissions; the versatile and flexible command-line application; the cleverness of the near-total graphics offload to the video card (while maintaining 100% full-speed compatibility with older machines); the transparent fat binaries; the X-Window implementation; etc. etc., the centralized modules for "core graphics"; "core MIDI"; QuickTime etc. are all very nice. Basically it's like the clever design on the surface -- the part "Grandma" sees -- is reproduced throughout.

Nothing wrong with what you said; I just wanted to add that it's fun all the way down.

Anonymous said...

"So, by your logic, the IPod wouldn't have fanboys either."

I don't know, how does an iPod fanboy behave?

neo man said...

"The change implies that now MSFT budgets exactly the $$ to distribute, instead of # of shares that moved the final $$ that would cost. It's better financial planning. For employees it's the same thing, no change."

I think you are only partly correct. There is a very strong message in this change. The upper management believes are stock is going to be headed up. If they though it was goint go continue to slide, it would be better to stay with the old system.

Anonymous said...

I think the point many people are missing about the change from reporting by dollar value as opposed to number of shares is that it's all about perception. It's clear that MS execs believe the comp model (salary + stock + benefits) is very competitive and that they have a perception problem. In their view people don't understand the amount they are "really" making. I expect to see a lot more "transparency" and trumpeting of the value of our total compensation, with little to no change in actual comp.

The thing execs are missing is that the total package doesn't have the same perceived value across the entire employee base. For example, nearly all college hire don't give a shit about maternity/paternity leave, while older people with kids on the way or at home get a better "deal" because the health benefits have high value to them. Unfortunately, there's not really an effective way to address that difference, other than only hiring people of a certain age and tailoring things to them. Overall, I think comp at levels less than 64 or so probably needs a bump (10-20%), while 65+ is probably ok from a competitive standpoint.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but how can there be any ambiguity at all (let alone repeated confusion and recriminations) on this blog regarding the change in stock policy?

Aren't the posters here all involved in, you know, the software industry? Like, routinely dealing with ordered structures that generate quantifiable results?

Anonymous said...

Aren't the posters here all involved in, you know, the software industry?

Relax, they're the same people who have been complaining about getting Limited 2s and are going to wind up in the 10% bucket shortly. They won't be here much longer.

Anonymous said...

Man, I am amazed that so many people here misunderstood the math of the Stock Award change. (sigh) Well, more than enough folks have tried to correct misunderstanding here, so I won’t try myself.

What I don’t get is no one is incensed by Lisa’s slap-in-the-face to MS employees. She said that based on MS Poll numbers, so many people are not happy with their “package/salary/bonus”, etc. So what is HR’s answer to this? Why, not to fix the package, but to ‘splain it better to you.

Oh… why thanks, Lisa. What I wanted out of my “package” what just to understand it better, not a better package. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

Jumped the shark, “MyMicrosoft” has fer sure.

Anonymous said...

Someone said:

MS software is on over 90% of the worlds PC's. I've never heard of a cult comprised of the "majority".

I have. It's called Christianity.

Anonymous said...

So now basically we all have to cheer for the stock to go down at the end of August, then cheer for it to go up for a while, then back down, etc.

But what I thinks blows even more is that the Safeway grocery delivery is gone. How can they take that away!!!

Well at least I can still get my dry cleaning done. My life is still complete.

Anonymous said...

I did the spreadsheet that mini mentions.

If you only get one stock award, the two systems are equivalent since the mapping of what you are awarded to number of shares only happens once, at one price.

But it makes a difference if you get a stock award every year.

Assume you get the same dollar value of award every year under the new system versus getting the same number of shares awarded each year under the old system. For example, $3,000 worth of shares each year [new] versus 100 shares each year [old].

If the stock price rises over those years, you will have an accumulative number of shares in the new system less than what you would accumulate in the old system, therefore, those shares would be worth less value.

If the stock price falls over those years, you will have an accumulative number of shares in the new system greater than what you would accumulate in the old system, therefore those shares would be worth more value.

This means that the upside for the stock price rising is less in the new system, but that the downside for it falling is also less: falling stock price doesn't hurt as much; raising stock price doesn't help as much.

