Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wrong-Right-Wrong-Wrong?

Wrong-Right-Wrong-Wrong? Some comments on the Bungie split, starting with this blunt one:

Mini, you have never gotten something so wrong as your MS/Bungie comments.

This is not a Win/Win situation, the only party that wins is Bungie, MS does not win, you do not win. Bungie wins because they are no longer governed by Microsoft management, no longer have to deal with all the different diseases that MS management suffers from, and that have been brought up so many times in this blog.

You do not win, because you lost 100+ badges, but those badges were part of some of the most talented employees that the game industry has seen, MS is not better off if their best talent leaves, which is happening across the company. What do you envision? A Microsoft half its size but without its superstars? The superstars (teams and individuals) are the ones that have been carrying the company for some time now, you lose them you have nothing left, you need to keep your good talent, motivate them, and compensate them. On the different groups I have worked and that have interacted with I usually see one or two guys that keep the team afloat, fix/patch management mistakes, and do the work of the incompetent ones, without those superstars you have nothing. And note that most of these guys are not compensated well and will probably never make it to Partner level.

:

Microsoft stopped worrying about retaining the best talent long time ago, they are more worried about hiring new people (I belive Lisa said this almost verbally in one of the meetings when there was a question about attrition), so this should not be THAT surprising to anybody.

An additional comment here:

Giggling with glee when some of the best people your organisation have left for _whatever_ reason is just a bad call. It's not a numbers game. Not only do vast numbers of people have to leave, but they have to be the RIGHT PEOPLE. (Or the wrong people, depending on how you look at it.) The ones who drag down those who can actually make good decisions and execute them.

:

Without good people, it's unlikely that anything substantial will improve. The bad people will corrupt whatever good ideas or strategies are instituted, and they'll seriously hamper execution ability.

Okay, so putting aside the dim, snarky Mini-persona here: yes, (1) losing Bungie is bad for Microsoft, and (2) not being an environment where external creative teams are just dying to be a part of (as in, "Oh, man, if we were a part of Microsoft, just imagine the support, the ideas, the creative management and extra features we'd be able to deliver!") is a big problem. I'm still coming from the perspective that any attrition is good attrition and the loss of hyper-talented people will awaken some crisis-driven change to assess why this is happening and prevent it.

This is my destroy the village to save it perspective.

But I got to say, I never-ever foresaw the huge employee growth we'd be encumbered with in just a few years. I'm mean, Crazy-who-the-hell-is-running-this-place kind of growth. We're no longer a village. We're a sprawling, poorly-planned metroplex, and neighborhoods - like Bungieville - can be completely wiped out and life goes as as usual. Crap.

Given that, I like Mr. Ballmer's concept of Many Microsofts, not just one mono-culture Microsoft. There can be the Yawnville Microsoft for stable, IT-driven software products. And there can be a crazy, rule-breakin' bass-thumpin' tat-covered Bartown Microsoft for the entertainment side. And black mock-turtlenecks for the connected, beatnik Zen Hill Microsoft. I think that would be great (and about as close as we'd be able to come to a smaller Microsoft).

But we're by no means there and I don't see a path getting us there. Me? I think we would need to have leaders with strong, exuberant personalities that not only have people's interest but also their respect, earned through their results. Look, I don't expect to like our leaders. In fact, if leadership isn't pissing you off occasionally with an uncomfortable change in direction then they are doing something wrong. Leadership is hard and it usually involves knowing the right thing to do, and that right thing is something not apparent to everyone and reflects hard, comfort-zone-breaking change no-one wants to endure. Oh, sure, we'll all end up bitching and moaning about it (and maybe blog about it) but it ends up being the right thing due to the results and where it puts the company and its shareholders. Whoa. (thump-thump-peace-sign.) Respect.

What's that scorecard look like?

Facebook is Dead: the bloom is off this blossom. I hope Facebook has some interesting announcements queued up because more people are saying bo-ring. Well, that and Scoble wanting more than 5,000 friends.

Mr. Dave Winer: Why Facebook Sucks. Looking forward:

Sometime in November Google is rumored to be revealing their answer to Facebook. Whatever it is it will surely have an API, and will allow Google apps to share the info, and it will, if it hopes to compete with Facebook, provide some access to this data to app developers. But the true measure of their gravitas will be whether they give full control of the user's data to the user. If they do that, no matter what's missing from their software, it won't suck.

Yeah, I'm sure Big Broth- I mean, Google would love to have a thriving connected social network that rivals MySpace and Facebook. Oh, the targeted ads that you could sell! Continuing Scoble's 5,000 rant:

Facebook’s engineers tell me that the 5,000 friend limit is there because their engines have scaling problems. In fact, I’ve noticed parts of Facebook slowed down for me at about 3,000 friends. Also lots of stuff broke and didn’t work for me (videos, for instance, didn’t work until just recently for me).

Looks like November might be interesting.

Vote With Your Feet Already: the exit interview part of the last post pulled up some interesting first-hand experiences of leaving Microsoft (and getting threats from management) and mostly disinterested exit interviews. Regarding being under one of these bad managers at Microsoft:

  1. Vote with your feet.
  2. Vote with your feet.
  3. Vote with your feet.

Hiring, at least for me, is hard. And it's getting harder. Do you realize the power you have to influence management at Microsoft?

Google is sucking up talented college hires (yeah, if I was graduating from college and could work at Google I would, not even caring I was wedged to work on some flat surface out in the hallways). It's getting more difficult to find and hire experienced people. Good people inside of Microsoft are leaving. Somehow, the light bulb hasn't quite clicked on yet for all the great Microsoft contributors that they are volunteers, to a degree, and if they find a group that's more interesting in the company, that other group is probably desperate to hire. If you're good, getting the job isn't the question. "When can you start?" is.

This is still a great time to look around internally and reach out to other Microsoft groups and find a place where you want to be. Use your network or the liaison site to find a great manager. I would be delighted beyond all measures if, instead of a blog about complaining about all the everyday crap people go through, there was a blog bragging about the great managers and the great groups we have. Eh, make it internal if you want. Sure, people will complain about sycophants and all that. I trust you to be bright enough to see through that. Cut out the bad by supporting - and putting a spotlight on - the good. Raise them up as an example. And starve the bad managers and bad groups of people. When they can't get results, their leadership will be forced to replace them with people that can.

One idea. But it starts with you ensuring you are where you want to be, and if not, voting with your feet.


91 comments:

Some Guy said...

Well, of *course* hiring is hard. You're working at a company with a dismal reputation, including criminal convictions, a stock price that's been flat since your current CEO was promoted, no prospect of technical innovation beyond playing catch-up to Apple and Google, terrible morale that's evident not only from this blog but from stories like "the Windows shutdown crapfest", and the list goes on and on.

Any kid out of school these days who has an offer from Microsoft and an offer from a completely unknown startup would have to be nuts to take Microsoft's offer.

Of course, this all only applies to people that you'd actually want. You can always hire all the dregs you can stand.

