Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ballmer, Bozos, and Crazy Sweet Facebook Yang

Oh, another Fremont Solstice festival where I stay off of my bike, keep my clothes on, and enjoy being a spectator. One of these days, I tell you! At least I know what piece of art to paint on my back when that day comes.

Ballmer Ballmer Ballmer! MSFTExtremeMakeover is some kind of fired up:

I agree that it's amazing that Microsoft shareholders continue to bear and grin it through the flat stock price versus calling for accountability. This is a sobering observation:

MSFT's leadership can continue to run the company - as they have for this entire decade so far - as their private fiefdom and for their personal enrichment versus as a public company charged with rewarding its shareholder owners.

That and the vague talk of muscles leaves me a bit on the pissed-off side of life. And in D5 Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on the hot seat:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that his company was a lot more nimble today than when it had 30 people. He was responding to a question from conference co-host Walt Mossberg how the company deals with huge scale of the company, with 78,000 employees. "The people we had then weren't as good, weren't pushing that hard." Mossberg asked about Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Ballmer came back, "Paul and Bill were good…the rest weren't, and they are gone."

All we had to do was get rid of those 28 and replace them with 78,000! Yes, I see the nimble-math equation right now! It's... so... obvious...

Bob Herbold weeps. Perhaps fake Steve Ballmer could at least follow-up on the commentary here. The Secret Diary of Steve Ballmer.

Bring Out The Crazies: Now then, interestingly enough, there's the technical analysis article Sell Apple, Buy Microsoft by Alan Farley. That was a delightful surprise to see. And to the Mac faithful: (1) Please follow-up with Fake Steve if you feel passionate about that article, and (2) This is not a dig at Apple - I want to make this clear because I know anything that sniffs of an insult always bring the crazies out. And watching the poor Microsoft journalists pounded on by the crazies this past week was almost too much:

Post aQuantive: if I could do an acquisition right now, it would be Facebook. Goodness knows I'm having fun with it (drop on by - I'll do the occasional profile update [jamie, I hope it's okay I snagged my profile picture from C9park]). It makes me wonder, given the acquisition, what the benefit would be of switching our users in Spaces over to Facebook. It could be in stages... first open up all of Spaces so that porting from Spaces to Facebook would be an API 2 API matching. Then, just walk away from Spaces and send everyone to Windows Live Facebook. I know, we have a bajillion Spaces users. I've got to say, though, they'd be a bunch more happy if they had Facebook as their foundation. Snappy.

You're The Salty Yin To My Sweet Yang: another Test versus Dev spat erupted in the comments for the last post, but it brought out some good points, especially around considering what the career path for Test is and should be. One rumor that I like:

Good news on the STE front...fairly reliable sources have confirmed that they will be coming back!

Looking at the short-term results, I can get behind the return of STE for QA and cheer. I really don't know where the automate-everything religion came from, but I saw some mighty-good testers who came up with excellent issues and that drove customer-focused quality disappear from Microsoft. Now we have fragile automation and less testing to make room for repairing automation breaks from period to period. I see more and more late minute bugs where the incredulous triage team usually starts with, "...and how the ____ is it that we haven't found this until now?!?" Well, you know, no one had written automation for it yet.

Over There: a comment regarding pending Microsoft hires getting unhired:

You can see blogs of people hired by MS but screwed by the H1B, popping up all over:

http://marchfirst.squarespace.com/blog/2007/6/6/its-official-my-microsoft-career-is-over-before-it-even-star.html

http://awesomearpit.blogspot.com/

I am now a US citizen, but came here on an h1B.. I shudder to think about what these people are going through.. any managers out there that can help people like these out?

Internal Job Transfers: a while back, before the myMicrosoft 2.0 announcement, I put on my wish list a further simplification to the Microsoft internal transfer policy. Pretty much, if you wanted to join a different team and it was mostly a direct match to what you were currently doing, you could join the new team with the blessings of the hiring manager.

You know, not such a popular idea.

Both here and when I mention it at work, the first reaction I get is, "No way! We'd end up with a bunch of bozos! Haven't you ever done an internal interview?"

Yes, I have, and yes, we do have a bunch of bozzz- er... - lower-than-expected-quality-employees working for Microsoft. I write about that from time to time. So what do you do? We have overstaffed teams. We have understaffed teams. We have teams slogging on making work for themselves even though their team members should be distributed away and matched up with positions that best suit their skills. We have folks who still guilt their unsatisfied team into staying together, telling them that, hey, they "signed up" for the next release and even if everything is going to hell in a handbasket, they're expected to grab on hard, suck it up and stay.

To hell with that.

That just allows people to get away with bad decisions and with no consequences to the leadership. If your team disappears from underneath of you, hmm, that looks like a consequence you're going to have to deal with. I want it to be easy for you to find the best position for yourself at Microsoft. You know, I'm not asking you to reach personal fulfillment via your job at Microsoft. Nor to define yourself as an individual just based on your Microsoftie contributions. I'm not in to that. But I'd like for you to like your job. And enjoy your team. And heck, even be proud of your product. And feel that your job is the best match for you. And for that, it needs to be easy for you to find that job, see if you're the best fit, interview, accept the position, and move.

I love the dropping of permission to interview for folks who have been in their current position long enough. And I love HR's fervent support for this policy - I know of a particular HR generalist that I'd want by my side in any knife-fight. I think it needs to go further, though. I want folks to be able to interview without even notification. If they get the job, two weeks notice and they are starting their new position. Just as easy as if you were interviewing outside of Microsoft. Bang! It should be at least that easy, right?

Ideally, easier.

One of the internal business cycles we have is people waiting for the review model compensation and promo to be locked in and then looking to join another team so that they can start on their new team and pretty much have a full-year on that team by the next review cycle, and not get screwed by the transfer. I guess those discussions and interviews usually begin in earnest come mid-August. Are you ready? Are you researching groups, building your network, having informationals, putting together your resume, etc. etc.? If you're writing your review you might as well update your resume. It would be great if, come the review model lock-in, we had a further simplification to the internal move process to help defrag Microsoft, from the bottom up.

And of course, if your resume is up to date, nothing is stopping you from looking outside Microsoft, too, and seeing what's-what in the post-Blue Badge world.


113 comments:

Sriram said...

Mini - instead of Valleywag, I thought it would be fun for you to go find out who Fake Steve Jobs is. You know- the whole 'it takes a thief to catch a thief'. :-)

Anonymous said...

Mini,
Please tell me you read with interest this Business Week article on one of MSFT's fine new hires. I don't understand why you are so negative about growing the workforce.

BW article

Anonymous said...

That Business Week article is pretty crazy. For a second there I thought I was reading The Onion.

Who da'Punk said...

No, no, the world is better with such thieves.

As for the BW profile: what, all of our hires could get the same write-up? Why are we growing the workforce? What is the need? How could we have done any better over the past five years with more people.

It's not the number of people. It is how they are engaged and contributing to the company. Until we can optimize for that, it makes zero sense to keep adding to the problem.

Anonymous said...

Anyone working for MSFT would be very well-advised to leave before there's a mass exodus.

Who da'Punk said...

Mass exodus? Ain't. Gonna. Happen. No matter how wildly I might dream about it.

Until another local Microsoft truly emerges (not just one still shaking off the start-up love-fest) as a safe company to move to, Microsoft is only going to get smaller due to business decisions to reduce hiring and start firing.

Though I agree, in the meantime, we are and will continue to lose some of the best and the brightest. The roots continue to grow deep and unabated, but the leaves are falling.

jamie said...

[jamie, I hope it's okay I snagged my profile picture from C9park])

ha cool. :)

incognito said...

Does anybody know when it is safe to anounce your plans to interview with another group without the risk of being screwed up in your review?
AFAIK, it is definitely after 6/30, should one wait until 8/1, mid August, September?

Anonymous said...

I really don't know where the automate-everything religion


One of the big proponents name is Darren (exercise to the reader to figure out the rest). Darren was just a lab rat in his day, but a good political hack and self hating STE. And since he did so little as an STE, it stood to reason he would believe most of them should be removed.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know when it is safe to anounce your plans to interview

Do it anytime after 7/16

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know when it is safe to anounce your plans to interview with another group without the risk of being screwed up in your review?
AFAIK, it is definitely after 6/30, should one wait until 8/1, mid August, September?


Your boss should've sent out a mail detailing the schedule for our 3 month review process. I don't remember the dates, but things really won't be totally final until you get that paper in your hand. If you want to announce earlier, and you have a lazy boss, you might be ok.

YAY - Back to comment moderation. Thanks Mini!! (And that's serious, not sarcasm :)

Anonymous said...

The BW article just highlights the terrible decline in Microsoft's PR. Years ago, there's no way Microsoft would have participated in making it's employees look like clowns. Now, all I can say is, holy confidence-shattering Batman.