The way to make the two systems identical is to tie the target Award Value to stock price each year, so that this year, if the stock price is $30 and they set the target value to $3000, then next year, the target value should be set to 100 times the current stock price. This basically ensures that the target is 100 shares, it just gets translated into $ and back to shares, theoretically an identity transformation.

There is a complication, however. The target value is set before August 31st when the conversion factor for dollars to shares is set. For example, this year the target value is set to last year's target shares times $30. If the stock price is lower on August 31st when they calculate how many shares you get, you get more shares than the assumption of $30 per share would have given you; conversely, if it's higher, you get less shares. This is similar to the ESPP setup, where you hope the price is low on a certain day, but that it goes up from there later when you want to sell shares [then low for the next magic day, etc.]

Anonymous said...

One thing is that if the go with a dollar amount it will be easier to think about. If I get 3,000 this year and revenue next year is up 67%, shouldn't I expect to get that much more?

Also, yeah, them just explaining to us out compensation package better. Man, so let's see. We know the "overall package" numbers are bad on MSPoll, are they really going to try and say it is because people don't understand their packages and not becuase they really have a gripe here?

It isn't a shock though. They have stated over and over again that they WILL NOT give out more money. So for transparency, at least we were given that. I guess I'll just keep an eye on the insider trading and watch her "deal" play out. She is selling and that's at least interesting.

Anonymous said...

What do Chrysler, Bausch & Lomb and Microsoft have in common?

One is now gone private, the other is going private and the last one will go private. . . soon.

What do Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Brad Smith have in common? Most notably, they have ruined a pretty good company by first thinking the big bang approach would work, second by believing that spending six billion dollars equates to good judgment and third by believing that somehow a legal department and a lawyer should be pro-actively involved in defining a software company.

And you thought I was going to say they all have criminal records.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/gatesmug.html

Anonymous said...

"What do Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Brad Smith have in common? Most notably, they have ruined a pretty good company...

i'm as much a steve hater as the rest of the rational world, but let's not forget that steve and bill -- if they've ruined anything -- have ruined their company, not a company.

they've made some spectacularly bonehead moves over the years, and it's really time for steve to move-on. that said, there wouldn't be a monstrously massive company if there was no bill and steve, so keep it in perspective. :P

Kalid said...

Hi Mini, I worked at MSFT 3 years, leaving last year for the entrepreneurial life. I have something that may help with your spreadsheet question:

http://instacalc.com

You can link to a quick, *anonymous* calculation, fitting for this blog, using readable numbers like "sales = 300 million + 10%", etc. Hope your readers find it useful when computing their new stock award numbers.

Anonymous said...

there wouldn't be a monstrously massive company if there was no bill and steve

There wouldn't be a monstrously massive company if there was no Bill.

Period. Blame the Harvard student housing office for the rest of it.

Anonymous said...

I left Microsoft one year ago. my biggest fear when I made the decision to leave was the health benefit change. As you mention, no one even comes close to what you get at MSFT. Well, let me share my experience with you. Background - I have 3 kids and I am 35. I left as level 63 and made back then about $115K a year. I left because I got an offer (that most people at MS could get but just don't try) of about $180 a year.
My total out of pocket in health is about $1000 a year. So the math becomes very simple. you CAN MAKE much more outside of MS. There is so much going on outside.... benefits at MS are OK but JUST OK.

Anonymous said...

My Mac user experience is limited, but I can see how, for less technically-oriented people, it would be a great OS and have a lot of awe-inspiring moments too.

Actually, the smartest, most technical people I know all switched to OS X over the past few years. It offers a Unix-like command line with a nice, user-friendly interface for when you want to do e-mail, surf the web, etc.

When you want to do serious software development (among other things), the command line is the way to go. As close to Unix as possible. This isn't to incite a flame war--it's obvious to most Microsoft developers already. All big projects at Microsoft are built using perl scripts, makefiles, command line source control, etc.

Personally, it's an embarrassment to me that we can't use our development tools (other than the command line compiler and linker) to develop our own software.

Anonymous said...

"There wouldn't be a monstrously massive company if there was no Bill.