Anonymous said...

>> would have to be nuts to take Microsoft's offer

For about 90% of Microsoft that'd be the case, I agree. However, there's another 10% - folks who work on the "interesting bits" in Search, Windows, CLR/compilers/other DevDiv stuff, XBox, SQL. One would be stupid to not go there, just for the experience.

Anonymous said...

Eh, mini's right. The best we can get are a lot of somewhat cool smaller companies to make up Microsoft. The problem is we're a huge corporation; there's no making that cool. We have great benefits and mediocre salaries, which will never attract the "cool" risk takers. The big opportunities are at the executive level, and you don't see too many of them sticking around to volunteer after they've made their dough.

Face it mini, we'll never be able to shed the culture because we can never go back to being a cool hip place because we cannot unbecome a huge effing corporation.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, mini, on the blog about great teams/managers!

Anonymous said...

Okay - so based on review scores and stock grants, I'm a high leveled top performer with decent name recognition inside/outside the company.

I've got zero confidence that upper management is intersted in fostering careers for higher leveled performers, and until I hear otherwise I have to strongly consider other options.

Call it avoiding a 'career dead end' or 'voting with your feet', it is what it is.

It's unfortunate, because I'm the type of softie that bleeds blue, but not at the expense of my career and the need to provide for my family.

The lack of career opportunities matched with the knowledge of my market value is becoming a deal breaker.

That's the shame - if they can't keep the strong people who want to stay, imagine how many disgruntled folks are just turning in notice.

At any rate, I've got plenty of offers outside of Seattle, but my family is interested in staying in the area. Who are the best headhunters for senior folks these days?

Anonymous said...

> It's getting more difficult to find and hire experienced people.

I've never got the impression that Microsoft was that interested in hiring EXPERIENCED people. You want to hire recent college grads up through ~5 years industry experience. You make no effort to hire people with 10 or 20 years experience. Google is even worse, but at least they're honest about it. They make no pretense about their target candidate.

Charles said...

When they can't get results, their leadership will be forced to replace them with people that can.

And yet, for nearly a decade, the leadership charged with that responsibility has in fact been the source of the multiple serial failures to get profitable, sustainable, timely results.

The leadership responsible for change must recognize both that a problem exists and what is the solution (or minimally what hasn't worked).

The leadership responsible for change must ensure that the companies infrastructure and products can accommodate change, change dictated by customer-centric features instead of anti-competitive "innovation".

The leadership responsible for change must build a culture that rewards success instead of failure and that lemming-like resolute march over the cliff of unprofitable, underwhelming underachievment.

It is the leadership that can't get results and avoids even comparison (let alone replacing itself) with people who can.

Anonymous said...

>"This is my destroy the village to save it perspective."

Great piece Mini, as an outsider I would like to offer a slightly different view.

When examining some of the behavior of your company and some of the statements of probable partner comments, one gets the sense that there is a cabal of managers at Microsoft who do things a certain way, the Gates-Balmer way. For example referring to customers as grazers implying the slaughter to come, or the reference in the last post about BillG using Halo 3 as an attack poodle against Sony's Playstation 3 (which in turn rejects millions of potential customers who might want to buy the Halo series).

Just analyzing Microsoft company behavior over 25 years, it is pretty easy to see the Gates and Balmer stamp of approval on every partner, every strategic decision and every slightly unethical or implied illegal action the company has taken all those years. But time has moved on and we are in a new Century and I suppose things work a little differently now, though CEOs will continue to try to flip the bozo against the competition.

My take is the company is suffering from leadership that has the Gates-Balmer programming bozo flips (set true to false) that will inevitably come out wrong wrong wrong wrong, even if it takes the better part of this decade or the next to realize itself. They see it as right right right right and the blindness is what is causing all the problems, starting with loss of reputation and feeding on down through attrition of good people and hiring difficulty. Because no matter what you do, if all the mayors of your sprawling whatever are programmed this way, the net result will be an unethical experience and a negative drag on the company.

The hard answer is the only way to fix the problem is to remove the cause, starting with Bill Gates and Steve Balmer. Once that happens (assuming the new managers don't have the same low ethical mindset) the slow process of weeding out all the low ethical-standard partners will take many years. But it has to start with removing the cause, and clearly that is Gates and Balmer in the New World.

Anonymous said...

We have great benefits and mediocre salaries, which will never attract the "cool" risk takers.

Yeah, except the review structure only rewards "cool" riks takers. People who do their job and go home to their families get labled 'Kim" and chased out.

So, MSFT only wants risk takers, but is not attractive to good ones. The result is it has lots of bad risk takers, taking bad risks, and screwing up.

The first job of new management (if such a thing ever comes along) will be to figure out how to actually be the kind of company it wants to be.

Anonymous said...

Posting here since this is the active thread of comments.

Recently COSD implemented the standard titles. It was suprising to see many folks in lower bands than what they had appeared to be (and are capable of)

It just appears that COSD (Windows in general) seems to promote their employees at a slower pace than some other groups at Microsoft.

I know of too many people (in the Senior band) outside of Windows who would only just compare to some of people (in the II band) in Windows - but they are 2 levels above and enjoying better compesation etc.

Why is this?

Is it reasonable to think moving out of Windows would increase one's career velocity?

Some Guy said...

" The problem is we're a huge corporation; there's no making that cool."

Look at 3M or GE for a counter-example. The size of a corporation alone doesn't necessarily mean that it has to suck.

Some Guy said...

"Who are the best headhunters for senior folks these days?"

For higher-level jobs, forget headhunters. Work through your personal connections, which you should have been developing at conferences, working on standards committees, etc. Talk to your friends, not to some clown on commission who's probably going to submit your name to your current manager.

Some Guy said...

" Google is even worse, but at least they're honest about it. They make no pretense about their target candidate."

I beg to differ. Google tried pretty hard to recruit me on several occasions over the last three years (I declined because I think my current start-up will be more fun and more lucrative), and I know about a dozen top-level developers and managers that they've recruited from Apple.

If you're a 20-year industry veteran and Google doesn't want you, it's probably because you haven't done anything in those 20 years to stand out.

Anonymous said...

on a vaguely related note of accountability of senior execs: the 2007 proxy statement has some interesting data on SPSA compensation for the partners and senior execs.

First, from the section Compensation Mix for Named Executive Officers, we see 86% of compensation for named execs is supposed to be SPSA. Then in Fiscal Year 2007 SPSAs, we see that none of the execs hit their SPSA bonus numbers. KJ comes in worst at only 22% of target. That's still a boatload of money, but if every partner in his org ended up with a similar bonus multiplier (or divider, heh), perhaps we're seeing some semblance of accountability. Would love to see the numbers for EDD given their huge red-ring write-off.

The MSFT emperor's new clothes said...

Its national bosses day on Tuesday 10/16. Anyone doing anthing special at MSFT?

Anonymous said...

Y'know, I've been reading a lot recently that if you're unhappy you need to "vote with your feet."

