Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Working at Microsoft, the Inside Scoop 437

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the belly-of-the-beast dept.
bariswheel writes "Responding to the public interest, a long-time Apple and UNIX user/programmer, and a JPL/Caltech veteran, writes an insightful, articulate essay on the good, the bad, and the in-between experiences of working at Microsoft; concentrating on focus, unreality, company leadership, managers, source code, benefits and compensation, free soft drinks, work/life balance, Microsoft's not evil, and influence."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Working at Microsoft, the Inside Scoop

Comments Filter:
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:49PM (#15158773) Journal

    Aside from the obvious puff-piece nature of this article, it's a bit of a Trojan Horse. Under the auspices of a broad view of what life at Microsoft is like, the author gets to air out the PR spin that Microsoft's Not Evil in seven contrite paragraphs (the average number of paragraphs for each segment is closer to four).

    Also, assign credibility inversely proportional to the distance from the source. This guy works there, okay so the only way to describe "work at Microsoft" is to be there, but come on, are we going to get objective information?

    For the record, I once worked at Microsoft, and agree with his observations that the people there are like people elsewhere, and they're bright, and they're hard-working, etc. But, to equate individual ethical behavior somehow with a collective corporate ethos doesn't add up, the calculus is flawed. In my opinion, Microsoft as a corporation exhibits behavior that could be considered evil, certainly some/much of its behavior has been found in a court of law to be illegal.

    As for the some of the author's observations:

    At Microsoft, I've had access to the source code for Halo 1 & 2, Internet Explorer, MDAC, MSXML, the .NET Frameworks and CLR, SQL Server, SQLXML, Virtual PC, Visual Studio, Windows, the Xbox and Xbox Live, and probably several other projects that I've forgotten about. Does it get better than this?

    Yes.

    Given that Microsoft's been convicted of monopolistic practices, it may shock you when I say that Microsoft's upper management strikes me as very ethical. They talk about ethical behavior all the time...

    Thou doth protest too much.

    On the one hand, I'm making more money now than at any other point in my life, and I have all I need so perhaps I should be satisfied and leave it at that. Overall, I think Microsoft's compensation and benefits package are still above average for the industry, and well above average for the typical American worker.

    On the other hand, I and my coworkers have watched many benefits erode or disappear during the past five years. It's public knowledge that raises and annual bonuses have diminished, option grants have been replaced with stock awards, employee stock purchase plan benefits have decreased, and cafeteria and company store prices have increased. For new employees, vacation time has been cut from three weeks to two, and new parents have to take their parental leave within 6 months instead of 12. It's not a positive trend.

    Microsoft's ill-gotten gains were long the easy way to sustain the talent pipe-line. Market forces are catching up, and Microsoft is starting to have to compete on more equal footing with other companies to get talent in the door (no more, "you're guaranteed to be a millionaire in fiver years" promises). And, it's a little annoying to hear the Microsoft have-nots whine about this -- join the rest of the world folks.

    • by Procyon101 (61366) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:05PM (#15158930) Journal
      I've worked inside and outside of Microsoft as a Software Engineer in the greater Seattle area since 1996. Microsoft has always been on-par or below industry standards for compensation for the area in the Senior Level Engineer arena. Except for the crazy stock back in the 90's it hasn't been a "get rich" kind of job ever.

      However, the work environment at Microsoft is so enjoyable, that personally, I would take a slightly lower wage in order to work there.
      • However, the work environment at Microsoft is so enjoyable, that personally, I would take a slightly lower wage in order to work there.

        Gasp! To say such a thing in this forum??? Where are the peasants with their pitchforks and torches??? This proponent of pure, unadulterated EVIL must be dealt with!

        Seriously, people need to check themselves before using the words "good" and "evil" when discussing software companies. Somehow Google's motto has driven discussion around MSFT and GOOG down to adolescent l
        • I have news for you. Microsoft has been evil before Google was founded. They have essentially two giant products, Windows and Office and they leverage their marketshare with those two products to squash innovation throughout the industry. So yeah, they're evil and there's nothing wrong with saying that. Its not adolescent to state that.

          At the same time if you just don't care about such things, and many people don't then there's no real reason why you shouldn't be able to like the company. Lots of folks like
          • by Anonymous Coward
            "Its not adolescent to state that." No, it's stupid. Evil is people suffering and dying - not an annoying paper clip help icon. And to suggest that MS has quelled inovation without any qualification is sloppy adolescent grandstanding - the claim could be made that without MS computers would still be far out of the reach of most people. If you want to be treated like an adult, stop talking like a child!
          • I have news for you. Microsoft has been evil before Google was founded.

            It would be nice to live in such an insulated world that anything Microsoft has ever done could reasonably be called "evil".

            They have essentially two giant products, Windows and Office and they leverage their marketshare with those two products to squash innovation throughout the industry.

            For example...?

          • pssst.. Darth Vader isn't real.. he's not really a character that you should use to demonstrate that people can like 'evil' (especially as he turned good in the end *ahem*)
        • Yeah, except all the Microsoft bashing I see here at +5 is reasoned. The only time there are peasants and pitchforks is in the caricatures painted in comments like this.
        • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @03:14PM (#15159525) Homepage
          MSFT is the biggest kid on the block, so of course they're going to catch flak from a certain segment - that goes with the territory.

          Yes, and there are some people in the US who genuinely do not support our troops. But it is a polemic (or perhaps simply idiotic) simplification to imply that that disdain for success is the predominant reason for criticism of Microsoft.

          They get flack because they're an abusive monopoly. It's not a problem that they are big. Oracle is big, but they're not evil (IMO - and depending on what they do with InnoDB I may have to adjust my opinion, but at the moment I am giving them the benefit of the doubt - but I digress). MS is powerful and abusive.

