The Bigger Move

Last fall, I told you about my family’s big move from New York to Pasadena so I could join a cutting-edge startup. Well, this spring, I experienced Job Search 2: Electric Boogaloo.

It’s not easy to do two potentially life-changing job searches in any given year. And it isn’t exactly what I’d planned when I started out. But, as always, things seem to work out well in the end. So here’s the even bigger announcement…

But first, a little back story.

As I’ve mentioned before, I left Keyhole in 2001, whereas the Google acquisition came in 2004. So I was never an actual Google employee. But Google is a great company all the same. And so, when I started my long-term job-search last fall, I decided to see if there was a fit there, not necessarily on the same project, but hopefully doing something equally world-changing and fun.

The company seemed interested, though the machinery took a while to turn. I got as far as scheduling their first programming quiz (I never quite got a sense of who/what I might be interviewing with/for) when I had to politely bow out — Big Stage made a very time-limited offer and I took it.

So this spring, when I left that startup (I’ve already discussed that as much as I plan to), I contacted Google early, so they’d have more time. This time, Google HR looked around the company and told me they didn’t have any openings that fit my skills, 3D or otherwise.

Okay, I figured. I’d done my part.

Now, the startups* I found in my search were all pretty interesting. Some might even make it big someday. I was less concerned with money, to be honest, than with the game-changing-ness of the companies, and with my level of responsibility and fun. Most of the startups essentially wanted someone senior in experience but junior in expectations. It’s not unusual, given the way things work in the valley — engineers are often viewed as interchangeable, whereas capital isn’t, strange as it is. But I have more options too.

I received offers from a few big companies. I hadn’t worked at a really big company since Disney, which was in many ways my first real job. That role actually worked out pretty well, despite some naivety on my part. The main reason I left, in fact, was to join an old friend’s startup*, moving from LA to Seattle (it goes full circle).

In this current job search, one of the big companies actually surprised and impressed me, not only in their offer, but throughout the process, the people and professionalism. The two days of on-site interviews weren’t as much about testing my coding skills as they were about vision, work styles, and that ever-elusive "fit."

Turns out, I actually had fun. And in the end, my bosses-to-be offered exactly the kind of role I wanted with the freedom to define it myself — new, challenging, and some potentially very big wins on the horizon, straddling both R&D and productization with the goal of adding value wherever I can.

The thing I really had to think long and hard about was this: is Microsoft really making the switch from Kergan Warrior to Highlander or even Ramirez, and not in the decapatative "There Can be Only One" sense of it, but in terms of their style and attitude towards competition and innovation.

And I think the answer is yes, to an extent, and at the very least because they had to.

Truth is, one could find fault with every company out there, even the ones that take as their mantra to do good. In the end, it comes down to either accepting things as they are, improving what you can, or staying home. I can and do believe that Microsoft can be a better company.

Hell, some people I’ll be working with openly use Macs…


Some of you will no doubt wonder if I’m going to be directly competing against Google Earth. Some of you might wonder if I’ll need to change what I say here, or if I’ll become a shill for the "evil empire."

And the short answer to all of the above is no. Microsoft doesn’t want or need me to re-do or out-do anything I did for Keyhole. I wouldn’t want to do the same thing twice anyway. The plan is to focus on bigger ideas and a much broader vision of the future.

And, no, they won’t ask me to change or stop this blog. Realistically, I might cover some Microsoft projects more than before as I naturally learn more and get more excited about them. And I might self-censor random criticisms of Google Earth, just so no one thinks I’m carrying an ax. But I’ll try to be open and fair, as always, and keep this site free of financial influences.

Truth is, I’ve always been fairly restricted in what I can say because so much of what I learn comes from friends and former colleagues. It’s their projects I often write about. I’ve told them that if they don’t want me blogging about their secret projects, the surest way to guarantee that is to tell me all about them. On occasion, that pitch even works. But I still do my best to find a path through the minefields to get you some useful intelligence or at least some timely analysis without burning any sources.

As to what I’ll be working on, keep in mind, my new supervisor actually found me and recruited me via this blog. That might help you make some guesses as to what we’re interested in. The opportunity for me is most certainly having direct access to the talent, experience, and resources that Microsoft affords.

I hope the move to Redmond turns out to be the best one yet.


P.S. One thing is clear though, this does put a damper on Part Two of "How Google Earth Really Works," since I don’t want to be falsely perceived as giving away any of Google’s secret sauce, whether it’s in public or otherwise, or whether my knowledge is current, or, as is likely, seven years out of date.


* My philosophy of startups, btw, is thus: they’re all someone’s baby — someone’s deformed, gurgling baby. Their parents love them as much as anyone ever loved a kid. But to outsiders, the extent of the deformities should be clear, at least before the kool-aid sets in. So my rule about startups is this: only join if you love that baby as much as its parents do and are willing to care for it like they do, because you’ll have to. If it’s just a babysitting job, you won’t be paid nearly well enough for what that baby will put you through. In that case, go have your own baby, if and when you can, put 200% into it, and pray it’s not deformed too.


9 thoughts on “The Bigger Move

  1. Avi,

    I wish you prosperity and happiness in your new job. And I hope that it does indeed turn out to be the “best one yet” for you.

    Your old pal,

  2. I hope you get the oppotunity to make a significant difference Avi.
    It is such an exciting time in this space and I hope with the massive resources that MSFT has put together you can do something really speacil – and then developers like me will enjoy playing with it 😉

  3. “And I think the answer is yes, to an extent, and at the very least because they had to.”

    For what little it’s worth, I agree … and wish you all the best in your new job.

  4. Pingback: UgoTrade » Blog Archive » Will the future of Virtual World’s be in the Browser? Interview with Avi Bar-Zeev

  5. Avi, I just saw this. Congrats on the move! We are still big now at Global Kids into the virtual worlds scene and you might want to check out our site, the new hub for learning and virtual worlds. If you ever want to break any MS news through us please let me know.

  6. I’m just seeing this — I suppose I’m not shocked that you decided to take the position. Good luck with your latest employer, and I’m sure we’ll see great things.

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