That's great, in principle, but it's one of those "easier said than done" principles.

Besides, if you're a good Microsoftie (as opposed to one of the many lame ones of recent years), then you just moving to another group and doing your thing is more of a corporate inconvenience than anything else.

Here are some other suggestions for all of you good Microsofties:

- Vote with your feet OUT of the company (which, of course, Mini would love, but I think he may under-estimate the long-term damage mass defection of the top 33% may do). Of course, "mass defection" assumes that the local tech industry could absorb 20,000 people on the market, which I'm not sure it could, unfortunately.

- Vote by testing the lower boundary of whatever bucket you fall into. Sorta like a work slowdown, except you're not really hurting yourself by completely slacking, you're just seeing what the minbar amount of work you can do and still maintain a healthy lifestyle is. ;-) A mass work slowdown of this type would probably be noticeable at the macro level but untraceable at the micro level.

Moving groups every couple of years causes YOU more pain than it causes the COMPANY because most of YOU are just COGS in the MACHINE. Sure, there's ramp up of the new guy, but except for a very select few, you leaving isn't that big a deal.

Anonymous said...

"Is it reasonable to think moving out of Windows would increase one's career velocity?"

Quite possibly. My skip-level manager in Office even talked in a team meeting once about the slower promotion schedule in our organization. Of course, it was spun as "being a level 62 here actually means something" instead of "equally skilled employees are paid less here".

So I wouldn't recommend coming to Office if you're looking for something faster. Word on the street is that MSN/Live/whatever the hell they're calling it these days is fertile ground for overleveling.

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember who the headhunter for the Wall Street tech jobs was? He added a couple of comments some posts back - from what I remember he was an ex-softie.

Anonymous said...

So Microsoft has turned the corner. They are no longer the edgy employer of choice for the 16-hour-a-day hacker who wants to leave his mark on the industry.

While those folks look elsewhere, has Microsoft become the safe haven for average programmers with good skills and risk-averse temperaments who are looking for a safe job-for-life?

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I work in the field - in a leadership role in an MS subsidiary.

This company has gone absolutely crazy on the concept of scorecards. There is now a scorecard for EVERYTHING. I am all for accountability and in the past, perhaps there was the ability to tighten things up.

However, we have gone way overboard to the extent that there are hundreds of "metrics" - most of highly questionable value. We spend way too much time figuring out the complex metric some MBA with 2 years of work experieince cooked up, whether the data is accurate (you'll know i really work in the field when i tell you most of the time it is not) and ultimately, do we really care?

We need some radical field simplicfication so we can spend more time with customers, more time with our partners and more time thinking about how to grow the business. The problem with 99% of the metrics is that they are only related in a tertiary way to revenue and profitability.

In Redmond, there seem to be an endless supply of clever MBAs. They are absolutely killing field productivity in order to prove their "value".

I hope one of the "quartet" is reading this. Please: measure only what matters and never roll a scorecard out unless the tools actually work!

Anonymous said...

Vote by testing the lower boundary of whatever bucket you fall into. Sorta like a work slowdown, except you're not really hurting yourself by completely slacking, you're just seeing what the minbar amount of work you can do and still maintain a healthy lifestyle is

Good short term advice. This aligns well with the not-so-subtle question in every mspoll that links pay with work/life balance. Given the insipid results of the past few years I suspect plenty of people are doing this today.

In the longer term though this is damaging to your career and prospects. You risk becoming another one of those 20 year industry veterans who has nothing to show for all that experience.

Anonymous said...

A mass work slowdown of this type would probably be noticeable at the macro level but untraceable at the micro level.

Bah, I doubt it would be noticeable at the macro level. It would just get lost in the general decrease in productivity that's been draining the company the last few years. Or, to put it another way, how could you tell the difference between an intentional work slowdown and Vista?

But, the general notion that bopping around inside the company isn't really a good reaction to dysfunction is right.

Anonymous said...

You guys are all talking about headhunters. A thing to remember: When they call you unsolicited, they usually have done some homework, and it is a compliment that you should consider. Soliciting a headhunter on your own is risky. You would be working on their terms and if they have not called you first, it is likely they are not looking for `you'.

Get an executive to field your name and number to overcome this catch 22, preferably not from Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Sure, there's ramp up of the new guy, but except for a very select few, you leaving isn't that big a deal.

The idea is not to punish those you're leaving. The idea is to get OUT so you can start improving your own career and life. If they fill in with {whoever} and go along their merry way, fine. But you no longer have to bear the brunt of some jerk's irresponsible and whacky behavior yourself. That's worth voting with your feet right there.

If it's not, then things aren't as bad where you are as you thought they were.

Anonymous said...

Every company needs people that can just get the grunt work done. All this talk about dropping the non-superstars forgets this. So who are you going to get to do the crap that your 'superstars' don't want to touch?

To paraphrase Bioshock: "These sad saps. They come to Microsoft, thinking they're gonna be captains of industry. But they all forget that somebody's gotta scrub the toilets."

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is that MSN/Live/whatever the hell they're calling it these days is fertile ground for overleveling.


So very true. I was in a small windows serfdom that had not promoted a single non-PM in 4 yrs. Not one. Everyone who was, by worker-bee consensus, in line for promo got the heck out of Dodge, either to another team, or simply out of MS entirely.

Nitpick

Windows Live != MSN There
s a huge difference, even if customers don't know the difference. Both have massive widespread cancerous problems and self-inflicted wounds.

From what I've seen, both orgs are a great place to hide until it's time to blow the resume smoke and upgrade finances.

As dysfunctional as I've made it sound, there is some incredible talent and drive in those groups - but they get mired quickly

Anonymous said...

>> Use your network or the liaison site to find a great manager.

What is "the liaison site"?

Anonymous said...

Overleveling at MS, nah, never happens...

I had to turn away a CSG candidate in Windows once, just didn't have enough horsepower to make the bar. Nice guy, willing to learn, just couldn't offer anything to contribute to the team.

He went to work for Visio, got on FT with them, seemed to be a good match. MS buys up Visio, this guy comes on as a FT MS employee, two levels above where I was at the time. He hadn't gained any particular set of skills, still the same limited contributor. Funny that...

Mini, I get a strange sense of cathartic satisfaction from your blog, reassures me that leaving when I did was the right move, both for me and probably for MS too. I wasn't happy, blackballed from moving to other groups (I was labled a "management nightmare", funny since all I was trying to do was move the blocks and get the work done), and in general not enjoying life. Much, much better now.

You made an interesting comment about doing the right things. There's a difference between leaders and managers; leaders strive to do the right thing and managers strive to do things right. Cliche' I know, but leaders don't worry so much about breaking the rules if that is what doing the right thing requires. Managers will worry about making sure the smallest of details is tended to EVEN IF it means driving the ship into the rocks. As long as they do what they're told the way they're told, the result is SOMEONE ELSE'S RESPONSIBILITY!

I wish you all luck and good fortune.