          Why is that so hard for you polemecists to understand? You sound like the jackoffs on teevee saying, "I support our troops." No shit. Most everyone supports the troops. Most everyone supports big successful companies. Many of us just don't like big successful companies that use their position to damage the free market.
          • by Vellmont (569020) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:40PM (#15160345)

            The point the GP post was trying to make was that casually throwing around the words "good and evil" is really uncalled for. Face it, MS only makes software. They aren't starting wars in other countries, they aren't employing slaves to dig up diamonds, they aren't pumping poisons into the groundwater to save $2. These are the thing that most people reserve the word evil for. MS is a monopoly that engages in unfair business practices that hurt its competitors. You can call that unethical, illegal, and maybe even immoral, but calling it evil just dilutes the meaning of what's truly evil.

            Your comparisons to "support are troops!" only seeks to further polarize the issue, and really ads nothing to the conversation.
            • Definition of evil:
              1. Morally bad or wrong; wicked: an evil tyrant.
              (you admit that MS can be labeled immoral. Hence, the 'evil' tag fits.)
              2. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful: the evil effects of a poor diet.
              (it has been demonstrated in courts of law that MS has causes ruin to its
              competitors. Hence, the 'evil' tag fits here as well.)
              3. Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous: evil omens.
              (Reports of
              • Thanks for the dictionary definition. Unfortunately dictionaries are a guide to how people use language, not definitive.
        • MSFT is the biggest kid on the block, so of course they're going to catch flak from a certain segment - that goes with the territory.
          That's an interesting analogy. By "biggest kid" you would seem to mean "biggest bully". People tend to tolerate bullying. (My elementary school principal used to tell me, "It takes two to make a fight!" What bullshit.) But bullying is still evil.
        • My definition of an evil company is a little different, but Microsoft certainly fits it.

          An evil company plays zero-sum games (loss for you = gain for us) with its own customers.

          Playing zero-sum with your competitors is standard; no problem.

          Playing zero-sum with your partners, distribution chain, and potential aquisitions is rather scummy, and Microsoft is one of the few companies that does this routinely and isn't blackballed.

          But playing zero-sum with your customers, the ones who pay your bills, shows you h
        • "Seriously, people need to check themselves before using the words "good" and "evil" when discussing software companies. "

          Really? Why? MS is a corporation why should it be above judgement for it's actions?

          Would it make you feel better if we used terms like sleazy, unethical, destructive, sociopathic?

          MS is evil, get over it. If it wasn't for them spam would be history by now but they fought hard to kill SPF. MS is a dangerous, disruptive, and harmful entitiy in the software ecosystem. They fight standards at
          • Gee, somebody needs to take a chill pill!

            As someone who works at MS, I do find it annoying how certain people brand the entire company as "evil" based on the history of certain actions, and specifically with the Office and Windows products. If I work for an "evil company", does that make me evil? I had nothing to do with a lot of the evil decisions that have been made in the past (and arguably the present too). I'm not a lawyer, or in marketing, or in business planning, where a lot of the evil decisions com
      • Sorry, have to disagree with you there.

        Having worked in several software development companies of various sizes, including Microsoft, I can tell you that Microsoft is most definitely not below the curve in terms of compensation and benefits in recent times. Unless this does not scale well at all as you're promoted, then I would presume it's the same at senior levels as well. It's certainly above average for rank and file engineers.

        I suggest, if you're a member of the IEEE, you check out the salary survey th
      • Microsoft has always been on-par or below industry standards for compensation for the area in the Senior Level Engineer arena
        That's because Microsoft is the benchmark for software engineer compensation in the greater Seattle metro area.
    • by archen (447353) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:09PM (#15158964)
      Microsoft's ill-gotten gains were long the easy way to sustain the talent pipe-line.

      I wonder if it really has to do with sustaining the pipeline, as much being mired in corperate BS. Why is this company that makes money hand over fist with some of the best programming talent you can find putting out products that are hardly better than the last version?

      I've given this some thought and I'm starting to think that Microsoft has spread their uber-talent too far across the board. Now before you say "what else are they supposed to do?" consider 8-10 years ago during Win95/98. The company was throwing out significant upgrades left and right with REAL improvments - about the opposite we see today. At the time however MS had a real focus on some core products that could in some respects tie together.

      Nowdays Microsft is in everything from the Xbox to who knows how many software company aquisitions and trying to tie them together in a meaningful manor. It seems like in trying to use the MS engine (OS) to drag up new producs, they bit off more than they can chew and the engine (company) is being held back. MS can't sustain itself because the one hand literally cannot see the other. The company is too big, and lacks focus.
      • Doesnt that remind you of IBM? In the 80s? I worked at IBM at that time...and IBM truely believed that it could not only do everything in the computer land (no pun intended for the ones old enough to remember), but that it could be the best in every area of computing!!!

        Well, IBM finally now knows that can not do everything!!!

      • Personally, and this is just pure speculation, I think the lack of innovation from MS is because any jaw-dropping new feature will break compatibility. The way some MS software is described, it sounds like everything is built on top of something else, and if you mess with one of the lower pieces, it all comes tumbling down.
      • I don't think that Microsoft has their talent spread too thin. The real issue is not to my mind the lack of focus in product improvements but the lack of technical maturity of the systems as a whole. I would point out that in 2000, Microsoft finally came around to technology that had been in use for nearly seventeen years (Kerberos). In short the real problem is their approach to the market, not spreading themselves too thin, etc.

        Win9x for example, was a real improvement over Win3.x because it added some real technical advantages, but it was sort of a hybrid or shim approach to technical problems that ideally could have been handled better if DOS was designed better from the start (anyone remember what QDOS really stood for?).

