I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad?”
Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Total protonic reversal.
Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
From Ghostbusters, 1984.
Brings back memories, huh? Well, for me this is exactly what I was thinking about after the initial shock wore off from hearing that Virtual PC was going over to the dark side. I’ll be the first to admit that from the day I walked into my Apple orientation until that moment, I was thinking everyone in the hallways at Microsoft walked around with Darth Vader helmets on and used their force powers to fling Macs around the room just for fun. It was not an easy thing to digest — even more so because of how I found out about it.
I was the development lead at Connectix for VPC 6. You have to understand something about Connectix before I go any further: this was a mom & pop operation built from the ground up. On the first floor was sales, facilities and production (yeah, we burned our own CDs and built our own boxes.) On the second floor was marketing, test, in-house tech support as well as the developers. Everyone hung out together. On Thursday nights, the boss would buy us pizza and let us kill ourselves playing either Counter-Strike, Duke-Nuke’m or UnReal Tournament. Didn’t matter if we were in crunch mode or not: Thursday nights were all for fun.
The other thing you have to remember is that VPC was THE product at Connectix. All the developers worked on both PC & Mac versions. While there was a management hierarchy, it was just in title only. We had open doors everywhere and we could talk to whomever, whenever we wanted to about just about anything. So being the dev lead basically meant that I played interference for developers. I also floated from code area to code area fixing bugs all over the place.
After VPC 6 shipped, my wife and I went to Hawaii to celebrate. When I got back, my boss called me and said, “Let’s go get a beer.” He told me on a Friday. They announced it on a Monday and then the whole company found out. At first, there was great excitement and then we got the bigger news … we were going to have to interview for our jobs.
Let that sink in for a bit. I’d been working on VPC for 3 years. I knew the code pretty damn well. But in order for me to continuing working on VPC for the evil empire, I had to go interview? WTF? It was crazy … even crazier was the fact that it was the entire VPC Mac team, sans the dev lead. Confused? Here’s the kicker: I wasn’t going to be the dev lead. I was being told that not only was I going to have to interview for my job; I was also going to have to give up my lead role to one of my friends at Connectix. At first, I was stunned, shocked, pissed off and a whole other set of emotions … I really didn’t know what to do.
My wife and friends at Connectix all convinced me to do the interviews and man, was that gruelling. Think about it some more. I’m going to interview with people who don’t know my product and I have to prove to them that I know it well enough to be kept on it. We spent the day interviewing and the next day we had to come back and find out if we got to keep our jobs. The nice thing about that day is we all got one hell of a dinner from Microsoft. I definitely drank my fill of liquor that night.
Two weeks later, they announced it to the world. Two weeks after that, we had to pack all our stuff up from Connectix and move to our new location down in Mountain View. The great thing about the move was that they lined us all up in the Microsoft hallway so all the Connectix gang was close to each other. We even made it more homey by putting up large Connectix banners of VPC down our hallway just to make sure everyone knew that this was still our house, even if it was inside Microsoft.
The Connectix gang basically hung together for those first couple of months, even though we had a few Microsoft people added to our team. Slowly but surely, great people like Omar Shahine and Steve Friesen proved themselves worthy (just kidding.) We integrated ourselves into the Microsoft culture as well as added our own culture into Microsoft.
When we started at Microsoft, I got the impression that universes were created and destroyed every day in massive email threads floating through the MacBU discussing problems people were having. At Connectix, if you needed something, you walked to that person’s office and asked them about it; you didn’t fire off an email. I think people got used to me walking into their office and starting hallway conversations. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not all closed doors here at Microsoft and definitely not at the MacBU. It’s just when we started, they were in the middle of shipping Office 11 and no one really had the time to lollygag.
What I did notice is that they love their games. Halo is the method of choice for taking a break. Guys here are fanatics. One even has his own personalized controller in his office — you know a game is on when you see him walking down the hallway. People here work hard and play just as hard. The stories about sinking jet skis in the delta, racing sailboats, getting a surfboard in the head during a weekend of non-stop killer waves are just a few things you might hear on a Monday when hanging out on the patio at lunch. In fact, when we started here, everyone always ate lunch inside the cafeteria but definitely no more. Us Connectix folks loved eating outside on the patio at our old place and we kept that tradition up here at Microsoft. I’m happy to say most of the MacBU now joins us outside for lunch every day.
It took a while for those of us from Connectix to fit into Microsoft and it took just as long for Microsoft to find out where we fit in. I, for one, am very happy to say that I work at Microsoft in the Macintosh Business Unit. It was a hard transition, but all in all, it was a good one, albeit VPC is no more. Microsoft let us do many great things with Virtual PC that would have been impossible at Connectix. It took a while, but they made us feel at home and respected the talent that they had acquired — more so after seeing bugs like the one I mentioned in an earlier post.
I started off this post by saying how freaked out I was on coming to work here and I can honestly say that after 3.5 years I’m actually quite happy to be working here. Yeah, we have to sit through Apple Keynotes bashing our company, but it’s kinda fun putting on a Darth Vader helmet and using our force powers to throw Dell desktop machines at Windows Office guys.