Period. Blame the Harvard student housing office for the rest of it."


absolutely incorrect. bill is a technical genius, but he's *not* the one responsible for building the monopoly -- that was sweaty steve back when he was flexing his used car salesman muscles for all they were worth.

he is a brilliant snake oil salesman. he is a ridiculous and comical CEO.

Anonymous said...

I think it's time for Microsoft to end giving stock awards to low and mid-level employees. Keep, and even bolster ESPP, but let's stop pretending that stock is a significant portion of the compensation package. It's been years since anyone worked harder because stock options were vesting. Let's admit to ourselves that there is now a rank and file at Microsoft; pay them commensurate to their value in the marketplace and even base raises on group/division profitability, but let's not pretend anymore that employees have an ownership stake in the company.

As a manager, it had become rather embarrassing to hand my L59-61 employees their pittance of shares. Incentivize people with promotions to technical leadership or partner jobs, and work to returning promotions to a merit system from the nepotistic buddy system in place today.

Ironically, doing away with options as part of the compensation system might even improve the stock price (benefiting any employees who still cared to buy ESPP shares) by reducing a rather weighty expense. I don't know, since I don't know all the rules on the books.

The unvested portions of 1000+ shares of stock grants were neither an incentive to stay at Microsoft, or work any harder than I had to. Not only was that not going to make me rich, it wasn't even going to pay for much of my kid's education.

T.Higgins said...

As a person who has been with Microsoft for 8 years and contributed (in many public facing ways) to improve the perception of Microsoft in the developer community, I provided information that shocked me. Actually, it makes me angry. A new hire straight out of college (read: no experience) will be compensated slightly less than I currently earn. Never mind that there is a $5000 signing bonus AND because there is, apparently, no space will be given the summer off before even swiping her badge. Makes me happy to bust my a$$ knowing that if I quit and then was rehired, I would most likely get that raise I have been waiting for. Crazy. Inconsistent. typical.

Anonymous said...

I left as level 63 and made back then about $115K a year. I left because I got an offer (that most people at MS could get but just don't try) of about $180 a year.

Where, what role, etc?

Anonymous said...

Anyone see someone dumping massive 1M+ share chunks of MSFT on the market after hours? Who could that be? Robbie Bach, Lisa Brummel or Bill Gates?

Anonymous said...

No one would design something that way and say, "Hey, at least the stock is going up! Stop yer whining!"

Oh, wait. That would be exactly what our HR director told us.

But...you knew that...

My comment wouldn't exactly be "meh" but this is a family forum so I'll refrain from posting my real thoughts on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I'm not defending the stock award change from shares to US dollars, but there is an assumption that people are making when comparing the two that isn't historically valid.

All of the comparisons I've seen assume that the number of shares stays the same over time as the stock price changes. The numbers have actually changed every year, so this is not a safe assumption.

Another, perhaps far fetched, possibility is that of a stock split - assume 2 for 1. If you received 100 shares last year and the stock split, your 100 shares this year would actually be equivalent to 50 of last year's shares whereas your "value" grant would be the same.

While we would all love to get 100 shares at $25, 100 at $32, 100 at $40, how would you feel when the stock hit $50 and you got 100 at $25 again due to a split? Your "value" would drop from $4K to $2,500 yet you still got the same number of shares. I'm sure there would be a lot of screams of "unfair". Probably even some accusations that "they" split the stock just to screw "us" on our stock awards.

The new system gives predictability to us as well as the bean counters. Still no guarantees that they won't change the targets (up or down) from year to year, but at least it's more obvious now.

I'm not sure I like it - I'm not sure that I don't. I am sure that I like getting 20% more stock value this year than last year and I like seeing MSFT > $30 (apologies if I jinx it ...).

In short, I think this issue is misunderstood and has been blown completely out of proportion. I don't think there's an evil conspiracy and I don't think we're getting screwed - in fact, Microsoft just funded the stock pool with 20% more dollars than they did last year. In my mind, that's a good thing. They very easily could have given us the same "value" as last year.

As for the rest of MyMicrosoft 2.0, I think Lisa tried to put lipstick on a pig and market it to us. So many opportunities - for real, positive change - lost. Even worse, she tried to sell us that doing nothing was a positive step. It doesn't change the fact that solid performers (Kims) are leaving the company because of a stupid HR policy (TPB - 10% Band - Limited II - lack of promotion velocity). IMO, that's what we should be vocal about.

nff

Anonymous said...