The guy comes off as a) clueless -can't open his laptop, b) mindless - random fist pumps, and c) arrogant - bothering local subs with, probably useless, suggestions for doing their job, by email no less.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer could fail upwards according to this blog:

http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com/brierdudley/2007/05/ballmers_next_job_and_other_go.html
link

Anonymous said...

"Paul and Bill were good…the rest weren't, and they are gone."

Why does Ballmer keep dissing the original employees ? He did the same thing at a conference in London last year where he was pontificating to other "business leaders" about the merits of a 10% attrition target.
There's two things that really bother me about this
i)It's really not good pr.It definitely does not look good to dis your former coworkers.
ii)The kind of attrition targets he was talking about are really only useful when a company is in crisis. Most authors in the field only advocate that this kind of approach is useful in the short term and that pursuing such a policy longterm has serious negative effects.

Anonymous said...

>>"No way! We'd end up with a bunch of bozos! Haven't you ever done an internal interview?"

I've never really understood this attitude at MS: it's really myopic.True bozos are rare at MS:the majority of people I've met are far from lazy and far from stupid
and could achieve a lot if they weren't micromanaged and if they had some real training every so often.Japanese companies usually have policies whereby people can transfer reasonably easily and I believe Google does the same.So if other companies can do this why can't we ?

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know when it is safe to anounce your plans to interview with another group without the risk of being screwed up in your review?
AFAIK, it is definitely after 6/30, should one wait until 8/1, mid August, September?


I've heard that the numbers are really final at 8/31, when they get uploaded into the payroll. However, you might want to wait until your review is submitted and signed, if you don't want surprises in the review text.

Anonymous said...

Paul and Bill were good…the rest weren't, and they are gone


Wasn't Ballmer himself one of the 30 people ?

Anonymous said...

It really is necessary to do something about "permission to interview," as it drives good employees on bad teams out of the company. I was on a test team with terrible scheduling woes, and hadn't even considered leaving Microsoft until I was denied permission to interview on account of our product shipping "soon" (8 months.) Once that happened, I interviewed outside the company, and left soon after.

I'm back at MS today, as I truly did like a lot of things about the company, and I'm very happy with my new job (up a level and 25% of salary from when I left less than two years ago, too.) But Microsoft could have had me the whole time -- and cheaper, too, as I doubt I'd have gotten a 25% raise in 18 months at MS -- by letting me get off my lousy team when I wanted to move.

Anonymous said...

True bozos are rare at MS

Can you think of any part of the company that has lower hiring standards?

I can.

Anonymous said...

The internal transfer situation is painfully familiar. I am somewhat unhappy with my team, so I'm planning to move out. I have already found a team which seems a good match for me, and they also seem eager to get me in. Now, I have to wait for 2 months to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the review text/compensation changes. These two months are productivity loss from the company point of view.
What other choice do I have? When I transfered before, half year worth of my job was not considered for the review purposes, as the old manager never got to filling the transitional review, and the new team did not really care what I did before.
I think we lack flexibility as a company, and transfer guidelines is just one example of such rigidness. I wish HR did something about it...
Oh, and by the way, I cannot seek outside of MS because of the visa situation...

Anonymous said...

" One rumor that I like:

Good news on the STE front...fairly reliable sources have confirmed that they will be coming back!

Looking at the short-term results, I can get behind the return of STE for QA and cheer. I really don't know where the automate-everything religion came from, but I saw some mighty-good testers who came up with excellent issues and that drove customer-focused quality disappear from Microsoft. Now we have fragile automation and less testing to make room for repairing automation breaks from period to period. I see more and more late minute bugs where the incredulous triage team usually starts with, "...and how the ____ is it that we haven't found this until now?!?" Well, you know, no one had written automation for it yet."

Booyah!

I bit my lip and stayed out of the T vs D throwdown. It's been hashed pretty well and was beginning to sound like the drunken neighbor routine: by 9 PM they are hammered. By 10 they are fighting. By midnight the cops are called. infinite loop until you move.

but I cant help whispering a little "I told you so" behind my hand. Oh I'm not one of those STE who hated automation because it meant I had to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Hell no. I *hate* repetitive drudgery. By all means automate the known cases. But I also know that good testers, partnered up with good devs can find, fix and anticipate more NEW bugs than any autmation can.

Unfortunately that opinion wasnt real popular. That, along with some other bullet points made it apparent that MSFT was no longer the company I had signed on with.

Now I am doing largely the same function - finding bugs and getting them fixed before the customer does - for another company. And I am rewarded and appreciated for it. Hell I can *see* the impact I have had here. And I like that.

the QA folks are like the ID checking dudes at the door to a bar. Bar owners arent thrilled to have to have them around. Bartenders dont like splitting tips with them. Both forget the effect of having them until they *aren't* around and a busy bartender misses an ID check, causing the liquor board to drop a few grand in fines on them.

How much did the latest patch cost? Where was your ID checker?

(go figger...I'm updating an automation suite right now)

Anonymous said...

>>"Can you think of any part of the company that has lower hiring standards? "

Sure,I can think of one division by reputation but as far as I'm concerned the reputation is as much a result of being the company whipping boy than anything else.

Even in my own group different teams have hired people with different abilities but that doesn't mean they're bozos.The problem I see is that when people are weak in area,there isn't much opportunity for retraining.In fact some people are afraid to expose their weaknesses because their so called team-mates would humiliate them or gossip about them.

Different dev jobs can require different skill sets but the problem we have is that is the skill set as espoused by Windows and office is pretty myopic;It's focussed on bit manipulation, algorithms and micro design aspects but the problem is this is only part of the picture.Aspects like design patterns,large scale software design and macro design issues are not considered relevant. I've seen this kind of approach create horrendous designs and this will cause problems for groups moving to a service oriented architecture.
But the bottom line is everyone can be retrained and the company would be better investing in the people it has than going on massive hiring sprees.In the long run it would pay off.

Anonymous said...

The "notification to interview" is better than the whole "permission" thing - I knew folks in the vista cycle who were stuck for over a year because of that - but it's still a problem.

I've heard from a friend in another division who had been doing fine, announced that he was interviewing, and then immediately got a letter saying that he was "trending towards underperforming" and needed to address the issue right away.

Said friend who had a very nice career review just 4 weeks before, with no hint of an issue.

You're still taking a big risk - if the group isn't one you want to work for and/or you don't get an offer, your current management now knows that you are looking, which is really none of their damn business.

I also agree strongly that you need a way for people to vote out from under incompetent management, though in practice I'm not sure there are enough openings these days for this to happen.

Perhaps if groups that were a bit overstaffed were able to lose headcount when people transferred...

Anonymous said...

Looks like Mary Jo Foley won't be invited to any Apple events anytime soon :)

http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=505

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=5195

"Ballmer added,”We have a lot of innovation to do on Windows,” and Mossberg, a Mac fan, agreed."

Sounds like a vote of confidence.

"Ballmer said today Microsoft is trying to stake out two new positions–advertising and modern consumer electronics–which are key to long term growth."

Buffy the vampire slayer, here's your job position in Microsoft. Apply forewith!

Anonymous said...

Anyone think Ballmer is gonna feel a little extra pressure now? The Yahoo CEO had to step down because Google kicked their ass in the search business.

Maybe we should send a few thousand printouts to the BOD to make sure they get the hint.

YAHOO CHIEF RESIGNS said...

from NYT today:

Yahoo’s Chief Resigns, and a Founder Takes Over

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/19/technology/19yahoo.html?_r=1&ref=technology&oref=slogin

Anonymous said...

My manager took over our team in December and falls under the grouping of "Bozos", unfortunately, the management within our Org think his is great and aren't open to the truth when it doesn't agree with them.

So if this post doesn't get bounced, could someone please help me edit my comments so that I will still manage to keep my job? I like what I do, the customers I work with always have great things to say about me, but compared to my previous manager, this Bozo should be bounced. Unfortunately, that isn't like to happen. Since our Director and GM like this bozo, I'd appreciate some adjustments to these comments so that I can get the point across w/o becoming unemployeed?

My draft is as follows: (Edited to remove names, regions, and orgs)
In general, what does your Manager do well that you would like to see him/her continue doing?
UNNAMED MANAGER has an excellent ability to strong arm the rest of OUR ORG into adopting his insane ideas that have no positive impact onto the rank and file within OUR ORG. He can manage to ramrod even the most stupid of ideas through OUR ORG management and put enough lipstick onto the pig to make them present the ideas as though they are the best thing since sliced bread. UNNAMED MANAGER and his ideas should be promoted into some other organization so that he can make their life into the same sort of living hell that OUR TEAM has had to endure since we had the unfortunate luck as to have his incompetence forced upon us.


