Why is Microsoft an incredible place to work? One of my goals of writing postings on this blog is to contribute to the body of knowledge available on the internet, and not to rehash information that has already been covered elsewhere. To that end, I will not cover the benefits that are already listed on the Microsoft website here: http://members.microsoft.com/careers/mslife/benefits/plan.mspx (although I must say that they blow away the benefits at any other company I have ever worked for). Free health care? When you have 3 kids at home, how can you go wrong?
Here we go… Microsoft is an incredible place to work because of the:
At Microsoft, I am surrounded by incredibly passionate, talented, experienced, smart, and friendly people from a myriad of backgrounds. For the first few months that I worked here, I was quite certain that my manager would call me into his office to say:
"Sean… This is a little embarrassing, but it turns out that we hired the wrong person. We had intended to hire someone named Shane, and due to a paperwork mixup… In any case, if you could pack up your things, I'll walk you out. As you can see, everyone around you is incredibly smart and experienced, and I'm really not sure what you have to contribute"
I'm still here, so the paperwork must still be messed up 😉 All joking aside, the incredible people I work with (and interface with on many different teams within Microsoft) are a major reason that I am excited to get up in the morning, and reluctant to leave here at night. The background of everyone on the team is very diverse, and the aggregate level of expertise is amazing. Everyone has a specialty (be it Project Management, SQL, Exchange, or SharePoint), and everyone is very willing to share their knowledge and experience. I have yet to run into someone on any team internally that was not willing to take time out of their day to share documents, best practices, or information that was requested. We have a large number of very active internal discussion lists, and it is incredible to be able to tap into the knowledge of Senior Architecture Consultants that are implementing Solutions in the field, as well as Program Managers and Developers that can explain not only how something works, but why the product was architected in that manner. How did all these people get so smart? That leads me to…
Professional Career Development
At the companies I have worked for in the past, professional career development was a liability for management. I have to guess that the prevailing thought pattern was that if the workforce became educated, that they would all leave to find better jobs. Any professional development was something that I did on my own time, at my own expense, and as soon as the opportunity arose, I found better jobs. A company that considers employee development to be a liability or an inconvenience is not a company that I want to work at.
Microsoft is not one of those companies. I can honestly say that there are more learning opportunities at Microsoft than there are minutes in the day to take advantage of them. Not only are their opportunities to learn within Microsoft, but it is expected that you do so, on an ongoing basis. As part of the Mid-Year-Career discussions with my manager (yes, everyone within Microsoft meets mid-year to go over progress on career development), I have had to decide on what roles I would like to consider in the future. Would I like to be a Developer? A Technical Account Manager? Work in Finance? In Product Support Services? After considering my future, I work with my manager to write a development plan. What training do I need to do on the job to develop myself for future roles? Are there particular projects I should undertake? Should I job-shadow someone on a different team? Are there internal classes I should take (everyone has at least 20 training days a year)? Books I should read? Should I spend time with a mentor? There are limitless opportunities for self improvement, management is very supportive, and the hardest obstacle can be deciding what I want to be when I grow up 😉
What sorts of resources are available? One incredibly valuable resource is the internal Library. You know when you go into Barnes & Noble and browse the technology book section? How cool it is to look at all the MS Press, O'Reilly, and Addison Wesley books? To read a few pages and consider buying the book (before you turn it over and realize that it will cost $50 and be obsolete before you get it home)? The internal library (there are various campus branches) has EVERY Tech, Business, and Management book you can think of. If they don't have one you are looking for, they'll order it for you. Don't have time to read? There are many books available on CD that you can listen to in your car (I just finished The Marine Corps Way: Using Maneuver Warfare to Lead a Winning Organization (Jason Santamaria) and Crucial Conversations (Kerry Patterson), both highly recommended). All of the leading tech/trade magazines are available, and online we have access to the Wall Street Journal, Safari Books (electronic versions of thousands of tech/business books), Practice Tests… It is a geek's paradise. As I mentioned, there are more opportunities for learning than there are minutes in the day to take advantage of them.
One of the reasons that LAMP is gaining popularity is that it is… well, free. For someone who wants to learn a Database application or a Server OS, you can't beat the price of free (even if it may be more difficult to setup, or not be directly applicable to a typical work environment). But why compromise? For learning purposes (to the General Public), Microsoft has some great (free) resources to allow you to get your feet wet:
- SQL Server Express
- Visual Studio Express
- Visual Studio Beginner Developer Learning Center
- VHD Test Drive Program (preconfigured images include Windows Server 2003 R2, Exchange Server 2007, ISA Server 2006, and SQL Server 2005)
- TechNet Virtual Labs
- MSDN Virtual Labs
For internal Microsoft employees, however, you can open up the Add/Remove programs control panel, and EVERY PROGRAM MICROSOFT MAKES is listed. It is an incredible way to learn new products when you can install them at your convenience. I had not used SharePoint before coming to Microsoft, but I am now convinced that there was no collaboration before SharePoint. I work regularly with my co-workers in India, and being able to use the Team Sites that SharePoint enables has markedly increased the productivity of myself and my virtual team.
I won't write entire paragraphs on these, I did want to cover some of the other great benefits of working for Microsoft. For starters, the Sammamish campus (where I work) is gorgeous. We are about ½ a mile away from Lake Sammamish, and there is a large park (with nice walking/running trails) between campus and the lake. On the other side of us are some beautiful tree covered hills and mountains. As we are approximately 30 minutes east of Seattle, traffic is relatively light, and Issaquah (the local city) still retains a small-town feel. Taking a walk down to the lake during lunch is a great way to get some exercise and clear your mind. Work/Life balance is also a big focus at Microsoft. We have intramural teams (soccer, rugby, flag football, softball), and Microsoft will also pay your dues if you decide to join a local community team. Home delivery of food from Safeway is free (so you don't have to stop at the store on the way home… shopping while hungry is just bad news), and each campus has a local restaurant (it's Thai food in Sammamish). There is also MUCH more flexibility to have a measurable impact (on your team, your customers, a product, the community) than I have ever experienced at any of my previous employers. Microsoft is very much a results-oriented company, and there is significant personal flexibility (with hours, work locations, processes) as long as commitments are met and deliverables delivered. I have found that this significantly increases productivity and creativity when delivering a solution.
Many of the other benefits of working for Microsoft are covered in detail at the following links.
Long story short, you don't have to have a response like this one if you ever hear from an MS recruiter. J