So why hasn't anyone pointed out the obvious yet? This new scheme is more about obfuscation than transparency.

This should just be called Bonus 2.0--you get a (what?) $4000 award as a L61, but it vests over five years, so you get $800 every August 31st (whoo hoo, enough for an XBOX 360 Deluxe, P!nk Edition Bundle with Viva Pinata R2 SP3 Rollup 2.) Whether MSFT is trading at $1 or $40 a share makes no difference--the only difference is your investment ignorance on how fast you can dump your award.

Linking this to shares really is just a weird way of monetizing the value... this is nothing more than that same 'unearned revenue' sleight-of-hand that's played every quarter in MSFT financials.

neo man said...

"A new hire straight out of college (read: no experience) will be compensated slightly less than I currently earn. Never mind that there is a $5000 signing bonus AND because there is, apparently, no space will be given the summer off before even swiping her badge"

Get over it! It will only get worst as you get older. I'm almost 50 and making okay money, but there are lots of people 20+ years younger making as much or more. Some new hires probably make more. They are proabably making 4x what I made when I started working! Is it fair? Of coarse it is. Things change over time. Either you change or you get passed up.

Think back to when you were young and at how pissed off you were that old farts doing 1/4 the work were making more than you. That is just the way it is!

Anonymous said...

[groan]
Screaming In My Office here...
the number of shares does NOT change from year to year. It floats until Aug 31 of the grant year, at which point it is fixed in stone.

As far as the poster who worried about a split: if it splits, you now own twice as many 'half shares'.

Okay, an example is in order: let's say your stock award (this year) value is $6000, and on Aug 31st the stock closes at that perfect $30.00/share. You have been awarded $6000/$30 shares == 200 shares. Divvy by 5 years vesting period, you get 40 shares every year. If the price goes up, your 40 shares that year go up in value; period.

Now say that on Jan 31 2009 the price is $50 and there is a 2-for-1 split. You now anticipate receiving (unless mini gets you fired first ;-)) not 40 shares, but 80 shares on Aug 31 2009. They will be worth half as much, but you will have twice as many and feel happy happy joy joy.

Glad to be of service.

This is just a way for MS Corp to nail down their expense more firmly. So what.

Anonymous said...

>"i'm as much a steve hater as the rest of the rational world,"

You don't want to be going down that road. Its about competence, not hate. Look, Mr. Bill and Mr. Steve are people who ended up on a twenty five year rocket ride. Good for them. Wish I was a part of all that, but from out here, it is easier to see the burrs and incredible arrogance which has delivered products based on incredible stupidity.

The sooner they figure out that the only patents they can collect royalties on are the file formats for products like word, excel, powerpoint, etc., and for some of the form and fit with windows products, then we can all get on with our lives. But the real focus needs to be on the architecture of what brung em. Simple (complex) things like registry, wga, MS brand drm, dumb-ass security, and anything in new products that slows down productivity.

Unfortunately what I see Mr. Bill doing is focusing on trying to protect his domain by shorting the rest of us through legal interactions, (Wash-DC) lobbying to prop up a software system that should not exist in the first place.

The thing they forgot, is that in the end, it was the customer that brung em and the customer that will dump em.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone see someone dumping massive 1M+ share chunks of MSFT on the market after hours? Who could that be? Robbie Bach, Lisa Brummel or Bill Gates?"

Assume you mean $1M+ not 1M+ *share* chunks since NASDAQ.com reports no AH trade larger than 268,300 shares.

Anonymous said...

I'm speaking as a long-term veteran of MS. In the early days most of us weren't working hard because of the stock price. We were working hard because we were enjoyed the products we were working on and the people we were working with.

It was all "right place, right time", and it won't be repeated.

For those focusing on the stock, I don't understand why, in a world where the stock hasn't risen more than a few dollars in almost ten years, people are worried about any stock compensation package whatsoever. The dollar amount you're talking about in any situation is so small it's not even worth trying to figure out if you're getting screwed or not.