In general, what would you like to see your Manager stop doing, start doing, or do differently?
UNNAMED MANAGER needs to realize that he has people on his current team whose careers need a boost and stop worrying about his favorite pets who are no longer on his team. The careers of the people in OUR TEAM are being stunted for another year because he would rather see people like PERSON-A, PERSON-B, & PERSON-C be put on a pedestal while the rest of OUR TEAM is made to suffer. The rest of us would like to be able to have actual and concrete goals, commitments, or even just some clear and measurable guidance as to what it would take to advance to the next level. UNNAMED MANAGER should be promoted into SOMEONE ELSE’s org with the rest of the former OUR ORG managers who are no longer allowed to have direct reports.


Additional Comments:
UNNAMED MANAGER is the absolute worst manager in OUR ORG. He is selfish, self-centered, and only cares about those under him when it comes time to make us implement some half-baked idea that will get him kudos and visibility while we get shafted. Unless you’re one of his favorite children in his old-boys club, it won’t matter how good of a job you do or how many MS EMPLOYEES and customers like you and the work you do for them, your career will be going nowhere fast. The worst thing to happen to OUR TEAM was for UNNAMED MANAGER to take over the team, all of his favorites are either in HIS OLD TEAM or in his former teams in PREVIOUS OLD TEAMs. 1:1’s with UNNAMED MANAGER are a complete waste of time, he never listens, and you never know when he is lying to you, or just blowing sunshine. His direct reports trust him about as far as they can throw him, but only tolerate him because he has shown a propensity of being able to kill the careers of those who don’t kiss his ass and blindly parrot his stupid ideas as if they are the best thing in the world.




Or should I just consider leaving the free text portions blank and hope that the low scores stand on their own?

Anonymous said...

You 10% group should wake up. You don't get promoted for doing your job, it is just that simple.

Anonymous said...

My manager

Anyone looking at this thinking "this would never happen in my org"? Please name your org - you'll get a huge pool of interviewees as a reward.

Anonymous said...

Here is Steve McConnels updated list of Classic Mistakes in Software engineering.

How guilty is your org?

Ours habitually hits these new ones: Confusing estimates with targets,
Excessive multi-tasking,
Unclear project vision,
Letting a team go dark.

Classic Mistake #1 is the reason this blog exists (and the reason MSFT would be trading at $60 today if we were just paying devs 50k more per head).

Anonymous said...

Permission to interview always caused me anxiety, even after the 10+ years I've been at Microsoft. Even considering that I've moved groups several times.

I've been at my new group less than a year and don't like it (micromanagement and bureaucracy are the main issues). Rather than wait the full year to ask permission to interview, I am leaving the company. I now realize that it was easier to ignore all the nonsense when the stock was moving up.

I was nervous, but in the interviews outside the company I blew them away. Microsoft alumni are well respected and valued outside the company, I can tell you that for sure! I was surprised that some companies have better benefits, too.

I am wondering how best to use the exit interview. Should I let them have the dirty truth or just sit back and give the standard safe line of "I found a better opportunity?" What do the others here think of this?

Anonymous said...

>>"Or should I just consider leaving the free text portions blank and hope that the low scores stand on their own?"

You would be better off leaving the scores low or just being non-committal. The reasons for this are:

-If your manager is popular with his GM and director then they will support him and "punish" you for lack of loyalty.If they like him he's probably one of their cronies and possibly a crony of one of their allies.

-It sounds like your manager already has some cronies on your team so that means he will get at least some good manager reviews so the bad results will be glossed over with some nonsense like the rest of the team being unenthusiastic about change.

-Also remember this may be the excuse your manager wants as he may be planning to move the rest of his cronies into your team. In these situations managers just make it real difficult for their people and the migration happens through attrition.

-You can't guarantee that everyone else on your team will give negative feedback (i.e. they will protect themselves) so you could be exclusively targeted and they when that happens they will steer clear of you to prevent themselves being "tainted" by association. I've seen this happen before on two teams in a dysfunctional group.

It's probably best to limit any potential damage to yourself and start looking to a different group too or maybe even look outside the company. I know this doesn't sound fair but taking a stand won't help as you won't be supported due to the nature of the system.

Also your manager probably isn't a bozo. A better term would be narcissist or egotist, a far more dangerous animal and an animal that is,unfortunately, far too prevalent at the Microsoft zoo.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:32:

I wrote up similar feedback during mid-year discussion. It was less harsh, and it wasn't for my immediate lead (rather, someone for who all intents might as well be my lead). But the gist was the same: I had lost confidence in their leadership / flipped the bozo bit on them.

After agonizing about it for a week, I decided not to send it in. I have no problem sending in constructive feedback. But in this situation, I realized that it wasn't constructive. I had no hope of reforming the bozo. What I was really saying was "it's either him or me". And I had no doubt that if it really came down to that, I'd come out with the short end of the stick.

Now if it were several of us walking into the PUM's office over this guy, the calculus may have been a little different. I think any clear-thinking PUM would rather lose one lead rather than a significant fraction of his team. Politically, it's still risky. Some PUMs would be happy you raised a serious issue early and got it resolved, rather than walking off individually for seemingly independent reasons. But others might keep the memory of this little stunt in their heads for a long time.

In the end I realized two things: even if my coworkers did agree with my assessment of this person, they weren't anywhere near quitting because of him. And for that matter, neither was I. His level of bozosity wasn't so high that drastic measures had to be taken. My career wasn't in jeopardy because of him -- at most, it was just irritating and frustrating to deal with. But that frustration was offset by a lot of other aspects of the job that I do like.

So I figured, if it wasn't something I was going to quit over, let alone lead a minor mutiny, I would just have to suck it up. A lot of things could happen. Maybe one day it'll show up in his manager reviews. Or maybe he'll just move on to a different group. Or maybe he'll even improve. I could even be plain wrong about him. In any case, no job is perfect -- there's just some things you gotta learn to deal with.

If you can't deal ... then vote with your feet and leave. It's really your two options.

Anonymous said...

"So if this post doesn't get bounced, could someone please help me edit my comments so that I will still manage to keep my job? I like what I do, the customers I work with always have great things to say about me, but compared to my previous manager, this Bozo should be bounced. Unfortunately, that isn't like to happen. Since our Director and GM like this bozo, I'd appreciate some adjustments to these comments so that I can get the point across w/o becoming unemployeed?"

what kind of crack have you been smoking?

your director and GM *like* this person, and you think that your feedback is going to... what, exactly? change their minds? open their eyes? get flagged as ZOMG important by some HR drone? maybe you think you're different because customers and coworkers know you're a good guy?

you need to get a grip FAST, because absolutely no good will come from your negative feedback in this situation. hear me loud and clear on this one: NO GOOD WILL COME OF THIS.

microsoft is a game, and the game is "make the people above you love you" -- everything else is secondary. want the freedom to innovate? want to do great things with software? want the ability to set and meet your own goals? if you can't make the people above you love you, then you will never have the freedom to do anything, no matter how good you are, how smart you are or how great your work ethic is.

your feedback will never make a difference in the life of a manager who is the favored son or daughter of their bosses unless your boss actually values that feedback -- and if your boss valued that feedback you wouldn't be in this situation.

you have one goal as a microsoft employee before you can do any meaningful work: make those above you love you. once you do that, you can get on with the business of doing good work. of course, 98% of the time you'll lose your soul in the process and end-up a miserable suckup bastard just like the guy you're talking about, but in 2% of the cases you'll actually reach the promised land, navigate the waters and wind-up with enough scope and power to do good work.

2%, buddy -- at best. that's what you're working with. stop the foolish crusade and put down the glass pipe.

Anonymous said...

Seeing resume with lead or manager experience in Microsoft is simply a negative sign. It's safe to assume the person is technically weak (useless), politics player, being dishonest etc. There are exceptions but its safer for hiring company to assume they are guilty until proven innocent.

The political system in Microsoft has corrupted. Politics are pervasive. Microsoft could become a much better place if it cuts 2/3 of managers.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering how best to use the exit interview. Should I let them have the dirty truth or just sit back and give the standard safe line of "I found a better opportunity?" What do the others here think of this?

I don't know if they look at the exit interview feedback before rehiring an ex-employee.

But if they do that, and if you ever want to come back to MSFT, its best that you did not say anything negative. Who really wants to hire negative people into a large corporation?

Anonymous said...

RE: exit interviews.

Don't say anything. It can and will be used against YOU long before it'll be used against anyone who is still in the company (e.g. your soon-to-be-ex-boss). The exit interview is all down-side and little up-side for you.

Just be polite, say you found better opportunities and, yes you looked around MSFT but couldn't find a fit as good as the one you found in your soon-to-be-new home.

You sincerely wish your group the best and have the utmost confidence that your MSFT manager will continue successfully leading your old team. (You can vomit on the pavement afterwards, if you feel so inclined).

