We RTM’d last Friday. Awww yeah!
As some of us were discussing on friday, “RTM day” is really a unique milestone in the life of many microsoft employees. I’ve been here 9 years and shipped 5 products that were all on 2-3 year cycles, so such a day just doesn’t come around very often in the products I’ve worked on thus far (and I also suspect that if RTM did happen more frequently, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting of an event anyway). It was an interesting opportunity to reflect on the comparison of this RTM day and its resultant ship party to past RTM days and ship parties
- Outlook 98: Outlook 98 was an off-cycle product from the rest of Office so we had a party just for Outlook, which as I learned later, is a good practice. The party was in the gorgeous cafeteria area of the building we were in, and I had a great time participating in the food-and-drink fight. At one point someone ended up pegging me with some hummus which I didn’t notice until I went to bed that night and my husband (who spent some time living on a kibbutz) told me I smelled like an Israeli.
- Outlook 2000: Thoroughly dull ship party from what I can recall, because it was just one big ship party for all of Office. As much as they try, I have yet to see any large product have a good party – what makes a party fun is seeing people you know, and at some size that just becomes impossible.
- Outlook 2002/XP: I don’t even remember this party, I think I skipped it entirely because the Office 2000 one was so disappointing and by that point I’d moved to the Exchange team anyway.
- Exchange 2003: I had a three week old baby with me and was inundated with “So, how are you enjoying your “time off” questions?”, not exactly a great setup for a rollickin’ good time. We were outside behind our building, with no hot tubs (long since banned from company parties as a result of previous Exchange ship parties) but a decent ‘carnival’ theme where different groups had put together booths with a variety of activities, most of which involved alcohol in some way. I’d helped put together a booth near the end of my pregnancy with a rented “whack-a-mole” machine (actually it was whack-a-crab, turns out it’s really hard to find real whack-a-mole or at least it was at the time) and we renamed it “whack-a-PM” and put pictures of various managers around it.
- Exchange 2007: Held at a billiards club a short drive from work. Decent food, great dessert, opportunities for alcohol should you so choose, plus pool or chatting. Plasma TVs around the place, which were used to do a preview of various videos that myself and other people on the team had put together over the last 3 years since shipping Exchange 2003.
Of course these were only official RTM days… there were also some fantastic parties inbetween (like the Exchange 2007 holiday party the weekend before, which was held at a nightclub in seattle, or the infamous Exchange 2000 M3 ship party with the aforementioned hottubs, or Exchange 2000 SP3 which was just some old-fashioned fun).
Nine years… eight distinct jobs (Outlook tester, OWA PM, JDP PM, Communities PM, Release Manager, “Special Projects” PM, TAP PM Lead, UX Manager), nine managers (Gopal, Dave, Mike, Larry, Paul, Jon, Terry, Tim, Jason), and an estimated 15-20 office moves (but only 4 total buildings over those 9 years, although I did go from one building to another building back to the first building in one 12 month period). Who knows what the next nine years will bring.
 I’d only been around a few months by the time 98 shipped, but to this day I am still proud of how I was responsible for finding 3 bugs that were fixed in RTM. I found one of those three while at work late one night, around 11pm. I opened the bug in our bug database (named ‘raid’ at the time) and was finishing up some testing and email about an hour later intending to go home when I got an email from the then dev manager of Outlook, saying that he knew what the problem was and had a private ready and could I buddy test it? So I tested the fix until about 3am at which point he checked it in and we both went home.
 A few years ago Exchange broke away from the windows server system holiday parties and started having our own, and the quality of the party has vastly increased since then (note to any future managers of massive teams: parties in locations that can also host boat shows are usually not fun, no matter who you book).
 This was while I was part time. It is still a source of amusement and pride for me that I am the only person I’ve ever known who has been the subject of a “So-and-so will be reporting directly to me working on special projects” who actually was working on special projects, instead of just being a code word for “about to leave but I really needed to get this re-org email out before he/she knew where he/she was going”. That’s some real microspeak for you.
 My favorite, and I’m fully aware of my bias: an “expose” I conceived of and directed that documents the depths employees were driven to during the infamous time in 2004 when office supplies were moved to only one floor of each building. Oh, how we sufferred – and you thought not having towels were bad!
 These days I’d hear that story and scoff about the bad work-life balance I chose for myself, but at the time I know that I loooooved my job and had a great time testing and finding bugs. I was young but attached and hadn’t yet discovered age of empires yet, so I didn’t have much of a social life. 🙂 Plus, I enjoyed being paid hourly and getting overtime.
 Outside of the parties, this really was an incredibly fun release to work on. Although we ended up making some really tough decisions to cut certain features and scenarios, we were also able to build in a huge amount of great functionality that I know first-hand customers desperately want, such as unified messaging, transport rules, over-quota message & NDR customizations, etc. I feel like we achieved a pretty good balance of functionality that required significant engineering (cross-product/group as in some cases like Autodiscover) as well as some smaller work that just needed to happen (> 32k rules).