My advice: live and budget your life as if you have no stock at all. When whatever you have vests appreciate the extra few bucks, don't bother calculating how much more you could've gotten in a perfect world, and reinvest it in some other company, bonds or whatever.

Stop letting stocks drive your life; you'll be a lot better for it.

Anonymous said...

>>Why? What about Debra Chapraty? Is she the heiress apparent?


> If she personally hired Wallent to be on her team, as opposed to having him put there by someone else, she's not fit to run a lemonade stand, much less an HR department.

This was the funniest thing I read today. I left MS almost 3 years ago. I worked in MSN Operations and dealt with debra on many occasions. She was one of the reasons I left (not the only one, but definitely one). I remember sitting in her office having a meeting with her and I came away so terribly unimpressed that I felt that as long as she was there, MSN Ops would never be able to actually improve.

From everything I still hear from former co-workers it hasn't gotten any better.

I would have totally no-hired her if I was on the loop.

Anonymous said...

A grant that vests over five years actually has a lower present value than the value of the grant. it's called the time value of money.

Before we had a vested interest in the upside. Now we don't. I don't know about you but I'll be pulling for the stock to drop precipitously every August.

Anyone who thinks this is just accounting lacks fundamental understanding of investing. what you get the stock at matters. less shares at a higher price is not a good deal if you want to commit to the future of the company & hang on to your stock.

Anonymous said...

Ballmers $6 Billion Bailout. 6 Billion. 6 times what we paid for Visio. All for a company with a market cap of $2B just a few days ago.

Without looking it up and prior to all the exposure, do you know what aQuantive does?

How many more billion will be sunk into MSN before someone says that enough is enough?

Anonymous said...

>Microsoft claims software like Linux violates its patents -

Interesting article by Ed Burnette this morning over at ZdNet:
Microsoft Windows and Office violate 532 patents?
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Burnette/?p=308&tag=nl.e539

I am definitely in the camp that thinks Microsoft is engaged in extortion more so than it is engaged in actual protection of its so called patents.

I have been waiting and watching for the `list' of patent numbers to surface, so I could look myself. If they were real, they would have surfaced by now, knowing the number of ABMers out there. This whole thing is another Ballmer/Smith legal scam to intimidate small open source companies into capitulation, since most decided to ignore the threats that were communicated privately.

Maybe a little prison time for these jokers would do the trick. Attempted extortion. Works for me.

Anonymous said...

6B? 6B!? Do we even *have* a board of directors?

Anonymous said...

Losing AOL 1 B
Losing doubleclick 3.1B
Winning AQNT Priceless!

http://mediabiz.blogs.cnnmoney.com/2007/05/18/microsoft-finally-upstages-google/?source=yahoo_quote

Anonymous said...

Without looking it up and prior to all the exposure, do you know what aQuantive does?

Um, so what? I wouldn't know what DoubleClick did either if their sleazy advertising practices hadn't made them so infamous.

What I want to know is what makes these nobodies command such a high premium over their stock price?

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is what makes these nobodies command such a high premium over their stock price?

Microsoft's lack of execution.

Anonymous said...

SEC will probably investigate this, the 40 call option volume up a lot (really a lot!) before AQNT acquistion is announced.
http://msft.bloggingstocks.com/2007/05/18/6-7m-insider-trading-on-aquantive-buyout/

Anonymous said...

>> less shares at a higher price is not a good deal if you want to commit to the future of the company & hang on to your stock.

Um, I don't see how this follows. Once stock options were replaced with stock grants, the issues of income tax, capital gains tax, exercise-and-sell vs. exercise-to-cover vs. exercise-and-hold all went out the window.

A stock grant is simply a way of giving the grantee a certain dollar amount on a series of future dates. What the dollar amount is exactly depends on how many shares you were granted times whatever price MSFT is selling at when a portion of those shares vest.

In the past, whenever a stock option would vest, you had several decisions to make. Should I exercise the options right now and hold the stock to limit the amount of income tax I need to pay in the future, hoping that there is big appreciation in the stock and I hold it long enough that I need to pay long-term capital gains instead of my income tax rate? Should I do nothing and defer that decision to some future time? Should I exercise-and-sell some to buy the rest? All are fine strategies depending on your goals and risk tolerance.

