For Justin: How I got here

I guess I’m monopolizing the “Ledgard” search on google nowadays. Recently I received this mail from Justin Ledgard (no relation that I know of)…

Hey, i just put my name into a search engine to see what would come up with and i got this lol, i was wondering how you got into work at Microsoft, thats been a dream of mine since i was a kid, cya 😀

For me it was either software maven or MLB player.  One of the two obviously had a future.  The other was relegated to a hobby.  (Though whenever those MLB crybabies go on strike again I’ll be the first to break the picket lines!) Here is the more complete version:

My dad is a dentist, but at a young age encouraged me to avoid staring at mouths all day long and instead believed that the computer screen was somehow less evil and would be an optimal profession for someone in my generation.  He bought a Commodore 64 and we would copy the code from the magazines.  This was how I got started.  I moved from a Commodore to an Atari ST computer where the possibilities seemed to expand infinitely.  I spent a lot of time learning to be more creative with my programs working with the STOS Game Creator .  We would go to Atari user groups. If they had such a thing, I probably would have been the youngest Atari MVP.  Toward the decline of the Atari reign (if you could even call it that) I remember going to a new computer launch where the demo crashed on Jack Tramiel.  To “uncrash” it he suggested you could just lift up a corner and let it drop a few inches.  He wasn’t joking… it worked.  I think this personally signified the beginning of the end for Atari.  We soon had a 386 complete with the “turbo“ switch! 

I was the kid in school that word processed everything well before the wave actually hit my school.  I didn’t win popularity points for figuring out how I could print a mirror image for my report on Da Vinci.  My school didn’t do much to nurture this geekdom however since we had no programing classes or computer interaction beyond using some Macs to put together the school newspaper.  They did try and institute a “Computer Class”.  It took me a while, but I convinced them to let me take the “final exam” before the class so I could avoid boredom.  I became the kid with the laptop.  It was between a 486 or an Apple newton.  This choice probably foreshadowed more than I knew at that point.  I maximized all 25mhz on the 486.  Again, I didn’t win any popularity points, but hey, I knew what the math co-processor was for and the other kids didn’t!

I choose Vanderbilt because they sent me the most mail.  Its true.  Someone suggested schools from the south would be more willing to accept a student from the northeast.  I took all the mail from schools and separated into piles above and below the Mason Dixon line.  For the schools south of the line I removed mailings from schools that didn’t have Computer Engineering.  I had always been a fan of cool gadgets and didn’t know if I was more interested in hardware or software so this seemed like a good mix. Then I took out any schools that didn’t accept the common application since I’m lazy about those sorts of things.  I was left with a few choices, but the stack of mail from Vanderbilt was by far the highest.  I took it as a sign, got in, and was encouraged that it would be good to experience life outside of New England.  When I saw the scenery the campus had to offer my choice was finalized. 

Maybe it was the professors or maybe it played better to my strengths, but I leaned the major heavy towards the software side and learning assembly was as close to the metal as I really cared to get.  After my sophomore year I interned for a company that wrote testing software for the defense companies.  This meant learning ADA.  Which was cool because it was the first time anyone asked about my relation to Henry Ledgard, who had a bit to do with the creation of the ADA language.  If you can find it, his book on Programing Practices is still a worthy read today as it was ahead of its time.  I essentially wrote tools in ADA to calculate code path coverage and do complexity analysis that was use to test software that would find its way into missile defense systems. :-) I also learned I liked being paid for work as opposed to paying to do work.

After my junior year I worked in Atlanta for Radiant Systems.  I had actually gone through interviews and was offered an internship for the VB team at Microsoft.  When I told the MS recruiter my choice she actually said “Well good luck to you then“ and promptly hung up on me.  With a splash of MS arrogance she called back soon after to apologize and offered me “another 24 hours to re-think my poor choice“.  I waited 24 hours, called her back, and said no a third time.  What she didn’t know was that I was fairly arrogant as well and firmly believed if I passed the interviews once I could do it again as long as I wasn’t black listed.  At Radiant I used J++ and Interdev to write a web site that tracked auto-updates to POS software around the country.  It sounds simpler than it was.  I blame the tools. :-) 

During my march towards graduation the choices essentially were between Motorola, Radiant, and three teams at Microsoft that I went back to interview with.  Thankfully I had a different recruiter who had a much better approach. She spent her time convincing Gretchen. :-)  I chose Microsoft mostly because I felt that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to work on and figured that once I got in I’d have a lot of choices.  I was right.  Since I’ve been here I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people on things I’m passionate about.  Besides, working with the some of the best people in software isn’t really any different than playing professional baseball right?

Does that help answer your question Justin?

Comments (4)

  1. gretchen says:

    Hey Justin – I’m a recruiter at MS now, so if you are truly interested in working here, send me your resume. :)

  2. Justin says:


    Just got your email, and yep answered the question, My background in computers started with an IBM JX that we got from the local library for $100.. soon after we got a Commodore 64 and i started editing games on it, that and learning Basic..

    About 2 years ago i picked up my passion for learning computer languages again and started with C/C++ and OpenGL, my drive for it was to make games, i quit that but am now going back to college to get my computer degree’s…

    Not really sure what path id like to take in computers, but i have about 10 years experience and just finished up a contract with an australia wide hardware store replacing all there screens and upgrading there networks…

    However ive always wanted to get into some area of game development, would be great to be able to work at Microsoft in some division of it, just not sure what qualifications i would need on paper.

    Thanks for the reply,

    Justin :)

  3. Hey !! You are lucky man !

    I know two more persons in my city (~1.000.000 people) with same first and last name like mine. My last name is not that common like everybody can imagine from above statement.

    One of them live in the same district with me, and has studied in the same school (on another part of city, not a local school !!!), and have an brother with the same name as my brother. Also his brother is about 5 year younger that him, just like mine compared to me. The only difference in our passports is our photos, age – he is a little bit (about 1 year) older and different middle (father) names. But first letters of our middle names are the same !!!

    Pure magic ;o)

    P.S> Google Ledgard return 13,200 results while Tereshchenko 6,660 + Tereschenko 8,020 = about the same.