My manager asked me to write something to convince other Microsoft employees to come work in our division. Originally this was going to be posted internally somewhere and linked from our job descriptions. But I realized that some of this might be interesting to you folks too. I’m going to explain why I get out of bed every day and come in to work. Although it’s all true, some of you will feel that this is pure marketing drivel. If reading that kind of thing here will annoy you, I suggest reading my other blog entries instead.
I’m in it for the toys
I’ve always been into mobile devices. It’s just cool to constantly carry a device that I can write code for. Before coming to this group, I bought at least one of every generation of Windows CE device, from the first Handheld PC to the last Palm-Sized PC. Since moving to here in 2000, I’ve stopped needing to buy my devices. Now they give them to me.
Everyone in Windows Mobile has at least one device provided for us by the group. Most of us also have a cell plan with unlimited data. All of Microsoft believes in “eating its own dogfood” (using the products you’re working on). For some people that means using a SQL server database. I’m sure that’s exciting and all, but for those of us in Windows Mobile, it means playing with cool toys. I dig the toys.
Working here also means playing with the new versions of the software. As you folks wait in anticipation for WM6, I’ve been using it for months on end. By the time you get it, I’ll already be using an early development build of the next version. And, though not everyone in the division gets to see things as early as I do, I tend to see OEM devices long before the public does. I got to play with a Treo 700 a year before anyone even knew we were working with Palm. I got to see every iteration of the Q, from a bare circuit board to what you eventually got to buy. I’m currently carrying a device that I can’t tell you about, but that would blow your mind.
We really are the next big thing
Although working on products with large numbers of users can be challenging and even frustrating (see all the feature prioritization stuff I’ve talked about), there’s something very cool about it too. It’s practically a cliché, but many, if not most, of the people who work at Microsoft do so because they want to “change the world.” It’s much easier to do that in a hugely successful group than in one with only a few users. Case in point, many of my blog entries have been read by more than a hundred thousand of you. Writing skill aside, that only happens because so many of you are interested in the products I talk about. Even better, the code I write literally helps millions of people. It’s hard not to get job satisfaction from that.
Everyone knows about Windows and Office. They’re the big success stories in the company, and they bring in the bulk of the company’s money. Lots of groups at Microsoft aspire to being “the next Windows.” We have reason to believe that it’s us. We’re a development platform, like Windows is, we’re playing in a similarly large market, we’ve got a significant number of units sold, and we’re growing like crazy.
Different people will believe in differing reasons for Desktop Windows’ success, but I’ll make the claim that it’s founded on the large number of business and user apps that are written for it. Windows Mobile currently has over 18,000 commercial applications and over 1725 user ones. If I’m right that success on the desktop is based on app support, we’re heading in the right direction here too.
I’ve talked a lot about not understanding marketers. It’s even harder to understand accountants (even though I’m married to one…). For some reason, our accountants think that the “year” starts in July and ends in June. Well, in the first half of this “year” (in the accounting sense), we sold over five million phone units. Last “year” we sold 150% more units than the year before. And in that year we sold 150% more units than the one before it. Weird accounting speak aside, we’ve been growing at 150% for a couple of years now. That’s easy to do if you’re small. But we’re not small. Exciting times.
Yet we’re the underdog
It’s easy to look at Office’s current success and forget that it was once the underdog in the productivity market. In fact, just about every major success at Microsoft has come as a result of being a scrappy underdog in a market that was completely dominated by some competitor. We like being the underdog. It’s a position that we, as a company, do very well in. And Windows Mobile is the underdog in the phone market. Nokia dominates. But we’re starting to nip at their heels. If you’ve ever thought, “I wonder what it was like to be in Windows when they were just starting to catch on,” we’re one of the places where you can experience it.
One of the results of being the scrappy underdog is that we ship a lot of products. There are groups at Microsoft that take five years to ship anything. In the last five years, Windows Mobile has shipped six major versions and countless minor ones. If you’re looking for a place where things get done, check us out.
And we’re not insane
In the past I’ve worked for crazy people who figured the best way to treat highly paid employees was to keep them in the dark as much as possible. My current management chain, though, is much more enlightened. They’re of the opinion that, if you treat people like adults, they’ll act like adults. This is both good and bad. On the good side, it means that management is nice and open with us about what’s happening, etc. On the bad side, this is how I’ve always treated my people. Under the crazies I was something special, and everyone wanted to work for me. Now you can find good managers all over the division. Makes the stack rank meetings harder….
We also do other strange things. We’ve got people who live and work remotely. We’ve got people who work at different times than the norm. And we’ve got people who work for different amounts of time than the norm. We do a better job than most of understanding that different people have different needs, and we work to meet them. Management that treats people as … well … people, almost seem human. I read Dilbert. Management isn’t supposed to be human. There must be some sort of local distortion field over our buildings or something.
Also, because phones are bigger in Europe and Asia than in the US, we end up with a lot of neat opportunities for assignments in foreign countries. I don’t make much use of this, but I’ve sent some of my more adventurous (or at least less tied down) coworkers oversees from time to time, and they’ve always enjoyed the experience.
Come work for us
This is why I love my job. If you’re a Microsoft employee and the place sounds interesting to you, go to the career site and search for jobs under the Division “Mobile and Embedded Devices / Comm Sector.” If you’re not a Microsoft employee, you can get started here, and then go more specifically to here.