Sleepless from Bulgaria: an intern’s first weeks in the VB team

I started as an intern at Microsoft two weeks ago, and I thought it might be nice to share my experience with you. Not just because I love blogging, but also because I think that there are so many great things that happen here that are worth mentioning. I will try to post weekly, keeping you up to date with my thoughts on Microsoft, the VB team, my project, Seattle and the area, fun stuff that happened here, etc. But first things first, so:
 
Who am I?
My name is Slavi, I live and study in Bulgaria and in October I am starting my last year as a B.Sc. student in Sofia University, major Computer Science. Right now I am a Program Manager Intern at Microsoft and I am working with the VB team. My passions include software engineering, algorithms, business and economics, management, teaching, and also hiking and all kinds of sports. For the last five years I have been working as a software engineer, QA, TA, and lecturer for various companies and for my university, partly half-time, partly full-time.
 
So, let me give you a list of the top things answer the question “Why am I here?“:
– Because I need to feel that my job matters, that it has big impact on lots of people.
– Because I want to work with really smart people who respect what I do and the other way around.
– Because I want to work in a friendly, collaborative environment in a company that does its best to make me feel great on my workplace.
– Because I want to have the chance to talk to a lot of people as a part of my job.
– Because I want to know that I have a lot of opportunities, a place where I can build my future and be happy about that.
– Because I want to be a part of a dynamic, rapidly growing global company that is leader in its field.
 
The Company
To me, Microsoft combines all those things and what is more, the team I am working with is one of the shiniest examples when it comes to customer impact, smart people, great atmosphere and unlimited opportunities.
 
To tell you the truth, things aren’t quite as I imagined they would be. Before I came here, I thought of Microsoft more or less as one of those places full of serious people in suits and ties, coming to work at 8 and leaving at 8. It turned out that I couldn’t have been more wrong – the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and at the same time highly professional. People know quite well what they are doing and how to do it, and at the same time there a lot of fun things to do. Just as it is full of conference rooms and books all over the place, there are Xboxes, pool tables, foosball tables, mini-kitchens with free snacks, etc.
 
One more thing I like about Microsoft is that you can feel that people really love their job. You see excited groups of people walking around the campus, discussing what they are doing, and those aren’t just the small talks that one goes through when he doesn’t have a better topic. They are sincerely interested in what is happening around the company. And how could you not be, when the guy you are having lunch with is explaining what the next version of Windows is going to look like or what the new features in VB are going to be?
 
My project and my team
I am really sorry to tell you that, but I can’t talk about my project. Sorry, blame the marketing people 🙂 I can tell you one thing though – it is really exciting – it is one of the best things I have worked on so far and I am sure that you are going to love it. I can only say that I get to play with the VB compiler, debugger, IDE, runtime – pretty much everything. The coolest part is that there is a whole team of interns working on the project (SDET, SDE and PM), so it is even more fun. We are doing a great progress, so you might hear of something great coming quite soon 🙂
 
What is even better, the people I am working with are amazing. I guess you know Kit, Amanda and Jay pretty well, but there are also so many great people I work with every day. There is one thing that strikes me, and it is other people’s attitude. As you know, all the people here are pretty busy, but it is unbelievable how friendly and open they are and how they can always find time for you. As an example, Tyler Whitney, a software architect who has been at Microsoft for around 10 years, has been helping me a lot since the project started. For one thing, he knows a lot about the VB compiler and the VB runtime, but his job has nothing to do with him helping me. Still, every time I go to his office, every time I send a mail or an IM message, he responds immediately. And he really goes into all the details and spends quite some time explaining things, giving examples, etc. I love this! You could talk to all those incredibly smart people who have literally created VB, and they are all so great, kind and helpful!
 
My Job
I am a Program Manager, which in the course of my internship I will have more time to talk about. For now I can say that I love it, and even for the two weeks here I have already learned so many new things! You get to do pretty much anything – write specs, gather requirements, meet people from different teams, but also do dev work, test work, write code, etc. I promise to write a post about what it was to be a PM here (probably at the end of my internship), but as time goes by I will keep you posted about how thing are going and what I get to do every week as a PM.
 
The fun stuff
The Redmond campus is really great. One of the things I was told before coming here was that Redmond is a beautiful place, which I believed, but as where I grew up we have amazing nature as well, I thought I would not be impressed. I am. Truly. You can hardly find a greener place. It feels as if the whole Microsoft campus was built inside the woods, there is so much green around here. You can often see rabbits, mushrooms and what not in the campus. If you are a nature lover, this is definitely the place for you.
There is a lot to do besides sightseeing as well. Bellevue and Seattle are quite close here, so there are lots of shopping malls, clubs, attractions. Last week I had the chance to go on a boat trip around lake Washington – it was one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I also loved Pro Club, a health club very close to the main campus. It is huge, by far the biggest sports club I have seen in my life (if I am not mistaken, it is the biggest on the west coast and one of the biggest in the US in general). And, the best part is that Microsoft pays my membership, so I go there completely free…
 
There are a lot of things going on all the time, the best to mention were going to the movies (our whole division, we saw Fantastic Four 2 – it – most of us didn’t like the movie, but we all loved the team event), a welcome lunch with all the team, a baseball game (again, for the whole division), and best of all – yesterday we went to a BBQ at Bill Gates’ house. It was a great event hosted by Bill Gates, to which all the interns have the chance to go. The place and the atmosphere were just fantastic. You could talk to him and many of the higher-level executives – SVPs, GMs, VPs, etc. It was great not only because of the place, but also because you could talk to these people, ask them anything you want, get to know them better. The best part was to really see that they are all really kind, nice and friendly, you could never feel as if you are an intern and the person next to you is a GM, the atmosphere was so casual and friendly. I loved it!
 
OK, enough introductory words, that’s all for this week 🙂 It would be great if you guys could send me your comments and questions, as well as what you would prefer to read about. Any feedback is more than welcome!