Ian’s top eight things about working at Microsoft

            One year ago today, I started my full-time (I was also a former summer intern) employment here at Microsoft. It seems like as good a chance as any to reflect on the things that I enjoy about working here. So since June 8th is the date, here are the top eight things that I love about working at Microsoft in general and on the Visual Studio Profiler in particular. By the way, I’ve really enjoyed my first year here so, if you are a cynic, you might want to go read Slashdot instead ;).


Number eight: Organization at work


            Compared to so many other jobs everything here is so well organized that it’s scary. When you work here you know the “chain of command” from the interns all the way up to Ballmer and Gates. There is never any confusion about who your boss really is, like there is in so many other companies. Plus the review process keeps you informed about how you are performing at your job. Getting good feedback is super important for being able to improve yourself as an employee.


Number seven: Making new contacts outside of my team 


            I’ve reserved a higher slot for my daily co-workers, but Microsoft is full of excellent and interesting people. You might meet them through working out some technical issue, chatting on a blog or playing ultimate Frisbee. At times it’s like a huge college campus full of very smart geeks who have a lot in common, which makes it pretty easy to meet new people.


Number six: Working for a company that is a newsmaker


            Sure, maybe it’s not always good news, but everyday Microsoft news is all over print and TV media. And the amount of internet and blogging traffic regarding the company was just stunning to me when I started working here. One way or another, other companies and the stock market are directly affected by choices made by Microsoft. And that’s the type of company that I want to work for.


Number five: Getting to enjoy products from your company


            For me, this involves all the Microsoft products that I don’t work on, but I still get to use and enjoy. I like going home and firing up Windows XP and playing some music in Windows Media Player. There is a definite small, but fun, sense of ownership in using products that were made by the company that I now work for. Plus, I get to be excited about upcoming products like the Xbox360 or possibly a computer with Windows Media Center Edition. Call it being a fanboy if you like, but I’m having a lot of fun with it!


Number four: Lots of cool things are happening elsewhere in the company


            Now I’m completely happy with my current job. But it is a sign of a good company (like Microsoft) when there are tons of other interesting jobs available internally. I love working on Visual Studio Team System (see item number one) but if I wasn’t working here I’d love to be working for: the usability team, or maybe Windows Media Center Edition, or one of the Xbox teams or working on the new IE7. The point is, it’s great to work somewhere with lots of interesting projects, not just the one that you’re currently working on.


Number three: Learning something new and applying it on the job


            Few things feel better then figuring out something new, and then using it to get the job done. Coming straight out of college, almost everything that I’m asked to do here is new to me. In all the crazy rush of cleaning up bugs for the release date, it’s good to step back and realize that I’m still learning lots of new tools and techniques that will help make be a better programmer. Also there are great trainings here, although I need to get around to actually making the time to attend more of them.


Number two: The co-workers


            This one is for my co-workers on the profiler team. It’s hard to get motivated or to really challenge yourself without other smart folks around to push you on. And we happen to have some of the smartest here on our team. In addition to being a bunch of smart guys, they are also pretty dang fun to hang out with, which is a major plus.


Number one: Working with the tools that you have helped to build every day


            This is the big one, and along with my co-workers the reason that I’m so happy on my current team. It’s a great feeling the first time you check in some code and then see your changes showing up in the IDE the next time you update. It’s a real sense that you are contributing to something big; and not just anything big, but something that I use to complete my job everyday. You know that I’m going to be thrilled for my first product launch when Visual Studio Team Systems is released November 7th.



            A big thanks goes out to everyone who I’ve worked with for helping to make this a great first year.


Comments (20)

  1. Eric Jarvi says:

    Congratulations Ian – I can hardly believe it’s been a year! http://blogs.msdn.com/ianhu/archive/2005/06/08/426743.asp

  2. Eric K. says:

    As a developer in a business that uses Microsoft products exclusively, I’m a pretty big fan of Microsoft’s technologies.

    Well, I like technology in general, and the easier it is to tinker with, the more likely I am to have it.

    Slashdot is fun when they’re talking about modding hardware. But that seems like only one one-hundredth of the updates.

    The other 99 percent are variations on the themes of "*nix r00ls! r0xx0r!" and "m$ 1z teh l0se!!11one!!1" Awright. We know what they don’t like already. The inside jokes have gotten stale.

    I can’t imagine how that doesn’t get tedious even for the hardcore eunuchs.

    So, hey, if your intent is to be the inverse, I’ll be right here watching for each and every infrequent-but-relevant update! (!!11one!)

  3. Brian says:

    Wow. I was considering applying to Microsoft but after reading those two blogs in the comment I’m having serious second thoughts 🙁

    Unfortunately Google isn’t an option as I don’t have a PhD.

  4. Let’s see Microsophist spends a whole blog slagging on Microsoft, where he claims to work. How sad is that. Microsophist, if you really feel that way, then why do you work here? It sounds to me like the guy who goes to college, doesn’t try to get out or make any friends, then blames it on the fact that his school "has no social life." The fact that a company of this size has some disgruntled employees complaining should come as no suprise to anyone.

