***Updated*** My original post of this was actually a draft. I have updated the post and corrected some spelling and grammatical issues.
I just read Scott Hanselman’s post about his first 3 weeks with the company. I found it humorous because I have been remote for 5+ years now. In fact I just broke the 10 year mark with the company and some of the things Scott points out seem to have been pretty par for the course during this past decade. Here is my take on his points —
TLAs – If it were as simple as just “three” letter acronyms. The acronyms will reach the 4 and 5 letter stage now and then. Every 2-3 years the entire org name changes and that of course gets TLA’d as well. Every large company suffers from TLA syndrome though. I worked for Frito-Lay for many years and they had an unbelievable collection of TLAs. LBCSS – Large Batch Corn Soak System – if that gives you a clue. When we have to start worrying is when we have had a TLA for so long no one remembers the definition. It is going to happen one day.
Email – Outlook/Exchange is my life at the company. I have ceased trying to remember all of the phone calls, meetings, places I have to be. I rely on Outlook and Exchange to remember for me. As long as I can access my Exchange server my life is pretty smooth. IM gets used a lot (at least I do) but it is really funny to watch Messenger or Office Communicator come to life when a mail server goes offline. Con Calls are another IM generator. We have all gotten in the habit of muting our machines during con calls. Groove? What’s that? 🙂
HR/Onboarding – I believe most people go through an MS101 course when they hire on. I also believe this usually takes places at the Redmond campus. I am guessing because I never attended MS101. When I came on in 1997 I was in Texas and I was in support. I don’t believe the support people are sent to MS101 (at least they weren’t back then) so I didn’t experience MS101 until about 3 years ago when I came up to campus for a project and sat in on some of the sessions. My onboarding was pretty straight forward back then. They took my picture, printed on my badge (I still have that badge!) and I received a piece of paper with some facilities information. I came in as a part of an inaugural program called Service Academy. We went through 10 weeks of light bootcamp training and became MCSE’s so it wasn’t a typical onboarding process. At the end of the 10 weeks I was introduced to my manager who showed me my desk and my PC. I installed NT4 Workstation and my support apps and started taking calls a few hours later. That is when the real firehose was turned on (see below)!
Your Machine – Scott is absolutely correct – we are on our own. The exception being that if you receive a company issued laptop in which case it usually arrives with a Microsoft IT standard image on it. I suspect most people promptly flatten that image and start over. I don’t care for Scott’s lumping of BitTorrent and P2P software in the “evil” category. If you have never used a BitTorrent Client to pull down a service pack then you have never pulled down a Service Pack in 3-5 minutes vs 10-20. BitTorrent has a place in the real world.
Hardware – I am currently on a Lenovo T61p but that machine will be getting turned in soon and my primary machine will be an HP 6910p on which I plan to run 64bit Vista. I will also be receiving a Lenovo T61p in a couple of weeks which I will do most of my Windows Server 2008 testing on. It will be nice to have a machine with 4 gigs of RAM in it that can actually see and use all 4 gigs of RAM! All other machines are my personal machines that I run my home network and lab on. I will post about those later.
Security – Scott’s assessment on the importance of the badge/card key is dead on. Last week I decided to head into the office for the first time in a while only to find out the proximity sensor emitter in my 5 year old badge was dead. This meant no building access. The card was on it’s last legs anyway – the smart chip was perforated around the edges and ready to pop out completely. It was time for a replacement. So I took a shuttle over to the building where card keys are made where they took my picture (finally! the 10 yr old one was……10 years old!), printed a new badge and had me reset my PIN (it was time for that too) and I was back in action. Someone remind me to post about the time I lost my badge….
Insiders – There is so much cool going on in this company it is impossible for one person to stay abreast of everything. Microsoft has a phrase for new people – “Getting fed with a firehose”. Of course that phrase has been applicable to long term employees for as long as I have been with the company. The firehose never gets turned off….ever.
Blogging – Some have embraced blogging and thrived. Others struggle. I struggle with it regularly. But that is also for another post. The only guidance for blogging we have at Microsoft is “Blog Smart”. I like that as a concept but of course that isn’t always the way things work out. I am actually far less concerned about all the legal, marketing, PR issues that are ever present in today’s blogging world. I am more concerned with how management (mostly non-bloggers) treats the concept of blogging by their reports. I am a firm believer that blogging should be a choice (unless you are hiring a blogger to blog and that is stated up front in the interview). Making blogging a required activity is counterproductive in my opinion. Blogging should absolutely be something that positively impacts a review if it is done well and has a positive impact on the team/product/company, but should absolutely not have any negative impact if no blogging is performed at all. Bloggers blog because they have something they want to say. They are passionate about something and they want to share that passion with others. When blogging turns into something where a blogger has to say something because they have to have X number of posts in a specific time period then the posts are going to suffer.
Admins – They make your life smooth as butter on a hot knife. I don’t know how difficult they can make things because I have always stayed on their good sides. I can only imagine what life would be like if I really pissed one off though. Ya know….I don’t even want to think about it!
Working Remote – Scott – I come down to Portland a half-dozen or more times a year. I will start pinging you for lunch! Join Facebook! Hell, get a MySpace account! I have recently started catching up with some old time BBS people from 10 plus years ago on MySpace.
Remote Education – Microsoft does make a lot of information available for on-demand viewing. One area we come up short is on big key-notes or announcements. In many cases those items can’t be streamed over VPN/RAS connections. Kind of a bummer if you can’t make it to a local sales office or the main campus if only for the reason that everyone else will be talking about it on the internal DL’s before you get a chance to see the on-demand recording.
Working from Home – I love working from home. The flexibility it offers can’t compare to anything at all. The lines do blur quite often and I have had many, many of the days Scott mentions that seem to go on for ever. Getting in the mode of not checking email after a certain of day is nearly impossible to make happen. Especially when my phone is tied to Exchange. I bet if I didn’t use my dining room table as my office I could separate myself a little more easily.
Work/Life Balance – Hahahahahaha! What is that??!?!?!?! 🙂