Going in there to "set things right" as you're on the way out, just makes YOU look like the jerk and anything you say, however constructive, will be discounted as the view of a disgruntled crackpot. You'll be classified as "good attrition" and life will go on (and you'll never be able to come back to the 'soft should your fortunes change on the outside). All down-side, no up-side.

Just smile, be polite, listen closely to how your benefits change and when things expire and then go and put all this out of your mind.

Anonymous said...

>>Seeing resume with lead or manager experience in Microsoft is simply a negative sign. It's safe to assume the person is technically weak (useless), politics player, being dishonest etc.

Amen to that.

Anonymous said...

>>Who really wants to hire negative people into a large corporation?

You're right in your assertion that the guy should say nothing to negative to hr as they will most likely talk to your GM and he will have you marked off as a no-rehire.

At the same time people who have issues with the company shouldn't be termed "negative people" as it attributes the problem to the employee, which in the political climate at msft very often isn't the case. The irony is if the issues were actually attended to and addressed the company would be far more productive than it is.
(and I think most people can be forgiven for not being exactly up-with-people when they leave).

Anonymous said...

>>'microsoft is a game, and the game is "make the people above you love you" -- everything else is secondary.'

This is so true but in the long run if you have few ties and the flexibility to leave you should consider it.

The fact is we only so many years in our working life and it would be better spent doing something that really builds your skills than playing politics to get to do what you want to do.

You also need to factor in that if you want to move and get broader experience it's not easy to move between groups in ms and even harder to move between disciplines.

The lack of mobility, particularly if you work for a long time in a niche area, can have a negative impact on your career options if you decide to leave or if there's a RIF.

Anonymous said...

To the person considering the negative feedback about your manager... Forget it. Write it up, read it a few times then delete it. Doing so will only make your life a living hell until you can get out of that group. I wish I would have done that in the one case I encountered the worst, ladder climber manager I have ever had here. I suspect that his manager shared the (anonymous?) feedback with him because w/in a couple of weeks I went from no problem to not meeting expectations. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

True bozos are rare at MS

Somebody never worked with any PMs from MSN.

Anonymous said...

To the person providing harsh negative manager feedback:

Make sure whatever you plan to submit that you do it soon. Stack ranking starts soon!

As for the tone, you definitely need to remove most of the smart ass remarks, no matter how relevant they may be. Provide a SHORT list of specific actions you'd like the manager to do more/less of, and provide specific examples of the kinds of things you're talking about. The more concrete you can be, the easier it'll be for their boss to see it.

Oh, and do this in like 50 words or less, because that's about all their manager is going to read anyway.

If you want it to at least have a chance to be taken seriously, you need to remove the negative crap from the first block. Though I agree with others that unless you get at least one other person to report similar things, it won't mean shit.

Anonymous said...

This might be off-topic slightly, but I'm interested in hearing how many people experience cronyism, and to what extent, at MS?

I've worked at MS long enough to have worked in several divisions. Before that, I worked for a real number of other companies, giving me a good view of the world outside Microsoft.

From where I stand, cronyism is part of life. However, it's worse at Microsoft than anywhere else I've worked (due to size?) by an order of magnitude (even in the best places in the company I've seen). It's also better or worse in different divisions. Some divisions weren't too bad. It was there, but it was an annoyance and not much else. In others, worse. My current division has such deep cronyism, stemming directly from the VP down, that it affects every part of every project being done.

I'd really like to understand whether most people see little, some, a lot, or the granddaddy-of-all-old-boys-clubs around them.

Anonymous said...

Seeing resume with lead or manager experience in Microsoft is simply a negative sign. It's safe to assume the person is technically weak (useless), politics player, being dishonest etc. There are exceptions...

I agree and if ever there is a push to cut middle management I'll put my own lead position up on the block first, provided my directs and my peers (superiors get no vote so no protection there) get a vote in who actually gets chopped: I'll put my capabilities as a manager up against any other's and have faith in the outcome.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a manager here (not at Microsoft). He said, essentially, that if you have large compensation changes between levels, it causes politics.

There's two ways this works. First, it makes people badly want to be promoted, and therefore more willing to engage in behavior that is destructive to the organization if it helps them individually. Second, it gives the managers great power - they get to choose the lucky ones. From both sides, this drives toward political behavior.

Now, in the past at Microsoft, this was mitigated by everybody having options and the stock climbing through the roof. This meant that employees didn't have to have the promotion, because the stock was going to take care of them. They were better off just helping the company as a whole do well. But when the stock went flat, it also quit being a counterbalance to the steep compensation curve, and political behavior ran wild.

If this is the correct root cause of the politics, the only way to fix the situation - and save Microsoft from what it is becoming - is to flatten the compensation curve.

MSS

Anonymous said...

You sincerely wish your group the best and have the utmost confidence that your MSFT manager will continue successfully leading your old team. (You can vomit on the pavement afterwards, if you feel so inclined).

...and other similar responses from a number of posters.

Are you people serious? Do any of you have any backbone left at all? Is this how you plan to go through the rest of your life, by playing sycophantic sheep? Great teams and software don't get built by a bunch of frightened people. Stand up for yourself and state what the problems are. You can do this in a rational, professional manner...I'm not advocating posting a screed to the world. If you see a problem, say so. Give supporting evidence and propose one or more solutions. Try to solve the problem instead of hiding in fright. So you piss off your manager, or manager's manager. So what. Do you think things will get magically better by just sitting around? Call out the bad ideas and take a shot at a solution. If nothing comes of it, move on to something else. There are thousands of other alternatives out there to explore.

My god, this surely isn't the same Microsoft I left years ago. When I left, it was because of my utter disappointment with management. My coworkers were excellent. Now, I would be ashamed to work with most of the people responding here.

Anonymous said...

Computerworld's annual summary of the best places to work in IT lists companies that excel in five areas of employment: career development, retention, benefits, diversity, and training. According to the scorecard, the top five retention methods are: competitive benefits; competitive salaries; work/life balance; flexible work hours; and tuition reimbursement.

http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9024364

And of course Microsft isn't anywhere in the top 100 listed, although to be fair its aimed at companies using IT rather than developing software.

But the areas they list are the usual ones, although interesting they don't mention competent / enlightened management explicitly.

Anonymous said...

>> "True bozos are rare at MS

Somebody never worked with any PMs from MSN."

You're right I haven't.

I realize that many people have been frustrated or are frustrated on a daily basis by dealing with people who have been promoted above their level of competence or care more about visibility and the impression they make on their management.

There is still a problem, however, in just labeling people as bozos or using any random label.

Basically, the point I should have made in my original post is that if you use vague terms,labeling or emotive language your arguments look rash and ill considered.

You need to keep in mind that language is the the weapon that the game-players use for their benefit and against you to make you look irrational and them to clever. Always keep in mind that some of these people love the opportunity to provoke you. I've seen a number of managers who took a very perverse satisfaction in doing this to their subordinates.

So developers need to play to their strengths and apply the same analysis,logic and rigor they would use in their job to their language and the points they make.

Granted this can work against you at times as many people in this company, management in particular, hate to lose an argument as they equate it with losing face but often it can work in your favor.

So temper your emotion and use your intellect. If you have a problem with a PM or anyone else be specific about the problem e.g. incompetence and think of reasons and examples to back up your argument. You can be guaranteed that they're doing that about you because that's how they play the game.

Anonymous said...

This is why we should never pre-announce anything until it's really ready:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZrr7AZ9nCY

Anonymous said...

"If this is the correct root cause of the politics, the only way to fix the situation - and save Microsoft from what it is becoming - is to flatten the compensation curve."

Highly political has always characterized MSFT. It wasn't a byproduct of a failing stock.

Anonymous said...

RE: Try to solve the problem instead of hiding in fright. So you piss off your manager, or manager's manager. So what. Do you think things will get magically better by just sitting around?

The question was what to do at the exit interview. In that case, it can be assumed that all other options have been exercised to no avail.

If you think you can make a constructive difference, then by all means, do it (and find out). If you think the deck is so stacked against you by your boss, and their boss, then why burn yourself on the way out just to show you have a backbone and a big set of hairy ones?

If you lack the political wherewithall, savvy, or just have better things to do with your time, why fight a losing battle? just pick up your marbles and go play somewhere else. As you say, there are plenty of other sandboxes.

It's like they say about wrestling with a pig. You'll both get dirty, but the pig likes it.

Anonymous said...

>> "My god, this surely isn't the same Microsoft I left years ago.... Now, I would be ashamed to work with most of the people responding here."

You're right it's not the same Microsoft you left years ago.

You see it's not that people don't have backbone, the politics has grown worse over the years and making a stand in most groups if you don't have the GM or Directors ear won't help and may damage you. I could relate my own experience but it would be no different to many of the stories everyone's already heard.