        Microsoft is the proto-Wal-mart of the software world (you know, the seller of cheap plastic junk). The approach has generally been that it doesn't have to be better, just cheaper and more appealing to the lowest common denominator. This price advantage of Microsoft has been probably on the whole beneficial to the industry in that it has made computing more ubiquitous and therefore has helped the development of the internet and even open source as a global phenominon. However, Microsoft software tends to be poorly thought out and poorly implemented.

        The NT architecture is, after all, a severely crippled reimplementation of VMS with a nice GUI running on it and some Windows emulation ;-)

        The rush to market and the unwillingness to spend the time necessary to get things right has meant a great deal of trouble for users of Microsoft software. Indeed even when Microsoft attempted to reimplement UNIX (their Xenix product that they later sold to SCO), it was worst in class.

        In essence, Microsoft is largely a marketing company that sells cheap, poorly implemented software. Bad systems trump bad people, so the problem is not a lack of talent so much as a system in place that prevents people from making good software.
    • But, to equate individual ethical behavior somehow with a collective corporate ethos doesn't add up, the calculus is flawed. In my opinion, Microsoft as a corporation exhibits behavior that could be considered evil, certainly some/much of its behavior has been found in a court of law to be illegal.

      It's interesting to note that legally speaking a corporation IS a person, and so it makes total sense to discuss a corporation using terms one would apply to an individual. You can't have it both ways, either a

      • It's interesting to note that legally speaking a corporation IS a person

        That's not true, and even if it were, it would not change the fact that a corporation is not actually a person, and should not be anthropomorphized.

      • Funny, I could have sworn that AJAX originated with IE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_(programming) [wikipedia.org]

        I could have also sworn that at the time IE came out, the only other browsers were horrid and stagnant.

        I could have also sworn that IE won a large portion of it's install base before it was integrated into the OS.

        As for the other points in your post, well, I believe you have one thing right, someone is living in a reality distortion field, but it isn't the author of the article.
        • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:30PM (#15160259) Homepage
          I could have also sworn that at the time IE came out, the only other browsers were horrid and stagnant.

          Let's see. Internet Explorer was introduced at a time that Netscape, for better or worse, was adding features at a relentless speed. Why do you think they threw so much money at it?

          IIRC Netscape 2 added Java, frames, plugins, several new elements and one or two other things I forget. Netscape 3 added JavaScript, a HUGE change which is basically what makes web apps possible in the first place. They also added cookies (or was that v2) and SSL at some point, which made online shopping possible. Netscape 4 added DHTML and lots more CSS support. Netscape Navigator evolved so fast that the term "internet time" was coined to describe it. Then IE came out and cut the funding for competing browsers to a big fat zero. That is when things started to stagnate.

          To claim that IE somehow re-energised the market is a gross misunderstanding ... and even if IE was better back then (and by v6 I'd say it was better) this doesn't change the fact that it wasn't built to be competitive. It was built to destroy the competition and then halt the progress of the web. That's just bad, no two ways about it.

          • Then IE came out and cut the funding for competing browsers to a big fat zero. That is when things started to stagnate.

            Your timeline is *way* off. IE 1 was released in late 1995. By late 1996 IE 3 was a sound competitor to Navigator 3. In early 1997 the IE4 betas started to appear and were considered by pretty much everyone to be noticably superior to Navigator 4.x (to take from your examples, IE4 had the first (and better) implementations of DHTML and CSS). Then Netscape finally released the bloated,

    • They talk about ethical behavior all the time...

      That is the entire point right there. You don't talk about ethics. You have them and live by them. Talk is cheap.

      I am also pretty sure that you could go to any evil company and find nice departments with nice people. You don't think everyone at Enron and Worldcom signed a contract with their own blood?

      MS is evil from the top down. Not evil as in slave owner evil. I don't for a moment think Bill Gates would whip someone. Ballmer yes.

      MS is evil as in not vot

    • "Aside from the obvious puff-piece nature of this article, it's a bit of a Trojan Horse. Under the auspices of a broad view of what life at Microsoft is like, the author gets to air out the PR spin that Microsoft's Not Evil in seven contrite paragraphs (the average number of paragraphs for each segment is closer to four)."

      You're not being fair. The author does go into detail over some of the bad things at Microsoft including managers who are subpar, managerial "cults", and eroding benefits. That's not t

    • Aside from the obvious puff-piece nature of this article, it's a bit of a Trojan Horse. Under the auspices of a broad view of what life at Microsoft is like, the author gets to air out the PR spin that Microsoft's Not Evil in seven contrite paragraphs (the average number of paragraphs for each segment is closer to four).

      Jeez, you guys never cease to amaze me.

      Tin foils hat on again, I suppose. 7 contrite paragraphs you say? Oh my.
    • <sarcasm>Of course! Anybody who has anything positive to say about Microsoft must be a "trojan horse".</sarcasm> I mean jeez, did you even notice his comments about middle management? Where he uses words like "cult"?
    • Also, assign credibility inversely proportional to the distance from the source. This guy works there, okay so the only way to describe "work at Microsoft" is to be there, but come on, are we going to get objective information?

      Well, yes, if 100% of the people who work at Microsoft state that life is like X, then I would say it is X. Otherwise, you're just fooling yourself and making up stories about a company you know nothing about. Just because the information isn't agreeable to you doesn't mean it is

  • slashdotted? (Score:3, Informative)

    by freg (859413) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:51PM (#15158791)
    It's just unavailable if the referall is slashdot.com, try copying and pasting the link into a different tab.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      try copying and pasting the link into a different tab.
      I use IE you insensitive clod!
  • Mirror Here... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:51PM (#15158792)
  • M$ != Evil (Score:3, Funny)

    by Doc Squidly (720087) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:52PM (#15158823)
    What??? You can't post a story about Microsoft being anything other than the Evil Spawn of Hell, sent to crush all who'd stand between it and the total domination of the world.

