Move to Fargo?!?! You have to be kidding…

Four years ago, I was asking myself the question in the title.  After 15 years in the Minneapolis area, my family was seriously considering a job offer to join Microsoft in Fargo.  I wasn’t really job hunting, and we certainly weren’t looking to move out of an area where we had put some roots down.  As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the decision was to pull up those roots and make the move to Fargo.

So now that I’ve been here for four years, what can I tell you?  I can tell you that I think developing software for Microsoft in Fargo is one of the best kept secrets in the Upper Midwest.  “Microsoft Development on the Prairie” has some very cool advantages:

  • You get to work for the most influential software company on the planet.  Sure, we and others joke about the ‘evil empire’, but it’s a great place to work.  Besides basics like great benefits, you get to work with some very bright people and have the opportunity to impact a lot of people with your work.
  • You get to work for that company on a campus of around 1000 people.  I worked as a Coop Engineer at 3M while in college and have been out to our Redmond campus several times.  I personally don’t like the feel at the large campus headquarters at either company.  My entire career has been spent at locations with around 1000 people or less.  That’s a nice size for me.  Our corporate culture simply feels more collaborative than in Redmond.
  • You get to work in a software engineering culture that is quality focused and always looking to get better.
  • You get to work at a place where a 20 minute commute like mine is considered long!  I leave in the opposite corner of the ‘metro’ area in a ‘suburb’ of 3,000 people.  I drive 12 miles to work.  Whew…
  • You get to live in a community that is a great place to live, particularly for families.  I bought 50% more house for 20% less money when we moved up here.  The schools are excellent and the neighborhoods are safe.  My daughter attends a small, private school where the tuition cost is a fraction of the private schools with long waiting lists in major metropolitan areas.  With three colleges and a combined population of 150,000, there’s more than sports, arts, and shopping to keep me entertained.
  • You are less than an hour's drive from Minnesota lake country.
  • There’s more, but I’ll stop here…

I’ll acknowledge that not everything is perfect here.  You have to like, or at least tolerate, some cold weather in the winter.  It’s windy.  It’s not always easy working at a remote site in a big company.  MBS is still working to get serious traction in the marketplace and the company.  The community could use a few more bike trails and a more developed park system.  But in my book, these issues are minor compared to the benefits.

So, what brings on this blog post?  Well, I was talking to Don Morton a couple of weeks ago.  Among other duties, Don is the Fargo Campus Site Leader.  Don also was the football coach at North Dakota Statue University in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  He spoke about having to overcome Fargo’s ‘reputation’ when recruiting football players way back then.  The key for him was to get them on campus and then the college, facilities, and community would win them over. 

Truth be told, it was that way for me.  I had a college friend working here and I somewhat reluctantly went through the interview process.  It wasn’t until I came up to interview that I figured out how cool the professional opportunity would be for me.  After I decided that I would want the job if it was down the street, my family needed to decide to make the relocation.  We don’t have any regrets four years later.

While there are good things about a ‘best kept secret’, we need to spread the word more.  We are always looking for top notch software developers to come join our team.  If  you are reading this and are looking for a great software development opportunity, let me know…  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Comments (8)
  1. cs says:

    Fellow Minnesotan here,

    Don’t understate the winters up there for non-Minnesotans. It can be worse than you make it sound. My sisters went to Concordia, MSU Moorhead, and UND. They will never forget some of the winters. I’m in Mankato finishing my M.S. C.S and it is like Florida here compared to up there. The last few winters have been quite mild though.. global warming I guess. I’d say the wind is really the worse thing. You do sort of get used to it after a while.

  2. Dan Hoeger says:

    I moved to Fargo about 4 years ago as well. For me it was not that difficult of a decision. I grew up in the area and was aware of all that was available here and of how friendly the people in general are. After living the the Seattle area for almost ten years it was nice to come back here where traffic is considered bad if you have to wait for a traffic light to cycle more than once. The schools are great and with being so close to some good lakes in Minnesota there is a lot more things available for you to do. I enjoy the weather here more you definately get 4 distinct seasons and my family enjoys getting out in the snow and having fun.

  3. Ray Babcock says:

    I moved here from Microsoft Redmond almost 6 months ago and I would echo most of what Dave said. I often find myself smiling as i’m driving places, just from thinking how much more convenient things are.

    For example, the other day, I wanted to go do some shooting with my son. Now in Redmond, I don’t even know of any good places for target practice (outdoor) without driving for at least 40 minutes. In Fargo, I was able to drive about 6 miles, shoot some targets and be back home in an hour or so.

    Another example, I needed to take some things to the dump. In Redmond, I would have to "tarp my load" so I didn’t get a ticket or get charged extra, (doesn’t matter how secure it is, they still make you tarp it), drive 30 – 40 minutes each way through traffic, pay about $30 and it turns into an afternoon. In Fargo? well, strap it down good, head for the dump, a 10 minute drive, and it cost me $7.50. Nice! (I might even clean out my garage now)

    Going to the zoo? It’s small, but it’s rarely crowded, they some cool animals, the kids love it and we love it because it’s a 5 minute drive and easy. When I needed to take my vehicle in for service, I drop it off and they’ll run me back to work ( a 3 minute drive), call me when it’s ready and come and pick me up again. Whether going to school, church, work, a small town parade, sledding or whatever, I love the convenience of things in Fargo! I am building a new home that backs up to the new elementary school and a huge park…and it’s exactly 1 mile from Microsoft! (Try that in Redmond!)

    You get the benefits of working for one of the best companies on the planet and get to live in a more rural community. To my family and I, it’s the best of both worlds!

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