In any case, if the company were run rationally, we shouldn't have to debate out whether people have backbone or not.
For one, people should be able to have issues addressed without fear of retaliation.
Secondly, egocentrism and passive aggression need to go.
It's going to take a paradigm shift in the corporate culture for that to happen.

Anonymous said...

"My current division has such deep cronyism, stemming directly from the VP down, that it affects every part of every project being done."

Well put. Arse-kissing gets you where you want to be at MSFT. The downside is that cronyism trashes innovation and productivity (and it's an economic/emotional drain for the out-of-favor folks). Meritocracy? Not.

"Great teams and software don't get built by a bunch of frightened people."

It was my observation that Vista was built by frightened people. Or at least people afraid to kick the kool-aid.

"Stand up for yourself and state what the problems are."

This never works where cronyism exists. This also doesn't work in a culture of fear. Basically, in the face of a power imbalance, if you're unhappy with a process, tools, person, design, or anything else, there is no recourse except to suck it up or quit.

That's why you see the griping here and why nothing much changes. You cannot have an impact if your manager wants to stop you. Or their manager, etc.

I see themes on this blog such as the "when do I try to move groups" question. And other people are mad because they're "stuck". If you get into a conflict with your manager your review will suffer and it will make it harder to move.

The best solution for the unhappy is to leave the company or pucker up and plan your exit for another group - pucker up, work your ass off, and hold out for that stellar review that might or might not make it easier to transfer.

OTOH, if you're happy, stay and have some kool-aid. Or maybe you're in one of the good groups? Enjoy your job. Reap the benefits. Make cool software. MSFT isn't uniformly bad - there have got to be pockets of greatness somewhere.

People who post here and are happy with their jobs or resting and vesting seem to advocate the suck it up path, but many are of the "don't let the door hit you on the way out" variety.

People who have left and are happy are advising the gripers to leave for greener pastures. I'm in that boat.

But MSFT as a whole has a problem that only new top-down leadership can change. The effects of crappy management can overpower the contributions of even rock-star IC's and suck the potential out of any project.

If there's no top-down change, then is anyone brave enough for a bottom up revolution? (Can you imagine a sit-in calling for [insert-name's] resignation? A tester walk-out day for better wages and more respect from devs?) It'd be a mini-MSFT from all the firings that followed.

Anonymous said...

"Highly political has always characterized MSFT. It wasn't a byproduct of a failing stock."

Agree, but the politics have gotten significantly more destructive over the years.

One thing that struck me over the past few years in the last group I was in was the amount of fear I encountered and how it had a direct negative impact both on the product.

I still don't understand how things got this bad. I mean people at the partner level or higher can't be unaware of this.

Anonymous said...

Hey - what about the insult we all get in the form of newly figured stock awards. changing the way it's done because, and i quote from an internal HR deck, it's all about wall street and not the employee. how fucked does a company need to be when you are told you don't matter when it comes to compensation - it's all about the investors? Yes, I'm glad i get the chance to update my resume during this annual not-review process. i am looking and want to get away from this joke of a company. almost 7 years and i've seen nothing innovative, nothing special, nothing at all other than plowing the same ground over and over and hoping roses come up in this field of radishes. only the spin changes while the names and faces remain the same. sorry, but my microsoft died a long time ago. we're all vultures feeding on the carrion that's been rotting away for years now.

Anonymous said...

"This is why we should never pre-announce anything until it's really ready."

Hilarious parody. Thanks for that link.

And am I the only one that thinks the "Table" computer is another one of Clueless Bill's geek-gasm devices that only about four people on earth will care about?

Yeah, I want to spend hours with my head bent down at a table, wiping off the finger smears every ten minutes and getting numb finger tips.

C'mon, it's really just the world's biggest and most expensive home theatre remote control, right? I mean for goodness sake, who WANTS this thing??? You can't even play any game that involves hiding what you have from the other players (pretty much every card game ever, Battleship, Stratego, etc), but I guess it will work for checkers. Though I suppose you can't bring it out on the deck on a nice summer day and play outside.

Great, one more reason for kids to deprive themselves of the outdoors.

Anybody know the development costs that were sunk into this debacle?

Anonymous said...

I mean people at the partner level or higher can't be unaware of this.

Some are aware. Some are in denial. The one who see the symptoms are in the hardest spot: because they don't understand the 'why' they are inable to see a fix.

Anonymous said...

"how fucked does a company need to be when you are told you don't matter when it comes to compensation - it's all about the investors?"

The only reason the investor card is being played is because investments haven't paid off and current earnings don't support continued outsized payments to execs AND employees. So they tell you they need the money for investors, and tell investors they need the money to compete against GOOG. Meanwhile, they continue to pay themselves a fortune and laugh at how gullible employees and investors are.

Anonymous said...

"microsoft is a game, and the game is "make the people above you love you" -- everything else is secondary. want the freedom to innovate? want to do great things with software? want the ability to set and meet your own goals? if you can't make the people above you love you, then you will never have the freedom to do anything, no matter how good you are, how smart you are or how great your work ethic is."

And the difference between working at Microsoft and working anywhere else would be? I am in my second career, working for my fifth employer, and this description is accurate for everywhere I've worked -- employee or contractor, manager or peon.

Anonymous said...

"One thing that struck me over the past few years in the last group I was in was the amount of fear I encountered and how it had a direct negative impact both on the product."

Not surprising. Back in the day the fact that virtually everyone was a millionaire provided a practical limit on how far weak managers could push. Today, most of those folks have moved on or MSFT has culled them for not being "team players". So now those same managers can run roughshod over the remainder. MSFT lost a lot of very good people that way and we're seeing the results.

Indian said...

(I am Indian)
It has been forming in mind for a while but it suddenly crytalized today. One key reason problems fester in Microsoft is us Indians. No, this is not a H-1, outsourcing rant (go elsewhere if you were expecting that).

We may just be too damn "obedient", too deferential to authority, too overawed by finding ourselves treated as equals, after growing up in a post-colonial mindset that treats the fair skin as inherently superior, too worshipful of Gates and Steve Ballmer and all those other super-rich white guys (Bill Gates is a rock star in India). We still cannot believe our good fortune in working for this company - "world leader" is not a tag that applies to much of anything we have ever encountered in our experience in India.

A white or black American in Microsoft is be far more questioning of "the system" than an equally talented Indian. It has nothing to do with IQ, and everything do with our cultural background and our history.

Net result: we are the loyal soldiers who can be counted on by the management in any circumstance.

Anonymous said...


You sincerely wish your group the best and have the utmost confidence that your MSFT manager will continue successfully leading your old team. (You can vomit on the pavement afterwards, if you feel so inclined).


Speaking as someone who's currently a people manager in a product team... this is a painful comment. Please do be honest, but not vitriolic in your exit interview. Share the behaviors you observed (not judgments) with the interviewer about the bad management.

Things aren't going to get better until the people who are having bad experiences stand up and give that feedback.

Anonymous said...

I see themes on this blog such as the "when do I try to move groups" question.

I want to share some wisdom along these lines from someone I respect (my GM):

As long as both of the following are true, stay where you are:

#1: You're learning
#2: Your manager has your back

When either one of those isn't true, change groups.

Anonymous said...

"And the difference between working at Microsoft and working anywhere else would be?"

The difference is the amount of politics which exists here and the kind of management that flourishes in that environment.

For the time being our revenue absorbs this trend however that revenue stream is the company's Achilles heal as genuine investment in management development doesn't exist here. Sure there are courses and the bench but that is focussed on creating carbon copies of what's already there.

Simultaneously, the gap between engineering and management is growing leading to a situation where management is out of touch with the engineering reality which has a direct negative impact on product quality and the rate of output.

Similar situations occurred at IBM, Digital etc. and in the auto industry. A company of this caliber shouldn't be making the same mistakes.

Anonymous said...

"As long as both of the following are true, stay where you are:
#1: You're learning
#2: Your manager has your back"

I understand what you're saying and it's good advice in some respects but if we need someone to have our back doesn't it feel like we're in the mafia or something ?

Anonymous said...

As long as both of the following are true, stay where you are:

#1: You're learning
#2: Your manager has your back

When either one of those isn't true, change groups.


#1: no, not so much, for a year it's been ship-time drudgery
#2: the reorg fairy says strike two

Anyone looking for a technical PM with an LRA above 4.0?

Anonymous said...

"Things aren't going to get better until the people who are having bad experiences stand up and give that feedback."

It's good to see a manager who is concerned posting here, and I believe many managers are concerned, but the problem is where there are silos of cronyism giving feedback does no good.

In these groups if you complain while you are here you will be retaliated against with "by the book" management, nitpicking, comments on reviews etc.
When this happens employees leave and don't give negative feedback as they feel it is useless.

Others say nothing while they're here or when they leave out of fear of being blacklisted.

What's needed is a structure where the issues are addressed in a meaningful way and where there is no fear of retaliation.