    Don't they know? This is /.
    • Don't worry; we already have a Slashdotter above (currently +4 Insightful no less) that has concluded that a section about them not feeling so "evil" is around 75% longer than the average section length as an argument of things smelling fishy. I'm not sure if the general opinion here is already that this article was planted as as an operation to increase interest in working for Microsoft or not, and I doubt I really want to know. :-S
      • Oh, people need to quit being so paranoid. If I worked at Microsoft, that's what I would write most about as well, since there's such a strong viewpoint in the geek community that they are evil. Conversely, if I were writing an article about Google, I would write most about the things that aren't all fun and candy.

        There's no point in telling people what they already know, of course the longest part of an article is going to be clearing up misconceptions.

  • by TooMuchEspressoGuy (763203) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:53PM (#15158830)
    the good, the bad, and the in-between experiences of working at Microsoft; concentrating on focus, unreality, company leadership, managers, source code, benefits and compensation, free soft drinks, work/life balance, Microsoft's not evil, and influence.

    Sheyah. They all say that until the chairs start flying.

  • interesting article (Score:2, Interesting)

    by doofusclam (528746)
    I wonder if he got permission to publish that? I know it's vaguely approving in an infomercial kind of way, but there is genuine criticism too.
    • by d1on1x (790202)
      In another article on his site he writes about blogs, and why he not dates his articles. However, he does have an XML feed to enable us to see when he has posted something new... if you add that you will see the publishing date, it is obvious this article is more then a year old.

      He probably still works there, but this should be filed under 'history for nerds, stuff that mattered'.
  • The summary says: " concentrating on focus, unreality, company leadership, managers, source code, benefits and compensation, free soft drinks, work/life balance, Microsoft's not evil, and influence.

    So, did he leave out anything? Oh yeah, the loos. :)

  • Text of article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:54PM (#15158840)
    Working at Microsoft
    Home Photos Writing Software Links About Résumé RSS

    It seems like there's a lot of public interest in what it's like to work at Microsoft. Here's my personal persepctive on the good (+), the bad (-), and the in-between (=).
    Background

    As a long-time Apple and UNIX user/programmer, I never aspired to work at Microsoft. (And I'm still a little surprised to be here.) I've never despised Microsoft like so many people seem to do -- it's just that Microsoft products weren't a part of my world.

    Then my wife got a job at Microsoft, so I needed to leave Caltech/JPL to work in Seattle. I didn't actually apply to Microsoft -- a friend of ours who worked there circulated my résumé and Microsoft responded rapidly and set up a last-minute interview. Although I had five other offers, Microsoft made the best impression.

    And so, here I am. I've been working at Microsoft since October, 1999 as a full-time Software Design Engineer. In that time, I've worked for three teams in two divisions, and had six or seven different managers. Four products I've worked on have shipped, two more are in beta, and I've also "consulted" for many other teams across the company, thereby influencing directly and indirectly a large number of Microsoft's products.

    Between my experience and my wife's, I think I've gotten a pretty solid feel for what it's like to work in a product group at Microsoft.
    + Focus

    As much as I enjoyed working at Caltech/JPL, it wasn't until I got to Microsoft that I realized that there's an enormous difference between working for a software company and a company where software is just a step towards some other goal (space science, finance, medicine, retail, etc.).

    Everyone at Microsoft "gets" software -- the managers, the administrative assistants, the vice presidents... Even many of the "blue collar" workers (cooks, janitors, bus drivers) know something about software -- it's not normal! At NASA, most managers and even some scientists had no real understanding of software or software development. Elevating the common denominator in this way makes Microsoft a wonderful workplace for people who love making software (even if it's far removed from the reality of "the real world", which can cause other problems, like overinflating the importance of software).
    = Unreality

    As a parent, I've come to understand that there's a wide gray area between overprotecting your children and creating a nuturing environment in which they can develop.

    I think Microsoft struggles with a similar problem with its employees. Microsoft provides its employees with a nuturing environment in which they can be most productive. But like children, these employees also need to be grounded in reality and exposed to ideas that can be disruptive or even disturbing. Otherwise a sheltered monoculture can develop that's unhealthy for everyone involved.

    It's hard for people who don't work at Microsoft's main campus to understand just how unreal the experience of working there can become. Some employees forget that most of the world doesn't have broadband wireless networking, high-end consumer electronics, luxury vehicles, and enough money that they don't need to live on a budget. Some employees spend so much time using Microsoft products, that they forget about the competition and/or lose touch with typical customers' needs.
    + Personal Freedom

    One thing that's worth losing touch with is the strict work environment.

    Microsoft gives software developers a lot of personal freedom over both the work and the work environment. I order my own supplies, customize my office as I see fit, schedule my own trips and meetings, and select my own training courses. I choose when I show up for work and when I leave, and what to wear while I'm there. I can eat on campus or off, reheat something from home in the kitchen or scavenge leftovers from meetings. I can even work remotely from home (within reason).

    For the most part, I determine what I work
    • and new parents have to take their parental leave within 6 months instead of 12

      Gads... I currently work for the 2nd largest software company (behind MS) currently and I'd rejoice at this option if we had it. We had our second kid two weeks ago, she was in the NICU for a week due to an infection, and I've only taken 3 days off (and have precisely 1 day of vacation left) because we're not given any such thing and only get 2 weeks/year vacation (accrued over the year). If I had to take an extended period of ti
    • by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gM ... com minus author> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @05:08PM (#15160541) Homepage Journal
      Companies (countries, races, etc.) are not "evil" or "good", and they do not have "intentions." Star Trek is science fiction -- there is no Borg mind.

