by Randy Guthrie – Microsoft Academic Relations Manager
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Japan to participate in a .NET seminar for professional software developers being held in Kamakura, which is about 50 miles south of Tokyo. While there I had a free day to tour around a bit, and so I found myself on the doorstep of Microsoft Japan’s main offices in the "Skyscraper District" of Tokyo called Shinjuku. Microsoft does not do software development in Tokyo; most of the jobs there are in sales, technical support, and operations. I went to the office hoping to make some local contacts that could help me out next time I am in Japan. While there was much that was similar to how we run our offices in the US, there were several interesting differences that I thought I’d share.
This is the rather understated sign outside the building. I once asked our operations manager in the Denver office why we didn’t have our name on the building, and the answer was both interesting and somewhat humorous. Apparently if we put our name on the side of the building, people see the word Microsoft and stop by in droves computer-in-hand hoping that we’ll be able to fix their computer. Since Microsoft is a software company, not a hardware company, people invariably will leave disappointed no matter what we tell them, so its a lose:lose situation.
The first thing I noticed was that the receptionists have these awesome uniforms; somewhat like flight attendants. I showed these pics to the girls in our office, and they liked the idea of not having to wonder what to wear to work every day.
This is cubical land. While cubicles are ubiquitous at Microsoft, in the US we use 6 foot walls at least for privacy and to keep the sound down from people talking on the phone. I’m guessing the team culture in Japan is at least partly responsible for this difference.
One thing that is a huge part of Microsoft’s culture is free beverages at work. At Microsoft’s offices in Redmond, WA USA, there are refrigerated cases with a variety of sodas, fruit juices, and milk (regular, low fat and chocolate), with free Starbucks coffee nearby. In Denver we have the same thing except no milk. In Japan, the "free" beverages are a bit more limited, and are dispensed in a cup with ice/no ice option. No Mountain Dew though 🙁 . I haven’t seen a cup dispensing machine in at least 20 years.
If you want something in a can or bottle, you have to pay for it. The cost is 50 yen (about 45 cents US). Notice the wide selection of iced teas and coffees. And I got my Mountain Dew!
They had a little company store in a corner of the break area, where I had hoped to snag a cool shirt that was identifiably Japanese, but alas it was just the regular stuff that we can get in the US.