  5. Tim says:

    Wow, has it really been a year already? Hardly seems that long at all =]But where’s the ‘rolling into work wearing athletic shorts’ item? I’ve heard you tell stories about that, it certainly would have made my list… of course I have to wear kakhi’s and a dress shirt to work so maybe my view is a bit skewed 😉

    Anyways congrats on landing the kickin’ job there. I hope you have many more great years ahead of you!

  6. Anonymous says:

    So you have yet to see

    a co-worker that writes crappy code and gets promoted ahead of you because he ie ‘visible’ and ‘passionate’

    a manager who makes you work 14 hours a day in order to hide mistakes in planning and management

    a higher manager that just want to hit the date and ships product riddled with bugs and security holes and your opinion won’t matter

    management that wants to be on all patents you file

    stock saying flat or goes down despite all your honest work

    days when you try to get your idea into the product and PMs telling you that you are all wrong and then competitor implements features that you suggested and captures the market.

    Why do we still work here? Because we believe there is still hope (after all, Bill and Steve do NOT own the company, shareholders do), we have families that don’t want to move, friends at work and in fact, we actually still like to write code.

    I would recommend you to look at MSPoll numbers. Interesting reading.

  7. ex employee says:

    Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed your first year. I loved my first year at MSFT also. But I’d caution you to wait until after you’ve gone through a ship cycle on your product before preaching too loud. But hey, nothing wrong with rampant enthusiasm I suppose.

    As for me, well maybe my situation was atypical. I was hugely overworked, had to deal with outright hostile program and dev managers, and in the end was slotted into a job I didn’t really enjoy. It was frustrating there was cool stuff around me but I couldn’t partake. Anyway, I’m happier now. 😉 Good luck to you.

  8. Ah I remember the "honeymoon year" fondly. In fact it was about two years; right about the end is when I got my XP logo tattoo on my right shoulder. It’s quite colorful.

    Enjoy the romance. I hope you do not feel the need to "coyote" out of bed*

    ("coyote"–having to chew one’s own arm off to extricate oneself from a terrible trap)

  9. Anonymous says:


    PC World 100 best products of 2005. We have all the glory: WMP 10 at 47th place and CE-based Dell Axim at 69th. And this is from leading software company of the world. Guess who is on top.

  10. ex-softie, 5-10 yrs here says:

    That’s cute kid.

    When you’re young enthusiastic and idealistic you don’t really ask yourself questions like:

    Why is our stock flatlining to 1998 levels?

    Why do we live and die by the outmoded bell curve?

    Why is there so much interteam feature duplication?

    Why are so many good performers given 3.5s just so their manager doesn’t lose talent?

    Why is there so much middle management in the first place?

    Why have we lost so much cash in failed ventures which haven’t been turned around in years?

    Why are we so hated generally?

    You might think I’m whining but if you’re here for another few years then you might start getting a more balanced picture.

    Anyway, enjoy the honeymoon years, mine were awesome too 🙂

  11. Bob Tabor says:

    There are two old expressions that might be applicable here …

    "Out of the frying pan and into the fire"


    "Which is worse? The devil you know, or the devil you don’t?"

    I’ve never worked at Microsoft, but I look at some of the negative comments from ex-employees (or people who are currently not enjoying their tenure at the company) and the comments you made remind me of EVERY COMMENT I EVER MADE AT EVERY OTHER COMPANY I HATED WORKING AT. Leaving Microsoft (or any company for that matter) doesn’t necessarily make all those problems go away. Yeah, working for other people sucks some times and it has a lot to do with the group you’re in and who you report to. From an outsider’s perspective, I see a lot of internal movement at Microsoft, so it seems that if you don’t like your current group you could probably find a whole other job and not have to go through the hassle of changing insurers.

    I work for myself now, and *sometimes* that sucks, too. So there are no "perfect" solutions. Just "good enough". 🙂

    I think its great that someone actually *likes* his job. There are a lot of people who are envious of your job and the cool products you’re working on … like me.

  12. Ian, as someone else who’s just started (I’m only 4 days in) I can already seen there’s a ton of positives about working here – but I can also see that it isn’t for everyone. But the same can be said about all jobs – lots of the comments about how *bad* it is seem to be from people who live in the past, fact is I didn’t join 1995 Microsoft, I joined 2005 Microsoft, pay levels are competitive with the rest of the industry, conditions are FAR better (I came from a small ISV – whole world of difference). Will I make my millions and live the rest of my days on my private island with a myriad dusky maidens…nope! Will I get a challenging interesting job with at least a chance of working on the types of projects which actually interest me – no doubt. Fact is that here you have to be a self-motivated typem if you try and cruise you’ll fall on your ass.

  13. Matt Pietrek looks at the impact of the innovation tax ⊕

    In his first technical post, Maxim Goldin…

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