      I actually entirely disagree here. Corporations, especially large ones, tend to suffer from what I call "hive mind" or "borg mind." In reality, both metaphores are surprisingly apt.

      The complex "hive mind" behaviors in bees, ants, and similar insects occurs because the insects communicate with eachother via scents and/or body language. Thus behavior spreads from insect to insect until you see what looks like a more elaborate mind when it is really the result of a system of minimally programmed units which communicate with eachother. The concept of the borg mind in Star Trek is not that far removed as it is based on the complex information exchange between the different units.

      In any sufficiently large organization, you get structures which provide a great degree of organizational inertia. In other words, at some point it doesn't even matter what Steve Ballmer really thinks, the actual organization can only continue to evolve in its own niche. Other management interests, stockholder interests, and so forth, will see to that. This brings me to my next point: Corporations, though they seem to personify non-conscious forces seem to personify the sort of collective mind that we see in the insect world. Except that we communicate via sound vibrations, pushing buttons on a keyboard, or making marks on paper.

      The final point is that for anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment (I used to work for Microsoft), it is very easy for the workers to begin to believe the propaganda of the company. This tendency actually increases as one goes up the management chain because often company loyalty (and gullibility) are rewarded with promotions at least as far as middle management, and for upper level management, they are sufficiently isolated from what goes on at the ground level that they don't have sufficient feedback. So the corporate mind is self-sustaining, viral, and can take over your thought processes. One ends up with a corporate cult, and Microsoft is no exception (but is rather the rule).

      I prefer working on my own in a small consulting business. Sooner or later we will need a management infrastructure, but when this occurs, I intend to take a close look at how these problems can be solved.
  • by SQLz (564901) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:56PM (#15158859) Homepage Journal
    Service Temporarily Unavailable
  • by mlheur (212082) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:57PM (#15158863)
    Until I read the "Microsoft's not evil" part. This must be a hoax.
  • by stinky wizzleteats (552063) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:00PM (#15158885) Homepage Journal
    Ah - a feel-good story about someone who has had a good experience working there and hasn't seen any nefarious activities during his or her time there.

    Of what value is it to place any confidence in such accounts? It is quite possible to have worked for the mob, be well treated, and not see any nefarious activity. It is not only possible but likely (and therefore infinitely reasonable) that such activities will be concealed from such an observer. If the activities of the organization in question are well documented and proven beyond a reasonable doubt to -in fact- be evil, then such "insider" accounts to the contrary have absolutely no relevance.
    • is quite possible to have worked for the mob, be well treated, and not see any nefarious activity. It is not only possible but likely (and therefore infinitely reasonable) that such activities will be concealed from such an observer.

      ...And on the other hand, such a wonderfully circular logic loop cannot be debated. 'If I cannot see any source of wrong doing', says the conspiracy nut, 'Then it must be deliberately concealed from me, hence a conspiracy!'
  • The first 1 sentence article I have seen in a while.
  • by nacks1 (60717) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:00PM (#15158888) Homepage Journal
    The site referenced in the article is already giving out 503's. Here is a google cache of the page:

    http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:ILiHKIGJa_oJ:w ww.qbrundage.com/michaelb/pubs/essays/working_at_m icrosoft.html+&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1&client=fir efox [72.14.203.104]
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:01PM (#15158892)
    ... 1000 times better than working at most jobs these days. And, if it really sucks at least you can put it on your resume for a better location and position at your next job.
  • I'm sure working at microsoft is a great career, running microsoft software is a different story.
  • Open Source (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann (805235)

    I've had access to the source code for ... Internet Explorer, MDAC, MSXML, the .NET Frameworks and CLR, SQL Server, SQLXML, Virtual PC, Visual Studio ...

    So? We all have access to the source code for Firefox, PHP, Python, Perl, MONO, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Xen, KDevelop, Code::Blocks, ...

    It's interesting. What this guy claims to be advantages, are precisely the FLAWS. Specially with Internet Explorer. Right now it would be much more secure if MS had open sourced it 6 years ago.

  • Brainwashing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mayhem178 (920970) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:09PM (#15158963)
    My friends and I knew a guy at our college (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) that was hired on at Microsoft. Prior to leaving, he was always very open-minded about software usage, willing to try various options, be they proprietary or open source. After a while, he came back a changed man. He simply couldn't fathom how it was that we (as students) were using anything but Microsoft products, and would argument, sometimes vehemently, that we shouldn't be using *NIX or anything of that nature. It was truly scary.
    • Re:Brainwashing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tomstdenis (446163)
      It's called "selling out". Everyone has their price. The trick is to recognize it and work within it.

      He came back spouting the virtues of MSFT because he basically sold his values and convictions [the good kind] for a paycheque and status.

      Tom
    • Re:Brainwashing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jchenx (267053)
      Then he's a sell-out, with little backbone. He probably WON'T last long at Microsoft (and from your comment, it sounds like he didn't). I've worked at MS for a couple of years now, and know quite a few people here. Yeah, there are a few idiots here that are pro-MS everything and anti-anything-else no matter what. But the rest of us are much more practical and open about things.

      Am I going to declare that Linux is the best and that everyone should ditch Windows? Or that the PS3 is going to own all? No. If I f
  • Microsoft Dynamics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tallsails (549200)
    With the new "live" approach, the new boss from Lotus Notes trying to turn the company, I really think MSFT (and I am no rabid fan) will compete well with SAP and peoplesoft. To bad its the wrong way to go... http://blog.tallsails.com/2006/04/19/google-hooks- up-w-salesforce-and-oracle.aspx [tallsails.com]
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:22PM (#15159066) Homepage
    "Did I mention I've had six or seven managers in five years? Two were so awful that if they were hired into my current organization (even on another team), I'd quit on the spot."