Former Windows Build guy...
(anonymous to protect some folks I still know work there)

Anonymous said...

RE: I work in the field - in a leadership role in an MS subsidiary...

If you're in a leadership role, you shold be able to see what's coming in time to duck (I hope). Massive statistics are what comes before (and are used to justify) BIG changes...

Post back in a year and tell me I was wrong. OK?

Anonymous said...

When they call you unsolicited, they usually have done some homework, and it is a compliment that you should consider.


Another post from a headhunter I guess.

Most of them got your name from somewhere they will never disclose, and have no idea what you do or what you are about. Deal with any of them at your own risk.

Anonymous said...

> Every company needs people that can just get the grunt work done. All this talk about dropping the non-superstars forgets this. So who are you going to get to do the crap that your 'superstars' don't want to touch?

You got the idea backwards, it is not about dropping the non-superstars, it is about keeping and attracting superstars/hard workers. If all you have left are people that do the ground work who is going to go the extra mile to exceed expectations, solve the hard problems, do the hard research, etc? The root of the problem is not so much the people as it is Microsoft's attitude towards retaining talent.

Anonymous said...

> While those folks look elsewhere, has Microsoft become the safe haven for average programmers with good skills and risk-averse temperaments who are looking for a safe job-for-life?

Maybe, if you can tolerate random changes in management's direction, get used to the yearly reorg, and you are lucky enough to have a good manager.

Anonymous said...

"He went to work for Visio, got on FT with them, seemed to be a good match. MS buys up Visio, this guy comes on as a FT MS employee, two levels above where I was at the time. He hadn't gained any particular set of skills, still the same limited contributor. Funny that..."

Ha, so basically you got BADLY owned?

Anonymous said...

When do the Pulse poll results come out?

Anonymous said...

I would be delighted beyond all measures if, instead of a blog about complaining about all the everyday crap people go through, there was a blog bragging about the great managers and the great groups we have.

That blog would have, what, seven posts?

Who in their right mind would post that they are in a good group and have a good manager? The risk of attracting parasites in the Ayn Rand sense would be too high.

Better that the train wrecks have the floodlights lit up on them so that the clueful can avoid them.

Case in point MXPS the microsoft.com teams. Hopeless, absolutely hopeless. Web metric tools that are next to useless, web publishing systems that are unreliable, multiple masters DevDiv, STB, BMO, UE, etc., and leaders who were cutting edge 10 years ago thinking that web 2.0 features will shuffle the deck chairs enough to bring customer sat up when the main driver of sat is product reliablity.

My 18 months in position are almost up and I'll be able to escape the tar pit.

Anonymous said...

Massive statistics are what comes before (and are used to justify) BIG changes...

...or Partners attempting to accumulate enough statistics to cover thier SPSA heinies for next year.

Anonymous said...

>Word on the street is that MSN/Live/whatever the hell they're calling it these days is fertile ground for overleveling.

The word I have is that they're hard up for good people and will reward anybody competent who goes there very well. Amounts to the same thing, but if you're just about out the door anyway it can't hurt to try it out for a bit. It might even stop them bloating the company by one more external hire.

Either way, they're not going to stop hiring for the online crap; it's pretty much their only hope for growth. It's not like our old cash cows are going to double in revenue anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

What's so great about 3M or GE? I ask in all seriousness.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I have had my talent wasted for 6 years. Joined out of college and have nothing to show for it. Not a superstar because I've been tasked with the grunt work with the promise this will all change (real soon now). Instead I watch interns get all the choice opportunities. Yes I'm in Windows org.

Where do I go from here? I am seriously seeking entry level prgramming positions just so I can ship actual code instead of infrastructure/QA.

How does this read to potential employers? Do I underestimate my resume?

Anonymous said...

There's a bunch of overleveling in the Live Search group --- for example, if you look at the org chart, you'll see lots of Principal Engineers with small teams of SDE and SDE IIs... very few Senior SDEs. This being said, it isn't necessarily clear you can just hop over and get a free promo, or expect one quickly. The reality is that it's much easier to leave the company for a bit (for a higher level gig) and then return in a year or two at a job 1-2 levels above where you were.

Anonymous said...

Another post from a headhunter I guess ... Deal with any of them at your own risk.
Dude get real: they've got to make a living just like any of us. As an MBA I've worked with a lot of them (including the ones that brought me in and out of MSFT) they're just another channel and just as unpleasant as HR (actually better as they only get $$$ if you do get hired as opposed to getting another bunch of paperwork to fill). Whether by the time you need a job the market for you will be demand-driven or supply-driven is not determined by whether you talk to headhunters it's determined by whether you're fishing when you HAVE a job or when you NEED one. So while you should feel absolutely free to sit on your butt hoping for the perfect job to show up, I wouldn't necessarily pass that as good advice .... my 0.02

Anonymous said...

He went to work for Visio, got on FT with them, seemed to be a good match. MS buys up Visio, this guy comes on as a FT MS employee, two levels above where I was at the time.
So Visio hired the guys you considered too lame, but was still successful enough to be considered a worthwile acquisition by Microsoft?

Seems Visio management was better at getting things done with the Kims ;-)

Some Guy said...

" When they call you unsolicited, they usually have done some homework."

What color is the sky on your planet?

Charles said...

... it is about keeping and attracting superstars/hard workers. If all you have left are people that do the ground work who is going to go the extra mile to exceed expectations, solve the hard problems, do the hard research, etc?

"hard" problems are routinely solved by average people doing average research, average marketing, average selling, average accounting, average managing, etc., and more often they go the extra mile trying to meet a deadline or target.

Faux "super stars" are highly, highly overrated. They are prima donnas, whose results are rarely worth the extra comp and stroking their overweight egos require. While they may in a narrow discipline exhibit a markedly higfher "intuition", they very broadly exhibit extemely poor judgement and interpersonal skills. They often create more problems (both technically and managerially) than they fix, and they rarely prevent any. Their competitive nature precludes the cooperation and patience essential for team building.

I have only known a few genuine superstars, most are product architects or research fellows and one is a CTO. They repeatedly produce exceptionally high quality results by themselves without needing others to fill-in the blanks or correct oversights. They are cautious, thorough, meticulous, cooperative and goal-oriented and spend most of their time learning from others instead of telling others.

It is often *assumed* that "Kims" are replaceable, whereas "superstars" are not. That is a two-fold fallacy endemic to most large companies:

1) Numbers dictate that large companies, of necessity, will be comprised mainly of "Kims" as there are not enough genuine "superstars" to keep a company operating. The trenches are filled with Kims, not superstars. The recruits are largely Kims, not superstars. The management is geared toward oversight of Kims, not superstars. Customers likewise are more comfortable with Kims as the arrogance and demands (however well-intentioned) of superstars creates rifts.

2) Ironically, even genuine superstars aren't that valuable in most companies, in spite of their scarcity because they are so poorly managed or obstructed that they are precluded from making a superstar impact, and consequently, if you can't get the company out of the superstar's way, then you're wasting your time and money having hired them.

