Friday, September 17, 2004

Random Mid-September Comments

Randomness for this post - touching base on some comments coming in
during the past week.

The Company Meeting 2004 happened Tuesday. Did
you get your ticket and then physically go? Seems as though as of last
Friday tickets were still available, which was a bit of a surprise to me.
All my Tuesday morning meetings were still scheduled, though, so it ending
up being a non-event compared to years past. I did manage to stumble across
a feast of Krispy Kream Donuts, though, between meetings (and I noticed
that people were pretty much ignoring the donuts while Bill talked about

I've yet to actually sit down and watch the Company
Meeting on-demand.  I'm just too busy.  Comments I've heard so far
boil down to: good questions, blah-blah-blah platitude-riffic

The following comment leaning towards slow layoffs has an
interesting link in it:

I guessed MS is doing it slowly.
You can already see it at href="">style="background-color:
#FFFF00"> You
can see MS in the list from time to time. I think this is a good approach,
not to freak out everyone.

I would go through and add it
up, but by that time we'd go and announce we're hiring 3000 researchers and
blow any menial sum I had away. As for the pay raises (or lack there-of for
a good percent of the company this year):

As for raises,
you need to look at the industry. Our pay is based on industry averages and
not profit, and Microsoft endeavors to be around the 2/3's mark (much better
than the old 1/2 mark).

We suck less than we used to
when the stock options were worth lots. Now we have the stock awards, but I
mean, really, everyone I talked to pretty much ignored the line that had
their stock award number this year. If we only had a process to excel

Process is killing Microsoft. Don't get me wrong -
the old days were a bit to loose and wild out here in the field, but things
have swung so far the other way it is ridiculous. There is no room for
individual ingenuity ... "Never tell people how to do things. Tell the
what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity." General
George S. Patton, Jr. The new Microsoft is all about telling you how to do
things in excrutiating step-by-step detail... Microsoft will look in the
mirror someday very soon and see a circa 1980s IBM staring them in the

Ya, dang.

Keep wishing for the
golden past, it is gone never to return. Once a startup or small business
becomes successful every old hand wishes for the old days when they knew
everyone by name and people were in it for the passion not just the money. I
find it amusing that you think that if we just layoff enough people to get
back to that 'golden size' everything will work out. PS: I'm also bemused by
the fact that 3 Microsoft devs linked to my post and they all focused on the
most inconsequential aspect of it; the office supplies cuts. --

Damned if I'm crossing swords with Dare (given that
he's way smarter than me and I think that he embodies one of the ideal
Microsoftie Archetypes). But, let me clarify here. I'm not looking to
wind-back the clock. I realize that we have hard realities going forward now
that truly change our day-to-day development decisions and we'll never savor
the golden past's development process:

  • Security: you can't
    go and decide "Hey, why don't we take a DCR to
    make this utility class a dual interface and expose it in our OM? We could
    do some cool stuff then!"
    Unfortunately cool gets respelled kewl
    (or, what, k3wl ?) and the 2AM phone-calls unleash the patches. Features
    just plain don't get done now if we can't ensure they are
  • Privacy: no web-bugs, no identifying information,
    nothing that might lead to embarrassing situations or trackings. Even GUIDs
    are considered evil. Again, features just plain don't get done if we can't
    ensure the user's privacy.
  • Dominance: we're not chasing
    the tail-lights
    of our competition anymore. We excelled at ruthless
    catch-up. Now that we've won and we're #1 we do... what? IE achieves
    dominance and what happens? That group runs screaming away from the source
    code to Avalon. And, oh, that's ended up so well. We have too many people
    and that leads to dithering.

Dare's href="
43-8db4-dc2cb8f5241c">post is optimistic and kind: rather than have
layoffs and punish the day-to-day contributor for the wildly misspent
foibles of upper management, we should instead endeavor to not blow money in
foolish endeavors. Here's what I think, though: we have so many people that
we go and empower bad decision making, masking it as some kind of Darwinian
business experiment combined with a million monkeys typing, all trying to
produce the next one-billion dollar killer app. Perspiration vs. innovation.
We've reached some kind of breaking point where perspiration has taken
precedence over deep thinking and innovative thought.

I want to see accountability. What's the fall-out of the latest Longhorn
screw-up to ship and now have to cut and throw-away code that people have
been working on for well over a year? What's that figure? This is, hmm, the
third big reset or delay related to Longhorn? And these folks are still in
charge? We could truly stand to have some major personnel cuts starting here
(and I would say, "Send them to
but Google's too smart to have them... dang).

bit of a good long comment:

...the high order bit at
Microsoft is your level--hands down. Two particular employees in my org are
both individual contributors doing effectively the same job...Based on
corporate mandate, manager roles (usually "leads") are expected to
begin no earlier than 63. As a result, a typical employee should expect to
put in around 15 years before becoming a lead...The other useful piece of
advice is to get a great manager. Unless you plan to leave the company soon,
having a great manager will get you farther than having a great role or a
great product.

I will say this, staying in line with my
original goals: if you're young, unattached, and flexible: get the hell out
of Microsoft. It's doubtful that any of your original options / awards are
worth anything and if you aren't a high level, you are not getting much in
the way of bonus or stock awards for sometime to come. The timeline to
promotion has really slowed down.

Now, if you're a dev and hired
around level 59 you should be promoted within the first year or, at worst,
two. And then maybe a year or two to get to level 61. After that things
really slow down and you do need to be achieving great results to get to 62
or 63. Then things really, really slow down and you start entering the
super-achiever zone. I don't quite agree you have to be with the company 15
years to make a lead. I've seen people shoot-up and within a few years of
being hired they are a lead. Most of them wanted that for power and
then realized that dev lead (or just about any first-line manager position)
is a hell of a lot of hard work for the same pay.

You can make a lot
more money and achievement now by joining a small company and kicking butt

Another comment:

...You are stacked ranked
way before you write your reviews. IT IS a popularity contest. One of the
main reasons I left the company was due to a deceitful management chain
managing me out of the company... they methodically and systematically tore
a very productive, a very talented team apart because that team insisted on
telling the truth, doing the right thing which included the best interest of
the company in mind. Now after all that 4 people were driven out from the
company (years as FTE ranged from 7 to 12 yrs), and 6 people were re-orged
or traded into situations not beneficial to their own careers and

I benefit from being on a highly open and
honest team that demonstrates unbelievable integrity. But I have heard
stories from other parts of Microsoft that show some folks, decency-wise,
would be right at home at Enron. This dove-tails well with an older comment
about the cut-throat dot-commers brought in during the internet boom that
will wage any sort of slimy duplicity to stay ahead. These are our corporate
blackberry bushes and no matter of process or Company Values will weed them
out. They simply have to be 2.5'd and moved on.

Lastly: I learned last
week a developer I only knew from email was yet another recent Google
acquisition.  And their first mistake that I know of.  The
competitor in me says, "Good! They're in for
trouble now!"
Or it's a brilliant plant on Microsoft's part.
But, in the end, it's one less brilliant developer working for Microsoft and
carrying the weight of a bunch of dead wood.

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