    One has to wonder why he didn't "quit on the spot" previously... say, about the time the second was assigned to supervise him.

    In thirty years, working in mid-sized nonprofit, one Fortune 500 company, one ten-person startup, and two mid-sized for-profits, I've only had no managers "so awful that if they were hired into my current organization (even on another team) I'd quite on the spot." I've only had one so awful that if they were hired to supervise me, I'd quit... and when he was, I did. (Honesty compels me to say that it took me a year before I did... but I did).
    • WHen I had a manager so bad it made me want to quit, the first thing I did was write a paper with why he was bad, and then present it to his bosses boss. I figured eh, I'm leaving anyways, and it's this guys fault what harm could it have.

      Two days later I was called in, we talked about it. Put me in a different team. Month later that manager was gone.

      I was an f'n hero to the other team members. Sadly, I gave notice two week letter becasue I was given an offer that paid 75% more.
      I miss the 2000 job market.
      • So, I dealt with it slowly and passively, you dealt with it quickly and actively, but in both cases we treated it as a big deal, and we dealt with it, and the end result was... we were gone.

        Michael Brundage says, "28% of the managers I had at Microsoft were so awful" that in future, there wouldn't be room for him and either of them in the same organization... but it's not big deal.

        But then again, I notice he's posted his resume [qbrundage.com]
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NosPAm.optonline.net> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:22PM (#15159070) Journal
    Microsoft gives software developers a lot of personal freedom over both the work and the work environment. I order my own supplies, customize my office as I see fit, schedule my own trips and meetings, and select my own training courses. I choose when I show up for work and when I leave, and what to wear while I'm there. I can eat on campus or off, reheat something from home in the kitchen or scavenge leftovers from meetings. I can even work remotely from home (within reason).

    Out of Office Reply: I'm not currently in my office, which is being rennovated to accomodate a swimming pool and a helipad, but am instead on a business trip to Hawaii, for a training course in pearl diving. Once I return to Redmond, I'll be happy to get in touch with you, after sampling the fine quailty pizza left over from the last meeting about Vista. Take care!

  • I wonder if we are going to find this in a previous press release kinda' like the 'switcher' from clip art
  • by endrue (927487) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:30PM (#15159140)
    I have to admit that even though I could feel the slant of this article I could not help but feel a little bit excited by this. Knowing Microsoft technologies is what pays the bills for me (C#) but I have tried to avoid becoming a fanboy for all things Microsoft. However, after reading this article, I cannot help but think that Microsoft is a pretty cool place to work. The .NET Framework is a massively impressive codebase that I would be psyched to work on. Not to mention that the environment is painted as more Google-esque than I previously realized. How many of us (who have all bashed Microsoft fairly and unfairly) would not drop our current job to take a position at Microsoft? I know that I would.

    - Andrew
  • by theolein (316044) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:33PM (#15159164) Journal
    Until he said this: "No one ever says "Hey, let's go ruin company P" or other things that could be construed as "evil.""

    He must have missed the news about Steve B, chairs and Google.
  • Sure.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:33PM (#15159167) Homepage Journal
    I was going to comment that I thought it was interesting that this guy was mentioned as being from a mixed UNIX, Apple, Caltech, and JPL background. I thought about why that might be relevant.

    In any case, this guy is just one data point in trying to get a picture of "life on the inside" of Microsoft. You might find other pictures by reading my (and other MSFTies here - there are many) slashdot posts on the subject, or by reading the minimsft blog, or by trying to decipher the publicly-made statements by our PR people (or by PR agencies working on our behalf). All will paint slightly different pictures.

    Unfortuneately i haven't been able to read the article - thanks slashdot effect - but I'm always curious to see MSFT people talking about "life on the inside", to see how their experiences compare to my own.

    As far as my own background - as recently as college, i was saying things like "I will never work for a company that expects me to use NT - it's shit", as I coded away infront of my work provided SGI Indy. I gave up Windows after 3.1 and used OS/2, linux, and Solaris at home until college, when I switched to exclusively solaris and irix.

    When I joined MS about 6 years ago i was still very anti-MS. I was joining to light a fire under the people that had burdened the world with so many bad things. I figured that peoeple just didn't have the unix expertise and outside world view that i brought to the table. If they only knew, I thought.

    I probably made a lot of enemies those first few years, especially people on the outlook and exchange teams. But I also got a few private emails from product support guys saying "i loved reading that.. thank you for flaming person blah...our customers run into this all the time.. somebody should have said this sooner"

    I was fond of pointing out that i used Pine against exchange-IMAP because at least Pine knew how to not block its UI threads while trying to access a message. (This is fixed in Outlook XP, Outlook 2003, and works pretty well in Outlook 12 betas, btw)

    For a while, it seemed, my strategy of badgering MSFT people about how great *nix was and how much MS sucked was working. I was involved in some of the "how do we compete with {linux,solaris,apache} conversations even though I was some lowly tester off in Visual Studio. I was obnoxious, antagonistic, and I claimed big street cred working in the unix side of the industry. We were struggling at first to get dedicated, experienced people in place to understand the unix-competitive landscape, so much so that it made sense for "them" to talk to a bozo like me about it. Things are better now - there are smart people that work on understanding the *nix landscape full time.