Now think about a stock grant that vests on a certain day. There is only one decision you need to make, and you have to make it on the very day that the stock grant vests. That decision is either sell the stock and take the cash, or don't sell the stock and leave it in MSFT. Put another way, Microsoft is holding $X dollars in your name and wants to know whether you want the $X dollars in cash, or whether you want to buy MSFT with the $X dollars.

Unlike stock options, there is no advantage or financial strategy to leaving the $X dollars in MSFT, nor is there any advantage or strategy to taking it in cash. Either way the tax implications are identical. You owe ordinary income tax on the $X dollars in the year of the stock grant vesting. What you choose to do with the $X dollars is ENTIRELY up to you. You can buy MSFT if you believe that's where the next $X dollars of your income should be invested. You can buy GOOG if you think that's where you should be investing the $X dollars. Or, you can pay off your mortgage with the $X dollars.

So getting back to the original point, I disagree that "less shares at a higher price is not a good deal if you want to commit to the future of the company & hang on to your stock." In fact, it is an irrelevant point.

Anonymous said...

I believe the MS comp package is still top notch. At least there are no co pays or lab fees. ESPP back up to 15%, hmm finally someone has their heads in the right place. Doesn't it seem like SteveB is rolling back on all the employee morale goof ups he has done over the past 6 years? Maybe he finally had a chance to review his Employee Morale 101 management lesson. I would really like to see MS fix up the accountability problem. Let's see a few more heads roll that are really sitting back and chilling. A 15 % reduction in top management might actually drive the company value up by 30%. Imagine how much money the company would save on compensation?

Anonymous said...

ESPP back up to 15%, hmm finally someone has their heads in the right place.

did I miss something? when was this announced..?

Anonymous said...

A key point of the aQuantive deal is the momentum that this will bring to Office, particularly MOSS. Razorfish is the industry leader in website design and they influence literally thousands of web platform decisions. This deal instantly makes MOSS the leading, if not default, choice for web content management. The upside of MOSS – Office pull through may justify the premium price that Microsoft is paying.

Anonymous said...

>The upside of MOSS – Office pull through may justify the premium price that Microsoft is paying.

?? Whew, you had me confused for a moment, as I know MOSS as 'Measure Of Software Similarity', a system for detecting software plagarism, hosted by Stanford.
http://theory.stanford.edu/~aiken/moss/

For a minute there I was thinking Steve, Bill and attorney Smith were so happy that it caught all those code plagiarists to yield the 235 patent infringements they went right out and bought the project, evven though the service is free.

But alas, its just Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server. The pull through is definitely worth six billion, oooohhhh yeah. I'm gettin mine tomorrow. Can't wait to get pulled through!

Sad to say, Wall Street, just does not understand this strategic intelligence oozing out of MS top tier management these days. Stock only dropped fifteen cents, but dang, it almost finally hit 31 and darn if that Balmer didn't drop it again!

Anonymous said...

If there are signs of insider trading, then Microsoft should ask SEC to investigate. Because in the long term it hurts Microsoft the most.

Decisions in Microsoft are done on informed knowledge. It trusts its employees to collect, provide, and made these decisions in an unbiased way. But if some people could make money by doing insider trading then the decisions, like how much to pay, do not remain unbiased any more. So in the long term interest of the company, Microsoft should either ask SEC to investigate or initiate its own investigation.

Anonymous said...

This is what's happening in our group: MSPoll showed consequtively year after year, that the lead is someone who plays too much polictics, who does not do much at all, who nitpicks on every team member, who everyone closes their doors upon hearing his voice in the corridor, replacing whom would make every team member cheer, whom everyone in the team would see gone or made a IC, and yet, he is still there being the lead, what the &^%$$ MSpoll is good for?

Anonymous said...

So it's not MicroYa, but MicroAq now :).

Anonymous said...

MOSS is pointless for most web sites/apps, only useful for those who want an out-of-the-box site (intranets at SMB's mainly). Silverlight could gain from Razorfish promotion, though, since it's earned some designer interest already. Not sure how to value that, but pretty sure it doesn't amount to 6 freakin' billion.

