And what have I learned?
- Microsoft is a detail oriented place
There is a high premium placed on micromanagers, and people who know EVERYTHING.
This has been perhaps the most difficult problem for me to grapple with. By nature I am a broad-brush person who ignores details in favour of the "big picture". At Microsoft, however, this is deadly to your career since no one will trust your recommendations, or judgement, if you can't answer all their questions at the ritual grilling.
I have a tendency to make decisions based on gut feel, and my over-all impression of customer needs, and market. But this kind of instinctual activity does not go down well at Microsoft.
Not that this leads to better decision making. I have seen us make plenty of lousy technical and business decisions, despite (or maybe because of) this detailed fanatacism.
I have heard many a tale of instances where top executives ripped into someone on minute issues that had come up years before. These stories are told with a sense of awe, and admiration, that our great company leaders have such a grasp of detail. Such stories, however, make me wonder if we aren't somehow too obsessed with minutiae.
- It's all in the family
Relationships mean a great deal at Microsoft, and there is a strong preference for old-timers who have built a history of trust. It is a cadre of old-timers who really make this company tick, which have built a web of relationships, and trust, that the company falls back on again and again. I would even say that there is an inverse relationship to the level at which one is hired into the company and the success of their career. It is far easier to start as a new staffer, out of college, and work your way up rather than come in mid-career with a lot of experience acquired elsewhere.
To be sure, I don't regret for a minute my decision to work at Microsoft. It has been tough, but I've learned a lot (about myself and others). Yes there are lots of things to complain about at Microsoft, but there are lots of great things too. I'll have to write about some of these things in future posts.