Personally, I prefer Kims over superstars any day of the week. I'll consider a superstar if I'm convinced that in addition to their (actual) super skillset and experience, they also have the leadership, judgement and motivation (different than ambition) to take as good care of my Kims as I would and that I can delegate my job to the superstar. If they can't cut super responsibility and deliver super results in spite of the obstacles, I'm not about to give them super status or leverage. I can get 4 or 5 times the productivity from hiring 4 or 5 Kims instead at the same cost and at a fractional of the angst.

Microsoft is top-heavy with prima donnas. Kims are far more valuable in ways that "superstars" seldom comprehend. If you properly cultivate your Kims, you'll be surprised how many "Kimstars" emerge. And a company of quietly cooperative, hard-working Kims who are line and middle managed by "Kimstars" is far more nimble and productive than the ego-driven, factionalized, mismanaged workforce Microsoft has now. And it is a scalable practice.

The root of the problem is not so much the people as it is Microsoft's attitude towards retaining talent.

I would argue Microsoft doesn't recognize "talent". Microsoft recognizes "passion". They are not the same. Microsoft recruits and retains passion as its talent evaporates unnoticed.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we actually hit $31.

I happened to be watching the ticker on Yahoo when we hit $31. Previously, trade blocks were around 50-80k. At $31 there were 800k blocks going up. How many people had the $31 trigger besides me? :-)

Anonymous said...

In Redmond, there seem to be an endless supply of clever MBAs. They are absolutely killing field productivity in order to prove their "value".

Oh brother, you got THAT right. I don't know what they teach them in MBA school, but they seem to be fed a steady diet of "how do I make myself look good" pills. Metrics, metrics, metrics! And how they pride themselves on it.

I recall a group meeting when the MBAers, swelling with pride, reported they had handed out some 5,000 DVDs at a trade show. Huh, I thought, so that means 4,910 DVDs were in the garbage by the end of the day. But more importantly, they actually felt this represented some kind of an achievement. Well, at any rate it could be measured, and that's what matters, no matter how trivial or pointless the activity.

And another poster:

I would argue Microsoft doesn't recognize "talent". Microsoft recognizes "passion". They are not the same.

Bang. That is one of the most directly inciteful things ever said on this blog. Spot on. I would only add that misdirected "passion" can only lead from one disaster to another. Zune, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Charles' post hit the nail on the head. The people who think "superstars" are great are usually only those who think they are superstars and that their feces don't stink. I've managed these so-called superstars in the past and they fit Charles' description to a "t". I've also met real superstars and they rise by building a base of loyal followers and coworkers not by inflating themselves with big words and hot air. In many cases, the only thing that keeps these faux-superstars going is that their past management will say anything to anyone that gets them out of their group.

As far as the poster who said: I feel like I have had my talent wasted for 6 years...

Dude, take a break and figure out how to re-spin your experience. No one will touch you without a HazMat suit with that outlook on your experience. I'm sure if you dig around you can find some kernels of value in your 6-year tenure. If not, then you need to figure out how to win friends and influence people so you can start getting something worthwhile in your resume.

Anonymous said...

Dude get real: they've got to make a living just like any of us.

I should suspend my skepticism about college dropouts who can't maintain confidentiality, who cannot be trusted, and who don't have the knowledge to accurate evaluate what sort of positions I, or anyone else, are suited for?

Just because someone needs a job doesn't mean I'm going to trust them with my career. Like someone else said, the best contacts are the ones you make yourself. Get out there and network and get rid of the middle man, because the middle man, at least in our industry, sucks.

Anonymous said...

>" When they call you unsolicited, they usually have done some homework."

What color is the sky on your planet?"

Sorry, my mistake: I meant to say, when a competent high six figure recruiter calls you . . .

Anonymous said...

> I would argue Microsoft doesn't recognize "talent". Microsoft recognizes "passion". They are not the same. Microsoft recruits and retains passion as its talent evaporates unnoticed.

No, Microsoft does not recognize passion or talent, it recognizes marketing, good self-promoters get the big promotions/bonuses, I have seen it happening for over 7 years now, and it is the same story on different groups. I would also say that passion is draining, I no longer hear employees go on and on about how cool is the tech they are working on, and how the product they are going to ship is better than anything else out there, completely the opposite, employees are embarrassed about Vista, embarrassed about Zune, embarrassed about Office... Many start looking outside the company for opportunities because their talent has not been recognized and they are no longer passionate about their projects.

Anonymous said...

> I can get 4 or 5 times the productivity from hiring 4 or 5 Kims instead at the same cost and at a fractional of the angst.

This is what Microsoft has been doing, unfortunately hiring 4 or 5 Kims brings its own set of problems, you now need somebody to manage them, and Microsoft is not known for good management.

Anonymous said...

> Customers likewise are more comfortable with Kims as the arrogance and demands (however well-intentioned) of superstars creates rifts.

Talking about fallacies, this means that every superstar out there has interpersonal and ego problems, which is not the case. Some of the friction with the superstars is that they usually do not like Microsoft's management crap changes and complain about them, which obivously makes management unhappy. Kims usually do one of two things: keep working quiet or leave the company

Anonymous said...

> ... Kims are far more valuable in ways that "superstars" seldom comprehend. If you properly cultivate your Kims, you'll be surprised how many "Kimstars" emerge. And a company of quietly cooperative, hard-working Kims who are line and middle managed by "Kimstars" is far more nimble and productive than the ego-driven, factionalized, mismanaged workforce Microsoft has now.

Change "kimstars" for "supertars" on everything you said and the argument becomes exactly the same, you are chasing your tail. To create "supertars/kimstars/hard workers/avobe average/passionate/etc" employees you need to grow them and retain them, you need good management so they do not leave, you need to recognize their talent and compensate them well. This is exactly what Microsoft is NOT doing ,and the kimstars are leaving the company (like Bungie's case).

Your Kims become Kimstars, you lose your Kimstars you have nothing left (it is EXACTLY the same argument), your Kims do exactly what they are told, your Kimstars go the extra mile, you do not throw the same problems to all your Kims, you throw harder problems to more capable/more experienced/more talented Kimstars.

I do not believe the problem with Microsoft is with the superstars or the Prima Donas, it is with Executives and management in general, who cannot cultivate your Kims, and cannot retain your Kimstars because they stopped caring about them, and have lost their vision.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, even genuine superstars ... are so poorly managed or obstructed that they are precluded from making a superstar impact

I'd classify myself as a strong performer (4.0/Exceeded). If I'm a superstar, I'll let other people say it.

In my case, it's a scenario where my immediate manager saw how capable I was, and as a result I am now literally doing everything.

My manager has not contributed a lick of code, documentation, or a powerpoint deck related to our mission for over a year. He's maybe contributed 1-2 months worth of effort in a 12 month time span.

The routine seems to be that he show up late most days, screws around for the better part of the day, and leaves early.