I don't know how aQ could possibly be worth so much, though. Isn't adCenter supposed to do most of what they do already? Does MSN/Live need a design agency or SEO help? Why the huge premium over the market cap?

Especially good for Mini, though, is that MS just added thousands of employees. I think OSB just about doubled its head count in one go. At least this one, unlike the Live hiring orgy, is theoretically revenue neutral (like MSN, AQ was slightly profitable).

Anonymous said...

At least this one, unlike the Live hiring orgy, is theoretically revenue neutral (like MSN, AQ was slightly profitable).

Extremely doubtful AQ will stay profitable once they adopt the MSFT cost structure. Better bet is to have OSB adopt the AQ cost structure, but fat chance of that happening.

Anonymous said...

ESPP back up to 15%, hmm finally someone has their heads in the right place.

>
I saw pigs flying in building 19.

Anonymous said...

Buying Aquantive indicates Microsoft is finally realizing that it cannot grow online advertising from within quick enough to compete with Google. The execs that have tried and failed were capable in their previous gigs at Microsoft but were clueless about the new business.

Years ago MSN tried to topple AOL by making "better" versions of the MSN internet client. Now no one cares about this. MSN tried to compete with Yahoo by making a pretty MSN home page and creating all kinds of content. All this while Google was proving that while content is important, they don't have to make it to make money. Now Google is making paid shrinkwrapped software like office obsolete. Microsoft must keep up and offer Office and perhaps Windows for free, funded by advertising. This is where Aquantive can help jumpstart that business. However I think Microsoft is paying too much.

Anonymous said...

“Why no MS fanboys?”

Why the f**k is this so important? Since when did we get into the business of pleasing “holier than thou” fanboys? Just because some fanboy sings praises of Linux does not mean my parents can start using Linux any easier or better than Windows. Just because some Ifanboy is obsessed with Mac does not mean my parents can afford a Mac with lesser features than a PC with their budget.
I am happy working for a company that makes “practical” products for “practical” ppl who use the computer to do “practical” things at a “practical” cost and learning curve.

All the Linux fanboys are ppl who are not good at anything in life other than mastering some obscure command line interface or some unusable editor or figuring out some meaningless detail in the Kernel that they really do not need to know to get their job done. They have nothing else in life to do than be anti-MS fanboys and post all over the internet just to impress fellow loser-nerds about how they know some stupid command line shortcut that others do not not…

I am happy writing software for ppl with real jobs and real life. I am surprised you even put this as a discussion here Mini…

Anonymous said...

>All the Linux fanboys are ppl who are not good at anything in life . . .

Golly, This guy must be a troll. I can't imagine anyone at Microsoft harboring such ill will toward ppl.

There are a lot of those types around though, like the Starlings nesting in my back yard, the damn things fly in gangs, shit on everything in sizes fare larger than would be expected for such a small bird. They build nests by pushing the eggs out of existing nests of other birds and only talk to themselves. Been known to cause disease by spreading viruses like the plague. Nasty bunch of ppl.

Hey look at the bright side, softie, you can finally charge for all that stolen software by having a strong ad based business. Yah!

Anonymous said...

wait...why do you assume he's a softie?

Anonymous said...

>wait...why do you assume he's a softie?

I don't. I was speaking to all softies not necessarily the troll which was the word I used, which could be a softietroll or notasoftietroll.

Anyway, anybody who uses ppl for people which makes them sound purple has to be either a young pissed off softie or a slashdot troll.

Are you having fun? If you are not cracking up over these posts on mini, then it can't really be worth it.

heh.

Anonymous said...

Huge option volumes spike shows high possibility insider trading in aQuantive acquisition. The insider is either from MSFT side or aQuantive side. Will SEC look through this?

Anonymous said...

Microsoft has no compelling products, nothing with a "wow" factor because Microsoft is the Chevy of the software world. Microsoft doesn't write an application out of passion, it does it for revenue. Vista was released because Microsoft was ready for a new revenue stream, not because it offered the customer compelling and innovative new features. Vista has transparency (some versions) wow I need that, Vista has a radar for wifi, wow I need that. If you can't understand how dumb most of this stuff is, and you are supposed to be some of the best and brightest, than perhaps you need to reevaluate your career paths.

