My NEO Experience

Settle in, folks, it's going to be a long post...

For those of you who don't know, NEO is the TLA (Three Letter Acronym) for New Employee Orientation.  Mine was held in Building 43 on 11/08/04 beginning at 8:30.  The first thing I noticed was that it was very well run.  MS does NEO every Monday, so they get a lot of practice.  The next thing I noticed was how many people were there.  I counted about 40 people, and the instructor said that the class was on the small side.

One thing that I've heard repeatedly is that at Microsoft, it is critical to make connections, because you never know who might be in a position to help you out down the road.  I sat next to two folks that I got to know fairly well: Don Hyun, a new program manager for MSN, and Amy Stevenson, the archives manager.  Both were very friendly, and as it turns out, Amy is a librarian like my wife.  She mentioned that there might be opportunities that Cheryl (my wife) might be able to take advantage of as a vendor to Microsoft.  That's called the "Power of Networking"!

The instructor started off with an introduction to Microsoft, a presentation about corporate values, some information about business conduct, and some information about MS' strategic initiatives (such as Trustworthy Computing).  At one point the instructor had us unfold a giant organization chart and told us to try to find our locations.  I realized at this point that I really didn't know who I reported up through!

We had a break to fill out forms, including the dreaded I-9 form, and get our badge photos taken.  After that we heard from the benefits person.  All I can say is "WOW!".  The benefits at Microsoft are so good they have to be seen to be believed.  The HR person said that MS benefits are ranked #1, and after hearing the full story I have to agree.  The health insurance is phenomenal.  MS pays for a gym membership, life insurance, etc., etc.  Let's put it this way: at my last employer (located in downtown Seattle) made a big deal about paying for 50% of your bus pass; Microsoft pays 100% for your bus pass, but didn't even mention this in any of their websites, etc. because it is such a small piece of the overall package.

One interesting thing that you should be aware of about some of MS' benefits is that they are considered taxable income.  For instance, the money that they pay for your gym membership is added into your base pay, then taxed, then removed from your pay.  This is called "imputed income", and basically means you have to pay taxes on some of the more unique benefits.  As long as they don't start consider all the Diet Pepsi I am drinking to be imputed income, I think I'll be okay.

A lot has been made about the changes in benefits at Microsoft.  As someone who was paying $398/month for health insurance and is now paying $0, I can honestly say that just about anyone would be happy with the benefits at Microsoft.  The benefits at MS are still terrific.

Next, we heard from Gordon Mangione, the Corporate VP for US Security Products Management.  He spoke about his experience at MS, and how great his 14 years at Microsoft have been.  His advice: 1) ask lots of questions (especially when you are new and have an excuse!), 2) go deep and become an expert in something, as this can be very helpful in being successful, and 3) get to know people.  This last piece of advice must really be true because everyone I've talked to says the same thing!

After this we at lunch and then watched a video various cuts of Steve Ballmer giving speeches.  I've never heard him speak, but clearly he gets "pretty animated"!  At this point, I jotted down in my notes, "I'm really psyched!".  I guess Steve's magic was working on me too, but I can say that this morning I was so excited about going to work that I almost got up at 5:30.  However, I realized that would have put we at work around 6:30, so I forced myself to go back to bed!

Next, we reviewed a lot of the tools on the web, and it was really impressive.  Practically everything can be done via the Intranet.  There are tons of self service systems out there that allow things like: adding yourself to distribution lists, finding a career mentor, getting training, changing your personal information, filling out your W-4 and direct deposit forms, ordering supplies, creating a blog, registering for a parking pass, and so on.  The introduction to these tools was like drinking from a firehose, but MS has lots of capabilities to find what you are looking for.  I guess that's an advantage to working for a software company!

After this we saw a video about security, then learned about some of the perqs.  One really cool thing is the Prime card that gets you discounts at many area restaurants and businesses.  This perq should be pretty beneficial!

By this time it was around 2:00 in the afternoon, and it was time to wrap up.  Our instructor (who's name I forgot to write down) left us with a few parting thoughts:

  1. Totally immerse yourself in the culture and business of Microsoft, and
  2. Take risks

As NEO ended, we were able to pick up our badges and head out to our various work locations.  Unfortunately, the badge was not operational yet (it was by the next morning) so I had to have the receptionist call my boss to be escorted in.  We chatted a bit about the team, had some introductions, and settled down to getting my PC set up.  That took the rest of the day.

As I look back, I can definitely say that NEO was really well run and certainly got me excited about coming to work for Microsoft.  Everyone in the room seemed to be really smart and enthusiastic about working here.  I look forward to working with a lot of these people going forward, and staying at MS for a long time...

(Although I didn't mention it, you can clearly see that I did get the injection, and that it really took!)

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