Anonymous said...

"We may just be too damn "obedient", too deferential to authority,"

Nope, if a tight clique exists in your group that doesn't want to listen then it won't matter if you're from Seattle or Mars; you'll just be ignored.

Anonymous said...

>> "Today, most of those folks have moved on or MSFT has culled them for not being "team players".

gotta agree with you there.We lost a lot of good people and a lot of experience that will never be replaced.

I think back on how naive I used to be - drank the kool-aid, believed the 'dignity at work' and 'make others around you great' stuff.
Man, people must be laughin themselves stupid at that now.

Anonymous said...

Regarding

http://awesomearpit.blogspot.com/

Ins'nt it a good thing to unhire recent hires rather than fire people who already worked here?

besides, his recent post seems distincly anti - american

http://awesomearpit.blogspot.com/2007/06/whose-job-is-it-anyway-part-1.html

Anonymous said...

We may just be too damn "obedient", too deferential to authority, too overawed by finding ourselves treated ...

Understand that these characteristics will get you nowhere in your career at MSFT. Looking at the success many of us are having in rising through the ranks, I can say that you must be the vocal minority in thinking this way.

Anonymous said...

Things aren't going to get better until the people who are having bad experiences stand up and give that feedback

Although I agree with this comment, this assumes that someone is actually interested in fixing the problems. In my experience in the field, this wasn't the case. As a matter of fact, NO ONE even conducted an exit interview with me when I left (about a year ago after 7 years at MS)! All of the communication from HR was through email. I did ask several times when the exit interview would be scheduled without ever getting a response from our field HR contact.

The problems that are commonly discussed here concerning the unwieldy bureaucracy, political decay, and their impact on the Microsoft product line have existed for a long time now. Do you really think that an organization committed to change and laden with talent would fail to devise a REAL plan for change that showed REAL progress by now?

I think you have only to look at the constant internal reorgs to see that there is a shell game of tremendous proportion going on within Microsoft management. The name of the game now is to hide failure, not try to understand why a strategy does not work and make corrections within a given organization. This way, no one is really accountable to fix anything. Going round and round through the revolving door, even though you are moving forward, does not mean that you are actually getting anywhere.

There was so much potential within Microsoft, so many resources to tap, and for all intents and purposes, the opportunities were squandered. It's too bad...

Anonymous said...

RE: Please do be honest, but not vitriolic in your exit interview. Share the behaviors you observed (not judgments)...

It's admirable that you are looking for feedback to improve your management style/skill. If the employee in the exit interview had a manager, such as yourself, who was open to constructive feedback or even hostile feedback in order to improve, they probably wouldn't be in the exit interview.

In the case where the employee has been driven to not only look for a job outside of the company, but to interview and accept an offer, I'd say that the opportunity to provide constructive feedback has long since passed, if it ever existed at all. In those cases, I stand by my suggestion in that the employee's best course of action is to just smile and wave good-bye. Not much up-side but no down-side (to the employee, anyway). Any other option just has more down-side risk to the employee with no more up-side.

Sure, that doesn't do the company any favors. They are losing a productive employee and will never know the real reason why. But that's not the employee's problem to solve. The employee's primary responsibility is to him/herself and their career. If their manager supports that goal, then the employee probably won't be in an exit interview.

Anonymous said...

>"Yang"

Mini, was that alluding to Yahoo's Jerry Yang now at the reigns and Terry Semel's demise? The real question is how did the attempted purchase by Microsoft affect that change at Yahoo? I am sure there is an official and unofficial version. Like Murdoch's attempts to take over Dow Jones and the reorg of the Board of Directors making that possibility a probability.

Or would you rather talk about the really interesting stuff currently growing mold on your blog? Observation: the 'It's Gotta be Me' themes are at best, something out of Macbeth, filled with incestuous disgusting intrigue. Only when you people begin to look at serving others instead of yourselves will all be well.

Anonymous said...

OP sez:
"microsoft is a game, and the game is "make the people above you love you" -- everything else is secondary. "

dood retorts:
" this description is accurate for everywhere I've worked -- employee or contractor, manager or peon."

Not quite. Yes making your boss love you is a big part of it...but they (and the company) are supposed to give you every opportunity to woo and wow them. That is a part of their job requirements (IMO). If they dont do that, they are failing the subordinate, the org, the company and the precious stockholders.

Granted it is only a single datapoint BUT - when I jumped overboard at the good ship MSFT, I had an exit interview. In that interview I was very honest.Not vitriolic, just very honest as to why I was leaving and what events led to my decision. Among them were many of the items noted (repeatedly) here. Hell, I even stated up front that some of my comments might make a venegeful manager informally blacklist me. It may have been luck of the draw, but the HR rep I had the conversation with seemed genuinely interested.

not long after that I returned as a contractor. What a relief! the politics were gone! The review BS was history! Every single item that made work a drag before had vanished! Oh sure I couldnt go play whirlyball. I wasnt allowed to shoot hoops. In exchange I came to work, kicked ass and then went home.

The upshot of this little tale? I contacted the HR dude I exited with and let him know how much of a difference there was in my work, my contribution and simple joy in my labor there was with the baggage removed. The manager who was my boss during that contract graciously backed up my evaluation of my performance.

The problem is - when the good ship MSFT is such a huge vessel, that single datapoint has no effect.

Anonymous said...

>> As long as both of the following are true, stay where you are:
#1: You're learning
#2: Your manager has your back

> I understand what you're saying and it's good advice in some respects but if we need someone to have our back doesn't it feel like we're in the mafia or something ?

Even in a non-bureaucratic, non-political environment, stuff comes down on your team. If your manager lets it, all of your time can get eaten up by stuff that doesn't mean anything. Or, if you say "this is worthless" and just ignore it, then you get blamed for not getting it done.

A good manager doesn't let that happen. He/she protects you from the junk that other people try to put on your plate, so that you can get your work done.

You make them look good. They free you up so you can do it.

That may not be what the original poster meant by "your manager has your back", but it's the form I've appreciated the most the times I've had it...

MSS

Anonymous said...

Mini: even though off topic, please don't throw me on the cutting room floor...pretty please?? After 15 yrs at Microsoft (and a 4.0 performer before they took the #'s away) our team is facing a 'rif'...sad. I am desparately looking for another position internally but the clock will begin ticking soon and i'm very nervous because of slow reponse times for information interviews, manager vacations, etc. I find myself wondering about severance. I know they don't have to offer it, but if you, or anyone else, knows what the 'standard' package is, I'd appreciate hearing about it. Just wanted some inside info (before the dreaded conversation with HR). Thanks.

Anonymous said...

for the guy asking about severance after 15 @MS....

dude, after 15 at ms you should be loaded even without trying...
if that is not case, would you care to tell us how did you manage to be in a fragile financial state when you started working at ms in ~92????

Anonymous said...

For the person about to get RIF’d, I have seen resumes submitted internally from people in this position. Perhaps this process has changed, but these resumes have in the past been flagged with language letting the hiring manager know that the person submitting his or her resume has only so many days left to find a job. There may be a stigma attached in that case. If you submit your resume internally, I would strongly suggest that you send an email to the hiring manager that includes your review scores and the contact information for internal references who can vouch for your character.

I think that this is perhaps another area where HR gets it wrong. If the company has good people in roles that are no longer needed, it seems that it would benefit both the company and the employee to (1) eliminate the unneeded roles but also (2) fill open headcount with good people.

Of course, if you are "deadwood", hasta la vista baby!

MIGHTY MINI MICROSOFT!

Anonymous said...

"Observation: the 'It's Gotta be Me' ..... Only when you people begin to look at serving others instead of yourselves will all be well."

Dude,I don't you get it. Yes the same themes come up here again and again and yes, they may seem like old issues but that's the point - nothing is being done about them.
If you really understood what folk are saying here you would understand that the company is not set up to "serve others". It's based on rank and yank,similar to Enron, which has lead to the destructive politics we see commented on here.

If you mean that people can change things from the bottom by leading by example; it would be nice to see that happen but it won't because around here that's taken as a sign of weakness or not being a "team-player" and you should know from the comments here what happens to those people.

Anonymous said...

"a shell game of tremendous proportion going on within Microsoft management. The name of the game now is to hide failure, not try to understand why a strategy does not work and make corrections within a given organization. This way, no one is really accountable to fix anything."

Damn straight, but when you observe the religion of rank-and-yank accountability has a perverse meaning which means kick the blame down to some poor fool at the bottom of the food chain and blame him for your failure.
Just consider our fearless leader, when he delights in insulting the original 28 employees who are gone and of course this same intellectual superstar is a reliable reference as he contributed so much to code quality in the early days and since, right?

Anonymous said...

