Working in the SharePoint Engineering team for 7 months


Not a lot of people, except few colleagues, knew about that, but I had the unique and incredible opportunity to work directly within the SharePoint Engineering team for a while. This "unique" mission started on 1/4/2010 and lasted for 7 months, financed by WW Services & MCS France, sponsored by Norm Judah (WW Services CTO) & Jeff Teper (SharePoint Corp VP).

Let’s be clear: I won’t disclose the activities I’ve been involved in directly: most of them are internal, confidential, and some concepts are under patent pending. So, I’ll talk in later posts about what can be disclosed, but not that much in details.

I’ll share here few thoughts and funny discoveries I made during my stay in the Building 16 of Microsoft Campus @ Redmond, WA.

First thing, SharePoint is made by people in the Building 16. That looks obvious, but in fact it’s not. Most of you who had/have contacts with SharePoint Product Group, talk with the Building 17, where most of the Product Managers are. They take the new released product and support its adoption, commerce, licensing, positioning, etc.:

  • Building 17 works today mostly on SharePoint 2010.
  • Building 16 works today mostly on SharePoint vNext (called 15) & SharePoint Online 2010. Developers and Testers are in the Building 16, including Jeff Teper, SharePoint big boss.

On the others things, there's a lot to say on what I discovered: Microsoft is an interesting company from the outside. When you work in the field as a consultant, you may think you know a little bit more on it...but...nothing is like working on Redmond Campus.

Redmond is not only the Head Quarters of Microsoft, but it's almost 60% of its body. If it’s not called MSFT HQ, it’s because it’s not the HQ, with few execs, and a lot of assistants: It’s Microsoft.
How many global companies do you know have 45,000+ persons in their "HQ", working on the same site? NONE!

This site is unique. Most of the product related people & what they need is here:

  • Research
  • Labs (that aim to transfer research works to products)
  • Products Groups that develop the products
  • Marketing
  • Services
  • Internal IT
  • Cloud datacenters (at least one of each type in the neighborhood of Redmond/Seattle)
  • “Standard support” functions, like HR, finance ...
  • “Specific” functions like the Commons, MS Library, training facilities, MS Connect (internal taxi service)...
  • Most of the buildings offer showers, so that you can come biking and have a shower

Few funny things around SharePoint development:

  • SharePoint teams are, for most of them, split between Buildings 16 & 17.
    In fact, these 2 buildings are almost just one: they share the same cafeteria & parking. You can walk from one to another without being outside (under the rain Winking smile).
  • You'll find people wearing Kilts, or just socks to work
  • I discovered there the “Flexible meetings” concept: A team works on a topic, then, in the middle of the meeting, they just state "Let's have a social event!". They decide who will host the Saturday party ... and the meeting is over. Amazing meeting management process, even for Engineering work (I can compare I worked in automotive R&D in a previous life).
  • Some offices have neither chairs nor desks: couches are enough. Meetings happen sat on the floor. I also saw chairs replaced by big balloons.
  • Sometimes this concept is extended to the hallway. I attended status meetings for a whole team organized in the hallway!
  • Most of the walls are/can be pinned with posters or white boards. I think white boards is the easiest supply you can request for your office. There are also posters, like the one you find now on TechNet. They are pinned with a pen attached, so that the developers can check/modify their accuracy while on their way to the cafeteria.
  • The 3rd level of the parking hosts a Recycling center: everything disposed arrives here (cables, paper, PC, any hardware). It's then sorted, and recycled. If you need a cable of any kind, or a Fiber Channel card for one of your servers/workstations, go there, you'll find it.
  • I made the terrible mistake to wear a suit. On the Campus, you wear suits for only 2 reasons: customer appointment or interviewing (from exterior). In my team, they bet on how long I'll wear it .... the winner was 3 days. What convinced me definitely is when one of my friend I visited looked at me and said: "You don't look like an engineer". I was done with a suit.... for 7 months (Happiness Smile )
  • There are also few cultural differences for an European here: you should not shake hands everyday to say hello. Up to you to find the appropriate "hand shaking rate".
  • There are a lot of people from over the world: Mexicans, Indians, Brazilians, Ukrainians, etc. So don't be ashamed with your English. There's worst than you in the hallway somewhere. Be the best at what you do, and that’s Okay.
  • Like in the subs, there are break room/kitchen at reach of every office. You'll find there soft drinks, coffees & refrigerators. Pretty useful, but be careful for your weight.
  • For Late evenings of work (i.e. leaving at 8pm instead of 5pm), food is provided. Each "stay late & code" evenings the food is from different origins. I ate Mexican, Indian, American, and Indian again.

Regarding the environment, I learned funny things:

  1. Microsoft has its own bank, called the First Tech Credit Union ( There are ATM in most of the cafeterias. Pretty useful!
  2. Google settled its Cloud computing engineering offices at 10 minutes drive from the Microsoft Campus (Google Inc., Kirkland Engineering Office, 747 6th Street, South Kirkland, WA 98033). I was astonished when I learnt this. But that's logical: there's not that many places you can find talented, and fast developers able to ship a product in the world. Most of them are on the US west Coast, either in the Silicon Valley (South of San Francisco) or the Silicon Forest (Seattle area).
  3. For the fun, I found a French bakery Smile .... Operated by Chinese people Sad smile .... the French bread and pastries were horrible (but I found another one, French operated).

Here are my few environmental finds out.
In later posts I'll talk about the technical and processes things I've seen.... Pretty surprising also.


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And few goodies to finish this long (text) post:

Find your way on the Campus:

Ah, that’s here:

And here’s the building:

How is it inside?


And the competition is not far:

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