To your earlier point about faux-superstars, this same manager tells anyone who will listen what a superstar he is.

I've tried talking to him directly about the behavior in specific cases, and he gets *extremely* defensive.

I'm confident his manager knows whats going on, but does my manager get a warning or get fired? No. This is Microsoft. He gets managed out. But that's going to take a year or so, while in the meantime the team either has to pick up the slack and continue to do his job as well as their own, or risk the group looking bad and getting knocked at the annual review.

Of course we could move on to another group or company. But why should we. Why does management let a full year or more (review periods) go by before they fire, remove a position, or give a warning to folks?

For the folks who work for or with these types of individuals, we love the company and take pride in what we do and step up to make sure things get done. So what happens? People who could be doing so much more for the company look like they're performing well, but nothing special. Imagine what we could do if we only had our own jobs to do!

Management - when you let your managers or your directs not-perform for a full year, it's frustrating and demoralizing, to the point where your other employees question whether we've got a career at Microsoft and start looking for the exits.

Anonymous said...

"Ha, so basically you got BADLY owned?"

Guilty as charged. Just like a turned out cheap hooker.

"So Visio hired the guy (just one) you considered too lame, but was still successful enough to be considered a worthwile acquisition by Microsoft?"

MS hired the whole works, lock, stock and barrel.

"Seems Visio management was better at getting things done with the Kims ;-)"

Maybe, but at that time of the .com boom, if you could spell computer with a "c" instead of a "k"
you were hired. The belief in Windows at the time was that you still had to know a bit of how to navigate around the OS (c:\) and how to do even basic scripting
(echo "Hello world"). Not much mind you...;->

Had a couple of Kim's that did make the bar to be placed as CS. Loyal, dedicated, hard working, no complaints from me as their super. Work force planning happened and none of these folks made it in at that time, despite my best political efforts. Some time later they all made Blue, one of them caught fire and is now burning it up in the mgmt ranks, another is tearing it up in SDET and a 3rd has turned into a quite competent tester. The two that were hired blue after work force planning? One was fired 6 months after he was hired for an extended non excused absence (skipped town and didn't tell anyone) and the other looks like he's about to be drummed out of the company for non-performance (took long enough, jeez, he was a slacker then!)

Funny world there...

Former Windows Build guy...
(anonymous to protect some folks I know still work there)

Anonymous said...

Just because someone needs a job doesn't mean I'm going to trust them with my career. Like someone else said, the best contacts are the ones you make yourself. Get out there and network and get rid of the middle man, because the middle man, at least in our industry, sucks.

I think the validity of this statement is tied to what part of the country you're in and your level/years of experience.

In the northeast, particularly for verticals like FinServ or Pharma, for the most part you need to come in via a headhunter, as a contractor (for an approved agency) or in rare circumstances via a personal connection.

Anonymous said...

I have only known a few genuine superstars, ... They repeatedly produce exceptionally high quality results by themselves without needing others to fill-in the blanks or correct oversights. They are cautious, thorough, meticulous, cooperative and goal-oriented and spend most of their time learning from others instead of telling others.

Here's the rub. When I can do just my work, I have the time to be meticulous and thorough. When I need to do my job plus someone else's on the team (my managers), there's just not enough time in the day.

Don't skip-level managers wonder why productivity and quality go up with their manager-reports go on vacation, sick leave, or infant care leave?

Anonymous said...

Ok, over the months I think we have lost track a bit on what the definition of "Kim" is.

What Kim's are NOT:

- Kims are not 99% of the Microsoft population

- Kims are not people who are in the 70% bucket who believe they should be in the 20% bucket

- Kims are not people who put in a 45 hr week and get Achieved/70

What Kim's ARE:

- Kims are the rare people who have received the old "Limited II" designation while ostensibly performing solidly (if not necessarily dramatically). They are likely to be L60-L63 if they're griping about this rather than L65-L67 (L64's who are "Kim-ed" are in an interesting situation, IMO).

The way people talk around here, Kim's are 80%+ of the population. This is statistically just not true. If most of you in the Achieved/70 bucket feel somehow "cheated" (and I maintain that you feel cheated not by the bucket but by the paltry comp that comes with that bucket), then you guys really need to get a grip. You're NOT Kim's. You're AVERAGE in the distribution for the population, and for the purposes of this topic it doesn't necessarily matter how that distribution gets determined.

So let's lighten up on the "Kim" rhetoric because it just smacks of whining and you're not doing yourselves any service by claiming you're "Kim-ed" unless you happen to be in that 5% of the population.

Anonymous said...

I am currently in the Windows Org as a dev (Level 60) and have been in the same level for three years. I am considering an offer from an MSN team. The hiring manager has assured a promotion in the next review. I am debating moving out from Windows and joining the MSN brand. Any tips on if this is a good or bad move career wise?

Anonymous said...

>>I would argue Microsoft doesn't recognize "talent". Microsoft recognizes "passion". They are not the same. Microsoft recruits and retains passion as its talent evaporates unnoticed.

Excellent comment - absolutely one of the best thought out and succinct for a long time.

This stems from the culture of the lone hero cowboy programmer of yore. But individuals such as these, as the commenter points out, do not scale to large orgs. And there's too many cleverly (or not so cleverly) faking it - they're not so hard to spot: they are the ones that are ALWAYS TALKING.

So still, at the eleventh hour of a project, its hackity-hack-get-it-done-somehow, and the fact that there is often reward for just getting the product out of the door in any state perpetuates the culture to the next release.

Real talent is NOT the prima donna, its the average to good guy who thoughtfully creates a pragmatic, workable plan, then executes it without fuss or fanfare. Unfortunately, this is not a company that seems to be able to recognize or reward those folks.

Anonymous said...

I am debating moving out from Windows and joining the MSN brand. Any tips on if this is a good or bad move career wise?

Depends on where you're going and what you're doing.

For actual live MSN properties, it's really sort of seat-of-the-pants flying. Project cycle time tends to be measured in months. When stuff that's customer facing breaks, everything gets dropped until it's fixed. On average, your co-workers may not be as capable as you're used to.

The biggest culture shock is likely to be how ad-hoc the engineering processes seem compared to Windows. (For some groups, "craptacular" might be a better description.) You may need to beat some semblance of good practices into your team. If you have to do it, just make sure you don't do it in a way that destroys your career.

None of the above is meant to say that MSN or Live is good or bad. Success and happiness comes from inside you, not where you are.

Anonymous said...

ringy superstar v kim
matter v antimatter
visible v invisible dingy.

both have mass and gravity and can be flipped to negative or true.

Charles said...

The way people talk around here, Kim's are 80%+ of the population. This is statistically just not true. If most of you in the Achieved/70 bucket feel somehow "cheated" (and I maintain that you feel cheated not by the bucket but by the paltry comp that comes with that bucket), then you guys really need to get a grip. You're NOT Kim's. You're AVERAGE in the distribution for the population, and for the purposes of this topic it doesn't necessarily matter how that distribution gets determined.