"after 15 yrs at Microsoft (and a 4.0 performer before they took the #'s away) our team is facing a 'rif'...sad. I am desparately looking for another position internally"

How messed up is this? All this talk about hiring new people and it looks like hr hasn't engaged with these people to redeploy them to open positions where the company would retain valuable experience and save on relocation and training costs. Some days you've just got to be lost for words ..

Anonymous said...

I find myself wondering about severance. I know they don't have to offer it, but if you, or anyone else, knows what the 'standard' package is, I'd appreciate hearing about it.

As far as I know (my neighbor was RIFed recently -- now back as contractor), it is one week of pay for each six months of Microsoft service -- so with 15 years, you are looking at 7.5 months of salary...

Anonymous said...

My understanding from the last RIF was that there was a pretty decent amount of time to look for a new gig (3 months maybe?), and I think 8 weeks severance. That may be off, as I didn't live through it personally.

Where is the RIF happening?

Anonymous said...

For the person about to get RIF’d, I have seen resumes submitted internally from people in this position. Perhaps this process has changed, but these resumes have in the past been flagged with language letting the hiring manager know that the person submitting his or her resume has only so many days left
If that is the case it sounds a tad bit discriminatory. Not sure if that is the proper verbiage but as the poster says the applicant is stigmatized.

To the poster who said 1 week for each six months that is accurate. The RIF my group performed about 5 years ago that was the amount (plus 6 weeks to find a new job internally. That was their only job for 6 weeks).

To the poster who quoted 3 months to look for a job and 8 weeks severance I'm suspecting a troll; but since you say you were not close to the situation I will give you the benefit of the doubt this time...

Anonymous said...

>>"Looking at the success many of us are having in rising through the ranks, I can say that you must be the vocal minority in thinking this way."

- who precisely is us?
- To be honest I think your talk of rising through the ranks is exaggerated, the company is pretty stagnant right now.
There may be lateral movement with perhaps the granting of nominal titles at the lower levels but that does not equate to real movement.

Finally, you chided the guy for not having more assertive traits (read aggressive).
The selection for aggressive traits on the one hand and manipulative traits on the other are the biggest problem this company has. The promotion of these kinds of people has a damaging effect far beyond generating dysfunction in the immediate team; It creates chaos in whole groups leading to turf wars and the culture of blame that we have. It's also the reason that we have no real change and why the products are suffering.

Anonymous said...

Just consider our fearless leader, when he delights in insulting the original 28 employees who are gone and of course this same intellectual superstar is a reliable reference as he contributed so much to code quality in the early days and since, right?

One of original 10 (from well known picture) currently works for Microsoft (he left and came back when his then-current company got acquired by MS).

Anonymous said...

"not long after that I returned as a contractor. What a relief! the politics were gone! The review BS was history! Every single item that made work a drag before had vanished!"

When I left my GM asked me to consider staying in the company or staying in the group as a contractor (I was leaving because of the politics and I told him so. He understood exactly what I was talking about).

It's obviously known that people leave because of the politics and that people can be more productive without it so why can't something be done about it internally? It seems pretty dumb that people have to leave and then come as a contractor to do their job.

Anonymous said...

Back to this thread:
"microsoft is a game, and the game is "make the people above you love you" -- everything else is secondary. "
Did anyone else find the performance tool's training humorous? When it stated something to the effect of: One of our principles here at Microsoft is to make those around us great. Riiiight. Just not people in your same level/role. (Or make sure they don't get as "great" as you!)
What a load of BS! And I was really hoping insidems might address some of this...

Anonymous said...

- who precisely is us?

The poster singled out Indians.

- To be honest I think your talk of rising through the ranks is exaggerated, the company is pretty stagnant right now.

This depends on your definition of stagnant. Doesn't change the fact that there are more than half a dozen VPs of Indian origin today up from zero 10 years ago.

Finally, you chided the guy for not having more assertive traits
(read aggressive). ...


This is the nature of the beast. You have two options here -

1. Learn it, love it, use it.
2. Move on.

Pick one.

Anonymous said...

It seems pretty dumb that people have to leave and then come as a contractor to do their job.

Not if the company is getting the same work done for less money.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering how best to use the exit interview. Should I let them have the dirty truth or just sit back and give the standard safe line of "I found a better opportunity?" What do the others here think of this?
Leave the door open. Been there done that. Tell them what they want to hear - basically return the kool-aid. You will feel great. No better way to show discontent than to "walk away".

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, I cannot seek outside of MS because of the visa situation...
They love to have people like you in the ranks.No wonder why they are lobbying so hard to increase the H1B visa numbers. You're stuck in the same job for years and years due to visa and green card process, working on the same stuff with a lower than average salary ,low increases and crappy bonuses. They are well aware you foreigners have absolutely everything to loose if you decide to speak up or take action. This is the real world. Live with it or leave.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: It was my observation that Vista was built by frightened people. Or at least people afraid to kick the kool-aid.

Really? Why do you say this? Do you have any knowledge of what went on during Vista development?

My iside view is that alpha Longhorn was a debacle stemming from the highest level, with plenty of not-afraid people (up to and incuding Jim) trying to fix what was happening in 2003-2004.

Then, after the mid-2004 reset, the team did a pretty decent job of getting out a mostly high quality OS with plenty of good new features in just over 2 years.

Sure, there are some low points: Laptop battery life, memory requirements, bad bang for the buck on the visual effects (results not worth required GPU horsepower), crappy slideshow, bad tradeoffs on UAC.

But all in all the team really pulled together after the 2004 reset and executed in a distinctly non-scared way, from Jim's leadership (once he was freed to reset the project), on down.

If you have another *informed* perspective I'd love to hear it.

thanks,
Vista IC Dev.

Anonymous said...

"dude, after 15 at ms you should be loaded even without trying..."

'92 was a year or two too late in order to really make out unless you came in really senior and cashed out at the peak in '99. If you started out in PSS, you were hosed too.

"how did you manage to be in a fragile financial state when you started working at ms in ~92????"

Wanting to have a steady income and good benefits is different than having a fragile financial state. Continuing to build retirement funds is also preferable to having to pull out principle early.

Anonymous said...

>> "Not if the company is getting the same work done for less money."

not if the original guys full time position is filled as well (which it will be just to keep the headcount).
And to be honest it's hilarious to see business arguments for dumb decisions that are solely politically motivated.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who quoted 3 months to look for a job and 8 weeks severance I'm suspecting a troll; but since you say you were not close to the situation I will give you the benefit of the doubt this time...

I'm an idiot, not a troll :)

Sorry for the bad info. I thought the job search process was a lot longer. I never thought they'd let it be your FT job for 6 weeks to do nothing other than look for a new gig.

Anonymous said...

>"If you mean that people can change things from the bottom by leading by example; it would be nice to see that happen but it won't because around here that's taken as a sign of weakness or not being a "team-player" and you should know from the comments here what happens to those people."

What I mean is what I said, referring to everyone at Microsoft and their general attitudes toward the company and everybody else.

There are different corporate cultures each with unique markers. Some that behave like Shakespearean tragedies, others are suicidal, others are altruistic, and still others are 'enlightened' with a proclivity toward growth of the individual. Microsoft is a lot of things, but I think it fits best in the Shakespearean or Greek tragedy category in many ways. Especially when you look at the vitriol that has evolved over the years to form a kind of semi-dysfunctional zone of tragic proportions both inside and outside. That in turn affects the world's customers, stock price, thousands of investment funds and of course the ability of the individual to obtain desired and expected performance from the products. Which, in turn, affects tens of thousands of other businesses and products that has a negative doubling and tripling effect on your end use customer's ability to get work done efficiently and effectively.

And then you add to that the structural difficulties of executive's inability to separate the various businesses which in turn looks like monopoly practice which in turn activates all kinds of legal entities to look closely at what is going on. A well managed company such as GE or IBM would not suffer the same problems (these days) because they have learned how to separate businesses which have a multiplier-monopoly effect which would rouse the ilk of various world governing bodies.

While one can understand Judge Kotelli's decisions because the original monopoly case was only against a small quill in a generally full grown cactus, it would have hardly been justified to break the company up for the original IE case. However as new acquisitions begin to build into the existing corporation, there may now be finally grounds developing for a full forced breakup, assuming Microsoft continues on its tragic mismanaged course and finds itself unable to break off the parts which would constitute a monopoly.

But to be clear, my original point was primarily aimed at suggesting that the decks be cleared and that the problem in the end is in the hands of individuals, both partners and IC’s. Your point about team players is interesting in that I had responded earlier with a team player point that Mini somehow has 'lost'. The point being that team player is a label and tool for HR (in pretty much any corporation) to use to enforce behavior and to justify RIFs and IC firings. It is nothing more than a herding tool Microsoft suffers from a failure to realize it needs individuals who are not team players but who can think rationally and make correct decisions outside the so called team player box. Team players will only amplify stupid partner decisions and therefore continue the problem.