    The culture change I've observed here has been pretty satisfying. When I first complained that VB6 didn't work for debugging DLLs if you didn't have admin rights, a PM for VB told me "the NT security model is too hard, we're not going to bother figuring it out". That kind of crap doesn't fly _at all_ any more. We've really "got religion" around non-admin, secure-by-default, etc. That stuff keeps getting better and we're chipping away at the debt of design and code deficienies we have in the face of an always-on, hostile internet that nobody expected years and years ago [historians will note that the _first_ internet worm worked on unix machines.. and unix collectively has had a spotty and evolving approach to practical security.. ]

    Naturally, MSFT has changed me as well. I used to come into discussions with the "UNIX roolz, MS suxx0rz" point of view. I was interviewing with a guy in NT and he was trying to ask me technical questions and I was trying to tell him how the NT design sucked because i read it in BYTE magazine. (i flunked that interview)

    I've since learned that, actually, when I used to make those sorts of generalizations, I actually didn't know enough about anything to be running my big mouth. I was having an argument with some guy where I was talking about how the S
    • Re:Sure.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Oriumpor (446718) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @03:21PM (#15159587) Homepage Journal
      A big portion of the dilemma you describe, ignoring the silly 31337 *nix fanboys, is that the inner workings of open systems in the eyes of the systems engineer is readily available. A BSD or Linux admin can rip right down to the source of a particular system call and know what's going on. Even if the stuff is partially documented, any flaws in the doc can be made pretty apparent by looking at the source.

      As someone who's worked in a mixed environment (Linux/OpenVMS/Win32) I've been pretty satisfied with the operation of certain aspects of Microsoft products. However, when a major problem comes up, and Microsoft doesn't happen to have it documented in TechNet you're hosed and are stuck ponying up for support.

      Sure there are MSDN forum archives that can give you a bit of insight, but that requires a subscription and for the average business they're not going to pony up for that. Building unattended windows installations are pretty much by the seat of the pants, and require third party utilities to be managable.

      Active Directory (pre-2003) was a real hassle to diagnose, and often required a ~$150 call to Microsoft if you made a simple typo. Not to mention Microsoft's history of acknowledgement and fixing of third party diagnosed security issues in their software is abysmal as opposed to F/OSS environments where a patch for a security issue is often included in the advisory release.

      Bug tracking is done behind closed doors as opposed to F/OSS where bugs released to the developers are readily available, if they are not immediately patchable work arounds can be inferred by System Administrators themselves. "Early" releases of hotfixes can be paid for, but by then who knows how long the bug has been known.

      I'm not knocking the security advances M$ has begun to add on to it's platforms. But it's definition of secure-by-default has a long way to go to provide comparable security to secure-by-design operating systems.
  • Companies (countries, races, etc.) are not "evil" or "good", and they do not have "intentions." Star Trek is science fiction -- there is no Borg mind. Companies, countries, races, and other groups are made up of individuals like you and me, who make individual decisions that determine the group's direction. People who speak of companies (or countries, or races, or other groups) as being good or evil are at best ignorant, and at worst bigots.

    I actually read the article, found it mostly informative and unb
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:43PM (#15159253)
    Working AT Microsoft is probably quite nice.
    Working WITH Microsoft (products) isn't.
    And having to work AROUND Microsoft (bugs) most certainly isn't!
  • ...suffering from Stockholm Syndrome [wikipedia.org]. But, that isn't really surprising as they've been holding him hostage for seven years!

    --

  • One of my former employers did that, had cans brought in weekly via the commercial delivery.

    Was a very nice perk. No clumsy vending machines. Also had coffee service.

    The only snag was by buying wholesale and consuming it, they were liable for sales tax, which was kicked out in an audit. No big deal.
  • From TFQA: ... there's an enormous difference between working for a software company [that ships software as a product] and a company where software is just a step towards some other goal ...

    Holy cow, that's saying a lot. I used to work for the later, then I worked for the former, then I worked for the later again, and now I work for the former again.

    Believe me, it's MUCH more fun to work on software that isn't going to be sold to customers. Why anyone would actually want to work on software-as-a-produc

  • Of course he doen't see how Microsoft is evil. He doesn't work in Marketing, PR, or Legal. Although working in those departments would make pretty much any company look bad. I used to work for a cool little ISP/Consulting company and for a great as the techs and management were, sales/marketing were just evil. It is amazing how many little white lies they can squeeze into even the simplest flyer or advertisment.

    -matthew
  • Hank Scorpio! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by podperson (592944) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @03:11PM (#15159499) Homepage
    A really interesting article, but his take on the whole "Microsoft is not evil" thing by looking at what it's like to be employed there reminds me of the Hank Scorpio episode of The Simpsons. Do you mind helping out with those enemy soldiers on your way out? They're trying to destroy the doomsday weapon we've been working so hard to finish.

    Sure it's a fine place to work and the folks are all just family people trying to solve customers' problems... It's just that their customers are IT Managers who want to lock down Windows so that bonehead users can't email javascript files to each other (even as attachments) but apparently have no problem with embedded vbscript in email.
  • Compare the assertion ``all of the division heads (and their staff, and their staff) are top-notch'' with the observation ``In contrast, most of the middle management should be tossed.''

    It seems to me that a large responsibility of upper level management is to hire, train and retain middle-management. If the high level folks can't make good decisions on promoting rank and file to management or in attracting quality management from outside, how can they be trusted to not run the company into the ground?
  • Did I mention I've had six or seven managers in five years? I've only changed jobs twice -- the others were "churn" caused by reorganizations or managers otherwise being reassigned. In fact, in the month between when I was hired and when I started, the person who was going to be my manager (we'd already had several phone/email conversations) changed! It's seven if you count that, six if you don't.

