So far away: Distributed development

If you are a software geek, like me, being the product support technician for your friends and family comes with the territory. While it’s painful to watch your family struggle with software, particularly if you helped write it, at least you can tell them, “Back off, I’m a computer scientist,” and repair whatever is wrong….


Lead, follow, or get out of the way

We’re closing in on midyear career discussions again. It’s time to place your hopes and humility in the hands of your hierarchy. I still haven’t recovered from the amputation of our midyear ratings, which allowed managers to send messages and employees to salvage careers after a temporary setback. They’ve been replaced with a time-consuming CareerCompass…


Software performance: What are you waiting for?

You hurt your shoulder playing volleyball, so you make an appointment to see your doctor. You enter the office and wait in line for five minutes just to let the receptionist know you’ve arrived. He has you verify your contact and insurance information, which haven’t changed in ages, and then tells you to sit in…


How do you measure yourself?

At Microsoft, we can execute, but can we think? When billions of dollars are on the line, you better not be guessing about decisions. A decade ago, our products weren’t guesses; they were enhanced impersonations of our competitors’ successful products. We won by outdoing those ahead of us. Now we lead in many areas, and…


Frequently asked questions

By Eric Brechner  Because these columns were originally written for an internal Microsoft audience, readers may have questions about context or other Microsoft-isms. I’ll try to answer them here as best I can. Simply add a comment with your question and I’ll respond. I’ve started things off with a few common questions.


Get a job: Finding new roles

It’s the end of review season: time to reflect on your career and current situation. Some people have a career plan, know where they’re at, and already have their next move lined up. I call these people “wise, successful, and yet, disturbing.” Perhaps I’m jealous. After all, I should have a multistep career plan in…


How Microsoft Is Organized

By Eric Brechner  Because these columns were originally written for an internal Microsoft audience, I thought a short peek inside Microsoft and my role would be helpful. Currently, product development at Microsoft is divided into three business divisions, around 25 product lines, over 450 product units, and a multitude of feature teams. The divisions are platform…


About the Author

I. M. Wright is an alter ego of Eric Brechner. Eric is the development manager for the web site and the Xbox® publishing systems for the web, console, and Windows Phone®. Prior to his current assignment, Eric was director of engineering learning and development for Microsoft Corporation, and managed development for a shared feature…



2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5 (also known as ratings, the review system, the curve)   Microsoft’s old rating system, which was changed in the spring of 2006. Ratings of 2.5 and 3.0 were undesirable. Ratings of 4.0 and 4.5 were highly desirable. A 3.5 rating was readily accepted and the most common. BillG, or Bill Bill…


October 1, 2006: “Bold predictions of quality”

I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code” book excerpt  I’ve been busy dogfooding lately. It’s an ideal diversion for masochists. When it gets to be too much, I can always take respite in a nice horror film. Thank goodness what passes for dogfood now is a vast improvement over years past. Eric Aside Dogfooding is the practice of using…