I recommend looking up MacBeth on Wikipedia and scroll down to the parts where mention of individual and group character as one of the themes of the tragedy. Dang, there really was value in all them thar liberal arts requirements you had to take in college, unless you have a degree from a nation that does not teach western values. But one has to carefully consider how many Kings and Macbeths have found safe refuge in the confusion that is Microsoft where they can comfortably exist in the vacuum caused by a house full of team players spewing into the big empty. A culture within a company is more important than the products themselves because if the culture is self-destructive, it’s over before it starts.

Anonymous said...

Wow. For the person who thinks that Jim was responsible for fixing things, you surely must have been out of the loop. Jim was the reason we were on the crazy train in the first place, and it took a lot of people to turn that around. Once this started to happen, Jim reversed polarity and took his managed code love extremes to managed code hate extremes.

He was a worthless and loud person to have at the helm and always was that way. I don't understand why he survived within the company and how he was allowed more projects after mistakes like Cairo.

Vista shipped too soon. We did damned well on it, given the restart and ship timing. Windows 7 will be talked about by ignorant press as so much better than Vista, simply because we are shipping so few new features and working on the polish we didn't get in the last time around.

Anonymous said...

"For the person getting RIF'ed"

Have you thought of looking for gigs in the field? Last year when the HQS team got RIF'ed they were tagged and moved to the front of the list for open roles. A few of them were slotted into very nice roles regardless of their qualifications. Not sure what your current role or background is but with your proven ability to use a keyboard and fog a mirror you are more than qualified for a STU Manager role. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

How messed up is this? All this talk about hiring new people and it looks like hr hasn't engaged with these people to redeploy them to open positions where the company would retain valuable experience and save on relocation and training costs. Some days you've just got to be lost for words ..
-----
because they are going to trade you in for cheaper and "alledgedly" current to new world technology people (think RCG or 3d world visa folsk)

Anonymous said...

I wonder - how many senior management-level MS people read this blog?

If it's as many as I suspect, then perhaps the problem with all the (IMHO) valid comments I'm reading here is that there isn't enough naming of names going on.

I'm not advocating the airing of dirty internal laundry, or the calling out of specific managers as a way of exercising an ill-placed vendetta; of course, that would be counter-productive at the least, defamatory at the most.

But until some peoples' feet are held more aggressively to the fire, what's to prevent them from reading this blog and thinking, "Well, they can't mean me - I'm a GREAT manager"?

So, if noone wants to step up and say anything negative about their environment, even on their way out the door, then perhaps Mini would consider moderating some proper nouns into the conversation...

Anonymous said...

"So, if noone wants to step up and say anything negative about their environment, even on their way out the door, then perhaps Mini would consider moderating some proper nouns into the conversation..."

Those of us who have spoken up, and not on our way out the door, have been raked over the coals. So while I agree with you, I don't see how anyone is going to get their feet held to the fire by any of us here. Unless we do start airing dirty laundry, by naming names and naming groups. I'm doubtful Mini will let that kind of stuff through en masse but...I could be wrong.

Of course, people will also have to be careful that they don't implicate themselves here just as they sometimes have implicated themselves in the MS Poll. Unless you're absolutely sure that no one can figure out it's you, there's no more sense in sharing negative feedback here than there is IRL.

Anonymous said...

We need to start firing some of the middle manager people that made some of the shitty decisions for Vista. I'm not going to highlight any specific area here, and I'm not saying that Vista is bad, just that bad decisions were made in many areas.

Let's blow away a few layers of these folks. Most won't be too pissed, since they've already made their millions.

I agree with the earlier person that mentioned that Jim was to blame for Vista. He just kept adding features. His feedback on some items bordered on ridiculous, yet because of who he was, the changes had to be made. When the customer feedback AND the product teams tell you it's a bad idea, you should listen to them.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous Vista IC Dev:

"Really? Why do you say this? Do you have any knowledge of what went on during Vista development?

...

If you have another *informed* perspective I'd love to hear it."

Vista was maybe my 4th OS (not counting service pack work), so I had plenty of experience in the Windows org. I've had my nose in various parts of the code for years.

For Vista, what I saw was that people were afraid to communicate impending failure upwards. People were afraid to self-host early. People were afraid to challenge the half-baked hairballs of architecture and code that there was no time to unravel before ship.

Of course, some of that goes on in every OS, but for Vista, I saw a cultural shift and a greater rift than usual between what was said and what was done.

Probably worse in my org than yours, but wasn't Vista a more screwed up release cycle than usual? Maybe I just had it good for the other OS's?

Since the year I started at MSFT there were at least five OS's (if you count WinMe as an OS) shipped by thousands of people - taking all that accumulated experience and leveraging it to make the best new OS ever should have been easier. Why didn't it go better, especially after the reset?

The most telltale sign for me was this:

In my group, no high-level exec or manager ever came forward and said "we made a mistake" or "our team could use some improvement" about ANYTHING, but there was plenty of crap to flow downhill when the blame game needed to be played. In formal meetings, there was no discussion of the elephant in the middle of the room or the unclothed emperor, but when you listened to the hallway talk it was clear there were unaddressed problems at all levels.

How did that happen?

If you looked at what was being communicated up, the message was usually "on track".

Again, maybe that was just my org, but for me, it manifested globally - in the quality of the builds, the ever-changing processes, the lowered quality bars, the renaming game for betas and RC's, and the lack of enthusiasm from customers.

I don't see Vista's shortcomings as a purely engineering problem - the worst effects came from contributing cultural factors that prevented honest assessment of real engineering problems.

So for lack of a better term - I called that "fear". Call it what you will. Results may vary.

So is everyone super-excited about the best new OS ever? Obviously not me. But yeah, I was there.

I know how to solve technical problems, but not cultural or managerial ones.

Long live Mini for taking on that problem.

Anonymous said...

Man, you tinylimps can't do anything original, can you? Fake Steve Ballmer?

Anonymous said...

"Doesn't change the fact that there are more than half a dozen VPs of Indian origin today up from zero 10 years ago."
Just cause there are couple of black rockstars and basketball players doesn't mean rest of the brother's are doing great.
I was in one of the groups with couple of these H1B guys who where working like they where in sweat-shops. All cause they were stuck. They'd be given deadlines that no one else would accept. These guys would be working 16 hour days to hit the deadline. The Manager would use that extra productivity to justify a larger team full of his cronies spending time to fight his political battles.
These bro's aren't going places. They are funding rewards and promo's of the manager's loyal cronies.

Anonymous said...

I was in one of the groups with couple of these H1B guys who where working like they where in sweat-shops. All cause they were stuck. They'd be given deadlines that no one else would accept. These guys would be working 16 hour days to hit the deadline.

One does not necessarily follow the other.

There is nothing wrong with paying your dues. Although I will grant that this may be compounded by an inability to say no due to cultural factors such as a propensity to trust the elders (managers). When this is coupled with managers who do not reciprocate that trust, you will have the situation described in your post.

Anonymous said...

"If it's as many as I suspect, then perhaps the problem with all the (IMHO) valid comments I'm reading here is that there isn't enough naming of names going on."

-----------

actually there has been quite a bit calling out names/groups over the 3 years since i have been reading / contributing to this blog.... mini does a good balance on trade offs when things go really off track ... it has touched nerves..

usually its the usual suspects from base + networking (if you work in windows) and some of the O12 leaders ;-) and MSN has had their dues as well...

hi jawad :-)

Anonymous said...

"So for lack of a better term - I called that "fear". Call it what you will. Results may vary.
So is everyone super-excited about the best new OS ever? Obviously not me. But yeah, I was there."

I was a CSG tester on Vista and I also have worked on previous OS's since and including Win2000.

At my low lab-rat level, I saw no difference from previous OS's in the way Vista bugs were handled or in the willingness to deal with them: if we found them the managers and the devs wanted to fix them and they fixed them any chance they got.

The real problem was that there were less bugs found because the work was not done as thoroughly or methodically than before. More than 3/4 of the working time was spent working on or debugging automation tools. My bug count went down dramatically from when I was working on XP and testing "manually". Same for other testers around me.

Also, when you're looking for a contract as a CSG tester at MS nowadays, you see in the job specs a lot of emphasis put on writing automation: this used to be the SDET job.

It takes time to write code: you're not testing anything while you're doing it: and then you spend a good amount of time testing that code too :-)

People are not naive at Microsoft: they had to drink the automation-as-religion Kool-Aid because it came from the top and was not negociable. It was understood that we were somewhat cutting corners but that it would save huge amounts of money. I don't know how it worked out financially but some of the the product difficulties can be traced to QA. I use Vista only because the force me: if it were left to me I'd stay with XP.

Steve Ballmer said...

I promise that when I'm rid of these handcuffs Bill has on me next year when he is out of the picture, things will change!
http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com