    Yeah. I had a MS manager call me out of the blue, asking if I was available. Major shock, since I didn't think

  • by tokengeekgrrl (105602) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:10PM (#15160080)
    I was a contractor at Microsoft from 1995-1997, working on MSN.com when it first came out, before Internet Explorer existed. As a result, I was apart of the permatemp class action lawsuit.

    My Microsoft experience was both good and bad.

    I got to work with some really talented and highly skilled people and learned a ton. The original lead engineer on Slate.com was a great guy and mentored me on his own, even though I wasn't a "blue badge" and not entitled to such perks. He had been recruited out of college back in the late 80s so he was a millionaire. He retired a few years later after his second marriage/wedding since he had already lost his first marriage to Microsoft and didn't wish to repeat the experience. He also told me that only people hired on at or promoted to a certain level got really lucrative stock options. From what I saw, he was right.

    I shared an office at one point with an amazing programmer, super smart and super nice guy. I remember him telling me that he had to learn to not care so much about his work because the business and marketing departments always rule in the end. He had a product he had worked on that he was really proud of, the users were really happy and he was excited about working on more features. He never got to because the product was outsourced and no more versions were going to be released, it was just to be supported as is and it didn't matter if the support was mediocre, just that it was cheaper. He said he found that a hard pill to swallow because he really believed in producing great products but he learned to accept it and was "watching the clock" meaning waiting his 5 years for his stock to vest. I met several fulltimers watching the clock and they seemed to me to be the some of the most talented people there.

    I met many people who worked very hard and others who were coasting, some arrogant and rude with no social skills whatsoever and some genuine, amicable and highly skilled, both fulltimers and contractors.

    I worked with great managers and incompetent ones. One manager was so bad that when the first round of contractor layoffs happened at one point, he cut a really skilled programmer who was vital to many projects in favor of keeping around the pretty, no experience or technical ability, woman that he was boinking, much to the dismay of the rest of us who had to workaround the incompetence of both of them. He was arrogant and had a mullet, a paradox beyond comprehension.

    I did not envy the people who became fulltimers during this time. Compared to contractor pay which included overtime, their pay was cut in half and their hours stayed the same or increased. One friend had to move somewhere cheaper due to the pay cut and carried 3 pagers at all times resulting in her moving closer to work as well. Her first year of employment was what was then called the "probation year" meaning she would not receive any stock options until after that first year. She and other people who went fulltime soon realized that the stock options were not going to make them millionaires but simply restore the compensation that had been cut when they took the salaried fulltime job. I knew several talented people who left before their options vested as a result.

    Some contractors-to-fulltimers I knew did ok with stock options meaning they were able to gain an extra 200-250k and after taxes bought themselves a nice house and/or car. But no one retired early.

    I knew several fulltimers who once they hit their 5 year mark, cashed out their stock and left the Microsoft with propriertary information on which they based a new company, hoping to get bought out by Microsoft and make more money. Some were sued, some weren't sued but didn't get bought out as they hoped, some did.

    Overall, it was an interesting place to be during the time I was there. That said, I'm inclined to think that the author's experience is not the norm given the high status at which he entered the company. If he had come in as an entry level contractor or programmer, his experience would be much different.

    - tokengeekgrrl
  • by mary_will_grow (466638) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:12PM (#15160099)
    At Microsoft, I've had access to the source code for Halo 1 & 2, Internet Explorer, MDAC, MSXML, the .NET Frameworks and CLR, SQL Server, SQLXML, Virtual PC, Visual Studio, Windows, the Xbox and Xbox Live, and probably several other projects that I've forgotten about. Does it get better than this?

    uhh, yes, it does. Maybe you should visit www.gnu.org.

    The only difference is that when *I* look at operating system source code, I don't have to sign non-compete agreements, and I dont have to agree to fund my existance with money gotten from business practices that are greedy, dishonest, and harmful to the marketplace.

    And I dont have to live in seattle. zing!!! (j/k)
  • Article Text (Score:3, Informative)

    by Heembo (916647) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:27PM (#15160229) Journal
    Service Temporarily Unavailable
    The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.
    Apache/1.3.33 Server at www.qbrundage.com Port 80


    Kindda minimalist, not to mention that it doesn't match the article title.... ;-)
  • by idlake (850372) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:17PM (#15161781)
    If anything, Microsoft seems to have the opposite problem, in which employees sometimes design or cut a feature or product without fully appreciating the huge impact their decision can have outside the company.

    Among the different forms of evil, that is actually a major one: if you have a lot of power and impact, it is your duty to think about the consequences of your actions carefully, otherwise you indeed are evil.

    The reality is that Microsoft is made up of mostly honest, earnest, hardworking people. People with families. People with hardships. People with ordinary and extraordinary lives.

    Yes, but the reality is that Microsoft's competitors are made up of mostly honest, earnest, and hardworking people as well. The problem is that Microsoft's senior management has adopted policies and strategies in the past that unfairly deprive the mostly honest, earnest, and hardworking people in those other companies of the just rewards of their hard work.

    No one ever says "Hey, let's go ruin company P"

    Actually, some people are on record saying that. People like Ballmer, for example. And that's what people refer to when they say "Microsoft is evil", namely that the people in charge have behaved unethically (not to mention illegally).

    But there's one thing people do that really drives me nuts: anthropomorphization.

    It drives me nuts, too--in particular, it drives me nuts that corporations have managed to get the rights of real persons in areas like free speech. However, given that they have, it seems only fair that at least we anthropomorphize them when we talk about them.

    Overall, I think there are lots of good, well-meaning people working at Microsoft. But as long as there are on-going legal problems over monopolistic practices and as long as people like Ballmer are in charge, there continues to be reason to apply the label "evil" to the company as an entity, no matter what fraction of the employees are not evil.

There are running jobs. Why don't you go chase them?

Working...