Microsoft doesn't innovate, they copy - this has been true since Dos was bought from Seattle Computer Products. Microsoft has stolen code from Apple, Stacker and probably a whole lot more and then they get holier than thou and decide to sue the open source community. Patents and copyrights as a whole are bad for mankind, if you are intelligent you will understand that sharing information is what makes our species dominant. Patents and copyrights must be reasonable and reasonably short or they become worthless as no one will honor them.

Microsoft must transform itself from a lumbering hulk of me too copying vis a vis Ipod etc, to an innovator and designer of unique high quality affordable products, if it is to survive in the coming years. This is difficult, if it was easy everybody would do it.

Most of the software people need has already been written, why would people buy it again? You must either redesign the paradigm or redesign the corporation and either will manifest changes in the other.

Microsoft is on a cusp, the changes are in the air, can they fill their sails and challenge the rocky shoals or are they already on the rocks?

Anonymous said...

"Most of the software people need has already been written, why would people buy it again?"

this is probably the most bizarre comment i've ever read on mini...

what are you talking about? you sound like my grandmother! today's software can do roughly 1/1,000,000,000th of what i actually *want* it to do. we're still living in the software stone age!

whoever you are, i really, really hope you're not developing software products. T_T

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft has stolen code from Apple, Stacker and probably a whole lot more and then they get holier than thou and decide to sue the open source community."

Apple's current UI code base got its start at Xerox. Some of Microsoft features currently used were first done there. Stacker was crap and thankfully has been weeded out of existance, I hope ...

Anyway, good software is made by reusing good ideas as much as possible. Think about it.

neo man said...

Extremely doubtful AQ will stay profitable once they adopt the MSFT cost structure.

What a lame statement. Do yourself a favor and learn out to read finical statements. Very few companies are profitable like Microsoft.

If anything, AQ should see a lower real overhead. Sure there could be different amounts of funny money spent, but in the end that doesn't matter, it is the bottem line that matters. That is one place Microsoft really shines.

Anonymous said...

So how about "Lunch Direct"? Sounds like a ploy to perpetuate endless days of back-to-back meetings and less work/life balance. "Hey, do you work all day without breaks to eat or pee? Great! We have your solution! We'll have people standing around the hallways with well-balanced meals on a spoon. Just like a marathon, as you run through the halls between meetings, someone will be there to shove a full-meal down your throat. No more starving!"

This is just great! I can't wait! Not.

Anonymous said...

What a lame statement. Do yourself a favor and learn out to read finical statements. Very few companies are profitable like Microsoft.

You don't know what you are talking about do you? The fact that MSFT is wildly profitable is not lost on anyone :).

MS acquisitions follow a predictable pattern where the MS cost structure drives them under. The inability to keep acquired companies profitable was one of the reasons advanced for the fabled ESPP cut to 10%.

neo man said...

"MS acquisitions follow a predictable pattern where the MS cost structure drives them under."

Okay, almost all acquisitions by any company have the same things said about them. However, internal "costs" are rarely real money. It can be hard to see the source of the profits, but profits are still profits. If what you said was really true, Mircosoft wouldn't have any profits at all.

S3 Technology Softwares said...

It could be said that MSFT was fighting a proxy legal war thru SCO for a couple years .

Dolmas said...

Ask and yee shall receive: WiFi enabled bus service, part of Mini's manifesto of demands:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003871597_webmicrosoft06.html

Anonymous said...

Their are only two types of people that work at Microsoft:

The Haves
The Have Nots

I can only testify to how the first side lives:

Working at Microsoft year after year is like getting the blood sucked right out of your veins.

Sitting on the 520 contemplating your ridiculous mortgage/taxes on your crappy townhouse, and all the time in your life you will never be able to get back... after finally achieving level 62after working their for 25 years.

Wake up. The dream is dead.

If you have any true passion, creativity, ambition, motivation, or desire to succeed with a definition of "success" whose bar is more than having a zero deductible on your heath card... look elsewhere.

The rest have made thier money and moved on.

A career at Microsoft is a path to no where.

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