I'll grant you I can't defend a precise definition of "kim", certainly not at Microsoft. I would, however, point out that there is both considerable ambiguity/latitude in your defintion and the increasing applicability for my purposes of comparison vs superstars.

Arguably, most everyone whose merit salary increase doesn't meet inflation (and let's not even start with defending the government's definition for purposes of supressing SS payment growth), feels cheated. Stock options that are underwater or underperform a CD or the SPX add to that feeling. Of the grades you identify, are not the L60-L63 significantly more numerous than L65-L67 (leaving aside L64, as did you)?

For my purposes, I was juxtaposing the relative value of "superstars" (who are overrated, overcomp'd, and underperform) with "kims" (who are underrated, undercomp'd and overperform). And "kim" was a pithy label to designate all those who are underrated, undercomp'd and overperforming. You may argue this last is an unwarranted gloss by virtue of the absence of the "limited" designation for everyone in that group. I would counter that most are treated as "limited" without the clarity of the label attached. This is evident by Microsoft's seeming use of the partner model of compensation and promotion, a model used mainly in legal and accounting practices, the gist of which is "up or out" - you either monotonically advance yourself upward and make partner or you will be fired - there is no "remaining at grade".

The ostensible goal then is for every employee to "make partner" on their merits and be comped accordingly and for the firm to be comprised of only the 'best of the best' - a goal barely achievable in a law practice of a few hundred professionals, but impossible in a global conglomerate of 80,000 (and growing).

But the presmed benefit to Microsoft of the partner model is that everyone of theose 80,000 is clawing their way up the ladder, on their merits, i.e. doing everything inhumanly possible to meet expectations without regard to interim levels of compensation or quality of work product. And whether those who are "partner" at microsoft are actually earning their comp on their merits remains to be demonstrated.

Kims (or average personnel) generally direct their competitive nature against the company's competitors, and generally seek a cooperative team-camaraderie with co-workers instead of competing against them tooth-and-claw. It is that innate desire to cooperate within the team while competing as a team against the world which makes Kims valuable.

But regardless, as we both know, most of Microsoft's 80,000 employees are under no illusion about attaining "partner" or clawing over their co-workers, and so by extension they are self-limited, i.e. "kims" in spirit, if not in designation.

Anonymous said...

L64's who are "Kim-ed" are in an interesting situation, IMO...

Please elaborate. I'm interested in why 64s are in a different boat than 63s. Thanks,

Anonymous said...


My manager has not contributed a lick of code, documentation, or a powerpoint deck related to our mission for over a year. He's maybe contributed 1-2 months worth of effort in a 12 month time span.

The routine seems to be that he show up late most days, screws around for the better part of the day, and leaves early.


Heh, that sounds like our old manager Steve (last name witheld, he knows who he is if he's reading this blog).

He was an absolutely useless man and very lucky that he had solid reports who took care of business and made him look good. All he ever did was screw around, yell at people during meetings, screw us during reviews, and just be a complete a$$hole in general.

He's still around somewhere, no longer a manager, but collecting his lvl 64 paycheck and continues to be a useless liability to the company. Getting rid of him and his kind would be a major addition by subtraction.

Anonymous said...

L64's who are "Kim-ed" are in an interesting situation, IMO...

Please elaborate. I'm interested in why 64s are in a different boat than 63s. Thanks,


Not the OP, but I'll take a stab at why (s)he might think so. It's because L64 is the last "real world" level theoretically attainable by "most" Microsofties. And even that's not easily attained. Starting at L65, you need serious upper-level approval to promo someone to that level, but your "typical" L64 is usually no slouch.

At the lower levels, there's still room for bozos to have failed upward or sucked up to get to the initial "Senior" designation. That gets (or should get) demonstrably harder when you hit L64 and very difficult when you hit L65. There are known exceptions, but there always are. At that level you are typically at the GPM/Dev Mgr/Test Mgr band and there should not be as many of those as there are IC's and Leads. My point being that topping off at L64 may not necessarily be an accurate reflection of the quality employee that you may be. Topping out at L61 or L62 or even L63 should tell you that your stock isn't worth a whole lot. And more often than not, it's true.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, Charles. You've summed up the situation and the problems with it nicely.

And then, of course, there's the randomness with which one can get Kim'med...and then suddenly become a rising star overnight. The system as it is "supposed" to work makes no sense for Microsoft these days. And the system as it actually works makes even less sense.

Anonymous said...

"And then, of course, there's the randomness with which one can get Kim'med...and then suddenly become a rising star overnight. "

Hey, I resemble that remark...

In the last year, I received a new lead that knows the stuff that I am doing, and works to see to it that I get recognized for my contributions. Suddenly, the Test and General Manager realize how much I contribute, and have been working hard to get me moved up.

Signed -> Former Kim

Some Guy said...

"All he ever did was screw around, yell at people during meetings"

If this clown actually yelled at a subordinate in front of anyone else, he's an utterly incompetent manager.

I've been in this industry since 1982, I've worked in organizations ranging from Fortune-50 sized companies to four-man shops, and only once in my entire career have I heard anyone raise their voice to berate someone in front of their co-workers. I quit that company within the month.

I don't know if you consider yelling to be normal behavior at Microsoft, but if it is, then your company's culture is so fundamentally broken that you will never recover.

Anonymous said...

I have a very OT question. Out of curiosity, does anybody know how levels map to titles in MSR? I see researchers, senior researchers and principal researchers. Are senior researchers really level 63-64 like their SDE/PM/Test "senior" counterparts? I see for example that Don Syme is a senior researcher, which, given he took F# from inception to productization doesn't add up in my book (should be principal)... Any insights?

Anonymous said...

One problems with your "any attrition is good attrition" theory ... once the attrition starts, no one, especially the bright ones, will want to be the last rat off a sinking ship. Job security is one of the few things keeping many good people around. If that security disappears, so will they. People like to work for MSFT, but they're not gonna sit around and wait for the axe to fall on them.

Anonymous said...

I heard last week...this fiscal year, Microsoft is targeted to hire (between acquisitions and new hires) roughly 16K new employees.

O...M...Gaaaaawwwwwwdddddd

Anonymous said...

>> I'm a high leveled top performer with decent name recognition inside/outside the company.

>>Who are the best headhunters for senior folks these days?


If you are a senior person who has name recognition outside of the company, it is strange that you would need to post to a blog asking for the name of a headhunter. After a certain point in one's career, it is about networking and "being known". Not scrambling for headhunters and finding jobs on monster.

Anonymous said...

Mini – I think you prayers may finally be answered. Check out this interesting article about the future of MSFT.


http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/more-evidence-microsofts-going-way/story.aspx?guid=%7B440BADC1%2D5825%2D482B%2D8976%2D153BEF719233%7D&siteid=yhoof

Anonymous said...

I've been in this industry since 1982, I've worked in organizations ranging from Fortune-50 sized companies to four-man shops, and only once in my entire career have I heard anyone raise their voice to berate someone in front of their co-workers. I quit that company within the month.

