Notes from Inside the Empire


So everyone wants to know what it’s like working at Microsoft. Well, unfortunately I can’t really answer that yet, since I’ve only been there two weeks — I just got my first paycheck, which allays my subconscious fear that someone was going to come up and tap me on the shoulder, saying "Avi, your interview is over. Go home."

In truth, people have been very friendly and welcoming, despite the fact that I’m coming in during a  crunch period for both bugs and strategy, which must be very much like planning to have a second baby while delivering your first.

Thus far, I’ve spoken to most of the team that wasn’t at SIGGRAPH or on vacation or based elsewhere (I met 14 of them during my two day interview in late June too). I’ve managed to get a computer, an office, a badge and get somewhat settle into my little corner of the Microverse. And I was privileged to sit in on some marketing/planning meetings for several other products that very broadly impact what I’ll be working on.

Now, I’m well-versed in speaking with both engineers and artists. But marketing folks are another story, if only for the jargon.  I felt very much like an anthropologist studying another civilization — one which may in fact be much smarter than me, in that it routinely reads tea leaves and glimpses of rather unscientific information and decides (mostly correctly) how to gain, not lose, many millions of dollars. It’s pretty impressive.

What’s most interesting is they all seem to understand each other while never quite speaking English. I haven’t heard that much jargon and short-hand since college. Consider some of my favorite new words and phrases:

  • "…went horizontal across multiple verticals."
  • "…add that to our list of asks."
    (because saying ‘questions’ is too much like English.)
  • "…our strategy on poi."
    (no, not the Hawaiian food — it’s Point of Interest. I imagine they’d call Return on Investment "Roy," if not for the fact that he might actually be in the room.)
  • Coopetition
  • Onboarding
    ("coming on board" used to simply be called ‘boarding’, ‘joining’, or ‘initiation.’ We can thank HR for this one.)
  • GTM  (not Get the Money, as you might expect — I’m pretty sure this one translates to "run your code to see if it, you know, works.").

So I made it through several days that by treating it as a fun logic puzzle to decode. And I think I did pretty well considering. I’m glad I at least understood and agreed with their conclusions on my own.

What was most notable though was the lack of your stereotypical evil empire dialog. Not once did I hear words like ‘leverage,’ ‘bundle’ or ‘tie.’ Nor did I hear anyone talk about killing, kicking, or any violent metaphor. It was all pretty much as you’d hope. In areas where competitors are stronger than us, we said "yeah, we have to do better on that part."

And what really struck me was, even for a company as big and fast-growing as Microsoft (there were 190 people in my NEO — oops. New Employee Orientation — class), you really have to choose your focus very carefully.

Which reminds me…
(see next post)

 

  1. #1 by Adam Freeman on October 15, 2008 - 10:54 am

    When we were at big stage, I know I left under auspicious circumstances (that were entirely my fault.) I kind of wonder if we would have done cool stuff at big stage if I had not lost my head? Sorry bro … Hey microsoft is a good company to work for. Anyways I apologize. Sometimes I can lose my head and I am going to try to not let that happen again in the future. Adam

  2. #2 by Adam Freeman on October 23, 2008 - 9:34 am

    I meant “less than auspicious circumstances.” I was confusing the definition of auspicious. Adam

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