I flew into Redmond to kick-off my new job by starting with new employee orientation (NEO) and then meet with the team during the rest of the week. My initial plan was to spend most of the week in Redmond and then fly over to Vegas to for Microsoft MIX. That kind of changed a little. :)
I’ve worked at several companies during my career but I’ve never been through a new employee orientation as comprehensive as what Microsoft provides. Being new to a company is always a challenge since you have to figure out the who’s, what’s and where’s of an organization. It’s tough enough to do this when you’re in a small company but when you’re part of an 100k employee behemoth, not having a formal process can make it virtually impossible to learn your way around. Thankfully, Microsoft’s NEO program is a saving grace as it runs you through important things such as benefits, corporate access, important internal assets and the value of networking. Amazingly, they do all of this within 1 day and it’s very thorough. I kept thinking how my wife, who is incredibly organized, would totally love this whole process.
During NEO, I was in a room with about 50 other new employees, which is always satisfying since it shows that the company is growing. And despite the many (mis)perceptions I hear, these new employees were just like many other professionals and not some borg-like robot. Many of them were back as rehires at Microsoft and had nothing but great things to say about their previous experiences.
Post-NEO, I was in a number of meetings getting to know many of the people I’ll work with and also networking with other teams. Networking is serious business at Microsoft and an important part of being successful there. With so many people working on many different projects, it’s incredibly important to know who is a stakeholder for specific projects. This will help narrow down whom to contact if you need some help. One of the takeaways from this is that there are an insane amount of REALLY smart people working at Microsoft. I was privy to seeing some things that made me say “wow, I didn’t know Microsoft was working on that!”. I constantly tell people not to rule Microsoft out (as so many people tend to do) and what I saw validated my thoughts completely.
In addition, I got to have some 1:1 time with my leadership team. Spending time with them helped me learn a little bit more about where their focus is and how it will help shape my role. It’s a strong team which I can learn from but also a team with high expectations.
Some people that I met that I feel will have a very important impact on my role are Scott Hanselman, Cyra Richardson, Chris Wilson and James Senior. Scott is my manager and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. He’s been attentive since day 1 looking to ensure that I’m able to be effective from the start and always asking if I need anything. He’s very interested in my success as well as ensuring I have a good work/family balance. On top of that, I’ve come to realize that he is the John Resig of the .Net world and so I couldn’t have asked for a better technical resource. Cyra has been with Microsoft for 20 years and I was amazed by her breadth of knowledge. I’m really glad that she kind of took me under her wing to show me the ropes. Her help and guidance is proving to be invaluable. I also spent time with Chris Wilson of Internet Explorer fame. Chris is a household name in the browser world and he graciously took the time to sit with me and give me an overview of what’s happening with the Internet Explorer Developer Tools. His team is doing some very important things to make debugging client-side apps much easier and I’m happy to be able to go to him for the scoop. James is the a web evangelist for Microsoft, a hot-shot developer, jQuery lover and all-around great guy. He was gracious enough to let me crash with him in Vegas and also show me the ropes at MIX.
The last thing I’ll say about the Microsoft campus is that it is HUGE! I’ve been to Google (thx Dion) and thought it was big but it pales in comparison to Microsoft. Microsoft occupies so many buildings that it has its own shuttle service to allow employees to easily travel between buildings. Seriously, you need to see it to believe it.
Week 2: Microsoft Mix
The prep work for the conference itself is something to behold. I was able to go backstage to see the “control room” which consisted on racks and racks of monitors and servers, all powering either demos or some other important piece of the conference. It’s a rare view into the inner-workings of a big conference. And big it is as MIX is one of Microsoft’s two biggest developer conferences (PDC being the other). With 3,000 developers showing up, there was a lot of moving parts that needed to get in sync including 4 movie theater-sized screens that were used for the keynotes.
Having done a number of presentations over the years, I always felt the time I set aside to create my material and prepare for my presos was sufficient…that is until I saw Scott Guthrie and team getting ready for his keynote. It was 4 non-stop hours of iterations tweaking slides, changing wording, practicing delivery and getting the message just right. And this did not include the time used to actually build the slide deck! It was a very rewarding experience to hear some top executives going through this process.
Glad to be Home
It was a great trip and I met many awesome people. I’m so glad to be back home, though, spending time with my wife and children. I’m very fortunate that I’ll be able to work remotely for Microsoft and that my manager lets me decide when & where I need to travel. It’s a really great arrangement and I’m thankful for that.
Expect to see a lot more posts here about my work and life as I ramp up at Microsoft.
I want to thank John Resig, Jonathan Snook & Pascal Finette for their guidance and support. It really helped out tremendously and I appreciate it so much.
Here are photos of the trip.