Lucky bast... ;-)

Personally I don't mind the yellers, so long as they can take it back as well. One of my favorite bosses was terrible at this in a 5 person shop and everyone was terrified of him. He respected me because I was the only one that would stand up to him - including sticking up for my co-workers. I'll take honest aggression any day over the passive, back-stabbing type that permeates many MS orgs.

Anonymous said...

OMG mini is on q with kim, being kimed, Charles' take on generally anything (welcome back Charles), abusive managers, I'll show you mine if you show me yours (level that is), free t-shirts, where's my Starbucks?!, recruiter trolls (that was me, and I'm not a recruiter)HR is not important, but that seems to be all that is talked about here, yawna, yawna, yawna.

All in a day in the life of Microsoft.

Hey, have you noticed no one is talking about what is in Halo3, they are just talking about the number sold? I wonder, does anybody play it? Is it about softies running around talking about how much money they make? Any detailed reviews? I'm buying the Orange Box.

Anonymous said...

>> Mini – I think you prayers may finally
>> be answered. Check out this interesting
>> article about the future of MSFT.

Dude, did you check who the author is on that one? It's John Dvorak. If Dvorak predicts something, there's a 90% chance the opposite will happen. He was never right on anything and it's a miracle that someone still pays him to write his BS.

Anonymous said...

And then, of course, there's the randomness with which one can get Kim'med...and then suddenly become a rising star overnight.

Same here -- last year, I was skipped for promotion after two years in L60, told that I am mere average and not good enough.

However, this year, some three months after complete change of leadership (dev mgr and all his leads gone to another division), new dev mgr, who didn't knew me before, gave me promotion, exceeded, 20% rating, much more responsibility, etc.

Anonymous said...

Research levels are NOT the same as SDE etc,no full time researcher is lower than L63. The levels are

63-64 - Researcher
65-66 - Senior Researcher
67+ - Principal Researcher

This is surprising, even more surprising is how little it takes to go between levels. Since no one is delivering anything, you can just have a small tech transfer or sometimes a meeting with an exec to justify a promotion. To be fair to research, its much harder to get hired into MSR than a PG. Even so there are L59 devs that deliver more in a month than a partner level researcher in a year.

Anonymous said...

The leadership responsible for change must ensure that the companies infrastructure and products can accommodate change, change dictated by customer-centric features instead of anti-competitive "innovation".

Also, the product development process can't feel like pushing a rock up a hill. Componentizing products to the point where one part can fail (and be fixed) w/o breaking a bunch of other stuff in the app is preferable. Some products are inordinately complex. That's why you take a ball of string with you into the maze and let it out as you go. If you run out of string or still can't find your way out, that's a development process that needs to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

Personally I don't mind the yellers, so long as they can take it back as well.

Uh - yeah, that wouldn't be MSFT bosses. Not the ones that berate you, at least. If you even try to demonstrate to them *reasonably* but with actual examples, they will Kim you or just continue to make your life hell randomly (e.g. walk into your office on a Friday afternoon and proceed to let it rip, blocking the exit so you have to sit and take it or physically push past them to leave. If you do the latter, you should be sure to take all your personal effects with you as you go because there is zero point in ever coming back.

Nope, the climate isn't a "give and take" passionate arguments or calling managers on their poor assumptions or anything else. It's take it, take it, take it...or get hammered.

See why the only option is to (you've got it) vote with your feet? Even if you enjoy loud, argumentative debates, you're never-never-never going to get ahead at MSFT by engaging in them with your boss. (I'm sure someone will come up with a contrary datapoint, but I mean in the typical case.) Don't even try it. You'll just get harrassed until you'd rather do anything than come to work in the morning.

Very productive. And yet, skip levels not only tolerate it but they blame the victim if you bring it to their attention. Which is why, of course, managers continue the tirades. Because no one with authority over them says "STOP."

Did I mention vote with your feet?

Anonymous said...

The persen giving opinions on resreachers is quite mislead. Promotions in MSR is quite hard. One needs multiple solid achievements to become principal researcher.

Just like anybody, researchers are paid market rates. Top graduating students choose to join MSR not because of salaries but because of its prestige and the immense potential Microsoft provides to researchers. Salaries outside of Microsoft are equally good. In fact MSR sometimes loses extremely solid candidates because of lower salary offers. This is due to our formula based salary structure. Most FTEs hired in MSR have many offers, some financially better than Microsoft's. I do not mind giving researchers level 59 as long as these 59ers are paid at level 63 or 64. Otherwise we risk losing them to top universities. Top universities on monthly basis pay five figure salaries and officially leave an unemployed day for consultancy. You could compute the daily rate by increasing an assistant professor salary by 25% (Microsoft FTEs are employed five days, professors are employed 4 days only). The potential of tenure is an icing on the cake. Microsoft has to compete with this icing too.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Gender Genie thinks Mini is a female.

Check it out yourself: http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php

Anonymous said...

>> no full time researcher is lower than L63

If true, this explains why there's no researcher attrition from MSR. That's because they're drastically overpaid. It makes sense to pay $120K+ to a tenured professor. It doesn't make sense to pay this much to a newly minted PhD (except for the rare cases when you're hiring someone unquestionably brilliant).

OTOH, judging by the cars Researchers drive and Porsche/Toyota ratio in 113 garage, I'd say that L63 minimum is utter and complete BS.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Gender Genie thinks Mini is a female.

We all know LisaB is Mini.

Anonymous said...

>"Interesting. Gender Genie thinks Mini is a female.

Check it out yourself: http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php"

Great link. great fun. You need to run some control text first. I tried it and found I must be bi, as one paragraph was female and the other male for my own text. Tried the same thing with mini, same result. Hilarious. Looks like they need to do some more work on the analysis keys.

Anonymous said...


Just like anybody, researchers are paid market rates.
[...]
Salaries outside of Microsoft are equally good. In fact MSR sometimes loses extremely solid candidates because of lower salary offers. This is due to our formula based salary structure. Most FTEs hired in MSR have many offers, some financially better than Microsoft's. I do not mind giving researchers level 59 as long as these 59ers are paid at level 63 or 64. Otherwise we risk losing them to top universities.


What exactly have these "solid candidates" contributed to MS? Can you provide a list of MSR contributions? Until you do so, I welcome the chance of losing MSR to top universities.

Anonymous said...

>> MSR contributions

Here are a few:

WMA
WMV
Ranking algorithm for Search
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Those are just the most visible ones. There's also stuff in SQL, CLR, compilers, etc.

Anonymous said...

When does microsoft fire ICs?
Any ideas?

paraviya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

blocking the exit so you have to sit and take it or physically push past them to leave.

In such a situation, I would say "I'm on my way home, please step aside." If he refused to do so, I would ask "are you seriously going to try to physically prevent me from leaving? Because seriously, I could use the money." If they're stupid enough to persist when you've put it in such terms, pick up your phone and call security and HR.