Monthly Archives: July 2006

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Why am I smiling?

I moved to Redmond just over four months ago.  In the time I have been here, my rental car was side-swiped, my truck was broken into, my headlight and bumper were damaged by someone in our own parking garage, someone stole my copy of “Professional Visual C++/CLI” from my office today (clearly someone missed the “corporate values” talk at New Employee Orientation), and my relocation to the great Pacific Northwest has been less than smooth or swift — waiting for the insurance company to assess and pay my claim for the furniture damaged by the movers.   I’m the only PW in my group and we’ve been unable to find anyone else that can fill the shoes for our open position. I have deadlines looming with tons of work to do and not enough time to do it all by myself.  Bill Gates has announced he is reducing his role here, both Windows and Office have announced schedule changes and Microsoft’s stock has dropped over four dollars since I arrived on campus.

So why am I smiling?

In four month’s time I’ve learned so much.  I’ve been able to look at the technologies we will implement in the future before most people even know they are in the pipeline. I sit in on meetings and get to give real feedback that can influence products used by more people than I could have ever imagined.  I have taken over ownership of an internal tool our team uses and have written a few of my own.  I’ve gathered customer feedback and helped several customers personally or got them in touch with others who could help them. The amount of responsibility piled on me is less of a burdon and more of a compliment, in my opinion.  Who puts that amount of pressure on someone if they feel they can’t handle it?

Apart from all the benefits provided by Microsoft there are other reasons I’m happy to be working here. I’m in a technological heaven.  The people are brilliant and open-minded (except when it comes to “Red State” ideas, but give me time — I’m still working on it).  I pass those same brilliant people in the halls every day.  If I have a question about something, I can go hit our Global Address Book and track down the person who owns the feature to discuss the matter with them personally. 

I also get to see the company make huge changes in the way it delivers software.  With the industry changing so quickly, its awesome to see a company of this size roll with the punches and adapt. 

It’s hard to explain why I’m so happy to work here. The only thing I can say is that you can tell that the majority of people working here love working here and finding new ways to make customers happy.  That reason alone is enough to make me love working at Microsoft.

Enjoy the weekend!

OT: Bank transaction privacy is reporting a story about the use of financial transactions being used to track down terrorism.  Of course, our anti-American partners at MSN are, of course, lapping up the story like a dog to a toilet bowl. 

The article states:

According to their rules, any group of transactions totaling $5,000 or more that “is not the sort in which the particular customer would normally be expected to engage” can cause enough suspicion to create a SAR [Suspicious Activity Report].

Having engaged in more than my fair share of transactions last year that involved more than $5000 on a weekly basis, and having had my fair share of “irregular” bank transaction requests, I can state that I more than likely have one or more of these reports generated about me and suprisingly enough, I’m not cowering in a corner waiting for the feds to bust down my door.  Now, if I had engaged in any illegal activity, I am sure I’d be singing a different tune. I also appreciate the fact that our government is trying to track possible terrorist activities and I’m thankful that we have a President who is willing to do what is necessary to meet that need.

It seems to me I remember some certain “Jersey Girls” complaining:

I watched my husband murdered live on TV. . . . At any point in time the casualties could have been lessened, and it seems to me there wasn’t even an attempt made.

Among other things, they charge that nothing was done in a meaningful timeframe to save anyone’s life, that the delay was on purpose, and that [President] George Bush was responsible for the deaths of three thousand people.

I actually can understand the sentiment and complaints. I can even sympathize with the rationale, but these same women are complaining when we do try to gather intelligence.  Democrats are proud to bring up the intelligence failures of 9/11, but are also quick to leak intelligence to ensure failure again in the future — and they wonder why they lost the Presidential election as well as the House and Senate in 2004?

Now, I’m certain I’ll be attacked for taking this stand, but I want to get one thing straight. I don’t believe that the government should be so involved in our lives either.  I think that we have let the government etch itself too deeply into our way of life. Let’s not forget that the government was never intended to control so much of our lives.  Instead, we’ve perverted it to do so and now we are paying the consequences of those decisions.  Socialism has crept into our society years after we supposedly defeated it.  We’ve put the burdon of our every-day lives onto the government and now that the government is taking what we have given them over the years, we are going to complain? 

You cannot have it both ways. Either you have a government that is in charge of distributing wealth, protecting citizenry, giving “free” health care to “everyone”, establishing what is moral and what is not, literally robbing from the not-so-rich and giving to the not-so-poor, educating our children (if you can call it that) and caring for our every need, or they can be a thin layer of government that conforms to the will of the people and doesn’t have the ability or business of prying into our every day lives.

Looking left and turning right: management style

Today, I was returning from my manager’s office to my own when I nearly collided with another manager-type in the hall.  As I was approaching a hallway intersection, a manager emerged in a bit of a hurry looking to the left while she was turning to the right.  She prolonged her view to the left for so long that her path was diverging directly into mine.  In motorcycle safety course several years ago we were taught while taking a corner that we should look in the direction of the curve. Looking to the opposing direction could often cause us to veer off course toward the direction of our gaze. Referring back to my manager-turned-missile, of course, I scrambled to get out of her way before she hit me. This was rather awkward to do and by the time the manager looked back at me shuffling around, she look at me like I was the stupid one and didn’t as much as say “oops, sorry”.

Nothing in this world enrages me more than managers with an inflated view of their own self-importance.  But this is rather indicative of the problem I think we face in our company.  We know where we want to go, and if we just focused on our own goals, we would get there in spectacular fashion.  This isn’t the case, however. We fixate on what other companies are doing and what else we could be doing instead of directing our gaze at what we are working on until it is completed.  Couple these misguiding glances with all of our team meetings, morale events, office sharing and quarterly group/org/company ra-ra meetings that do nothing more than tell us what we already know — or tell us more than we care to know — and it’s no wonder we cannot get anything done.

I encourage Microsoft to start training our managers — and our non-management employees for that matter — to stay focused on the direction of our company. Stop worrying about what every other company out there is doing and start worrying about what we are NOT getting done on time.  Our customers depend on us.  You want to drive up customer satisfaction rates?  How about delivering a product for them to be satisfied with!  You want to drive up revenue?  How about filling some warehouses with some freshly minted retail bits!

Obsessing over our career options at myMicrosoft and worrying about work-life balance cannot continue to be our main focus.  Putting our focus in that direction will only take us off course from our real goals. Trust me, when we deliver quality products to our customers on time and under budget, our career options will open up for themselves. And nothing makes work-life balance easier than getting performance bonuses that we can spend on our nights, weekends and vacations or put toward our children’s college education fund.

I should clarify that I am also guilty of this very same problem.  While re-reading my annual review, my commitments are filled with goals that aren’t in my direct line of responsibility.  This is as much of a criticism of myself as it is of anyone else.  Furthermore, my managers up my direct line have been pretty wonderful, supportive and have kept me fairly focused on my tasks.