It’s been basically a month since I first moved into my office here on Microsoft campus and I both love and hate it here.
Geek Celebrities need their own star path
Life on campus can be really fun and it’s kind of surreal to be sitting here at lunch time and seeing a lot of what I call the “Geek-Rockstars” walk by, some of which I remember 2 years ago watching on Channel 9 and Channel 10 thinking “man those folks must have a good life, how easy is that job..”.
The people I meet here daily are amazing, the quality of brain power in this area is also just as amazing and not to mention the sheer size of this company within the Seattle area is truly the most amazing of all.
I remember driving my wife from the airport to the campus and she simply said “..You guys have way to much money, this is ridiculous..” and it did hit me just how big this company’s HQ truly is.
Size isn’t everything.
Size isn’t everything though, there are some things that concern me overall and they are mostly around being to accessible to the corporate way of life.
In that, I can’t go anywhere in Seattle without bumping into a Microsoftee in one way or another. This can be I guess good (as you kind of have this bird of feather approach to thinking) but at the same time it can also feel very “insulated” from the real world. I guess I’m used to seeing a shock look on peoples faces when I mention “I work for Microsoft”, as back home it was quite rare and in my respects considered to be a “wow, you done good with your life Barnes” moment (hey I’m shallow, and I enjoyed that bit of ego boost).
Here it’s basically – me too. Then the next thing you know you’re basically talking shop.
Too close to home
I also find the overall campus is to close to home, in that I’m used to commuting 40mins each way to work for the past 15 years or so. Having it 10mins down the road depending on traffic does kind of unnerve me.
Reason? It’s just to easy to go “oh I’ll go in and do some work today because I’m bored.” as at home with a 40min commute, you kind of weighed things up in terms of “Can I be bothered having a long drive in to do 1hrs work?”. That and if you then opt to work from within your home office, having the kids constant hassle you to go outside and play does help nudge you in the right direction.
That’s more personal work life balance though. I’m glad though Microsoft has enough abstraction layers in place to sort of hint that you should spend as less time at work as possible as this is the complete opposite to Google’s line of thinking. I’ve got friends at Google whom have agreed that the whole “we have everything on campus” is too convenient and it basically almost encourages you to never leave the campus.
It all reminds me of that episode on The Simpsons.
There was an episode once where Homer Simpson ends up joining this new future community nuclear power plant facility, where it really is run by Scorpio (aka ORACLE’s CEO clone) which is some mutation of a Anti-trust meets James Bond riff (episode titled: You only move twice)
Basically the story is that Homer and the family move to this super corporate environment and everything is taken care of by the company they work for, so much so Marge gets bored out of her brain as she’s used to the work-hard, play-hard life style.
Microsoft can feel like that at times (not that it’s bad, but just a little to well groomed). Having everything taken care of for you bar your own home is also quite appealing.
Like for example having our own entire private bus network which will pick you up from home every morning free is a life saver.
Don’t take this as a complaint more of a Aussie guy trying to figure out how this entire culture works so that he can fit in.
Overall though life on campus is pretty damn good and its more fun to being able to get off my butt, walk over to the subject matter experts here at Microsoft, shout them to a coffee and learn from what they have to say vs emailing.
I’ve come to realise that living in the US you end up being insulated from the world. In that in Australia I come home, watch the 6pm news and it covers Local, National and World events. Here in the US its just so fragmented that its hard to see a snapshot of what the world is up to on any given day. Instead I’ve looked towards more the NY Times etc for that daily dose.