sea of change, and another perspective

I've been quiet about the Bill Gates, and other key MS personalities leaving-the-company sooner-or-later saga. I've had plenty of time to think about it and let it sink in.

I think it was at Cisco that I first heard about how important change is to an organization. In fact, I remember a VP telling us at Cisco that 5 years was the longest amount of time any one should spend in one group or organization. Change may be initially bad, but it leads to the better.

So, what do I think of Bill Gates leaving? I love the man... Everytime he speaks it feels like time stands still (my reaction when listening to him speak at MIX06). I've idolized this man forever now. Several times now I've gone to a tattoo parlor wanting to get 'BillG' tattooed across my chest (never could go thru' with it). Before I came to MS, I remember people telling me that no Chairman is more intimately connected with a company, its products and its architecture board, than this man. We might as well have called it 'Gates' as opposed to 'Windows'. However, he has been with the company, well, forever. This is his baby. And if we were to apply the 5 year equation to BillG, then everyone would agree that its time Bill Gates left. It may not be apparent right now, but BillG's leaving the company, and bringing in folks like Ray Ozzie and others to do some of the things he's been doing, could maybe be the best thing that happened to Microsoft, from a company standpoint. Personally as well...

Personally, you ask? A slight detour... Just today, I was chatting with my mentor, career and personal counselor, friend, and all around great guy, Jas. I told him that every now and then, dealing with people in the valley drains me mentally. I love working for Microsoft. I love what I do. I love talking to people everyday. However, sometimes, when a group of non-Microsofties corner you, and pound you to death about certain things, it gets a little taxing.

(ai hanging out at teh corner of his favorite coffee place)

Stranger : Wow, that mocha has a frothy design on it. How cool.. Wait, wait a sec, what is that - is that a two-buttoned mouse? Is that a non-MAC? Why do you have the technorati and the laughing squid stickers on it? WHY?

Me : Oh, I work for Microsoft, and so, I use a Windows laptop. I personally don't dislike Macs for any reason, but...

Another Stranger : Did I hear you say you work for Microsoft? And you're not a blood-sucking-robot?

Me : I think so... I mean I have bodily parts that resemble certain humans, and...

Yet Another Stranger : Microsoft, eh? You know I wrote to Bill Gates about the 'desktop cleanup wizard' and how it stopped working for me, and didn't really clean out my entire desktop, but I never heard back. So, I ditched my Toshiba Tecra 8000 (pentium II) and bought a Mac.

Me : Oh, ok, well you know...

Stranger : Open source Windows; tomorrow. Or else...

ai (starting to get a little nervous and backing up in to his corner) : yeah, you know, I dont make those kind of decisions. Besides, I really don't think open sourcing Windows is...

Another Stranger (cornering teh ai even further) : Give away Office for free. I know where you live.

ai (nervously) : Oh ok, yeah, I couldn't imagine proposing that to Ballmer or Gates because...

Yet Another Stranger : You know if the desktop cleanup wizard had prompted me one more time about wanting to clean out my desktop, I would've thrown myself out the balcony. Head first. Honest.

My conversations are not quite so deep or threatening (clearly I'm exaggerating), but they get me thinking. Some of these are really valid points. Several people constantly pound me about our pricing decision models and such, things that I have absolutely no say in, or passion for discussing. I'm like the rain man, numbers make very little sense to me sometimes. I can deal with them, but cant make sense of them. So the point of this story is that it makes me forget I'm a Microsoftie sometimes. Well, actually, not sometimes, but a LOT. And then, I start to look at the company outside in. And it makes me wonder, why am I here? There are so many flaws with this company. Its big, its a giant, its a robot, its a bitch, its a liar, its a sinner, its a saint, you know... But there are a few things that help me keep my sanity. And its this simple :

  1. For whats its worth, it gives me goosebumps when I remind myself that BillG is going to give away a large chunk of money to charity. Enough money that the world can change. Can you imagine that? I was ecstatic yesterday when I learned that Warren Buffett did what he did. Much props to you, Mr. Buffett. I tip my hat to you, sir. That my friends keeps me going. It really really really does. That is the kind of man and the kind of organization I want to work for.
  2. I love what I do.
  3. If there weren't things that needed fixing in this company, many of us wouldn't have jobs. We need to keep listening to our customers, and we need to understand what needs fixing. I see opportunities for great things here, because as much as you may disagree, there are some super rational and intelligent people who run this company, and they get it. But they need to know what they don't know. And that's where we - the liaisons, come in.

So, am I sad BillG is leaving? Hell yeah. We'll miss you, sir.


update : fixed a 'speeling' error. thanks, su